Welcome to 2017

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
– Douglas Adams

Image by user Monoar – Pixabay.com

Well, the ball has dropped and another year has passed.  Like many others, 2016 was quite a struggle and it was difficult to get some things done.

I have a pretty fantastic (I think,) announcement for this year which you can read below, but first I want to cover three items that really stood out as accomplishments last year for Discovering Your Past and my own genealogy.

In March I had the honor of presenting to the Hudson, NH Genealogy Club, “Our search for the Grave of Moses Noble of Berwick, Maine.” This talk covered how Sue and I went about our search, using Google Earth and Google Maps, the advantages to speaking with local residents, and some ideas to help record information when you do find something, even if it is not what you were looking for.  I hope to follow up on that talk this year and create an episode of the show from it.

Speaking of episodes, in April, we were able to release the third episode of the show [link] in which we interviewed the past and current directors of our local LDS Family History Center.  We learned a lot about the resources offered, as well as some genealogical hints and, made some new friends.

On my own genealogical endeavors, I dove into the Simmons / Pitts branch of my family from the Dighton, MA area with the help of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society and the fantastic information they were able to send me after we had met them at PBS’s Genealogy Road Show.  I discovered my love for using Google Drive and Google Sheets to store images and documents gathered from online sources as well as Microsoft One Note as my research journal.  I also have begun using Roots Magic version 7 with this project.

On to the New Year…I have a few projects in mind for 2017 including some live streaming, furthering the blog, and of course recording more episodes.

This April, the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium, or NERGC for short, is hosting its biennial conference and I am pleased to announce that Discovering Your Past has been chosen to be one of the official bloggers!

I will be providing some coverage from the event itself and interviewing an NERGC 2017 speaker or workshop lead this coming month.  So I better get practicing!

For more information on the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium 2017 Conference, visit their website at www.nergc.org and if you think you too would like to become an official blogger and join in on the adventure, send your name, blog URL and a brief bio to info@NERGC.org

We wish you a very happy, and prosperous New Year!

Dan and Sue – Discovering Your Past

Brick Walls – aka 'The Dead End'

With another busy work project behind me, I had the pleasure of getting out in the world and attending two genealogy talks this week.  One was on DNA and will be the topic of a future post as I need to let the information settle in.

The other talk was “Strategies For Tackling Your Genealogy Brickwall” by Jake Fletcher of the popular blog – Travelogues of a Genealogist (link).  The talk was a part of the Chelmsford (MA) Genealogy Club.


Over the hour, Jake discussed his go to methods for trying to break down a brick wall including reviewing your documentation with a fresh set of eyes after a while to Researching their occupation, to knowing the geography of a region as county lines often changed.

Another area to look at; Cluster and FAN research – Family/Friends, Associates and Neighbors.  Look at those around your ancestor, their neighbors in city directories, witnesses to records such as land deeds and probate items.  Jake even suggested documenting the names of neighbors five pages before and after their name on a census record to get a better understanding of people they may know and bump into.  Perhaps the close friend who was witness to a marriage had the favor returned by the ancestor you are looking for which could open up a new hint to move on.

He also suggested the use of a research log or journal. As you do your searching, list what you search for, where you search for it, what keywords you may have used and what you found.  You may have found nothing for that matter, and you should list that as well.  Sometimes nothing is the same as finding something – but that is a topic for  a different day.

His Log includes columns for Date, Repository / Website, Title of Collection, Keyword Search, and Results.   I have tried this in the past and I will tell you it is hard to do.  When you do the searches, you need to break from the results and record what you have, and if your anything like me you want to just keep on clicking to see what that record looks like.  I use spreadsheets on  google drive for this purpose but I do think, I want to switch to a paper one to log notes and then transcribe it at a later time.

I also think that the term brick wall can be scary.  Walls keep people from passing.  It is that simple.  Don’t ever give up though.  Genealogy can be like a maze – there is bound to be a way to get through it and some may harder than others, and who knows what the next left turn will bring.

My Hungarian ancestry for instance.  The records have always been there at the Family History Center on microfilm but they were just that far out of reach at the time.  Now, with several of them online and better access to the Family History Center [and more knowledge of]  I am able to travel down that path as far as it will take me.I am fortunate that I don’t (yet) have anything I would consider a brick wall.  While I do have several unfinished ends, I don’t feel that I have researched any of them well enough to place them into that category.  Perhaps though that is what makes it a brick wall in the first place?  Something that gets in the way of your research to make you move on to something seemingly ‘simpler’.

For now though, I will continue to consider my Brick Walls to be nothing more than a bump in the road – some which may be nothing more than a spring pothole.

The Chelmsford Genealogy club meets the first Tuesday of the month at the Chelmsford Library, 25 Boston Road, Chelmsford MA.  Their Next meeting will feature Rhonda R McLure speaking on New England Research. (Link)(Facebook)


AncestryDNA now in 29 additional Countries

This just crossed my newsfeed today (as I am sure it did for many of you.)


AncestryDNA Now Offered in 29 New Countries


I find this news very exciting. In our case both Sweeden and Hungary have made the list of available places where the tests can be found.

I have not had a chance to take a test yet but I would like to for both myself and my mother. Susan has and we really have yet to explore the results.

That being said, we know it will take time and our overseas cousins won’t magically appear tomorrow morning but, I better get going on mine too.

If you find an Cousin ‘across the pond’, We would love to hear about it so drop us a line.

Happy Thanksgiving!

An early Christmas present from Mom arrived at the table today along with the Turkey. 

‘The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howlands Good Fortune, by P.J. Lynch.


The illustrations in the book are absolutely amazing and I am looking forward to reading the whole story.  It is so much fun to read a story about one of your family members.

My grandmother used to tell me about this boy when I was young.  I am sure it was told once or twice at the Thanksgiving Table bringing back great memories of Thanksgiving on the Cape.

Your local book store should be able to order it for you and here is a link to the publishers page; http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/258436/the-boy-who-fell-off-the-mayflower-or-john-howlands-good-fortune-by-p-j-lynch/9780763665845/

Of Tea and Independence

Happy Independence Day!

Back in 1773, a group of rebels, AKA The Sons of Liberty, boarded ships in Boston Harbor and made quite the mess by dumping 92,000 pounds of tea owned by the Brittish East Inda Company into the water.*


Elkanah Young of Mount Desert Island Maine, was one of these ‘Sons’ who partook in these activities that ultimatley led to the American Revolution.


How he got from Maine to Boston is still a mystery to me but one I hope to find out someday.


* Check out The Boston Tea Party Ship Page [Link] for more facts and mythbusting.

It's not the when, but the who.

When I inherited my Grandfathers genealogical research oh so many years ago, my one thought and goal was to find the earliest relatives I could.  Digging into the past was fun.  Watching the timeline tick back to the 1800’s, 1700’s the 1600’s and then…  into the brick wall. It didn’t matter though as there were other branches to follow.

As I kept searching and learning more about all the different records, I began to see little bits of information here and there that began to intrigue me more than just when someone was born.

I find my ancestors street addresses listed on the census and in other city directories fascinating.  I will use street view on google to see what is there now, realizing of course that city plans change over time.

Sue and I were in Philadelphia once and drove to the neighborhood where my Mother’s Grandfather lived when he first came over from Hungary.  We were definitely on the wrong side of the tracks in today’s day and age, evidenced by the strange woman speaking in tongues at us (or was that Hungarian?)  Well lets just say that it made us glad we were only passing through.  I have always loved maps and my list of research projects include looking at older city and town maps to see where people lived.

The bit of information that I find most intriguing though also can be found on census records (as well as many other places,) and that is ‘Occupation.’


My Family has done a lot.  There is a Postmaster, a Butcher and a Baker but no Candlestick maker as of yet.  There are several Carpenters, Home Makers, Farmers, and even a Fireman.  What must it have been like to be a fireman in 1916?

Imagine stepping back into their shoes and into their daily lives, pondering what drives them forward.  This is the information for me that brings a person to life and that is the magic which I seek.

Happy Hunting