When our MyHeritage team attended the recent Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference in Springfield, Illinois, we met Meredith Sellers of Champaign, Illinois.
Meredith is married, in her 20s and is a genealogy and Family History Center consultant. She had a nice chat with our Chief Genealogist Daniel Horowitz about her personal research success story and the family reunion she organized. Here is her story:
Meredith's experience with MyHeritage and charts
Meredith had read about MyHeritage on various genealogy blogs long before her family reunion, and while she had quickly and easily uploaded a GEDCOM file of her family tree, she had not explored the printing functionality at MyHeritage.
"As I brainstormed the best way to display over 300 family members in an easily understandable graphic format, I discovered MyHeritage's descendant fan chart," says Meredith.
She discovered that the chart-making interface synched directly with her existing GEDCOM data which allowed her to directly import names and dates. She was also able to change various aspects, such as background color, graphics and ornamental frame.
Meredith also discovered that MyHeritage allowed her to export - free of charge - a high-resolution PDF version of the chart. This was suitable for professional printing on a large-format printer.
"At our reunion, everyone was thrilled and amazed to see the entire family displayed," Meredith says.
Her Genealogical Journey
"My family history journey began in 2008, when I knew little more than the names of my great-grandparents. I was hooked from day one," she says.
With Meredith's research skills and keen interest in history, she was excited by each new fact and piece of information. The more she learned about her ancestors, the more she came to understand the unique and inspiring journeys that brought her family to the US in the 19th century.
Meredith said that her third great-grandfather, Simon, arrived from Graetz, Prussia (now Grodzisk Wielkopolski, Poland) in 1864, at age 19: "The same day he stepped off the ship 'Garland' in Boston, he enlisted in the 30th Massachusetts Infantry; he fought for the Union army for two years before marrying, working as a cap maker, and raising seven children."
Stories such as these propel Meredith to understand more about the experiences and lives of her ancestors.
Her interest in genealogy has connected her to a host of "new" cousins. The family believes that the last reunion of Abraham's and Shifra's descendants took place in the 1930s.
In June 2011, family members came from near and far for a celebratory weekend, including a banquet dinner, cemetery visit and picnic lunch. Each attendee helped organize a different aspect of the event.
"At the dinner," says Meredith, "we flipped through family history booklets, watched a photo slideshow and consulted several large fan charts."
Suggestions for Other Researchers
Meredith places a heavy emphasis on collecting and analyzing evidence for her own research, as well as continuing education: "I think of primary and secondary sources as puzzle pieces. Sometimes those puzzle pieces tie in with what you already know; other times, they lead you in a critical new direction."
For updates on resources and insight into research strategies, she relies heavily on genealogy blogs and podcasts: "These allow me to expand my own skills and keep in touch with important developments in the family history community."
Initially, Meredith focused on digital records available from Ancestry.com and Fold3.com (previously FootNote.com), such as US census records and draft registration cards.
Her paternal grandfather's family immigrated to New York, while her paternal grandmother's family immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri. Over time, Meredith worked to collect US vital records, Civil War service and pension records, and photographs of gravestones. The Family History Library (Salt Lake City, Utah, and branches) and FamilySearch.org hold large collections of indexed and microfilmed vital records for New York City. The Missouri Digital Heritage website is also a big help for anyone researching Missouri ancestors, she adds.
As Meredith's tree expanded, she increasingly relied on JRIPoland.org, the All Lithuania Database and other JewishGen.org resources. She has identified the ancestral villages and towns for more than half of her immigrant ancestors. Meredith continues to acquire original Polish, Prussian, Lithuanian and Latvian records from state archives and repositories.
Do you have a success story about your experiences with MyHeritage? We'd like to hear from you and perhaps spotlight your story in a future blog post. Let us know via your comments below.