Just Around the Corner…

October, Family History Month, is just around the corner – bringing boundless opportunities for family history education and fun at upcoming regional conferences!

The Minnesota Genealogical Society’s Tenth Annual North Star Conference, “Family History Crossroads,” will be held 6 – 7 October 2017 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; featured speakers: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA and Cyndi Ingle, creator of Cyndi’s List.

The two-day conference includes twenty breakout presentations by leading speakers from five states, plus a pre-conference DNA workshop on 5 October.

It’s an honor and privilege for me to be invited to present two breakout sessions. On Friday, 6 October, “Therapy for Troubled Evidence” explores strategies for resolving conflicts to reach reliable research conclusions.  On Saturday, 7 October, “Finding John Johnson,” sponsored by the APG Northland Chapter, is a step-by-step case study using the Genealogical Proof Standard to solve a typical research problem.

Don’t miss out! Registration is now open. Visit MGS 2017 North Star Genealogy Conference for more information or to reserve your place at this year’s North Star “Family History Crossroads.”

Iowa Genealogical Society Fall Conference 2017

The Iowa Genealogical Society Fall Conference will be held 20 – 21 October 2017 at Toad Valley Golf & Events Center, Pleasant Hill, Iowa. The two-day conference features special guest Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL.

Judy’s topics include:

  • Facts, Photos and Fair Use: Copyright Law for Genealogists
  • Living with Legal Lingo
  • “No Person Shall… Gallop Horses in the Streets” – Using Court Records to Tell the Stories of our Ancestor’s Lives
  • Mothers, Daughters, Wives: Tracing Female Lines
  • Dowered or Bound Out: Records of Widows and Orphans
  • Rogues, Rascals and Rapscallions: The Family Black Sheep

Additional lectures will be presented by Shari Snelling of the State Historical Society and Robert Marcell.

Registration is open! Visit the Iowa Genealogical Society website for more information or to reserve your place at this year’s IGS Fall Conference.

Categories & Labels

With 300 images on my computer, it might seem a difficult task to provide each with a unique identifying label. Organizing images into logical categories is a good first step. Within my “VEEN” file, I create a file for my husband’s generation. My husband’s personal file is labeled 2_Norman J Veen, because he is the second child of the family. I’ve stored my 300 images in his personal file.

Organizing family files

Within his personal file are thirteen category folders:

  • Census
  • Church
  • Court records
  • Education & occupation
  • Family charts
  • Histories & books
  • Land & property
  • Maps & plats
  • Military
  • Newspapers
  • Personal documents
  • Photos & images
  • Vital records

Category folders

Most images fit nicely into one of these. If something doesn’t fit, I can always create a new category. Category folders are subdivided to organize large quantities of images—for instance, within my husband’s “Education & Occupation” folder, I have sub-folders K-8, Grades 9-12, Westmar [College], Mankato State [University], plus sub-folders for his career.

Subdivision folders

Now it’s just a matter of attaching brief, logical names to images and numbering any images that share the same name.

Labeled & categorized: Education images K-8 grade

Neatly categorized and labeled, my 300 images are organized and ready for use in my family history.

Cropping & Corrections

Here’s an easy bit of project work. I need to go through all images and crop, straighten, rotate, correct color and contrast, etc. This is a good “multi-tasking item—it doesn’t require brain power, so I can work my way through 300 images with my feet up and the TV on!

Photo editing

Most corrections are accomplished with basic software—I like Microsoft Picture Manager, but there are plenty of choices. For more sophisticated photo work, Photoshop Elements works well. Between the two programs, just about any image can be properly adjusted and formatted.

Now those 300 images are ready to be tagged and documented.

Scanning and Saving

Boyden-Hull mementos

The next phase of my adventure with the Big Blue Bin doesn’t involve the Bin at all—for now I’m focused on dealing with the smaller bin that holds items from my husband’s life before our marriage. Again, I deconstruct this aspect of the project into smaller bites.

I like to deconstruct to the point that I can begin and finish a baby-step goal in a single session. Think of time in terms of blocks you can devote to your project. If you only have an hour to spare, what can you achieve with an hour’s work? Try to deconstruct to that point. Do you have an afternoon free? Or an entire day? What can you reasonably accomplish with that amount of time? Construct your baby-step plan accordingly. Continue reading

Setting Goals, Baby Steps

Unpacking the Big Blue Bin

Anytime we begin a new project, it’s necessary to articulate goals. Success is difficult to achieve if it’s undefined! The overarching goal of my new project is to reconstruct the family history of my husband’s Veen ancestors. This includes identifying and establishing relationships between the four surnames of his grandparents: Veen, Rensink, Rosenboom and Verrips. These are Dutch and German surnames. Although I have some Dutch ancestry, this type of research will be new to me.

Have you heard the word “deconstruction” before? I had not, until I began reading books on project management. “Deconstruction” in project management terms simply means to take a large, seemingly overwhelming task and break it down into manageable bites. Think of it as taking “baby steps” as you begin your family history project. Continue reading

The Big Blue Bin

Big Blue Bin

Last Christmas I promised my husband I’d organize, research and write his family history. OK, so maybe my motives were mixed: I’ve been shuffling around this big blue plastic storage bin of “Veen stuff” for several years. Every time I came across something “Veen” I added it to the bin, then as the bin filled, began piling items on top. I needed to get it out of the upstairs hallway, so this seemed like a good idea in addition to a nice gift. Continue reading


Like a prairie fire pioneers swept across the frontier, filling the land so quickly that by 1845 Iowa approached eligibility for statehood. Admitted as a free state in December 1846, Iowa served to balance Florida’s entry as a slave state.

Did statehood conclude the frontier era of Iowa? No. There was plenty of land left for settlement; the 1846 map defined Iowa’s new boundaries, but her internal organization remained incomplete. Another decade would pass before the last county, Hamilton, was formed.

Even county development did not truly draw to a close Iowa’s frontier era. Not until the years following the Civil War, when the railroad stretched its fingers across every part of the state, connecting farmers to eastern markets, goods and services, could Iowa finally say “done” with pioneer days.

From her earliest native inhabitants, to trappers, traders and adventurers; and finally to the American pioneers whose ambitions and ideals shaped a new state, Iowa continues to be the peaceful, prosperous, and beautiful “land between two rivers.”

Counting Iowa’s people

1838 Wisconsin territorial census, District of Iowa, Van Buren County, unstated township; Secretary of State, State Historical Society, Des Moines.

Territories and young states counted their populations early and often—a growing population meant more federal resources, better legislative representation, and a path to statehood. From territorial days through 1925, Iowa regularly counted her people. Earliest years were purely statistical, naming only the head of household. County response was limited. Here’s a run-down of census years for territorial Iowa.

Wisconsin Territory: District of Iowa

  • 1836 Wisconsin territorial census:
    Des Moines & Dubuque Counties

No preprinted forms were used. The stated purpose was to determine legislative apportionment. Information was collected by county sheriffs, who were requested to report their findings by 1 May 1838:

Name of heads of white households
No. males under 21
No. males over 21
No. females under 21
No. females over 21
Total Continue reading