Frugal Genealogy

Jasia of Creative Gene has written a thoughtful and interesting five-part series called “What is Your Genealogy Worth to You?” (click here to go to the first post in the series). She starts off with “Have you ever thought about how much your genealogy addiction costs you? What price have you paid to collect all those names on your family tree? If you had known what the cost would be when you began, would you still have started down this road?”

I’ve been gathering information and organizing it since early 1987. In 1990 and again in 1999, I helped to organize a Midkiff Family Reunion. In 1995, I made my first forays into research by requesting the marriage record of my paternal grandmother’s biological parents, and not long after, visited a Family History Center for the first time. I haven’t looked back since! Back then, I didn’t keep track of my expenditures, but I never had a lot to work with and would just make do with about $5 or $10 a month in ordering microfilm from the FHC. Since purchasing Quicken software three-and-a-half years ago, I’ve kept pretty good records on all my expenditures, and ran a report to see how much I’ve spent. Since May 2004, I have spent a total of $823.65 on paying society fees, ordering vital records and microfilms, paying for subscriptions to genealogy websites like Ancestry, making photocopies of documents and forms, buying office supplies specifically for my genealogy files, and purchasing genealogy books, CDs, and magazine subscriptions. I’ve been able to offset these costs: my sister-in-law reimburses me half of my online subscription costs since I help her research her family tree; I also get paid for teaching Online Genealogy at my local community college district’s community ed and for doing presentations at area genealogical societies. When I consider the after-tax income and reimbursement I’ve received in comparison to the expenditures listed above, I actually have a credit of -$52.81.

There are several other costs, however. While I don’t figure in the cost of gas in going to genealogical society meetings or going to my local Family History Center, it does cost to park when I attend society meetings and computer classes at the public library, and my three-and-a-half year cost for that has been exactly $127.00. I gladly would park in a free parking area at the bottom of the hill half-a-mile away; however, since I’m the Ways and Means Committee Chair, I usually have many boxes of books and bags of supplies to haul in, and even with my cart, that’s simply not practical. The parking garage I normally use is the cheapest in the downtown area: 50 cents per half hour.

Another cost would be printer ink (which I haven’t bothered to account for here, since I list it under Consumable Household Goods). I am very frugal with it, and only print when I have to, using the “quick print” and black-and-white settings. Still, it does cost, but I recycle my cartridges or trade them in for reams of paper or photo printing.

Because I use my computer and Internet service almost exclusively for genealogy in one form or another, I have to consider those costs. The first computer I had used Windows 3.1 and was found by my brother-in-law at a garage sale. I paid $100 for it, along with some software and a decent (for that time) printer in 1999. I used Juno’s free Internet dial-up service, then later tried a free dial-up service which was accessed through my local public library. For several years, I used AOL free trial dial-up service. It was good for two months; I’d call them up at the end of the trial service and “cancel” and they’d “persuade” me to try it again for two more months. It was great! However, when we had a friend build us a new computer (with the Edsel-like Windows ME operating system!), AOL wouldn’t work well with it. We went to Juno’s pay dial-up service of just under $10 a month. That computer cost us about $600 and included everything–monitor, speakers, software, keyboard, mouse, etc.–except the printer. We later bought a quality printer/scanner/copier/fax machine at Costco for about $300, which I still use. Since my husband works for a company that produces heavy-duty laptops for the military, police and fire departments, and service repairmen, he’s been able to pick the brains of engineers and tech geeks that he works with, educating himself along the way. Armed with this advice and knowledge, two years ago, he built a complete new computer with Windows XP ourselves, with a little help from his nephew. This one has a high-resolution flat-screen monitor, a cordless keyboard and mouse, and all kinds of bells and whistles, and set us back only about $1100. We also obtained an older laptop, which has come in so handy with four computer users in this household. Along the way, we switched to DSL broadband Internet service through a small local company that contracts with the local phone company, costing us a discounted $45 a month. Offsetting this expense, we have chosen not to get cable television (I have always been one to willingly live without a television!), nor do we use long-distance telephone service (using an inexpensive 10-10 code for our infrequent long-distance calls). For us, the Internet is our main entertainment and long-distance communication resource.

So there you have some of my tangible costs of genealogy, although as Becky at kinexxions wrote, genealogy is priceless. The family I’ve found, the friends I’ve made, the discoveries I’ve happened across, the life-long learning process…all are invaluable! And yes, I’d do it all over again, in a heartbeat!

Coincidentally, I’ll be giving a one-hour presentation to the Kootenai County (Idaho) Genealogical Society this week, Thursday, October 18th at 7:00 PM, entitled “Frugal Genealogy (or How Not to Spend a Fortune on Your Family Tree!).” We will be meeting at the Hayden Family History Center at 2293 West Hanley (west of off Ramsey) in Hayden, Idaho. This is not the normal meeting place, as the Hayden Lake Library is being remodeled. I hope that if you live in the area, you will join us (meetings are free to the public). I had the opportunity to meet some of the fine folks of the KCGS at the Bonner County (Idaho) Genealogical Society’s June conference, and look forward to meeting more of their members. I’ll also be giving this presentation to the Northeast Washington Genealogical Society in Colville in July 2008, if you wish to catch it then. If you are not able to attend, you can e-mail me to request a copy of my syllabus (see “View my complete profile” in the right-hand sidebar to obtain my e-mail address).

Advertisements

Frugal Genealogy

Jasia of Creative Gene has written a thoughtful and interesting five-part series called “What is Your Genealogy Worth to You?” (click here to go to the first post in the series). She starts off with “Have you ever thought about how much your genealogy addiction costs you? What price have you paid to collect all those names on your family tree? If you had known what the cost would be when you began, would you still have started down this road?”

I’ve been gathering information and organizing it since early 1987. In 1990 and again in 1999, I helped to organize a Midkiff Family Reunion. In 1995, I made my first forays into research by requesting the marriage record of my paternal grandmother’s biological parents, and not long after, visited a Family History Center for the first time. I haven’t looked back since! Back then, I didn’t keep track of my expenditures, but I never had a lot to work with and would just make do with about $5 or $10 a month in ordering microfilm from the FHC. Since purchasing Quicken software three-and-a-half years ago, I’ve kept pretty good records on all my expenditures, and ran a report to see how much I’ve spent. Since May 2004, I have spent a total of $823.65 on paying society fees, ordering vital records and microfilms, paying for subscriptions to genealogy websites like Ancestry, making photocopies of documents and forms, buying office supplies specifically for my genealogy files, and purchasing genealogy books, CDs, and magazine subscriptions. I’ve been able to offset these costs: my sister-in-law reimburses me half of my online subscription costs since I help her research her family tree; I also get paid for teaching Online Genealogy at my local community college district’s community ed and for doing presentations at area genealogical societies. When I consider the after-tax income and reimbursement I’ve received in comparison to the expenditures listed above, I actually have a credit of -$52.81.

There are several other costs, however. While I don’t figure in the cost of gas in going to genealogical society meetings or going to my local Family History Center, it does cost to park when I attend society meetings and computer classes at the public library, and my three-and-a-half year cost for that has been exactly $127.00. I gladly would park in a free parking area at the bottom of the hill half-a-mile away; however, since I’m the Ways and Means Committee Chair, I usually have many boxes of books and bags of supplies to haul in, and even with my cart, that’s simply not practical. The parking garage I normally use is the cheapest in the downtown area: 50 cents per half hour.

Another cost would be printer ink (which I haven’t bothered to account for here, since I list it under Consumable Household Goods). I am very frugal with it, and only print when I have to, using the “quick print” and black-and-white settings. Still, it does cost, but I recycle my cartridges or trade them in for reams of paper or photo printing.

Because I use my computer and Internet service almost exclusively for genealogy in one form or another, I have to consider those costs. The first computer I had used Windows 3.1 and was found by my brother-in-law at a garage sale. I paid $100 for it, along with some software and a decent (for that time) printer in 1999. I used Juno’s free Internet dial-up service, then later tried a free dial-up service which was accessed through my local public library. For several years, I used AOL free trial dial-up service. It was good for two months; I’d call them up at the end of the trial service and “cancel” and they’d “persuade” me to try it again for two more months. It was great! However, when we had a friend build us a new computer (with the Edsel-like Windows ME operating system!), AOL wouldn’t work well with it. We went to Juno’s pay dial-up service of just under $10 a month. That computer cost us about $600 and included everything–monitor, speakers, software, keyboard, mouse, etc.–except the printer. We later bought a quality printer/scanner/copier/fax machine at Costco for about $300, which I still use. Since my husband works for a company that produces heavy-duty laptops for the military, police and fire departments, and service repairmen, he’s been able to pick the brains of engineers and tech geeks that he works with, educating himself along the way. Armed with this advice and knowledge, two years ago, he built a complete new computer with Windows XP ourselves, with a little help from his nephew. This one has a high-resolution flat-screen monitor, a cordless keyboard and mouse, and all kinds of bells and whistles, and set us back only about $1100. We also obtained an older laptop, which has come in so handy with four computer users in this household. Along the way, we switched to DSL broadband Internet service through a small local company that contracts with the local phone company, costing us a discounted $45 a month. Offsetting this expense, we have chosen not to get cable television (I have always been one to willingly live without a television!), nor do we use long-distance telephone service (using an inexpensive 10-10 code for our infrequent long-distance calls). For us, the Internet is our main entertainment and long-distance communication resource.

So there you have some of my tangible costs of genealogy, although as Becky at kinexxions wrote, genealogy is priceless. The family I’ve found, the friends I’ve made, the discoveries I’ve happened across, the life-long learning process…all are invaluable! And yes, I’d do it all over again, in a heartbeat!

Coincidentally, I’ll be giving a one-hour presentation to the Kootenai County (Idaho) Genealogical Society this week, Thursday, October 18th at 7:00 PM, entitled “Frugal Genealogy (or How Not to Spend a Fortune on Your Family Tree!).” We will be meeting at the Hayden Family History Center at 2293 West Hanley (west of off Ramsey) in Hayden, Idaho. This is not the normal meeting place, as the Hayden Lake Library is being remodeled. I hope that if you live in the area, you will join us (meetings are free to the public). I had the opportunity to meet some of the fine folks of the KCGS at the Bonner County (Idaho) Genealogical Society’s June conference, and look forward to meeting more of their members. I’ll also be giving this presentation to the Northeast Washington Genealogical Society in Colville in July 2008, if you wish to catch it then. If you are not able to attend, you can e-mail me to request a copy of my syllabus (see “View my complete profile” in the right-hand sidebar to obtain my e-mail address).

Using Genealogy Message Boards

On Saturday, I taught a computer class to members of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society on the topic of “Using Genealogy Message Boards.” This is a part of our society’s educational sessions, in which members learn about genealogy as it relates to the Internet or computers in general. Different members take turns presenting the classes. Most of us are familiar with our topics, but a few have been very brave and chose to teach a subject on which they knew little, for the purpose of educating themselves. In the educational field (my real-life career), we have a saying, that the one who learns most is the one who teaches. True, that!

The classes are presented three times each, on the third Saturday of each month, excepting December, in the Gates Computer Lab of our public library, downtown branch. Each session can seat up to 15 people at the computer stations, with room in the back for those willing to simply view the overhead on-screen presentation. The classes are normally filled to capacity (summertime attendance has been down a bit, understandably), and since this is a members-only privilege, we’ve had a number of people join the society in the last couple of years, expressly for the purpose of taking advantage of these classes!

In teaching this class, I have had some experience using message boards, and even am an administrator for the WESTABY, SWEERS, and TUINSTRA boards at RootsWeb/Ancestry (the sites’ boards are duplicates of each other). But I realized that I, like probably many of you, do not utilize these boards to my advantage as often as I should. I was also pleasantly surprised several months ago, as I prepared my syllabus, to discover that RootsWeb/Ancestry have streamlined their message boards and made them much more navigable and user-friendly. While The Generations Network, the parent company of these two websites, also owns Genealogy.com, I found that the message boards on that site don’t have quite the clean and high-tech looks as its sister sites. Nevertheless, the system works well, and is obviously well-used.

I demonstrated how to search the messages boards, reply to existing messages, start a new thread (conversation), and use the various views (thread vs. flat) of the message boards that RootsWeb/Ancestry offer. Both RootsWeb and Ancestry require that you register (for free) in order to leave responses or new threads on the boards; when you attempt to post a message, you’ll be prompted to do this. If you already have an Ancestry subscription, you can use your login information instead of registering. Not renewing your Ancestry subscription will not prevent you from utilizing the boards later; you will simply need to create a free registration message board account instead.

Some of the members who attended were not quite sure what a message board was, so right from the beginning, I gave an analogy of a message board’s physical counterpart: a bulletin board, on which all the messages relate to a single topic, whether it is a surname, a location, or an interest group (DNA, Civil War, adoption, etc.). Unlike a mailing list, a message board doesn’t have to be limited to queries. They can be used to post transcriptions of tombstones, obituaries, Bible records, etc.

A few members also did not know what a mailing list was, so my best analogy was likened to belonging to a genealogy writing club, where a member would send out a query about an ancestor, or location, or topic of genealogical interest, and each member of that club would receive a copy of that message. Someone else brought up a blog (a new idea for many of our members) and I responded that a blog was like a newspaper…informative, but not so interactive as a mailing list or message board. Just as you can write your editor and comment on the content of your local paper, readers of blogs may comment (usually) on the content of a blog. Sometime, I’d like to expand this presentation to include mailing lists and blogs, because I can see that many of our older society members aren’t as familiar with these resources as they could be.

If you would like a copy of my syllabus for “Using Genealogy Message Boards,” which includes links to many popular, well-used message board sites, please e-mail me (click on “View my complete profile” in the right-hand menu).

Using Genealogy Message Boards

On Saturday, I taught a computer class to members of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society on the topic of “Using Genealogy Message Boards.” This is a part of our society’s educational sessions, in which members learn about genealogy as it relates to the Internet or computers in general. Different members take turns presenting the classes. Most of us are familiar with our topics, but a few have been very brave and chose to teach a subject on which they knew little, for the purpose of educating themselves. In the educational field (my real-life career), we have a saying, that the one who learns most is the one who teaches. True, that!

The classes are presented three times each, on the third Saturday of each month, excepting December, in the Gates Computer Lab of our public library, downtown branch. Each session can seat up to 15 people at the computer stations, with room in the back for those willing to simply view the overhead on-screen presentation. The classes are normally filled to capacity (summertime attendance has been down a bit, understandably), and since this is a members-only privilege, we’ve had a number of people join the society in the last couple of years, expressly for the purpose of taking advantage of these classes!

In teaching this class, I have had some experience using message boards, and even am an administrator for the WESTABY, SWEERS, and TUINSTRA boards at RootsWeb/Ancestry (the sites’ boards are duplicates of each other). But I realized that I, like probably many of you, do not utilize these boards to my advantage as often as I should. I was also pleasantly surprised several months ago, as I prepared my syllabus, to discover that RootsWeb/Ancestry have streamlined their message boards and made them much more navigable and user-friendly. While The Generations Network, the parent company of these two websites, also owns Genealogy.com, I found that the message boards on that site don’t have quite the clean and high-tech looks as its sister sites. Nevertheless, the system works well, and is obviously well-used.

I demonstrated how to search the messages boards, reply to existing messages, start a new thread (conversation), and use the various views (thread vs. flat) of the message boards that RootsWeb/Ancestry offer. Both RootsWeb and Ancestry require that you register (for free) in order to leave responses or new threads on the boards; when you attempt to post a message, you’ll be prompted to do this. If you already have an Ancestry subscription, you can use your login information instead of registering. Not renewing your Ancestry subscription will not prevent you from utilizing the boards later; you will simply need to create a free registration message board account instead.

Some of the members who attended were not quite sure what a message board was, so right from the beginning, I gave an analogy of a message board’s physical counterpart: a bulletin board, on which all the messages relate to a single topic, whether it is a surname, a location, or an interest group (DNA, Civil War, adoption, etc.). Unlike a mailing list, a message board doesn’t have to be limited to queries. They can be used to post transcriptions of tombstones, obituaries, Bible records, etc.

A few members also did not know what a mailing list was, so my best analogy was likened to belonging to a genealogy writing club, where a member would send out a query about an ancestor, or location, or topic of genealogical interest, and each member of that club would receive a copy of that message. Someone else brought up a blog (a new idea for many of our members) and I responded that a blog was like a newspaper…informative, but not so interactive as a mailing list or message board. Just as you can write your editor and comment on the content of your local paper, readers of blogs may comment (usually) on the content of a blog. Sometime, I’d like to expand this presentation to include mailing lists and blogs, because I can see that many of our older society members aren’t as familiar with these resources as they could be.

If you would like a copy of my syllabus for “Using Genealogy Message Boards,” which includes links to many popular, well-used message board sites, please e-mail me (click on “View my complete profile” in the right-hand menu).

A Relaxing Day

Today I had a rare treat: nine hours of being home alone; no teens, no hubby, no cares, no interruptions (even the cat knew better than to bother me!). The kids were gone all day to Silverwood with their church youth group, so after my husband left for work in the early afternoon, I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

I polished up my syllabus on Message Boards that I’ll be presenting on August 18th for our EWGS members’ computer class. And I’ve been having an incredibly fun time delving into the lives of the neighbors of my great-grandfather, William Bryan ROBBINS, as part of the series of posts I’m blogging on his military service in North Russia at the end of World War One. In a letter from home, his mother mentions a number of relatives, friends, and neighbors, and putting this “mini-community” into context with my ancestors’ lives has been enriching. I hope that I have enough time to post the next two blogs in that series before we leave on vacation this coming weekend (sheesh! all the work that goes into “getting away” creates a need for a vacation from the vacation, if you follow me!).

One of the things I “stumbled upon” while doing some more research on World War I, was this astonishing website of color World War I photos…did you know any existed? Well, neither did I! It is a true documentary of the grim results of war; shelled buildings, hospital wards, refugees. I must have spent over an hour visiting this site, by turns fascinated by how color creates a starker reality than black-and-white does and mourning the evident loss of life and destruction of the great architecture of France (medieval cathedrals have always captivated me).

Oh, and by the way, I was encouraged by the Footnote team to create a Story Page about Bryan in North Russia, especially considering their recent release of the Historical Files of the American Expeditionary Forces. Labeled “A Polar Bear in North Russia,” my Story Page is a copy of the series found here on my blog. What are Story Pages? They can be anything you want them to be: a blog, a research log, an online scrapbook, a way to share information with family and friends. And you don’t need to purchase a subscription at Footnote to start one; just sign up for a free membership. Think you might like to have full access to this website? Check out your local Family History Center to see if they have a Footnote subscription yet (if not, check back again – soon all FHCs will have access). This is a terrific way to discover for yourself all the fascinating features of Footnote; I’ll bet after playing around on this site you won’t be able to resist signing up for their affordable subscription!

Darn! It’s time to turn off the computer and go pick up the kids!

A Relaxing Day

Today I had a rare treat: nine hours of being home alone; no teens, no hubby, no cares, no interruptions (even the cat knew better than to bother me!). The kids were gone all day to Silverwood with their church youth group, so after my husband left for work in the early afternoon, I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

I polished up my syllabus on Message Boards that I’ll be presenting on August 18th for our EWGS members’ computer class. And I’ve been having an incredibly fun time delving into the lives of the neighbors of my great-grandfather, William Bryan ROBBINS, as part of the series of posts I’m blogging on his military service in North Russia at the end of World War One. In a letter from home, his mother mentions a number of relatives, friends, and neighbors, and putting this “mini-community” into context with my ancestors’ lives has been enriching. I hope that I have enough time to post the next two blogs in that series before we leave on vacation this coming weekend (sheesh! all the work that goes into “getting away” creates a need for a vacation from the vacation, if you follow me!).

One of the things I “stumbled upon” while doing some more research on World War I, was this astonishing website of color World War I photos…did you know any existed? Well, neither did I! It is a true documentary of the grim results of war; shelled buildings, hospital wards, refugees. I must have spent over an hour visiting this site, by turns fascinated by how color creates a starker reality than black-and-white does and mourning the evident loss of life and destruction of the great architecture of France (medieval cathedrals have always captivated me).

Oh, and by the way, I was encouraged by the Footnote team to create a Story Page about Bryan in North Russia, especially considering their recent release of the Historical Files of the American Expeditionary Forces. Labeled “A Polar Bear in North Russia,” my Story Page is a copy of the series found here on my blog. What are Story Pages? They can be anything you want them to be: a blog, a research log, an online scrapbook, a way to share information with family and friends. And you don’t need to purchase a subscription at Footnote to start one; just sign up for a free membership. Think you might like to have full access to this website? Check out your local Family History Center to see if they have a Footnote subscription yet (if not, check back again – soon all FHCs will have access). This is a terrific way to discover for yourself all the fascinating features of Footnote; I’ll bet after playing around on this site you won’t be able to resist signing up for their affordable subscription!

Darn! It’s time to turn off the computer and go pick up the kids!

Harold Hinds to Lecture August 11th in Spokane

History and genealogy professor Dr. Harold E. Hinds, Jr., PhD from the University of Minnesota will present a free lecture on “Expanding Your Research Into a Family History.” This special summer one-hour lecture will be held Saturday, August 11th, at 1:00 PM in the main floor meeting rooms at the Downtown Library, 906 W. Main Ave., Spokane, Washington, courtesy of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society. You need not be a society member to enjoy this lecture, nor do you need to register for the program.

Limited paid parking is available in the library basement, accessed from the rear of the building on Spokane Falls Boulevard. Paid parking is also available in the block to the east in River Park Square. Attendees can use the skywalk across Lincoln Street from the parking garage to the second floor of the library.