Tuesday, December 29, 2015

D.I.R.T. Plans for 2016

We are preparing to put together a syllabus for 2016 and would like some input from all of you. If each of you could answer a few questions, it would help us plan ahead. We want D.I.R.T. to be useful to all of us in as many ways as it can.

Before our next meeting (13 January 2016), take a few minutes and let us know:
  • Why are you participating in D.I.R.T. and what do you hope to get out of your involvement with the group? Don’t be shy. If you are just starting out and need great big gobs of one-on-one help, let us know. If you are struggling with brick walls, we want to hear about it. If you are disorganized, lost and need help - that’s okay, too. We won’t judge. We’ve been there ourselves. Some people who started attending meetings have stopped coming. Was it because the group wasn’t what you thought it would be? Why? 
  • What type of educational presentations, speakers, field trips, etc. would you find helpful/interesting in the coming year? We have talked about finding someone to talk to us about DNA and family history. We are hoping to organize a day-trip to visit the Carolina Room at the downtown Charleston Library and the Family History Library in West Ashley. We are looking into the possibility of a research trip to Washington, D.C. in the fall. We can put together or find educational resources on just about every aspect of family history research. But we need to know what you need to know.
  • What information, expertise, research experience, organizational skills, etc. do you have that you can share with the group? If you have a talent to share, information you think the group would benefit from, or expertise in an aspect of family history research that would be interesting and informative, we would love to hear about it. Would any of you like to put together a presentation? Maybe you would be willing to work one-on-one to help someone who is just getting started. 
Your input will help us create a plan that includes the things that will make the group better for all of us. We want to know where we need to concentrate our efforts and how to organize the group to best suit the needs of everyone - and be flexible going forward. We can only do so much in four hours a month - let’s work together to make it the best four hours of the month!

Please send us an email at diggingtogether@yahoo.com with your input and we will share the results at our next meeting.

Many thanks! We are looking forward to a fun, informative and productive 2016.

Linda and Denise

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A little something from the Globe and Mail that will appeal to the genealogist in all of us.

In a New York apartment, gifts laid out for wish lists Santa missed a century ago

NEW YORK — The New York Times News Service
Published Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 4:41PM EST

Last week, Peter Mattaliano, 66, an acting coach and screenwriter, put up Christmas decorations in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment and laid out presents for the children: Mary and Alfred.

These are not Mattaliano’s children, and they are no longer living.

Yet he has honoured Mary and Alfred every December for the past 15 years, ever since he learned of their existence after moving into his Manhattan home and renovating the fireplace, which had been sealed with brick for more than 60 years.

“My brother does construction, and I had him open up the fireplace,” he said. “We were joking that we might find Al Capone’s money. Then my brother yelled to me and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’”

In the rubble and dust, Mattaliano’s brother found a delicate piece of paper with faint children’s scrawl bearing a request to Santa from a century earlier.

“I want a drum and a hook and ladder with an extentionisting ladder on it,” read the letter. It was dated 1905 and signed “Alfred McGann,” who included the building’s address.

There was another item in the rubble: a small envelope addressed to Santa in “Raindeerland.” Inside was a second letter, this one dated 1907 and written by Alfred’s older sister, Mary, who had drawn a reindeer stamp as postage.

“The letters were written in this room, and for 100 years, they were just sitting there, waiting,” said Mattaliano.

He learned through online genealogical research that the siblings were the children of Patrick and Esther McGann, Irish immigrants who married in 1896. Mary was born in 1897 and Alfred in 1900.

The family lived at 447 West 50th Street, where Mattaliano now lives in a fourth-floor apartment filled with books on acting and mementos from his days as a fast-pitch knuckleballer in Central Park softball leagues.

Patrick McGann died in 1904, so that by the time the children wrote the letters and left them in the chimney, they were fatherless and were being raised by Esther McGann, a dressmaker.

Mary’s letter is as poignant as Alfred’s is endearing.

“Dear Santa Claus: I am very glad that you are coming around tonight,” it reads, the paper partially charred. “My little brother would like you to bring him a wagon which I know you cannot afford. I will ask you to bring him whatever you think best. Please bring me something nice what you think best.”

She signed it Mary McGann and added, “P.S. Please do not forget the poor.”

Mattaliano, who has read the letter countless times, still shakes his head at the implied poverty, the stoicism and the selflessness of the last line, all from a girl who requests a wagon for her brother first and nothing specific for herself.

“This is a family that couldn’t afford a wagon, and she’s writing, ‘Don’t forget the poor,’ ” he said. “That just shot an arrow through me. What did she think poor was?”

Then there was his amazement that the letters had survived at all, perhaps avoiding incineration by being tucked on a ledge or in a crevice in the chimney.

“I have no idea how that paper made it,” Mattaliano said.

The letters have become “my most treasured possessions,” said Mattaliano, who had them framed and displays them year-round above the mantel of the fireplace where they had been discovered.

This month they are joined by a few vintage tree ornaments, glass bulbs from his own childhood Christmases, along with a dump truck, a miniature wagon and a doll. “I wanted them to have a Christmas present, even if it was 100 years too late,” he said.

The story is well known among his friends, neighbours, acting students and the regulars at a longstanding Friday night poker game.

“I’m the new guy in the group, and I’ve been there since the late ’80s,” said Mattaliano, whose roster of actors he has coached includes Jill Clayburgh and Matthew Morrison, who played Will in the television series “Glee.”

For Mattaliano, the letters summoned a link to his years growing up in an apartment in Jersey City. He would leave letters to Santa under the tree on Christmas Eve.

When Mattaliano was 12, his father, who was 47, died of cancer just before Christmas, leaving his mother, Margaret Costello, to raise him and his three younger brothers on her own.

“So we had a few rough years,” he said. “For the next couple years, our Christmases were a little lean.”

Mattaliano, who has lived in Hell’s Kitchen for 36 years, saw the children’s letters as a testament to the immigrant struggle in New York and to the neighbourhood when it was poor and Irish.

“I’m sharing their space,” he said, adding that he adopted the spirits of these children, frozen in pre-Christmas longing. Their spirits remain in the apartment, he believes, forever young, in something of a Hell’s Kitchen snow globe.

He has written a movie script based on the letters, titled “Present From the Past.” It is fictionalized, but includes the letters quoted word for word and the children depicted as spirits in the apartment.

Mattaliano said he had attracted the interest of investors and hoped to start working on the film by the spring, using Broadway actors and shooting outdoors in Hell’s Kitchen and indoors on a set that replicates his apartment.

But even after he had written the script, he knew almost nothing about Alfred or Mary. He wanted to know more, and he wanted to give the letters to their family.

He began looking on genealogy websites and found a 1905 New York state census that had basic information about the family. With the help of a reporter and a researcher from The New York Times, he found out more, including the poignant element of the father’s death.

By 1920, Mary, Alfred and their mother had moved up to West 76th Street. As young adults, Mary worked as a stenographer and Alfred as a printer. By 1930, Mary had married the similarly named George McGahan and moved to the Bronx, and later to Queens. Her brother also married.

But, so far, Mattaliano has not found any living blood relative. Neither sibling appeared to have children and both apparently died in Queens; Mary in 1979, at 82, three years after her husband. She is buried in Flushing. Alfred’s burial location is unclear, perhaps because his birth name was John Alfonse McGann. He seems to have died childless in 1965 in Queens. His wife, Mae, died in 1991.

Mattaliano met with Bruce Abrams, a volunteer at the Division of Old Records in the Surrogate’s Court in Lower Manhattan, and saw documented proof of the 1904 death of the children’s father.

“So their mother became the breadwinner — that’s why they couldn’t afford a wagon,” he said. “She was a widow at 35 with two kids.”

On a recent weekday, Mattaliano took the No. 7 train to Flushing, carrying a small, potted tree for Mary McGahan’s grave site. He walked into the office at Mount St. Mary’s Cemetery and was told her grave location: Division 11, Row F, Grave 108.

The modest headstone bore the name McGahan, but only her husband’s name, George, not Mary’s.

“At least she has a stone,” Mattaliano said, before digging a hole next to the stone and planting the tree.

Mattaliano said he would look into having Mary McGahan’s name added to the gravestone. He put his hand on the grave and murmured little Mary’s Christmas reminder to Santa: “Please do not forget the poor.”

“You know, I might have to come out here every Christmas,” he said as he turned to leave, and then added over his shoulder, “I’ll be back.”

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ancestral Findings Alternatives to FTM

Ancestral Findings recently posted a great piece on their alternatives to FTM and what it means to the genealogy community.  If you use Family Tree Maker I hope you will take a minute to read this post. Like it or not, many of us are going to have to find other alternatives to this software.

Thanks, Linda, for sharing this with us.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

More Than 250,000 Books On Family History Scanned Through LDS Church

All of you know that I am a BIG fan of volunteer indexing. Whenever I can I try to log onto Family Search and index one or two sets of records.  Just about every item of digital information we find online is there because someone volunteered to index it.

The Idaho State Journal recently published an article on the LDS library and their book scanning project.

I hope all of you will search the LDS database for books that can help you with your research, and take the time, every now and then, to index a set of records.  

It is a great time of the year to make a resolution to "pay it forward".

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The First Christmas Card

For a larger image, take a look at Genealogy In Time's recent newsletter.  The post appears right after the post about their recommendations for alternatives to Family Tree Maker.

Monday, December 14, 2015

But There Is Some Good News!

It's always nice when you can follow some bad news with some good.  Kudos to Larry for bringing a new family history program to our attention.  It appears that Larry has some well-placed friends in the business community who have been working on an educational resource for family historians. What's not to like about that?

Larry has promised to try to get Linda and Denise on a conference call with Larry and his developer friend to find out more about this wonderful program.  We might even manage a presentation to the group sometime in the Spring.

I spent a little time today wandering around the website and all I can say is OMG! If you are one of those who is just starting out on your family history journey and need some step-by-step guidance on getting started, computer basics, family history basics and a whole BUNCH of other useful information, this website is a great place to start.

This project works with FamilySearch - which we all know and love and is still maintained as a free resource. Linda and Denise have been recommending for a while that those of you just starting to build your tree start with FamilySearch.org - not just because it is free (although that is a wonderful advantage) but because it offers some of the best resources out there. Ancestry.com might have the biggest collection of digital resources - but FamilySearch is catching up, and we have the advantage of a Family History Library easily accessible in West Ashley. What they don't have available online they can often supply on microfiche, film, or hard copy.

So wander over to the Family History Guide's "Get Started" page and begin your educational journey. And if you do start using this resource, we would love to have you report back to the group at one of our meetings on how it is going and what you think of the program.

Three Tech Tools Every Genealogy Should Have

The Family Search blog recently posted a great piece on the three tech tools that every genealogist should have.  I use all three of these regularly and have found them invaluable.

Hope you will take a minute to read the post.  For those of you not familiar with Evernote and how to use it effectively - Linda and I are planning on covering Evernote in one of our presentations in the New Year.

Five Reasons We Can't Find The Record We Want

Elizabeth Shown Mills is one of the most respected genealogists in the world and the undisputed expert on citations.  She recently posted an article on her blog entitled, Five Reasons We Can't Find The Records We Want.  For those of you who are struggling with your research (who among us doesn't have a brick wall to two...), you will find this an interesting read.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On a Positive Note ....

BeholdGenealogy posted a great piece entitled, What Ancestry's "Retirement" of FTM Really Means. Kessler's analysis of the situation does a good job of putting this in perspective and looking at the situation from the "glass half full" point of view.

Those of you who are using FTM should take a moment to read this post.


For those of you who are interested in learning more about any (and every) aspect of genealogy from the comfort of your sofa at home - each week Dear Myrtle posts a list of upcoming webinars. It comes from the GeneaWebinars .com and is a very comprehensive list.

I hope you will take a look, subscribe to Myrtle's blog and take advantage of those learning opportunities that interest you and will help you reach your research goals. As I have mentioned in the past, I often attend these webinars and some of them have had a huge impact on the way I approach my research.

Many of them are free! There's a whole world of educational opportunities out there to explore without every leaving home. Doesn't get much better than that!


Friday, December 11, 2015

Legacy News

As a follow-up to our previous post on alternatives to Family Tree Maker, Legacy News just posted a piece entitled, How To Import Family Tree Maker Legacy Plus - Your Questions Answered.  I am not advocating that you run out and implement this change - but I learned from this article that Legacy Plus will sync with your FamilySearch.org tree.  I didn't know a program existed that did that.
The biggest question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to continue using a stand-alone software program such Legacy or if you want to go with a cloud-based program.  It is a big decision. A stand-alone program gives you the security of knowing all your stuff is safe and sound on your computer (until it gets discontinued as is the case with Family Tree Maker) or a web-based program which is less likely to become "unsupported" but might not give you the same warm, fuzzy level of security.

Don't make any rash judgments.  We will continue to follow the news and do some research on our own about alternatives.  In the meantime, it might not be a bad idea to copy any documents, photos, etc. from your FTM software to a file on your hard drive, a thumb drive, or a cloud drive.  Can't hurt! I can't speak for Apple computers, but on my Window's PC which runs Family Tree Maker, there is a file under "Documents" called "Family Tree Maker".  Every single thing, including all the media (documents, photos, etc.) that is on my FTM tree is in that file.  I just copied the whole folder to a thumb drive and was able to access everything from there.  So it shouldn't be necessary to go through every single item and figure out how and where to save it.

Again, don't panic.  There are ways to preserve your hard work and we will do our best to help.

Dear Myrtle Tackles the Family Tree Maker Announcement

If you have an hour to kill and want to hear what a group of well-known and respected genealogists think about Ancestry.com's recent decision as well as getting some insight into what it means to all of us, please click here for the archived video of Dear Myrtle's Wacky Wednesday chat. "Is There Life Beyond Family Tree Maker".

More Information on Family Tree Maker Desktop Software

As promised, we are staying on top of this issue and will keep you posted.  In response to the outcry over Ancestry's decision to discontinue support of its Family Tree Maker Software, this article was posted on their blog on 9 December.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

More Bad News From Ancestry.com

Just when y'all didn't think things could get any worse at Ancestry.com .... yesterday they announced that they are going to discontinue support of Family Tree Maker.  If any of you are using Family Tree Maker, I recommend you read the post on the Ancestry.com blog.  Although they will continue to support the software through 1 Jan 2017, they will no longer sell it to new buyers starting this month.  What this means to all of us who have been using the software for years is unclear at the moment.  If you take the time to read through some of the 7,000 plus comments posted in response to this announcement - you will see that folks are NOT happy with this new development.  The abandonment of FTM - so close on the heels of the launch of the "new and improved" Ancestry.com web format is making for a lot of very unhappy Ancestry subscribers.  They didn't listen to their subscribers when they decided to change the web format - so I don't know if they are going to listen now.

Why do this?  Well, they say that supporting a separate software package makes it difficult to keep the program up to date and functioning properly.  An all-web-based program is the way to go.  I think it is just another way to keep everyone paying for subscriptions in order to take advantage of the things FTM provided.  

Whether or not FTM will still function as a stand-along program after it no longer syncs to Ancestry.com is still a question we don't have an answer to.  Once a company stops supporting a piece of software, it will, eventually, stop working - probably not in the next year or so - but updates to operating systems and other Ancestry.com anomalies will take their toll over time. We also don't know what will replace the functions of FTM - if those functions will be replaced on the website. Why do I think this only means subscriptions will now cost more?  

There are still a lot of unanswered questions.  As we learn more, we will share that information with you.  In the meantime, if you are a FTM user and have a lot of information stored on that program, we recommend you start thinking about what you are going to do with all that information.  If and when we become aware of viable options, be assured we will let you know.  

If you want to read what some other genealogists are saying about this:

Linda and Denise

Holiday Party a Big Success!

We think everyone who attended the holiday party had a good time.  The food was great - as were the conversations.  We welcomed three new members:

  • Lynn Baker
  • Barbara Carroll, and
  • Panky Wasson
We learned a few new things from our new (and old) members and got a better handle on what the group wants to do in the new year. We will share the news and ideas with you over the next few days in subsequent blog posts.

Until then - we wish all of you a very Happy Holiday!

Linda and Denise

Friday, December 4, 2015

Poll Results

The results of our recent poll are in!  Although there is not an overwhelming number of you interested in a research trip to Washington, D.C., there are enough to warrant some investigation. Fortunately, I am headed to Washington later this month and already planned to spend some time at the Library of Congress and the National Archives. I will make some inquiries and get back to you all after the holidays.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ancestry.com - Nothing Is Simple Anymore

Patricia shared some information today about the pricing structure for Ancestry.com subscriptions. Not only is their website becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, but now it appears that their pricing "schemes" are equally difficult to understand.

A recent post in the Transylvania Dutch blog entitled, Old and New Ancestry.com Subscription Packages points out just how convoluted their pricing has become and attempts to unravel the mess so the average person can understand just what it is they are paying for. There is no doubt that Ancestry.com still has the most comprehensive, digital records available, but I am beginning to wonder if the cost is worth it.  I will leave that for you to decided.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


For any of you who have been considering using Ancestry.com's DNA testing - there is a 30% offer valid until 30 Nov at Midnight.  Normally $99, the kit is on sale for $69.  Very good deal! Click here to go to the website.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday for Genealogy

Ho! Ho! Ho! The Christmas shopping season is officially upon us. If you are a genealogist and want to buy yourself a swell gift this Christmas, Lisa Lisson just published her Genealogy Gift Guide 2015. Whether you are buying for yourself or for someone else, this is a great place to start shopping.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dead Ends and Brick Walls

FamilySearch recently posted a great piece on new ways to approach a research problem, entitled Stories That Inspire: Dead Ends and Brick Walls - Some Tips and Trick That Just Might Help.  There are some good ideas for working around those frustrating research enigmas.  Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So - You're Stuck - What Now?

Thought you all might find Amy Johnson Crow's post on what to ask when you are stuck.  All of us have gotten stuck - probably more than once.  Those brick walls can be daunting.  I recently spent five hours over two days just trying to locate on newspaper article.  But it can all be framed simply and the problem can be attacked methodically.

Read Amy's blog post for more information.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cemetery Field Trip

Charlene Barker, Jo Merrill, Denise Kotva, Robert Stroupe and Linda Mecchi
(Denise Doyon behind the camera)

Sometimes its a good idea to get out from behind your computer, put down your research files, leave the library and go out and get some fresh air with your fellow diggers. After weeks of very wet weather and flooded roads, we were blessed with an absolutely perfect day to wander around some of Charleston's cemeteries. Along the way we encountered one groundskeeper with interesting stories to tell, the gravestones of numerous Charleston personalities, politicians, soldiers and statesmen, and more than a few ghost stories. Unfortunately, we did not encounter a single ghost.  

We toured the St. John's Lutheran and Unitarian Church graveyards before lunch. These two cemeteries are separated by a gate and could not be more different. The St. John's cemetery is neatly mowed - all the bushes pruned and well kept. The Unitarian cemetery, on the other hand, appears to be running wild, except for the meticulously maintained pathways. A chat with the grounds keeper revealed that many years ago, after touring the neighboring Lutheran cemetery, a member of the Unitarian Church thought that their neighbors graveyard made her feel sad - all those tomb stones neatly arranged and appropriately maintained. And so the Unitarian churchyard is allowed to grow somewhat wild, with plants and vines creeping along the ground and winding their way around the gravestones. The Unitarians have adopted the more natural, back-to-nature approach to groundskeeping.

We then continued on the Gateway Walk to Meeting Street where we stopped at Eli's Table where we were joined by Jeannine McGrane, and chatted about genealogy, cemeteries and a bit of Seabrook gossip over a lovely lunch. After we were well fed and rested, we continued on to tour the cemeteries of the Circular Church and St. Philips. 

We encountered gravestones that gave an almost complete biography of the deceased - still legible after hundreds of years!  Most frustrating were the large number of stones that were completey illegible. Made one want to get out there and start scrubbing away at the dirt, grime and lichen in an effort to learn about the person buried beneath. We found that a great many tombstone inscriptions begin with the phrase "Sacred To The Memory Of", many widows were noted as "relicts", and more than few wives were referred to as "consorts".

Many thanks to St. John's for accommodating us with two, free parking spaces for the day and to everyone who joined us and contributed to a very interesting day downtown!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dear Myrtle

For those of you who are not familiar with Dear Myrtle, she has a genealogy blog that is well worth visiting on a regular basis.

Each week she publishes a list of upcoming education events - many of them offered FREE of charge. You can find this week's list here.

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I attended a webinar this past weekend that is basically going to change the way I do my research going forward.  It's not the first time I attended a webinar that changed my approach. You just never know when and where you will find something you can use.

There is a LOT of stuff out there on the Internet. Hope you will explore some of the things that interest you or can help you with your family history research and please visit Myrtle's blog!

Getting Organized

For those of you who aren't familiar with Barry Ewell, he writes a fabulous blog entitled Genealogy by Barry. His blog is all about getting organized and staying organized with our genealogy research. Especially for all of you just beginning your family history journey, Barry's blog is full of useful information.

He recently posted about tips for getting and keeping your genealogy organized. It is a great post and one that all of us could benefit from reading. If you are going to invest time and money in digging into your roots, it pays to do it right the first time. Having an organized system for keeping track of your research is the best place to start.

Monday, November 9, 2015


This is just a reminder that there are no D.I.R.T. meetings in November.  This Wednesday is our field trip through four of Charleston's most interesting cemeteries.  We have cancelled the 25 Nov meeting so all of us can prepare for Thanksgiving.  Our next scheduled meeting is on Wed 9 Dec.

Where To Find What

Over the weekend I attended a webinar hosted by the Southern California Genealogy Society. The webinar was given by Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi's List fame. It was a great webinar on building a digital research plan.  For those of you not familiar with SCGS, they periodically host free webinars that are chock full of useful information. If you would like more information, and a list of upcoming webinars, please click here. There aren't many left for 2015, but I am sure they will soon be posting their 2016 series. As I said before, attendance is free, but you need to register in advance. They typcially run for one hour followed by Q&A. You can submit questions and comments during the presentation. The best part (besides being free...) is that I attended from the comfort of my desk at home. Education that comes to you ... doesn't get much better than that!

One research tool Cyndi shared in her syllabus - and is freely available to anyone on her website - is a Records Coverage Table.  (You can see a larger version by clicking on the link in the previous sentence.)

For those of you who are beginning your research and are wondering where is the best place to find certain records - I think you will find this resource valuable. Cyndi also reminded all of us that she has a library full of research and other genealogy-based templates available on her website that you can access here. Although Cyndi uses Evernote for her research, all her templates can be copied into any other format you choose (OneNote, spreadsheet, Word doc, etc.).

The Internet is teeming with resources - a great many of them for FREE.  Don't be afraid to explore!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Gateway Cemetery Walk

Just a reminder to those of you who signed up for - or still want to sign up for - the Gateway Cemetery Walk on 11 November.  Click here to get the agenda for the trip.  Please let Denise know (diggingtogether@yahoo.com) if you are planning on attending - if you haven't already.

Many Thanks!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mark Your Calendars!

Washington, D.C. Field Trip

We are trying to determine if there is any interest in exploring the possibilities of a field trip to Washington, D.C. in the Fall of 2016.

The National Genealogical Society is traveling to Washington next month for an educational and research trip.  We are thinking about something similar as far as an agenda. Obviously, we will be doing it on a much smaller scale - but, at the very least, would like to include a trip to the Library of Congress and the National Archives to include a personal tour for the group and access to genealogy research materials.

If you would like to take a look at the NGS agenda you can access their website by clicking here.  In the meantime, please take a look at the poll in the right-hand column of this blog and VOTE. Whether or not we start exploring this trip is going to depend on how much interest exists.

The poll closes at the end of November and we will update you with the results as soon as they are counted!

17 Genealogy Things To Do If You Only Have A Few Minutes

I love posts like this!  This one comes from Diane Haddad at FamilyTreeMagazine.com.  She posted it back in September of 2014 and I found it stashed away in my Evernote inbox.  This is a great little list of things you can get done in a short amount of time.  Click on the Family Tree Magazine link above start getting more genealogy stuff done.

It's amazing what you can do in 5 minutes!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Family Tree Legacy Educational Website

For those of you who are looking for courses, classes, seminars and other genealogy-related education, it doesn't get much better than Legacy Family Tree. They often offer free seminars, but access to many (most) of their educational resources require membership.  I do not have an annual membership because I don't attend that many courses. What I do instead is periodically check out what is coming up and if there is something I really want to sign up for, I get a $9.95 membership for just that month. That means I am paying $9.95 for a course.  Not a bad deal.

They have just launched a new education website. You can find out more information about Legacy Family Tree resources by clicking here.

The 1939 Register

Ellie Burnaford was kind enough to share this link to the 1939 register.  For any of you digging for your roots in the U.K., this could be a very valuable resource.  It will be become public and searchable on Monday 2 November on FindMyPast.

This register is a comprehensive survey of the civil population of England and Wales.  The lives of 41 million people, captured in one day in September 1939.  It provides and interesting snapshot of a nation on the eve of war.

The survey contains the names addresses and occupations of everyone in England and Wales at the time and was used as the basis for rationing, identity cards and, in post-war Britain, the NHS.  Want to know where your family was and what they were doing when the register was taken?

To read the original announcement on FindMyPast, click here.

Hope you will check it out!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

300 Awesome FREE Things

Just before I left on vacation, I cleaned out my Evernote Inbox.  This is the place where I stash everything I come across that I want to do something with "later".  When I started purging - I had 172 notes.  I started with the oldest and worked my way up to the newest and found this little gem.  I had forgotten all about this "TheNextWeb" post.  So here it is!

Scroll through the list and see if there is anything you can use!

Happy Hunting!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Building A Genealogy Reference Library

For those of you who are looking for a nice list of reference materials for your genealogy library, Linda Stufflebean recently did a great post on her blog Empty Branches on the Family Tree.  Hope you will take a moment to check it out and see if any of these references might help you out.  Some of them can be found at our local library - or can be purchased on Amazon as a used book.  

Happy Researching!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

10 Tools For Your Genealogy Research That You Never Thought You'd Need

Lately, the genealogy blogosphere is so chock-full of good stuff, it is making my job very easy.  I am pleased to be able to give you the link to a recent article in AncestralFindings.com about tools to aid in your research that you probably never thought about.  Some of them were new to me!  Hope you find it interesting.


Just wanted to take a minute to post a "thank you" to all our new members - we are thrilled you have decided to join us!  Also, a big thanks to our long-standing members who have supported D.I.R.T. through its first year and helped it grow.

We will be a year old next month and it is wonderful to have the chance to work with a group of people who are excited about family history and digging into their roots.

We have had a few suggestions going forward:

  • A number of you have asked to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy.  We will work on putting together a presentation.
  • There has been a request for a second cemetery walk field trip (and we haven't even done the first one!).  This would be a great trip to do in the Spring of 2016.
  • Another trip to the Family History Library?  Absolutely.
  • There has been a rumor that some are thinking about a field trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Archives, the Library of Congress and other repositories of ancestral records.  No reason why we can't start talking about that as well.
We welcome your suggestions, ideas, comments and contributions.  This is YOUR group.  We look forward to working with all of you in the coming year to explore more of the world of genealogy and hopefully, help everyone move forward with their research.

Linda and Denise

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Some Brick Wall Strategies

Devon Noel Lee writes a blog entitled, The Patient Genealogist.  She is my kind of gal!  She home schools her five children, srapbooks, writes books, and is researching her family tree.  She has an awesome website and she recently posted on some brick wall strategies that I thought you might find interesting and useful. Everyone has a different approach - but learning about how others approach a problem will often help us find our own solutions.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Well-Rounded Genealogist

We are still pumping water out of our garage and cleaning up the mess left behind by the swamp in the undeveloped lot next door that emptied its contents into our driveway over the weekend.  My writing time is limited these days - but I did stumble upon a recent post by Jacqi Stevens in her blog A Family Tapestry.  That I thought you would find interesting.

When we start out on our family history journey, it's all about names, dates, places, etc.  While we are looking for B-D-M information and connections, we often find lots of other information that we tend to dismiss in our quest to find the data.  Don't let the background details pass you by.  Take time to read the items, not just for the corroboration of a date or place, but to learn about the things going on in the world, and in the lives of your ancestors.  If you really don't want to take the time to read through these items, then save them via Evernote or OneNote or some other program that allows you to organize research so that later on, when you need some of that social history, you will know where to find it.

Take a look at Jacqi's post and remember, it's not just about the data!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What is a GEDCOM File?

There was some chatter at our recent genealogy social about GEDCOM files, what they were, why they were needed, what does one do with it, etc.  For those of you who are interested in learning more about the tech side of genealogy, please see this post in "RootsBid" giving a detailed explanation. While you are there, you might want to wander around and check out the website.  It is a place where genealogists can bid on doing work for other genealogists!  You can post your project and/or bid on work you can do for someone else.

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 Must-Do Genealogy Projects for October

It's still pretty wet and soggy here on Seabrook, and we will be pumping water out of our yard for at least four or five days.  Lot's of clean-up ahead so not a lot of time for blogging.

Many thanks to Linda for sharing a recent Ancestral Findings post on some great October genealogy projects.  Hope you will click on the link above and check it out.

Stay safe out there!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hope Y'all Are Staying Safe

This was the scene from my back deck on Saturday.  Our house is on the 11th fairway of Crooked Oaks and it looks more like a lake than a golf course.  Our turtle, Bella, anxiously waits for the water to rise high enough to allow her to venture out into the world.  Fortunately, the water never got that high.  But there were places on the island that were unsafe for cars, people and pets.  Hope all of you stayed safe during our Thousand Year Rainfall Event!  My husband and I conveniently decided to come down with a horrible head cold late last week, so we spent the weekend indoors, vegging out and getting better.  I try to remember that no matter how bad a situation may be, you can always find a bright side.  For us, it was catching up on things we never seem to have the time for.  We cleaned out some closets and kitchen cabinets and crossed a few things off the "honey-do" list.  The two inches of water that accumulated in our garage will give us the opportunity to do some cleaning up and sorting through things once the water subsides.

There haven't been many genealogy posts here for the last week or so, but I look forward to catching up very soon.  Hope all of you have stayed safe over the last few days and maybe even found time to do some work on your family history research!

One of the brightest things to come out of the last week was that Linda Mecchi became a grandmother and added another twig to her family tree!

Keep dry and stay safe.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Top Genealogy Websites of 2015

Genealogy In Time magazine recently published its Top 100 Genealogy Websites for 2015.  As always, it is an extensive list, broken into categories and well-explained.

If you keep a list of "go-to" sites for your research, or if you want to build a list, this is the place to start.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ellis Island Portraits: 1906-1912

Ellis Island closed in 1954, but not before they processed 12 million immigrants. In 1907 almost one million immigrants were processed - or about 2,700 people each day.

The chief registry clerk at Ellis Island was Augustus Francis Sherman. He was an amateur photographer and had access to the immigrants where were temporarily detained on Ellis Island for various reasons. He was able to persuade some of the immigrants to pose for his camera, many of them in national dress. You can see a collection of some of these photographs online at http://mashable.com/2015/09/07/ellis-island-portraits/.

It is a fascinating look into the faces of people flocking to this country in search of a better life.  Who knows, you might spot one of your own ancestors among them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mistakes To Avoid In Your Genealogy Research

When I was little (and even after I grew up) my Mom would often give me advice with the explanation that I should learn from her mistakes.  Well, we all know how well that works!  I now find myself doing the same things with my granddaughter - and the response I get is the typical, teenager, "eye roll".  With the perfect vision of hindsight, we know that, more often than not, our parents (grandparents, teachers, minister, etc.) really did have a lot more life experience and we probably should have listened.

I am now older (much!) and wiser (much, I hope!) and have learned to take advantage of the lessons learned from others who have gone before me.  The Internet provides us with the means to seek out and read the accounts of those who learned lessons they are willing to share.  Ancestral Findings recently posted "Don't Make These 8 Mistakes In Your Genealogy Research".  Whether you are a seasoned genealogist or a beginner, this advice is worth heeding.

So take a peek at the blog post and try not to make these mistakes!

A big THANKS! to Linda for sharing this.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The 30 x 30 Genealogy Challenge

Back in August, Janine Adams posted to her blog, Organize Your Family History, about her 30 x 30 Challenge. She recently posted an update letting us know how it was going. I found this to be an interesting way to approach a problem we all have - finding enough time to work on our genealogy research (or any other project). I think that each of us can find some amount of time each day for a certain number of days in order to meet a goal - whatever that goal is.

I hope you will read Janine's posts and visit Don't Break The Chain to take a look at the calendar she used to stay on track.

We all have busy lives. It is very easy to get sidetracked by family, friends, volunteer work, hobbies, etc. There are, after all, only so many hours in the day. But if making some progress on your family history research is one of your priorities, you might want to consider Janine's approach and see what you can do in 30 minutes a day for 30 days!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Little British Humor

I have always enjoyed and appreciated the British wry sense of humor.  Their "carry on" attitude is often inspirational.  The U.K. Mirror recently published an article about how one woman dealt with a bill collector who showed up six and a half years after her father's death.  Her answer is priceless. Click here to read how Claire-Louise Quilty replied.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Little Genealogical Humor

For those of you who didn't check out the comics in Friday's Post and Courier:

Have a great weekend!

Genealogy News

Genealogy In Time magazine is back in publication after a summer hiatus.  The current issue which you can access here covers a couple of topics we discussed at length at our last meting: the shift in focus for Ancestry.com; and, whether or not Ancestry.com was for sale and who was (might be) buying it.

A lot of us are not happy with the changes at Ancestry.com and I think the brief article about that shift of focus sums it up pretty well.  Also, everything or nothing could change depending on who, if anyone, buys Ancestry.com.

Have a great weekend!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Friday, September 11, 2015

So Many Ways To Stay Organized

There are as many ways to get things done as there are people out there coming up with ways to get things done. An entire culture has been created by David Allen and his GTD (Getting Things Done) process of getting organized and being productive. Which, by the way, is worth a look-see if you are looking for some tips on, well - getting things done.  As we become more and more reliant on, and tethered to our phones, tablets and laptops we have come to rely on them to provide us with the means of doing things better, more efficiently, and hopefully, with less effort.  They also provide the means for living a fairly paperless life.  If you are like me, and are doing everything possible to live with as little paper as possible, there are some tools you should take a look at.  All of them are free (although some of them have "premium" packages you probably won't need).

I use two programs regularly to organize my research and writing projects. I have been an Evernote user for almost 10 years and use it to organizine research I collect from the internet. It has one of the best web clippers around and organizes everything efficiently making all my stuff easier to find. I can scan documents directly into Evernote and they immediately become searchable with Evernote's OCR capability. I actually use the Evernote app on my phone to scan documents at the library. It can scan a full page with one click. Much easier than a flip-pal scanner. With its ability to record voice and voice-to-text notes, it is my favorite research tool. I can even make hand-written notes using my finger or a stylus on my phone, tablet or touch-screen enabled laptop. You can find out more about Evernote by clicking here.  Colleen Greene did a wonderful post in her blog about how she uses Evernote for her genealogy research, and you can find dozens more example by Googling "Evernote for Genealogy".

I have recently incorporated OneNote into my toolbox. Like Evernote, it is a great organizational tool. But OneNote allows for more in-depth organizational tiers and, because it is a product of Microsoft and has the advantage of  being the "little sister" of Word, it's word processing, charting, drawing, and form-making capabilities are head and shoulders above Evernote. I use OneNote for creating templates and for my digital journal.  Learn more about OneNote here.  Caroline Pointer has done three fabulous uTube videos on how to use OneNote for genealogy.

The other day, while browsing through the blogs I follow regularly, Dick Eastman posted about Google Keep.  How this little Google app got past me is a mystery. This is a new tool for me but I see a lot of potential.  It is a simple program with minimal organizational capabilities, and shouldn't even be compared to Evernote or OneNote, since Google Keep is used for different purposes - such as simple "notes to myself". If you aren't currently using a syncing, note-taking app such as Evernote or OneNote, Google Keep might be a great place to start. It's free, fun and intuitive and, best of all, easy to use. Give Google Keep a try by clicking here.

If you are looking for an absolutely fabulous project management tool, I highly recommend Trello. This absurdly simple, wonderfully intuitive little tool is my go-to project management place for just about everything. It is hard to believe that something so simple can be so effective.  It's free, it's fun, and it's so easy to use, you will wonder how you ever got along without it.  Although it can be used for just about any project (I am currently using Trello to manage a kitchen remodel, organize my blog-to-book family history narrative, organizing all our D.I.R.T. presentations, and about two dozen other projects), it will work fabulously for your genealogy research.  You can set up a board for your research log, to do list, organizing a field trip to a library or archive - just about anything you can think of. It allows you to create checklists within cards, and attach documents, photos, videos, etc. You could set up a board for each family name, add a list for each individual and add cards for the stuff you have and the stuff you need! You can move the cards around in a list, or between lists, and move the lists around with simple "drag-and-drop". One of the best things about Trello is that I can use it as a place to gather together my web clippings from Evernote, a journal entry and template from OneNote, and a todo list from Google Keep and store them on one Trello card! I LOVE this program!  My only regret is that I didn't discover it sooner.  If you would like to see a couple of examples of Trello used for genealogy research, please check out the blogposts at Its All Relative and Ancestry Paths.

The best thing about all of these programs is that they store everything in the cloud and you can access all your information anytime, anywhere you can get connected to the internet.  You never have to worry about where you filed that document or where you put the SD card or thumb drive.  It's in the cloud and instantly available. All these programs sync automatically across all your gizmos making sure you have everything you need, everywhere you go.

I don't always travel around with my laptop or tablet at hand, but I never leave the house without my smartphone and in case you haven't been keeping up, those little things pack much of the same power and capacity as a computer. Every one of these programs has an app for your iPhone, Android or Windows phone and tablet. You are toting around some very expensive toys - might as well make them earn their keep!

I hope you will check these out give some, or all, of them a try.

NOTE:  I will be giving a seminar at the Lake House sometime in October or November on "Evernote vs. OneNote".  Keep an eye on the Tidelines Blog and the Friday email blast for more information.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

One Ancestor At A Time

I know how hard it is to find the time to work on our genealogy projects. No matter how excited we are about our research, we get sidetracked by other things going on in our lives. If that isn't enough, when we do find the time to research, we get frustrated and angry when we hit brick walls, or run up against some technical glitch or computer issue we can't resolve.

Barry Ewell is always posting useful tips to his blog Genealogy By Barry and on 26 August he posted about focusing your research and plowing ahead, one ancestor at a time. You can read his blog post here.

In his post, Barry says, "Start by realizing that genealogy research is a project, and a genealogy project is completed one individual, one question and one task at time."

He then outlines the steps he took when he began his first genealogy project, that worked so well, he still follows them today. You can't argue with success. And although each of us has to find the methods that work best for us - it never hurts to visit someone else's process and perhaps incorporate some of those steps into your own.

Friday, September 4, 2015

15 Habits Of Highly Frugal Genalogists

Yesterday, Copperleaf Genealogy posted a review of Thomas MacEntee's new e-book, 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists.  Thomas is always working to share his knowledge and experience with those of us who are still struggling to get our research done.  Through Saturday, his e-book is available for FREE at Amazon.com. Please take a look at Copperleaf's review and wander over to Amazon for your free copy. I got mine already!

Who doesn't like something for free?

Have a GREAT Labor Day weekend.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Thursday, September 3, 2015

5 Steps to Organize Your Genealogy

Family Tree University is a wonderful source of information and education resources for family history researchers.  One of its publishers, Allison Dolan, recently posted five steps to organizing your genealogy.  She was promoting Family Tree University's five-week course, "Organize Your Genealogy". The course is given by Lisa Alzo and runs for four weeks starting on 7 Sept. If it's something you might be interested in, you can sign up here. The graphic below outlines what the course covers.

But if you are just looking for a quick list that gives you the basics, here is an extract from Allison's post:
... start with short-term goals that support your long-term goal of organization your genealogy.  To do that, following these five easy steps:
  1. Make a list of short-term goals
  2. From the list, pick your first short-term goal 
  3. Decide what you need to do to accomplish this short-term goal
  4. Once the short-term goal is complete, move on to your next short-term goal
  5. Continue this process until all short-term goals are complete 
Using this method, you'll always know where you stand in regard to your list, and what you need to do next.
Sounds pretty simple!  But sometimes the simplest methods are the best!

-- submitted by Linda Mecchi

10 "Must Do" Genealogy Projects for September

Ancestry Findings recently published it's list of 10 Must Do Genealogy Projects for September.  A new month (day, week, year...) is always a good time to make a list and move forward.  This is a great way to revive your family history project and get some things done.  You can click on the link above to read the whole post, but here is the abbreviated list:

1. Organize Your Family Photos

With the kids back in school, this is a perfect time to get out those old family photos that have never been put into albums and/or labeled and organize them.

2. Review Your Family Tree for Sources

A good, professional family tree needs sources. You need to source every event to make sure there is proof it is correct. September is a perfect time to review your tree and add sources where you find them missing.

3. Send for New Vital Records

Chances are you’ve come across some new ancestors for whom you don’t have vital records yet, or have ancestors for whom you’ve never obtained vital records. See if any of them have birth, death, or marriage records online, and if they don’t, send away for them at the appropriate state or county vital records offices.

4. Interview Older Relatives

If your children are too young to take with you to interview older relatives without getting bored and interrupting you, this is the perfect time to do it, now that the kids are back in school.

5. Start Work on a New Line

Fall is the perfect time to begin research on a new line of your family tree, or give attention to a long neglected one. Chances are, you have plenty of choices in this regard, and it is always exciting to begin discovering new ancestors.

6. Go to the Cemeteries Where Your Ancestors are Located

Now that the weather is getting cooler, it is a perfect time to do some outdoor genealogy work. This means going to the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried and getting photos of their headstones. You can also write down transcriptions of what is inscribed on the stones. If some ancestors do not have headstones, use the local cemetery office or archives to get a map and find their location and get a photo of it to include in your family research files.

7. Clean Up Cemeteries

This is another good outdoor genealogical project that benefits everyone. If you know of any old cemeteries with no obvious entity keeping them up, September is a perfect time to go there and mow, pull up weeds, clear out litter of both natural and manmade things, and make notes of any stones that need to be repaired. Send these notes to the city hall to see if stone repair is something they do.

8. Work on Your Memoirs

Your own story is part of the genealogy of your family. You can start writing them even if you’re young. Adding to them every year ensures you keep them up to date. This is a perfect time of year to work on them.

9. Write Your Family History

September is also a good time to write a professional family history of one or more lines of your family, and either self-publish it or submit it for professional publication.

10. Organize Your Family Heirlooms

With the kids at school and out-of-the-way, this is a perfect time to organize, label, and store or display your family heirlooms, for yourself and for future generations.

-- submitted by Linda Mecchi

Rules of Genealogy Research

Family History Daily (http://familyhistorydaily.com/) is one of the blogs I follow.  Every once in a while they publish a post that just begs to be shared with my fellow dirt diggers.  Visit the blog and maybe add it to your own list of great resources and keep their list of "12 Genealogy Research Rules" handy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New Agenda Available

A new agenda for September through December 2015 has been posted on the blog.  You can access it by going to the blog (if you are not already there), clicking on the "Agenda" tab and then clicking to connect to the document. This is a basic outline of the things we will be covering in our meetings going forward.  But if there is something you would like us to cover, or you have an idea for a presentation, field trip, speaker, etc. Linda and I would welcome your input! Please get in touch with us at diggingtogether@yahoo.com.

This genealogy group is for the benefit of all of us, and although Linda and I are more than happy to keep it organized and develop presentations and projects that we think will be fun and beneficial - we want to know what you want. So please feel free to send us your ideas.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

September Tips and Tools

Don't forget to check out this month's "Tips & Tools" gadget on the right side-bar of the blog!  Just click on the box "Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors at Ancestry.com" and you will be rewarded with a link to one of Ancestry.com's tip sheets.

Are You Related To Somebody Famous?

Welcome to September!  It's a brand new month and a great time to take a fresh look at your family history project and come up with a plan to make some progress going forward.  Linda and I have some great educational programs coming up - as well as a few projects that will help you get organized. We also have a "Genealogy Social" planned for later in the month which we hope will bring in some new members, help us re-connect with our current members, have some fun and, hopefully, get us excited again about finding our roots.

So let's start out with something fun.  Randy Seaver recently posted about how he found out he was Hillary Rodham Clinton's 18th cousin.  I found our this past spring that Hillary and I are 9th cousins (sharing an 8th great-grandfather).  Let's face it, if we go back far enough and shake our tree hard enough, someone famous is bound to fall out.

If you have uploaded your GEDCOM to WikiTree (the world-wide family tree initiative) then you can wander around and see if you can find a connection to a famous, or maybe notorious, ancestor. If you have not as yet added  your tree to WikiTree, you can find out about it at www.wikitree.com and can learn how to upload your GEDCOM here.  This is not a difficult process, but once your tree has been uploaded, be prepared to spend some time sorting through the matches the upload will generate.

If you have already integrated your family tree into WikiTree, sign in, and look around for some famous people (using the search box).  Click on your find and then click on "Relationship To Me" (under the person's name, next to "My Wikitree").  If there is a connection, you will be rewarded with a detailed relationship chart.  I tested this out and discovered that Celine Dion and I are 8th cousins, sharing a 7th great-grandfather.

These connections are, of course, only as good as the information in the related trees, but it is a lot of fun, and might inspire you to explore the ancestors you share with your famous-person-of-choice. Who knows, you may discover some new and interesting details about your family.

All of us are busy people, engaged people.  It is easy to put our family history research on the back burner with the promise that, "I'll get to it later".  Make September a time to come up with a plan and start digging into your roots!

Happy Hunting!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon