Sunday, April 14, 2019

Kristi Sexton Speaks at the San Diego Genealogical Society

Professional genealogist, Kristi Sexton, was the guest speaker at the San Diego Genealogical Society yesterday. I found Kristi to be a very engaging and informative presenter.

The first of Kristi’s two presentations was entitled Digging for Dirt in the Cemeteries.
  • Kristi named and described some of the many different types of cemeteries we may come across in our research; e.g. Church, Public, Veterans, Memorial, Private, etc.
  • Kristi pointed out the variety of information that we can find on headstones; e.g. dates, religious affiliations, military service, spouses, children, Fraternal organization affiliation, etc. which are all great leads to other records we may not have known about previously.
  • Kristi reminded us that when we are at cemeteries we need to be concerned about the preservation of headstones. She recommended we carry a ‘kit’ with us to carefully clean stones to help preserve them and make taking photos more rewarding so we can see the inscriptions. Her ‘kit’ included a variety of soft brushes, rags and cleaning solution, clippers for the grass that might be in the way and gloves for our hands. She said she also keeps a red, blue and American flag with her which she uses when she knows someone is buried in a particular spot but there is no headstone to mark the spot. Then her flags (blue-male, red-female, American-military service) help denote the spot in her pictures. I will definitely be carrying a ‘kit’ in the future and using the flags. I have taken pictures of stones marked by moss or dirt and the stones are difficult to read. If I had a ‘kit’ with me the photos would be a better quality. I have come across several ancestors whose grave sites are not marked in any way and having a small flag will help mark the spot where they are buried as I document the site with a photo.
  • Kristi demonstrated the Find A Grave website and accompanying app for your personal devices. Looking for an ancestor and recording the FindAGrave Memorial ID# helps us remember where the Memorial is. Verified information can and should be added to Memorials to help tell our ancestors’ life story. We also have the ability to connect family members and add information such as obituaries, etc.
While I have used FindAGrave often there are several features I had not previously used that Kristi talked about, so, I decided to try one of them out. Setting up your own personal ‘Virtual Cemetery’ can be done. I decided to look at my “Warner” ancestral line knowing there were several generations in the same Church Cemetery. I also like the fact that I can list everyone connected with this line, including those buried in other cemeteries and I will have the option, once set up, to sort my cemetery in a variety of ways to help my research.

(click on image to enlarge)

Kristi’s second presentation was entitled: Hunting Your Heritage in the Unknown Branches. Her theme for this presentation was Begin-Research-DOCUMENT-and Source!
  • First, determine where you are with those missing or undocumented ancestors. Who is next to work on?
  • Review the information you already have. Try developing a timeline, a map or a spreadsheet to look at the information in a new way.
  • Re-evaluate the information and documents you previously gathered. This is crucial because we don’t always ‘see’ all the information the first time we look at documents. Transcribing documents generally alerts us to information we may have missed or glossed over the first time around.
  • In addition to typical informational documents (census, probate, vital and court records) look for family items, letters, pictures, journals, audio or video information and Family Lore for additional leads that may help you locate some new information.
I will use FindAGrave more often in the future to keep track of where a particular family line is buried to help see the patterns of movement over the years. While I have added several Memorials with headstone pictures I will add more undocumented headstones as I continue to visit cemeteries. There is a small little known private cemetery my parents showed me on a recent visit that I doubt has been listed on FindAGrave. I will work on the documentation for this to help other researchers and possibly find a connection to one of my ancestral lines.

Be sure to check out Kristi’s website One Leaf and her bio at She can be contacted through her website or at .

If you have any corrections, additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. Excellent review of the classes. I had never thought about something like a flag to denote those without headstones. I have, sadly, quite a few in my own family with no headstones. Also a good reminder that I should be updating my virtual cemeteries. Thanks for the info Debby.

    1. Thank-you Diane! Yes, I thought the flag idea was great when there are no headstones also. Now I need to find the pink and blue ones.