Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why Bother Researching My Family Tree?

My very first BLOG POST at The Oracle of OMcHodoy addressed the question of “Why Bother Blogging?”.  The end result of that post was the following answer:

“While Internet databases provide me with the means to find information, message boards, email groups, personal web pages and blogs provide me with the means to connect with people”.

It’s now almost six years removed from that post and today I want to switch things around and answer the question, “Why Bother Researching Your Family History?”.

When I started researching names on the Internet (via Rootsweb,,, Google, etc) I was amazed at the mass of information available. As with many people, I was drawn in to, with its wealth of digital images, indices, names and dates. I started by plugging in the name “John J. Doyle” in an effort to determine the relationship of the subject of a photograph to me. Before I knew it I wandered off the name of “John J. Doyle” and found the names “Edward Hodick”, “James O’Rourke” and “Dennis McHugh”. With every find I felt a surge of excitement. But I also felt so much more.

Fast forward five years. My research in this time period waxed and waned, with periods of utter joy at finding a genealogical gold mine and periods of utter disappointment at not even having time to research. My father had moved in with me, adding the new role of “Caregiver” to my resume. I changed jobs. Later, I dealt with the death of my father, and a move that was to lead to a second move in a matter of months. And I bought my first home. It may sound strange, but it was this latter process that provided me with the answer to the question, “Why Bother Researching Your Family Tree”.

There were many obstacles in front of me when I began my home search. The branch manager at my lending company was shot down and killed. A friend using the same company went through hell trying to close on her own home because of the sluggishness of the money-handlers. I had a spreadsheet of 20 homes to wade through, worried that I’d ultimately choose the wrong one. But alas, fate intervened.

After looking at my top five choices, I told my realtor to set up a walk-through of the 18th house on my list, which had three major strikes against it: It was a little further west than I wanted to go, it was only a two-bedroom (I wanted at least a three-bedroom), and it had polybutylene pipes, which are known to burst without warning. In spite of these things, something screamed inside me to look at house number eighteen. My realtor met me there at about 6:00 one evening and unlocked the front door. I took one step inside and said ‘It’s mine”. I felt an instant connection to this house. After about 45 days of negotiating a very significant repair (the seller did re-pipe the house), I moved in.

The move-in occurred on 31 Jul 2010. To this day I have nary a doubt that I made the right choice in bumping house number eighteen up to house number six. From day one I’ve felt the presence of my parents in this home that they’ve never seen – that was built in the same year I moved to Tucson. The  spiritual connection I feel to this house is what tells me that it was truly meant to be mine.

So how does that story provide me with the answer to the question “Why Bother Researching Your Family Tree”?  Because for six years running I’ve had that same exact feeling of spiritual connection with every ancestor found.

And while I know that documented evidence is the standard in the field of genealogy, it still cannot compare to the standard of connection

Monday, July 11, 2011

That Was Then, This Was ... Well, Then, Too

I often think I had a charmed life as a child. Everything was as it should have been: Nice home on a nice-sized lot in a nice-clean neighborhood where everyone knew everyone and watched out for everyone else's kids. Summer days were "da-bomb", and could be straight out of an Erma Bombeck book (Rest in Peace, Erma).  A typical late summer day might look like this:

8:00 a.m.: Up, eating breakfast and getting swim clothes together.
8:30 a.m.  Waiting in the Farthings' driveway, waiting for a ride to Niagara Wheatfield High School pool for swim lessons.
9:00 - 12:00: At  NW pool.
12:30:  Back home to scarf down some breakfast.
1:00 Walking to the park at the end of the street for softball practice or game.
3:30 Back home to watch tv, play with the other neighborhood kids, or just hang out.
500: Eating dinner with the family
6:00 - Whenever: outside playing "Tag", "Spud", "Hide and Seek", "Search" or "Ghost in the Graveyard" with the neighborhood kids.

Unless it was Friday during summer, which would mean eliminating everything past 1:00 and substituting "packing for and driving to the weekend camping trip to Bedford Beach, Arrowhead, or Rainbow Lake (or, God Forbid, Mockingbird campground). With, of course, the Barry's, Hughey's, Sayers', Curry's, and anyone else who cared to join our caravan.
 (Ray Barry firing up the Hibachi during one of our neighborhood camping trips. I think this was at Bedford Beach Campground in Western New York, a site we frequented for years). Photograph in the collection of Colleen McHugh.

Tonight as I was searching the Pennsylvania Digital Repository for my dad's uncle, John HODICK (1900-1978), I found the following article:
( Courtesy of Access Pennsylvania Digital Repository,
In case it's hard to read, it describes my great-uncle's "well-handled" baseball game and standings of teams in his area of Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

For some reason, I always find articles like this -- ones that describe life outside of the coal mines, railroads and other labor industries -- rather comforting. I've read so much about life in the coal mines and rail cars of NEPA and I've researched enough about how hard people had to work to earn a measly buck that I enjoy reading that my ancestors, too, had time for family, fun, games, and relaxation.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What Have I Been Up To?

Besides working and continuing to settle into my house, I have, actually, squeezed in some research, too.  A cousin of mine sent me a link to a databank of newspaper articles from all over Pennsylvania.
This site has been a gold mine of information for me. I not only have learned names and dates of people on my tree (I even confirmed the family of my maternal great-grandmother from an obituary I'd found!), I have been given a few glimpses into the lives and personalities of some of my ancestors.Thanks, Pat for sharing this site with me!

After finding numerous articles, obituaries and advertisements containing many of my common surnames (Doyle, McHugh, O'Rourke, Kelly, Hodick, to name a few) I began wondering if I'd be able to find a comparable site for my Western New York research. Thanks to Charley Berry Grabowski, of "Apple's Tree", I was able to research the paper of my hometown, The Niagara Gazette. Articles from this newspaper were included in the databanks available at the site below:     
In the months to come I'll share here some of the things I have learned through my ongoing searches of these newspapers. If anything rings a bell or strikes you as interesting, feel free to comment here!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fire in the Hole?

Many of you may know that there are large areas of Arizona that are on fire right now. There is one about an hour south of me that has been going strong for a month with the first signs of containment now upon us (Horseshoe 2 fire). The Murphy Fire to our south has burned over 50,000 acres. as well.  The biggest fire right now is in Eastern Arizona in the White Mountains. This fire, known as the Wallow Fire, has burned over 230,000 acres in less than 2 weeks.

I was talking with my co-worker yesterday, knowing her family has a cabin in Greer, Az which is in the direct path of the Wallow Fire. I asked her if her family left any personal/sentimental items there such as photographs or collectibles. She stated that they do, but they weren't allowed to go up this past weekend to get anything so they're just  hoping and praying their home will be okay. My prayers are with all the affected families and the firefighters who are battling the blazes throughout our state.

What would I grab in case of fire or evacuation order? Obviously my dog Izzie. Then I would grab the typical items: Photographs and albums, the few collectibles my dad got in England in 1974. I'd grab my hard drive and the laptop; the monitor and printer/scanner if I had time.

And of course, I'd grab one of the most amusing Christmas gifts I'd ever received:
 Thanks, Cindy. But I have to admit, even after receiving this several years ago, I still sing the song every Christmas season!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

These are the Faces of Genealogy

The John J. and Jane Doyle family, ca 1910. Pittston, Luzerne County, PA. Photo contributed by
Michael Doyle.

** This post is in response to a poorly thought-out photograph posted by the LA Weekly in conjunction with an article on the upcoming Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. I want the publication to see the true faces of genealogy.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are? Debut

NBC's second season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" made its debut tonight.  I have to say, I think it was the best episode they've done.  I guess it took a year to polish it up a bit.  The subject of tonight's episode was Vanessa Williams.

The big reason I enjoyed this episode so much is because Vanessa Williams was so articulate in her research goals: She wanted to learn about her ancestors to see if any of them were pioneers in any sense. For example, Vanessa was the first African American Miss America, paving the way for others. She wanted to see if any of her ancestors had any remarkable "firsts".  And sure enough, there were.  She then was able to learn a little bit about her ancestors that taught her a lot about herself!

That is a goal I strive for in my research: Learning about my ancestors as people as opposed to just names and dates on a chart.  There are so many ways we can learn about ancestors via research we are already doing: Census records, Military Draft Cards, Headstones. All of these genealogical treasures hold the key to learning about ourselves by learning about our ancestors.

I hope the rest of this season's shows match up to this season's debut!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Memories of an Expo-Goer

I cannot believe it's been a week since the Az Family History Expo! I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I learned yet another new trick or three from Bruce Buzbee of RootsMagic.  I surprised myself when I learned that I already have several of the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Genealogists that DearMyrtle presented.  I am getting ready to really delve into the book "Shattered Silence" by Melissa G. Moore with M. Bridget Cook, received at the Friday Night Banquet with Bridget as our guest of honor. And finally, one week later, I found my camera cord so without further ado, I present to you: Memories of An Expo-Goer!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 2 Az Family History Expo

Arizona Family History Expo Day 2 off to roaring start! I'm chatting with Amy Urman! I learn new tricks every time I attend a Bruce Buzbee class! Perhaps I can convince him to add a Genogram tool on RootsMagic this year? Raise your hand if you think this would be a great thing!

Friday, January 21, 2011

FH Expo in Az! Happening now!

I am in the Blog House now. The Blog House at the Mesa Az Family History Expo!  Lots of great people, recruting lots more!  If you are here, check us out at the rear of the Exhibit Hall!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

M. Bridget Cook at the Az Family History Expo!

If you are going to the Arizona Family History Expo in Mesa this weekend (January 21-22, 2011) you are in for a treat. Teachers teaching you how to research. Researchers teaching you how to analyze your data. Professionals helping you tear down that brick wall. Products to help you gather data, store data, organize your data, and share your data.  It is going to be GREAT!

But if you are going to the Friday Night banquet with M. Bridget Cook, you are in for a bonus treat! Bridget will teach you all about Handling and Healing the Skeletons in Your Genealogical Closet.  We all have them. Some people run from them. Some people run towards them.  Others don't even know they exist!  But I believe we all have them.

I personally cannot wait for this event.  M. Bridget is not only an expert on the topic (she's been on Oprah, Dr. Phil, Good Morning American, and 20/20), she delivers her information in an easy-flowing, educational yet entertaining manner. I am sure that the event will pass much quicker than we wish it to. 

If you haven't signed up yet, there's still time! Simply CLICK HERE for your $33 ticket to the banquet. Your ticket includes a dinner, dessert , and a SIGNED copy of M. Bridget's book, Shattered Silence, the Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter!  What are you waiting for? Sign up today, or at least before the Thursday, January 20th 10:00 a.m. MST deadline!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Genealogy Goals for 2011

This time of year many of us Geneabloggers create our goals for the year in terms of our research. Mine are to first, dig back into my research and expand my Oracle of OMcHodoy blog to include instructional material for others wishing to do their research. I also aim to put some structure into my research process so I can get focused again.

I would be willing to bet that regardless of what your research goals are this year, you will find help in meeting those goals at the Arizona Family History Expo coming up in on January 21-22 at the Mesa Convention Center.

Do you plan on organizing your research?  Nancy E. Loe, MA, MLS, Bruce Buzbee of RootsMagic and Geoff Rasmussen are three of the presenters who will teach  you what you need to know.

Finally going to write that book and make it about your family history? Biff & Nancy Barnes are among those who can tell you how.

Want to focus in on your German Research? Baerbel Johnson is your source for this.

Want to turn the tables for a while and learn about the tax tables your ancestors used and how they may help you in? Leland Meitzler is your man!

Want to reflect on your genealogical growth? Dae Powell can help you there!

Perhaps you want to learn about your ancestors as people as well as their names, dates, and relationships. Well, then, I just may be able to help you there with three presentations on the role of culture in our research as well as using genograms in our research process.

I told you there was something for everyone at the Arizona Family History Expo!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Goals

Some people are sticklers for making New Year's Resolutions, others resolve not to resolve anything. Genealogists are the same, though I dare say more of us MAKE resolutions than don't. At least we make New Year's Resolutions for our Genealogy research, based on the number of us blogging about it. You can check out some of the resolutions HERE.

Have you made any resolutions? Do any of them include attending at least one Genealogy Conference this year? If so, you have come to the right place because I have TWO FREE TICKETS to give away to the Family History Expo in Mesa, Az on January 21 and 22! 
How do you get a chance to win these tickets? I've made it even easier! Simply email a single statement identifying how attending the Mesa FH Expo will help you complete a genealogical New Year's Resolution!  Hurry! Time is Running Out! The first two responses will win. Good Luck!