Genealogy Education & Training

Genealogy Training – Volunteering, Attending, Reading, Conferences, & Videos — oh my.

I was recently asked about what I do for Genealogical Training.  How do I keep up with things genealogical?  Of course, learning is an ongoing process, but the key to learning, in my opinion, it to provide an environment for learning.  I do that in several ways.

First of all, I volunteer at my local historical society and museum. There, I regularly answer questions from individuals who have questions regarding their genealogical searches. I have only been in Maine about a year and a half, so my volunteer work helps me really learn about the place where I am living and the ancestors of this place. I am also learning about the genealogical records available here. Not only does it help me help others but it also helps me understand what types of records are available at a historical society in general.  I am amazed at the kinds and types of materials that are possible. There are resources that I would never have thought of. By volunteering, I have the knowledge to ask other societies for specific types of materials or searches and hone in on specific possibilities.

Next, I attend my local chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society.  Every month they host a speaker who talks about various genealogical topics and I attend.  Not only does it give an hour of education it has the side benefit of meeting and conversing with individuals who actually care about my genealogical successes and brick walls as I care about theirs. Just those conversations can be motivating and inspiring.  I even gave one of the talks last summer regarding “Social Media and Genealogy.”  There is nothing that teaches you more than preparing to give a talk.

Next, I am particularly interested in genetic genealogy. There is a new Genealogical DIG (DNA Interest Group) here in Maine,  which I am now attending.  I also volunteered to help with a website for them. Not only do I learn about genetic genealogy through the meetings, I learn even more as I help with the content of the website.  And again, being able to chat with individuals with a similar interest in genetic genealogy can sometimes be inspiring. 
Next, I read. I subscribe to several magazines and the other societies I belong to send magazines focused upon their society. I also subscribe to several blogs of individuals that I know their writings will usually be interesting. Another thing I did was create a daily magazine at I am still using the free version and have the system create a Genealogical Daily.  I check it every day.  You can modify your paper to ignore some types of content and I’ve adjusted mine to eliminate some of the more flagrant sales pitches. Sure, it sometimes duplicates items I’ve already seen through my few blog subscriptions but I can quickly bypass the.  I think it is a great resource. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve done, see it at Feel free to subscribe or favorite it. If I see enough users I might try to curate the postings.

Next, I plan to attend three, day-long genealogical focused seminars or conferences this year. All are sponsored by my state Genealogical Society.  

1.   2016 Maine Genealogical Society Spring Workshop – April 23, 2016. The keynote speaker is well-known genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger

2.   2016 Southern Maine Genealogy Conference – May 21, 2016. The keynote Speaker is D. Joshua Taylor of “Genealogy Roadshow” fame.

3.   2016 Maine Genealogical Society and Annual Meeting – September 17, 2016. The keynote Speaker is Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL

I think between the workshop, conference and meeting, I’ll pick up many new things.

Finally, I watch a one hour video every week.  I tend to miss watching a video on weeks that I’m attending a conference but I watch one most every week.  My favorites are usually RootsTech videos.  They never have a bad video. 

My plans include about ninety hours of semi-formal training, (50 hours of videos, at least 15 hours at conferences, and 24 hours of presentation at society chapter and DIG meetings. Add another 100+ hours of volunteer service at the Historical Society and Museum supporting genealogical activities and I figure I’ll be learning all year.

How many can you check off?

þ Volunteer at local historical or genealogical society.
þ Attend your local genealogical society’s chapter meetings.
þ Attend your local genealogical DIG meetings.
þ Attend local genealogical conferences.
þ Subscribe to and read genealogical magazines.
þ Subscribe and read genealogical blogs.
þ Watch genealogical educational videos.

Important Links:

Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society (Facebook)
   2016 Spring Workshop –  23 April 2016
GeneaBloggers has over 3000 genealogical blogs listed on their website. (Facebook)
Paper li and Don Taylor’s Genealogy Daily
RootsTech 2015 Video Archive (Note: RootsTech 2016 is in just a few weeks. Typically, these videos are unavailable when the new RootsTech takes place. There may be a couple weeks between when the video archive for 2015 is not available and the 2016 archive becomes available.
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Maine Genealogical Society 2015 Annual Conference

I attended the Maine Genealogical Society (MGS) Annual Conference on September 19th, 2015, in Brewer, Maine. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. The keynote speaker, Michael L. Strauss, AG, did a great job of keeping to his topics and keeping the talk interesting. His keynote was “All in a Day’s Work: Occupational Genealogy Research.”

I have found that adding occupational details to an ancestor’s story makes the account much more interesting. During his keynote address, Mr. Strauss provided details about where to find information and how to incorporate it into your stories. He reminded us to use the non-population schedules that were done between 1820 and 1880. The Manufacture Schedules (1820 & 1850-1880), the Agriculture Schedules (1850-1880), or the Slave Schedules (1850-1860) may provide additional insight into your ancestor’s life, if you are able to find them in one of those schedules. He also mentioned military records, particularly WWI & WWII Draft Registrations, often include occupational details.

Another thing he mentioned that I found interesting were historical movies that showed historical events. For example, when he spoke about the Civil War and the 1863 Draft Riots portrayed in “Gangs of New York.” I had seen “Gangs…” before but didn’t connect it that closely to the 1863 Draft Riots. I need to watch it again….

Michael L. Strauss, AG
via Genealogy Research Network

I attended Mr. Strauss’s talks throughout the day. During “Genealogical Research in the Customs House Records,” Mr. Strauss spoke a lot about various record groups at the National Archives and Records Administration. I found he tossed the various numbers around as if we knew what the various record groups meant. A table of the key record groups would have helped keep me from getting lost. That said, overall, his presentation was interesting, engaging, and chock full of information.

After lunch and the MGS Annual Meeting, Mr. Strauss spoke about “Work Sills of Old: Justice of the Peace (JP) Records.” Through his use of examples, I became amazed at the kinds and types of information that can be gleaned from JP records. He said that many times JP records could be found at historical societies. I definitely need to see if the Scarborough Historical Society has any JP records and what their state is. Mr. Strauss indicated that much of what the JPs did relate to civil marriages; so using JP Records may provide a nugget of information regarding a here-to-for unknown marriage. Definitely, JP records are underutilized by many genealogies. I’m adding them to my list of potential sources.

Drawing of the Masonic Square and Compass.
Masonic Square & Compass
Via Wikimedia

I found his talk on “Secret Societies: Finding Your Ancestors in Fraternal Organizations” particularly interesting. I have a number of ancestors who were Masons and others who were members of other societies. He provided clear and concise suggestions about where to find records. He provided a link to “A Complete List of Fraternal Organizations”  ( that provides the meanings of various acronyms. I’ve added the link to my bookmarks.

The conference had several other, potentially, really interesting talks on Town Records, DNA, and Maine Vital Records. I wish I could have attended them also. Missing some of the presentations is the cost of having multiple tracks at a conference. However, I don’t regret attending any of Mr. Strauss’ talks – He was excellent. The MGS Programs did an excellent job selecting Mr. Strauss; I look forward to hearing him speak again sometime in the future.

I am looking forward to attending again next year when the Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL, is the keynote speaker. I follow Judy’s blog now and look forward to seeing her in person.  I am sure she will have a lot to share.


Jump Hunting and the Maine Register


Painting by Henry Thomas Alken
[Public domain]
My foster father, Duane Olson, took me hunting when I was in high school. He liked to “jump-shoot” ducks. He knew places where there were likely to be ducks. We would then stalk the ducks at those locations. Once we got close, we would “jump” the ducks into the air. We’d get a couple birds most every time.Often my genealogical efforts use the same method. First, it helps to know where the information might be. Then, I stalk the places and “bag” my information.

I was recently at a genealogical conference and saw a copy of the Maine Register. I was immediately struck with how useful the book could be. After I got home, I looked to see if there were on-line copies of the book. There were. I found three editions on Archive.Org:

Maine Register, State Year-Book and Legislative Manual

1887-1888 –
1891-1892 –
1912 –

Maine Register #43 (1912)
Page opposite of 889

I don’t have many trees that have Maine roots, but I thought I’d take a quick and see if the Maine Register would shed light onto the families that I do have. I pulled up the 1912 edition to see what I could find. Sure enough – there were over twenty entries on a “Bickford” search and nearly as many for “Whitten.” Briefly looking at the search results, I saw noticed several known ancestors in the findings. I also found an interesting company, the Swan-Whitten-Bickford Co., wholesale grocers in Belfast[i]. I would speculate there must be some kind of connection between that company and the Whitten-Bickford marriage twenty-five years later.

Thanks to the Maine Register, I’ve jump-shot the ducks. Next, I need to clean them, and then cook them. (Document and interpret the findings.)

If you use the Maine Register, great! If you aren’t using it yet, I highly recommend adding it to your list of important sources to “jump shoot” when you are hunting for information on your Maine ancestors.

I’ll bet other states have them too.  If you know of a similar book for another state, please let me know by posting a comment below.

[i] Maine Register, State Year-Book and Legislative Manual – No. 43 – July 1912, Published by Grenville M. Donham, Portland, Maine, 1912. Accessed via (
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