10 December 2013

Joy Reisinger, RIP my friend

It was 1982 or 1983. I was in the audience here in Minnesota listening to a genealogy lecture by a woman dressed in pink. All pink. That aside, she knew her stuff! Thirty years later, that lady, a special friend is gone.

Joy Reisinger was her name. One of her specialties in the field was French-Canadian and Canadian research. Her serial publication Lost in Canada takes up a bunch of space on my bookshelves and I am so grateful for her dedication to that publication. Of course we were cousins a lot of generations back on our French-Canadian lines, but that’s common.

We bonded over research, talking about our kids, and having fun together. She encouraged me to take many big steps in the genealogy world. Way back in 1988 when I was working toward my certification by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, she encouraged me and kept repeating this mantra: document, document, document. Always three times. The meaning was to be dang sure I had the proper documentation aka citations in what I submitted. I got the hint! She was a great mentor. I was tickled when BCG granted her the title of Certified Genealogist Emeritus, a well-deserved honor.

About that time in 1988 she gave me my first opportunity to lecture at a national conference when the National Genealogical Society held the event here in my hometown of St. Paul. I turned down the opportunity because I knew I wasn’t ready.

When my husband received a life-threatening diagnosis of a heart condition, she was there for us. She put us in contact with a relative with the same heart condition. When we felt too shocked by all this to make a planned visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, she practically commanded that we still go. She was right. That trip got us motivated to keep on living and enjoying the friendship of others.

I served on the Association of Professional Genealogists Executive Committee with her and her follow Wisconsinites, Jim Hansen and Beth Stahr. We had great meetings and the friendship grew.

I watched her topically index the syllabi from the Federation of Genealogical Societies and NGS conference. We would chat about how to index some of the lectures that just didn’t fit the parameters she had set up. I wonder if I still have some of her early editions of that indexing?

When my personal life fell apart in 2003 she was there to bolster me. She was the conduit between me and a minister who helped me immensely. I am grateful to her for bringing the Reverend Doctor David McDonald into my life. In the last several months, he has kept me informed of Joy’s condition and about the recent death of her daughter, Jane.

If you never saw Joy’s home library and the wonderful working space her husband, Jim, made for her, you missed some real gems. I coveted that space.

As time went one, we had some other common interests as professionals in our chosen field. Then when we became grandmothers it was fun to talk about the new generations in our families. Then she became a great-grandmother and I teased her about that.

The last few times we were in Salt Lake City together I watched her struggle with breathing in the high altitude and due to her own physical issues. We even had one hospital visit there when she was suffering too much. She wanted to go alone but I told her it was my turn to help her. I was so scared we were losing her then.

There’s so much more I could tell you about Joy and what she has done for the field of family history but I should get back to working on my own renewal portfolio for BCG. I am sure she is waving her finger at me and telling me to do so!

Goodbye my friend. Thank you for letting me join you in so many parts of your journey in this life.

08 December 2013

Minnesota Genealogy: Finding Divorce Records

Learning that a family member may have been divorced 50, 75, or 150 years ago might yield a temporary shock to your system. It might also yield a plethora of family history details.

Divorce in the past is different from divorce today in some ways. Societal and family pressures may have caused a family or individual to hide the fact that a divorce took place. An abandoned woman may have listed herself as still married or as a widow and never filed for a legal divorce. Some couples just lived apart without benefit of a legal divorce. In Native American communities, tribal culture often considered divorce as simple as the couple separating and being involved in a new relationship. This practice veered toward official court proceedings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The impetus for consulting divorce or marriage dissolution files varies. For most family historians, the reason is not salacious, but to gain additional family details and to help understand family relationships. I once had a

01 December 2013

Cafes in cemeteries: will the idea come to the U.S.?

I love this idea. A story on the ABC News website "Dead Good Coffee: Cemetery Cafes Gain Popularity" tells about a new trend in Europe. Coffee cafes in cemeteries are attracting a wide variety of customers. A visit before or after visiting the graves of our ancestors might soothe the nerves. A group of genealogists transcribing the words on tombstones could have a mid-morning coffee break together. When the other customers ask what the group is doing, we could spread the word about our society.

I haven't heard of any such cafes in the U.S. but I can think of some perfect places for them. Many cemeteries are extremely picturesque and would provide a perfect backdrop while sipping a hot drink. It might even bring in some extra funds for struggling cemeteries. Okay, Roselawn, Calvary, Resurrection,