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Genealogy Firsts - merit badge, conference, autographs, and cemetery picture-taking

I hope I never forget this weekend.

Genealogy has immersed my life for nearly twenty years now. This weekend I got to experience some "firsts" all over again as my 11-year-old son, Evan, accompanied me to the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree in Burbank. One of the finest conferences in the country, I knew it would be perfect to introduce him to this side of genealogy.

This wasn't his first rodeo though. He's spent time with me at the Family History Library (see "But I Thought Genealogy Was Boring") and has done a little FamilySearch Indexing. But he did earn his very first merit badge - Genealogy, took pictures at a cemetery for the first time, attended his first conference, and even signed his very first autograph!

Kids' Camp and Genealogy Merit Badge

The night before Jamboree began about 30 children attended Kids' Camp. They each received their own registration bag with goodies and flyers and attended a few inspirational genealogy lectures. There were stations for them to visit to help them pass off the genealogy merit badge requirements. Evan had already completed his pre-requisites and so he was ready to meet with his merit badge counselor, Sue. She quizzed him about the terms 'ancestor' 'descendant' and 'genealogy' which he passed with flying colors and reviewed his other work. She was concerned that he had recorded his dates with all numbers (5/2/1920 instead of 2 May 1920) - I should have caught that beforehand....Sue was pleased, signed off his blue merit badge card, and Evan had not only earn his genealogy merit badge, but it was his first merit badge as a Boy Scout. Congratulations son!

Here's the list of requirements for the genealogy merit badge.

Off to the cemetery

The next morning at 6am I woke him up - "let's go find a cemetery." This wasn't his usual routine of waking up but before long we were off. I wanted to gain a little more experience working with the BillionGraves app. On my smartphone, the app showed me a list of nearby cemeteries and the number of pictures that had already been taken there. The nearest cemetery was just two blocks east of our hotel. Upon our arrival we were met with an "only open on Sunday between 12-4:30" sign. Bummer. The next closest was Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Driving through it I felt like I was in cemetery heaven - there must have been at least a million markers here. I've never seen such a large cemetery. We chose a location, carefully avoding the sprinklers, and with the "Take Pictures" button on my phone got started. He found someone with the surname of Hernandez and Evan wondered if he was related to our Hernandez friends back in Arizona. After about 20 minutes Evan enthusiastically suggested that we do this every day! He said we should put a flag on the first marker we photographed and on the last one too so we would remember which ones we completed. We took 78 pictures before we had to leave to get our Legacy booth set up.

As we drove to the convention center, the 78 pictures uploaded to the BillionGraves servers and by the time we arrived, several of the pictures had already been indexed by other volunteers. That's the beauty of BillionGraves - if you're not out taking pictures of tombstones you can still help by indexing them at home. Looks like there are currently over 120,000 images ready to index. I might upload these pictures to FindAGrave but that process takes so much longer. I really wish the two services would hook up with each other somehow.

Read more in my articles, "Find a Grave - the Internet's Most Valuable Resource?" and " - big competition for Find a Grave."

Jamboree, classes, and his first tip, and his first autograph

I always look forward to Jamboree - between 1,700-1,800 genealogists attend annually and this year seemed no different. Evan attended each of my classes and seemed flattered that I had him stand in front of the audience as I introduced him. After one of the classes he said, "Dad, your classes are pretty interesting but I don't understand all of it yet." He also commented, "Dad, I thought a few of your jokes were funny but I didn't get why people laughed at some of them."

At the booth I was proud to introduce him to so many of you - including Megan Smolenyak, Randy Seaver, Tom Kemp, Ron Arons, Thomas MacEntee, Lisa Alzo, Kory Meyerink, Maureen Taylor, and many others (am I name-dropping now?). A few even asked him what he liked most about Legacy. In the beginning his response was "uh, um, here's my dad..." but by the third day he had confidence and was conversing with attendees as if he were meant to be there.

EvanautoOne attendee used our checklist to choose 22 webinar CDs she wanted. Evan helped her locate each one, which was quite a challenge because they weren't in any order on our table that I could figure out. It was a big project, and in the end, he showed me the five-dollar-tip she gave him. Wow, that was so nice of her. If you are reading this article - thank you! I then told him that I've never received a tip before.

Then it happened. After I had signed my book for one of the attendees, she also asked Evan for his autograph. I didn't think there would be enough room on his face for the size of smile he had. I think he was stunned, elated, and had every other happy emotion possible at that moment. After signing his name, she asked him to write "my first autograph" and add the date. Maybe she saw a future business opportunity there? 

Other fun stuff

We also visited the Santa Monica Pier, rode the ferris wheel, ate pizza and drank soda, and watched the NBA playoffs together. It doesn't matter to me what my three sons and one daughter do when they grow up, even if they don't want to be a genealogist like me. I hope they are lucky enough to love what they do like I love what I do.

Putting Flesh on the Bones - Free Webinar, June 13 by Ron Arons

Why limit yourself to simply expanding your family tree by looking for names, dates and places? Beyond the questions Who?, When?, and Where?, it is possible to explore the far more interesting questions, WHY? and HOW? Why did our ancestors behave the way they did? How did they have an impact on us? In this presentation Ron Arons, author of WANTED! U.S. Criminal Records, provides two related examples from his own research experience on how this process works. The unexpected benefit of this approach is that it allowed Ron to push back his family tree four more generations and find many living relatives he never knew beforehand.

Join us for the live webinar on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 2PM (Eastern U.S.). Register today to reserve your virtual seat. Registration is free but space is limited to the first 1,000 people to join that day. Join at least 15-20 minutes early to ensure your virtual seat. When you join, if you receive a message that the webinar is full, you know we've reached the 1,000 limit, so we invite you to view the recording which should be published to the webinar archives within an hour or two of the event's conclusion.


About the presenter

Ron-100For years Ron Arons has given presentations on genealogy across the country. In 2005, Ron won a NY State Archives grant for his historical criminal research. In 2008, Ron published The Jews of Sing Sing, about Jewish criminals who served time at the famous prison in New York. That same year, Ron appeared on the PBS TV special, The Jewish Americans, and talked about famous Jewish criminals of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In 2010, Ron published WANTED! U.S. Criminal Records, a reference book listing repositories across the country that maintain historical criminal records. These books and a line of 'Black Sheep of the Family' products are available on his website, Ron studied at Princeton and the University of Chicago.

Add it to your Google Calendar

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Webinar time

The webinar will be live on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at:

  • 2pm Eastern (U.S.)
  • 1pm Central
  • 12pm Mountain
  • 11am Pacific

Or use this Time Zone Converter.

Here's how to attend:

  1. Register at today. It's free!
  2. You will receive a confirmation email containing a link to the webinar.
  3. You will receive a reminder email during the week prior to the webinar.
  4. Calculate your time zone by clicking here.
  5. Make sure you have the latest version of Java installed on your computer. Check at
  6. Click on the webinar link (found in confirmation and reminder emails) prior to the start of the webinar. Arrive early as the room size is limited to the first 1,000 arrivals that day.
  7. Listen via headset (USB headsets work best), your computer speakers, or by phone.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Researching Your German Ancestors - free webinar now online by Kory Meyerink

If you have German ancestors, or just want to listen to one of genealogy's finest speakers, we invite you to view the recording of today's webinar, Researching Your German Ancestors by Kory Meyerink, AG. Kory taught about Germany's history, how to read its handwriting, the background of the language, explained what records are available and where and how to find your ancestors' records. We also had a full 30 minutes of your questions and answers.

View the recording

If you could not make it to the live event or just want to watch it again, the 1 hour 50 minute recording of Researching Your German Ancestors is now available to view in our webinar archives. Visit to watch. It is available for free until June 18, 2012.

2012-06-06-webcdPre-order the webinar-on-CD

Own your own copy of Researching Your German Ancestors by purchasing the webinar-on-CD for just $9.95. It includes the 1 hour 50 minute recording of the class, the complete Q/A session, and 4 pages of handouts. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Special discount coupon

The special discount coupon of germany that was announced during the webinar is valid for 10% off anything in our online store through Monday, June 11, 2012.

WebinarlogoRegister for our upcoming webinars (free)

  • Genealogy Idol Competition, June 9.
  • Putting Flesh on the Bones with Ron Arons, June 13.
  • Marriages and Anniversaries. Mining newspapers for engagements, marriages, anniversaries, and divorce records with Tom Kemp, June 20.
  • Staying Safe with Social Media with Thomas MacEntee, June 22.
  • Digital Images for Genealogists and Technologists: scanning, digitizing, editing, and preserving your photos with Geoff Rasmussen. June 27.
  • The Quest for your English Ancestors with Claire V. Brisson-Banks. July 11.
  • Plan Your Way to Research Success with Marian Pierre-Louis, July 18.
  • The Genealogy Cloud: Which Online Storage Program Is Right For You? with Thomas MacEntee, July 27.
  • Neglected History by Megan Smolenyak, August 1.
  • Wikis for Genealogists with Thomas MacEntee. August 8.
  • The 5 C's for Success in Genealogy Today with Barbara Renick. August 22.
  • Building a Family from Circumstantial Evidence, with Judy G. Russell, CG. August 29.
  • Beyond the Arrival Date: Extracting More from Passenger Lists with Lisa Alzo. September 5.
  • What is a 'Reasonably Exhaustive Search'? with Michael Hait. September 12.
  • Getting Started with Heritage Collector Software with Kathleen Bitter
  • Use Your Digital Camera to Copy Records with Mary Hill. September 19.
  • Digital Research Guidance, Research Logs, and To Do Lists: FamilySearch, Research Wiki, and Legacy Family Tree with Geoff Rasmussen. September 26.
  • Privacy and our Ancestors with Thomas MacEntee. October 3.
  • Researching Your Irish Ancestors: Beyond the Basics with Judy Wight. October 10.
  • Ten Brick Wall Tips for Intermediate Researchers with Marian Pierre-Louis, October 17.
  • Your Civil War Ancestors: Beginning Your Research with Michael Hait. October 24.
  • Breaking Down Your Irish Brick Wall with Judy Wight. October 31.
  • Researching Your Canadian Ancestors - an Overview with Claire Brisson-Banks. November 7.
  • Genealogy for Novices: Where Do We Begin with Linda Geiger. November 14.
  • The Big 4 U.S. Record Sources with Mary Hill. November 28.

Click here to register.

See you online!

Join us at Jamboree this weekend - show-special pricing, book signing, Legacy classes, and Genealogy Idol

We're off to Burbank, California for one of the nation's largest genealogy conferences this weekend - the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree. If you're in the area, or even if you're not, I hope you'll join us there.

I'll enjoy a couple of firsts at Jamboree:

Kids Camp. First, my soon-to-be 12-year-old son will join me for his first-ever genealogy conference. He's hoping to pass off his genealogy merit badge at the Kid's Camp. If you stop by our booth ask him about Legacy - I'll try to have him prepped.

Book Signings. Second, I will participate in my first-ever book signing. So bring along your copy of The Official Unofficial Guide to Using Legacy Family Tree or pick one up at our booth (best time to get it - no shipping costs!). Fortunately, I'll also be with Megan Smolenyak who will show me the ropes and also be signing her books:

  • Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing
  • Who Do You Think You Are: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History

Genealogy Idol - attend in Burbank or from your home

The second-ever Genealogy Idol competition and webinar is open to anyone. If you want breakfast, get your tickets and show up at 7:30am in the Convention Center Acadamy 6. If you just want to attend the live show, no breakfast ticket is required, but it will start promptly at 8:00am. If you want to attend from home, register for its webinar at

Legacy Family Tree classes

I will be teaching the following classes:

  • Organizing, Planning, and Sharing Using Legacy Family Tree - Friday, June 8 at 1:30pm
  • Genealogy Idol - Saturday, June 9 at 8:00am
  • Insider's Guide to Legacy (and demo of the Families app) - Saturday, June 9 at 3:30pm
  • New FamilySearch Made Easy with Legacy Family Tree - Sunday, June 10 at 10:00am

More Information

Considering joining us? Visit to register, or just walk-in. It's held at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel, 2500 Hollywood Way, Burbank. We'll be in booths 109 and 110!

Mark Lang's "The Legacy Family " 495 page e-book, 50% off until Monday, June 11

TLF-2In celebration of author and Legacy-user Mark Lang's 50th birthday, we are offering a special discount on his 495 page e-book, The Legacy Family. Through Monday, June 11, you can purchase the book at 50% off ($14.98). Mark only turns 50 once, so help us celebrate! Click here to purchase.

Book's Description

Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned professional, The Legacy Family, written by Legacy-user Mark Lang, shows you all the new features found in Legacy 7 - from installation to starting your family tree, and how to customize the program. There are also important chapters dealing with advanced features such as searching, sharing, publishing and making your data safe. More importantly, The Legacy Family shows a unique perspective of how each of the add-ons available for the program can be integrated into your family history project.

  • PDF format (requires Adobe Reader)
  • 495 pages
  • published 2008.

"Mark Lang's book The Legacy Family is a marvellous book. . . . The text and the illustrations provide an excellent learning tool for Legacy Family Tree and the companion software." - Thomas H.

Click here to purchase The Legacy Family for 50% off (special runs through Monday, June 11, 2012).

Happy 50th Mark!