Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Visiting the Bern State Archives

For my internship for my Family History degree, I researched 5 Swiss generations.  I spent a summer researching in the Salt Lake Family History Library and then spent two weeks in Switzerland.  For one week, I did research in the Bern State Archive and for the other week, I researched in the small church archive in Frutigen.  Here are some things I learned from that experience.

(1) Sometimes you must have a reservation.  If you don't know if the archive you want to visit requires it, call ahead and make one.  Do not assume they will just let you in.  When I visited the State Archives, I made reservations about 2 months ahead of time and made them for an entire week.  It's changed a bit.  Now genealogists may only come 3 days a year and only on Fridays.  Tough.  I made reservations to research in the Frutigen church and for the two weeks before I was to leave, I could not get in touch with the caretaker just to confirm.  I was so scared I wouldn't be able to research.  And I might not have been able to; she went on vacation!  But her daughter was there and she let me in.  It pays to be friendly to the locals who can help you out.  They gave me the daughter's address and phone number.
(2) There may be a dress code.  I was told I could not wear jeans in Bern, but after a couple of days seeing everyone else in jeans, I asked about it and they said I could wear them.
(3) You may need to fill out a form with a description of your research or why you want to look at their holdings.
(4) Some may require that you absolutely do not have a pen with you.
(5) When I was in the Frutigen archives, the caretaker of the archive had to be there the entire time, the door had to be open, I could not take in a pen, and I could not take pictures inside the archive.
(6) And to those who may not know-do not write in the old books!!!  I was heartsick looking at the modern-day pen underlinings and the circles in the books, the only books available for Frutigen parish records, the ones they stubbornly refuse to have microfilmed.  Once they're gone, they're gone!
(7) You may not get to copy anything.  I could in Bern, but obviously could not in Frutigen.
(8) And last but not least, use your time wisely and enjoy the opportunity!

The door to the Frutigen archive.  A tiny little hole in the wall-literally.

Friday, March 26, 2010

FREE Friday: Genealogy Gems

Genealogy Gems-just what you think it is-little jewels of genealogical news.  Genealogical Gems is a news podcast on I-Tunes and is completely free!  The broadcaster is Lisa Louise Cooke and she gives tips and trade secrets to help you do your own research.  She also interviews genealogical greats and celebrities!  Check out her blog here.  Now, go get listening!  I'm going to have to figure out how to listen to these while I'm exercising; that should make it much more enjoyable.  :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Citing Sources

As a genealogist, you come to learn that the evidence you find to prove a relationship will not always be a nice, simple document that is, quite frankly, pretty simple to cite.  You may end up needing to cite something like this:

To what am I referring?  This beautiful family quilt.  Embroidered on one side is a remark that this quilt is a 3-generation quilt with hand-made blocks pieced by my husband's great-grandmother, blocks sewn together by his grandmother, and sewn all together by my his mother.  What a treasure!  Not just because it's a beautiful family heirloom, but because it is a piece of evidence linking three generations!  Suddenly those easy-to-follow citation instructions with author, publisher, publication date, etc. don't seem so applicable.

Enter Elizabeth Shown Mills, the woman responsible for creating the current genealogical citation standards.  The citation world of the genealogist was made easier with her first book, Evidence: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian and continues with the current Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.  I have never tried to cite this before, so I'm going to pull out my handy citation book and see what I can do.

Last Name, Christine. Quilt. ca. 2007. Privately held by Meg Last Name, [address,] Town, State. 2010.

Wow, that's it!  I found out how to cite this really quickly.  It's from page 105, Quick Check Model PRIVATE HOLDINGS: ARTIFACT.

Friday, March 12, 2010

FREE Friday: 20 page photo book

To me, genealogy is so much more than looking for information about ancestors.  It's also creating information about yourself for your descendants.  One great way to do this is to create a photo book and here's how you can get one for free!  If you're new to to the photo service called Picaboo, then you can create an account and get a 20-page photo book for free.  Type in the code AFFLGB and you're good to go!  But don't procrastinate because the code will expire on 31 March 2010.  I'm heading there now to create a baby book for my son.  :)

*Thanks to Kansas City Penny Pinchin' Mama for giving this information.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gen Web

Another very basic site you should know about happens to be Gen Web and it's actually two websites.  They are and  This is a project set up by, once again, volunteers! There are people all over the world willing to sponsor a specific area's website and update it with all sorts of information about doing research in that area.  You can find links to how-to websites, or information on how to order a birth certificate, or information on boundary changes in the area.  Most also have a "Lookup" section, too (remember, "lookups" are people willing to look things up for you as in Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness :)  ).  So, I decided to look at Switzerland's site again.  I haven't been on there for a while.

Here's the first thing you see at the World Gen Web project site.  Select your continent:
Then, you select the geographical location you want:


Then here you have it!

Now, each area's site will look different and contain different types of information because these sites are all sponsored by different people.  Looking at the Swiss site, I found some fun things.  I found information about Switzerland's history, Swiss festivals, links to different cantons (kindof like counties in the US), and lists of Swiss libraries and archives, and so much more!  I even found out that there are some records in Switzerland dating all the way back to the 13th Century!  Wouldn't that be exciting to trace my line all the back to then?  What a dream!

Now go learn something new about your area of research!

Friday, March 5, 2010

FREE Fridays

Fridays are days for fun and what could be more fun than finding something for FREE?  I think that's fun.  :)  So, I'm going to post free genealogical findings for you on Fridays. 

 Today is Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.  I happen to just love the name of this site.  I smile every time I say it.  The website is  Now those of you who have ever hired a genealogist know that it can be pretty expensive, especially if you have to pay your genealogist to travel because the records you need are not held in any repository other than some tiny, out-of-the-way library or courthouse that just so happens to think dial-up internet is scary.  This is reality.  

Well, I happen to think almost all people interested in genealogy are kind-hearted people who love to help others out.  And this site shows that.  There are people out there, professional genealogists and hobbyists, who are willing to look up information for you for free!  Wouldn't it be nice to get an email containing something like this Arizona tombstone if you lived all the way in Texas?  (My great-grandmother's tombstone).

 They may have access to birth records or town records or they may just be willing to go visit the old family homestead or cemetery and take a picture for you.  Some may ask for you to pay printing or mailing costs if you are requesting a document, but that's nothing compared to having to travel there yourself.  And if you have the desire to help others out, you can volunteer too!  

Now after you have fun with that site, remember to watch the very first show of a new series all about genealogy.  It's Who Do You Think You Are, by and NBC.  It's on at 8/7 pm central time.  So for us out here in AZ, that's channel 12 at 7 pm.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Language?

When researching in Switzerland, get ready to find documents in different languages.  How many languages?  Four.  :)  German, French, Italian, and Romansch, listed in order of occurrence.  Don't let it scare you, though.  Most records you will be reading use certain terms over and over again, such as parents, children, born, married, died, christened, etc. and you can find genealogical research guides that help you with these terms, so after you figure out one particular entry in a source, you'll be able to read the other entries.  And you'll feel pretty intelligent saying you can read a little bit of German, French, Italian, and Romansch!  *wink*