Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Interview with Dr. Daniel Hubbard, an ISGS Speaker

You don’t want to miss Dr. Daniel Hubbard’s lectures! He started researching his family history when he was just a kid, and has a wealth of information to share with ISGS Fall Conference attendees.  A former particle physicist who lived 20 years in Europe, he is a full-time genealogist, writer, and book designer; he is also president of the Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society and on the Genealogy Board of Chicago’s Swedish-American Museum.


Illinois State Genealogical Society: How did you become interested in genealogy? How long have you been researching?
Daniel Hubbard: When I was a kid, we had lots of family gatherings. My father had five siblings that lived nearby and it didn't take much to get us all together. I usually ended up listening to the adults because I was a lot younger than my cousins. I heard many family stories that way. It was when I was about nine that I realized that some of the stories that a pair of my aunts told weren't things that had happened to them. They weren't things that had been told to them. They were things that they had figured out themselves, doing something called "genealogy." I thought figuring things out like that sounded like fun. By the time I was eleven one of my aunts was regularly taking me on research trips with her. She even wrote a letter to the Newberry Library in Chicago to get permission to bring me along even though I was much too young to be allowed in normally. That was forty years ago.

ISGS: What has been a defining moment in your career as a genealogist?
DH: That is a tough question. It feels more like a continuing evolution. I suppose I would have to say either the first time one of my aunts took me on a research trip with her, when I must have been 9 or 10 years old, or, when after saying no twice to a genealogy client who wanted me to write a book for her, I said yes the third time. That was my first book for a client and I have been writing and designing books for clients ever since.

ISGS: What are you most looking forward to at the ISGS annual fall conference?
DH: I always look forward to learning from other lecturers. Lecture audiences are also a great source of new knowledge. People often ask interesting questions or make great comments. I also really look forward just to interacting with fellow genealogists. There are always fun and interesting conversations to be had!

ISGS: What should conference attendees look forward to at your lectures?
DH: My two lectures are actually closely related. My presentation “Writing Family History: Using Narrative in Genealogy” is about why one should write and how to get started, but most importantly, how writing can be a research tool. Writing is often thought of as what one might decided to do when the research is "done." Of course, the research is never really done. Writing should be part of the research process, not just because that prevents putting it off but because it is useful. For example, it allows you to see things from a different angle, which can lead to breakthroughs. It can also cause you to research something that you hadn't worked on because it seemed like a small unimportant tangent. Once, while writing something about one of my own ancestors, I looked into the identity of an item whose name I didn't recognize, just so that I could describe it for my readers. It turned out to be far from a minor thing for my research. It led directly to many discoveries, and in fact, to my other presentation at the conference. “When a Life Becomes Myth: History, Myth and Family Stories” can be looked at as a case study in how preparing to tell a story can really change the research. I start from a somewhat odd fragment of a story of an ancestor that was passed along in my family for a century before I heard it. Then I tell the story of that man's journey, and it turned out to be quite an amazing journey, both physically and mentally. I weave in documents, and mention the logic so that it functions as a case study, but I do it as a storyteller. I couldn't have reconstructed his life the way I have, if I hadn't been focused on writing his story.

ISGS: In what ways are you expanding your knowledge in the field of genealogy?
DH: I love to attend presentations. There is always something to learn. Even when the main topic is something that is outside my normal focus, the presentation might include a technique important for, say, an ethnic group that I don't normally work with, that can come in handy in other situations, or a casual comment by the lecturer might lead to an "a-ha" moment.

Much of my new knowledge comes simply from "learning by doing." I spend most of my day on client work, and often turning up a new document leads in a direction that brings new knowledge with it. That means that I learn a lot through reading and through studying the documents themselves.

ISGS: Why do you research your ancestors?
DH: I wrote a blog post (Not How-to but Why-do?) that I just reread, and a few things in that post really sum it up.

"At one level it is a pastime. A way of pleasantly wiling away the hours. It is a seemingly endless series of puzzles against which to match our wits. It is a chance to search for clues, draw conclusions and exercise our minds. For those with a playfulness about them, it can be a way for us grown-ups to play detective without being found out. It is, after all, fun."

"I get a special thrill from finding connections to history, both writ large and writ small. There is a certain connectedness with time that comes from investigating and pondering the actions, motives and chance occurrences that somehow helped lead to all of us."

"Also, there is the drive to immortalize, in some small way, the people of our personal past, that feeling that they should not be forgotten. Perhaps too, there is the motive that in a hundred years or more, when some descendant reads what we have learned, they won't just come to remember our ancestors but also us."

ISGS: You began researching your family tree when you were only 11 years old. How has getting your start at such an early age benefited your family research?
DH: First, the two aunts that inspired me to get started were still around to be mentors. Also, because they were researching my father's side of the family, I decided to research my mother's side of the family. Both her parents were still alive and so were a few other relatives of their generation that they could point me toward. Being able to talk with them and get their stories was wonderful.

I also started before the concept of "online" had any meaning and before every Federal census was indexed. Doing that taught me research skills that come in handy when the going gets tough.

ISGS: How has your previous career made you a better genealogist?
DH: I've had two previous careers. The first was particle physics. Going through the process of getting a doctorate and then being a postdoc in a research field taught me a lot about clarity, both in reasoning and in writing. It also taught me about being thorough, and really attacking problems from all directions. It also made me extremely comfortable with technology, though I don't still write physics software, I do write some of my own genealogy software.

When I was a physicist I spent eight years at CERN, the huge particle physics lab on the border between France and Switzerland. That gave me a lot of experience in interacting with people who were, quite literally, from all over the world. It also exposed me to many languages, starting with French, which I had never studied in school.

My other career was in telecommunications. I spent twelve years in Sweden working for Ericsson, the telecommunications equipment manufacturer. I did everything from programming telephone switches to being a strategic product manager. Part of that time I was a systems engineer. Though that often meant drilling down into the nitty-gritty, the main thing was to have a very broad perspective and really understand the whole. Just because some isolated details make sense, doesn't mean that the whole thing is reasonable. That is a lesson that carries over to genealogy quite well. Just because one little bit of the reconstruction of a family looks right, doesn't mean that in the broader context, it won't be wrong.

Living that long in Sweden gave me a new language. Because my wife is Swedish, it also gave me a personal interest in Swedish genealogy. Today, I do a significant fraction of my work in Scandinavian records and I'm on the board of the Swedish-American Genealogical Society in Chicago.

ISGS: Both of your lectures at the ISGS Fall Conference are about writing. What's your experience with writing and family history?
DH: Many of my projects involve writing books that can run from a hundred to several hundred of pages of narrative about the lives of the client's ancestors. I love to dig up those details, sometimes little, sometimes big, that bring an ancestor to life. Once one gets to the point where the whole of what one knows about a person is greater than the sum of the parts, the fun really begins. You will never get to that point with everyone you research but getting to it at all is magical. That is one sign that writing is really a must. Other times you may not know that much about a person but have things that just don't fit into a family group sheet. Writing gives me a way to express those magical findings. One client told me that her son, who didn't know how the book had come to be, told her, "Mom, that book read like a novel." That is what I want, to make ancestors' lives feel that real.

I like to say that the books I do for clients are like National Geographic special editions about their families, so I'm actually combining book design and image editing with writing. I like to weave in photographs, historic maps, and documents to bring the people and their times back to life for the reader. I like to get the reader's head into the right time period and allow them to feel like they are participating. They can look over at an image and see the original information.


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Reserve your place today! Register for the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s Fall Conference.

© 2017, copyright Illinois State Genealogical Society

Monday, September 11, 2017

Interview with Rachel M. Popma, an ISGS Speaker

The Illinois State Genealogical Society is so excited to have Rachel Popma as one of our speakers at the 2017 Fall Conference! Rachel is the editor of the Indiana Genealogical Society’s quarterly journal, Indiana Genealogist, and a professional editor specializing in family and local history, biography, and memoir. She holds an MA in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a genealogical research certificate from Boston University. We asked Rachel a few questions about the conference, genealogy, and writing.

Illinois State Genealogical Society: Tell us a little about the lectures you'll be presenting at the ISGS conference.
Rachel Popma: Many of us aspire to write about our family history, but we sometimes don't know where to start because we're paralyzed by all the information we have, or because we feel intimidated by writing. Often, though, all we have to do is get started, and the stories will come. My session on kick-starting your writing will take a look at ways to do that: exercises, inspirations, ways to brainstorm. (And it turns out these can be good methods to drive additional research, too.) My second session on thinking like an editor will be a bit more technical---how do we shift our thinking to evaluate and shape our writing so that our message is successfully transmitted? What strategies can we deploy to achieve that?

My third session will look at government and professional association reports not only as sources of information about people, but about places and times. Sometimes we are lucky, and we locate an individual ancestor in such a source. More often, we can find contextual information to flesh out someone's story. It's one thing to say great-grandma grew up in an orphanage; it's another to be able to say what that place looked like, how it was furnished, and what the menu was.

ISGS: How did you become interested in genealogy? How long have you been researching?
RP: I got into genealogy through history. I have always been fascinated with history and have always been a serious reader. Basically, I was the kid who wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. One year in elementary school we were studying American history, and when my grandmother learned about it, she mailed me a package of papers. Among them was a family tree tracing her mother's family back to the Mayflower. Suddenly those people we were learning about in school weren't just names on a page; they were real. I had to find out more about their stories. I was hooked, and some thirty years later, I still am.

ISGS: What has been a defining moment in your career as a genealogist?
RP: In 2010 I completed the Boston University certificate in genealogical research program. Beyond strengthening my existing skills, it reassured me that I had a good foundation and the right research instincts. It also was a great way to build a professional network and learn more about other educational opportunities in genealogy.

ISGS: What are you most looking forward at the ISGS annual fall conference?
RP: I am especially looking forward to talking with people about their family history and their writing ideas.

ISGS: What should conference attendees look forward to at your lectures?
RP: I hope they come away inspired, with some new ideas for the writing and research. I also hope they feel more confident in their writing!

ISGS: In what ways are you expanding your knowledge in the field of genealogy?
RP: I read genealogy journals and magazines and take advantage of educational opportunities such as conferences and webinars. Currently I'm trying to learn more about DNA and its use in genealogical research, since it's becoming such an important part of the field.

ISGS: Why do you research your ancestors?
RP: I love a good mystery and a good story. Researching my ancestors often involves both.

ISGS: One of your lectures at the ISGS Fall Conference is on editing. Tell us about your background in writing and editing.
RP: I am a freelance editor and writer specializing in family and local history, biography, and memoir. Most of my work is in nonfiction, though I've been fortunate to also edit some historical fiction for children and young adults. I've worked as an editor for more than fifteen years, first in educational publishing and then with small presses on academic and trade publishing projects, and I've taught college writing and literature courses for nearly twenty years. I've been the editor of the Indiana Genealogical Society's quarterly journal, Indiana Genealogist, since 2011.

ISGS: What is your writing process like?
RP: With most writing tasks, I do a lot of thinking and a lot of talking out loud before I ever get to the point of drafting something. I don't usually do formal outlines, but planning in my head helps me get organized, so that when I do write, I have an idea of where I'm going. With long or complicated pieces of writing, I also approach the task in chunks. I might know what pieces I'll need, and where I need to end up with the argument or message, but I don't sit down and write the thing from start to finish. Instead I'll do a section here, some paragraphs over there, and so on. If I get stuck on something, I'll move on to working on some other piece. Eventually, I get a complete draft. Hopefully, I'll still have time to walk away from the whole thing for a while, so that I'll have fresh eyes for the work when I come back to edit and revise for the final draft. I always do go through some stage of revision and a final proofreading.

ISGS: When writing family histories, do you get writer's block? How do you overcome that? How do you keep your family history writing creative and fresh?
RP: When I get stuck, I change it up. I might change the environment---go outside, go into another room, go for a walk, etc. If I've been trying to work at the computer, I'll pick up paper and pen instead. Talking through a problem or topic, as if I'm teaching or explaining it to someone else, can be helpful. I've also found that doing some other physical task, such as washing the dishes or exercising, somehow distracts or resets my brain enough that it will wander its way past that writer's block.

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The Illinois State Genealogical Society’s 2017 Fall Conference is in Moline, Illinois on October 27 and 28. Discover more about ISGS and the Fall Conference by visiting ISGS’s website.

© 2017, copyright Illinois State Genealogical Society

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Volunteer at the ISGS Fall Conference!


The Illinois State Genealogical Society (ISGS) is partnering with local co-host Rock Island County Illinois Genealogical Society (RICIGS) to bring the Fall Conference, Build Your Family Tree: DNA, Research & Writing to beautiful Moline, Illinois, October 27 – 28, 2017.  

ISGS needs your help! To create a successful conference experience, volunteers like you are vital. Benefits of volunteering at a conference include networking and giving back to the genealogical community. A variety of volunteer opportunities are available.

Room Monitors (must be a registered attendee to Volunteer)
Audio-Visual Support*
Bag Stuffing*
Hospitality/Lost & Found*

*Registration is not required to Volunteer for Audio-Visual Support, Bag Stuffing and Hospitality/Lost & Found. What a great way to get your spouse/partner involved! 

You may choose to volunteer for one or multiple times and days. Click here to volunteer: Volunteer

If you have not registered yet, click here: Registration

Let’s show everyone the talent and commitment that is the heart of the ISGS. If you have any questions, please contact Angela McGhee, Volunteers Chair at isgsvolunteers@ilgensoc.org or 
Dawn Carey Henry and Rick Shields, Conference Co-Chairs at isgsconferences@ilgensoc.org

See you in Moline!

© 2017, copyright Illinois State Genealogical Society

Friday, September 8, 2017

ISGS September/October 2017 Newsletter Now Available!

The September/October 2017 issue of the of the ISGS Newsletter is now available to both ISGS members and non-members.

ISGS September/October 2017 Newsletter Now Available!

Visit the ISGS website at http://www.ilgensoc.org and click ISGS Newsletter to download the current issue (in PDF) and to view past issues going back to January/February 2008.

© 2017, copyright Illinois State Genealogical Society

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September 2017 ISGS Webinar - Luxembourgers on the Prairie: Researching your Luxembourg Ancestors

Luxembourgers on the Prairie: Researching your Luxembourg Ancestors


Title:  Luxembourgers on the Prairie: Researching your Luxembourg Ancestors

Date: Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 8:00 pm Central

Description: There are more people of Luxembourg-descent living in the Midwest than currently living in Luxembourg today, yet this immigrant group is often invisible as they frequently became absorbed in German-speaking communities following their arrival. Chicago has several historically Luxembourg neighborhoods and Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, among other states, all have unique distinctly Luxembourg settlements. This webinar will explore resources for locating your Luxembourg ancestor in the U.S., identifying their ancestral village and tips for researching Luxembourg's multilingual records.

Presenter: Lisa Oberg

Inspired by the Bicentennial, Lisa Oberg began researching her family history at the age of 12. Lisa received her Master of Librarianship degree from the University of Washington (UW), where she is the Head of Public Service and the History of Science and Medicine Curator for Special Collections in the UW Libraries. Lisa teaches online courses aimed at library staff serving genealogists thru the University of Wisconsin's School of Library and Information Studies and the University of Washington's Information School. Follow her genealogy adventures on her blog, GeneaGator (geneagator.blogspot.com) where she explores her American melting pot roots.

Registerhttps://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4916431437334451204

Registration Procedure: There are only 500 available "seats" for each webinar and we have limited the number of registrations for each webinar to 650. Past experience has shown that approximately 30% of those who register don't attend a webinar.

Recommendation: login to the webinar EARLY - access begins at 7:30 pm Central. Once the "room" fills up with 500 attendees, others attempting to join will receive a "room full" message.

Recording and Handout Available to ISGS Members: For ISGS members who cannot attend the live webinar on September 12th, a recording of the webinar, along with the handout, will be made available in the Members Section of the ISGS website at http://ilgensoc.org/members.php. If you're not already a member of ISGS, visit Join ISGS! at http://ilgensoc.org/cpage.php?pt=8 for more information.

Spread the Word: Forward this email onto your friends and colleagues, post the information to social media sites and/or your blog/website, or print out a few copies of our webinar flyer to hand out at your local society meetings. The flyer can be accessed at http://bit.ly/isgs2017webinarbrochure.

Make a Contribution: Support the ISGS Webinar program by making a financial contribution, which will help ISGS expand its educational offerings in a virtual manner. To learn why we need your help, or to make a contribution, please visit http://ilgensoc.org/cpage.php?pt=345.

Please direct any questions to the ISGS Education Committee at isgswebinar@ilgensoc.org.

The 2017 ISGS Webinar Series is Sponsored by FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org).




©2017, copyright Illinois State Genealogical Society

Monday, September 4, 2017

Introducing Ask Away-Society Edition!



Introducing our newest event for associate member societies: Ask Away-Society Edition. Join ISGS leaders in a new education opportunity for local society board members.

Ask Away-Society Edition is a collaborative phone conversation, using the Go To Meeting platform. Up to 9 other Illinois society representatives could join you in discussing pressing issues for societies. Ask Away-Society Edition will not be taped. Each Ask Away-Society Edition is being offered at 2 convenient times-you choose one: 10:00 AM or 7:00 PM.

Thursday, September 21. Choose one: 10:00 AM or 7:00 PM   Deadline to register: Monday, September 18.

Topic: Discuss what issues your society is facing today.

Special ISGS Guest: Jackie LaRue Lyell, President of The Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois and ISGS 2019 Director

Thursday, November 16. Choose one: 10:00 AM or 7:00 PM  Deadline to register: Monday, November 13.

Topic: Bicentennial Celebrations in your local societies

Special ISGS Guest: Dr. David Joens, Director Illinois State Archives and member of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission. 

To register, email Kim Hanks ISGS Society Liaison at isgssocieties@ilgensoc.org. Include your name, your society's name, your society board position, and your email. Please specify the Ask Away date and which time is best for you. Instructions for the Ask Away-Society Edition will be emailed to you.


© 2017, copyright Illinois State Genealogical Society

Thursday, August 31, 2017

ISGS Office Closure - Monday September 4th, 2017

ISGS Office Closure - Thursday, September 1st and Monday September 5th, 2016


The ISGS Office will be closed on Monday, September 4, 2017, for the Labor Day holiday.

Regular office hours will resume on Thursday, September 7, 2017.

© 2017, copyright Illinois State Genealogical Society