Monday, November 2, 2015

Getting ready to set sail . . . all we need is . . .

Cruise Ship Sailing Near Seashore by Stuart Miles/Courtesy


OK, don't we all!
The Gena and Jean Genealogy Journeys is heading out on 6 November, returning on 10 November 2016 (see, you have about a year to gather up the funds and plans and choose travel companions). However, while you don't need to pay for the whole thing up front, we have a number of expenses to get the word out (promotional flyers, misc. costs - like mileage to get together to organize the event so it will be WONDERFUL for everyone). And there are more expenses as time gets closer (handouts for our presentations, goodies for the tote bags our sojourners will receive, etc.). And costs on board (Internet, any extras to make the experience ideal, etc.). 


We are signing up sponsors NOW to help us make a great experience for all. 


I'm glad you asked. If you look at some of the blog posts of the past months, you'll notice that sponsors are people who have genealogy businesses that could use a little more exposure. Some have products for sale; others have services to help you find your ancestors; and some are genealogists who may have just what you need for a particular region, time period, or even occupation and would, therefore, be the perfect person to help you break through your brick wall.

As you can see by looking to your left, we already have some sponsors who have provided us with financial assistance or other benefits. Click on their links and learn more about their businesses.

Do you have a genealogy business that could use some promotion? Here is what we have to offer: your logo & link on this site; your logo on a promotion slide we show at the beginning of our presentations (where appropriate) all over the country between now and the cruise; distribution of your literature at our presentations; your logo and URL on any other projects where we can display it; your literature in the cruise goody bag and brief commercial for your business during the cruise; and a blog post, promoting your business, on this blog (between now and the end of November 2016). Not a bad exchange for a $100 sponsorship? All advertising should be so easy (and cheap).

If you aren't interested, or this doesn't apply to you, but you know someone who could use this service, please pass the info (or our blog URL) along.


Well, the cruise, of course. We will have more information on signing up shortly. Watch for it here, on Facebook, Twitter, and other places where fine genealogy events are promoted!

Don't let us sail without you!

Monday, August 31, 2015

An Interview with Laurie Sleeper of Tall Trees Genealogy

One of the 2015 Gena and Jean sponsors was professional genealogist Laurie Sleeper, JD, MFA of Tall Trees Genealogy. Laurie is an attorney with a degree in Creative Writing. I sat down with her to learn more about her interests and tips for genealogy.

Gena: How did you first get interested in genealogy?

Laurie: I grew up knowing quite a bit about my mother’s side of the family because my uncle was a serious genealogist. In the 1980s, he self-published several lengthy volumes of family history, reflecting at least 30 years of dedicated research (while working full-time and pursuing his interest in music as well!). But I didn’t know much about my father’s side of the family. Since my last name is Sleeper, I wanted to find out why! I tape-recorded an interview with my grandfather L. Jack Sleeper while I was in high school, as well as wrote letters to family members asking for information. Although I’ve had a couple of different careers—lawyer, writer, full-time mother—I’ve always returned to genealogy. I’m so excited that genealogy is now my career!

Gena: What is your favorite part of research?

Laurie: I love trying to glean every bit of information from the records I look at, trying to see how all the pieces fit together to help me learn more about the person I’m researching. I like to imagine the time and place the person lived in, the various societal influences and constraints, the reasons he or she made certain choices—while non-genealogy enthusiasts might see old records as boring, I see each one as bringing a person back to life. Someone who might have been forgotten is now remembered.

Gena: You’ve attended a number of genealogical institutes; why would you recommend that experience?

Laurie: When I first decided to become a professional genealogist, I knew I had to broaden my knowledge and experience. I’ve treated my self-education like grad school, attending a variety of institutes and conferences to get up to speed quickly so that I know I can give my clients the best service possible. I love the institutes specifically because you choose one course in which you focus intensively on one topic for the entire week. It’s a learning environment that we adults don’t get very often once we enter the real world. And it’s fun! It’s like summer camp for adults. Several of my closest friends are people I’ve met at the institutes.

Gena: Can you tell us about DNA and genealogy?

I’m so excited to include DNA analysis with my traditional genealogy research when I can. I know people are sometimes disappointed with their DNA test results, but I think it’s because some people think it will produce magic. The important thing to understand about DNA and genealogy is that your test results are like any other genealogical record or document. DNA can’t solve any problem by itself, it has to be analyzed in conjunction with traditional genealogical research. DNA is a record that has newly become available to us, which is why there’s so much focus on it right now. If you have older relatives or are part of the oldest living generation in your family, please consider taking a DNA test (or two)—you will personally be contributing to the record of your family’s history.

Gena: Family historians sometimes have a hard time writing a narrative after researching. What do you recommend to help non-writers to be able to tell their family stories?

Laurie: Writing can be hard for the best writers, so don’t feel bad if you struggle with finding the right words. Start small—instead of trying to write an entire book, try just one scene or one story. Pretend that you are telling your story to a friend or to a younger relative. Think about how you keep listeners engaged when telling any kind of story. Try talking into a digital recorder, or record yourself talking to someone else. Use your imagination, and remember that people a hundred years ago were not that much different than us. If your ancestor was the youngest of eight, what impact might that have on her perspective? If a father died young, how would that feel for the oldest son who had to become the man of the family? Learn about the history of the time and location where your ancestors lived—it’s important to know about weather, crop failures, wars, etc. Stop and think how that would affect you, because it probably affected your ancestors in a similar way. But most importantly, don’t worry about how “good” your writing is, just write it! You are the one who is rescuing your ancestors from the passage of time and memory, and even if your writing feels “clunky” to you, it’s critical that you record what you’ve learned so that future generations can learn from you.

You can read more about Laurie on her website, Tall Trees Genealogy. Her website is currently under construction but you can still contact her there. 

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.