A Vital Success in Pennsylvania

On 15 December 2011, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett approved Senate Bill 361, thereby amending the Vital Statistics Law of 1953 and providing public access to birth and death certificates after a certain number of years. With this law, Pennsylvania births become public records after 105 years and deaths after 50 years. A few short months later, indexes to the now-public records appeared online at the Pennsylvania Department of Health‘s web site; births from 1906 and deaths from 1906-1961.

The importance of these records is obvious. Given Pennsylvania’s geographic location, its sheer size and population, and its role in the growth and development of the national economy, these now-accessible records have transformed genealogical research in the Keystone State. So many of our ancestors, particularly those from Michigan and the Midwest states, have origins in Pennsylvania. Indeed, with my maternal line’s deep roots in the Pittsburgh area, this new law offered limitless opportunity to further my own research.

Two of my enduring family history mysteries are Frank and Mary Kamp. After living in Washington County, Pennsylvania at the time of the 1920 U.S. Census with their son, two daughters, and a son-in-law, the couple seemingly vanishes. I picked up the individual trail of each of the children in the 1930 Census, but Frank and Mary continually eluded my grasp; even a research trip to western Pennsylvania failed to shed much additional light. Of note, a conversation with my great aunt revealed that she had memories of her grandparents, and suggested that Mary had passed away long before Frank did.

With the Pennsylvania indexes now online, I scanned through the PDF’s year by year, hoping I would strike gold. Here is an entry for a Mary Kamp from the 1927 death indexes:

1927 death index entry for Mary J. Kamp, Pennsylvania Dept. of Health.

If this is my Mary, it would fit the timeline as suggested by my great aunt. In addition, Allegheny County is just north of where the family was in 1920 and Mary’s daughter Julia’s in-laws lived there in the county just south of Pittsburgh for many years. 16 to 18 weeks (!) and a small $3 fee later, I received a copy of the death certificate in the mail. Eureka!

Mary Jane Kamp death certificate, Pennsylvania Dept. of Health, 1927. #113673.

This death record both verifies existing data (parents’ names and birthplaces), but offers new information (exact birth date, age at death, exact death date, cemetery name, burial date, Frank’s address at the time of Mary’s death, undertaker). In a frustrating bit of irony, I was actually at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery a few years ago during my Pittsburgh research trip, yet I was focused on a different line in my research, so completely missed a chance with the Kamps. Oh, the irony!

Armed with this new information gleaned from the now-accessible death certificate, I will again attack the 1930 Census in a (vain?) attempt to locate Frank. In addition, I will continue to search in later years at the Department of Health’s death indexes, perhaps before the 1940 Census. The research never ends!

Michigan Vitals at FamilySearch

With so much amazing genealogical content available online for free at FamilySearch, it is easy to get sidetracked, distracted, or otherwise off the beaten path. This is especially true for Michigan researchers, as we are incredibly fortunate to have such a robust collection of vital records databases from which to search in. Yet having a large collection to search is one thing, understanding what it is you are searching is something else. Let’s spend a few minutes and explore the Michigan vital records databases available at FamilySearch, outlining what is there and the differences between state-level and county-level records.

There are a few things to consider before we get much further. First, Michigan state-level records are created based on the information provided to the state by the counties. This offers researchers two different record sets – and sources – to find their ancestors’ vital record information; the statewide record and the one held locally at the county. Second, full compliance with the Michigan vital records registration laws was not achieved until the late 1800’s; this means that although an ancestor may have been born, married, or died in the state, there may not be an “official” record for the event. Finally, as with other sources in genealogy research, Michigan vital records have evolved over time. Not all of the critical data, such as parents’ names, are found in the early returns. Death records, in particular, are problematic; with those returns, the parents’ names are not typically identified on the state-level record until certificates were first used beginning in mid-1897.

Here is a screenshot of the Michigan databases at FamilySearch, an impressive list. The camera next to the database names indicates images are available, too.

Michigan databases available at FamilySearch.

Let’s start with the death records databases first. “Michigan, Deaths, 1867-1897″ contains images of state-level records of death for that 31-year time period. Deaths from that era were recorded in large ledger books, with each horizontal entry covering two pages. The originals of these state-level deaths are housed in Lansing, and microfilms of this statewide collection can be found at the Library of Michigan, via the network of Family History Centers, and elsewhere.

With such a huge date range, researchers are immediately drawn to the other Michigan death record database available at FamilySearch – “Michigan, Deaths and Burials, 1800-1995.” Yet as the database’s “Learn More” link shows, the content here is not statewide, nor does every county contain records for that enormous nearly 200-year time period. This database, then, is largely based on abstracts (not the images) of the county-level records of death available at the various county clerks’ offices around the state. Each entry will then refer researchers to the original source of information; most of these county-level death records fall in the mid-to-late 1800’s and early 1900’s date range, although there are certainly examples from before and after.

“Michigan, Deaths, 1971-1996″ is an index (not the images) to the state-level records housed with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) in Lansing. The records themselves are not widely available, so researchers will need to contact MDCH for records of ancestors found in this database.

The Michigan births databases are arranged very similarly to the deaths. “Michigan, Births, 1867-1902″ contains images of state-level records of birth for that 36-year time period. As with the deaths, births were recorded in large ledger books, with each horizontal entry covering two pages. The originals of these state-level births are housed in Lansing with the Michigan Department of Community Health, and indexes to this statewide collection can be found at the Library of Michigan, via the network of Family History Centers, and elsewhere.

As with deaths, there is a similarly vast FamilySearch database for Michigan births: “Michigan, Births and Christenings, 1775-1995.” It, too, is also not statewide nor all-inclusive for that huge 220-year time period. Rather, these abstracts of the county-level births found in courthouses around the state are still an important resource offering critical dates and pointing researchers to the original source.

The Michigan marriage records at FamilySearch are particularly strong, including images of both state-level and county-level records. “Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925″ contains images of the state-level record of marriage, and much like the death and birth collections discussed above, each return is recorded in large ledger books with each entry covering two pages. The originals of these state-level marriages are housed in Lansing, and microfilms of this statewide collection can be found at the Library of Michigan, via the network of Family History Centers, and elsewhere.

“Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935″ is a recent addition to the suite of FamilySearch databases, and an excellent one at that. Here, except for 15 counties, researchers have access to the actual image of the marriage record on file with the county. In Michigan, these county-level marriages are particularly important, because in many cases, the county began recording marriages well before the state required it.

“Michigan, Marriages, 1822-1995″ is much like the similarly large deaths and births collections at FamilySearch. These abstracts of county-level typically fall in the mid-to-late 1800’s and early 1900’s date range, although there are examples both before and after. Depending on the county and time period, however, researchers find better results exploring the records themselves in the “Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935″ database discussed above.

Let’s look at one particular marriage, as shown in 3 different FamilySearch databases. Frederick Grobner and Annie Spohmholz were married in July 1900 in St. Joseph, Berrien County, Michigan. The couple apparently crossed the state line into Michigan to get married before quickly returning to Chicago. Here is the Michigan state-level marriage record, as found in the “Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925″ database.

Frederick Grobner and Annie Spohmholz, 12 July 1900, Michigan Return of Marriages, Berrien County, p. 252A, record 518.

p. 252B.

Here is a different record for the same marriage, as held by Berrien County. This was found in the “Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935″ database.

Grobner marriage.

Finally, here is the entry for the same marriage, as found in the “Michigan, Marriages, 1822-1995″ database.

Abstract of the Grobner/Spohmholz marriage.

In conclusion, Michigan researchers have an impressive array of free online databases to search at FamilySearch. Three databases include the actual state-level record of birth, marriage, and death, three different databases have abstracts of county-level vitals covering huge time periods, one database has county-level images of marriages, and one collection indexes recent death records from the mid-to-late twentieth century. As a local history librarian and family historian, I encourage researchers to start with the known quantity that is the state-level record. Researchers should check each database, but not be discouraged if they are unable to locate their ancestor, as there are dozens (hundreds?) of other alternative sources to look at. Good luck!

Lovin’ My Flip-Pal Scanner

A few months ago at the Historical Society of Michigan’s Local History Conference, I purchased a Flip-Pal mobile scanner from my good friend and fellow genealogist Karen Krugman. As a Flip-Pal independent reseller, she’d earlier given me a demonstration when she came to research at the Library of Michigan, and had also written about and talked up the portable and versatile scanner.

Like any child on Christmas morning, I held the device in my hands, excited about the possibilities. Visions of grandeur danced through my head, scanning this, scanning that, transforming my entire collection of genealogical images and documents into a digital paradise in a matter of days.

Well….as it often does, life got in the way. Fast forward to a few weeks ago – the kids were asleep early, my wife had some TV shows to catch up on, and I’m suddenly left with an open evening (!). What’s a genealogist to do? I pulled out the Flip-Pal and finally got to work.

My first target was an old photo album from Leona Hansen, my great-grandmother. Born in Chicago in March 1897, she married Fenton Harvey Russell in October 1918, and died in Michigan City, Indiana in February 1981. Leona’s photo album contains hundreds of images, all taken roughly between 1916-1918, most of them in or around Chicago. As with many scrapbooks and albums from that era, the photographs were pasted or taped to the black construction paper pages; as the years have passed, the strength of the pages has deteriorated, leaving many frayed corners, separated pages, and loose pictures. As a result, I’d been reluctant to further stress the album’s binding and pages, yet still wanted to transfer the album into a digital format using affordable technology.

Enter the Flip-Pal. Removing the scanner lid, I laid the scanner face down on each page and, with minimal pressure, quickly scanned the album in its entirety. Although the scanner bed is a fair size, it did take several scans to capture each page from the album. With the scanning completed, the fun really begins: stitching together multiple scans. After selecting which images to piece together, the software does all the work and in just a few moments presents a new image, digitally re-creating the album’s page in its entirety. Easy!

Here is one example from the album, where three separate scans were stitched seamlessly together.

Page from Leona Hansen photo album, c. 1916-1918.

Here we have Rose Hansen on the left, her husband Sophus in the middle, and finally, Leona herself on the right. If you can make it out on the bottom left hand corner, the penciled-in date reads August 1917. Leona is therefore 20 years old, about one year before her marriage to Fenton Russell.

Battery powered, easy-to-use, portable, and affordable, a combination that can’t be beat. With this first album scanned and stitched, I can’t wait to get started on the rest of my collection!

A Likely Public Charge

Early in my research, my father shared with me the family story that his grandmother – Wladyslawa (Winifred) Tobolski – was detained at Ellis Island until her brother (or was it her brother-in-law?) came from Chicago to claim her. That always struck me as odd, until I found her arrival record and discovered the pages at the end, the “Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry.”

Wladyslawa Tobolska was born in Kazmierz-Biskupi, Poland, the daughter of Wojciech and Katherine Jachnek Tobolski. She immigrated to the United States aboard the Vaderland, arriving at New York from Antwerp in May 1906. Quickly settling in Chicago to live with her older sister and her family, Wladyslawa later married Stanislaus Piotrowski in April 1915 in Gary, Indiana.

Yet when Wladyslawa first came to the United States, she was only 8 years old. I think of my daughter, approximately the same age now as Wladyslawa was then, and I am simply amazed. The fear and excitement that must have gripped her during the trans-Atlantic journey!

Wladyslawa Tobolska, arr. New York, 29 May 1906, Vaderland, p. 100.

At first glance, Wladyslawa appears to be part of the Barizinska family, but we can see Tobolska written in a smaller font and at a slight upward diagonal, suggesting the surname was written in later at some point. The “Admitted” stamp on the left indicates that Wladyslawa and her traveling companions can be found in the Likely Public Charge pages at the end of the Vaderland‘s manifest. Marian Smith’s outstanding “Manifest Markings” articles provide additional information on this fascinating sub-story of the immigration phenomenon.

The family story, as told by my father, is indeed supported by the evidence. Being so young and unable to provide for herself, Wladyslawa was indeed detained by Ellis Island officials. Claimed by someone, perhaps her brother as the family tradition suggests, Wladyslawa reappears in the 1910 Census, living with her sister and her family in Chicago.

My father does not recognize the Barizinska name, nor has it come up elsewhere in my research. Here is an image from the “Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry” at the end of the Vaderland manifest.

Wladislawa Tobolska, arr. New York, 29 May 1906, Vaderland, p. 139.

That being said, there appears to be a family connection, as the “cous” mark shows next to Josefa’s entry. Perhaps Josepha (and Fanina) are cousins and traveled with Wladyslawa to ensure her safety in the long voyage across the Atlantic. Regardless, I have some new names and avenues to explore, both in the United States and in Poland.

A Famine Family

Years ago, one of my very first genealogical finds was a biographical entry for Frank Kamp in a Washington County, Pennsylvania history. It offered amazing details on the Kamp family, but, unexpectedly, the Hopper family. A new surname in my research! The Hopper’s linked to Frank Kamp’s wife, Mary Hanna, and her grandfather was James Hopper.

Born in County Derry, Ireland, in 1788, James Hopper immigrated to the United States with his wife and children in June 1849, first settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before moving south to Peters Township in Washington County shortly thereafter. Over the years, his Washington County farm expanded to 135 acres, and James died in 1885 at the youthful age of 97.

Hopper family, New York passenger list, arr. 30 June 1849 on the Ashburton

Above is the passenger list for the Hopper family, arriving at New York from Liverpool aboard the Ashburton on 30 June 1849. The family’s ages are a bit fluid, but this is clearly the correct family.

For a rookie genealogist, as I was at the time, the biographical entry in the Washington County history was simply overwhelming; it included birth and death information for James Hopper’s wife and 9 children, the county of origin in Ireland, the family’s year of immigration to the United States, details on the homestead in Peters Township, church affiliation, even the delightful comment that Hopper’s mother had once been the oldest woman in Ireland on record. Yet in my initial excitement, I missed perhaps the most critical piece of information: the historical context.

1849, the year that the Hopper’s emigrated to the United States, was no ordinary year in the history of Ireland. Already in full destructive force, the Great Famine traced back to the failure of the potato crop in 1845. With the population so dependent on the one crop, and coupled with the ineffective response from the British government, the situation soon became cataclysmic. As a result of the Great Famine, Ireland’s population dropped more than 20%, a staggering statistic; more than 1 million people died, and nearly 1 million more left the country, many emigrating to the United States. My family was among those that traveled to America, what a compelling and equally tragic story.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of my research on the Hopper family in County Derry. I’d like to learn more about the local conditions before, during, and after the Famine, how many other families from the area emigrated, and how long the Hopper’s had lived there before departing for the United States. With a trip to Salt Lake City planned for next year, my research agenda will most definitely continue to grow.

A Crowded House

As I’ve written about before, both sides of my family have deep roots in Chicago. One personal area of interest is learning more about the South Side neighborhoods my family lived in, and particularly in finding images of my ancestors’ homes.

Although certain Windy City streets resonate throughout my family’s history, one of the most important is Kimbark. According to the Chicago city directories, Sophus and Rose Hansen first appear at 7042 S. Kimbark Avenue at the dawn of the twentieth century, a few years after they married in 1895. Over the years, Sophus and Rose raised their family there on Kimbark, and also sheltered Rose’s parents in their later years. Leona, a daughter, married Fenton Russell in 1918, and they, too, resided at the house while starting their own family. A crowded house, indeed! In all, the family spent approximately 50 years at the S. Kimbark Avenue house.

Finding historic images of the Kimbark house and the neighborhood has been challenging. Although several family photographs show the front step or other features of the home, I have been unable to find an historic image that displays the house in its entirety.

Enter the Cook County Assessor’s Office. With their free online database, users can search by address, neighborhood, PIN, and a number of other options. A quick search for 7042 S. Kimbark returns the property details for the home, including the assessed value, market value, building description, type of construction, square footage for both the home and property, even the number of bathrooms. Most importantly, it identifies the approximate age of the home, as well as a recent photograph of the structure.

7042 S. Kimbark Ave., Chicago (IL)

According to the Assessor’s Office entry for 7042 S. Kimbark, the house is approximately 109 years old, which dates its construction to c.1903. Although not exactly aligned with the Hansen’s first entry in the city directory, it is close; further research is certainly needed. I’ll need to review the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the neighborhood, and land and property records are near the top of my research agenda for my upcoming Chicago research trip later this summer.

The image above was taken in March 2007. When I first discovered the Cook County Assessor’s database, the image then displayed for 7042 S. Kimbark was dated March 2000. I may not currently have an historic image of the Kimbark home, but I at least have two contemporary images, giving two different views of the structure.

In Memory of “Bud”

For much of my life, Memorial Day weekend centered on spending time with my family, Gravel Lake, and the Indianapolis 500. Yet about 10 years ago, my holiday experience took on new meaning with the discovery of a World War II crash site in Papua New Guinea.

Francis “Bud” Piotrowski was born 29 August 1918 in Dowagiac, Michigan. His family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan shortly thereafter, where they quickly established themselves in the Polish neighborhood northeast of downtown. Bud graduated from Central High School in Kalamazoo in 1936, and majored in music at Michigan State College (Michigan State University today), graduating from there in 1940. An accomplished musician, Francis played the bassoon in the Wyandotte (MI) Symphony Orchestra.

Shortly after his graduation from college, Bud enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1941, and later graduated from Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. With the United States now fully engulfed in World War II, Bud was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina before going overseas to the Pacific Theater.

Lt. Francis J. Piotrowski

On 7 February 1944, 2nd Lt. Piotrowski and Maj. Earl Kindig were aboard a Piper L-4 on a reconnaissance mission near Gabutamon, Papua New Guinea. Last seen approximately 18 miles southwest of Saidor, the airplane vanished; extensive searches of the area yielded no trace of the aircraft or the two men. First designated as Missing in Action, Piotrowski was officially presumed dead by the War Department one year later, and was posthumously awarded an Air Medal and Purple Heart.

Although Bud was lost long before I was born, my brother and I were certainly aware of our great-uncle’s story. Indeed, I vividly remember a conversation with my grandmother where she still expressed deep sadness and regret about never having learned what happened and where on that February day. More than anything, she just wanted a sense of closure, both for her brother and for the rest of the family.

A few years after my grandmother died, our family was notified by the U.S. Army’s Central Identification Laboratory that a crash site had been found in Papua New Guinea. Human remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage were all consistent with the missing Kindig/Piotrowski flight. DNA analysis later verified this. The full range of emotion at the discovery – disbelief, joy, pride, love – was tempered only by the realization that my grandmother did not live to see her brother’s journey completed.

A special ceremony for Piotrowski and Kindig was held at Arlington National Cemetery, the common grave for the two men can be found there at Section 60, Site 8022. Bud was later reunited with his family at a special service at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Indeed, he is now buried alongside his mother, father, and brother in the southeast corner of Lot 73, Block R.

Piotrowski headstone, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo (MI). Lot 73, Block R.

Bud’s sister, my grandmother, Stella Clara Piotrowski, is buried with her husband, Leo Rzepczynski, in Mount Olivet’s mausoleum, a short walk from the Piotrowski plot.

Sharing that full military honors event at Mount Olivet Cemetery with my family, and particularly with my father, Francis’ namesake, remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Our family now has the closure that my grandmother always wished for.

Due at Her Pier…

One of my favorite subjects in family history is immigration and passenger list research. Not only the compelling personal stories of our ancestors as they leave one life behind to begin another, but also the infinite array of research possibilities: the ports of arrival, the ships and vessels themselves, the genealogical value and evolution of the records, and of course, the various spelling permutations of our ancestor’s surnames.

Many researchers are understandably focused on the manifests themselves as they begin their immigration research, yet by doing so, they overlook a potential key source of information. Many port city newspapers maintained a shipping column in their pages, a daily list identifying what ships are coming, going, or expected to arrive in the next day or two. This Shipping & Mails column is particularly helpful in verifying the date of arrival of an ancestor’s ship, much like the Morton Allan Directory, but can also provide unique one-of-a-kind information detailing a ship’s arrival.

Let’s take a closer look at the Shipping & Mails column, using Stanley Piotrowski, my great-grandfather, as an example. Born in Kolo, Poland in March 1886, Stanley immigrated to the United States in April 1909, arriving at Ellis Island aboard the President Grant. Here is the entry from the Shipping & Mails column in the 15 April 1909 edition of the New York Times, indicating the ship’s expected arrival that day:

“Incoming Steamships,” New York Times, 15 April 1909, p. 16, col. 7.

It’s a bit smudged, but the article above also shows that the President Grant departed Hamburg on April 4, thus making the trans-Atlantic voyage in 11-12 days. Further down the column, additional information on the President Grant‘s arrival at Ellis Island can be found.

“Reported by Wireless,” New York Times, 15 April 1909, p. 16, col. 7.

An extension of the New Jersey coastline, Sandy Hook is just south of the entrance to New York’s harbor, meaning that the President Grant was still more than 300 miles out to sea the day before arriving at Ellis Island. More importantly, because of this newspaper article, I now have the approximate hour (2 p.m.) when my immigrant ancestor first set foot in the United States. What a find!

The manifest itself reveals information on Stanley’s life, occupation, birthplace, who paid his passage, final destination, and much more, but this Times article sheds a whole different light on his arrival at Ellis Island, offering a level of detail not found in any other source, save perhaps a personal diary or family oral tradition. We all strive to make those personal connections with our research, linking the past both to the present and future. Like the example here, perhaps the local newspaper can make those connections for you and your immigrant ancestor.

Index to Michigan Masonic Deaths

Michigan family history researchers are fortunate to have a wealth of free death records available online at their fingertips. Between FamilySearch and Seeking Michigan, researchers have free digital access to every state-level death recorded in the state of Michigan from 1867 to 1920. However, a significant gap exists between 1921 and 1970, before the Michigan Deaths, 1971-1996 collection (available at both FamilySearch and Ancestry) begins.

Some of that nearly 50-year chasm can be crossed with the excellent FamilySearch database “Michigan Deaths & Burials, 1800-1995,” but not all of it. Indeed, with that particular database, “Michigan” is not statewide, nor does every county include that impressive two hundred year collection of records. Many of the abstracted county-level records go up to the 1920′s and beyond, but again, only for selected counties. Other counties have additional years, other have fewer, it depends on the particular county of interest.

Therefore, researchers interested in a death record from the 1930′s, for example, are presented with a quandary. With no online database for the time period, researchers need to utilize alternative sources that can identify their ancestors’ exact date of death.

One such alternative is the Index to Michigan Masonic Deaths available here at my web site. Containing more than 8,200 extractions from the Transactions of the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of the State of Michigan, the site currently covers the 1933-1936 volumes, which largely includes deaths from 1932-1935. Researchers will find the decedent’s name, death date, lodge name, number, and location in Michigan, all important clues for finding obituaries, death records, and much more.

Let’s take a look at one example.

Entry for Christian Vahs.

Listed in the 1936 volume of the Transactions, Christian Vahs died on 9 August 1935 as a member of Bellevue Lodge No. 83 in Bellevue.

Once the death date and local lodge are identified, locating a newspaper is fairly straightforward. The largest collection of Michigan newspapers can be found onsite at the Library of Michigan in Lansing. According to the Library’s web site, their Eaton County newspaper holdings include the Bellevue Gazette. After a few minutes of scanning the microfilm in early August 1935, the Vahs obituary is found. Success!

Bellevue (MI) Gazette, 15 Aug 1935, p. 1, col. 4.

The extensive obituary continues on and reveals Christian’s wife’s name, where they married, surviving family members, fraternal membership, funeral date, and the cemetery name. Add in the military service information and birthplace in Germany, we are presented with quite the genealogical haul!

Using the death information revealed in the obituary, a researcher could then easily find the county-level death record at the Eaton County Clerk’s office or the state-level certificate at the Vital Records Office of the Michigan Department of Community Health. Michigan counties’ vital records fees are typically less expensive than the state’s.

Using the Michigan Masonic death index here at this site can serve as an alternative source to help researchers locate their ancestors’ death record, particularly during the 1930′s. The 50-year gap facing Michigan researchers is now not as insurmountable as at first glance.

I’ll be adding additional years to my death index, so stay tuned!

NGS conference wrap-up

Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly a week since the 2012 National Genealogical Society conference wrapped up in Cincinnati, Ohio. With my work schedule, I was only able to attend a short time, yet I returned home bursting with new ideas, energized for my own personal research, and optimistic for what the future holds in the field of genealogy. A successful conference, to be sure.

NGS 2012 Family History Conference, May 9-12, Cincinnati (OH)

Always a highlight at conferences, I reconnected with colleagues from across the country, sharing updates on our places of work, and discussing future conferences and learning opportunities. I also enjoyed meeting new Facebook and Twitter friends face to face. My Friday program on Michigan genealogy went well, too, researchers’ enthusiasm and interest in Michigan continues to amaze and motivate me.

En route to Cincinnati, I stopped in Blue Ash at Blue Ash Chili for some outstanding 3-way chili and delectable mac & cheese. Skyline Chili was an enjoyable lunchtime spot the next day, although I preferred Blue Ash. Yet my Cincinnati culinary highlight was Graeter’s ice cream, conveniently located two blocks from my hotel. Black Raspberry Chip!

Although I unfortunately missed the opening program on the 1848 Cincinnati panorama, I did have the opportunity to visit the exhibit at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. It’s simply incredible how much detail we can glean from that image, down to the exact time it was taken. The exhibit hall is always an important part of the conference experience, both in conversations with vendors and in emptying one’s wallet; this year was no exception. It’s equally amazing – and inspiring – that FamilySearch is expecting the 1940 Census to be completely indexed by the end of August!

I look forward to my next visit to Cincinnati, perhaps at the Ohio Genealogical Society‘s annual conference in April 2013. Hope to see you there!