Saturday, September 29, 2007

October Events

If you live in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh, PA or near Madison, WI, I will be in your area giving some lectures in October.

On October 16 I will speak to the North Hills Genealogists on "“DEMYSTIFYING EASTERN EUROPEAN RESEARCH” at the Northland Public Library - 7 p.m.

October 18-19, I will be giving two workshops, "Beginning Genealogy" and "Slovak Genealogy" at the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International conference at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI.

I am looking forward to these events and I hope to be able to meet some of you!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Last Lecture

This evening I just happened to turn on the CBS Evening News and caught the "Assignment America" segment. It featured the story of Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Professor, Randy Pausch, 46, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just over a year ago. The segment features him giving his "Last Lecture." As he explained, "There’s been a tradition for years and years around college campuses of the last lecture." "If you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would you tell your students?"

This is one of those stories that gives one pause for reflection and serves to offer perspective for those days when things don't go a certain way or life hands over the seemingly overwhelming disappointments.

Click here to go to the CBS News web site to read the story and watch a video of the lecture.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back to the Nonfiction Narrative

It's been about 10 years since I've worked on a book-length manuscript. Now, those of you who've seen my web site or have heard one of my presentations may ask, "How can this be - you've published six books?" True. But only one of these books is what I consider a work of Narrative Nonfiction and that is Three Slovak Women.

The other books I've written were a departure from this genre. Baba's Kitchen is a collection of recipes, Finding Your Slovak Ancestors is a how-to genealogy book, and my three books for Arcadia Publishing, Pittsburgh's Immigrants, Slovak Pittsburgh, and Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania, are mainly photographic histories with captions and brief introductions.

One of my current projects is a book--nonfiction. I am working with a co-author and we are trying to get this book finished one page at a time. It is both rewarding and frustrating to do this kind of writing again. The subject is a very complex and intriguing true story, and without giving the plot away, I'll just say it has a lot of potential. Going back to my "writing roots" has been a bit intimidating. I find myself struggling to insert the best details, write believable dialogue, and include all of the relevant pieces of information in order to generate suspense and keep the narrative moving along. I also have to motivate myself to write. I have been setting small writing goals to start with - for example, writing at least one page a day - until I find my momentum. So far, it has been working.

So now, if you'll excuse me I need to get back to the book.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shift in Focus

I've decided to shift the focus of this blog a bit with less postings about genealogy and more about writing. To be honest, writing seems to be taking up more of my time these days. Sure, I still love to search for my ancestors and keep up with the latest happenings in the genealogical world, but with more and more writing assignments (happily) coming my way, I find myself thinking more about writing than genealogy these days.

From time to time I will blog about new findings in my own research, and breaking news or special announcements related to family history. But, since there are so many excellent blogs and bloggers out there who give daily updates about new databases or services, conferences and the like I often feel I am just repeating what has already been shared.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the writing process - why I do it, the struggle to get the words on the paper, finding the time and discipline to write, fighting writer's block, dealing with rejection and critics, and much more. So these are some of the topics I will be exploring.

I welcome comments from any fellow writers out there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

October GenClass Newsletter

Welcome back to the GenClass newsletter! This month's spotlight is
on using the AncestorsonBoard feature of

If this is your first time reading this newsletter, welcome!

Our monthly newsletter includes a featured article by an expert GenClass instructor, a tip of the month, and a list of upcoming courses.

October is Family History Month. To celebrate, why not take one of the great classes being offered at GenClass during October. There’s no better time to start discovering your roots!

Tip of the Month:

Set the stage for Family History Month by listening to inspiring tunes such as Neil Diamond’s “America” or “Lady Liberty” by Orleans. Steve Lanza’s Ancestral Songs album is another good choice. For more great tips on Family History Month activities, see “365 Ways to Discover Your Family History” by Lisa Alzo in the February 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine. See

by Pat Ryan, MCCSG

My father and grandmother left Scotland for Canada in April 1904 to rejoin grandfather who had come over earlier. So when announced the release of their Ancestorsonboard offering I decided to see if I could find them. Ancestorsonboard lists passengers leaving the UK between 1890 and 1960. It is an ambitious task, and the web site says that records will be completed in the coming months. To date, the database has records from 1890 to 1929. It is not just British who are included in the database. Many east Europeans traveled through England to reach major shipping ports, such as Liverpool, so this may be a valuable source for those researchers too. Having already located my family on Canada’s ships passenger lists, I felt this should be an easy task. Of course … it wasn’t!

My grandmother’s name was Margaret or Maggie Gilmour, born 1875, and her travelling companion was my Dad, William Muir Gilmour. It is helpful to know years of birth, which I did. Armed with everything I already had, why couldn’t I find them in the Ancestorsonboard database?

As with all databases, there are ‘little’ things we must learn.

The first thing I learned was that there are payment options available – pay per view from 5p; subscriptions offering unlimited access; vouchers to buy and redeem on census records, BMDs and more; and periodic special offers. If we choose the pay-per-view we can purchase a transcript – for 5 units (5p) – which tells little more than the free search. Buying the associated image costs thirty units. Fair enough. Just be sure to read through the payment options BEFORE buying – this is good advice for other websites as well.

Once you have chosen a transcription, or an image, and paid your money … you can download it to your hard drive (an excellent idea), and you can print your copy (also an excellent idea). HINT: be sure to cite your source AND ensure that you can open the saved document from your hard drive!

The Ancestorsonboard site will automatically save the document to my hard drive as a DjVu format – which happens to be one my computer [and possibly yours] cannot open. Here’s how to solve the dilemma. On your viewed image, right click your mouse, choose File, then choose “Export to File” which will now save the image as a BMP (bitmap). Most computers can open bitmaps, and you can now manipulate the image to your satisfaction. This hint may work for other websites too.

I did eventually locate my father and grandmother in this database indexed as Mrs. J. Gilmour and my father as William Mair Gilmour. Once you purchase either a transcript or an image, you can look at it as many times as you wish … providing this is all done without leaving the web site. When you sign in next time, you will need to re-purchase, so save it the first time round.

Click here for a listing of upcoming classes on GenClass for October and November.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Back from the Road

My schedule has been pretty crazy the past week or so. I had three talks and a book signing in three different cities.

I want to thank the National League of American Pen Women - Williamsville, NY chapter for having me as the guest speaker at their monthly luncheon last Saturday. I spoke about "Three Slovak Women" my favorite topic! Thanks also to the Polish Heritage Club of Syracuse, NY and the South Fayette Historical Society for inviting me to speak to their groups as well about "Sharing Your Heritage" and "Our Immigrant Ancestors" respectively.

Finally, a thank you to the Mifflin Township Historical Society and the Waterfront Barnes & Noble for hosting the book signing for Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania and to my co-author, Alby Oxenreiter for his great presentation.

Here are some pics from the event.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remembering Mom

I pause to remember my mother today--the anniversary of her passing away. It's been many years, but seems like yesterday and I still miss her physical presence in my life every day.

I wonder what she would say about my successes as a writer, lecturer and instructor? In particular, she'd be thrilled to read my six books and numerous magazine articles. Mom was always my biggest cheerleader as well as my confidante and best friend. I know she would also be very proud that my book, Three Slovak Women is now going into its seventh printing and still selling very well.

Here's one of my favorite photographs of my mother as a young woman.

So, eternal rest mom...Love you always!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

World Vital Records and RootsMagic

A new offer from World Vital Records is in place until September 17th. First, if you enroll with World Vital Records you'll get 2 years for the price of one ($49.95). Plus for a limited time get the top rated genealogy software RootsMagic for FREE (a $30 value). With your purchase of this special bundled product you will receive a Registration Key that will enable you to download and install the full version of RootsMagic 3.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Announcement: BBC Launches "Who Do You Think You Are?" Magazine

Here's an announcement I've seen on a few other genealogy blogs. I know I am a bit behind with my report (I've been busy writing: articles, lessons, and book chapters), but, nevertheless, I was very interested to learn about this forthcoming publication.


BBC launches 'Who Do You Think You Are' magazine
Tuesday, September 4 2007, 11:01 BST
By Joanne Oatts, Media Correspondent

"The BBC is to launch a Who Do You Think You Are? magazine off the back of the successful genealogy series of the same name.The show, which returns for its fourth series on BBC One on Thursday, has already been the subject of a live exhibition at London's Olympia in May this year. Previous guests on the TV show, including Colin Jackson, Ian Hislop and David Baddiel, attended the event and talked their experiences.The new 100-page full-colour magazine will be produced by BBC Magazines Bristol and launches on September 25 for a cost of £4.25. Each issue will include a DVD or CD with clips of the BBC show and archive material. A website to support the magazine goes live later this week. Genealogy website - which also sponsored the live show - will reportedly act as the data provider for the BBC website.

Production company Wall to Wall, which produces the series, has also announced a second live show for May 2008. "


Saturday, September 01, 2007

11th Bi-annual CGSI Conference

The 11th Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International bi-annual Genealogical/Cultural Conference will be held from October 18-20, 2007 at the Alliant Energy Center Exibition Hall in Madison, Wisconsin. Included as part of the conference will be Workshops, Tours, Networking, Products, and Entertainment.

I will be giving two workshops at this conference: "Beginning Genealogy" and "Slovak Genealogy".

Further details and registration forms can be found on the CGSI web site.

I hope to meet many of you there!