Sunday, February 27, 2011

I Love Podcasts

I've been driving for four days.

I started out in Sacramento, California and I'm now in Sulphur, Louisiana. I don't think I would have made it across New Mexico or Texas without Lisa Louise Cooke or The Genealogy Guys.

Before my trip I downloaded several of the Genealogy Gems Podcasts, and several of the Genealogy Guys Podcasts.  I really love both of these shows.  They are very different from each other and I learn a lot from them both.

I started listening to podcasts on a trip to Utah.  I used to listen to lecture tapes.  (For those new to genealogy conferences, they used to sell tape recordings of the lectures, now the lectures are on CD.) I don't tend to listen to the conference CDs on a trip because my CD changer is in the trunk of my car, and I can't change them out very easily on a long trip.  Podcasts to the rescue.

I have a little iPod and I can load about 30 podcasts on it.  That's more than enough to get me across the Salt Flats.  For this longer trip I just downloaded more from iTunes (using my computer) while I stopped for the night in Gallup, New Mexico.  (I can hear my son groaning and making a mental note,"Get mom a new iPod for Christmas.")

The only problems were, that while listening to the podcasts I would get such great ideas and I wanted to remember them; or, Lisa, Drew or George would give me a great tip and I ached to write it down.  Not a great idea when your driving down a freeway at more than 60 miles per hour (I'm not saying how much more than 60mph.)

That's when I had a technology break through.  (See the little light bulb above my head?)
I now cart my little digital voice recorder in my purse and when George, Lisa or Drew hit me with one of their great tips, or a wonderful web site, I pull out my little digital marvel and record it.  Then when I get to wherever I land that night I listen back and note down what I want to keep; or go to the web site they mentioned.  (I know some of you are saying..."well, duh!"  But remember, I'm technologically challenged.")

But, I'm catching up.

I'm catching up on the podcasts too.  (It is amazing how many you can listen to while crossing the desert.)

If you haven't discovered podcasts yet...what are you waiting for?  Consider this your "engraved invitation."  Lisa Louise Cooke produces the Genealogy Gems Podcast (at and Drew Smith and George Morgan produce the Genealogy Guys Podcast
(at  Both shows are also accessible by doing a Google search on their podcast names.  They're FREE.  However, the content is priceless.

I wouldn't go across the desert without them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview with Louise St. Denis

Ok, here is the long awaited interview with Louise St. Denis from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (  Wait till you hear about the wonderful gift she is giving my readers...

Last week I interviewed Louise using Skype.  Since that interview (my first Skype experience ...except for my practice runs) I have been using Skype about once or twice a week.  It is wonderful to see my son when I call;  or to see the documents that my friend Jane has found.  I remember when I was in the third grade the teacher gave us all a little booklet on telephone etiquette.  In that little comic book type pamphlet was a page on the "phones of the future."  Well, I'm here to tell you the future is now.  One of those phones, depicted in my pamphlet, was a picture phone that would allow you to see the person you were talking to.  I am amazed at our technology.  Can you imagine what someone experiences if they were born into a world of horse and carriage but witness the development of the automobile.  Or someone who lived during the 1920s watching the "creation" of the television.  That is what we are seeing today with this "boom" of technology.  I can't wait to see what the next 30 years brings.  Imagine.

But I digress...

Back to the interview.

I let Louise know that I was focusing my interview with my beginning genealogy students in mind.  However, the classes offered through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies are not just for beginners alone.  If you go to you will find a large variety of classes from which to choose.  Everything from "Basic Level Methodology" to "Genetics and Genealogy," from "Paleography" to "Probate Records," and everything in between.  You can take one class or many.  You can purchase classes individually or in packages (this saves you some bucks.)

If you get real serious about your Genealogical Education you can even earn credits through the University of Toronto.  This is a certificate program and you can earn a certificate (or many if you so desire) in American Records, Australian Records, Canadian Records, English Records, German Records, Irish Records, Scottish Records, General Methodology, or Librarianship.

Check out the offerings...go to and sign in.  Then click on "Courses" (you'll find the button at the top of the page...this opens a drop on "Courses").  Here you will find links to all the courses I named above.  Click on the American Records course (or any other course work you might be interested in...but if you are a beginner I recommend starting with the American Records basic level methodology classes).  You will see that the course work is divided into segments...Basic, Intermediate and Advanced with a ton of elective courses following.

Some of the general classes include: Writing Your Family History Book, Social Media for the Wise Genealogist, Protect your Precious Documents, Producing Your Family Video, Planning a Research Trip and many more.

Louise assured me that beginning students should not be afraid to venture in.  You will be walked through everything you need to know.  For example if you sign up for the Social Media class you don't have to already be a FaceBook Fanatic or a Mad Tweeter.  The class will teach you everything from top to bottom.  She also told me that if you have no desire to join Twitter or FaceBook, you don't have to, the class will still work for you.

Prices range from $49.50 to $160.00 with the average course costing $89.00.    The $89.00 courses qualify for credit in the certificate programs and there are assignments and exams.  Louise pointed out that, "When you take a course that has exams you challenge yourself and you are sure you know the materials. You'll see what you know and what you don't know."

When I asked Louise the difference between a certificate program and a certification program Louise compared this certificate program to a lawyer, "A lawyer gets his BA and his MA and that's his education, that's what a certificate in Genealogical Studies is.  When the lawyer goes on though, and wants to practice law, he has to pass the bar, well, that's what Certification is."

I highly recommend the courses at Genealogical Studies whether you are planning on becoming a professional genealogist or just want to improve your skills for your own gratification.

Now for the surprise:  Louise St. Denis has graciously offered a free 8 week Basic Level Methodology class for FREE to my readers. (That's an $89.00 value) But it starts soon...(March 7) so don't delay...take advantage of this offer.  You won't regret it.  E-mail Louise at  or  Let her know that I sent you (Kim von Aspern-Parker from Le Maison Duchamp blog).  Send her your name, e-mail address, and be sure to ask her if there is any other information that she needs.

I'm going to take it...and the Social Media class.  See you there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In A Past Life

Once upon a time I was a Journalist.  I wrote for magazines and newspapers.  I did many, many interviews.  But that was long ago and far away.  (More years than I care to count I can assure you.) So when I decided to write a blog I immediately knew I wanted to interview someone.  Since I teach beginning genealogy classes I wanted to interview someone who could advance my students.  To me advancement usually means gaining new knowledge.  That means learning new things…that means classes…that means Louise St. Dennis.

Louise St. Denis is the managing director of the National Institute for Geneological Studies (Genealogical the certificate program offered through the University of Toronto. 

I cornered Louise at RootsTech (not hard to do, she never seems to leave her booth…she’s very dedicated).  She is also passionate about her product.  I told Louise I was new to blogging and that I wanted her to be my first interview and she said she would be happy to oblige me.  She suggested I Skype her.  I left Louise’s booth and made my way to my friend Tami.

I have to confess; when Louise suggested I call her for the interview using Skype I probably turned a paler shade.  I had never Skyped.  I knew what it was because I had seen my son do it; but that was the end of my knowledge.   Once again I turned to Techie Tutor extraordinaire, Tami Glatz.

 While I was not new to interviewing I was new to the technology I would be using.  Tami assured me that there was nothing to it and when we had finished our day at RootsTech she gave me a Skype lesson. 

There really was nothing to using Skype.  Basically I downloaded Skype to my computer and then entered the name of the person I wanted to contact (their Skype name which may be different than their given name).  Then hit the button marked with the little phone icon.  It works pretty much like a cell phone; with the added bonus of being able to see the person you are speaking with, should you choose to. 

Give it a try…if you don’t have a child or grandchild handy that is using Skype, call me…I’m Kimmyvon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Amazing Things I Learned This Last Weekend

My "Techie Friends" all look at me like I just crawled out of a cave...and that's exactly how I feel.
I knew I was a little behind on all this social media stuff and I never have been much of a computer wizard.  In fact I have been known to use a few swear words and threaten to throw my computer out the window when it wasn't doing what I thought it should.  I use the same approach with my son.  It doesn't work with him either.

I'm much more comfortable when the printed word comes with pages I can actually turn and maybe a little dust on the cover.  I've been spotted sitting amongst the stacks at libraries and bookstore. I've even been locked in a library when it closed because I was so absorbed I didn't hear the closing announcement.

So imagine the shock and surprise my family and friends are experiencing these days.  I have not only embraced this brave new world...but I've dived in head first and am in danger of drowning.

I had no idea just how far behind I was.  Don't blink in this "techie" world...or you're doomed.

It all started when my husband wanted to update his phone.  He found we could get new Droids, both of us, a two for one deal.  I was perfectly happy with my little flip phone that did nothing but make calls and text.  To tell the truth, I would have preferred if it had no text feature.  I hate texting...I'm all thumbs, and not in a good "texting" way.  However, my hubby wanted his new phone and I thought what the heck, it might have some cool genealogy apps.

That was the beginning of it all.

I learned how to take pictures with my new phone.  Cool.  I text a lot more too.  The best app my phone has?  Find a Starbucks.

Then this last weekend I went to RootsTech.  A Genealogy conference that focused on the technological aspects of genealogical research.  The teachers and vendors there taught us all about a multitude of wonderful technological gizmos.

One of the best classes I attended was, of course, my friend Tami Glatz's class about Cool Tools to Enhance Your Online Research.  I'm a little biased of course, but I really do think she gives a heck of a class.  Her class was full, so I must not be the only one with that opinion.

Lisa Louise Cooke also gives a wonderful presentation.  I have attended about five different lectures of her's now and they are always very informative and send me home with huge to do lists.  This last one was on using Google Earth.  I never dreamed of the inventive way she uses this product.  Amazing.  I (and about 70 other people) ran out of her class to the book store vendor and grabbed up her book The Genealogist's Google Toolbox and her two DVDs Google Earth for Genealogy and Google Earth for Genealogy Vol. II.

My only complaint with Lisa Louise Cooke's class was that the conference put her in a small room that only set 72 people.  I had seen Lisa lecture last June at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree and knew she could fill the "big tent" that seats more than 200 people.  I'll bet next year she'll be in the big room.

I also went to a class on Using Your Android Phone for Genealogy and Family History given by David Lifferth and Michael Helmantoler.  I will never look at my phone quite the same again.  I learned how to geocode my photos taken by my phone and a ton of other stuff.

If you didn't make RootsTech this year you really missed out and you should plan on attending next year.

I gave Tami a run down on the things I learned this weekend and even though she had taught me most of it she was still pretty amazed. Here's the list.

I learned to Blog, and Tweet.  I learned to tether my phone to my PC to gain access to the Internet.  I learned about FourSquare, Lulu, the Cloud, and Dropbox.  I learned more about Second Life and the genealogical things you can do there (I even attended an APG meeting in Second Life (SL).  As already mentioned I learned about more Google Tools such as Google Earth and Google Reader and I learned about Geocoding.

Some of amazing people I met or got to know better include:  Lisa Louise Cooke, Anne Roach (who deserves a big hand for putting on such an great conference), Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Lisa Alzo, Thomas MacEntee, A. C. Ivory, and last but certainly not least is Dear Myrtle.  Most of these people have their own terrific blogs and the easiest way I know to get to them is to download Tami's Relatively Curious Toolbar.  She has a little icon you just click on and voilá you're there. (It's free try it out).

Keep watching this space...I interviewed Louise St. Denis from National Institute for Genealogical Studies today using Skype and I will post that interview sometime this week.  She gave me a great gift to give to my readers.  You'll have to check back to find out what that is.  So until next time...

My New Discovery

So there I was with only a half hour to spare before running off to dinner with a bunch of new found friends.  I knew there was one book maybe two at the FHL (Family History Library, Salt Lake City) that I just had to look at, and this would be my last chance.

So off I ran...

Literally ran....dragging my little roll along case behind me with my charts, notes and computer inside.  I must have looked quite the sight.  But then all decorum and personal dignity, not to mention professional image, fly right out the window when that one elusive fact is within grasp and time is limited.

Hoofed it up to the floor containing US/Canada books and dropped my case at the first seat I found.

Dashed into the stacks (knew where to go since I had scoped it out the day before) and found the two books.

Carried them back to my table and dived in.

The first book contained some pictures I had been hoping I would find, but that was not my big discovery.  I already had those pictures, just not very good copies.  But it turns out the photos in the book that my copies were from were not very good...hence the bad copy.

So on to the next book......drum roll please.

In the book Marriage Contracts of the Attakapas Post, 1760-1803 Colonial Louisiana Marriage Contracts: Volume V     I found the following entry:

12 July 1766               OA Book 10, No. 14A
Before Benoist, Notary:
FRANCOIS JACQUES OZENNE - major son of deceased Jacque Ozenne and Charlotte Julie Moro; native of New Orleans.
MARGUERITE DECUIR - minor daughter of Jean Francois Decuir and Genevieve Mahyeux
Witnesses for the groom: Bernard Auricoste; Jacques Deshotels.
Witnesses for the bride: her parents; Antoine Patin, her uncle who is married to Marguerite Mahyeux; Joseph Prevost, her uncle who married Magdeleine Mahyeux; Pierre Decuir, her brother; Joseph Decoux, her cousin.

I love this record.  Look at all I got from it...
It took me back a generation ( I knew the names Francois Jacques Ozenne and wife Marguerite Decuir) but now I have his parents names and her parents names.  It gave their marriage date.  It gave me her brother's name and several new family connections (uncles, aunts, and cousin).
It also tells me that Charlotte Julie Moro was a native of New Orleans.
All this before I've even looked to see what relation the groom's witnesses might be.

And look at that date ... 1766

I could have a Revolutionary Soldier!

There were many other entries in this book that looked promising.  But I did not have time to examine it any further.  Because this book and many others like it, dealing with Louisiana, list a lot of people from Acadia I am sure to find other ancestors in it.  (It seems like almost all Acadian descendants are cousins...the lines intermarried a lot.) So if you are of Acadian (Cajun) descent drop me a line...I'll bet we find a connection or two.  I will definitely be getting my hands on this book again.

So just like on Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) I'm off to Louisiana.  (The trip was already planned...the research work in the FHL was in preperation). At the end of February I will be in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana....the search continues.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm so tired I can't blog

I have just arrived home (Sacramento, CA) from the Roots Tech conference in Salt Lake City.  I left Salt Lake at noon and drove for 10 hours.  I wanted to be home for Valentines day.

My husband surprised me with, not one, not two but three bouquets of flowers...I think he missed me.

The dogs too; they will not leave my side.

I need to go away more often...I love the welcome home.

I've been telling you about all the great techie stuff I was learning, but I did manage to squeeze in a few minutes of research at the Family History Library while I was in Salt Lake.  I managed to extend one of my family lines back another generation.  But, as it is midnight that story will have to wait till tomorrow.

On the technology side...I stopped in Reno on my way home to have dinner with my son and he taught me about FourSquare.  So now you can follow me on Twitter, this blog and FourSquare as well as Facebook.    On Twitter I'm Kimmyvon and on Facebook I'm Kim von Aspern.

Tomorrow or the next day I will tell you all about my new this space.

Good Night

Friday, February 11, 2011

Holy High Tech Batman

OH MY GOODNESS!  I am in information overload.  I have learned about new apps for my Droid, ways to improve my blog, how to create a podcast, Second Life and the roll it can play in genealogy (more about that later) and Tweeting. 

I told Tami (my roommate at RootsTech, and one of the presenters at said conference) that I needed to learn how to Tweet.  For about the tenth time this weekend she looked at me, totally incredulous, and asked, “You’re not on Twitter?”  and I in all innocence said, “No I don’t Twit.”  Tami replied, “Kim, you twit, everyone else Tweets.”

So now I Tweet.  You can follow me there too. (I’m Kimmyvon on Twitter)    It’s kind of weird.  I’m having a love/hate relationship with social media (see how I’m picking up the lingo?)  I never wanted to be this connected before.  I actually felt relieved whenever I forgot my phone at home.  Just a little time to myself… a few moments where no one could make any demands on my time.  Now I feel as if there is this long line of invisible shadows following me wherever I go.  It’s kind of creepy when you think about it. 

But on the other hand I love all the information that is being exchanged though social media.  My sisters had to drag me kicking and screaming into using Facebook, now I don’t know how I lived without it and am trying to get my husband to use it.  I love it…I actually have an idea what my son is up to and I know my sisters are alive and well.  I get notified when someone is having a baby or has lost a loved one.  My friends share stories about their family’s history or their dogs.  I know when someone gets a new job or loses the one they had.  What a great invention. 

I’m hoping that Twitter will work out as well. 

On Tuesday I am going to try out something else new (well, new to me).  I’m going to do an interview using Skype.  I’ve used Skype before but someone else set it up so this should be interesting, considering that Tami had to walk me through setting up Twitter step by step.  (I’m a bit of a nimrod when it comes to all this Techie stuff….did I mention that?)

Oh, that reminds me…Tonight a meeting was held in Second Life for the APG Second Life Chapter.  Craig Scott was the lecturer.  It was a great meeting and Craig (or Krag as his Second Life avatar is known) did a masterful job lecturing about his specialty, Military Records.  

I was introduced to Second Life by none other than the infamous Tami Glatz.  Techie Tutor extraordinaire.  (I know I mention Tami a lot but she is the one who is “turning me on” to all this great technology.)  Second Life is a virtual reality.  Somewhere I never would have gone…I don’t game.  So when Tami told me about the wonderful genealogy experiences one could have in Second Life I was skeptical, reluctant, and really not interested, but I gave it a try. 

I am so glad I did.  I think it is one of the best kept secrets in the genealogy world.  Great classes; as good as anything I have attended at the conferences.  And when APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) granted a charter for a chapter in Second Life I was ecstatic.  Now I can attend meetings wearing my bunny slippers and no one looks at me funny. 

But tonight’s APG chapter meeting was special in so many ways.  First of all it was “broadcast” from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  And secondly, yours truly was able to set up my computer and attach a USB cable between it and my Droid enabling me to have a WiFi spot.  All courtesy of my friend Jane. 

I met my new friend Jane (aka Gadget Girl) here at this conference.  She and I are already fast friends.  When I discovered that I would not be able to get a WiFi connection for my computer and therefore would be unable to attend the APG meeting I was disappointed.  Then I remembered my friend Jane.

Gadget Girl to the rescue.

Earlier in the day Jane had told me about an app for my Droid that allowed me to have an internet connection no matter where I was.  And it was a free download.  (It’s called PDAnet, by the way, you need to download it to your computer too).   I remembered that and called her (see all the cool stuff I’m learning).  I asked her if she had a USB cable that would work between my phone and my laptop.  Yes, she did.  She helped me get set up, and I was able to attend the meeting.  Not only that, but the feed for the main computer we were using for the meeting was not working properly and they ended up using mine as the main computer.  Me… a Non-Techie.  Wow. 

I may soon have to give up the title Non-Techie. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A wonderful time was had by all

Dinner was fabulous.  I ate so much I may pop.  All I have to say is Crème Brule, Cheesecake, Chocolate Mint Cake, Chocolate, Chocolate and more Chocolate, Flan, Éclairs….

Oh, yes, there was some flank steak, pork, chicken and vegetables too….

But the real main course was the wonderful conversations going on all around me.  Dear Myrtle was there, and sitting next to her was Drew Smith.  I feel as though I was rubbing elbows with royalty.  We talked about and their accusation of…they chided me for just finding out…I’m sure they think I live in a cave. 

As a new blogger I was welcomed and made to feel right at home.  A couple of people asked the name of my blog and I proudly told them “Le Maison Duchamp.”

Perhaps I should explain to you why I named it that.  At first glance it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with genealogy.  But it’s French for “The House of Duchamp” and Duchamp is the name of one of my favorite ancestors.  Her full name was Marie Louise Josephine Sophie Merope Martin De La Martiniere, married name Duchamp.  She married Jean Baptiste Eugene Duchamp De Chastaigne. 

Marie Louise and Eugene had a large plantation in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana and a town house, (literally a house in town) a modest little three story mansion with a ball room on the main floor.  This house is on the historical registrar and called La Maison Duchamp.  My blog uses Le instead of La to differentiate it from the house itself.  (I hope the French speakers amongst you forgive me.)

La Maison Duchamp
Tomorrow bright and early starts my initiation into this big wonderful world of genealogy technology.  Not sure what Marie Louise would make of it.  But I hope she would approve of me naming my blog after her wonderful home.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I is a Techie

I have a great genealogy friend, maybe you know her, Tami Glatz.  Tami and I met in Texas at a conference.  Our hotel rooms were next door to each other and everyday we rode the elevator up and down.  We took the shuttle to and from the conference.  One day we introduced ourselves and decided to have dinner together.  We became friends.

During my absence from genealogy…well, let’s just say Tami wasn’t absent from genealogy, not one day. 

When I met up with Tami again at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this year she was “hanging with the cool kids.”  She had developed the Relatively Curious Toolbar and was  blogging her little heart out. 

Me?  I had never heard of blogging.  I didn’t tweet.  I had only just started a Facebook account.  I don’t know if Tami even realizes how primitive I was.  I said was…I should say am.

When I got my Facebook account Tami was my first friend.  I don’t know if she knows that.  I hadn’t heard from her in years and there she was.  Then at Jamboree she introduced me to so many wonderful people.  These genealogists are a new breed.  They understand technology. 
She introduced me to “Bloggers.”  I attended two workshop/panels on Blogging.  I’m trying to keep up or should I say catch up. But I fear I belong in the 19th century.  Or at least in the early 20th

I still write long hand letters.  I just learned how to spin, and it does not involve a bicycle.  I do own a computer and I do know how to e-mail.  I’ve been known to surf the web and I even know what a PDF is.

But blogging, now that I might be able to do, I thought.  After all I have a BA in Journalism.  I write.  That I know how to do. 

Now keep in mind that Jamboree was held in June, I had only decided to “go back to work” in April.  And here I am learning about things like blogging, tweeting, GPS systems and there use in genealogy, Google maps, and so many other things, my mind was reeling.  After all I was still trying to remember how to search out land records and mine deeds.
I came home fully intending to start blogging.  Then I started working for’s Expert Connect.  My days became full.  I was working with clients again.  I was placing bids right and left.  I was writing reports and research plans.  I was working at my local Family History Center and I was attending meeting with my local society.  Where on earth do you fit in blogging? 

Maybe next month.

Then it was August and I attended the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Tennessee.  I met Dear Myrtle and became a part of a wonderful group called Geneaquilters.  We’re a group of genealogist who also love quilting.  Pat Richley-Erickson is our lynch pin.  She organizes wonderful quilt shop hops for us in whatever town we are in for a conference.  (So far we have had one in Tennessee and one in Utah.) She also encouraged me to blog.

At that conference I decided to work on getting my certification and aim for the goal of becoming a speaker.  So now on top of the client work and all that that brings with it I have to make time for classes and certification work. 

But I want to join the Techie revolution…maybe I’ll start blogging after the first of the year.

In January I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and took Paula Stuart Warren’s American Research class.  Wow, what an enormous amount of information.  I have about 600 new websites I must investigate.

Maybe I will start blogging after I check all of them out.

Ok, I have a confession to make.  Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.  Technology scares me a little…no that’s not the right word…it doesn’t scare me exactly, it intimidates me.  I’ve always been good friends with books.  I take comfort in libraries.  Now the “written word” is on a screen and that disconcerts me.  So this month I will be attending Roots Tech in Salt Lake City.

Now, Roots Tech scares me.  I don’t even know what half the classes are about.  What’s this about a cloud? 

Tami has promised to help me adapt to this new world.  In her effort to included me, she has allowed me to hang on her coat tails and “hang out with the cool kids”.  The bloggers; that special group of online journalist, for that is what they are.  Part of me feels right at home, after all I was a journalist.  I even used to have my own newspaper column.  But a blogger I am not. I keep meaning to become one but something is always getting in the way. 

How do they find the time?  Don’t these techie people eat?  Do they sleep?  It’s all I can do to read my e-mail and Facebook.  Sometimes I even manage to read a blog or two before I have to start work.  Now I’m supposed to write too?  I like sleeping and eating.

Yesterday Tami sent me an e-mail with a forward about a dinner and breakfast.  I needed to reply as soon as possible so they would know I was coming.  I replied and a very nice lady informed me that the dinner and breakfast was for journalists or bloggers only. 

WAIT….I meant to write a blog.  I used to be a journalist.  I want to go to the dinner and breakfast.  I LIKE TO EAT.

So here I am….entering the world of blogging. 
See you at the dinner.

Coming into the home stretch

In 2008 I was sent an obituary, my mentor and friend Chuck Knuthson had died.  I hadn’t talked with him for a couple of years.  I felt terrible. I regretted not keeping in touch with him and I felt sorry for myself.  It felt as if in losing Chuck I had lost the last bit of connection I had to the world of genealogy.

 Flash forward five years.  I haven’t touched genealogy at all.  I’ve tried knitting, cross stitch, scrapbooking, reading clubs, and various other hobbies.  None satisfied.  I’d lost my passion.  I couldn’t find a job I liked.  Nothing made me happy like genealogy had. 

One night a last spring I walked into my husband’s office and told him I was thinking about going to the National Genealogy Society’s Conference in Salt Lake City.  I asked him if he thought we could afford it.  He looked at me incredulous and said with excitement in his voice, “Are you going back to work?”  I told him I didn’t know, “Let’s see if the conference lights the fire again, can we afford it?”  “We’ll find a way.”

 I love my husband.

I love genealogy.  I had a great time at the conference.  I began to remember all the things I had forgotten.  The lingo started to filter through my cobwebbed brain.  I started to realize how much I had to do to catch up to were I had been.  I experienced a moment of panic.  I felt lonely and I missed my mentor Chuck.  He had been there to help me understand and make sense of all the records.  He had introduced me to so many wonderful people and now few of them even recognized me.  I was a nobody without Chuck.  I wallowed in my pity party for about a half a day.  Then my friend Craig showed up.

Craig and I met in Alabama years ago at Samford.  Through various conferences and Samford we became good buddies.  Over a great Indian dinner Craig listened to me tell him about land records and handwriting , deeds and my confusion with it all.  His eyes did not glaze over (as my husband might do), he listened with the interest of a fellow genealogist who understands our particular form of madness.  He allowed me to voice my fears out loud.  And as all monsters do in the light the fears began to shrink.

Thank you Craig.

I went back to the conference and took some beginning level classes.  It was humbling.  But I also discovered that I had not forgotten everything.  There was hope.

Then I ran into Paula Stuart Warren in the vendor area.  She and I shared a couple of tears over Chuck’s memory and I no longer felt alone.

Thank you Paula.

I went then and there to the Association of Professional Genealogist’s  booth and once again joined.  I went to the National Genealogy Soiety booth and joined.  I went to the Genealogical Speakers Guild booth and signed up.  I inquired about classes.  I bought new software.  I talked to everyone.  I began taking baby steps.

I was back.  And I was on fire.

How do I make Lemonade out of this

The winter of 2006 was not an easy one.

My son, a Marine, was sent to Iraq.  My adoptive father, Max was in the hospital with e-coli.  My adoptive mother was at home but since she was blind needed a lot of help.  My mother-in-law was in the hospital, she had undergone open heart surgery and did not recover.  My father-in-law was rushed into the hospital needing emergency gallbladder surgery, and to top it all off I had learned the previous summer that Dick might not be my birth father after all.

I had taken a trip that summer.  First stop Tennessee for a conference then two weeks research in Tennessee and Alabama.  Next stop Samford University for IGHR, then on down to the Carolina’s for research and to visit my sister Susie.  Last but not least, a few weeks in Florida visiting my Aunt Lil, my sister Gerianne, my sister Elizabeth and my brother Danny.  I refer to this time as my eight week odyssey across the South. 

While visiting my Aunt Lil she told me of the time …,
”Must have been right after you were born. Your mother was prancing around in her bathing suit all the time.  I realize now it was because she had her ‘girlish figure’ back.  One night we were sitting here talking, just like you and I are doing now.  She started to tell me a story about meeting a man friend in Tahoe and how they went out partying.  Then she stopped.  I wouldn’t remember the conversation except that it was out of context and she dropped it.  I think she was going to tell me about you.  I think she almost did then changed her mind.  But I don’t think Dick is your father…do you?  I think she was going to tell me about your father.  I think it was this lawyer friend she met in Tahoe.”
WOW!  Talk about life changing moments.  The seed was planted.  Now I wondered.  I went to my room that night and called my sister Vicki.  Vicki told me, “Now that you mention it…”  Vicki was nine years old when Dick and Audrey divorced.  She remembers “mommy’s” lawyer, a Mr. Gray, and looking back thinks that maybe they were a little too friendly.

“Mommy” was dead.  I couldn’t ask her.  My birth records are sealed.  Dead End. 

One day about two months later I was working on a California family line and was looking up a birth record in the California birth index online.  I couldn’t get the information I was looking for and wondered if I was entering too little information for the search criteria.  So I decided to test it.  I knew my birth record was indexed.  Even though the birth records are sealed my information was indexed.  So I typed in my mother’s maiden name (that was the search criteria I was using); I must have always used her married name before, because this time I came up with three records; one listed with her married name, one listed with her maiden name and one listed with the surname Brown.


I called my sister, “She changed his color,” I told her. 

Now I was sure…well, pretty sure, Dick was not my Dad.  So I asked him for a DNA paternity test.  The test results came back…Dick is not my father.

Here I was a genealogist working towards my certification and attempting to become a professional with no paternal line.  The top half of my chart a complete blank.  Once again my sense of indentify is shaken. 

I quit genealogy. 

Are we there yet?

I hear you asking, “When does she get to the genealogy?” 

Well, you see, I began my genealogy in earnest just to keep my family straight in my head.  When you have a birth father, and adoptive father, and a step father; a birth mother, an adoptive mother, and two former step mothers, life gets a bit complicated.  My son now had more grandparents then he knew what to do with.  Not to mention that my ex, his father, had the usual set of two parents plus step parents.  To add to the bedlam, my current husband also had the requisite pair of parents. 

In case you’ve lost count that gave my son 14 grandparents.

If you count the sister I grew up with, I have 11 siblings.  Yes…an even dozen counting me.

So I started gathering information. 

My grandmother was still living and fairly active at 89 years old when I met her.  She was so excited to have someone to talk to about the family history.  One day I was asking her questions and she hesitated for a minute…she was trying to remember little details that no one had asked her about in a very long time.  I apologized saying, “I’m sorry grandma, you didn’t know there would be a test today did you?”  and she responded, without missing a beat, “If I had I would have studied.”  When I was questioning her about her first husband my nephew, Michael, was in the kitchen listening.  He was wide eyed and flabbergasted, he asked his great grandmother, “Grandma…you were married before?”  Michael’s  father stared at him and said, “Michael, what is her last name?”  “Higgens,”Michael replied.   “What is your grandfather’s last name?”  “Bennett.”  There was a short pause…. "OH!”  The things our family learns when we do genealogy!

Grandma Higgens introduced me to the Rhodes family.  This was her great claim to fame.  The Rhodes family helped rescue the Donner party.  They were a part of California history.  She was fifth generation Californian and proud of it. 

I became enamored of the Rhodes family and all the extend family.  I worked on this family for ten years.  I had them traced back to early New England (Massachusetts).  They didn’t come over on the Mayflower, they came over two ships later on the Anne. 

Tracing this family pushed me into a fascinating new world.  The world of genealogy.  I attended my first conference and decided I wanted to do this for a living.  My husband asked, “Can you make a living at it?”  I told him the truth, “Probably not.”  But that didn’t stop me. 

Finding out Dick wasn’t really my birth father did.

I'm the middle child I think

As I said, I went from being an only child to this huge family…actually I have the distinction of being the oldest child, the youngest child, the only child and the middle child depending on how you look at it. 
Ok, so you know a little bit about my background now.  I think I should clarify the cast of characters in this little drama.
My adoptive parent’s names were Johneva and Max.  They adopted me and another little girl named Debby.
My birth mother’s name was Audrey.  Her first husband was Dick, and her second husband was Gerry.  Dick’s second wife was Adele, and his third was Nadine.  They’ve all passed now, except for Dick. 
Dick and Audrey had three children: Vicki, Rick, and Bobby.
Then there was me.
Dick and Audrey divorced the same year I was born.  Dick then married married Adele and Audrey married Gerry.
Adele had a two year old daughter named Susie.  Dick adopted her.
Gerry had been married before but had no issue. 
(Still with me…are you lost yet…eyes glazing over???)
Audrey and Gerry had three daughters and a son.  Loretta, Elizabeth, Gerianne, and Danny.
Adele and Dick divorced and he married Nadine.  Nadine and Dick had two sons, Richard and Michael.
That’s the run down of my siblings.  But to give some perspective.  My mother was pregnant with her last child (Danny) at the same time that my sister Vicki was pregnant with her first son.
My mother’s oldest child, Vicki is 10 years older than me, and her youngest child (Danny) is 10 years younger than me.  I’m smack in the middle.   Michael, my youngest sibling is 14 years younger than me. 
I tell you all this not to make it easier for you to assume my identity.  But so you will understand why genealogy become so important to me.  I needed some kind of map to just keep the family straight in my head.  Family group sheets to the rescue.   It took me weeks just to remember everybody’s names.  I still have trouble remembering my grand nieces and nephews names.  It doesn’t help that I have two brothers and a father with variations of the same name…Richard. 
My oldest brother is Donald Richard, some of us call him Butch (childhood nickname) others call him Rick.  Nadine’s son is Richard Anthony, and Dick is actually Frank Richard.  So we have a Dick, a Rich and a Rick.  One of my first comments to my family was, “Have you never heard of a baby name book?”  I also have two nieces with the name Samantha.  There are two Donalds (my brother and my uncle), two Michaels, and an uncle Dickey.
I named my son Joshua.

The Never Ending Story

This is my first blog and I think I should start by introducing myself to you and tell you why I have decided to write this blog. 
Who I am is part of why I am writing this blog.  I’m on a voyage of self discovery.  I’ve been on one all my life.  Most of us have a fairly good sense of self, it may go a little awry during our teenage years, but for the most part we know who we are and where we belong. 
I’ve always struggled with the sense of belonging. You see, I’m adopted.  I was placed with my adoptive family at birth, but the adoption was not finalized until I was a year old.  At that time my original birth records were closed and sealed and “Baby Bennett” became “Kim Ruth von Aspern.”
To the best of my knowledge I am in no part of German descent.  My adoptive parents, however, were.  My father’s father was from Germany.  My mother’s family were “Riger” and “Stahl.”  So growing up I was “German.” 
I always knew I was adopted.  In fact I was one of a very small club; I knew who my birth mother was. She was French and that was so much more romantic than German.  She was from Louisiana, a far cry from California.  I had fantasies about her.  She was a gypsy, she was royalty, she was a tragic figure forced to give me away. 
When I was 18 I talked with her for the first time. The truth is never as great as the fantasy. She was married for the second time, had mothered 8 children, lived in Florida and was very Catholic. (My family not so much, though I did attend a Catholic all girl high school).  I spoke with her again when I was getting married and she told me to, “Be careful…all my husband had to do was wink at me and I got pregnant…we’re a very fertile group.”  I never met her, we talked about 5 or 6 times on the phone, but when I got the chance to be in Florida and meet her (at the age of 30) she said, “I don’t think so.” 
A few years later she was dead.  I was not notified.  No one knew I existed.  So when I called to tell her I was graduating (finally at the age of 38) from college her husband informed me that she was dead.  Then he asked the question that changed everything, “Are you the baby?”  He explained that he knew I existed but he did know if I was a girl or boy, what my name was or where I lived.  He told me that the only argument he and my birth mother had ever had was about telling the other children about me.  He was all for it but she wanted to keep me a secret.  Then he told me, “But she’s dead.”  After we hung up he called my oldest sister and told her about me, she in turn called all the other siblings.  At age 38 I found myself with a huge family.
I had grown up with one sister, Debby.  She died when I was 37.  Now I found myself with three full blooded siblings, four half siblings (children of my birth mother and her second husband), an adopted sister (the child of my birth father’s second wife that he adopted), two half brothers (my birth father’s and his third wife). In addition to all these new siblings (10 if you lost count) my birth father was still living as well as his mother.  Plus of course my birth mother’s husband who started it all.  Not to mention all the nieces and nephews. 
I had gone from being the oldest child, to an only child, and now was the middle child.
I was welcomed with open arms.  My birth father’s mother, my grandmother Alice, was very excited that a genealogist was in the family.  She had been trying, without success, to tell the rest of the family about our amazing ancestors.  All she ever got was those glazed over stares…you know the one. One of the first things she said to me was, “You know we’re related to the Rhodes family.”  Poor dear.  I replied, “Grandma, I didn’t know I was related to you until 10 minutes ago.” 
And so began my earnest search into who I am based on who they (the ancestors who came before me) were.  This wonderful world of genealogy, which until that moment had only been a mild interest.