Monday, November 29, 2010

Regular Life and German Parish Records

After being with family from Friday, Nov 19 when I flew into DC until yesterday when the last of my siblings left from the Thanksgiving break, we are now back to “regular” life. It seems a little sad – not because regular life is so terrible, but because there’s nothing like having family around!

Today, regular life consists of grocery shopping, taking Sarah Ann to dance, supervising homework and piano practice, and catching up on emails. I thought I would answer one of my emails here on my blog. (Of course, the other thing I need to catch up after having family around is sleep…)

So, here’s my email for today:

You have a wonderful website! I would like to know where to go for parish records of the Mecklenburg-Schwerin area from 1844.
Thank you!

I’m going to broaden this question to address parish records from Germany in general. Parish records have survived from many German parishes. Of course, there are some that have been lost to fire or other causes. How far they date back varies from place to place. The earliest known parish records that still exist are from 1524 in Nürnberg. In general though, it’s rare for records to date back further than the Thirty Years’ war which raged across Europe from 1618 to 1648. The widespread destruction of this war wiped out many records.

So how do you access these records? First, keep in mind that you need to know the parish church your ancestors attended. This is often not the same thing as knowing their German hometown. Most villages were not large enough to support a church of their own. Instead, people from numerous villages would come together to attend church in one village. This means that if you have the name of the hometown, you must find where people living in this town attended church. This is where you will find those all-important parish records. Many people come to the conclusion that parish records don’t exist for their ancestors, when the real problem is they are not searching for the correct town. Also, be sure you check a gazetteer to ensure you have the spelling correct. And remember that town names and jurisdictions have changed over time.

It would be nice if you could find these records online, as you can do for Swedish parish records. Unfortunately, right now there are not large collections of German parish records online. This should change in the future with FamilySearch’s Record Access program. You can see what is available for Germany now here.

Many microfilm records have been microfilmed through the LDS Church. Most of us don’t live close enough to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to take advantage of its amazing resources. But we can still access these microfilms by ordering them to our local Family History Centers. You can search for a Family History Center near you at FamilySearch’s website (scroll down the bottom of the page where it says “Find a Family History Center”. The German states vary in how much of their parish records have been microfilmed. In Mecklenburg, nearly all of the surviving records have been microfilmed. But this is not the case everywhere.

If microfilmed parish records are not available for the towns you need, you may need to write for the record. The German archive system can be intimidating. I suggest you write directly to the church. Hopefully, if they do not have the records themselves, they will direct you to the placed that do. For information on how to write German churches (and templates to follow if you don’t know German), check out FamilySearch’s German letter writing guide.

For an overview of German church records, be sure to read the FamilySearch Wiki section on it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Thanksgiving Tree

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. I’ve included a couple of pictures below of our family gathered together for our meal:

We have a tradition in our family that Thursday evening, after everyone has eaten, we gather in my living room to do the “Thanksgiving tree.” I draw a giant tree and then we cut out fall leaves from construction paper. (The finished product is always interesting since drawing is not at the top of my talent list – in fact, it’s not on my talent list at all. This year, I convinced my sister and her fiancé to do the drawing and the cutting though, so the tree definitely took a step up.) Each person gets about five leaves. Then we go around the room and, one at a time, say something we are thankful for and write it on our leaf. The kids take turns sticking them on the tree. The only rule is that you can’t say something that someone else already said. In other words, if the first person says she is thankful for her family, then nobody else can say that.

We always get a range of responses. Some are serious and heartfelt, while others are creative or just silly. Here are some the things written on our “thankful leaves” this year (each line represents one leaf):
trees, plants, fungi, and the environment
clothes, glasses, and bodies
increased financial stability
wii (this was Taylor of course – see my previous post)
second chances
Central Park
Pumpkin pie

The kids put the leaves wherever they want, which results in an interesting looking tree by the end. Here’s a picture of my children putting their leaves on the Thanksgiving tree.

This year, I have been feeling particularly grateful. For many years, there were two things I wanted more than anything else. First, I wanted another baby. We had three beautiful, wonderful children. But, both George (my husband) and I really felt like there was another little boy out there for us. I get so sick while I’m pregnant (if you’ve read my book, you’ll know a little about that), that it had become apparent that another pregnancy was probably not the right path for us. We began to look into adoption. In October of 2009, our little Christian was born. I was able to be there at the hospital to hold him on his very first day of life. He has brought so much happiness into our family. I am very grateful for him – and for my other children.

The other thing I wanted was to publish a book. In fact, from the time I was five years old, I have wanted to write books. There has never been a day of my life where I didn’t want to be an author. It was a long and winding path, but The Journey Takers was released this summer. It continues to be a long and winding path. However, right before my book came I out, I thought that no matter what happens with it, when I am 80 years old, I will look back on my life and be grateful that this lifelong dream of mine was fulfilled.

So, this year I feel like I really have everything I wanted – at least, everything I wanted that really mattered! I have been blessed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

German Research and I-95

In my last entry, I wrote about speaking in two states in one day. Today, I have been in six states. But I didn’t speak in any of them. I just drove through.

Last night, I spoke at the German-American Heritage Museum in DC. It’s always a treat for me to do a lecture that focuses exclusively on German research, since German research was really my first love (my first genealogy love anyway!). Back when I used to take clients, I only took clients tracing German ancestors – and usually nineteenth century German ancestors.

While we’re on the topic of German research, I thought I would share a few links for anyone tracing German roots. First, I have an article online (that first appeared in Internet Genealogy Magazine) that you can read here. It’s called “Getting Acquainted with German Research Through the Internet.” A few websites have changed since I wrote this article. In particular, my favorite German site has a new address. The German Roots site is now located at www.germanroots. You may want to check out this site’s “Basic Research Guide for German Genealogy.”

Then, this morning at 6 a.m. I sat off towards home on I-95 in the car with my brother and his wife. If you haven’t spent significant time on I-95, you are really missing something in life. I have spent quite a lot of time on this road, driving between my brothers’ homes in Virginia or Maryland to New Haven, where we leave I-95 to take I-91 closer to our house in Massachusetts.

The trip between our houses, theoretically, takes seven hours. I have driven back and forth on it two to three times a year for the past four years. It has sometimes taken us seven hours – but sometimes taken much more. One time, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it took us almost 12 hours. (It’s good thing we had lots of books on tape or the kids might have might have been climbing the walls – or I might have been climbing the walls.) Fortunately, today it took just a bit more than seven hours.

I was so excited to arrive home and see my kids again. I promised a report on the state of my house after leaving my husband home alone in it with our four kids for four days. So, he did pretty well. He had vacuumed, swept the floor, and done all those obvious things. He hadn’t cleaned up the kids rooms (where they guests will sleep), but all things considered, I was pleasantly surprised.

There will be 15 people at my house by Thursday. So from now until then, I will be cooking. My goal is to cook enough food to have a nice Thanksgiving spread – and to last these 15 people all the way through Sunday. (Last year, we had to borrow a friend’s fridge because mine was full…) It’s a lot of cooking, but it will be fun!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Maryland and Virginia

Today I am in Hyattsville, Maryland in the apartment of my brother and his wife. I arrived here late Friday night – or technically, I suppose, early Saturday morning. That day (Saturday) I spoke in two states. That’s kind of a fun thought isn’t it? Speaking in two states in one day.

In the morning, I presented a two-hour workshop entitled “Researching and Writing Your Family’s Story” to the Fairfax Genealogical Society in Virginia. It was an enthusiastic, responsive group which made the workshop a lot of fun for me.

The thesis of the first part of my workshop is that in order to write an interesting family history, you have to gather interesting information. I share some ways to do this – even for ancestors who left little behind – no letters, diaries, etc. I point out that one way to learn more about our ancestors is to “dig deeper” in the records we already have. I think sometimes we get in a hurry to pull out the names and dates, and we miss some of the other information “hidden” in the records. Here is one of the documents I use as an example:

This is a German marriage record. It really has an amazing amount of information! (Try and find a US church with this many details from this time period – 1864. This is why I think it’s actually easier to do foreign research than US research.) Some of the things you can find in this record are: date of the marriage; date the marriage bans were read (when people had an opportunity to “object” to the marriage); name of the groom along with his occupation, where he is currently living, where he will be living soon, and his birth date and place, the name of the bride along with where she is living, and her birth date and place; and the names of the both of their fathers, the fact that they are both deceased, where they lived, and what their occupations were.

I think out ancestors’ occupations are one of the most overlooked pieces of information that in the records. And, they can tell us so much about our ancestors’ lives – especially if we take the time to do a little research to really understand these occupations.

After this lecture, I drove as fast as I could (without doing anything illegal of course) to Baltimore, Maryland where I gave my book talk at the Maryland Historical Society. Although I had driven by Baltimore many times (on I-95 on my way to DC), I realized I had never actually been to downtown Baltimore. I was surprised at the “old city” feel it had – with lots of neat, historic buildings. The Historical Society itself seemed very impressive, and I wished I had more time to wander around and look at the displays and artwork. It was also a fun lecture.

Tomorrow night, I speak at the German-American Heritage Museum.

Of course, I am missing my little kiddies. I had a fun conversation with them on the phone this afternoon. Sarah Ann (age 5) informed me that she has decided she wants to give her kindergarten teacher cheese for Christmas because she really likes to eat cheese. I suggested we make Christmas cookies instead. She then spent the next ten minutes trying to persuade me that she could make the cookies all by herself. Hmmm…..

I was excited to see a new review of my book on amazon and seagull. It's by Lori Linn Foster and says: "I enjoyed reading this book. The characters were brought to life as Leslie gave historical background information that brought me into the lives and times and places where the characters lived. I already enjoy family history; this book was a joy to read."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Letters to Me: Castle Garden and the Wii

Like probably all of you, I get a variety of letters every day. I get letters in my e-mail inbox, letters in mailbox, and occasionally, hand-delivered letters. Today, I wanted to respond to two of them here. I’ve chosen two that I think represent the dichotomy of my life!

The first came to my e-mail last week:

Hi Leslie;

I saw your presentation at the GGG (German Genealogy Group) last week. You had a slide of an arrival record from Castle Garden in New York. I was wondering were you found these records since I thought they were all burned in a fire at Ellis Island.


PS I enjoyed your book.

Here’s my response:
Castle Garden records are not burned, but are alive and well. In fact, at that same German Genealogy Group meeting, I ate dinner with a group of people beforehand – one of whom had worked with the actual original Castle Garden arrival lists.

Castle Garden was the New York receiving station prior to Ellis Island. It functioned from 1855 until 1890. Ellis Island opened in 1892. Castle Garden has a really interesting history. You can about it here in an article I wrote a couple of years ago for History Channel Magazine. Castle Garden was the most important arrival port of its time. During some periods, nearly 80% of US arrivals came through Castle Garden.

As for records: You can access 11 million Castle Garden arrivals for free at This website covers the years 1820-1892, so it includes records of New York arrivals during times when Castle Garden was not the receiving port. Keep in mind though that the website does not have all the records for this period. It also links to transcribed entries, not original records. If you have an Ancestry subscription, or at least access to one, you can access all the New York arrivals here. These are linked to images of the actual lists.

If you have been to visit Ellis Island, you have seen Castle Garden – but probably didn’t even know it. It is the building where you buy your tickets! I find this a little sad, but the Battery Conservancy is working to restore it, so maybe it will get more recognition in the future.

Now, for the second letter…This was a hand-delivered letter from my eight-year-old son. They had an assignment in school to write a persuasive letter. (Let me preface it by saying that we have a family rule that my children can only play wii on Fridays and Saturdays – except in special circumstances such as school holidays or when children are home sick and playing wii would directly contribute to preserving everyone’s sanity.):

Dear Mom,

I love wii so please let me play wii on weekdays. I will do all my homework including spelling. I will only play for twenty minutes. A lot of my friends do. I will play outside first for an hour. A lot of my friends do. I will read for a long time. I should be able to play wii on weekdays.


Do you like how he included the fact that “a lot of his friends do” two different times?

My response: No.

It is pretty cute though, isn’t it? The truth is – he doesn’t have time to play wii on weekdays. With homework, piano practice, and then whatever of the many extracurricular activities one or the other of them is in, we don’t exactly sit around the house looking for something to do.

Here's a photo of Taylor so you can have the entire persuasive effect!

Tonight, I fly to Baltimore. It's going to be an exciting weekend!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Upcoming Lectures

This is one of those weeks where I feel a little like I’m sitting at the top of a roller coaster peeking over the edge, about to dive straight down. There’s nothing to do but grab the sides of the little cart and hang on!

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not an unpleasant roller coaster – or week. It’s just an intense one! Here are some of the upcoming highlights. Most of these events are open to public, so if you happen to be in the area, come and drop in. (Join my roller coaster ride for a couple of hours!)

Tues, (Nov 16), 7 p.m., 25 Boston Road, Chelmsford, MA
Tonight, I will be at the Chelmsford Library. I will be giving my “book talk” – The Journey Takers: An Inside Look at Immigration Research. But, it will be a new version of the book talk since some of the attendees heard it already at the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists Annual Conference on November 6. I’ve added new slides and new stories. I will talk about Edmond Harris, my English journey taker – and the journey taker who usually gets left out of the book talk, even though he has the most dramatic story in the book. (Only so much information will fit in a one-hour lecture – even when I talk really fast!)

On Friday, I will take a flight to Baltimore and spend a long weekend in the DC area. I have three talks there. And, I get to stay with my brother and his wife who live in Hyattsville, MD. I’m excited to see them. Here are my DC area talks:

Sat, Nov 20, 10 a.m., 2148 Gallows Road, Dunn Loring, VA
I will present a two-hour workshop to the Fairfax Genealogical Society called: Researching and Writing Your Ancestors’ Stories. This will also be a new workshop I’ve never done before. It combines parts of two talks I’ve given in the past. But, since it’s a workshop I’ve also thrown in some “worksheets.” Maybe I’ll post some of the problems I’ll present to the workshop attendees later.

Sat, Nov 20, 2:30 p.m., 201 Monument Street, Baltimore, MD
Soon after the workshop, I’ll jump in my car and race to another state to present my “standard” book talk, The Journey Takers: An Inside Look at Immigration Research, at the Maryland Historical Society. The lecture is free to members of the Maryland Historical Society or Maryland Genealogical Society. There is a charge of $10 for others. Registration is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome.

Mon, Nov 22, 6 p.m., 719 6th St NW, DC
This lecture will be at the German American Heritage Museum in DC. This will be yet another version of my book lecture – this time only focusing on the German immigration experience. It is free and open to the public. (Their facebook page describes my book as “riveting and detail-rich”!)

Tuesday morning I will leave with my brother and his wife to drive back to Massachusetts. On the way, we will pick up my sister and her fiancé from the Providence, RI airport (did you know Providence was on the way from DC to Amherst?).

So, the real question is: What will my house look like when I return with four additional people – one who has never been to our house before (soon to be followed by my other brother’s family of five) after having left my husband home alone with our four children for almost four days?? I’ll let you know…

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How Immigrants Paid for their Ship Voyages

We made it back from Philadelphia last night. I did four batches of laundry today. How is it that we were only gone three days and I still had four batches of laundry?

I enjoyed my visit to the American Swedish Historical Museum. I had great intentions to take a picture, but for various reasons, it didn't happen.

At my lectures, I have noticed themes in the questions people ask. There is one question in particular that I get asked about two-thirds of the time when I give my “book lecture.” Yesterday, I just focused on my Swedish “journey taker” or immigrant, Karsti Nilsdotter Karsti left Sweden alone at age seventeen to come to America. At some point during my story of her immigration, someone in the audience usually raises their hand and asks some version of this question, “How did Karsti pay to come to the US?” or, more generally, “How did our ancestors pay for the ship voyage to America?”

I thought I would answer that question here. First, keep in mind that while we often think of the “tired” the “poor” and the “huddled masses” (from Emma Lazarus’s famous poem) coming to the US, the poorest of the poor, generally, did not come. They couldn’t afford it. In the 1700s, some of the poorest, particularly from the German states, came through the redemption system, where they basically sold themselves into servitude. This had long since come to an end by the mid to late 1800s, when my “journey takers” made their voyage across the ocean. For many immigrants, crossing the ocean was a huge effort that sometimes took years of planning and saving. Sometimes immigrants sold all they had to pay for the voyage, essentially arriving in the US with next to nothing. (The Irish were a special case, as during the potato famine of the 1840s, they really were the “huddled masses” arriving in the US in desperate conditions. Often, landlords paid to send these immigrants to North America- basically, just to get rid of them. You can read more about it here.)

Karsti came after joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS Church. The LDS Church had a program that helped its members to make the trip to “Zion,” or what would become the state of Utah. This program was known as the Perpetual Emigration Fund (or PEF). Converts could borrow money from the Church. Careful records were kept, and these members were expected to pay the money back in full. The money they put back into the system was then used to bring other members over. You can read more about it here.

Of course, immigrants outside the LDS Church received financial aid to make the trip. Some received aid from other religious or benevolent society groups. Others received aid from family or friends.

Karsti did not receive aid from the PEF. Records indicate that she paid for the trip independently. I have a theory on how she was able to do this. By the time Karsti immigrated, she had lost both of her parents. Her father had passed away a couple of years earlier when Karsti was 14. Karsti probably received a portion of his inheritance when her father died. I assume she used this to fund her journey to Utah.

On an unrelated note, my computer crashed while we were in Philadelphia. It has been on its death bed for a while (although it is only two years old), so I had been careful to keep back-ups. In fact, just a couple of weeks earlier, I had invested in an external hard drive. I am currently typing on my husband’s old computer while I decide what to do. A computer crash is always a pain, but I am very glad I had recent back-ups, or it would have been a lot worse. If you don’t have your files backed up (in more than one place), do it tonight!

Friday, November 12, 2010

New York and Philadelphia

I’m sleeping in Philadelphia tonight. From my hotel, I can see out over the Delaware River. I love visiting new places!

We spent yesterday in New York City with my brother and his family. The kids ran wild in Central Park and then we headed to Time Square. My brother reminded me of the last time we were there together. It was four years ago at Christmas, and it was so packed that we could hardly walk down the street. His then four-year-old son had told us that it felt like “a wildebeest migration.” It was busy, but not quite a wildebeest migration this time.

This morning we drove the rest of the way to Philadelphia. The last time I was in Philadelphia was two years ago when the FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) Conference was here. My tourist activites then lasted a total of about three hours. Besides, that was Philadelphia without children, which as you know, is not at all the same as Philadelphia with children.

The tickets were already gone for Independence Hall, so we will have to hit that in the morning. But here we are at the Liberty Bell.

Here’s another picture of it (Christian isn’t in the picture because he was asleep and Rachel looks like this because she is in the middle of yelling “Taylor keeps bumping me with his arm!” This is, of course, why Philadelphia with children is not the same as Philadelphia without children.)

The high point of the day was a multimedia presentation at the National Constitution Center about – of all things – the Constitution. It talked about the freedom the Constitution provides. As a genealogist interested in immigration research, I was most affected by the scenes of immigrants entering the U.S. – especially being here in Philadelphia, one of the major points of entry for immigrants in earlier centuries. Not to be sappy (because I really hate sappiness), but I couldn’t help thinking of my own ancestors and the millions just like them who took incredible risks to start new lives here where they believed they could find opportunities to create better lives for their families.

(By the way, if you are interested in immigrants who came to Philadelphia, check out one of my all-time favorite websites, German Roots. You can read about early arrivals to Philadelphia (1700s) here and about later immigrants (1800s) here.

The second high point of the day was finding Christian’s missing pacifier on the street corner of 5th and Market right outside the Independence Hall Visitor’s Center after having lost it a couple of hours earlier.

Tomorrow, I’ll speak at 1:30 p.m. at the American Swedish Historical Museum. I’m excited!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Everyone Should Wish They Had Swedish Roots

I just looked at my lecture page and counted that I have given my “book talk” 20 times since July 1 (this is not counting lectures on related topics). Twenty times in a little over four months! It ought to be the most polished, well-put-together lecture ever now (notice I said "ought to be"). I have lots of different versions of it: there’s the genealogy version, the general audience version, the German version, and now this weekend for the first time there will also be the Swedish version. (There’s also the version I gave to eight fourth grade classes. That was exciting!)

So, I’ve spent some time in the last couple of days adjusting my lecture to focus on the Swedish section on my book – and on Swedish immigration. As I’ve been doing this, I’m reminded at how fun Swedish research is – and how many great resources there are available to people who want to trace their Swedish roots.

In my book lecture, I often tell people that if they have Swedish ancestors, they should do the little genealogy happy dance. Here are a few reasons why everyone should wish they had Swedish roots:

1) Clerical survey records. These records are found with the parish records. They were created when the parish pastor visited the homes of people within his parish, quizzing them on their knowledge of Luther’s catechisms. They also function kind of like census records. They record names, and often birth dates and places, dates of when people moved in or out or married, occupations, and death dates (if the person died during that period). The exact structures vary, but they may be kept every five or so years.

2) Genline. A huge amount of parish records are available online through this website. You can choose from a variety of subscriptions, and aren’t forced to commit to a year membership or anything like that. Of course, when I was doing the research for The Journey Takers, genline didn’t exist and I had to order the microfilms to my local family history center. (When will there be a genline for German parish records??)

3) Swedish Emigration Databases. Swedes kept great records of emigrants after 1868. You can read the details of the different databases available at the FamilySearch wiki here.

Notice I didn’t mention the patronymic naming system. That is definitely not part of the happy dance. You can read an article I wrote several years ago for Ancestry Magazine about using patronymics here.

While I’m putting together lists, I’ve thought of another one. My husband comes back tonight after being gone for five days. I’m ecstatic. No, it’s not because I miss him so much (who has time to miss him when I’m chasing four kids by myself?). So, here’s my second list.

How to survive five days with four children and no husband:

1) Always put children to bed on time.

2) Never stay up late working unless the world will end if it doesn’t get done (finishing blogging posts doesn’t qualify). Sleep is more important than most deadlines.

3) Remember that waffles and fruit are a completely acceptable, and even relatively healthy, dinner.

4) And this one is the key: When all children are in bed and there is not one sound in the house, take a deep breath, enjoy the silence, and eat a little bit of chocolate.

When my husband is going to be out of town a lot, he buys me some chocolate before he leaves. I’ve found that chocolate in small amounts can calm nerves after almost any stressful day. You should try it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

So, I'm really doing it - I'm taking the plunge. I'm starting a blog! I know I'm not exactly cutting edge here, but I'm still pretty excited. I've been thinking about starting a blog for years. All of a sudden last night, I decided to stop thinking about it - and just do it. Yikes! Even though I write for magazines quite a bit and even have a new book out (The Journey Takers), writing a blog seems a little - well, scary. I'm supposed to think of something entertaining and informative to say a couple of times a week. Actually, thinking of something to say shouldn't be a problem. I ALWAYS have something to say. Now whether or not it's entertaining and informative - that's another question...

Why did I finally decide to start this long-thought-about-blog now? Nothing profound happened. Really, nothing happened at all. I just decided to stop worrying about making everything fit a certain theme - stop worrying about planning things out in advance. I decided to just start my blog - and see what happened. So, that's what I'm doing. I'm going to write about the things I love - about family, history, genealogy (particularly immigration research), and my travels. I know there are other people out there who get as excited about these things as I do. Maybe this blog can help us connect!

The blog is called The Journey Takers, after my new book that just came out this summer. The book interweaves my ancestors' experiences, all Western European immigrants, with my experiences in researching and discovering them. I have included carefully researched accounts of peasant life and ocean voyages paralleled with personal accounts of research and of motherhood. I describe the emotional impact of standing in my family's Old World churches, and the "excitement" of chasing my fourteen-month-old up and down the aisles of the Family History Library. This is also what I want to do in my blog - mix together the things I learn about genealogy research and history with the things I learn about life. Oh! But that sounds so heavy. I want the blog to be fun too!

Lately, my life seems to be in a constant whirlwind. I am doing lots of traveling and speaking to share information about The Journey Takers. I have gotten to talk to so many new people. And I have loved it! I have learned so much from their comments and questions. I want to share some of that here. With four children, all these adventures have created more than a little craziness as well. I might share a little of that here too!

This past summer, I drove from Massachusetts (where I live) to California with my four kids (ages ten to nine months at the time) and my mother (it would have been impossible without her!), doing book talks and seeing the sights. In 2010 so far, we have visited 27 states, I have spoken in 14 of them, and we have seen 7 National Parks - and many other fabulous things. It has been great. I don't have another cross-country trip planned for a while, but I do have some adventures on the horizon. This weekend, we will head to New York City and then on to Philadelphia where I'll speak at the American Swedish Historical Museum. So, stay tuned for some thoughts on tracing Swedish ancestors - and, of course, on my trip to Philly!