Monday, July 25, 2016

Our Saturday Workshop

Ray Maki introducing speaker Shannon Combs-Bennett
This past Saturday we welcomed national (soon to be international) speaker Shannon Combs-Bennett to our development for a Genealogy 101 all day workshop.

Shannon provided a fifty page PDF that included her presentation, blank copies of each federal census and various other helpful forms.

Hubby copied her PDF for each of the twenty-four participants. The copies were then put into white 3-ring binders, with a personalized title page. We tucked several pieces of loose paper into the front pocket of each binder so people would have something to write on should they forget to bring paper for note taking.

Shannon’s talk went from getting started through telling people about the lineage societies they could join.

One of the interesting things I learned was a website called http: // that helps you put citations into the correct format. I haven’t tried this yet, but am excited about doing so. Although we know about citing sources – I keep my copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills right alongside my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, I think this part of her talk was eye-opening for most participants. Shannon encouraged them to keep track of the path they traveled when researching. I know this is the correct way, but I also know that when you are following a lead, you are too excited to stop and write everything down.

She encouraged everyone to journal. Start now if you aren’t already keeping one. It will be invaluable to future researchers.

Keep a research log. Jot down (or copy/paste) the URL, date accessed, the steps taken to find the information, what was found and what wasn’t found.

Knowing she had an audience of beginners, Shannon told them to set a certain goal. Not “I want to know everything about my Jones family line,” but instead ask, “I want to find my great grandfather Ezra Jones.”

Organization is another conundrum for genealogists. Shannon showed how one friend keeps all her information in 3-ring binders. Shannon doesn’t have enough bookshelf space for this way, so she keeps her files digitally as well as in Pendaflex folders in filing cabinets (She has many in her home office). The folders can be organized by surname, location, or any way that fits your family best. Just keep the labeling of your digital and paper files consistent.

She also covered social media for genealogists, DNA, planning your research trip, and the all-important evaluation of sources – primary, secondary, or of “unknown origin.”

Although we consider ourselves seasoned genealogists, we learned a lot from Shannon’s Genealogy 101 workshop. That is true of almost every genealogy presentation we attend. There is always something said that makes that light bulb go off in our head.


  1. I especially like the tip to organize digital and paper files in a consistent way. Makes life a lot easier! You are so lucky to have Shannon as your speaker.

  2. Marian: We are fortunate to have her nearby. Trying to schedule a date when she can come back and talk about DNA. Her handout is great - so many websites and resources listed. The extent of forms she provided also is so helpful for the beginners. We've had lots of positive comments about the day.