Tuesday, October 11, 2011

North to Alaska

We are going to take a brief detour from my posts about the trip to Washington, DC and  the events of the week there to quickly describe the quick trip that I recently took to Anchorage Alaska.  I had the privilege of speaking at the Fall Seminar hosted by the Anchorage Genealogical Society on Saturday October 8th.
(Photo credit: Flickr/sreymer) 
Anchorage's Z.J. Loussac Public Library
When I arrived on Friday afternoon, my host Russ Rudolph - 2nd Vice President and Events Chair - took me first to see the facility where the event would be held - The ZJ Loussac Public Library.  I had the pleasure of seeing the marvelous things that the society was doing for the library and its patrons. There is a large area on one floor dedicated to shelves of genealogy reference books donated by the society each year for use by those people researching their genealogy.  The society also has volunteers available a couple of days a week to assist library patrons in their research. 

(Photo credit: Flickr/lawrence's lenses)   
Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet near Anchorage

After seeing the library, Russ offered to take me on a drive down the Seward Highway to see some of the scenery.  The highway makes its way south from Anchorage along the body of water known as the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet.  The overcast skies cleared off and on providing spectacular views of mountains topped with a fresh coat of snow and fall colors mixed with evergreens down low.
Small waterfalls, creeks and rivers appeared regularly along one side and the inlet spread on the other.
(Photo credit: Flickr/lawrence's lenses) 
Turnagain Arm and Girdwood,  Alaska 
as seen from Mt Alyeska, Alaska
Our trip south ended at the town of Girdwood where we turned off to drive through the area known as the Alyeska Resort.

There in that beautiful setting were steep slopes waiting for enough snow for skiers to be able to swoosh down the mountain.
We came around a corner to spy tucked in the trees the main hotel/lodge where a large tram climbed slowly up a dramatic slope to a restaurant at the top of the mountain.
After we returned, I then went back to my hotel. This gave me a chance to unpack, get a quick bite to eat, review my presentations and get some sleep to be ready for the next day's events.

Saturday morning came and we headed over to the library to make sure things were ready to go for the 9 a.m. start.

Patrons slowly trickled into the foyer of the meeting room and enjoyed various displays about genealogy put on by the society, and even a booth from the Pacific Alaska Region Branch of the National Archives, located there in Anchorage.

The morning was made up of two class sessions with a short break in between.  The first one was on organizing your research and various methods that can be used.  I then presented a research case where I demonstrated a couple of specialized forms that can assist in helping to quickly see what you have found on the various surnames being researched and the records involved.

Then after a lunch break where several participants stayed to ask questions and have a discussion on ways to share your family history, we were ready for the afternoon to begin.  The society gave away several door prizes to those in attendance and yours truly picked the winning numbers.  Congratulations again to the winners!

The afternoon started off with a class where I presented many different ideas about the records where people can look to find the maiden names in their family tree or hints that might lead there.  We ended the day with a presentation where I showed many different types things that can be found when researching in newspapers for information about one's ancestors or the places and events that were part of their lives.

(Photo credit: Flickr/Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau) 
Anchorage Skyline
The society then surprised me with very nice gift bag including several momentos of Alaska and the products produced there.  I had originally hoped to spend some extra time fly-fishing while up there, but my schedule didn't allow for it, so the society also included a fly box full of some beautiful flies tied by attendeee Stan Bissonette - who was planning to be my guide - and is also a talented fly tying instructor. Thanks again!

After staying to answer some questions and bid farewell to the attendees, Russ again took me on a quick tour of the downtown area and older/historic part of Anchorage.

After a short break at the hotel, I was treated to a delicious meal at a local restaurant accompanied by the members of the AGS Board.  We had a great time discussing genealogy of course - with a few minor tangents and personal stories thrown in.  We just had a wonderful time and the company was delightful!

We said our goodbyes and then Russ and his wife took me on a drive up one of the nearby mountains to see the lights of the city.  It was a shimmering carpet of lights that seemed to go on and on until suddenly ending in the blackness of the water.
(Photo credit: Flickr/Wonderlane) 
Stuffed brown bear, albino beaver, and dall sheep 
display in the Anchorage International Airport
Sunday morning I headed out to the airport and enjoyed browsing the many displays of wildlife found in Alaska. 
It was a fantastic trip where I got to see glorious sites, meet great people, experience wonderful hospitality.   I sure hope one day to get back there.   I have to try those fishing flies out for sure!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Visit to Washington, DC. - Family, Friends, Learning & Laughter - Part 6

    We are finally to Wednesday of my week at the National Institute on Genealogical Studies (NIGR) and already up to part 6 of this series.  I didn't expect it to turn into this many posts, but I hope you are keeping up with it anyway because it was a great experience and I highly recommend it if you have the chance to go.
    When I first arrived at the Archives on that Wednesday morning I had a quick chat with our hosts letting them know about a wonderful opportunity that was coming my way later that day that would cause me to miss part of class.  My brother-in-law had been able to arrange a fairly unique tour of the dome of the US Capitol Building for my wife and me.  This isn't part of any normal tour and has to be arranged specifically through the office of a member of congress and fit their schedule since they or a member of their staff accompany you on the tour.  More about this later in this post.
    Then we had some free research time and I was able to put in some more record pull requests before heading to our first session by Angela McGhie, who would be giving us a class about the various resources that FamilySearch had for federal records (familysearch.org).   I know that FamilySearch is regularly adding new sets of data as the microfilm digitization project, indexing and digital imaging moves forward.  It can, however, be hard to keep up will all the new things on the site, so this was great information about how many collections on the site are federal records of various categories including, military, immigration,  court, land, and census records.  Also included are other types of collections that might not be NARA records, but are related Civil War Records for Confederate Soldiers. 
   Angela also discussed the various indexing projects (indexing.familysearch.org) going on that involve federal records as well as discussing the wonderful information available at the FamilySearch Research Wiki (wiki.familysearch.org) where one can find "free family history research advice for the community, by the community".
  She also showed us the new Civil War Research Page (familysearch.org/civil-war) that FamilySearch has created to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and act as a gateway to finding information and research resources for the Civil War.
    Next she covered the many free research courses available on the site (familysearch.org/learn/researchcourses), many of which are related to various types of federal records.   I really enjoyed her presentation and was excited to meet her in person since I used the tips on her blog (www.genealogyeducation.blogspot.com) to prepare for attending the week at NIGR.
   I had to then leave to grab a quick lunch and head over to Capitol Hill with my wife.   We arrived at the congressman's office where my brother-in-law works to meet up with the staffer who would be accompanying us - along with another person and an intern - on the dome tour.  We then passed through the tunnels from the office building over to the Capitol, past the throngs of 'normal' tour participants, where we entered through a door and encountered this depiction of the dome.
We then proceeded to climb the stairs behind the dome picture and reached an area where we then were standing on what was originally the roof, where you can still see part of the original dome facade. 
We continued climbing until we reached the first balcony level where looking across the dome appeared like the first picture below. There our guide told us about the frieze and the various scenes and history behind it as well as some additional information about the dome and its architecture.  We then went back out and continued our climb as seen in the second picture below.
    We then reached the next balcony level where you get a very close look at the painting at the top of the dome (The Apotheosis of Washington). It has several parts to it that were explained by our guide and we took a break to take some pictures of us on that level and some as we looked down to see those who were taking the 'regular' tours of the Capitol. You can also see in the picture looking down the first balcony area above the frieze.

 But our journey wasn't yet over.  We then climbed another series of steps and came out a doorway, finding ourselves at the very top of the dome. This put us on the outside of the building where we encountered amazing 360 degree views of Washington, DC beginning with a view of the National Mall looking towards the Washington Monument.   As you can see there was also a thunderstorm rolling in and so we quickly took some pictures including one looking up above us at the columns surrounding the light that is lit when congress is in session and is directly below the Statue of Freedom at the very top of the US Capitol.
    Shortly after finishing our photos we realized that a couple of the ladies in the group had their hair starting to stand on end from the electricity in the air, so we decided it was time to head back down.
Here you get a sense of how steep the stairs were as we climbed back down and listened to the rain that started pouring down shortly after we got back inside.

See here for more information about the dome's architecture -

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Visit to Washington, DC. - Family, Friends, Learning & Laughter - Part 5

    Tuesday continues... with more classes in the afternoon where Marie Melchiori treated us to a couple of sessions on military records.  One was about basic military records at the Archives where we learned about the arrangement of the records by the time of service, i.e. Revolutionary War, Civil War, etc.  They may also be broken down further by the military branch and whether officers, enlisted or volunteer members of the military.  See the free Reference Information Paper at http://www.archives.gov/publications/ref-info-papers/rip109.pdf
    After learning the basics about the military we then dived into more detail on one of the most commonly used records in genealogy research - pension records. This covered the records that can be found in the Archives as well as which ones are making it online. 
    We also learned - as I had found out earlier in the day - that once the record makes it online as a digital version it can be difficult to be able to then see the originals.   I had tried to put in a 'pull request' for one of my wife's ancestors in the Civil War and was told that it had made it online on Footnote.com and therefore wouldn't be "pulled".   I had known that the were getting put up on Footnote, but it was good to know that any Civil War Pension files with an index number below a certain range could be found online.
See - http://go.footnote.com/civilwar_records/#record6
    Class was then let out a little early for an optional evening at the Daughters of the American Revolution Library (DAR - www.dar.org ) that would run from 5 to 8 pm.   This would be a great opportunity to not only see the library, but to also have it open exclusively for our group.

    It was a short walk over to the library which is located down the street from NARA towards the White House.  We then had the opportunity to hear from DAR Library Directory,  Eric G. Grundset, who gave us a brief rundown of the library, how things are organized and used and we were set free to explore.
    I had done some preparation at home for this visit by searching the DAR Genealogical Research Database.
See - http://services.dar.org/public/dar_research/search/
   This allowed me to find out ahead of time which ancestors were found in the digitized application files for membership in the DAR.  I had found an ancestor on my Father's side, John Coon, and one on my wife's side, Martin Harmon in the database.     
    This meant that at the library's computer media center I could look at digital versions of supporting documents and applications that contained these individuals.  You can download a pdf version of the applications from home for $10, but have no chance to see them before buying unless you are at the library.  The "supporting" documents are not part of the application, but can be purchased for 20 cents a page.  If you are at the library you can pick and choose which of these you want to print after having a chance to see them.  
    This can be important because with John Coon, for example, there were over 18 different applications.  Only one of them was a descendant of his son John who I come through, but it was good to look at the others to see what other information might have been included.
    An unexpected moment came when I had a little extra time and decided to see if anyone from my Bybee line might have been a Revolutionary War Veteran.  Three Bybee's came up.  Two of them were names that I knew, but haven't found to be related.  Then there was a John Bybee.   There are three John Bybees in a row in my pedigree - could it be one of them?   As I looked closer, I found that yes, this John Bybee was one of mine.  I couldn't have been more excited as I printed off many of the supporting documents for John as I dashed to the Metro station to head over and meet my brother-in-law for a ride home.
    If Tuesday sounds like fun, stay tuned for Wednesday...