Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Speed Dating — Genealogy Style!

February 16, 2015 / by davidwalton

When I received an invitation to a speed dating event this month I was nervous. What should I wear? What do I say? Will they like my personality? What questions will they ask?

Susan Covey

Susan Covey

Allison Fredrickson

Allison Fredrickson

Donna Foster

Donna Foster

As it turns out, this wasn’t your typical speed dating event. Yes, there was a large crowd. Yes, we only had a short amount of time (60 minutes). And yes, there was excitement in the air. But the so-called short ‘dates’ you’d normally encounter at a speed dating event turned out to be with only three women: Susan Covey, Allison Fredrickson and Donna Foster — all members of the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society (SIGS).

Rather than one-on-one conversations, this speed dating event wasn’t a matchmaking session, but a chance to learn more about my first love — genealogy.

First up was Susan who made a great first impression dressed in period attire as she portrayed Caroline Cowles Richards Clark reading from her Civil War diary. Growing up in upstate New York in the 1800s, Clark was raised by her grandparents who were Puritans. She loved to write and at age 10 began keeping a diary about her daily experiences. Along the way she heard speakers such as P.T. Barnum, Charles Dickens and Susan B. Anthony. She wrote about everything from the Battle of Gettysburg to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

“The news came this morning that our dear president Abraham Lincoln was assassinated yesterday, on the day appointed for Thanksgiving for Union victories. I have felt sick over it all day and so has everyone that I have seen. All seem to feel as though they had lost a personal friend, and tears flow plenteously.” — Diary entry dated April 15, 1865.

My date had taken me back nearly two centuries; where would my date with Allison take me? Closer to home I would soon learn; her conversation covered “Hidden Hoosier Treasures Online.”

Allison described underused state genealogical Internet sources, breaking them down into four categories: maps, newspapers, historical research and more.



Historical Research:


  • Indiana Memory (https://digital.library.in.gov/) is a portal for digital collections across Indiana. In includes digitalized books, manuscripts, photographs, newspapers and maps. Use Collections Across Indiana to view collections by county.

My last date was with Donna who loves to talk about family heirlooms and the unique uses of ancestral keepsakes.

Donna explained that genealogy is the compilation of names and dates of our ancestors and that by adding photographs and stories to our everyday life, it transforms our dates into a tangible reality. From tote bags to blankets, they can remind us daily of our treasured memories of both the living and the dead.

With a backdrop of family treasures, she shared many of her keepsakes including shadowboxes, scrapbooks, family videos (she suggests Microsoft Movie Maker), photo gifts (reusable shopping bag, custom book cover, travel tumbler, calendars, posters, mugs, cutting boards, pillow cases, magnets, serving trays, wall clocks and porcelain plates available at walgreens.com, walmart.com, www.snapfish.com and www.shutterfly.com).

Memory books (Our Family: A History Journal, Mom Remembers: Memories My Child, Dad Remembers: Memories for My Child, and Grandmother Remembers: A Written Heirloom for my Grandchild) are available on amazon.com).

Photo lampshades, vintage pillows, family name scrabble, family reunion bingo, casters wheel photo paperweight, family tree shadowbox and other projects are available at http://www.allcrafts.net/familytree.htm.

Donna also encouraged everyone to store photos in a safe place. She suggested the use of free online storage sites (dropbox.com, smug bug.com, photobucket.com, picasagoogle.com, flickr.com, kodakgallery.comsnapfish.com, and shutterfly.com).

I can now say I am an official speed dater — genealogy style. Now I’m looking forward to my second date at next month’s SIGS meeting, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5 at the NA-FC Public Library, 180 W. Spring St. Hope to see you there.

Until next time….

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