Review: Wholly Genes Cruise, 2007

by Dae Powell & Jayne McCormick

Last year we sectioned the many topics and adventures in a more or less sequential order. This year we chose to relate our experiences per notes and remembrances and not follow a strict outline, but we've got some photos to share. Here, then, is the resulting narrative in a dae-to-dae journal.

Sundae,  28-Nov-2007

Upon arrival at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, I decided to see if I could use my laptop there.  There were 4 connections available, so I selected an unsecured one.  "You're using a connection that is unsecured.  Others can view what you type online," was the warning.  I have very few secrets, none of which I intended to divulge whilst I was online.

I managed to remove several messages from people I don't know and from whom I had no intention to purchase.  I responded to a message from me Mum and noticed that Barb Paris had logged on.  So we chatted via IM for a few minutes.  It was a cheery start to a fine vacation.

The taxi from the airport to the docks was uneventful and quick.  The line of people waiting to board the ship was not moving quickly.  In fact, I remarked to several there that perhaps we will be first in line for the following week's cruise . . . and could someone send out for lunch?

Just before boarding, a young lady positioned the passengers for an entry photograph.  Although I looked, I could find no photos of me.  Too bad, huh?  We stood in front of a silly backdrop of sailing ships in a harbor.  Some of the people stood too close to the backdrop and cast their shadows upon it, making it look as fake as the photo really was.

The paperwork was checked and rechecked "to insure our safety," but unless we were under attack from terrorist geezers we seemed fairly safe.  The cabin on this cruise was much like last year's, but slightly smaller.  Again the obstructed view, but hardly noticeable—benefits of being in the Captain's Circle, I suppose.

Dinner was sumptuous and the staff was as polite as ever.  I had beef Wellington and curried lamb with freshly cooked asparagus and rice pilaf.  Nothing fancy, mind you.  I skipped the "Welcome Cocktail Party", but Jayne attended. (Not to worry—her notes are in here, too.)

Our baggage was delivered eventually: it was nice not to have to lug it ourselves.  Also delivered to the cabin was the luggage for Debbie Powell—no relation that I know of.  And even later they delivered two more pieces for another family of an entirely different surname.  It wasn't the porter's fault, for the baggage was tagged for cabin E710, but it must have been mislabeled for a different deck.

Not far from Florida we encountered turbulence that continued through Tuesday.  The pilot took us around a tropical storm, rather than through it, and we still arrived on schedule.  Because of the turbulence, many became ill and others disoriented.  This was definitely not the Pacific Ocean.  Hitting a moving target is always more difficult, which I soon learned as the commode lurched and yawed with the ship.

We went through the usual drill of learning to don our lifejackets properly.  It could have been just like the airline's emergency routines, but no!  We received commercials for the sundry bars, bingo games and karaoke.  And it took far longer than it should have.

Mondae,  29-Nov-2007

I mentioned finding a WiFi connection in the airport.  There is one onboard the Princess cruiselines, too.  But it costs. A lot. Here are the three methods you can choose:

250 mins for $100.00  (40¢/min)
150 mins for $ 75.00   (50¢/min)
100 mins for $ 55.00   (55¢/min)
or you can pay as you go at 75¢/min.

I chose none of the above. Too pricey for me.

Bob Velke

The first presentation was by Bob Velke, President of Wholly Genes Software.  He covered The Master Genealogist for Beginners.  Actually, most of the Wholly Genes software presentations were delivered by Bob, who used a Beta TMG v7 for demonstration.  The final product is to be released before the end of 2007.

One of the new features for TMG v7 is the Associates window which allows the addition and editing of people with whom a relative is directly connected.  This could be a school chum, a business associate or his physician. Of course, I immediately saw opportunities for Genograms! See my treatment of them in Presentations.

Other new features include the following:

The best just keeps getting better.

Bob Velke

Bob Velke also delivered the Intermediate TMG presentation.  In it he discussed several interesting intermediate-level features of TMG, such as the following:

which I find delightful because if there are more than one relationship between two people, it will list them all.

I always enjoy Timeline features and additional historic and regional timelines are available free from TMG Tips.

Tony Burroughs

They opened 3 sessions in the Princess Theatre to the public.  The first one was presented by Tony Burroughs, a fine African-American speaker and genealogist, Beginning Genealogy Part 1: Family Records.  In only an hour, he covered the following topics:

An amazing feat.


John Grenham spoke about Records of Irish Emigration to North America.  Yes, he is an Irishman and a fine genealogist.  He covered several Irish emigrations including the following: 

I found his bibliography to be superb.  I look forward to reading several of the books and online references he cited.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

The most interesting presentation of the day was given by [surprise, surprise] Megan Smolenyak SmolenyakReverse Genealogy: Finding Your Lost Loved Ones

I've done this sort of research several times with great success.  Perhaps GENTREK will cover it in depth next year. 

She mentioned two basic approaches: Help others to find you (broadcast) or Go find them (seeking).  She displayed the 8 best reverse genealogy resources, with Census Indices at the very top.

John Titford

Closing the Monday talks was John Titford, a British genealogist who presented Barking up the Wrong Tree. He gave a few case studies in an entertaining format that had me begging for more.  If I may quote Mr. Titford, I think you'll readily understand what he's getting at. 

"Professional and amateur genealogists alike can all too easily become attached to a lovingly-created piece of pedigree work which may have taken months, or even years, to create.  Eventually the pedigree becomes set in stone, to the point where the researcher could hardly bear the intellectual or emotional strain of re-examining it, let alone rejecting it altogether as being inaccurate."

Tuesdae,  30-Oct-2007

Tuesdae morning found all the guests and some of the crew weaving and bobbing like a punch-drunk boxer.  The sea's turbulence persisted, but then so did we.  During the meals many a forkful missed its mark, too.

Cyndi Howells

Speaking of Mark, Cyndi Howells presented first with Enumerating the U.S. Census Online.  She covered, as many have before her, where to find the U.S. Census Indices and scanned images on the Internet.  You might think that would be one you can simply skip and go enjoy more of the food or the entertainment onboard.  She offered some tips that were not printed in the syllabus.  One was her methodology of organizing her genealogical data.  She uses folders on her computer, as follows:

You may recognize this "outline-style" format from the Presentation, Organise!, found here on

Another tip was the type of census images stored on (.JPG) and on HeritageQuestOnline (.GIF).  Often enough, one or the other service's image isn't sharp enough to make out the data clearly.  At that point, it is best to capture the census images from both services.  Also, HeritageQuestOnline allows you to download a negative image (white text on a black background), which often helps to interpret the enumerator's handwriting.

Bob Velke

Bob Velke followed with his presentation, Advanced TMG. He discussed    

  1. data sets and projects,
  3. multiple data sets within a project and even
  5. opening multiple projects.
  6. Bob also covered the following:

    By this time I knew I would upgrade my TMG software to version 7.

    Dick Eastman

    Dick Eastman gave both of his presentations in the Palm Dining Room, which would be ill-suited for most of the presentations given thus far.  But Dick is a very flexible speaker and probably delivers more speeches on genealogy/technology than anyone.  He did quite well with his topic, Photographing Old or Delicate Documents and Photographs. He mentioned a technique that was new to me and I've been at this a while. Nice.

    We then had two hours for lunch and, honestly, I needed them.  Between the seafood and the Italian couisine, I felt like a newborn in a topless bar.  I wanted to sample everything!  (And I did, of course.)  Rigatoni, lobster claws, lasagna, beef ravioli, three kinds of shrimp, stromboli (and several others I couldn't pronounce) enticed me back for more.

    Tony Burroughs

    Following lunch, Tony Burroughs returned to the Princess Theatre to present the second public lecture, Beginning Genealogy Part 2: Birth, Marriage and Death.  One of the cautions he gave to beginners was that the birth certificates and the delayed birth certificates were microfilmed separately.  So if you don't find it among one group, try the other.

    Some of the better links he shared were as follows:

    He mentioned that there are five types of Marriage Records.  I had forgotten one of them when he quizzed the audience. They are as follows:

    1. Marriage Certificate,
    3. Marriage License,
    5. Marriage Bond,
    7. Marriage Return (the one I forgot), and
    9. Marriage Application.
    Sandra Hewlett

    After Tony's presentation, we heard from Sandra Hewlett, CG. She spoke on Internet Resources for Your British Research.  The information was excellent, but I sensed that she doesn't address large audiences very often.  Jayne and I will put together a GENTREK presentation with a similar theme and share many of the websites that she references.  Many of them are unfamiliar to me, so I'd like to evaluate them before sharing them.

    Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

    Cases that Made My Brain Hurt, was presented by none other than Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.  If you find humour in the title, I guarantee you the presentation had everyone laughing.  Megan is a researcher de rigour and even with all the false leads that clients set before her, she finds her way to the truth.  She is a fact magnet and none can escape her reach.

    John Titford

    The final presentation of the day, the seventh, was Heraldic Detective Work from Scratch: Unlocking Mysteries Posed by British and American Bookplates.  This lecture was given by John Titford, a talented speaker, singer, and bookplate aficionado.  There wasn't time for him to cover all the material he'd prepared, but had the Princess Theatre not been scheduled for an event, we'd all have remained to hear the rest.  He has a wonderful "British" sense of humour and doesn't hesitate to inflict a bit o' the Irish, too.

    Wednesdae,  31-Oct-2007

    Wednesdae started off really early.  Jayne attended a Hosted Breakfast at 7 a.m. with Cyndi Howells of Cyndi's List.  There were 7 of us enjoying her company (not to mention the fresh pineapple, which was available at all meals). She is a delightful lady.  Of course we were all interested in how she got started with her site.  It was pretty much like the rest of us.  She began categorizing her favorite sites.  Other folks sent her sites to add, and it just kept growing and growing.

    You can listen in on a conversation between Dick Eastman and Cyndi Howells at

    Wednesdae was also our visit to St. Maarten.  Rich and I took a bus tour of both the Dutch and French sides of the island.  We were told there is only one traffic light on the island, but there are 11 roundabouts (traffic circles).  The island is small in size, only 37 square miles.  The Capital of the Dutch side is Philipsburg.  St. Maarten is known for its beaches and its duty free shopping.  I managed to control my desire to buy any jewelry, though I did relent and buy a couple of T-shirts. We arrived back to the ship around 1 p.m. and headed to the Horizon Terrace for the buffet lunch.  I needed to go back to my room to get something for Dae, and left him and Rich chatting.  I had no trouble finding my way back to the room, but when I headed back to them, I got lost! Thankfully, I saw Dae waving his arms to signal me. Rich had even gone to look for me and he had no trouble finding his way back to Dae even though he didn't find me.

    The ship stores were all closed when we were in port. There was time for just relaxing and wandering around the ship.

    Bob Velke gave a talk about Advanced Filters and Reporting in TMG in Club Fusion, which we called Club Confusion.  It didn't matter where you sat, you could see one of the 42 high-definition video screens.

    Check out an interview between Bob Velke and Ancestry at

    Thursdae,  01-Nov-2007

    Thursdae was our second "in port" day which started out early again for us.  Jayne had a hosted breakfast with Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Dae with Tony Burroughs, who were as delightful as always. 

    After breakfast, we visited St. Thomas which is even smaller than St. Maarten, at 33 square miles in size.  The highlight of the Island for me was the Estate St. Peter Greathouse which features works by local artists.  Its beautiful botanical gardens have more than 500 varieties of plants and trees. We also saw Fort Christian which is one of the oldest structures in the Virgin Islands, dating back to 1671.

    We were able to walk around one of the market places with all its vendors and there brightly colored wares.  I bought another T-shirt.  Upon arrival back on the ship, you guessed it, we headed to the Horizon Terrace for food. 

    Around dinner time, John Cardinal told us about TMG Utility which is a modifications tool for TMG databases.      He discussed two cases studies and several

    Click on New and Changed Features in TMG to learn more.

    And now, it was dinner time! The food was really good.  It was HOT and there was always something for everyone's tastebuds. Odd, but dinner hour never seemed to arrive until 7:30 or so.

    Fridae,  02-Nov-2007

    We were back at sea again with a full day of lectures.  We began with Bob Velke telling us about more of the features of TMG, Advanced Charting in TMG.     

    John Cardinal

    John Cardinal talked about Second Site, which is a website generator that he wrote for TMG. It will also create executable CD-ROMs.     

    Dick Eastman

    Dick Eastman told us about Conservation: Keeping up with Technology.  Where is the best place to save our research?  CDs? DVDs? Hard copy? On the computer? Thumb drive?  Dick's answer was "Yes." (all of the above)

    OK, very cute. His point was that as technology changes, our storage methods will change accordingly. How many of us still have our data on floppy disks? You do?? Well, but surely you don't use punched cards or paper tape, right? Do you have your data on CDs or DVDs? And you'll be wise to use the next advance in storage media, too.

    Robert Charles Anderson, FASG

    Held in the Princess Theater, which seats about 950 people, Robert Charles Anderson, FASG, presented the third, open to the public presentation: Beginning Genealogy—Bringing 'em Back to Life.  This is where you put your ancestor in their proper historical setting and assess their personalities.  (Add flesh to your ancestors!)

    Bob was on last year's cruise, too. He's a real researcher's researcher. Learn more about
    Robert Charles Anderson, FASG.

    Afterward, it was time for lunch. Boy, were we ready for it!

    Cyndi Howells

    Then we headed back to the Princess Theater to hear Cyndi Howell's presentation Advanced Googling for Grandma in which she explained the following:

    After a short break, Dae and I were back in "our" box seat. (There were a couple of boxes at the front of the theater on each side of the stage.  We usually sat in one of them for all the lectures in the theater.)  John Grenham gave us some Irish Census Substitutes.  What fun to hear someone with an Irish accent talk about Irish research!  We learned the biggest loss for Irish genealogy researchers was the collection of 19th century census returns.  He gave examples of

    John Grenham

    Visit John's web site at

    Hank Jones

    Hank Jones was everyone's favorite. He discussed Tracing the Origins of Early 18th Century Palatine and Other Emigrants.  His subtopics included the following:

    1. Who were the Palatines
    2. The Background of his own Palatine Research Project
    3. Don't Look Overseas too early - Investigate American Sources First
    4. They Came in Groups:  The saving grace of Hank's 40-year Palatine Project!
    5. German Church books are a prime source in establishing your Palatine Roots.
    6. Other German Sources to be utilized in your investigations.
    7. Random thoughts from lessons learned.
    8. Follow your instincts as well as your intellect!

    Dinner time! We all managed to get together for dinner, which was about the only time we were all together.  Dae sure does like shrimp! While there were shows in the evening we could attend, we were so tired we just returned to our rooms to recuperate from the day.

    Saturdae,  03-Nov-2007

    Dae was up early for his hosted breakfast with John Cardinal, who accepted several suggestions for his utilities.

    We had anticipated visiting Princess Cay, but tropical storm Noel did some damage and they didn't feel they could have it cleaned up before we arrived.  The Princess Cay is owned by the Princess Cruise Line. Instead of a barbeque on the beach, we had lunch on board the ship.  Bob Velke and his able team managed to pull together a couple more lectures to fill some of the time.  Anyone who wanted to was able to watch the movie "Black Beard's Ghost" one of many movies Hank Jones appeared in.

    Hank Jones

    The final scheduled presentation was by Hank Jones: Family Traditions: How to Separate Fact from Fiction in Genealogical Research.  Hank was a real crowd pleaser. His subtopics included the following:

    1. The History of the Palatine Emigration of 1709
    2. My 40 year Palatine Project: Tracing the 847 New York German Families who arrived in 1710 via         Documented Source Only
    3. Documentary Sources Dealing with the 1709 Palatines
    4. The discovery of Jost Hite in Germany—A textbook example of "Tradition Gone Wrong"
    5. Look at family traditions and their value
    6. Lessons learned from finally finding Jost Hite

    They held a farewell cocktail party.  We both attended part of it.  John Titford was the MC and entertainment.  He sang several songs familiar to us all.  We got to spend time with old and newly found friends.

    The final official event of the cruise were the "One on Ones" where some lucky cruise attendees got to spend 15 minutes with various speakers.  Dae had the privilege and pleasure of meeting with Hank Jones, FASG. Hank endorsed Dae's ideas for a genealogy publication and offered some publishing contacts. Dae found a wonderful dish whilst awaiting his time with Hank, however. In the Café Carib they had a sliced half avocado with a seafood mixture in the pit: crab meat, scallops, and (of course) shrimp. A scrumptious treat!

    We were asked to put our luggage outside of our state room so they could "ready" our luggage for debarkation Sundae morning.  Luggage was marked with different color tags and folks with like colors were sent to different areas of the ship.  We ended up in the Casino.  All the machines had been turned off, so it was fairly quiet.  We had all filled out papers showing what we bought.  Our trip through customs was uneventful. We were taking the train home, and we decided to stay an extra night in Ft. Lauderdale since the train was leaving early and we didn't know how long it was going to take us to get off the ship.  Dae also stayed the extra night, and it gave us a little more time to spend together.  We said our good-byes before bedtime since Dae's shuttle was leaving for the airport even earlier than ours to the train station.  After spending a week together, we decided we still like each other, and we will be continuing with GENTREK  together.

    NOTE from Rich (chapperone):

    It was the only vacation I've been on where the normal wake up time was 6:00 a.m.  BUT....  I could also take a nap anytime I wanted to!

    For those of us that were tag-a-longs there was always something to do whether you're a party person or not.

    For me, it was movies. They started at 8:00 AM and had a new one about every three hours. Most were outside using what they called their "Movies Under the Stars" screen, which an was essentially giant screen like you would see at a ballpark or concert. They were only able to show several movies in the theater because in was in use a great deal by a large genealogy convention group, so I got rained on twice.

    If you like trivia, they had a daily trivia game. Want to learn ceramics? They had that too.

    In the interior of the ship there was a large 3 floor atrium surrounded by shops where I listened to some piano and violin music, golf tips and later on, a very talented steel drum player.

    And if all possible don't walk on deck when a tropical storm/hurricane is nearby. The ship moved at 22 mph and the winds were blowing at 40 mph and the combined 60+ mph winds were not what I was expecting.

    Oh, and I never thought a pool could slosh water around until I was on this cruise. The water would flow over the end of the pool and then wash back in and flow the other direction lowering the water, in the end of the pool, by 3 feet. So yes, a 116,000 ton ship does move around in 12 foot waves.

    We were fortunate to visit St. Martin after the storm had passed and saw both islands in a very green, very pretty, state. Apparently most of the time, the vegetation is brown because there is hardly any soil to hold the water.

    I think my only regrets are not enough time spent in the ports, including Ft Lauderdale which is a very attractive city.

    Oh, yes, my two "charges" behaved themselves, at least when they were in my sight.

    One Final Treat

    Megan and Dick produced a 14 minute video with sights, sounds and interviews. If your access speed can handle it, take a look:

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