Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over, Cycle 3, Week 1: Self-Imposed Guidlines

While reading blogs and posts on the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group page I have set up my own self-imposed guidelines to work from.  I've borrowed from Thomas MacEntee (thanks Thomas!) items I thought would work for me.

1.  Research with an open mind.
Take off the blinders. I won't just keep family stories utmost in my mind and think what was shared through the family is the only truth.

2. Track my work and cite my sources.
When I first started with genealogy I was always conscious of citing sources. I would use a research log/journal/calendar (never could figure which was the correct word) sporadically to track my work. I will now use a research log, track all work, even dead ends, cite my sources, and analyze data before it is entered into any software or online tree program.

3.  Ask for Help.
I've learned there are no stupid questions. There is no right way to ask. I'll post a query on Facebook or ask a question during a webinar or email my favorite genealogy rock star.

4.  Make sure I have a Plan.
Write down the steps I'll take before researching. I would always skip this step. I kind of kept an idea of what I wanted to accomplish in my head. With a real written plan I'll be more focused.

5.  Give and be abundant.
Exchange information freely with other researchers. I won't hold data "close" to myself or exchange it in lieu of something else. When I first began on this path, I read stories of people helping others, giving their hard researched data to strangers but never getting anything in return or hearing from those people again. I was very careful not to fall into that trap. I felt "what will I get in return?"  I have since put data I've gathered onto shareable CDs and given them out to family members with and without computers. It's been a pleasure to give the gift of our mutual families.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Cycle 3, Week 1: 3-9 July 2015

I'm joining Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over, Cycle 3.
I didn’t follow Cycle 1, I was a “lurker” during Cycle 2. I found the steps everyone was taking to get their files and research organized intriguing. Organized, what a concept! The Do-Over will last 13 weeks, ending on October 1.

Week one will consist of:
1) Setting Previous Research Aside
2) Preparing to Research
3) Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Number one above, might be a tough one for me. I open my genealogy software several times during the week. My sister and brother both live in different states from me. When any question comes up regarding our childhood or need verification on something, they each say, “Call Gayle, she’ll know the answer!”

Number two is something I’ll need to embrace. My usual practice is sit down at my laptop, fire-up the Internet and away I go. I usually have to scramble for a pen/pencil, notebook or opening up a blank Word document to take notes.

Number three I’m actually looking forward to. I do use research journals and keep track of any correspondence I’m writing. I know I need a real Research Plan I can follow and keep me focused.

Okay, I’m rolling up my sleeves, here I go…!


Sunday, June 7, 2015

SCGS 2015 Jamboree – Day 4

Today’s the last day at Jamboree, heading home after my last class. I’ve enjoyed each and every moment of the past four days. I got to see old friends and make new ones too. I’ll be watching my email for a notice of when 2016 Jamboree registration opens!

Here’s the classes I attended today:

8:30 am to 9:30 am – Michael Booth – Personal Historian 2: Bring Life to Your Life Stories

10:00 am to 11:00 am – Crista Cowan – Getting Even More out of Your

1:00 to 2:00 pm – Anita Paul – Who, What, When, Where? Using Journalism Techniques to
       Write Your Story

2:00 pm to 3:00 pm – Dr. Michael Lacopo – Incorporating Social History into Your Genealogical Research

©2015, copyright, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

SCGS 2015 Jamboree – Day 3

The Ventura County (California) Genealogical Society, which I’m a member, brought new and used books to sell today at Jamboree. We usually get one small table in the foyer and hope for the best. Yesterday, a SCGS committee member asked if we would like to move into the Exhibit Hall on Saturday. They had an unexpected vacancy and asked us to fill it. We jumped at the opportunity to have four long tables and a prominent place in the Exhibit Hall!

I volunteered to help out with setting up the tables so I had to get to the Exhibit Hall by 7:30 am; the Hall opened at 8:00 sharp. I wrote up books titles on the sales slip, took money, made change, and helped where needed. There were several members helping so I was able to attend several classes throughout the day. Here’s the classes I attended:

10:00 am to 11:00 am – Michael Brophy – Irish Genealogy

2:00 to 3:00 pm – Jean Wilcox Hibben – America: Land of the Farm, Home of the Plow
      My German line were farmers, thought this would be a good class for me. Was not expecting a
      mini singing concert from her.

3:30 pm to 4:30 pm – Mark Olsen – Learn How to Discover New Ancestors Using Magic From MyHeritage
      My family tree is planted at MyHeritage.

5:30 pm to 6:30 pm – Rhonda R McClure – City & Rural Directories; More than Just Names
      I’m going to look for Farmer Directories for my rural ancestors.

A long day today but had fun and spent quality time with friends and helped my society!

©2015, copyright, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 5, 2015

SCGS 2015 Jamboree – Day 2

Since I’m staying at a hotel close to the convention center, I didn’t have to hop out of bed as early as I did yesterday from home. Last night I updated My Schedule on the SCGS Conference App and chose some interesting classes. Here’s what my line up looks like, subject to change.

I have a conflict with some morning classes. I’ve hear all three excellent speakers in the past so it’s going to be tough to choose.

9:45 am to 10:45 am - Thomas MacEntee – Creating a Community Indexing Project
10:00 am to 12:00 pm - Jean Wilcox Hibben – Society Support & Share Open Forum
11:00 am to 12:00 pm - Drew Smith – Crowdsourcing Your Brick Walls

EXHIBIT HALL opens yay!

1:00 pm to 2:00 pm – Michael Brophy – Paddy on the Net: Irish Genealogy Databases
     I don’t have Irish ancestry but I’m helping a friend of mine with her maternal line. Since I haven’t done any Irish research before I’m going to start at the beginning.

2:30 to 3:30 pm – Michael D. Locapo – Methods for Identifying the German Origins of American Immigrants
     German is my mother’s paternal line.

4:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Cindi Ingle - Time lines: The Straight Line Between You and Your Ancestor

Another conflict:
5:30 pm to 6:30 pm – Michael D. Lacopo – Finding and Utilizing German Church Records
Thomas MacEntee – Genealogy Do-Over – A Year of Learning from Research Mistakes
      I’ve been following the Do-Over on Facebook and plan on jumping into the next round when it starts over on July 3.

Well that's it for today. Going to be a long day, but looking forward to it!

©2015, copyright, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

Thursday, June 4, 2015

SCGS 2015 Jamboree – Day 1

I’m in Burbank, CA for the annual Jamboree put on each year by Southern California Genealogical Society. I’ve been a member for several years and try not to miss this national conference which is “in my neighborhood.” No airport, TSA screening, tight seats and recirculating air. I do like to have a hotel room for the duration of the conference because I hate driving 50 minutes to over an hour each way, each day from home.

I attended an all-day workshop titled “Creating a Digital Genealogy Scrapbook” by Barb Groth.
We needed to bring our laptop as the process could not be completed on a smart phone or a tablet.

Ms. Groth sent an email with instructions what to have ready before we came to class. We should have some (not necessarily all) of the following information saved to our desktop in a single folder:

·         Family photos – each should be a minimum of 300 dpi

·         Documents, such as census records, church records, naturalization, military, newspaper articles, etc.

·         Scanned memorabilia – medals, etc.

·         Maps or photos of places and/or locations your family came from or resided in

·         A few Word document with brief typed information about the family or person you are including in the album

We downloaded the free demo version of the software program “ScrapRoom.”  (Scroll down until you see the free demo version.)

We also downloaded free templates and elements to use in the program at   (Scroll all the way down the page until you see: Mye De Leon FREE Demo Kit.)

She recommended to watch any scrapbook tutorials on and just have fun! Use Google to look for other free design layouts for scrapbooking.

Ms. Groth discussed the organization of photos, elements and documents on our computer, the ScrapRoom Software and its components, and the organization of the album. We began to design and develop the actual pages of the album. I wasn’t able to complete the album in class. We were learning the techniques, but felt confident I’d be able to complete the album on my own. We could also purchase the Guide that’s been written to help assist with step by step directions. I’ll probably pick it up in the Exhibit Hall tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to completing my album at home.

©2015, copyright Gayle Ficarra Wolcott. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Getting Ready for SCGS 2015 Jamboree!

I'll be attending the Southern California Genealogical Society's 2015 Jamboree  this year. It's being held in Burbank, CA. I love going to this national conference because it's "in my own backyard" so to speak. I live about an hour away in Ventura County. No airplane ticket or car rental to hassle with. I'll be attend from Thursday through Sunday.

I’ve barely given the conference much advance thought, but in reality, it's this week! My pre-planning has begun.

This year I signed up for a Digital Scrapbook workshop on Thursday; it's an all day event. I've got the photos, documents, maps and other files I want to include in the scrapbook in a folder on my laptop's desktop.

  1. I've downloaded the conference App and started looking through the schedule. I love the Apps the conferences have been implementing. Everything I need is on my Samsung S5 Android phone.
  2. I'll print out my personal trip checklist so I don't forget anything I can't live without.
  3. I've been going through the syllabus and select the classes I’ll plan to attend. I've also started printing out any handout that have been supplied.
  4. I need to go through the list of exhibitors and note the ones I want to make sure I see. I plan on updating my genealogy software to the newest version.
  5. Think about the people I want to try to meet.

I look forward to this conference each year and meeting up with friends I haven't seen in a year.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Our 40th Wedding Anniversary!

5 April 2015
Today is our 40th wedding anniversary! We've been blessed to have shared our lives together.

5 April 1975

George Ficarra Sr, Bernice Ramminger Ficarra, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott,
David Wolcott, Frances Kubicsek Wolcott, Charles Wolcott

Copyright 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Saturday, February 14th was the third and final day of the RootsTech and FGS 2015 Conference.

Motivational keynote addresses from entertainer and Utah native Donny Osmond and journalist A.J. Jacobs who is organizing a Global Family Reunion. Jacobs, spoke about his efforts to organize a "Global Family Reunion: based on the idea that all living people are cousins to one another.

He was followed by Donny Osmond, who spoke of his 50-plus year international career in show business that began with his brothers in Ogden. He sang some all time hit songs, paid tribute to his father; said to document the stories of your family. We are products of our ancestors.

The following are the classes I attended on Saturday:
Extra! Extra! Utilizing Newspapers to Locate Obituaries taught by Kris Rzepczynski, MLS, MA. I liked this session, he had a good handout and covered the topic of how to locate print and online indexes for local newspapers, and take advantage of online resources.

Before You Click: Creating Your Online Research Plan taught by D. Joshua Taylor.
I picked up a great tip from his handout, "Keep a research log for every site you search - including subscription websites, search engines, or other resources."

Nifty and Powerful Technologies for Genealogical Analysis and Documentation taught by Ron Arons. He had an excellent handout with links to various website programs. Some I heard of, some I hadn't.

Family Food & Fun: Making a Family Story Cookbook with Recipes taught by Alison Taylor. I missed this the first time it was on the schedule. Luckily, there was an encore session. My sister and I had a similar idea to put all our family recipes in one cookbook with photos and a bio of the cook. This class is just want I needed.

There were many sessions I didn't get to but having the syllabus handouts after the conference will help. The entire conference was a huge success, glad I was able to be apart of it!

Copyright 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

Friday, February 13, 2015

FGS/RootsTech Conference - Day 2

The second day of the FGS 2015 Conference has been fun packed.
The RootsTech keynote speaker at this morning's general session was former first lady Laura Bush. During her speach she emphasized the importance of family. Joining her for a Q & A session was her daughter Jenna Bush Hager. Jenna also talked about the importance of her family, recalling her grandfather, George H.W. Bush, babysitting she and twin sister Barbara the night before his debate speech.

When I registered for FGS I also paid for the RootsTech pass. Today I moved from one end of the building to the other to attend various RootsTech or FGS classes. Well, I got in plenty of exercise. The following are the classes I attended:

Creating a Digital Genealogy Album taught by Barb Groth.

Blogging Your Research, Memories, and Family Stories taught by Laura Hedgecock.
(I later purchased her new book Memories of Me which she signed.)

I popped into the Exhibit Hall and watched one of the 30 minute of Outside the Box Sessions in booth 1140.  Heirloom Roadshow: How to Archive Family Keepsakes taught by Denise Levenick. Ms Levenick has been a past speaker at my Ventura County Genealogical Society (VCGS) monthly meeting.

Using Tax Records for Genealogical Problem Solving taught by Michael Lacopo, DVM.
I liked his lecture. I know the title sounds dry and boring, but Mr. Lacopo kept my interest. I haven't dipped my research toe into tax records yet but I'll be ordering some microfilm when I get home.

I met up with Jen Baldwin at the Find My Past booth. I was able to have a short one-on-one time with her about social media. She told me about tutorials on the FGS Education page. If I had ANY questions I could email her any time. She gave me a snack bar and a small gift for being one of the "early birds" to come to the booth. I also was able to say hello to fellow blogger Randy Seaver and his lovely wife Linda.

A fellow VCGS member and I had a nice dinner together. It was the first time we were able to connect in the past three days. It was great to hear about the classes she attended and I talked about my classes. It's always fun to share with a like-minded friend.

Copyright 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

FGS/RootsTech Conference - Day 1

Yesterday was the official kick-off of the FGS Conference. The conference 
committee expect well over 22,000 people to attend before the weekend is 
through. I had a full day of traipsing up and down the halls of the Salt Palace 
Convention Center looking for the correct room my session was to be held. 
I've overheard more than once a remark of how many steps a person was 
using. Well over 10,000.

Here's a look at the classes I attended.

Thursday General Session

Took a spin in the Exhibit Hall as soon as it opened.

Organization for the Genealogist taught by Billie Stone Fogarty, M.Ed.

Attended the MyHeritage Sponsored Lunch.

60 Minutes --60 Ideas: Workshop to Jump Start YOUR Personal or Family 
History taught by Tom Taylor.

Problem Solving with Probate taught by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, 

Build and Manage Your Family Tree with My Heritage Mobil App taught by 
Daniel Horowitz

Took another spin through the exhibit hall, talked and asked questions with 
several vendors. By the time I left to go back to my hotel, I was literally 
dragging my bag behind me. So tired and pooped. Can't wait until morning!

Copyright 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I'm the FGS Delegate for the Ventura County Genealogical Society in California.

This morning I picked up my registration packet for the FGS/RootsTech Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center. I attend the FGS Focus on Societies Day Opening Session. Keynote speakers were Deana Courant, Jen Baldwin, and Curt Wicher. Listening to just one of them would have been a great session but seeing all three was awesome! I hope to take in other sessions with them later in the week.

My first class was taught by C. Anne Staley, The Policy and Procedure Manual: Preventing "I Didn't Know That".
Second class was taught by D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS, New Kid on the Block: Embracing Your Society's new Volunteers.

The following are the classes I took after lunch.

Technology Initiatives for Genealogy Societies, taught by Thomas MacEntee.
Organizing and Carrying Out a Society Project, taught by C. Anne Staley.
Tradition and Technology: Finding Your Society's Balance, taught by D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS.

Lots of great ideas to take back to the VCGS board.

After dinner I went back to the Salt Palace and attended the FGS 2015 Opening Social: Behind the Scenes: Family History & Television. We saw selected clips from "Finding Your Roots," "Who Do You Think You Are," and "Genealogy Roadshow." The Genealogy Roadshow clips hadn't aired yet, we were getting a sneak peak before the rest of the country, really cool.

Afterwards there was an in-depth panel discussion featuring Kenyatta Berry (Genealogy Roadshow), CeCe Moore (Genealogy Roadshow and Finding Your Roots), George E. Ott (Who Do You Think You Are?), Jennifer Utley (Who Do You Think Your Are?), and of course Josh Taylor (Genealogy Roadshow).

All-in-all, a great way to end the day. Can't wait for tomorrow to see the Exhibit Hall and attend all those amazing sessions.

Copyright 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Backpack

A few weeks ago I read a Facebook post from Thomas MacEntee where he describes the backpack he uses:

“When I travel to genealogy conferences, many people ask me where I got my rolling backpack – it is a High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Book Bag from Amazon – and it is 59% off right now…”

Since my old backpack I usually use has seen better days, I jumped right onto the link and checked it out and read the reviews. So glad I did. I ordered the black backpack right then. Here are some of the terrific selling points for me:

1)      Large, multi-compartment design with CUSHION ZONE padded computer sleeve holds most 17" (screen size) notebook computers.
2)      Large, zippered front compartment has premium organizer with media pocket, zippered pocket, multiple open pockets and removable key fob.
3)      Zippered accessory compartment has a headphone port.
4)      Smooth rolling, corner-mounted wheels.
5)      Double-tube telescoping handle stows inside a protective zippered compartment.
6)      Contoured, adjustable mesh padded shoulder straps store behind a zippered, padded core back panel
7)      Zippered side pockets hold a water bottle or other gear.
8)      Triangle clip to attach a lock or other accessories.
9)      Corner guards and a kick plate protect the bag from abrasion.
10)  Reflective accents for night safety
The backpack arrived yesterday, was I ever excited!
I’ll be going to the 2015 FGS/RootsTech Conference in style!

© 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

Monday, January 26, 2015

Preparing for FGS/RootsTech 2015 Conference

13 days until I board a jet plane and head to Salt Lake City, UT, to attend the 2015 FGS/RootsTech Conference. I've been busy. I'm finally updating my RootsMagic database with all the copied and downloaded files I've had for my German immigrant great-great-grandfather, Andreas Ramminger.

I took a German genealogy course through the Genealogical Studies program. So glad I did. Of course I wish I hadn't signed up during December/January, made things really hectic. Working through my assignments I found the Andreas with his first wife and six children in the New York Passenger List on I now have the port of departure, Rotterdam, and the date they arrived in United States, 6 July 1852.

I have such a feeling of accomplishment. I've been dutifully citing all my sources. I can then file all those pieces of paper in my permanent file folders.

 After I've updated the database I want to generate reports, save them as PDFs and import them to my tablet computer. This way I won't have to carry all the papers on the trip.

 I've been checking the weather for Salt Lake and making notes on my trip check list. This time next week I'll break-out my suitcase and start throwing in the items I'll need.

© 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

Saturday, January 17, 2015

FGS/RootsTech 2015 Conference

I’ll be attending the FGS/RootsTech 2015 Conferences in Salt Lake City being held February 11-14. I’ve been busy mentally packing my bags and getting my check lists updated. I'm getting there a few days early so I'll also do some serious research at the Family History Library. I want to be prepared, here’s a portion of my list so far:

Pens, pencils + highlighters
Research & Journal logs
Spiral-bound notebook

Tablet, power & charging cords
Phone & charger
Flash drive

Return address labels
Personal business cards
Water bottle
Antibacterial Hand Wipes

Copyright 2015, Gayle Ficarra Wolcott

NOTE:  I am an FGS ambassador, but I don't receive any benefits for being one.