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."

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