Interview with Mark Hildebrand about the Annapolis Past Port Wiki

Blog Post - Annapolis Past Port

Recently we had a chance to speak with Mark Hildebrand, the Executive Director of Make Your Mark Media, Inc., in Annapolis, MD, to discuss a remarkable collaborative project that captures the memories and history of community members. In this interview you can learn about a creative and engaging approach to capturing history and how you can participate in this project.

What is the Annapolis Past Port Wiki?

Basically, Annapolis Past Port is a history wiki for stories and history in and around Annapolis, Maryland. It is free and open to the public, and it uses the same software and structure as Wikipedia. It was created in 2017 as part of a summer internship program by Make Your Mark Media – an Annapolis-based nonprofit. The interns were Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students enrolled in Anne Arundel County Public Schools. We wanted to capture stories about people, places, things and events as they are remembered by the community that experienced or heard about them. The focus of Annapolis Past Port is not the hard facts and statistics that are on Wikipedia already, but the memories, stories and even tall tales that should be preserved for future generations.

What motivated you to begin the Annapolis Past Port Wiki?

Several years ago, one of my board members asked me if there was a way to develop a public database of historic sites and people in the Annapolis area. She had attended a conference in New England where they showcased one developed by a local historic society. Because it was a series of web pages, it seemed a bit restrictive and reliant upon a web developer to create the content. I found that a wiki could be a great format that would make it easy for the public to upload content and share it. And unlike Facebook or Blogs, that content would not get buried under subsequent entries.

What challenges have you faced with the wiki and what surprises have you had?

One of the biggest challenges has been to get others to add content to the wiki. I have created most of the current pages, and although I have reached out to local historians and even done a few public workshops, few have taken the next step to upload their research or stories. So I was very pleasantly surprised when one of our interns from this past supper created wiki pages for a Nike missile site I had never heard of, just outside of Annapolis. And then one on Lee Airport in Edgewater. As with all of the wiki pages, they need more information and contributions from other sources, but they are a great beginning.

Where can people find out more about Past Port?

You can find the Annapolis Past Port history wiki at pastport.org. You can browse and search the wiki. The Main Page has a list of some of the recently added pages. There are images as well as audio and video. 

How can people participate in the Annapolis Past Port?

Anyone is welcome to create an account and add or edit content. We have provided links to guidelines on creating and formatting content. Through links to Make Your Mark Media (www.mym-media.org) you can contact me at mark@mym-media.org for direct assistance.

NOW AVAILABLE: Our New Research WWI Guide

Our newest book is NOW AVAILABLE!

Researching U.S. WWI Military Members, Military Organizations and Overseas Noncombatants:

A Research Guide for Historians and Genealogists

Have you been wanting to do research about the military and supporting organizations in World War I? With these 30 chapters, this book shows how you can learn about the service of a U.S. World War I military member, WWI military organizations and about noncombatants who went overseas.

Based on feedback for the popular “Researching Your U.S. WWI Army Ancestors” and questions asked during popular lectures, this book reaches beyond researching ancestors in the Army to include information about researching service members in the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine, along with the civilian noncombatants who went overseas to support the troops. The strategies presented can also be used in larger projects to research a military organization.

Among the topics covered are how to research the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard. Also included are some starting places for civilian organizations who supported the troops overseas. Information about the Merchant Marine is also included, and prisoners of war. Other chapters cover specific record sets. There is a chapter about researching fallen service members who died overseas. A variety of sources are presented to dig deeper for information gathering through types of sources and where to find them. There are ideas about using social media and what to do with what you learned.

This book will lead you to use a timeline so that you can capture what you will learn during your WWI research. Learn to use a variety of resources including online records, social networking, archives and how to expand your search to other places where material from WWI can be found. It contains ideas to turn your research into works that can be shared with others.

Based on feedback for the popular “Researching Your U.S. WWI Army Ancestors” and questions asked during popular lectures, this book reaches beyond researching ancestors in the Army to include information about researching service members in the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine, along with the civilian noncombatants who went overseas to support the troops. The strategies presented can also be used in larger projects to research a military organization.

“Researching U.S. WWI Military Members, Military Organizations and Overseas Noncombatants” can be found on Amazon.

Book Review: “History for Genealogists”

Book Review "History for Genealogists"
"History for Genealogists" book cover

When I envision a commercial for this book, it would have to be a full infomercial rather than a short spot between segments of a favorite program. Timelines are well known tools for genealogy, and are my go-to tool for unraveling mysteries. This book contains historical timelines and so much more. Ms. Jacobson gives context to the timelines, which in turn add context to the genealogical research of individuals and families.

Using history in our genealogy is that extra step to bring our research to a higher level by understanding our ancestors’ lives in the context of the world around them. It is common to hear others suggest going out on the web to find events to add to our timelines. How do you choose what to add? What timeline do you look at? Our ancestors made changes for a reason, and this book provides us with matter and timelines about the reasons motivating those changes.

Among the many things discussed in the book was the role of Europeans coming to the US to farm. Since my ancestors lived in cities, I had not previously investigated this topic in depth. Railroads received large grants of land from the federal government, and so set up a system for Europeans to purchase land and then travel to occupy it. More than transporting people, they had actually streamlined the process of coming to the United States.

The chapter about oral histories impressed me. It was a succinct but rich outline of how to conduct them. The author’s motivating words say it best: “Oral history can put the soul and flesh on the skeleton of a pedigree chart.” This quote applies to the intent of the whole book.

This book is a good starting place with historical timelines relevant to genealogical research. This book contains a timeline for the history of each state and the District of Columbia, from its first beginnings to the 1940s for most locations. The book expands to discuss other geographical regions around the world.

The chapters “Why Did They Leave,” “How Did They Go” and “Coming To America” were thought provoking. Brief case studies show the role of timelines in interpreting an ancestor’s life when viewing it in the context of a bigger history, or if too many events have been attributed to one individual. At all times we are reminded of the interconnection between different counties, and the fluid borders between countries, states and counties.

The 2016 Addendum by Denise Larsen is a separate part of the book, positioned after the original book’s timeline, bibliography and index. The Addendum covers the context and events of the early 20th century in the US up to post-WWII, followed by a timeline about fashion and entertainment.

I read this book cover-to-cover, and can recommend that approach to open a reader’s horizons. However, this book is structured so that it can be used by the chapter applicable to your current research question.

My recommendation is to have maps nearby when reading or using this book. Online maps would be a perfect accompaniment to use when comprehending the interactions between locations and their populations.

“History for Genealogists” provides key historical context and usable information for your research. It also lives up to its subtitle of “Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors.” As well as being a resource to support your research, it is a solid foundation to jump off from to dig deeper into the more detailed history of a place and time that you are researching. I can see this book being used to complement locality research, by introducing time and events to your research.

The book is available at Genealogical.com and other booksellers.

Note: A review copy was provided by the publisher

This blog post is copyright ©2022 by Margaret M. McMahon, Teaching & Training Co., LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. All copyrights and trademarks mentioned herein are the possession of their respective owners and the author makes no claims of ownership by mention of the products that contain these marks.

New Offering: Member Survey plus Class

Blog Header - “Creating an Individualized Genealogical Educational Plan.”

We offer a new service!

Have you wanted to learn more about your society members current interests? We can help.

When booking the presentation “Creating an Individualized Genealogical Educational Plan,” We can work with your society to help you learn more about your members’ current interests.

Here’s what is included with the speaker’s fee:

  • Work with your designated society member to create a customized survey
  • Provide a link for society members to use
  • Provide a brief report, with suggestions about how to use the results

Here is a review from the Baltimore County Genealogical Society:

As always, our society meeting attendance is higher with any of Dr. McMahon’s presentations.  It is a reflection of how valuable the information she has to offer is in expanding ancestral research. Her latest guide, Creating an Individualized Genealogical Education Plan provides an introspective approach to research that is deeper than the traditional “to do” list.  With many societies and genealogy groups stepping up their outreach with more online content and lectures via zoom, the Educational Plan presentation is practical and essential for targeting your research goals. 

Contact us to book your society’s survey and talk!

You can search the 1950 US Census!

Blog Banner - You Can Search the 1950 US Census

Searching the 1950 US Census will be an awkward and cumbersome search until every field is indexed. But you can give it a try.

Be sure you to navigate to the search page:  https://1950census.archives.gov/search

The 1950 US Census NARA Search Page



The search has limited features that include: name, state, county and enumeration district. You do not have to enter search terms any field. For example, you can leave the county or the enumeration district blank.

1950 US Census Search Inputs


If you cannot see the population schedule sheet for the search result on the right, click on “Population Schedule” to see the actual census sheet.

Of course I had better luck in small towns with families having unique names. Just as in any census, try to search for unusual family names. I have even had some success searching boroughs of New York City.

How about a quick hands-on exercise to find a name on the census? I have a simple example using my favorite poet, Ogden Nash.


Name: Frederick Ogden Nash
State: Maryland

1950 US Census Search fields for Ogn Nash


The first result on the right-hand side, listed Odgen Nash (rather than Frederick Ogden Nash) and showed him with his wife Frances, and his children Linell and Isabel. Note: this result came up without entering a county or enumeration district.

Ogden Nash search result in 1950 US Census

On the bottom of each search result is the “Machine Learning (AI) Extracted Names” section that can help by showing you the names that appear on the same census sheet. The AI-generated indexing was surprising to me because it does try to offer alternate spellings of names.

Odgen Nash and family in 1950 US Census

To download the sheet, click on the three dots that appear under “Help Us To Transcribe Names” to see the option to download the sheet.

Option to download

Only the first entry is expanded. If your family member is in one of the other entries, click on “Population Schedule” to see the actual page of the census.

Multiple results (unexpanded)

And the population schedule for that result will expand. (Only one population schedule sheet will appear in the results on the right at one time.)

Expanded Population Schedule

I have posted a short video on our YouTube channel with the example search in action at: https://youtu.be/rLgq2nqNmbA

Let me know how you do.

This blog post is copyright ©2022 by Margaret M. McMahon, Teaching & Training Co., LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. All copyrights and trademarks mentioned herein are the possession of their respective owners and the author makes no claims of ownership by mention of the products that contain these marks.

Speaking at RootsTech Connect 2021!

RootsTech Connect Speaker badge

This year RootsTech is all virtual and free to register! Have you registered?

I hope you will have a chance to check out my lecture: “Write Their Story: From Timeline to Young Readers’ Book” (Lecture Session 471160). 

For RootsTech Connect 2021, each lecture session will be 20 minutes long. My lecture will be split across two 20-minute sessions.  I hope you will join me!

Session ID: 471160
Session Title: Write Their Story: From Timeline to Young Readers’ Book
Session Type: Lecture Session

When more details are shared, I will post them on Facebook, too.

See you at RootsTech Connect!