The cabin was on the port side, not an internal room with no view. However, the view was obstructed by a lifeboat. Still, a reasonable view of the sea and of other ships availed itself. The ship's stabilizers were excellent — no sea-sickness!
The very first afternoon we had a safety drill, which taught us how to fasten our lifejackets. Throughout the week the crew underwent 3 or 4 additional safety checks and drills.
All through the week, we were entertained by various musicians who played absolutely NO RAP. They did play show tunes, pop melodies, torch songs, some soft rock, and some big band hits. There was even a Broadway musical they called "Piano Man" featuring the words and music of Billy Joel, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow, Liberace and Elton John, with well-choreographed dancing and luscious costuming.
Most of the decks had alcoholic beverages, but I was good and did not partake. The Fitness Center was well laid-out with handsome trainers to envy and lovely models to ogle, but I was good and did not partake. There were computers in the Library and the 24-Hour Internet Café which cost 50¢ per minute, so I was good and did not partake. There were shops where one could buy clothing, makeup, purses, shoes, sandals, wine, hats, lotions and sundry other things people may have forgotten to bring. The opportunities to gamble were legion as we traveled in international waters, still I was good and did not partake. There was even a free massage giveaway, but ... well, you know. You could even have your teeth whitened.
The entertainment was free; the shops were not.
There were golf lessons on the golf course, pilates, yoga and aerobics in the gym. We had Bingo, Trivia, Ping Pong, Bridge, Shuffleboard, Tennis, Swimming and Dancing, although not in the same place.
There was television, but it was mostly dominated by Princess Cruise infomercials. Even so, they did show some recent movies like Sandra Bullock's "The Lake House."
The Ports of Call
While not at sea, the shops aboard ship were closed. However, most other facilities were not.
- Puerto Vallarta.
Tuesday. From the tour guide:
"A developers dream and a rustic's nightmare tell the Cinderella story of Puerto Vallarta.
A small and remote agricultural village until the early 1960s, it is today one of the fastest-growing seaside resorts in Norte America.
Its resident population (which includes many foreigners) is approximately 250,000, a figures that swells when tourists fill its 13,000-plus hotel rooms at the height of the season.
About 215 miles from Guadalajara and an hour from the jungle, Puerto Vallarta, in the state of Jalisco, lies between the rugged tropical Sierra Madre to the east and 25 miles of sandy beaches along beautiful Banderas Bay to the west."
We were told that there has been a long history of spiked drinks in Mexico and to buy only bottled beer or wine.
- Mazatlan. Wednesday. Mazatlan rests on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean in the state of Sinaloa, with a natural bay and a sheltered harbour. It is one of the most popular resorts in all of Mexico. I think some of us walked all over that town. (Others were so laden, I think they purchased it!) I purchased a ring I liked.
- Cabo San Lucas.
Thursday. From the travel guide: "Graced by the spectacular rocks of Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas calmly watches the cool Pacific waters merge with the Sea of Cortes.
Once you experience its crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and dry climate, you'll understand this Baja city's transformation from quiet cannery village to international resort.
The underwater life, so richly colorful and unspoiled, provides an unforgettable experience.
Cabo boasts one of the best swimming beaches, too."
As tourists, we were pounced upon by chicanos bidding us to ride a glass-bottomed boat, enter their lairs of wares or take a taxi into the city. I opted for a bicycle-taxi ride. The kid earned his money and it was enjoyable as I had a captive audience to my pocho Spanish.
At one place I paused to cross the avenida and a man invited me in for a drink. He said, "Come on in. Don't be afraid!" I said, "Well, I am afraid." He laughed and said, "Then let me be the man for both of us and help you inside." Had I been a drinker, his humour would have been sufficient to coax me in.
Most of the prices I saw in Mexico were fairly reasonable for a U.S. market. BUT, very few prices are fixed in Mexico, so with a bit of haggling a very good bargain can be had for both. As Dr. Covey would suggest, "Think Win-Win."
For Cabo, we had to take a "tender" to shore as the port was not deep enough to accommodate our ship. It wasn't as bumpy a ride as I'd imagined, but one little Japanese girl kept getting her face sprayed by the wake as it splashed into the craft. She was a cute little lass and was delighted at the new experience.
The food was plentiful, delicious and fabulous. There were several restaurants and one double buffet. In addition, there were pizza, ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs available around the 14th deck pools. Every bite was scrumptious. I found I preferred the buffet because I could choose exactly what I wanted and how much of it. Continental breakfasts? Sure, if that's what you wanted. I had everything from kippurs to yogurt . . . and fruit in abundance!
This cruise introduced me to several new kinds of fish, whose names I don't recall. I enjoyed them all . . . especially the salmon and the swordfish. I even liked the octopus salad. I tried the Beef Wellington and found it tender and tasty. The leg of lamb was perfect. I went back for seconds on the Royal Pheasant and found to my delight there was still some left.
One of the draws to this conference, for me at least, was the Hosted Breakfast. This isn't a presentation, but a small group of attendees gather for an informal breakfast with one of the speakers or experts. I was fortunate to get my first choice, Marsha Hoffman Rising, FASG.
At the table, we had 7 folks from all over the nation and Caroline Gurney from the U.K. She's a delightful, knowledgeable person who joined the cruise as the one who took the last minute vacancy.
Marsha told us a little about herself and entertained us with stories about placing children in homes. She always called them her children. She asked around to all of us about our situations. I told them about GENTREK and the websites Bits of Blue and Gray and ShoeString Genealogy. And, of course, I handed out the brochures Jayne McCormick and I created. Barb Paris helped on the editing, too. They loved them!
Ok, so I enjoyed the cruise and the ports of call. What about the Genealogy Conference?
Sunday, Nov. 12th
We had 5 speakers with 5 topics, as follows:
- Genealogy Searches on Google by Dick Eastman. Dick is a fine speaker and an old hand at Internet searches. He spoke about the advanced search operators found at www.google.com and Google Books.
- Digital Video by Tony Burroughs. Tony is an engaging speaker full of life and interesting anecdotes. He covered all the basics of the topic, including Software, Computer, Camcorder, Connections, Video Capture Cards, Extra Equipment, Shooting Techniques, Editing and Projects. He even mentioned two Digital Video magazines that you can find at Video Maker and Image Publishing and subscribe, if you wish.
- Transatlantic Migration by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG. As you would expect, this was an excellent genealogical presentation by Bob Anderson, who wrote the award-winning book, The Great Migration. His approach was that of dedicated and tenacious researcher. He spoke of post-immigration clues and exploiting the clues in Europe.
- The Critical Connection: Linking Generations between 1850 and the Colonial Period by Marsha Hoffman Rising, FASG. Marsha was my favourite speaker at the conference. We think so much alike and she is simply a wonderful person. She spoke of the difficulties researchers of this period encounter. "Genealogists must learn the general principles of migration," she cautioned. "Men seldom change their climate because to do so they must change their habits." -- United States Census Bureau, 1860.
- When the Sources Are Wrong! by Henry Z. Jones, Jr., FASG. Hank is an entertaining speaker who can talk as fast as an auctioneer on steroids. He didn't have to, thank goodness. His message was basically that erroneous sources are "part of the game." He covered secondary genealogical sources; original, primary sources contemporary with the events; and what the genealogist should keep in mind whilst searching these sources.
Monday, Nov. 13th
Monday morning was dedicated to The Master Genealogist software. I attended every session, although some sessions were better than others. Dorothy Turner and Phil DeSilva began the first session but tried to handle questions and details from the audience and got into trouble. Bob Velke, President of Wholly Genes, stepped in and eventually got us back on track.
Monday afternoon greeted us with three genealogy speakers.
- Navigating the National Archives by Tony Burrows.
Tony is probably the most comfortable on stage.
He's been involved with several televised genealogy productions.
Among the usual resources, he named a few I'd not considered—including the following:
- Diplomatic Records
- Federal Court Records
- Federal Employees
- Holocaust Era Assets
- Lighthouse Records
- Seaman's Protection
- Southern Claims Commission
- Pearls for Finding People by Marsha Hoffman Rising, FASG.
Here are eleven of the pearls she cast before us.
- The strongest familial link is between mothers and daughters.
- Good genealogy is more complex than most people believe.
- Learn from history, philosophy, geography, demography, sociology, law, etc.
- Consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
- Migration almost always involves a push and a pull.
- Follow your natural curiosity.
- Chronology is the spine of genealogy.
- Pinpoint the location of the family of interest.
- Go forward in time to go backward.
- The burden of proof is on he who affirms, not he who denies.
- Chain land titles. (Follow them back to their origins.)
Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.
Yes, that's her real, legitimate name.
It is both her maiden and married name and she did not marry a close cousin.
Megan was my second most-favourite speaker and with the time crunch was still able to cover all her materials.
She covered the seven kinds of tests available, as follows:
- Y-DNA, the most popular
- mtDNA, maternally oriented
- SNP, (single nucleotide polymorphisms), nearly worthless
- Genographic Project
- Ethnic: African & Native American
- Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation
Tuesday, Nov. 14th
- Tuesday night we had a demonstration of the TMG (The Master Genealogist) Utility.
It was presented by its author, John Cardinal, who is not only a talented programmer, but knows how to promote his product.
Gosh, I wanted to own TMG just so I could download and explore the Utility!
I won't belabor TMG's merits or host of features. But here are the five main points John made for his Utility:
- TMG Utility is a powerful modification tool for TMG databases.
- Most of the features in TMG Utility change your TMG data so use the program with care. Backup your TMG project before using TMG Utility.
- There is no requirement to use TMG Utility, but it automates a few manual tasks and saves you a lot of time.
- TMG Utility is especially useful for people converting to TMG from other genealogy programs.
- TMG Utility is also useful for many cleanup tasks that aid the way he or she inputs data.
Wednesday, Nov. 15th
- The Latest Technology for Genealogists by Dick Eastman.
The first 19 minutes covered the history of computers and genealogy, then Dick launched into the topic.
He covered the following:
- Hand helds and their increasing connectivity with online sources
- Collaborative efforts may be the future of genealogy
- Digital photography and the many uses for recording genealogy
Dick also mentioned four other organizations that are digitizing documents, as follows:
- AncestorsOnboard.com -- Emigrations records from the PRO at Kew, a fine complement to the Ellis Island and such sites.
- GenealogyBank.com -- a general newspaper collection site.
- Footnote.com -- a history site with records from the Southern Claims Commission, due online around December 15th, 2006.
- Google Historical Maps -- perfect to supplement your research and for inclusion in family histories.
Thursday, Nov. 16th
- Tribal and BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) Records by Timothy Cook.
Tim was the first to admit that he was not a public speaker.
Even so, he presented his topic with excellent information about what the BIA is, which records are available, which tribal records are available and where to find them.
Tim also left us with an historical anecdote.
Thomas Edison visited the Cheyenne reservation one time and needed to use the restroom. One of the tribe directed him to a hogan at the end of the path. Upon entering, Edison found he couldn't see a thing, it was so dark. He knew what he had to do.
Edison called his company and had them come out and wire the bathroom with electrical lights. As a result, Edison became known as the first man to wire a "head" for a reservation.
- The Master Genealogist—Reporting by Bob Velke.
The Master Genealogist is written in Visual FoxPro, so having written entire systems in "Fox" myself, I appreciated Velke and Cardinal's presentations and references.
Still, I did wonder how many in the group really understood the terms Query by Example, Filter Clause, Filter Progress Window or Report Configurations.
Did they simply nod their heads lulled by the splashy screens and graphics?
Rather than discuss programming or genealogy reports with you, I'll simply give you a link to the Sample Report Output.
Friday, Nov. 17th
- Working with Charts by Kent Riggins.
It didn't take Kent long to show us that this wasn't PAF or Family Tree Maker.
TMG's charting abilities are phenomenal.
Some of the charts include the following:
- Ancestor Charts, fan and box.
- Descendant Charts, regular, British and waterfall.
- Combined charts such as the Hour Glass.
- And, you can make your own charts by means of cutting and pasting the generated charts into a custom chart.
- Second Site by John Cardinal.
The TMG Utility he wrote is free.
This one costs $30.
And look at what it does!
Use Second Site to do the following:
- Create a public web site on the World Wide Web.
- Create a CD-ROM that you share with family and friends.
- Create a site for your personal use only.
Here are a few of the many features this software provides:
- Narrative style pages using TMG's sentence definitions
- Grid-format pages in several different formats
- Pedigree, descendant, timeline, and relationship charts
- Optional Citations and Sources
- Image and text exhibits for people, events, citations, sources, and places
- Witnesses and roles, and options to include or exclude the names of witnesses, parents, children, and co-principals
- Place indices and even place exhibits
- Template files to group into themes to allow customization
- Custom indices
- Name and place styles
- And you can even paste in your own HTML
Well, John is amazing . . . as borne out by his work.
- Before There Were Counties There Were Colonies by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG,
Bob wrote "Colonial English research," Chapter 15 in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, Third Edition (Provo, Utah, 2006).
Thus, he knows his topic. OK, he defines the topic!
"In no case did the erection of counties coincide with the founding of a colony.
For a few years, or even for a few decades, there would have been no jurisdictional level between that of the local settlement and the colony."
The colonies patterned their record keeping after the British with a few of their own innovations applicable to each area. Bob covered the development of record keeping activities in each of the thirteen colonies, to the point of establishing counties.
- Find that Obituary! Online Newspaper Research by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.
Megan does considerable research for the U.S. Army and much of that research is online.
She knows her topic and presents it well.
She flooded us with links to so many sites I was so glad I brought a digital recorder and got them all.
No, I won't put them all here, but I'll give you a healthy sample.
- SmallTownPapers.com—a free one!
- NewspaperAbstracts.com—another freebie
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online (1841-1902)
- and the crown jewel, DeathIndexes.com
- I Don't Chase Dead Germans -- They Chase Me! by Henry Z. Jones, Jr., FASG.
Hank is not only a brilliant Fellow, but he's an entertainer, too.
He also wrote the definitive tomes on Palatine Genealogy.
A while back, GENTREK presented "Beginner's Luck in Genealogy."
Well, Hank wrote the book on Serendipitous Research.
Here are a few of the tips he left us with:
- Genealogy is a celebration—not a funeral.
- Revere your Mayflower Ancestor, but Honor the Horse thief, too.
- Savor the names.
- Celebrate the synchronicities and be ready to be amazed.
- Genealogy works best when there is a balance in your life.
- Have an emotional relationship with your ancestors.
- Follow your intuition and see if the facts support your hunches.
- Hypothesis is a safe word for "intuition."
- Serendipitous events are unusual in genealogy only if they DON'T happen!
It was a wonderful week. Good food, good information, fun experiences and good company to share them with. I built a notebook full of ideas, plans and contacts to pursue. My digital recorder still has more information to transcribe, but that will have to wait until I have the time . . . or can find an amanuensis.
At the end of each session, Bob Velke gave away a door prize to one of the attendees. No, that wasn't the reason I attended ALL sessions, but it was a nice incentive. I also have the $250 gift certificate that Wholly Genes Software gave to each of us for CD-ROM titles in genealogy. (Just when you thought it was over, eh?)
Well, it is, alas. Thanks for reading all this. We really hope that several of you can attend a FUTURE cruise!