Impressions from Ellis Island

I originally planned on writing more about my Randalls, but I was moved to write the following, while it was still fresh in my mind!

This past Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my second cousin and I made a trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island. We were hoping to learn more about our common great-grandparents, whether specifically or experientially.

The Trip

Though it was mid-January, we were fortunate that the weather was sunny and somewhat mild. We had pre-purchased our ferry tickets, so all we had to do was go through security and get on board. It was a really quick trip to both places – you can see your destinations easily from the dock – so we were soon at Liberty Island.

Since we hadn’t bought tickets to tour inside the statue, we just walked the perimeter of the island itself. With the sunny skies, it was worth it! The statue was beautiful, especially with the sunlight shining on her face.

Lady Liberty, always welcoming!  Author's collection

Lady Liberty, always welcoming! Author’s collection

We boarded the next ferry for Ellis Island, which was just a few minutes up the harbor. We had a quick lunch at the cafeteria (which probably had way better food than our ancestors experienced!) and were ready to explore. There was a research room, which we contemplated visiting, but I said, let’s look at the exhibits first. (More about the research room later.)

Exploring Ellis Island

Author's collection.

Author’s collection.

Close-up of the building built in 1900.  Author's collection.

Close-up of the building built in 1900. Author’s collection.


Let me say that you would never know that there was any previous storm damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. So although many items are in storage and/or are being restored, still there are many exhibits in the main building (listed here), and we didn’t even see all of them. Basically, the exhibits covered different eras of immigration throughout American history, not just immigration through Ellis Island. There are audio components: one through listening to headsets at various stations, and others that activated by either standing near the audio station or by picking up a landline-style phone. Since I’m more of a visual person, I did more reading than listening; my cousin went for the complete experience!

I was really impressed by the breadth of what the exhibits covered. We went to the pre-Ellis Island immigration exhibit first. This covered everything from early European immigration to existing Native populations to the slave trade. And it wasn’t just your standard schoolbook Anglo-only immigration, but that of other countries as well (Sweden, Denmark and the West Indies, for example) and immigration into different parts of what would be the United States (like the Southwest, Alaska and Hawaii).

The biggest exhibit was for the Ellis Island era. Not only did it cover Ellis Island, but other ports of entry as well (like San Francisco). There were photographs, film clips and other media of the immigrants in their homeland, during their trips and what happened to them upon arrival in the US. One room was filled with “treasures from home”, which was ephemera from different family collections. This also included some family papers (not mine, though)! My cousin and I pondered what the immigrants must have thought of the panorama of different peoples and cultures that suddenly surrounded them.

Statue of Annie Moore, the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island.  Author's collection.

Statue of Annie Moore, the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island. Author’s collection.

There were also various rooms where immigrants were processed, medically examined or slept for the night. The most famous, which you often see in photographs, is the Registration Room, which is a large hall on the second floor. As I stood there, I thought of my other great-grandfather who arrived in 1907 (after the current building was built in 1900). I imagined him standing in line, perhaps talking to his brother. I wondered if he, like I was just then, looked at the sunshine streaming through the large windows.

Ellis Island Registration Room.  Author's collection.

Ellis Island Registration Room. Author’s collection.

Probably the most powerful impression, however, was present throughout most of the exhibits: the pro-immigrant vs. anti-immigrant sentiments. On the one hand, some Americans were proud of the fact that the country welcomed and provided opportunity to people from all over the world. On the other hand, some felt intruded upon and threatened by the arrival of so many strangers. It didn’t seem to matter at what point in history it was; both attitudes prevailed. I remarked to my cousin that things really haven’t changed over the years, have they?

As we rested our weary feet for a while, we talked one of the earlier exhibits about immigrant influences on music, particularly the banjo from Africa and how it made its way into blackface minstrel shows (which my great-great uncle Albert Pleau took part in). My cousin wondered why such a thing would be so popular. One of the things we came up with was that perhaps people who had been there for a while felt “smarter” and found it funny when they saw others were not so “smart” as themselves. Perhaps categorizing others as “dumber” gave one group a feeling of superiority. My cousin grew up in an area that had many French-Canadians, and the other citizens kind of looked down on them as well. This sentiment was (and is) prevalent all over the country with many different ethnic groups.

The Research Room

Because the museum was so big and there was so much to see, we never got the research room. There were signs there that stated a half-hour consultation was $7 (I didn’t know there were consultations!), and I like to get the biggest bang for my buck, so I felt I needed to be better prepared to use this service most effectively. Later on, I tried finding out more information online about this service, and I found nothing. What I really want to do is write to them for an explanation of their offerings and what to expect from a visit there, so I intend to email them for just that. I will be sure to write up their answer for all our benefit!

* * *

All in all, if you want to research any immigrant experience, regardless of time and place, Ellis Island is the place to go. You can opt to skip the Statue of Liberty, but it is right there anyway and it is something so many of our ancestors saw upon their arrival, so I say: go!

Back From Vacation! (And a Tip)

Yes, I took a little time off of everything, though I couldn’t totally get away from genealogy. As we visited my husband’s hometown and planned on seeing some of his ancestors’ graves, I got a little carried away on Find-a-Grave then proceeded to map out some good chunks of his own ancestry!

We also visited the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, where we were able to enter the research room (my favorite part, of course). This reminded me of my recent trip to Guilford, CT when we visited the Henry Whitfield House. They, too, had a research room, available by appointment. I have to wonder how many museums out there have research rooms or something similar. These rooms most likely will not be featured prominently on the museum website, if at all. So my tip is: ask! Find out if there is such a room, how it can be accessed and what its holdings might be. Who knows? You may find something you’ve been looking for.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum!  Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum! Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Next week, we’ll return to exploring my ancestors; I’ll be much more refreshed by then!

A Trip to the New York Public Library

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a genealogy stay-cation, particularly to do those “little things” I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. One of those things was to visit the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library, which houses their amazing US History, Local History and Genealogy resources (in other words, “paradise”). The NYPL has a ton of stuff online, but I wanted to see what offline resources they have. I had the perfect opportunity when I found out that they held some books that I couldn’t access elsewhere.

Preparing to Go

I originally found my books via Google Books, which sometimes shows a snippet view, just to tease you! (Actually, it is very helpful, or else I wouldn’t know if the book is relevant or not.) Clicking on the “Find in a Library” link brings you to, which lists the libraries where the books are available. And did you know that you can sign up for a free WordCat account, where you can create your own lists that are annotatable? That’s exactly what I did — I made a “NYPL” list to capture each book. Then I looked up the call number in the NYPL (just by clicking the book’s NYPL link in WorldCat) and noted it under each book on my list. I just printed the list to take with me; I suppose I could have saved the list as a pdf into Evernote as well.

Another way I prepared for the trip was obtain a temporary NYPL card, which is necessary for any pull requests. If you are not a New York City resident, then you can get a temporary card that is good for three months. First I registered on the website, which set me up with a patron account. When I arrived at the NYPL, I had to go to a room on the second floor (Customer Service? Customer Relations?) to finish the process. If you’ve already started the process, all the staff has to do is look you up and issue your card!

A Few Words About the Library

First, the library is so convenient to get to — just two blocks from Grand Central Station! And there is a Starbucks right between the two, which I hit afterwards.

I’ve walked past the library before, but I’ve never stopped just to look. It is gorgeous! Too many architectural details to take in at once, inside and out; I probably could have spent days doing so. (In fact, there are tours of the library.)

Welcome to the New York Public Library!  Author's collection.

Welcome to the New York Public Library! Author’s collection.

After going through a well-moving security line, I was in! After finding out where to complete my library card process and taking care of that, I checked the big map in the lobby and found out where the Milstein Division was — Room 121. (Meanwhile, I was still ogling over all the beautiful details inside the building…)

The Best Room

You are about to enter the Genealogy Zone... Author's collection.

You are about to enter the Genealogy Zone… Author’s collection.

First let me describe just what is here. This room holds books and boxed papers. Some of the papers seem to be donated collections, which probably need to go through the request process (I just skimmed through the box titles). The variety of books amazed me. There are years’ worth of publications from NEHGS, NYG&B and more. There are directories, ship manifests and civil war indexes. There are sections on African-American, Latino and other ethnic genealogies. And of course, there are books on history.

What interested me most, however, were the surname books, which were on my list. Unlike the other books mentioned above, they needed to be requested to be pulled by a librarian. For each book, I had to fill out a little faux-carbon form with the book information and call number (thank you, WorldCat list!), and the librarian gave me the yellow copy as she pulled the books.

I soon had all the books I wanted and identified what I wanted to copy from them. You need to ask permission to copy each book; basically the librarian just assesses the age and condition of the book. (Mine were all good to go.)

The Worst Part

If I were to win Powerball, I would buy the NYPL Milstein Division a brand-new copier with a new credit card reader. Although the copier made fine copies, the cover was almost falling off and the card reader kept timing out on me so often that my credit card stopped working. (It’s supposed to make up to $5 worth of copies, but I never got that far.) Fortunately my debit card worked and the librarian helped me out a little (with plenty of empathy…and by the way, the library staff was SO helpful at every juncture in the process). Once I hit my stride, I stopped timing out so often.

There is a note on the copier that says it does take USBs and digital copies are free (I didn’t think to bring a USB beforehand), but it doesn’t accept all USBs. Either way, I’m glad I made hardcopies so I could write notations for myself.

Other Parts of the Library

There is actually a very nice book store on-site that sells all kinds of books and gift-type things like mugs and tote bags. And there happened to be an exhibit about Alexander Hamilton that included original documents in his own handwriting; I figured since I was there, I’d take advantage of the opportunity.

There are so many other departments at the NYPL: the Microform Room, the Manuscript and Archives Division, the Rare Book Division and the Map Division, to name a few. Someday I may get to visit these as well!

A Visit to the Family History Center

I recently had a neat break-through totally by accident and came across a new-to-me second cousin! The best part was that she lives only an hour away from me in New York City. Since she is relatively new to family research, she wanted to visit with her local Family History Center, so did I want to come? I never went to an FHC before, so I figured why not? I’d get to check one out and meet my cousin at the same time.

The FHC we were to meet at was on the west side of the city, and Google Maps showed a nice big building there: Church of the Latter-Day Saints. Yes, most of the building was for the Mormon’s church, but the FHC was there as well. I’d done a little homework and found the number for a roll of microfilm that might give us clues about our Polish great-grandfather’s naturalization; that should be a good start, right? I had visions of genealogy books and rows of microfilm readers and computers!

Outside the FHC (which was conveniently across the street from the subway stop), I met my cousin with a hug, as well as a good friend of hers who was researching his family as well. We were ready for our field trip! We went inside, followed some signs for the FHC within the building…and came to a room no bigger than my living room with a bunch of computers (all occupied) inside. I briefly felt uncertain and could sense my cousin and her friend felt the same way.

Right away, a worker from the FHC saw us and welcomed us. She asked if we wanted to see the “other room” with the microfilm readers and a couple more computers. “Sure!” we said, eager to see if there was anything else. We were brought to the room, which had a couple of readers, a microfilm scanner (cool!), and a few more computers. (I could also see it doubled as a Sunday School room for little ones! They must have had a lot of self-control not to touch the interesting machines…) We were happy that, for the most part, we could have this room to ourselves. My cousin and I had a LOT of talking to do, as well as research.

We’d found a bunch of things online while we were there, and I showed her how to use the FamilySearch wiki as I explained how to find out what vital records might be searchable online vs. needing to be purchased. Meanwhile, our host tried looking for the microfilm I wanted to see. Sadly (so, so sadly), she could not locate it, even though their system said it was there. The host even let me look in the microfilm room, to no avail.

Nope, not in here! Microfilm at the Family History Center in NYC. Author's collection.

Nope, not in here! Microfilm at the Family History Center in NYC. Author’s collection.

In spite of not making any huge finds, it was still a good visit. We had enough space to ourselves to be able to tell family stories, ask each other questions, and do some on-line exploring together. There was even wifi, which enabled me to pull up my cloud-stored records on my iPad to show my cousin. My cousin’s friend even found some records he was not expecting. The host was very, very accommodating (she even let us use her own laptop while the computer we’d been using was needed for the microfilm scanner). She promised to email me if they found the missing microfilm.

As we were leaving, our host asked if we could please sign their guest book. The more people they showed as visiting the FHC, the more money and resources (including space) they could have. You bet we’d sign!

So although I was kind of let down by the size of the “center”, it was still a good visit. After all, I was with family and we were doing genealogy!

What’s In Your GEDCOM?

In December, when Ancestry announced that they would no longer be selling Family Tree Maker, it seemed to shake up much of the genealogy world. People wondered what would they do, where would they go with their data?

Although I was not an FTM user, I watched the fallout and the reaction with interest. I guess part of me wondered, if this could happen to FTM, could it happen to Legacy (what I use)? Or any other genealogy software for that matter? I didn’t want to be caught unawares, like the FTM users seemed to be. I wanted to be ready for whatever changes the future of genealogy might bring. On December 14, The Genealogy Guys had a very timely themed podcast on genealogy software. In it, they touched on GEDCOMs and how they worked. I realized that there was a lot that I did not know!

As you know, I participate in the bi-weekly #genchat on Twitter. On January 15, the topic was “What to do with…Changing Technology?” and circumstances arose that enabled me to host the chat for the evening. We talked about how we handled change, how we backed up digital and non-digital data, understanding what was in our backups (in particular, GEDCOMs), petitioning our software companies for futures changes, and the future as we saw it. Because I know I needed a greater understanding, I gave a homework assignment of just taking a look at one of those GEDCOMs that we’ve backed up, just to see what it looked like and what was in there.

Little did I know that I was in for a bigger learning experience than I bargained for! (But that’s a good thing!) Below are some of my “lessons learned” and my thoughts on them:

  • despite how Legacy’s zip file backup is named, it is not a GEDCOM nor is a GEDCOM file in there!
  • what is in the zip file is Legacy’s database back-up. So if I were to transfer to another genealogy program, I would not be able to load that back up into it.
  • I learned how to export a GEDCOM from Legacy (File/Export/GEDCOM file) and have opened it up in Notepad. As everyone promised, it does look messy, but I recognize a lot of what is there.
  • I need a much better understanding of the contents and structure of a GEDCOM. I’ve learned from the Genealogy Guys that some event types do not transfer over exactly, and I know that media and documents typically are not included. This means I need to know what other files — besides a GEDCOM — needs to be backed up.

Thanks to the Legacy Family Tree Users Facebook group, I picked up a couple of handy tips:

  • A link to the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Standard document. I’ve found it myself on the internet to share with all of you. Yes, it looks dry, but it’s the go-to document about GEDCOM today!
  • There is a freeware program called GedPad that allows you to look at your GEDCOM in a more visually friendly way, as well as perform any edits (which I have no desire to do at this time).

Below is just a little excerpt of the beginning of my GEDCOM, so you can see it too:

GEDCOM sample

Next week, I’ll go back to our “regularly scheduled program” of blogging about my Strong family, but I just wanted to let everyone know my latest thoughts on this topic. As I learn more, I’ll be sure to pass it on!

Genealogy Trip Safety

When we’re getting ready to go on a genealogy excursion, be it a conference or simply a cemetery visit, we know a lot of what we need to do to prepare: do a research log, check out our destination’s website, figure out where to park, etc. But how often do we prepare with our own safety in mind?

This is a story of my quick trip to the Old Durham Cemetery in Durham, CT this past week, where I not only gleaned some information on my ancestors, but learned (fortunately not the hard way) how important safety was. I had dropped off my daughter for college orientation in Rhode Island and decided that, since I was all the way across Connecticut, I would pop in on an ancestral cemetery either in Rhode Island or eastern Connecticut. For some reason, I felt that Durham should be the place to go, so off I went.

When I got to the town, I saw many branches and trees down in people’s yards; the primary sound in town was chainsaws. You see, there had been pretty bad storms two days before. In my part of the state, all we got was rain, but in Durham and some of the surrounding towns, they were hit with a number of microbursts. However, the main road (where the cemetery was) was clear and it was an absolutely beautiful day: upper 70s, low humidity, perfect for scoping out the cemetery.

Old Durham Cemetery, from the bottom of the hill on a bright sunny day.  Author's collection.

Old Durham Cemetery, from the bottom of the hill on a bright sunny day. Author’s collection.

I parked on Old Cemetery Road, which was nice and shady for my car, and proceeded to the cemetery, which was on a somewhat steep hill. No worries there: I knew how to tread carefully on hills from previous hikes. I was grateful that although there were a number of trees down around the perimeter of the cemetery, very few stones were damaged, though some had very close calls. As I continued my search, I thought to myself that I should have brought sunscreen; I burn easily. Well, I wouldn’t stay too long, since it was nearly lunch time. What I didn’t count on was the heat; I felt myself getting overheated and I hadn’t brought any water, so I took a few breaks to sit in the shade (this actually helped me find my people, though!).

Downed tree from the microbursts.  Author's collection.

Downed tree from the microbursts. Author’s collection.

Finally when I was done, I knew I absolutely had to get water and something to eat, so I started to drive around to find a restaurant. I ended up at a small market with a deli, so I was able to down a bottle of water and eat a pretty good sandwich as I listened to the locals talk about power outages and storm clean-up. At this point, I knew I was done, so I punched in my address on Google Maps. As I turned down the first street, I came up to a road block; arborists were taking down trees, of course! I knew I couldn’t use my GPS and I couldn’t find a map that I thought was in my car, so I just went back the way I came.

This excursion taught me some valuable lessons, though. Some of the things I should have done:

  • no matter where I’m going, always bring a spare bottle of water
  • make sure the car has a paper road map; the GPS doesn’t always know when a road is closed
  • if I’m going to be outdoors on a sunny day, be sure to bring sunscreen
  • check local-specific news, even if it’s only by Twitter; what I didn’t know was that the town had discouraged any visitors until they got the roads cleaned up!

And, not to beat myself up, here are some things I did right:

  • parked in the shade, off the road so my car would be cool and safe
  • had my cell phone with me (I even have a first aid app from the Red Cross)
  • looked carefully at the lay of the land: the stability of the surrounding branches and even poison ivy!
  • walked really carefully on that hill. Some of the ground was kind of “mushy”.
  • sat and rested at times, and quit when I knew I had enough
  • retraced my steps as I drove out of town

On a related note, Denise May Levenick gave a talk at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree this year called “Be Prepared with a Genealogy Disaster Plan”. She not only talked about keeping your work safe, but actually started out how to keep yourself safe where ever you go. The video is view-able free until July 5, and you need to register first here.

I think in the future I will be more prepared for even the smallest genea-trip. What about you? How do you stay safe during your trips? Please share your own pointers in the comments. After all, if you don’t protect you, who will?

Global Family Reunion

Yesterday, June 6, the Global Family Reunion was held at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, NY and I got to go! Because it was so close to where I live and the price was right, I figured I should take advantage of the opportunity. If you follow me on Twitter, you got to see a lot of comments and pictures!

Let me first tell you how the day went for me personally, then I’ll give you my overall impressions of the event.

First of all, it was quite easy to get to. I just took Metro-North into Grand Central (about an hour), then the 7 Subway over to 111th Street (about half an hour), then a five minute walk three blocks away. Although I wasn’t overly impressed with the neighborhood, I realized it was just an urban working-class area. I arrived about 10:45am and immediately made friends with new “cousins”/genealogists in line, one being from Chicago! It took past the scheduled 11am start time to actually start checking people in, and I’m still not sure why. We were directed to the “Cousin Check-in” area, which had two lines; apparently I was in the wrong one, and the other was very long, so I said to myself, “I’ll check in later!” (which I did).

Waiting to get in.  Author's colleciton.

Waiting to get in. Author’s collection.

First thing was first: I had to stop in on the Find My Past booth to meet #genchat founder, Jen Baldwin. Her red hair made her easy to spot, but I was not easy for her to know right away (since my Twitter avatar is a gingerbread man). Once I introduced myself, though, she gave me a big hug and said we just HAD to get in the

#genchat friends:  Jen Baldwin and me!  Author's collection.

#genchat friends: Jen Baldwin and me! Author’s collection.

obligatory selfie. After that, the Find My Past booth was sort of “home base” for me throughout the day.

The Main Stage schedule probably varied the most from what was

Cousin AJ.  Author's collection.

Cousin AJ. Author’s collection.

on the website, so AJ Jacobs was not first up, but close to it. He apologized for the delay, saying we could forgive him since he was family, and gave us a hearty welcome and a little speech as to the Global Family Reunion came about.

Not able to decide what to eat, and still not terribly hungry, I downed an old-fashioned New York pretzel and went to the Theater area so I could catch Henry Louis Gates. Alas! The 300-seat auditorium was completely full and I couldn’t get in. Not to be deterred, I put in my earbuds and accessed the live webcast of Mr. Gates as I sat in the sun (which fortunately finally came out). Basically, he spoke of his background and how he ended up being a genealogist. The most exciting part was announcing his plans to help get genealogy into the classroom in science (through DNA) and social studies, starting with the inner city first (as they stand to benefit the most from it). Keep your eyes peeled for more on this development!

I spent a little time wandering around before catching D. Joshua Taylor (one of the hosts of “Genealogy Roadshow”, among many other roles) talk about Genealogy & Hollywood in the Viscusi Gallery room. Josh sure has a way of presenting! Not only did he tell us some neat things about genealogy and entertainment (such as the fact that Walt Disney made sure all his characters had a family tree), but he also drove home the fact that we must verify our on-line findings.

I was able to catch most of Dr. Oz on my way out. He spoke of what

Dr. Oz.  Author's collection.

Dr. Oz. Author’s collection.

motivates us to change, particularly from the perspective of staying healthy so we can enjoy our families.

Finally hungry, I had the biggest Falafel sandwich ever (delicious and filling for the rest of the day) as I watched the goings-on in the kids’ area. Boy, they were having lots of fun! Kicking soccer balls, hula-hooping, origami folding and other games. As I tweeted, I didn’t see one whining, crying kid. They were having fun! Older children and teens sharpened their storytelling and writing skills in the Storytelling Tent, and if that wasn’t enough, families got to play miniature golf or explore the museum itself (which looked pretty interactive and cool).

Origami fun!  Author's collection.

Origami fun! Author’s collection.

Paul Williams had just enough time to sing “The Rainbow Connection” before he had to leave. It was cool to see him, as I remember him from “back in the day”! Later on, I even got to meet Daniel Horowitz, Chief Genealogy Officer from MyHeritage. He was happy to hear that I was a MyHeritage user and I was happy to hear that he was able to find some family graves nearby in Queens.

Tammy Hepps, founder of Treelines.  Author's collection.

Tammy Hepps, founder of Treelines. Author’s collection.

As a Treelines user, I absolutely had to catch Tammy Hepps in the StoryTelling Tent as she spoke about her “Margarine Outlaws”. She

had given this talk during RootsTech, and I wanted to see what new developments she may have uncovered! (Needless to say, she learned a whole lot about margarine!) I also got to say a quick hello to her.

It was finally time for the big event: Sister Sledge on the Main Stage! Everyone gathered around, the music started, and out three of them came, singing a song to warm us up! One more sister came on stage and the familiar notes

Sister Sledge sings!  Author's collection.

Sister Sledge sings! Author’s collection.

started: “We are family!” everyone sang. The music, the joy, the hands holding up “I Am A Cousin” signs! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many happy, celebrating people in one place at one time.

Just part of the crowd!  Author's collection.

Just part of the crowd! Author’s collection.

Finally, we “posed” (?) for the big family picture and we listened to AJ’s lovely wife Julie talk about the fundraising portion of the event: supporting Alzheimer’s research and care. AJ was also given several bits of recognition, including an honorary membership in the New England Historic Genealogical Society and a double-helix guitar (which did not make it to the stage, but he promised he’d post a picture of!).

Afterwards, I went back to the Viscusi Gallery to hear Randy Whited speak on “The Future Is Now”. He spoke of everything from advances in technology to telling our own story. My favorite point was to make it obvious which part of the story comes from us versus which part comes from records (another score for well done genealogy).

Back to the Main Stage to see Marilu Henner speak on improving

Marilu Henner, memory extraordinaire!  Author's collection.

Marilu Henner, memory extraordinaire! Author’s collection.

our memory recall (important in light of the focus on Alzheimer’s).  One big tip I remember was using your primary sense to tap into memory: if a visual person, take pictures; if tactile, write it down, etc. What will I remember most from this talk? Her scolding the chatty security guards backstage for being too loud while she was talking! Ha, ha!

Well, it was closing in on 6pm and I had better start making my way home. I got another picture with Jen AND Josh Taylor, then had the

Me, Jen, and Josh Taylor.  Surrounded by genea-awesomeness!  Author's collection.

Me, Jen, and Josh Taylor. Surrounded by genea-awesomeness! Author’s collection.

honor of snapping the official Find My Past team photo! Said goodbye to Jen, until we “see” each other virtually again!

One screwy thing about getting back: there was no Manhattan-bound train from that subway station that weekend! It seemed we had to take the train to one stop up (where the Mets play), then take a Manhattan-bound train back. But this turned out to be a good opportunity, because I met some other genealogists (cousins!) who were headed back as well, and we got to talk about the day and our favorite online people (DearMYRTLE and Michael Lacopo were theirs). When it comes to genealogy, there are always friends to be made!

So that was the day. Here are my overall positive impressions:

  • fun, festival-like atmosphere
  • the genealogy tents (Find My Past/Mocavo, Family Search, and MyHeritage/Geni) were hopping with people who wanted to make discoveries, and they did!
  • good genealogy speakers, placed in the right rooms (for the most part), with topics designed to capture your interest if you’re new to genealogy and to encourage you if you’re not. It was sometimes hard to choose who to hear speak!
  • good non-genealogy speakers, with a great focus on strengthening family (we sure need that today, don’t we?)
  • good food, short lines
  • ample supply of port-a-potties; no lines, relatively clean, and wash-up stations too

What could have been better:

  • coffee. There was no coffee anywhere. We need coffee!
  • proper signage to direct folks to appropriate lines. When entering, there was a line for VIP’s and General Admission, but it was hard to tell which was which. Also, at Cousin Check-In, they needed signs for those who had sent in their family history info and who didn’t. It was kind of like being at the DMV.
  • more volunteers at the entrance gate and especially Cousin Check-In.
  • I wish I could have seen Henry Louis Gates; he was obviously the biggest draw there. If he didn’t have slides, I’d suggest he should have gone on the Main Stage.

Overall, a good time and worth the money. Next time, I want to bring some friends to spread the fun!