For Remembering 9/11

“Did the man on the radio just say a plane hit one of the skyscrapers in New York City? Did I hear that right?” I thought. I was bleary eyed. It was early in California. The alarm had just gone off, the clock radio tuned to a public news station. “Gosh, how does a plane accidently crash into a building like that?” I was imaging this was an accident involving a single-engine plane. I bolted out of bed when the man reported the second plane hitting.

I ran to the television. It didn’t take long to come up to speed. I ran to get my husband so he could see the news. We sat there, dumbfounded.

I couldn’t help but think how this was going to affect our economy. We had already seen a large downturn after the bubble burst. Now what?

My more selfish thoughts were interrupted by the towers going down. We burst into tears. The phone rang. I could barely hear my dear friend Maile’s voice, “What is happening to our country?” Neither of us had an answer. We couldn’t bear to think about the victims.

The rest of the day went by slowly. I called my boss and woke him up. He was too shocked to finish our conversation, so I hung up. Neither my husband nor I went to work. We just sat there. Calls. More calls. Trying to figure out what happened. Trying to figure out when it would end. Trying to figure out how this day would change things.

And change things it did.

© Corey Oiesen 2012.

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First Look at the 1940 U.S. Census….and What I Was Doing in 2002

I told myself I wasn’t going to play around with the 1940 U.S. census images today. “Wait until later in the week,” I said. “You’ve got other things you need to do today.” But, after seeing colleagues posting their success, I was tempted to take a peek.

I had already prepared by doing the one-step program developed by Stephen P. Morse, PhD and  Joel D. Weintraub, PhD ( I had already set client expectations that this could take several days or even a week or two.

If I were going to be efficient, I would set the census searching aside and devote today and tomorrow to other projects. I started off on this track, but caved in after three hours of work this morning. Now I am waiting for my first image to load. It has been about 15 minutes and I have 20 images within the first enumeration districts (E.D.) I need to check 2 or 3 E.D.s for this particular client. Not the most efficient way of searching.

While I was waiting for the first image to load, I tried to think back to 2002 when the 1930 U.S. census was released. I was expecting my first child and I remember I took the day off work and went to my local NARA branch office to look at it on microfilm. I spent the entire day there. I recall searching through the entire city of Baltimore. I had found them in a city directory, so had a general idea of the street name. It took time and patience, but I found them. This success encouraged me to look for others that day. It was thrilling to share my findings with my family.

After about an hour, I gave up trying to bring up the image I needed from NARA. I checked a random page from Rhode Island on, just so I could see “the real thing.” So I can wait a few days to get the 1940 images I need. I don’t have to drive an hour to the archives and slog through miles of microfilm. Although I suppose microfilm searching would be faster than waiting for images to load, I am sure the archives branch would be packed with people and with a long wait for microfilm machines.

I can wait a little while. How about you?

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April 2, 2012 · 7:23 pm

Part 3 of 3. Doggie Genealogy: The Results

It seemed like an eternity before we received the results, but it was only a bit longer than a month. As I opened the envelope, I became worried. What if I hadn’t scraped enough cells off the inside of Ziggy’s cheek? What if he was such a broad mix of breeds that no breeds showed up on the test?

Fortunately I was not disappointed. Ziggy appears to be largely a poodle, with some English Setter, Golden Retriever and a trace amount of Boston Terrier. I ran to call Maile. “What? No Newfoundland?” We were both surprised and suspicious. But after a week or so, Maile texted me back. She could see the breeds in Ziggy now.

At this point, I’m wondering what this has to do with genealogy. I’m just a sucker for clever marketing, I guess.

© Corey Oiesen, Genealogy Heroes, 2010.


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Part 2 of 3. Doggie Genealogy: The Test

One week later, the test arrived – just a simple cheek swab (brush), instructions, and a return envelope. I set up a time to swab Ziggy, my friend Maile’s gigantic black dog. Maile said she wasn’t sure about the breed of her pound puppy. “We think he’s part Newfoundland and part standard poodle.”

I headed over to her house. I should admit here that, in general, I’m afraid of dogs. Ziggy, who I hadn’t met before, was the largest dog I’ve ever seen. His back along seemed to be 5-feet long. Newfoundland and standard poodle? I was thinking part bear, part horse.

Fortunately Ziggy was a gentle giant. I had failed to notice that you have to wait to give the test until 30 minutes after the dog had last eaten. Maile and I chit-chatted while Ziggy paced back and forth in the kitchen which, for him, was only three steps forward, three steps back.

I’ve swabbed my own cheek for my DNA test, but have never gotten so close to a dog’s mouth. At least not on purpose. Maile pried his mouth open. The inside of his mouth, except for teeth and tongue, was solid black. I could hardly see what I was doing. I had to swab the inside of his cheek for 30 seconds. That’s a long time for a dog to sit still with his mouth pried open. I had to do this right, because the thought of retesting was not appealing to any of us, including Ziggy.

I sealed up the package and mailed it. Later, I uploaded a photo of Ziggy that Maile had sent me. This will go on his official DNA breed analysis certificate. Come back tomorrow for the results.

© Corey Oiesen, Genealogy Heroes, 2010.

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Doggie Genealogy? Part 1 of 3

Genealogy for dogs? Have we lost our minds? If you’ve browsed the Sky Mall catalog recently, you may have seen the Hammacher Schlemmer® Canine Genealogy Kit.  Yes, it’s serious. This DNA kit includes a swab that you scrape on the inside of your dog’s cheek, put the swab in the envelope provided and mail it to the library. Three weeks later you receive a certificate that lists Rover’s genetic profile and breeds.

At first I thought, “I know people love their dogs, but this is ridiculous.” So I called my friend Maile. “Can I give your dog a DNA test?” Of course I had to try it. “Sure,” she agreed. She and her husband Pat had wondered about the breed of their new pound puppy Ziggy.

I did some searching online and learned that it is a breed test – not that it indicates dogs from common ancestors like many of the human DNA projects going on today.

I chose one of the brands (Canine Heritage) that tested for a high number of breeds – 100 breeds. Tune in tomorrow for the testing. 

Caption: This is the image for “dog genealogy” in the SkyMall magazine that caught my eye. I wound up using a test by Canine Heritage.

© Corey Oiesen, Genealogy Heroes 2010


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My Genealogy Hero

“This search is starting to sound familiar.” I read the words again. Could it be possible that the genealogist I hired had researched this family before?

My genealogy hero, Marianne, entered my life when I was brand new to genealogy. I was in the middle of an adoption search to find my mom’s biological mother and needed someone to photocopy various city directories. I feared I was already wearing out my welcome with the library staff, so I asked for researcher recommendations. Marianne was the first genealogist on the list.

Marianne was very responsive. The city directory search led to other research. She even took photos of the various homes my grandmother had rented. One day, upon finding an obituary for my grandmother’s father, something struck her. She had researched this family before.

She looked through her files and realized she had done research on my grandmother’s son (my biological uncle), who had also had a child put for adoption. In her letter, she mentioned that she had done research on this family and would contact her former client if I wished. That is how I met my new cousin, who had done his own adoption search with Marianne 5 years earlier.

Once I got over my shock at the serendipity of it all, I had chance to reflect on how professionally she had conducted my research. She exceeded all the standards expected of professional genealogists. Her communications with me were frequent and analyzed the data collected, suggesting next steps. She was very familiar with the resources available in the city, county and state and where to find them. And I’m still amazed that she recalled the prior research (considering the last name was very common) and could find her correspondence files.

I am lucky to have had such a great mentor for my first genealogy search. Who is your genealogy hero? What heroic acts have you done in the course of your research?

© Corey Oiesen and Genealogy Heroes 2009.

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The Beautiful Czech National Archives

5 June 2009

In a recent course I took from Karen Clifford, A.G., she conveyed several common laws of genealogy. Of them are:

• Start with ‘what you know’ and move back in time.

• Have a research plan before visiting a repository.

• Be polite and respectful of the staff.

I know these rules. I follow these rules — at least in the U.S. Today I broke all of these rules.

I had found out almost at the last minute that I was going to the Czech Republic for work. I quickly remembered the Czech genealogy project in my back pocket, waiting for me to have time to work on it.

I quickly started my research, but only have the family in question traced back to the late 19th century – and still in the United States. At this point, it would be futile to do research during my brief free time in Prague. Despite this, I decided to go visit the Czech National Archives. I figured I would just see what it was like — and perhaps poke around if they had a browsing library.

I prepared by reading the website for the archives. I also took a chance and entered my client’s last name in the database, but got no results. Since I only speak the bare minimum of tourist Czech, I found a list of helpful vocabulary words at

The archives are housed in a beautiful, new building in the southern part of Prague. Like any archive, you really need to know what you’re looking for, in order to ask the staff members, who then bring you the book, manuscript or microform.

Staff members there at the time did not speak much English, but were eager to help me. I felt a little guilty about wasting their time, since I was only there to look around. Fortunately a Czech genealogist who speaks English (thanks, Karel!) was there and helped me out. He explained the purpose and how to use the county/parish books I had randomly picked up. This helped me do a little exercise of looking at the county/parish formations and then finding them on the map. Basic, but at least I learned something!

Was my trip a waste of time? I don’t think so. I made contact in case I need to hire a genealogist in the future. And I now know the rules of the archives if I ever go back. I’ve come to the conclusion from my recent trips that genealogists are nice all over the world.

© Corey Oiesen and Genealogy Heroes 2009.

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Get off the bus! An American Genealogist in Prague

4 June 2009
“Get off the bus,” the driver shouted at me in Czech. I could understand him because that was what the last driver had told me after I discovered I was on the wrong bus. And that was what the recorded voice had said when the bus stopped — something to the effect of, “Last stop. Get off.”

But I hadn’t gotten off. We were out in the middle of a field in the outskirts of Prague. Where was I supposed to go? My street smarts told me just to sit there and wait. Apparently the driver thought I had gotten off the bus because, after he pulled the curtain around the driver’s seat and got ready to go take his break, he turned around and with a startled jump yelled something like, “What are you still doing here? GET OFF!” So I did.

Why was I bothering with this adventure anyway? What did I hope to gain from going to the Czech National Archives? I should have taken the cue from the older lady on the first bus who tried to help me. She seemed extremely worried that I had taken the right bus, but in the wrong direction. I didn’t think it was going to be a problem. I figured I’d just ride the full route in a circle ‘til I got there.

I eventually did arrive at the archives, so I’ll share more on that tomorrow.

What I learned today:
–My knowledge of Czech is somewhat adequate when it comes to eating, drinking and telling the time, but not so good for directions, genealogy or much else.

–When things don’t go smoothly, I have to convince myself to not give up and go sightseeing.

Czech words used and heard today:
Ano – yes

Ne mluvim česky, ne mots dobje. – I don’t speak Czech, not very well

Rozumiem česky yenom trochu, ne mots dobje – I only understand a little Czech, not very well

Prosim vás, opakujte. – Please repeat it.

Prominte prosim – Excuse me please.

Dekuji – Thank you.

Osum – Eight

Autobusem dva jeden tři prosim – Bus 213 please

Výstup – Exit

Neh neh neh neh neh. Vypadni!– No, no no no no. Get outta here!

© Corey Oiesen and Genealogy Heroes 2009.


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Discretion and Genealogy

One of the common points of discussion I’ve heard at this week’s National Genealogical Society Conference is discretion.

We all have them. Ancestors born out of wedlock. Murderers or other criminals. First cousins who married, confounding our genealogy software programs and ruining our pretty tree printouts.

The issue was whether or not to divulge and perpetuate these truths in published genealogists, family histories and on websites. We concluded that if it would hurt a living person’s feelings to have the information revealed, don’t do it. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow, as I have relatives who would rather I not reveal that we have an ancestor who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

So, my question is, how do you maintain preserve the secret information so you or your descendant could someday include it in a family history?

13 May 2009
© Corey Oiesen and Genealogy Heroes 2009.

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National Genealogical Society, Raleigh

Hello from the National Genealogical Society conference in beautiful Raleigh North Carolina. I had the pleasure of taking a workshop today from The Board for Certification of Genealogists® (BCG) Education Fund. The course was about writing family histories and was delivered by Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL, FNGS and Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, CGL.

As we spent the day storyboarding and developing ideas for our books, I began to realize that I CAN write a family history on someone I did not know. I have hesitated in doing this because I have a handful of relatives who knew the two ancestors in which I’m interested. Why wait for them to write the history? Go ahead and interview them, cite them in your history and have them correct and proof read your work.

Capturing and preserving the family stories before they disappear is an act of heroism in itself. Now to just get started…

How about you? Are you working on a family history? What is keeping you from moving forward?

12 May 2009
© Corey Oiesen and Genealogy Heroes 2009.

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