Gearing up for fall 2016

Wow! It’s hard to believe, but we’re already almost at the end of August. Here in Minnesota the weather has been in the 60s and 70s, giving us our first taste of the cooler weather ahead.

I thought I’d give you a taste of what I’m up to and what I’m working on. On the writing front, my article “Be a Smart Genealogist on the Internet!” was published in the July issue of The Septs, the journal of the Irish Genealogical Society International. (IGSI was a partnering sponsor of the Celtic Connections Conference held earlier this month in Minneapolis, where I had the honor of speaking on researching Cornish ancestors.) I have another Septs article in the pipeline, reviewing author Chris Paton‘s recent book A Decade of Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923, for the October issue.

On the teaching and learning front, September will be a busy month. The Thursday after Labor Day I speak to the Monument chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution about fold3/War of 1812 pensions. (Have you used these pension files? They’re a phenomenal resource, and they’re free forever, thanks to the Preserve the Pensions project.) Then Saturday September 10 I teach a two-hour class on DNA at the Minnesota Historical Society. The first hour will be a basic talk on tests and testing companies; then in the second hour we’ll dive deeper and talk about using DNA for research. September 24 I’ll talk about DNA again, this time just a brief taste for the Lake Minnetonka DAR chapter (my home chapter).

Minnesota Genealogical Society’s North Star Conference will be the high point of the month. I’ll present two sessions, a two-hour problem-solving workshop co-taught with Shirleen Hoffman, and a session on getting help with research sponsored by the Northland chapter, Association of Professional Genealogists. I’ll also be attending the conference’s special DNA Day, taught by Blaine Bettinger, whose Advanced Genetic Genealogy class I took last summer at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. Another GRIP instructor, Michael Lacopo (whose Pennsylvania research course I took in 2015), is the second featured North Star speaker. If you haven’t registered yet for this event, be sure to do so soon–although the DNA Day is already sold out, it’s going to be a great event.

Last but not least on the teaching and learning front, I’ll continue my work as coordinator for the ProGen 27 cohort of the ProGen Study Group. In case you’re not acquainted with it, ProGen is a low-cost, eighteen-month peer learning program aimed at professional and aspiring genealogists. Each ProGen group works its way through Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians, reading chapters in the book, preparing assignments related to the readings, providing feedback for the other participants in the group, and meeting monthly for discussion. Each group is mentored by a certified genealogist. I am an alumna of ProGen 5, and I am still reaping benefits from my participation in the program, both in terms of what I learned from the readings and assignments and in terms of the friendships I formed.

Like many professional genealogists, I do a lot of volunteer work. As the registrar for my DAR chapter and for the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Minnesota, I work with prospective members and candidates in completing their lineage papers. I am excited that Lake Minnetonka DAR has a number of new members already this year, with more working on the DAR’s new electronic application. Besides the normal wealth of fall programs and activities, both the Lake Minnetonka chapter and the Minnesota Dames are working on new websites. (So far I’m only involved with the Dames website project, which is hosted by EasyNetSites, a great company I’ve worked with before.)

I’m also the President (till the end of this year) for the Northland chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists. We are putting the final touches on our every-other-month chapter webinar series for 2016-2017 and gearing up for our first networking lunch the Tuesday after Labor Day. If you’re an APG member in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, or the Dakotas, we’d love to have you join us! Our chapter contact is Shirleen Hoffman.

In personal research, I’m happy to say that I’m continuing to work on the genealogy of my Lutz family. Due to a DNA match from my mother’s home town of Tamaqua, I recently had a breakthrough on this line–lots of military records, this time Civil War pensions, and FAN club research. My husband and I also got a break in learning more about his Mackin family–a second cousin agreed to take Y- and autosomal DNA tests. And that’s not all–my sister and my mother, after several years of saying no, also agreed to test. I’m looking forward to getting my sister’s test results so that I can try the visual phasing technique Blaine Bettinger showed us last summer–visual phasing, also known as phasing by recombination, will allocate individual chromosome segments to my four grandparents. This technique offers obvious benefits for interpreting DNA matches on those chromosome segments. You can bet that I took advantage of Family Tree DNA’s summer sale for the test kits!

It’s definitely shaping up to be a busy fall. Meanwhile, I’m consoling myself that we have almost a month till the autumn equinox!