Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“Gone Fishin’” — Me, Too!

How well I remember the occasional sign in the barber shop door in the little island town where I grew up. While my childhood home was a short train ride away from the big city of New York, our suburban enclave boasted its own downtown area, complete with post office, banks, coffee shop, dusty attorney’s offices, old fashioned butcher shop—including sawdust strewn on the floor—and, of course, the barber shop.

My dad, a professional musician from the time when he reputedly dropped out of high school because he made more money at his gigs than his dad did working a decent job, now spent his time at the music shop in this town, where he taught students in his own studio.

His studio was two doors down from the barber shop, on the way to the coffee shop—where all these reputedly hard-working men often met to exchange gossip. Some lazy summer mornings at home, my dad would ask my sister and me if we’d like to “go downtown.” That, of course, meant we’d check in at his studio, then saunter down the sidewalk past the barber shop on our way to the coffee shop. For dad, that meant he’d get a chance to hang out with his buddies. It also meant a refreshing raspberry sorbet for us—or maybe a treat from the chocolate candies made on the premises.

On the walk to the coffee shop, I’d wonder if anyone was actually in the barber shop—the morning sun streaming through the front window made it hard to tell. A sign on the door, however, would sometimes answer my question: “Gone Fishing.”

We don’t see those kinds of signs much anymore. Most people slave away as if to literally demonstrate that saying, “nose to the grindstone.” Eight to five is what they say they work, but in reality, many know they’d be laughed to scorn if they vacated their desk as early as five o’clock.

Despite that, I’ve actually spent the last week doing my own version of “Gone Fishing.” I took advantage of Blogspot’s scheduling capabilities and pre-posted several articles, hung my own virtual “Gone Fishing” sign on my blogging dashboard, and took off for parts heretofore undisclosed.

So, where did I go, you say?

Everywhere, it seemed. First, we flew to Texas—remind me to never do that again in the summertime!—to visit family in the Dallas area and to attend my husband’s high school reunion in Houston.

Then—and this is the part I looked forward to the most—we changed direction and headed to Burbank to attend the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Genealogy Jamboree.

While at the Jamboree, I had several items I wanted to “go fishing” for. First, I wanted to encourage my brother to sign up for DNA testing during the conference. We are hoping this will unlock the mystery of our father’s paternal line—a brick wall I still haven’t been able to break through. With the first steps of testing behind us now, here’s hoping for the big catch when we receive the results.

Then, of course, I wanted to hear specific speakers at the conference. For the most part, these were bloggers whom I’ve enjoyed following: Judy Russell of The Legal Genealogist, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist, and Anne Gillespie Mitchell of Finding Forgotten Stories (who also writes for’s Reference Desk blog).

On top of all that, I wanted to meet some fellow bloggers—longstanding, well-respected leaders who've served as mentors to many, like Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers and Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings. I was absolutely delighted to bump into Gini Webb in the hallway. Gini has her own blog, Ginisology, but she is known by many as the columnist in GeneaBloggers who writes the “May I Introduce To You” series. I also got to know several Oakland area bloggers and members of the California Genealogical Society—like Kathryn Doyle and Kim Cotton.

Come to think of it, there were so many fellow researchers to meet and get to know that it wasn’t really possible to do it all and still attend all the wonderful sessions, take in the full contents of the exhibit hall, and manage to get some sleep, too. I guess I’ll just have to give it a try again next year.

Or perhaps brush up on my conference-attending skills at the upcoming Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference 2013 in Fort Wayne in August.

man showing two fish caught in fishing expedition possibly in California

Whoever this unidentified man was, from the photograph collection of Bill Bean of Alameda, California, he certainly was proud of the two fish that didn't get away from his grasp, one fine fishing day many years ago.


  1. Wowsers! Look at the size of those Salmon!!

    I hope you return home safe, sound, and satisfied!

    1. Yeah...that's what I thought, too, Iggy.

      And yes, we are home, safe and sound. Now to process all the material gleaned over the last week...

  2. What a fun time! It is always good to get away! It sounds like you met some very interesting people! Tell us more about the DNA testing. I need to go fishing too:)

    1. I'll be sure to give our "Virtual Guinea Pig" report on the DNA process, Far Side.

      That might happen sooner than you'd think. We already started the process for my husband's line. If you remember Frank Stevens' World War II letters home, this test means we'll discover the whereabouts of Frank's Irish roots. Lagging by only a few weeks will be the reports that will hopefully shed some light on my own father's origins.

  3. Oh, this sounds so relaxing and fulfilling! I like this post! I need to emulate you and "go fishing" in a similar way! I've been preparing this gigantic family genealogy for the archive -- including the vast material my third cousin generously gave me -- and I'm exhausted. We're meeting the archivist on July 18th. I need to just chill and realize that I probably cannot add all the peeps to the family tree before that date. Some will have to wait till later. I should back down and "fish" at a human-friendly pace. I appreciate your post.

    1. Fishing at a human-friendly pace sounds good, Mariann!

      How exciting to make these connections and combine resources--along with the skilled guidance of an archivist! Can't wait to hear what you uncover from this research project.


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