Dear President Obama,
I've got a fantastic idea for you, but I've had some trouble trying to get you on the phone.
Remember reading about one of your predecessors, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in history class? In 1935, he created the Works Progress Administration as a part of his New Deal program to help Americans through the Great Depression. The WPA put many unemployed workers back on the job completing projects for the public good, from preserving elements of our culture to building roads and dams.
Of course, Mr. Roosevelt's grand idea had its critics. Some said WPA stood for "We Piddle Around," but the program left a legacy of organized and transcribed records that we genealogists treasure today. For example, the Federal Writers Project prepared state and regional guidebooks, organized archives, indexed newspapers and conducted sociological and historical interviews.
One sure way to drop today's 10 percent-or-so unemployment rate - and give you a boost in the popularity polls - is to put our modern jobless folks to work for the government, just like Mr. Roosevelt did.
The National Archives, every state archives, and every city and county courthouse has records that hold clues, keys and answers to millions of genealogical questions. America's unemployed could be scanning, digitizing and uploading those records to the Internet at a hare's pace.
Mr. President, if your popularity is slipping because of the health care debate, bank bailouts and clunkers, America's genealogists could assure your place in history by hailing you as the president who cared for the past as much as for the future, for our ancestors' legacies as much as his own.
Just think, sir, you can put folks to work, put America's documents into the hands of every genealogist and assure your legacy all in one fell swoop. It's a win-win-win situation.
If you'll give me a call at your convenience, a few thousand of my friends and I would be happy to work out the details of this program for you.
How does the title "genealogy czar" sound to you?
The Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay will meet at 2 p.m. Nov. 8 at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, 14041 Icot Blvd., Clearwater, for a hands-on research session using the Internet and resources of the society library. Experienced mentors will be available to provide assistance.
A social with refreshments and library access begins at 1:30 p.m.
The meeting is open to anyone interested in learning genealogical research. For information, call Sally Israel at (727) 343-1652.
The workshop will begin with a brief overview of the materials available. A listing of the society's library holdings of 150 genealogy books, maps and CDs can be seen at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fljgstb/library.htm.
Full access to Ancestry.com will be available on a few computers. Attendees are encouraged to bring a laptop. The workshop is intended for those who have already begun their research, but novices can get an abbreviated jump-start session on how to get going. Attendees should bring their own research materials and information.
Learn the basics
The South Bay Genealogical Society will sponsor my eight-week basic genealogy class, Heritage Hunting, at the SouthShore Regional Library. It runs 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays from Jan. 9 through Feb. 27.
There is no fee to attend. Seats will be filled on a first-come basis, and attendance is limited to 25 people. Those interested should e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A full course description is online at web.mac.com/stmoody0720/MGS/Heritage_Hunting_Class.html. Attendance is necessary for all eight classes.