Friday, January 30, 2015

Resources Available on the Blog

For those of you who are interested - Linda has supplied us with a Genealogical Will Template, a Guide for Color Coding Files and an outline of the Family Roots Organizer System.  These documents can be accessed by clicking on the "Resorces" tab and scrolling down to the section entitled "Documents".  By clicking on the link provided you will be brought to the Google Doc which you can then print, or download and save to your computer.

I am currently sorting through a HUGE pile of other documents and resources provided by Linda and will be posting them during the next few weeks.  Please visit the resources section and check for new material.  I will put the date I uploaded the material in parentheses after the title so you will know when new things are posted.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Family Tree Software

At a recent meeting (14 Jan) someone asked a question about family tree building software.  This gave me the idea for a blog post.  So I have done some research and it appears that there is a very long list of choices.

The family tree building software you use is a very personal choice. Like all the choices we make as we take this genealogical journey, it is based on a dozen personal factors: what kind of OS do you use, what online research tool you use, what is the end-game for all your research (book, blog, narrative, etc.). It's one of those who, what, where, why, when things.  I use, and Wikitree for most of my on-line research and use Family Tree Builder for my tree-building sofware.  This was the best choice for me.  In order for those of you who are interested in this software tool to make an informed decision, I have outlined some of your choices below and supplied links to some very good online resources.

Let's start with some free stuff. Gizmo did a blogpost at the beginning of the month entitled, Best Free Genealogy or Family Tree Software.  The four they review are:

Family Tree Maker is one of the most widely used, especially by subscribers.  It is an product, syncs seamlessly with and is well-supported. It is not free, but is reasonably priced - based on your needs. The Essential package is about $30; the Deluxe runs from $45 to $55 and the Platinum costs between $80 and $110 (depending on where you purchase and what kind of deal you can get).  There is a wide range of packages and prices.

Top10 Reviews has done a very nice comparison of:
  • Legacy Family Tree;
  • Family Tree Maker;
  • Family Tree Heritage;
  • Ancestral Quest;
  • Family Historian;
  • Brother's Keeper;
  • Heredis;
  • WinFamily; and
  • DoroTree.
They have included prices, reviews and links to the sites.  Nicely laid out and easy to follow.  I have always found it helpful to read what other people have to say about something before I make a decision.  

Wikipedia has done a fabulous job of working up a Comparison of Genealogy Software which I found to be very comprehensive and informative. The link will bring you to the site where you will find four, color-coded, easy to follow, spreadsheets - General Information; General Features; Genealogical Features; and Languages.  Very well done.

Of course, you can always "Google" or "Bing" family tree building software and you will be amazed at the options.    

Hope you find this helpful - get out there and build your tree!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Different Family Tree Video

Bob Cardwell is a reporter for CBS 6 in Eastern Virginia.  He produced a video several months ago full of genealogical information as part of his reporting - you can watch it at

Why should you care about Bob Cardwell's family tree?  Well, the five-minute video is just plain fun to watch - but it points out that you don't have to spend a lot of money on genealogy web-site subscriptions to get the job done.  As I have mentioned on the resources page of this blog, the Charleston County Public Library - including the John's Island Branch - has a full-access subscription to which you can access at the library for FREE.  And this is true for many local libraries around the country.  In addition, these same libraries have their own, local collections of information and over time, these, too, are becoming digitized and more accessible.  And don't forget the world of actual books - libraries are chock full of good books on genealogy.  And they are free as well!

Have fun at the library!

-- submtted by Denise Doyon

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Five Reasons You Should Be Writing Your Family History

If you haven't had the chance to check out Lynn Palermo's blog, The Armchair Genealogist, I encourage you to visit.  A recent post entitled, Five Reasons Why You Should Be Writing Your Family History, is a great, short list of the best reasons we do what we do, or at the very least, why we are contemplating doing what we hope to do.

In any event, Lynn's short list is:
  1. There's never going to be a perfect time;
  2. There is so much to learn from the journey;
  3. You can research and write at the same time;
  4. You want to write engaging stories; and
  5. You can find growth in a short amount of time.
Check out her blog post where she expands on each of the items listed above and maybe contemplate signing up for her February Family History Writing Challenge. It's free and you may be surprised at the results.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Is Digital Really The Way To Go?

Those of you who know me know that I am a bit of a "techie".  I love technology, use it all the time, and am usually the first one in line, jumping up and down and waving my hands, asking to be the first to try something new.

I have spent a lot of time over the last two years going paperless - which means that most of my stuff is stored on my computer, in the cloud, on a thumb drive, or on a CD.

I spent months digitizing all my family photos.  Not only is this a very convenient way to store and share them, but I always thought it was pretty safe as well.  And I still think it is.  But ...

One of the reasons I have all this ephemera (books, photos, documents, etc.) is that it was physically stored in boxes for decades.  Every once in a while I wonder what happens if Google, Evernote, or Dropbox go out of business.  What happens to all my stuff then?  Then there is the reality of changing technology.  Something that is currently cutting edge and state-of-the-art is already becoming obsolete - soon to be replaced by newer, better, smaller ways to do things.  There was a time when I thought a seven-inch floppy disk was high-tech.  I now store 32GB of data on a micro SD card smaller than my pinkie finger nail.

A recent article on addresses, "Why Your Digital Photos Might Die Before Your Grandkids See Them."  It is a good article, and I recommend reading it to anyone who is relying on digital media to store their family history "stuff".  It covers the pros and cons of numerous storage mediums and why they are good or bad for the long term.  You also may want to go back into the archives of this blog and re-read my 11 Dec 2014 post entitled, "Keep It Safe".  A Guardian Storage box could prove to be a good investment.

How will I deal with this issue?  I have a plan.  The goal, at the end of my family history research journey (that point where I can finally cancel my subscription, have committed to a numbering system for my 2,300 + ancestors, organized my trees and published my narrative) is to put it all in printed form.  The story, the family trees, the social history, photos, documents - everything - in a book that will get published and distributed to my family members.

Everything worth sharing and memorializing will be there.  Then, the actual, physical photos, documents, etc. will be organized, cataloged and stored in archival storage boxes - so someone else down the line can actually handle my great-grandmother's bridal veil and the small book of psalms my grandfather carried with him throughout his WWI military service.  Just in case my digital storage friends go belly-up, nothing will get lost.

As good as all the digital storage is - there is no way of knowing if the technology you are using today will be readable in another fifty years.  So in the end, you might be better off hanging on to all that stuff.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Genealogyintime Best Genealogy Websites for 2015

GenealogyInTime Magazine published is annual list of the top 100 genealogy websites for 2015 over the weekend.

The first page explains the process used by GenealogyInTime,  At the bottom of each page are links to the other eight pages in the Top 100 report.

Here is the top of page 2 which has the list of the Top 100 genealogy websites:

Page 3 provides an analysis of the Top 10 most popular websites in terms of estimated number of daily visitors.  Shockingly, and Family Search aren't getting many daily hits.  For which boasts millions of subscribers, and Family Search, which is free, these are interesting numbers.

Page 4 has a list of the Top 10 free websites for 2015.

This is a great tool to maintain access to (bookmark it in your web browser) so you can go back to it in the future.

GenealogyInTime is a digital magazine, and you can subscribe to it for free.  If you are interested in subscribing, click here.  Click on the "7 Reasons To Subscribe To Our Free Newsletter" box at the top left of the screen, scroll to the bottom and you will find a place to fill in your name and email.  Hit the "submit" button and you are ready to go.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Best Tools for Finding Information When Google Isn't Enough

Eric Ravenscraft of "LifeHacker" had a great post on 6 Jan about on-line search engines.  He discusses Wolfram, The Wayback Machine and Topsy, just to name a few.  He also gives some good advice on how to use resources like Google more effectively and how to mine the comments sections to determine the veracity of the answers you are finding.  These tips and tools lend themselves to any kind of research but can be very helpful for your genealogy searches.

Good all-around advice.  Click here to reach Eric's post.

--  submitted by the D.I.R.T. editor

Monday, January 19, 2015

Library of Congress Research

We have all been to a library or two in our lives.  I grew up in a small New England town that had a pretty good library.  As a child, I hung out there every chance I got.  Loved books - still do.  I recently had the chance to spend some "quality" time at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and I have to say, it is pretty impressive.  Having said that, I need to add that gaining access is complicated.  But if you are going to spend the better part of a day in a library, this is definitely one of the best.

The reason I needed to use the Library of Congress is because it is one of only two places on the East Coast (the other being the New York Public Library) where I could access a reference book entitled, Uniforms and Equipment of the Imperial Germany Army, 1900-1918.  My maternal grandfather was in the German Army in WWI.  I have bits and pieces of his uniform (epaulets and buttons) and all of his service medals, but very little knowledge of what he did, what rank he held, what he did to get the medals, etc.  As my husband and I were planning a trip to New England for Christmas and were planning extended stops in Washington, DC and New York City along the way, it was the perfect opportunity to gain access to this reference material.  We decided that since the LOC had been recently renovated and there were some fantastic exhibits to enjoy, the NYPL lost out.

Main Hall of the Library of Congress
I did my homework ahead of time.  I went on line and looked up the book I wanted at the LOC, copied all the information from their catalog, and sent an email to the librarian asking how to go about getting my hands on this book.  I had lots of questions, most of which were answered in the FAQ section of the the Library of Congress website.  But just to make sure I wouldn't be wasting a lot of time on the day of my visit, I asked how the book is accessed; was it necessary to request the book ahead of time, and if so, how long in advance; how long could I have access to the book; could I take scans/photos of the material in the books, etc.  All the usual stuff.  I don't travel with a scanner (although hand-held scanners are permitted in the Jefferson Reading Room).  I use a scanning app on my phone.  So of course, I needed to know if cell phones were allowed - and they are, so long as they are in silent mode.  Having done the homework, and asked the questions, I assumed I was "good to go" when I arrived.  Not exactly ...

One of many quotes along the walls
I overlooked a VERY important part of the equation.  I needed a library card.  Before I go any further, let me clarify that I didn't find this out until I showed up at the door of the reading room, which is in the main LOC building.  I should have known!  Somehow that part of the "how to access the libary" got overlooked.  As it turns out, getting a library card is not a difficult process, but it did require that I leave the Jefferson Building and travel to the Madison Building.  It took less time to get the cards than it did to get to the department that issues them and back again.  Did I mention that it was POURING rain that day and we had already checked our coats?  Lucky for us, like most government buildings in Washington DC, the two buildings are connected by a rabbit warren of tunnels.  In order to get our cards, we needed to find the correct elevator, travel down to the sub-basement, wind our way to the next building, find another correct elevator and take it to the third floor and then wander the halls looking for the proper department.  That done, it was a simple matter of providing proper, photo, ID; filling out a form on-line; getting a photo taken; and, voila! we had our cards.  My husband also got a card because he was going to help me with my research and wander around the reading room - he, too, loves books.  For all of you who may be considering a visit to the LOC, all the preliminary paper work for the card can be done on-line up to two weeks before you plan to show up.  Once you have a card, you can reserve books on-line up to forty-eight hours ahead, and they will be waiting for you when you arrive.  Your card is valid for two years, at which time it can be renewed in person.

Denise's brand, new library card
So, cards in hand, we go back to the LOC Jefferson Reading Room, having only gotten lost once, and stand in a short line to sign-in, at which point the guard points out to me that my purse (which contains my tablet, bluetooth keyboard, notes, pencils, highlighters, wallet, lipstick, etc.) is too large and I can't bring it into the reading room.  You can't bring a receptacle into the reading room larger than 9.5" x 6.2".  My purse was 10"x 6".   They want to make sure you can't sneak out a book - although considering the level of security and RFID tags, I can't imagine anyone pulling off such a theft.  Back to coat check I go (another winding trail) to empty my purse of those things I need for my work.  When I check the purse, I get a very cute transparent plastic bag to put my stuff in.  Okay, am I ready NOW?  YES!

Back I go, we sign in, flash our new library cards, and enter one of the most impressive libraries I have ever had the privilege of visiting.  Although I have seen this room many times from the gallery above it,
View of Jefferson Reading room from the Gallery
I had never actually been in the Jefferson Reading Room.

Before entering the actual reading room there is an ante room lined with books and very knowledgeable, helpful librarians who were able to tell me exactly how I get the book I want and how the whole system works.  So we enter and find a desk to work at.
Jefferson Reading Room Desks
At this point, I fired up my tablet, signed into the LOC using a temporary password provided to me by the librarian, set a new, personal password, and proceeded to request the book I wanted.  Having made the request, I questioned the librarian on how long I would have to wait and was told forty-five minutes to an hour.  Way too long!  "Can't I just pull the book off the shelf myself?"  Of course!  Now, I have to find it.  Thankfully, the librarian was very helpful.  She led me to an alcove, lined with books and containing a door labeled "Genealogy Resources".
This door opened on to a room approximately the size of a football field, lined, for as far as I could see, with shelves of - you guessed it - books!  As it turned out, the two volumes I needed were in the second stack.  Easy Peasy!  Books in hand I headed for my desk and got to work.  We were there the better part of 3 hours and were able to find most of the information I was looking for, as well as a lot of stuff I didn't know I needed but was grateful to have stumbled upon.  One of the more valuable lessons I have learned while researching my family history is to always be aware of  "stuff" you weren't looking for that can be useful - sometimes, crucial - to your work.
My husband wandered around the various alcoves for a while, looking at books, honing in on some about stamps and coins.  The library has a number of these alcoves around the perimeter of the room.

It was like working in a cathedral.  I have to admit, we didn't want to leave.  But we did, because there was a fabulous exhibit on the Magna Carta and, of course, the exhibit containing the books which Jefferson sold to the LOC in 1815 for $23,950.  By 1814 when the British burned the nation's Capitol and the Library of Congress, Jefferson had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States.  Jefferson offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement for the collection destroyed by the British during the War of 1812.  A second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed nearly two-thirds of the 6,487 volumes Congress had purchased from Jefferson.

The Jefferson Collection

The current exhibit at the LOC represents all the books from the original collection.  Some of the books are originals, some were replacement copies purchased from or donated by private collectors or found in the LOC collection, and some are represented by place-holders while the search for replacements continue.  The original Jefferson books are indicated by a green ribbon placed between the pages like a bookmark.  It was truly awesome to be only a glass-thickness away from a book that was handled and read by Thomas Jefferson.  If you love history, have an affinity for books, and any level of admiration for Jefferson, this simple and elegant exhibit will blow you away!

We left the library after a productive day, very proud of our new library cards, and feeling very grateful for the monumental, centuries-long efforts to preserve, protect and enrich this valuable resource.  And it's there for all of us to use, for free.  If you don't live in the greater Capitol area, and can't volunteer (Oh, how I would love to volunteer there!), you can always make a donation to help support this quintessential public library. Even if you don't need to use the library for, well, research - you should consider a visit the next time you are in Washington, DC.  You will not be disappointed.

-- Submitted by Denise Doyon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Webinar World

Yesterday (Saturday 17 Jan) I "attended" a webinar on genealogy research hosted by Tom MacEntee. This was not my first webinar, but it was the first one I attended that was put together by Tom, and I have to say, it was very impressive. The handouts were extensive and comprehensive; his presentation was well organized and easy to follow; and the Q&A between him and the attendants (yes, you get to ask questions in real time and get answers) was useful and informative.

This particular webinar was about using a research log - with a fabulous template supplied by Tom - and how to evaluate the evidence you find in your research. He went through the template step-by-step and laid out his evidence evaluation tools and strategies with equal organization. The price I paid ($9.95) for a three-hour "class" (two ninety minute sessions with a half-hour break in between) was worth every single penny. I am attending another "boot camp" on 31 Jan (Scrivener) and there are more in the pipeline.

The next one is Newspaper Research Strategy Boot Camp on 31 January 2015. You can learn more about it by clicking here.

Why am I sharing this?  Well, for those of you who benefited from the recent "using our blog" presentation or viewed the video of it that was uploaded to YouTube, you have gotten a feel for how useful such a tool is. Add interaction, Q&A, handouts and a knowledgeable presenter, and you have a fabulous way to learn something new without leaving the comfort of your home.

If you would like more information on Thomas and his upcoming webinars, you can visit (and subscribe) to his blog, HackGenealogy.

If you scroll through the archives for Digging Into Roots Together (see right side-bar), you will find four other posts - On Line Genealogy Webinars, Free Webinars from Legacy Family Tree, On-Line Webinars and More Free Webinars, listing genealogy education you can access from the comfort of your home.  Of course, a Google or Bing search will produce many, many more sources.

Hope you will take advantage of this valuable resource.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Friday, January 16, 2015

It Pays To Know The Neighbors

Andrew Martin is owner and lead writer for History Repeating and Family Tree UK.  He is a genealogist, historian, writer, photographer and archaeologist wanna-be.  He also blogs.  He recently posted on the Family Tree Bog, "History Repeating" about using censuses to find out more about our ancestors.  Although his post uses an example of an 1861 UK census page, and the surprising information he gleaned from it, we might encounter the same "eureka moment" looking through the censuses of any country, county or other municipality.  There was a time when families lived quite close together.  Different surnames can indicate the families of daughters who married.  Many generations often lived on the same block - or even in the same building.

I hope you will take a look at his blog post.  I think it is relevant and hope you find this tip useful in your own research.

Happy Digging!

-- Submitted by Denise Doyon

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Video Presentation

For those of you who missed the 14 Jan meeting of D.I.R.T., we have a video of the presentation regarding the Blog - sort of.  The quality of the recording made at the meeting yesterday was horrible, so I re-recorded the presentation this morning.  Basically the same, but without the Q&A.  The resolution suffered a bit in the upload to YouTube, but I think it is clear enough to follow.

If you would like to watch the video (approximately 34 minutes in length), you can access it at:

--  submitted by Denise Doyon

What's In A Will

One of the best resources genealogists have at their disposal is a will.  This document can tell you a great deal about a person, their family, and perhaps more important, the testator's feelings about the people in his or her family.  A lot of folks today with even minimal assets make a will.  But back in the day of our ancestors, this wasn't always true.  A lot of people just didn't see much need.  If you die without a will, you are deemed to have died "intestate", and your estate is distributed according to state statute.  Probate court records are also a valuable tool in family history research.

For more information about using wills and probate records in your research, take a look at and

It can be fun and informative to read through the wills of our ancestors, should such documentation exist - but even more interesting to read through the wills of the rich and famous.

Amanda, the Social Media Coordinator at Geni recently wrote a story about an unusual last will and testament.  Entitled The Great Stork Derby about a man with a wry sense of humor, who made sure his legacy lived on long after his death.  Click here to read about Mr. Miller and his unusual sense of humor.

-- Submitted by Denise Doyon

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Those of you who visit regularly and subscribe to this blog may have begun to see a pattern in my posts as editor.  There is a lot of stuff out there in the genealogy blogosphere to tap into. Family history research can be a very solitary pursuit. When I started my own journey, it was one of the aspects of the process I enjoyed most - time alone with my computer and my notebook, my photos and documents, searching out the facts and piecing together my story. I did that, all by myself, for about a year. It actually never occurred to me to hook up with anyone else, join a group, read a blog, or even use my Google search engine to look for resources to help me find stuff that would help me find stuff.  You know what I mean?

Then I "met" a sixth cousin through with whom I share an ancestor - his third cousin, three times removed, is my great-grandfather.  My cousin also has a tree on, and had done extensive research on that part of my (our) family tree.  Being able to tap that resource saved me months and months of research.  In addition, my cousin is a stickler for double checking everything, so I had found a gold mine of riches for my family tree along with all the corroborating sources, ensuring the data was accurate.  I started to think that collaboration might not be such a bad thing.  Maybe it was time to to take the "Keep Out" sign off my studio door and venture out into the world.

Everything changed.

I discovered bloggers, webinars, seminars, podcasts, new writing software (and webinars to teach me how to use it productively), research and citation engines, and social media sites, just to name of few of my "Aha" moments.  I came out of my cave and discovered I was not alone.  Indeed, there was a whole new world out there.  And much of it has proved invaluable to me over the last few years.  I have recently been thinking about taking a trip to Germany to do some "on the ground" digging.  The organization for such a trip seemed a bit daunting, even with my German language skills still somewhat in tact.  Then one of my favorite bloggers posted about a Q&A session on researching your German roots.  The Q&A session was sponsored by a company called Family Tree Tours whose specialty, believe it or not, is German genealogy tours.  Go figure.  Who knew?

It is this experience that I bring to my posts as D.I.R.T. blog editor.  Digging into your roots is not just about your shovel and your tree. You are not the first person to "dig" in that particular spot.  Yours is not the first brick wall encountered nor are you the first to slam into it at full speed.  There is a very good chance someone, somewhere, has been there and done that and better still, can help you overcome your research challenges.  And the best part of all, you get to meet new people who share your passion, develop a network of resources, do some traveling, learn new stuff, and have some fun along the way.

You don't have to dig alone!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Avoid These Major GeneticGenealogy Misconceptions

Tyler Moss, on line editor at Family Tree University, recently published a post entitled, "Avoid These Major Genetic Genealogy Misconceptions".  Family Tree University is offering a course entitled Genetic Genealogy 101, which might be of interest to some of you.  If it is, you can find more information by clicking here.  The price is $99.

Below, I quote Tyler's list of genetic genealogy misconceptions:

1. A DNA test can fill in my family tree.
Although DNA testing is powerful, it is merely one of many tools in the genealogist's toolbox. DNA test results alone cannot fill in your family tree or break through your brick walls. For example, although a test can determine the genetic relatedness of two or more individuals, it usually cannot reveal the exact genealogical relationship between those individuals.

2. I'd like to take a DNA test, but I'm terrified of needles.
Good news! Although DNA used to be obtained by taking blood, getting a DNA sample now is as simple as spitting in a tube or swabbing the inside of your cheek!

3. I'd like to test my great-grandfather's DNA, but he died years ago.
You don't need to exhume your ancestor to get useful information from a genetic genealogy test! Genetic genealogists use their own DNA to learn about their ancestors. For example, a man's Y-DNA was given to him by his father, who received it from his father, and so on back through time. And every one of us has autosomal DNA that we inherited from our grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond.

4. Since I'm a woman, I can't learn about my deceased father's Y-DNA.
Although as a woman you did not inherit your father's Y chromosome, there is a very good chance that there is another living source of that Y-DNA. For instance, do you have a brother who would have inherited Y-DNA from your father? Or does your father have a living brother? There are usually several different sources for the DNA you're looking for; to identify those sources you'll need to understand how Y-DNA is passed from one generation to the next.

5. DNA testing will reveal medical information about me.
With the exception of companies that intentionally test for medical data, most genetic genealogy testing does not uncover or share any important health information about the test-taker. However, test-takers should understand that some limited medical information can inadvertently be revealed by a genetic genealogy test, especially as new scientific discoveries uncover previously unknown connections between health and DNA.

The Dean of Family History University says,
Employing genetic genealogy in your family history has almost become a necessity.

Not because it can solve all of your brick wall problems-it can't. Not because it acts as a quick substitute for traditional research-it doesn't. But because it is an incredible tool when used in conjunction with your regular family research. DNA testing can connect you with living cousins, steer your research away from dead ends and lead your ancestral investigations in promising new directions. It can provide strong evidence of an ancestral connection, and even suggest when-and where-the most recent common ancestor might've lived.
If this is an area of your research you are currently exploring, or thinking of exploring, please check out the resources available at Family Tree University.  In addition to information on DNA genetic testing, the university offers tons of paid classes and other useful links and information.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Centennial Light

My mother had a small lamp that resided for many years on a table in the front hall of her home.  The top had a three-way bulb, and the bottom had one of those tiny night light bulbs.  It was a lamp that she used a lot.  When she passed away in 1993 my stepdaughter was helping sort through my mother's things and asked if she could have the lamp.  I was thrilled to give it to her (she being one of the few members of this family to have any appreciation for anything old).  It has been sitting on her night table for twenty-one years.  During a recent visit, I mentioned that I was glad to see she was still using the lamp and she told me that she used the night light in the bottom almost every day, and had still not replaced the bulb. I laughed and told her that this could not possibly be the case, but her husband chimed in and confirmed that it was, indeed, true.  My stepdaughter had not given this lamp any special care, yet for whatever the reason (and I do believe there is a reason) this bulb continues to do its job.

I have been playing around with the idea of a short story or even possibly a novella around this story - which I am now reminded I should spend some time on. But the point of this post is that these anomalies really do happen.

Take the story of Livermore California's Centennial Light.  As of June 2014, this light has been in continuous use for 113 years.  Click here to read the whole story. There is undeniable proof of its longevity. If this light bulb could talk ...  anyway, you see where I am going with this.

If you are blessed with something, or someone, who refuses to give up after that many years - there is a reason - there is a story to tell.

-- Submitted by Denise Doyon

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Government Considering Using the Internet and Cell Phones for the 2020 Census

In this photo provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, tabulators in Washington record the information from the more than 120,000 enumerators who gathered data for the 1940 U.S. Census. The days of the census taker with a clipboard in hand may be numbered. Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is testing digital means of counting Americans this year, from asking people to fill out their forms on the Internet instead of through the mail to giving their employees smartphones instead of paper to complete their counts. (AP Photo/National Archives and Records Administration) The Associated Press

UT San Diego published an article on 9 Jan 2015 about the 2020 U.S. Census.  The Census Bureau is planning to test digital tools in preparation for the next U.S. Census.  People may be asked to fill-out their census data on the Internet.  Think of all the time and money this would save!  The clipboard-toting census taker may soon become just another historical memory.  Even to me, who is always looking to technology for new and better ways to do things, this seems a bit sad.  It takes the element of personal interaction out of the equation.

I'm being sentimental - but there is something intriguing about looking at a copy of a page of - say - the 1930 U.S. census and seeing the names of my mother and grandparents written out, along with all the data the census taker wrote down as he stood there and spoke with one or both of my grandparents.  It leaves space to imagine the interaction between the parties - it is evidence of an actual conversation.  As you look at the handwriting, you can see where the pen slipped, or where an entry was corrected.  You can envision the census taker walking down the street, perhaps stopping to tie his shoe.  Was it raining or sunny the day he took my grandparent's census data?  Did my grandmother offer him a glass of water? Did my grandparent's still-evolving English make it harder for them to understand or be understood? Yes, it will be more cost-effective and efficient to use technology to do the job and the technology will, probably, spit out the required results. But it just won't be the same.

You can read the entire story by clicking here.

--  submitted by Denise Doyon

Friday, January 9, 2015

75 Best Websites for U.S. States in 2014

This is quick post - Rick Crume of Family Tree Magazine posted a list in December of the best websites focused on states across the USA.  If you are looking for some good, state-based resources, please visit this post at

Automate Your Google Searches

Did you know that you can automate your Google searches?  I didn't.  So I read Dick Eastman's 8 Jan blogpost with great interest.  If you perform daily searches, always looking for new information that appears on line, Google has a solution to manually typing in those searches over and over again.

In fact, Google will perform a search for you every day or every week and even send any newly-found results to you as email messages. If you forget, Google still remembers and sends an email message with the results, if any. Even better, Google only sends each new piece of information one time. You never see repeats. Each new email message contains only new results that Google has found since the last email message was sent.

Google Alerts are great for many purposes, including:
  • monitoring a developing news story
  • keeping current on a competitor or industry
  • keeping current on a company in which you have made an investment
  • getting the latest updates on a celebrity or event
  • keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams
  • searching for ancestral information
  • and probably a few thousand other uses.
The best feature of Google Alerts? It is available FREE of charge.

If you do a lot of repetitive searching and think this might be a resource you can use, I hope you will read Dick's post.  To set up your own alerts go to

Happy Googling!

--  submitted by Denise Doyon

More Free Webinars!!

I know, I know ... you guys are getting sick of hearing about webinars.  But this is the time of the year when the annual schedules are posted.  And really, who doesn't like free education?  When Linda Mecchi started D.I.R.T. as a way to bring together our Seabrook genealogists, I suggested we create a blog to communicate with you about all the really great resources out there. I see my job as blog editor as making sure I relate as much useful information to all of you as possible. Genealogy is expanding exponentially and there are more of us each day joining the ranks of the enthused, enthralled and engaged family historians.  And I am only scratching the surface.  There are many, many more free, or nominally priced, education resources out there.  

The Southern California Genealogical Society and Family History Library (SCGS) recently announced its 2015 webinar series.  Since 2011, SCGS has offered twice-monthly webinars for genealogists and family historians around the globe.

The goal of the Webinar Series is to fulfill an important element of the Society’s Mission Statement: The Southern California Genealogical Society exists to foster interest in family history and genealogy, preserve genealogical materials, and provide instruction in accepted and effective research techniques.

Here are a few details:

Cost?:  Free

Where?:  Online.

When?:  First Saturday (1pm Eastern) and Third Wednesday (9pm Eastern) of each month

How do you sign up?:  Go to the SCGS website page with the Extension Series information, or just click here.  You'll see a list of all the upcoming webinars and links to register. Click on the links to register for the live webcasts you want to attend. Fill out the registration information and you’re all set. You’ll get a confirmation email and will also get reminders before the webinar, as well as a link to a handout for every presentation.  Easy Peasy!

On the day of the program, click the link that you received in those emails and you’ll be taken to GoToWebinar for your session. You can watch the webinars on your laptop or desktop, on your tablet or even your smartphone. If you don't have an internet connection, you can even dial in by phone and listen to the presentation. Pretty Cool!  They can't make it much easier or more convenient than that!

Here is a short list of some of the webinars being offered:

  • Preservation of Photographs and the Importance of a Good Scan
  • Six Steps to Choreograph Your Research Across the Internet
  • Get the Scoop on Your Family History With Newspapers
  • Incorporating Social History Into Your Genealogical Research
  • Around Brick Walls Sideways:  Using Collateral Lines to Further Your Genealogical Research
  • German Research On Line
  • Ten Steps to Better Genealogy

and fifteen more - twenty-two opportunities to learn something new about genealogy, improve your skills and grow your family tree.  These webinars are presented by some of the best and brightest stars in the genealogical constellation - folks who have been-there-and-done-that, and are willing to share their knowledge and experience with all of us.

So make 2015 the year you go out there and learn something new!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

116 and Still Going Strong!

My sister is always making fun of my affection for "old".  I like old books, furniture, stories, clothes.  When we were kids, and we visited the cemetery on Sundays, my sister would sit in the car and pout, and I would wander around reading the grave markers.  I guess I knew, even then, that genealogy would be in my future.  This addiction isn't limited to my own family history research, but to the study of digging into our roots in general.  So it should come as no surprise that whenever something crosses my line of vision that has the words, "old" or "oldest" in the title, I take notice.

Not very long ago there was an article in Charleston's Post and Courier (8 July 2014) about a woman who was about to turn 116 years-old.

This interested me because my grandmothers died in 1984 and 1985, and if they were alive today, they would be 115 and 116.  It started me thinking about how different my life might have been had I been blessed with the gift of having them around all this time.  That would have been thirty more years of their influence and wisdom, not to mention the fact that they would have been around when I started all this genealogy research, and the information and memories they could have shared would have been priceless.  Of course, I would only wish this on them (and my family) if my grandmothers had been blessed with the relative good health and the sharp mind of our Mrs. Weaver (see above).

Somewhere recently I heard a doctor, who was an expert in using genetics to cure disease, say that there are people alive today that could easily live until the age of 150.  Wow!  That is an amazing idea to contemplate.  When my first descendants emigrated to Canada from France in 1644, the average life expectancy was about thirty-five (if you were lucky).  We've come a long way.

Which brings me to the point of this post - the elders in our families have stories to tell, and in most cases, would love a chance to relate them.  Don't miss the opportunity to talk with them, record their stories, ask questions, and make this an integral part of your family history.  They can't all live to be 116!

-- Submitted by Denise Doyon

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Genealogy On The Go With iPads and Tablets

For a limited time (until 14 Jan 2015) Lisa Louise Cooke's webinar entitled, "Genealogy On the go With iPads and Tablets" is available for free at  The link will take you to the website.  Click on the "Webinar Library" tab, and you will find Lisa's presentation.  Even if you regularly use your iPad or Android tablet to do your genealogy research - Lisa will show you tricks, tools and apps that will have you using your device more efficiently.  If you are only using your tablet to play "Candy Crush" and check your email, you will be amazed at the untapped potential.  Check out Lisa's webinar while it is available for free!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

The Armchair Genealogist

Lynn Palermo of The Armchair Genealogist is one of my favorite genealogy bloggers, and one from whom I have learned the most since starting my family history journey.  Last year I took her Family History Writing Challenge and she is currently organizing for her 2015 challenge - which takes place from 1 Feb through 28 Feb 2015.  You can learn more about the challenge by going to her blog.  In addition to sharing her own wisdom, Lynn brings in guest challengers, like Linda Gartz, to spice up the process and bring new perspective.  

Keeping to the same theme, I just finished reading Lynn's new ebook entitled, Authentic Ancestors.  

My family history is a narrative, which is probably one of the hardest ways to present your story, even for those of us who like to write.  For any of you who are thinking of writing, or are currently struggling with, a narrative, I think you will find the book very useful and informative.   If you want more information about the book and the writing challenge, please go to The Armchair Genealogist. In addition to information about the challenge and the book, Lynn's blog is full of tips, tools, and resources.

I think you will find Lynn's site very helpful and informative.  The writing challenge was a great way for me to embark on a more organized and productive year of writing my narrative.  Hope you, too, can benefit from her wisdom and experience.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


My apologies - I mis-stated the price for the Research Right webinar I mentioned in an earlier post today.  The price for that webinar is $12.95 ($9.95 if you register early).

I didn't realize my mistake until I signed up for the webinar myself.  Hope to "see" you there.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

On-Line Webinars

There are a couple of webinars coming up in January which might be of interest to some of you.  One of them is

Saturday 31 Jan 2015 from 11:00AM - 12:30PM
Click here for more information and registration

and the other

Saturday 17 Jan 2105 from 11:00AM - 2:30PM (with a 30 minute break)
Click here for more information and registration

The price of the Scrivener webinar is $7.95 ($4.95 if you register early) and the research boot camp is $9.95 ($6.95 for early registration).  The price for both includes access to a recording of the webinar (so you can go back and view it as many times as you want) and handouts.  Both are sponsored/moderated by Thomas MacEntee and Lisa Alzo, two very well-respected genealogists.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Scrivener, it is a combination word processor and project management tool that’s affordable and simple to use. Priced under $50, this application seamlessly takes you from idea to outline to finished product. Whether you are a blogger, an aspiring author, or a genealogist looking to share your family history findings, Scrivener can help you plot, organize, and publish your writing.  I have been using it for about a year and have already registered for Lisa's webinar.

The research webinar will teach you how to research using more efficient methods as well as simple ways to track research, cite sources and analyze data before it gets added to your genealogy database software.
  • Learn how to use a research log that suits your research habits.
  • Understand the basics of source citations and become efficient at creating citations on the fly.
  • Maintain good research habits and adapt them when encountering new records sets.
  • Learn how to state a proof, evaluate evidence and reach a conclusion for each specific data points on records.
This is basically two webinars rolled into one - which is why it is 3 hours long.  

If you have never attended a webinar, you are in for a treat.  It's like going to a seminar, except you don't have to leave your house.  All that is required is a computer or tablet, internet access and your time.  It is a fabulous way to gain information, network, and learn more about a particular topic without any great expenditure of time or money.

Click here to read Thomas's entire Geneabloggers post, "Does Your Genealogy Need a Jumpstart?"  His post covers a number of other topics as well, including the link to a recording of an hour-long Q&A session (including a PDF handout) on German Geneaology hosted by Family Tree Tours featuring Kathy Wurth and Matthias Uthoff which any of you with German roots might find interesting.  It covers many aspects of German genealogy research as well as how to prepare for a research trip to Germany.  Also included is a $50.00 coupon for a Family Tree Tour.  You can access the recording for free.  Thomas's post also includes biographical information about Lisa and himself and links to more details about both of them and their credentials.

Make 2015 the year you do things differently and learn something new - attend a webinar!

--  submitted by Denise Doyon

Genealogy Podcasts

What is a podcast?  The dictionary definition is



1. a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

1. make (a digital audio file) available as a podcast.

There are, literally, hundreds of podcasts dedicated to genealogy.  Living on Seabrook affords us the opportunity to spend time at the fitness center, walk, bike, and spend a lot of time in the car driving to places like Home Depot and North Charleston.  All these activities can be made better if we take this time and listen.  Of course, you can always listen to audio books - I do that all the time.  But if you want to turn that down time into productive time, you can listen to podcasts on just about every subject imaginable.

The list of genealogy podcasts is immense.  Some of my favorites are:
  1. The Genealogy Guys - George C. Morgan and Drew Smith discuss genealogy.  This is the longest-running, regularly produced genealogy podcast in the world!  Really! Check out the website and listen to some of the podcasts in their archives and sign up to receive new ones as they are produced.
  2. Genealogy Gems  - Lisa Louise Cooke is well known in the genealogy world and has been blogging about the subject for a long time.  Her podcasts are interesting and informative.  
  3. Family Tree Magazine has its own podcast site.  Their podcasts offer some of the best genealogy news and tips.
  4. Cyndi's List has been one of my go-to resources for a long time.  Her podcasts are chock full of great information, tips and resources,
I am just scratching the surface here.  If you "Google" or "Bing" Genealogy Podcasts be prepared to be amazed by the amount and diversity available.  Each one of these website gives detailed instructions on how to listen and subscribe to their podcasts as well as how to download them to your listening device of choice (iPod, iPhone, Android device, Kindle, etc.).  I just get everything delivered right to my smartphone which I pair up with a set of wireless headphones and I can take all these great podcasts with me everywhere I go.  Most of today's cars have the capability to plug your listening device into the car stereo system via an audio plug, making it safer to listen while driving.  I listen while knitting and doing housework.  Think of all the things you could learn about genealogy while walking the dog or puttering in your garden plot.  Opportunities abound!  

Happy listening!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Getting Organized and Motivated in 2015

Lisa Azlo writes for the Legacy News blog.  Her 29 Dec 2014 post is entitled, "Grab Your Genealogy by the Horns: Five Ways to Take Control of Your Research in 2015".  In it she lists five ways to improve your family history research in the new year.  In summary:
  1. Define your goals
  2. Let go of old habits
  3. Get organized
  4. Don't go it alone; and
  5. Hit the reset button.
I particularly like #4.  Groups like D.I.R.T. are the perfect place to get help and share resources.  She offers some good advice, as well as links to other resources.  You can read her entire post here.  

I Do Genealogy is another great blog.  On 30 Dec 2014 they posted about ways to get motivated in the new year.  The list includes:
  1. Find a NEW approach to “doing genealogy”.
  2. Plan a research trip to some place you’ve never been.
  3. Settle on ONE genealogy database software and learn it well.
  4. Take a genealogy class (but if the speaker says he doesn’t bother documenting, stop listening!)
  5. VOLUNTEER!!!!! Nothing will make you feel better than helping someone discover something new about their ancestry.
  6. Join a Genealogy Facebook group.
  7. Decide HOW you are going to present your genealogy to your family.
  8. Decide if you are EVER going to write a book about your family history. A book is different from the data in a family binder (pedigree charts, family group sheets, etc.) If you decide you are not, stop beating yourself up about not doing so.
  9. Learn at least ONE new tool in 2015 that will help you with genealogy.
  10. Reset some old goals. Is the reason you didn’t meet them: too big? not really doable?
  11. Join a local genealogy society AND then give your time.
All of these are very good ideas for new and better ways to get things done and stay on track. You can read the entire post here.

Let's make 2015 the most productive family history year ever!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Monday, January 5, 2015

Save The Date

Ten Things You Should Know About Google

By Shannon Bennett, Student

One of the courses offered to potential students from The National Institute is Google For The Wise Genealogist.  I signed up for this course at a local genealogy seminar, but many of you might have registered for it at any of the big conferences where The National Instute has a booth.  It is a good course that gives the student a basic run down on using Google for genealogy and, since the website changes frequently, is updated annually.  To stray away from my normal blog post method of a series of posts taking you through all the modules, I thought we would do it a bit differently this time. Today, you are getting 10 things I think you should know about Google. All of which you will learn more about through this course.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, the 10 items!

1. Maps: Okay, I know lots of you use Google Maps to plan routes for trips or to look up addresses, but there is so much more you can do with them! Have you ever thought about mapping out a person’s migration across the US or the world? Or how about using street view to see if the old family home is still there?

2. Alerts: Google Alerts are a great way to let the Internet do the work for you. Simply create an alert for a names, phrase, or location and let Google work its magic. When it finds what you are looking for you will get an email.

3. Books: I am a bibliophile. There is never enough books. Ever. However, my house and my pocket book disagree with me. With Google Books you have access to an amazing free library which could just hold the clues to your family history.

4. Drive: Do you share things with friends, family, and other researchers? Do you send them through the mail or via email? With Google Drive you can share a folder with someone and together you can collaborate over your computers. You see what they uploaded and any changes made to shared files too. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, pictures, you name it you can upload it.

5. Blogs: So lots of people talk about how they blog. It seems to be the “in” thing, and as a blogger I personally feel it is awesome. However, I am told it is intimidating to some and downright confusing to others. Even though that may be some people’s thoughts, I have to tell you blogs are amazing research tools. Not only have distant cousins and fellow researchers contacted me through my blog because of a post I wrote, but I have reached out to others the same way. It is a great way to find lost family treasures. Google’s Blogger makes starting a blog super easy.

6. News: Yes, you can read current news on Google, but you can also search through many historical newspapers as well. Every researcher loves newspaper research, and here is another possibility for you. Right over there, on Google News, and you didn’t even have to pay for it.

7. Scholar: This feature allows you to search for academic, or scholarly, articles through Google Scholar. If you are looking for genealogical articles or even history based ones this is a great place to search. I always find history articles add great depth to a family story by giving context to what happened in a person life. While you may not be able to see every article online you can very easily take the citation and find it through your library or another source.

8. Translate: It is going to happen one day. You find a document or a website in a language that you don’t speak/read. Thankfully Google thought of this and created their translation program, Google Translate. You can easily translate words, phrases, or even whole websites. Researching in another country just got a little easier, huh?

9. Google +: This is their big social media platform and believe it or not, a lot of genealogists are over on Google+. There are whole pages dedicated to wonderful research and study groups. Many people hold hangouts where they can talk and collaborate together in real time through their webcams. I don’t know about you but actually looking at someone while I am talking to them makes a lot of difference.

10. Panoramio: Bet you never heard of this one. Panomario is a little known Google feature that is a photo sharing site. This one, however, is map based. People can upload images of places to a map of the world to share. It really is amazing to discover images from ancestral homelands, or even just around the corner. Can you see how that could bring a family’s history to life?

What to learn more about Google for the Wise Genealogist? Check out our website.

Reposted from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies blog

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Poll Results

For those of you who voted, and are curious about the results of our poll, "How Long Have You Been Digging Up Your Roots?", the results are in:  28% have been digging for a year or less; 7% for two to five years; and, 14% of us for more than ten years.  No one fell into the six to ten year slot.

Looks like we have a lot of beginners out there - which gives the rest of us lots of opportunities to use our knowledge and experience to help our "newbies" dig better.

Thanks for participating!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Friday, January 2, 2015

Tech Advice for 2015

If you are reading this post, you are interested in genealogy. I know there are some folks out there that are still researching their family history the hard way - but most of us are using technology, not just for our research, but in just about every aspect of our lives.  I personally work with two laptops, a tablet, a Kindle Fire HDX and a smartphone.  I stream video content to my flat-screen televisions via blue-ray players and Fire TV.  I recently purchased an Echo from Amazon and am amazed at its capabilities.  All this runs on a wifi.  I, like most of you, are "connected" and ever more dependent on technology.

I have reviewed countless blog posts over the last week regarding "how to do things better in 2015".  It is, after all, the time of the year for resolutions, breaking old habits (and starting new, better ones), cleaning up, cleaning out, reorganizing, making lists, and changing the batteries in our flashlights and smoke detectors.

One of the best pieces of advice I have seen relates to the security of all that technology.  The news is constantly reminding us, via reports of some new hacking incident, of just how vulnerable our stuff is.  If you do nothing else this year to safeguard your personal information, I recommend you enable two-step authentication to safeguard your accounts as much as possible.  Yep, it can be a real pain in the neck.  It requires a bit of time to set it up.  You need a way to keep track of the passwords you have to generate in order to make it work.  But trust me when I say it beats the heck out of having your credentials fall into the hands of some nefarious hacker.

Make a list of all the on-line places you have entrusted with bank account and/or credit card information, or any other cloud-based tool you use that you wish to keep private and, one at a time, go through the process of securing your data.  Find a password management tool that works for you (I use Password Box and Universal Password Manager - but there are many, many others you might like better) and use it.  And while you are at it, the New Year is a great time to change your passwords.  Starting yesterday, every time I signed into a site, I changed my password - and this year I used a password generator to come up with ones that are harder to crack.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," or so the saying goes.  But if we are going to survive in the digital age, we need better ways to fend off the bad guys.

Gizmodo recently did a piece on how to enable two-step authentication on everything.  When you look at the security settings in most of the stuff you use (Google, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Evernote, PayPal, banks, etc.) you will find a toggle for enabling two-step verification.  And if you Google "two-step verificaiton" you will get a list instructions for just about every web-based tool out there.

Come-on!  This is something you can do while watching football this weekend!  Really!

Be safe out there!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Hart Island

Hart Island is a very small island off the east coast of the Bronx and a short boat ride from Manhattan.

It is about a mile long, and for a time served as a prison camp during the Civil War.  For a very long time, it has served as New York's "Potter's Field".  Over one million people have been buried anonymously at the site, with an overage of 1,500 more being interred there each year.  For the past one hundred years, the site has been controlled by the Department of Corrections and there has never been any public access to this burial site.

A trench at the Potter's Field on Hart Island circa 1890

The Daily Sun - a U.K. paper - recently ran an article about Hart Island on it's website.  After many years of hard work by Melinda Hunt, the records of those buried on Hart Island are being made available to the public.  Below you will find a link to the Daily Sun and New York Daily News articles.

Daily Sun Article on Hart Island
New York Daily News Article

You can search the data base of those buried there by visiting the the Hart Island Project website.

From a genealogical point of view, Ms. Hunt's efforts to allow public access to the records, is a very big deal for anyone who suspects they may have family members interred on Hart Island.  The story of Hart Island and Melinda Hunt's project to make the records public is a fascinating and heartbreaking one.  Little by little, Ms. Hart, and countless other advocates, activists and volunteers, work to bring to light long hidden, and often forgotten, pieces of our past.  We are all grateful for their dedication.

--  submitted by Denise Doyon