Friday, January 2, 2015

Accentuate the Positive – 2014 Edition

We Find What We Are Looking For
Image courtesy of ID-100141346

In order to start the New Year right, Jill Ball (GeniAus) invited us to Accentuate the PositiveRather than discuss goals or plans that went unmet in 2014 (along with the inevitable beating up of oneself) this geneameme encourages us to concentrate on our achievements in the world of genealogy. This idea coincided with my parish priest's New Year's Day sermon. Simply put, we find what we are looking for. If you are told to survey the area and find all the weeds - that is all you see. If you are told to survey the area and find all the flowers - that is all you see. It is all in the attitude. Are you looking for the positive or the negative in life? Rest assured, you will find what you are looking for.

In response to Jill's geneameme, I am responding to the ones relevant to me (that is why there are some numbers missing) and I have cheated just a bit (in few cases I have not limited myself to just one response). With that - here goes.

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was
 John L. Johnson and family. Now I knew that Marit Elofsdotter (aka Mary Lidman) married John L. Johnson and had twelve children. Marit was my great great aunt (on my maternal paternal side). I also knew that the family moved to North Dakota and that my grandfather mentioned his Aunt Mary and cousin Hazel in postcards and letters to his brother, but following this family through the censuses proved impossible (it appeared that either the father died or disappeared as did the majority of the children). Then I happened to use Chronicling America's newspaper search feature with search parameters for Burlington, North Dakota and 1900-1935. Family members were found and important events mentioned in the local newspaper that filled in lots of information (this will be a separate blog post about research using newspapers in 2015).

2.  A precious family photo I found was … 
My mom and I had lunch with one of her high school teachers (Sister Catherine) and my first cousin once removed (Sister Frances) and after lunch, we got to talking about our family history and she offered to share a number of her family’s photographs (her mother and my grandmother were sisters). She was also able to tell me about a bit about my grandmother (her aunt) who died before my parents were married. It was great to see these photographs and listen to her memories of my grandmother.

An extended direct line relative, who I have been emailing back and forth with over the past two years, sent me a scanned photograph of my great great-grandmother and four of her adult children (my great great aunts and uncle) on the family farm. I had not seen the photograph or any images of these five ancestors or the family farm. I need to plan a research trip to Nebraska!

3.  An ancestor’s grave I found was … 
My December 2014 project was to find grave information for direct family members using a combination of a detailed search in my Legacy family file (thanks JL Beeken for the methodology of the detailed search) AND FindAGrave. Every month I pick a 30 minute a day project – I set the timer early each morning and work on that project (and do not slip down rabbit holes). When the timer rings, I am done until the next day. During the month of December I found 146 new direct line entries AND 120 extended line entries. I went through all my previous entries to make sure all 766 FindAGrave entries are correctly cited.  

6.  A geneasurprise I received was … 
Being one of those named in the article Social Media Mavericks to Watch in 2014 by one of my favorite genealogists and podcasters, Lisa Louise Cooke, which was published in Family Tree Magazine. It was completely unexpected and a huge thrill. I enjoy putting together video tutorials for my YouTube channel TessaWatch about technology, one-name studies, one-place studies, and genealogy research. In 2013 I took advantage of Google’s YouTube Academy to learn how to make the best use of my YouTube channel and apparently it paid off. It was also a treat when one of my sister’s co-workers asked if she was any relation to me (since our name is not that common). When he found out we were siblings and I was in the area, he suggested a genealogy meet up. It is definitely a small world!

7.  My 2014 blog post that I was particularly proud of was … 
I enjoyed writing a monthly blog post (published on the 4th of the month) for Worldwide Genealogy. I like the idea of an eclectic group of genealogists from all over the world writing about whatever catches their interest. For my part, I enjoyed sharing my choices for genealogy/family history books in A Baker’s Dozen of Genealogy/Family History Books and 10 Books That Have Had An Impact On My Life (can you tell that I am a reader?!).

On the few occasions when I got to my own blog (need to get better at that!) I was proud of my posts for Father’s Day (I even got a bit creative with my photos for that one) and Memorial Day (I transcribed the Oregon Korean War Veterans’ Memorial at Willamette National Cemetery – thanks to Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy for this continuing project).

8.  My 2014 blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was … 
I am a somewhat inconsistent blogger and I think that is because I am a huge fan of Google+ and tend to post directly in Google+ and the Google+ Communities I belong to. One of my goals for 2015 is to be a better blogger and post my blogs at Google+ (not the other way around). That said, my blog post about the Genealogy Do-Over posted on December 31 (and posted at Google+ and Facebook) got a number of great responses. Definitely a lesson learned to share my posts on social media!

9.  A new piece of software I mastered was … 
BB Flashback Pro – which is a recording and editing program that I use for making videos for my YouTube channel TessaWatch. Although this was not a new piece of software, in 2014 I took the time to really learn the various updated features and make better use of the software. I worked with the editing features to edit out as many ums and other throwaway words I seem to use in my recordings.

10.  A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was … 
I can’t believe I am writing this (and most of my genealogy friends will laugh) but in 2014 I finally "got it"- that Facebook can be useful and sometimes even mildly entertaining! I especially appreciate the Swedish and Irish research groups, the Nebraska genealogy group, the Guild of One-Name Studies’ group, and now the Genealogy Do-Over group. I enjoy the laugh out loud humor of Carolyn Pointer, Linda McCauley and Kerry Scott. I am amused by those who unfriend anyone who disagrees with them (and in that way Facebook still reminds me of high school) but I am finding that those types are few and far between (thankfully) in our genealogy community.  

11.  A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new from was … 
I really enjoyed the Next Stage Seminar put on by the Guild of One-Names Studies in November 2014. The choice of speakers by the Seminar team was excellent, the introductions of speakers during the seminar by Kim Baldacchino were thoughtful and professional, the presentations were top-notch, and the recordings were excellent (and up at the Guild’s YouTube channel within days). In 2014 the Guild went from strength to strength (especially for distance members) with huge improvements to the Guild website, the Guild seminar series, excellent use of the Suggestions feature by members, and some serious attention paid to follow-through by the 2014-2015 Committee.

12.  I am proud of the presentation I gave at/to … 
There were two that come to mind in 2014

I was part of a panel discussion on how I do my one-name study for the Guild of One-Name Studies’ Annual Conference in April 2014. Bob Cumberbatch was a joy to work with (as were my fellow panelists Paul Howes and Colin Spencer). It was something a bit new for the Guild as I was able to attend from a distance – and the Guild members in attendance were able to view my presentation and ask questions in real time. It was a treat to share this North American’s perspective with the international community of Guild members.

I gave a webinar presentation on educational opportunities to the Friends of NARA, Southeast Region in July 2014. It was a topic I was only somewhat familiar with and the time and effort I put into the handout and my presentation was useful not only for that particular webinar audience but also for my Legacy Virtual Users’ Group Community on Google+ (LVUG) in October when I shared the updated handout with them and the Google+ genealogy community during Family History Month.  

14.  I taught a friend how to … 
I consider the 800 members of my LVUG on Google+ my friends. During Family History Month in October, I posted a video tutorial every day about a feature in Legacy (I went through the alphabet and the Help section to come up with ideas). So many times we are so busy inputting data in our genealogy software programs, we don’t take the time to learn about the various features. It was a real learning experience for all of us and it was fun to work through some of the features and teach them to the LVUG Community members/friends.

I had a great experience teaching one of my nephews how to research his great uncle's life for a class project. The combination of using online resources at,,, and offline resources (family interviews, family records) and then seeing him take the project through to its conclusion was fun and educational for both of us.

15.  A genealogy book that taught me something new was … 
Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name – One White, One Black by Chris Tomlinson. This book was an eye-opener for me on a couple of levels. The author is a foreign correspondent who decided (after covering ethnic wars in many hot spots) to return to his roots in Texas to learn more about his Tomlinson family. In the process he learned about another Tomlinson family, as these families had parallel histories. What the families shared was a history on the land – one family being slaveholders and one family being slaves. The author’s research of both families as well as his honest look at Texas' history from before the Civil War through today, shows how far we have come and how much farther we need to travel. Any conversation about race in this country should include this type of serious appraisal. We need to understand how slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow laws, racial prejudice and bias affected and continues to affect so many American lives. We also need to strip away the mythology of what is “accepted” American history in many parts of the country. It also made me aware that when conducting a one-name study in the United States, this is an area that needs to be highlighted and researched.

16.  A great repository/archive/library I visited was
The National Archives at Seattle, Washington was a great place to visit and the Saturday morning class on what the National Archives has online and at their various facilities was fascinating. We got a tour of the facility and then I returned on two additional days to do some research (try and attend a Brick Wall workshop or a Help I’m Stuck consultation). The National Archives has wonderfully helpful employees and some amazing records.

17.  A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was … 
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. This is one of my favorite books of all time! I read a wide variety of genres but especially enjoy history, politics, mysteries and thrillers, and biographies. The Boys in the Boat is an amazing read and has so many layers. The author captures the history of Seattle in the 1930s, tells the history of crew in the United States (as well as the biases of the East Coast tradition in those days), introduces us to a brilliant artisan – George Yeoman Popcock - who not only designed and built premier rowing shells for over 60 years, but also shared life lessons that resonant today, and shares the story of the determination of the student athletes who made up the University of Washington crew. These "boys" not only achieved on a personal and national level, but they also brought home the gold from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book was fascinating on so many levels but the most important thing I took away from it was that while you don’t get to choose your birth family, you can choose the people who become your family – and that family and their stories are just as important (if not more so) to your family history.   

20.  Another positive I would like to share is … 
I learned the importance of standing my ground in 2014 - "to thine own self be true." We need to never let the "noise of other's opinions drown out our own inner voice." Sometimes we have to be willing to walk away from a project or a group that we enjoy and know that we have done the right thing, even if others don’t know or understand. I rather doubt that the unethical person suffers any consequences (since they justify their behavior or often consider themselves a victim), but I know that doing the right thing is, in the long run, the way most of us choose to live. There is something liberating in walking away from toxic people.

Have you accentuated the positive? Why not share your 2014 accomplishments. 
And now, on to 2015 - I'm planning to make it an even better year. Cheers.


  1. Thanks you Tessa for your considered responses and for your support of my efforts. I can't wait to meet you in person at Rootstech 2015.

  2. What a lot you've achieved Tessa. I hope we can meet at Rootstech too. Meanwhile you've given me lots of food for thought.


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