Thursday, April 3, 2014

CVGS Spring Seminar Review - Jean and Butch Hibben

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society Spring Seminar was Saturday, 29 March 2014 at the Chula Vista Golf Course in Bonita, California.  The featured speakers, Jean Wilcox Hibben and her husband, Butch Hibben, provided the genealogy education and entertainment to 49 attendees.

Jean and Butch Hibben (photo courtesy of Karen Yarger)

Jean made four presentations during the day, including:

1)  "This is not Your Grandma's Genealogy: Making the Transition from Paper to Electronic Record-Keeping."  Jean noted that most researchers are putting their genealogical information on a computer in family trees, word-processing documents or spreadsheets.  Library card catalogs are online, and there is so much to learn.  She discussed why researchers should put their information on the computer, with pros and cons of using a computer to add and revise data, different storage devices, providing information to other researchers, using digital images, computer costs, different equipment (desktop computer, laptop, netbook, tablet, printers, scanners, cameras, smart phones, storage media, etc.).  Computer backup, cloud storage and retrieval sites were briefly covered.  

Jean recommended that genealogists should learn how to use their computers and devices to make their research efforts more efficient, using the programs and websites that you feel comfortable using and to advance at your own speed.  

Butch Hibben provided information about smart phone apps for genealogy available on iOS and Android devices, highlighting family tree apps (RootsMagic, GEDCOMGTG, Ancestry), Evernote (for notes, photos, audio), CamScanner (photos of documents), and Cloud Storage/Retrieval (Dropbox, SurDoc and Google Drive).

2)  "Elisabeth: The Story of a German Immigrant."  In this talk, Jean was in the character of her ancestor, Elisabetha Huberta Thenee Mueller Wolbert (1828-1895), and showed images of records and places from Germany and America.  Elisabetha was born in Rath, Germany, married to Thomas Mueller and had five children by him.  She was abused by her husband, and decided to migrate to America, without her children who were raised by her sister, before the Civil War, with a family friend named Philip Wolbert, and resided in New York, New Jersey and Illinois.  He served in the Civil War, and married Elisabetha after he returned.  Elisabetha was reunited with one of her children and died in the home of a daughter in Illinois.  This is an example of how a skillful genealogist and story-teller can weave facts and family stories, along with social and world history, into a narrative that describes one person's life.  The entire story of Elisabeth is available as an e-reader book at  

Jean's handout included an extensive list of helpful reference books and websites that were used to learn about German research, and to find the records she displayed from Germany and America.

3)  "Reality Television: A New Perspective."  Jean was the lead researcher for the PBS television series Genealogy Roadshow, which aired 23 September, 30 September, 7 October and 14 October 2013.  Each hour-long episode had about ten segments where the subject was brought into the set, and was showed documents to connect them to an event or famous person.  There were three on-air hosts - D. Joshua Taylor, Kenyatta Berry, and Emmett Miller.  

She hired four other researchers to help her during the 12 weeks  of research before shooting the four shows in Austin, Nashville, Detroit and San Francisco.   Three of the researchers worked 10 to 12 hours a day for three months on this project.  They researched the ancestry of about 150 different persons chosen in or near the four cities, and had to find the persons that had the "best" stories from a genealogy perspective.  As lead researcher, Jean had to deal with the show producers and staff, who knew virtually nothing about the genealogy research process.  The organization chart for the production changed frequently and they all needed some education about genealogy in order to make the show work for genealogy.  

Jean shared many conclusions drawn from this experience.  The most interesting, to me, was that they didn't plan on having to consider document image copyright protection, and used many Library of Congress photographs which are in the public domain.  The research staff had no control over editing the segments and several inconsistencies appeared on the show.  They used the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list to solicit help retrieving documents and research help in distant places.  For some reason, the production staff did not find "farming" to be an interesting occupation.

4)  "Up Close and Personal Doing On-Site Research."  In this presentation, Jean highlighted effective ways to use the time available to conduct research in a distant location.  She broke the talk up into three segments:

*  Before the trip, the planning (dates, places, transportation), people and places to contact (genealogists, librarians, archivists, cemetery sextons, church offices, vital record offices, courthouses, Family History Centers, possible relatives or neighbors), and the things to pack (research papers and records, technology equipment, graveyard equipment, etc.).  She noted that some courthouses and archives don't allow cameras on site, that researchers should contact repositories and determine open days/hours, make appointments, and that they should visit cemeteries at the end of a day.

*  During the On-Site visits to historical and genealogical societies, vital records offices, courthouses, and churches, be sure to mind the establishment rules and be considerate of staff and patrons.  If visiting  ancestral homes or cemeteries, be sure to have permission to be on private property.  Visit tourist attractions to learn local history, take photographs of the area, meet residents, buy some postcards.

*  After the trip, organize and transcribe your notes, file your findings, name and catalog photographs and transfer them to your computer, send notes or reports to contacts, and make a list of what to do next time you visit each location.  

The entertainment portion of the program was after the served lunch, when Jean played her guitar and sang folk songs, and Butch accompanied her on the saw.  The audience was intrigued by the sounds created with the saw, and how Butch changed notes by bending the saw and running the bow in just the right place.  

This was a very successful seminar for CVGS and the attendees learned a lot.  

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