Friday, June 19, 2015

An Interview With Rich Venezia of Rich Roots

We LOVE our Tour sponsors. We hope you enjoy learning more about their services.

Here's an interview with our sponsor Rich Venezia of Rich Roots Genealogy. He's an important resource for those searching for their Italian ancestors.

Gena: How long have you been a genealogist and what got you started?

Rich: I have been a genealogist for nearly twelve years. My maternal grandmother passed away in 2003, and she'd started working on a family tree. I remember rummaging through her typewritten pages (she loved that typewriter), and feeling an instant fascination with this work she'd started. One of the clearest things I remember about my grandparents' house was their never-ending photos adorning the wall - all family. I am so lucky to have grown up knowing exactly what my great- and some great-great-grandparents looked like. So, I took up the mantle to honor Grandma's memory, and have been hooked ever since. I started accepting clients in 2013, and launched my business, Rich Roots Genealogy, almost two years ago exactly.

Gena: What one tip do you have  for anyone beginning to trace their Italian ancestors?

Rich: One tip for those researching Italian ancestors is - read the whole record! So often we get so excited by the thrill of the find that we inadvertently overlook some of the details. Italian civil records are wonderful in the amount of information they provide, especially following the 1861 unification. Sometimes, on one birth record, one can find out the name of both the child's father and grandfather (and whether they are living or dead), the exact place (read: address) of birth (hello, ancestral hometown visit!), notations regarding the child's subsequent marriage and even death in the margins, and notes on the witnesses, who may very well be other relatives. I have so many other tips for Italian records, so it's hard to pick just one, but I think that this is of utmost importance (and certainly applies to non-Italian records as well).

Gena: What's your favorite online resource for research and why?

Rich: I absolutely adore the Italian National Archives' website - Il Portale Antenati [The Ancestors Portal]. They work with FamilySearch and have nearly 40 provincial archives' collections on their website (there are 110+, so a good percentage). Sometimes, their death records go up to the 1940s (great for finding records of parents who remained in Italy...). Their website is very user-friendly, and I love their "thumbnail" set-up. It makes it very easy to spot indexes (always look for one!), but also is less cumbersome than browsing image sets with 3000+ images.I can't wait till they have all of the Italian Archives... their ETA is 3 years or so. An already invaluable resource will be one of the most valuable online for the 17 million Americans with Italian roots (and those around the world with Italian heritage). Best of all, it's free to use. So - let's this keep site our little secret, shall we?

Gena: Why should someone consider Italian dual citizenship?

Rich: Italian dual citizenship can be useful for those who wish to live and work or retire in any country within the EU, as well as those who travel often in Europe. With an Italian passport, the process of living in Europe is made relatively simple - essentially, there are no restrictions for red passport holders! Americans that want to retire abroad face a lot of paperwork, assuring foreign governments they won't work, etc. Folks that want to work abroad need to be sponsored and still need to deal with a lot of restrictions, renewals of visas, etc. Having Italian citizenship makes all of that a lot less complicated. Even just for someone who travels to Europe every now and again, not having to face long non-EU passport lines is a perfect reason. And, perhaps most importantly, for me, obtaining dual citizenship is an important link to my Italian heritage, of which I am very proud. The birth of the dual citizen will be recorded in the local town hall as a foreign birth, and, once received, I believe having the passport is a testament and an homage to those that came before... As obtaining American citizenship was of utmost importance to them, obtaining Italian citizenship is important for us to bring us back to our roots. It's a beautiful cycle, don't you think?

Gena: It is a great cycle to be a part of. So here's one last question for you, what services do you offer clients?

Rich: I offer research services, as well as consultations for those who just want a little assistance in pointing them in the right direction. My specialties include immigrant research (specifically Italian and Irish, but other European ethnicities, as well), as well as New Jersey/NYC and Pittsburgh-area research. Additionally, I offer look-ups and record pulls in local repositories, and assistance with Italian and Irish dual citizenship applications. I try to plan research trips in Dublin and Salt Lake City at least once a year, and I am gearing up towards offering commissioned client research in Italy, too. I also write articles, and speak on a number of topics - mainly on, you guessed it, immigration! My website is, and I am also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@richrootsgen).

Thanks Rich!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Meet the Sponsor: Genlighten

Cynthia and Dean Richardson are the owners of Genlighten. Their service is different and, I believe, a much-needed one in the field of genealogy (click on their logo above to get to their website). I asked Cynthia some questions about their company and think our readers will find the answers (g)enlighten(ing):


You and your husband Dean own Genlighten. When did you start the business?

We launched in October of 2009 and the current website

went live in early 2011. Dean is working hard on a new version of
Genlighten—simpler, but more powerful—and we’ll be giving visitors to
the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree a chance to
preview it this coming weekend.

Your service is did you come up with the concept?

Genlighten grew out of my experience. I created

the website to offer quick, affordable record retrieval in Chicago
with a commitment to high-quality customer service. It wasn’t long
before I had quite a number of very happy clients and they started
asking how they could find researchers like me in other places. People
also asked how they could start a business similar to mine.

Dean and I realized that a website that made it simple for people who

needed research help to connect with people who wanted to share their
research expertise would be a useful tool for the genealogical
community and we decided to build it.

How do you find the people who help search out records?

So far, we’ve mostly recruited new providers by exhibiting at major

genealogy conferences. Once the new version of the site launches,
we’ll be stepping up our efforts to fill out the network using print
ads and online advertising. Word of mouth also helps. If you know of
someone who would make a good Genlighten provider, please send them
our way!

In what locations do you have service providers?

The best way to answer that question is for you to go to Genlighten

and do a quick search. We have strong providers in many states
including (but not limited to) California, Illinois, Indiana,
Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington, D.C. We also have providers
in Europe and Canada.

What qualifications do you want your providers to have?

Answer: From amateur enthusiasts to transitional genealogists to long-time

professionals, we welcome providers with varying levels of experience
because we believe that there are research tasks that can be
successfully handled by all of them. We do, however, expect our
providers to limit their offerings to their areas of expertise.

To be successful on Genlighten, providers need to be able to reply to

client messages quickly; to communicate in a friendly and professional
way; to have the discipline needed to follow through on research
promises in a timely manner; to be able to create high-quality digital
images; and to have the writing skills necessary to provide quality

If someone wants to sign on to be a provider, how does he/she go about
doing that?

The steps to advertising research services on Genlighten are pretty

simple. Sign up for a Genlighten account, add provider tools, create a
provider profile page, and set up some research offerings. I’m
available to help new providers with any or all of those steps and I’m
always happy to offer guidance based on my years of offering Chicago
research online.

How does one go about getting service from Genlighten?

Search our provider list or browse by locality or repository to find

someone in the area where you need research with the expertise you
need. Once you’ve identified a potential provider, create a free
account and submit a project proposal through the site. Every project
has a dedicated tracking page that keeps requests, proposals, quotes,
messages, payments, document images, and reports in one easy-to-find

How does Genlighten help people find ancestors more economically than
hiring a single professional genealogist?

Our providers set their own fees and, depending on the project,

Genlighten might or might not be the most economical way to find the
research help you need. We’d encourage people to shop around. Just
remember, cost is just one of many things to think about when hiring a

When you arrange a project through Genlighten you have access to

something that sets us apart—our provider rating system. Researchers
on our site earn feedback from the clients they serve and building
reputation is one key to getting work through Genlighten. You can
review provider ratings before hiring someone to handle your project
and you can leave feedback once your project is done. The system is
simple but it offers powerful motivation for providers to follow
thorough on research promises in a timely and professional way.

Anything else you want to add?

We’re all about great customer service! If you have questions about

the site, ask! We’d be glad to answer them. If you want help setting
up a provider profile page, email us! We’d be happy to give you some
guidance. If you need help finding the right person to take on your
project, check with us! We’d be delighted to help you make the right
connection. If you’re not happy with how your project is progressing,
tell us! We’ll do our best to help you and the provider work out a
mutually agreeable solution to whatever doesn’t seem quite right. We
want clients and providers to have a good experience on Genlighten and
we will do whatever we can to make that happen.

Thank you, Cynthia and Dean, for being a sponsor of the Gena and Jean Genealogy Journey Cruise 2015 to Ensenada. We look forward to seeing Genlighten grow as the word spreads about your company . . . it is certainly an asset to the genealogy community.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Meet the Sponsor: RootsMagic

Are you relying on the Internet to access your family tree? Sounds simple and easy, but there are some significant disadvantages to having an on-line tree and even more potential problems if that tree is "public."

An on-line tree requires you to have access to the Internet in order to see your family members. What if you are in a cemetery? A library that has no WiFi or is having connectivity problems? Or you are wanting to show your ancestors to your children/grandchildren or other family members at a location where there is no access to the web? Now what?

An on-line tree is not supposed to show any living family members (and this is good, for the sake of the privacy of your relatives). But where do you add the newly married grandchild? And his/her eventual children? If you want to list your various accomplishments in your tree, you can't do that.

An on-line tree, if public (e.g., FamilySearch Trees and Ancestry Public Trees) can be added to and "corrected" by just anyone who thinks his/her info is better than what you have. To call that annoying is a major understatement.

And people can "pirate" your data, claiming it as their own or, probably worse, not including your source citations or credit for all those years of your work.

I am not suggesting that you avoid all on-line tree options. They can provide opportunities to meet cousins you never knew existed and, often, get further data that will help your genealogy quests. You might even get some family photos!

What many of us do is keep our genealogy protected from other influences, people who might attempt to access living people, while having it available with or without Internet service. We use software. And the favorite of Gena and me is RootsMagic. It allows us to add all sorts of personal information, keep some information private yet accessible, print out all types of charts, and more.

It would take me a great many blog posts to share all that RootsMagic does, but here I am going to recommend that you check out Bruce Buzbee's blog:

He is the creator of this program and the information there and on the website would be the way to get the most data possible. Click below for the website and listing of all the many other companion products:

RootsMagic is the product we will be using on the cruise to help folks work out their genealogy problems.

If you are coming to Jamboree, check out Bruce's booth. They will be running various presentations on the many uses of the RootsMagic products.

Thanks, Bruce and RootsMagic for sponsoring the Gena and Jean Tour!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Meet our Sponsor: Lisa Howison

We asked Lisa Howison, one of our sponsors, to tell us a little about herself and her business. She sent this in reply:

Hi, my name is Lisa Howison and I am a native of Huntington Beach, California, and currently I reside in Norco, California.  I have been doing genealogy and family history research off and on for most of my life, I have always had a passion for finding out things so I just decided to start tracking down all those family stories and proving if they are true or not.  And since I joined the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), my genealogical skills, and goals have greatly improved to the point that I was recently able to hang out my shingle and start taking on clients and lecturing on genealogical and other interesting subjects.  

I have had some success in helping people with questions about general research, American Indians, and of course Lineage Societies, specifically DAR applications.  I have also been helping with Next of Kin searches.

I am a member of several professional genealogy societies, which include Corona Genealogical Society, The Association for ProfessionalGenealogists, The National Genealogical Society, Southern CaliforniaGenealogical Society.  My website is under construction right at the moment but I can be reached by clicking here

Thank you, Lisa, for being one of the supporters of the Gena and Jean Genealogy Journey: Cruise to Ensenada 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Meet our Sponsor: JAMBOREE and the Jamboree Extension Webinars

It will be my honor to again be a participant at the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree - the 46th Annual, in fact! And while we support their efforts, they have supported ours as one of our Cruise Sponsors.

Click the above icon to learn more about this event. There is so much to mention that I am going to keep it simple: go to the website and learn about DNA Day, Jambo-Free on Friday, the mobile app, the speakers, the tours, the exhibit hall . . . well, like I said, check it out! It will be an amazing time.

But one of the neatest things about Jamboree is that it doesn't end with the event (which, as of this writing, is less than a week away). The experience of learning from some of the greatest minds in genealogy continues with their regular webinars - free in live-streaming mode. (And available at a click in the archived version IF you join one of the most influential and helpful genealogical societies in existence.) Click on webinars to learn more. Gena already presented this year, but I have one coming up in fall. And, of course, Gena's is still available in archived form, as I just mentioned.

Just a quick reminder, I (Jean) will be presenting at Jamboree - doing three programs: Friday morning at 10:30 am I am leading a discussion called "Society Support and Share," focused on the ways to keep our societies alive and well even during a tough economy and the onslaught of the Internet, which seems to try to lure folks away from brick and mortar resources and the value of in-person networking. On Saturday at 2:00 pm I will be talking about researching and learning about our farming ancestors and on Sunday at 1:00 pm I will be covering a more general research methodology in a lecture called "Who is That? Why did our Ancestors Associate with Apparent Strangers?" 

Gena, the past President of the Southern Calif. Chapter of the Assoc. of Professional Genealogists, and I (current VP of the Chapter), are pleased to again sponsor the Research Assistance at Jamboree. To volunteer to assist others in getting a genealogical boost or to sign up to GET help (or both), please click on Research Assistance. The SCCAPG general meeting will be held in that same location - Parlor 125 & 127 on the "Tech Hallway" - on Saturday at 5:00 pm. Come on by and say, "Hello." While Gena won't be at the event this year, there will be a number of APG members present and we'd love to introduce you to the organization. We appreciate Jamboree giving us a meeting location and thank them for their sponsorship of the Cruise.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meet our Sponsor: Living Legacy Project and Legacy Stories


"To provide a secure platform to collect, archive, and share legacy stories that represent the living history of the 20th and 21st Centuries. And to connect those families to collaboratively build their legacy, regardless of geographic impediments."

How do they do this? And how expensive is it?

Let's take the second question first. Anyone can obtain a free website for their family photos, stories, pictures of artifacts, and even video and audio files. Obviously, space is limited for a free site, and only one free site per email address is permitted; but if you happen to have more than one email address, you could, conceivably, have more than one site! Perhaps one for Mom's family and another for Dad's. Or one for your German relatives and another for the ones from England. And even one for the living family members.

Yes, you can portray living family on this service . . . and should! It is a great way for family members to connect with each other, share vacation photos and stories, compare memories, etc. YOU determine the privacy settings. Like Facebook, you can share, but only with those you elect to be able to access your postings.

Some of the advantages of the sharing of stories and photos can go way beyond the way we used to do it with hard copy photo albums. You can reach the younger generations that are so tech-savvy! Introduce them to the family they never got to know. Help them understand the different cultures that contributed to who they are today.

One of the reasons the Living Legacy Project was started was for those whose lives were nearing the end so they could share their experiences in an easy-to-access method. The first people to use this unique system were hospice workers who recorded the life stories of numerous individuals. But the service seemed too valuable to keep to just one set of the population, hence the creation of

Head over to their website to learn how to get started with your own Living Legacy website. Confused about what you should write? Sign up for weekly prompts to get you (and/or your relatives) talking and remembering. Where did you go to elementary school and what was your favorite subject? What type of transportation did your family use to get to the store, work, school, etc.? What was the family recipe that was needed at every celebration? You don't need to be a writer to be a family historian - you just need a few simple tools, love of family, and a little time (it does NOT need to be done all at once!).

Click the icon above (Legacy Stories) to register and connect to L. A. (Butch) Hibben's page and let him guide you through the process of preserving your heritage for generations to come. Or email him directly at Butch.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interview with Christine Woodcock of Genealogy Tours of Scotland

We have such a great group of sponsors and so we wanted everyone to get to know them better. In the following interview we talk to Christine Woodcock of Genealogy Tours of Scotland about genealogy, research, and of course Scottish food.

Gena and Jean: How did you get interested in genealogy?

Christine: My grandfather fathered 21 children. (Yes, and raised them!) My grandmother, his second wife raised all of them and was the only granny any of the grandchildren knew. My mum and gran were the story tellers of the family. Every summer we had tons of company from Scotland. And every time someone arrived, we would all gather and hear the stories over and over and over. It was boring old news then. But my mum and gran died within 8 months of each other and suddenly something fired up inside me and it became my mission to preserve those stories for my kids and all of the other grandkids. So with the help of my aunt, I put together a family history book. A record of my grandpa's descendants. I gave a copy to each of his offspring. It has become a treasured heirloom.

Gena and Jean: What made you want to pursue it as a career?

Christine: As I was speaking to groups and writing articles, it dawned on me that I was unique. Not only did I have Scottish ancestry, but I had a deep familiarity with all things Scottish and knew the country well. Others long to see their homeland. So, I decided to put together genealogy research trips to Scotland to allow those with Scottish ancestry the change to get to know their homeland. Time is provided for the participants to go to the area of Scotland that their ancestors were from. I have colleagues who will personalise an ancestral tour to the graves, homes, villages etc for the participants.

Gena and Jean: In your work you lead tours of Scotland and help researchers learn more about their ancestors. What two tips do you have for someone who is considering traveling to Scotland to research?

Christine: PLAN AHEAD. I spend almost a full year preparing my tour participants for their research time in Scotland. The second would do some research online about what to expect from each of the archival repositories.

Gena and Jean: What is the biggest mistake or misconception you see with Scottish research?

Christine: People rely so heavily on Ancestry, Find My Past or FamilySearch but they only have transcriptions. The Scottish documents are such a treasure trove of genealogical information that so much is missed out on by not viewing the original documents. They are only available on Scotlands People the website for the General Registrar's Office.

Gena and Jean: What's your favorite Scottish repository and why?

Christine: ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh is the best. All of their documents are digitized and available onsite. The National Archives are housed upstairs and that is the gateway to even more records.

Gena and Jean: So, I have to ask....what's your favorite thing to eat in Scotland?

Christine: I was raised on Scottish food, so love most of it. Yes! even haggis. But the first thing I run for when I get home is a Scotch Pie. The original take out food!

Gena and Jean: Where can our readers read more of your writings and more about your tours?

Christine: For more information about my tours, they can visit my websiteI also blog at: and I am a regular columnist for the In-Depth Genealogist.