Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How To Avoid Photo Chaos

Posted by Denise May Levenick on April 28, 2015 in Site

From the new book How to Archive Family Photos by Denise May Levenick, The Family Curator

How many photos are stuck on your smartphone? The tremendous growth of digital photography is a mixed blessing for family memories. Instead of one roll of film that might last through an entire vacation, with today’s digital photos there’s no extra cost in snapping multiple images in the effort to capture the “perfect shot.” The trade-off for all these extra photos is, well, extra photos. Hundreds and thousands of extra photos.

If you’re drowning in digital images, here’s help with 5 Fast Tips to Control Digital Photo Chaos from my new bookHow to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally. I get a lot of questions about organizing and archiving digital photos at my blog The Family Curator and when I speak on preserving and digitizing keepsakes. You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed by the task of organizing and preserving your digital photos.

We’re taking more pictures than ever before, especially with smartphone cameras that have largely replaced point-and-shoot models. And unfortunately, organizing and backing up photos isn’t nearly as fun as taking pictures. The result?

• Digital photos on smartphones, tablets, computers, flash drives, SD cards, and external hard drives, but you can’t find the picture you want,

• Duplicate photos scattered across your devices,

• The dreaded “Out of Memory” warning on your smartphone,

• Complicated and inconsistent file names make organizing files a dreaded chore,

• Sharing photos through email and photo projects is time-consuming and laborious.

Digital photography can be enjoyable and manageable. Get a head start on organizing your own photo collection and moving from photo chaos to control with these 5 Fast Tips to Control Photo Chaos:

1. Collect Your Photos in ONE Location

Scattered digital files create confusion and result in unnecessary duplication. Decide where you will store your photos and set up a simple, yet organized folder structure to hold your photos. One of the easiest systems to manage is to use an External Hard Drive as your Photo Library. Images can be transferred to a new system when you upgrade your technology, and backed up to a Cloud service or second external hard drive for safekeeping.

2. Celebrate Your Digital Birthday

Pick a meaningful date in the near future – a birthday, anniversary, or first of the month – and vow to make that date your Digital Birthday. On that date, copy ALL the photos on your various digital devices to your computer and make a backup to an external hard drive or a cloud service like or Shutterfly’s From this date forward, make regular or automated backups of your photos and rest easier knowing that you have digital copies in case of smartphone or hard drive failure.

3. Digitize Oversize Photos

It’s hard to fit a large antique print on the standard-size glass bed of a scanner. That’s when I set up my digital camera, set the resolution to maximum megapixels, turn off the flash, and snap multiple photos from different angles. When paired with a tripod and automatic shutter release, a digital camera can become a do-it-yourself copy station that speeds up digitizing scrapbooks, photo albums, and oversize photographs.

4. Plan Photo Books with a Project Board

Whether your goal is a family history book or a photo book of your summer vacation, you’ll save time by planning ahead with a project board that reminds you of photos needed and design ideas. If you’re missing pictures of people, places, or events, think about using alternatives such as maps, census images, or advertising images. A project board can also help you compare prices and features from different photo book websites, and serve as a record sheet for ordering more books.

5. Try Something New

The popularity of digital photography has sparked new products and new ways to enjoy your family and genealogy photos. You’ll find easy, free online photo editors, mobile apps to help you create 5-minutes on your smartphone (no kidding!), and automated tagging and sorting services that make photos fun again. Turn your photos into giftwrap or wall paper with online fabric printing service Spoonflower. Create a quick and easy thank you photo book in five minutes on your iOS or Android smartphone with the Mosaic mobile app.

Find more practical ideas for digital photo management, solutions and strategies for scanning and digitizing your heirloom photos, and inspiration for sharing and enjoying your photos inHow to Archive Family Photos. Use Denise’s special affiliate coupon code ARCHIVE20 to save 20% on your book order from Also available from

Denise May Levenick writes about preserving family photos, documents, and memorabilia at the award-winning blog, The Family Curator. She is author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes and How to Archive Family Photos (Family Tree Books), and a frequent contributor to the Ancestry Blog, FamilyTree Magazine, and other genealogy publications.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Movie Mondays - Chose An Ancestor and Question

We hope you are enjoying our Movie Mondays!  We are fortunate, indeed, to have the Family History Learning Center's 5 Minute Genealogy series to draw from.  In fact, it was the inspiration for Movie Mondays.

This week's episode, "Chose An Ancestor and Question" will help you focus your search and give you guidance on the best way to climb your family tree.  As usual, they have managed to fill five minutes chock full of useful information, tips and tools.

Click below for the
Video: Chose An Ancestor and Questions
Cut and Paste Link:
PDF Handout

Saturday, May 23, 2015

7 Basic Rules For Identifying Sources

If you have never visited The Blog @ Evidence Explained you should.  Elizabeth Shown Mills is the quintessential expert on genealogical citations and her book, Evidence Explained, is a must-have reference in any family researcher's library.  On 23 April she posted her 7 basic rules for identifying sources, and I thought this would be a great post to share will all of your.  If you would like to read this post on her blog, click here, otherwise, read on:

If you ever felt like source citation involves too many rules, this list is for you. Yes, in every style guide for every field, each "rule" is there for a purpose; but if you're able to remember them all, you're likely to be an editor or a fuss-pot. For everyone else—normal people who have learned to look up "particulars" in one of those style guides but would prefer to mentally tote around just a short list—here's EE's 7 Basic Rules.

1. If a ‘fact’ is not public knowledge, provide a specific citation to reliable evidence. If we state that the Civil War occurred between 1861 and 1865, that is public knowledge—i.e., well-known and undisputed information that can be easily verified in countless sources. If we state that Hermione Humperdinckle posed as a male and enlisted in 1862, that assertion must be supported by a citation to reliable evidence.

2. Use words carefully. A database of deeds may be a source, but an entry in that database is neither a "record" nor a "document." It's nothing but a database entry—no more authoritative than an index entry would be. A baptismal act entered into a register is a baptismal record, but it is not a baptismal "certificate." A marriage license is not the "marriage record"; it is only a record of an intent to marry. A source may provide pertinent evidence, but citing a source does not constitute proof. Mischaracterizations make it difficult to relocate information and to carefully appraise whatever evidence we do have for an assertion.

3. Remember that citations exist in two stages: working notes and final form. In our working notes, we should include all detail and descriptions necessary to identify the source, retrieve the source, and evaluate the reliability of the data from that source. When we prepare our work for publication, the final form we use may be edited (wisely) to conserve space or conform to the publisher’s style.

4. Never use ibid. in working notes. It is a space-saving convention employed when our notes are edited for their final presentation. Short for ibidem, ibid. means "In the place just cited above." If we use it during ongoing research, and we insert new data and new source citations, those ibid. references will become disconnected from their proper sources and reconnected to unrelated ones.

5. Always distinguish between published and unpublished materials. This is easy to do.
The use of italics for the title of a source means that the source is a published, stand alone work—a book, a website, a CD or DVD, etc.
The use of quotation marks for the title of a source means that it is (a) unpublished or (b) it is the title of a small part of some bigger published work whose title you also have to cite.

Sources that are published vis à vis unpublished are typically sought in different ways and found in different places. The extensive use of published sources, to the neglect of original records, also suggests overreliance on secondhand material and weaker evidence.

6. Give credit where due. It is not only good ethics but also helps us evaluate our evidence. If we access a census via an online provider of record images, we would shortchange ourselves to simply cite the census without including the identity of the provider. Considerable differences may exist in readability of any page, depending upon the provider we used and the enhancements that provider applied.

7. Identify sources fully—avoiding personal and regional shorthand, informal names, abbreviations, creative codes, and jargon that may confuse or mislead users of our work. Yes, researchers are expected to learn the conventions of each area in which they work, including quirky sources. While pursuing that education, however, they are making assumptions and publicizing conclusions they reach. Citations that are littered with cryptic codes and jargon that newer researchers do not understand will lead to erroneous conclusions endlessly perpetuated across the Internet. Clarity is far more important than saving space or appearing to be ‘in the know’ about local habits.


PHOTO CREDITS: Adapted from "Welcome Thumb Tacks Text," PresenterMedia ( : accessed 20 April 2015), item 10933; used under license.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Useful Smart Phone Apps For Genealogy Research

This is a repost of Lisa Lisson's blog post on 27 Apr 2015.  If you want to read the original post, click here.  For the rest of you, I will copy and paste her post below:

Genealogists have embraced technology in their research. The use of smartphones and tablets by researchers is the norm these days. I find I use my smartphone frequently in my “on the go” research. When I research in the North Carolina state archives, I move around…a lot! You might find me in the main research room, the microfilm room or the genealogy library one floor down. Moving my laptop and setting up a workspace multiple times is just not an efficient use of time when researching.

With the number of genealogy related apps available, my smartphone becomes a very practical and indispensable research tool. Interestingly, my most used apps when researching are not considered “genealogy” related, but are more office type apps.

1. Your Favorite Online Family Tree App – Genealogists use a variety of online family tree sites to record their family trees. Many of these sites also have apps that will allow the user to keep family trees synced on a smartphone. Having my family tree synced and close by for reference is a must when I am researching.

2. Dropbox – This is my choice for cloud storage. I keep genealogy reports (both client and personal) for quick reference when needed. I also keep copies of genealogy records here. Tip: I write personal research reports to myself just as if I were a client. I store them on Dropbox for easy access when needed.

3. Evernote – Evernote is a great place to store all kinds of information for use in your genealogy research. A peek inside my Evernote will reveal research plans, research notes, and references to online links.

4. Your Phone’s Camera – I photograph many original documents using my phone’s camera. I have observed other researchers photographing records on the microfilm viewing screen. (I personally have not been very successful with that.)

5. Google Maps with Navigation feature – Google maps get me where I am going. Tip: Print out your navigational directions as a backup. Research trips often take genealogists into rural areas where cell phone coverage can be spotty. Having printed directions can make the difference between finding your destination or not.

6. Conference Apps – Many conferences have apps available to assist the attendee in getting the most out of their conference attendance. Are you attending the NGS national conference 13-16 May 2015? If so, check out the conference app.

7 Voice Recorder – A voice recorder app is very useful when conducting oral history interviews. (I just use the one that came on my phone.) Having this type of app on your smartphone is perfect for those impromptu interviews that come up at family gatherings.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Genealogy Webinars and Tutorials

Those of you who have been attending our meetings know that Linda and I have launched a new format for D.I.R.T. and are allocating some time at each meeting for presentations on getting started with your family history research.  Sometimes those presentations include webinars that have been put together by genealogy websites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry,com.  But there are TONS of webinars out there - and you don't have to wait for the next D.I.R.T. meeting to watch and learn.

Barry Ewell (of Genealogy By Barry) just posted a list on his blog of a whole bunch of great webinars.  Check them out and see if any of them interest you.  If so, take the plunge and see what you can learn.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

7 Vital Records Alternatives

Recently, Bill Mowat shared with us a post by Lindsay Fulton on her Vita Brevis blog from 27 April. If you would like to read the original blogpost, click here. For the rest of you, I am going to post her list of "7 Vital Records Alternatives" below. Thanks for sharing, Bill. If any of you stumble across information you think others might find useful, please pass it along and I will be happy to incorporate into the blog.

Both sides of a prayer card for Delia B. Carey - 13 Jan 1965

A great way to begin tracing your family history is to interview living relatives, asking for relevant birth, marriage, and death information. These interviews sometimes yield specific information (or at least an estimate), and you can then contact the appropriate authority to provide a copy of the original vital record.

But what do we do if grandma’s information fails to lead us to a vital record? Surprisingly, this is more common than you’d think, as people often misremember facts or were told the wrong information from the get-go. In this case, grandma may lead us on a wild goose chase trying to track down the correct location and/or date of a vital record. This may be especially annoying if the record is more recent, as statewide indexes for modern vital records are less common. To locate these modern vital records (civil records), we must first look for an alternative record to point us in the right direction. Here are some examples:

  1. U.S. Federal Census or state census. While census records often include birth and marriage information in terms of ages (e.g., how old were you at your first marriage?), they can provide enough information to determine when and where an event occurred. For example, if a person disappears from the census, or the spouse is listed as a widow, he or she may have died between enumerations.
  2. Social Security Death Index. The SSDI is the closest researchers come to a national U.S. death index (even though each state complies with the index differently). The index provides an exact birth date, as well as the month and year of death. Using this record group, you may also want to order your recent ancestor’s Social Security Application (SS-5), which will include parents’ names and employer information. (See “Tips for using the Social Security Death Index.”)
  3. Funeral prayer cards. My grandmother has a collection of these prayer cards, which gave me information about the death of several people, including my great-grandmother, Delia Bridget Carey. To locate funeral prayer cards, check with other family members, as well as local libraries, archives, and historical societies. (NEHGS has some funeral prayer cards in the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.)
  4. Newspapers. Birth notices, marriage announcements, and obituaries are often printed in the newspaper. Several sites have large collections of digitized newspapers, such as GenealogyBank,,, Google News Archive and the Library of Congress’sChronicling America Collection. To locate local newspapers, check with the local library.
  5. School records. Yearbooks, class books, and alumni directories often include personal information about students, such as their birth dates and spouses’ names. NEHGS maintains a large collection of class books for Harvard and Yale, as well as other colleges and universities; has a database of U.S. school yearbooks from 1800 to 2012.
  6. Membership cards/applications. From the Masons to the DAR, membership cards/applications often provide specific information about their supporters. If your ancestor belonged to a society, you should research whether the organization maintained membership records.
  7. Bank or insurance records. Follow the money! If your ancestor invested, or held a bank account, his or her birth, marriage, or death information may be included in the records of that institution. For example, the records of theMassachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters (MCOF) contain a wealth of information, including the names of the insured’s children and parents.

These are just a few of the modern alternatives; many more exist.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Movie Mondays - Learn From Family

This week's "Movie Monday" is another from the Family History Learning Center's 5 Minute Genealogy series.  This episode is entitled, "Learn From Family".

Our family is our greatest resource for information about our past.  If you haven't already started mining that resource, there's no time like the present.

Click here to go directly to the video.  If you need a link to copy and paste into an alternative browser:

The PDF handout is available from the FHLC site, or you can click here.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Citation Saturday - Baby Mohamed

The blog ran an interesting piece last month about some bad indexing.  So, what, you ask, does that have to do with citations?  Because when we come across what appears to be some questionable information, the only way to double-check it is to go back to the original source.  By now you have probably figured out that this is a LOT easier if you have a citation.  So, here is the story about Baby Mohamed as told by's blogger and paraphrased by me.

A researcher was trying to find some information in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Thomas Clendennen.  The following turned up in the list of search results:

Wow!  Could the Clendennens really be that very rare, Muslim family that settled in the Bible Belt region of Texas in the early 1900s.  Hmmmm.   Doesn't sound right. The best way to check this search result is to go back to the original 1910 U.S. Federal Census and see what it says. Of course, you could wander around trying to find this exact Clendennen in the 1910 census, but if you had the actual cite, perhaps including the page of the census, how much easier could that be?  So you find the source.  What do you think it says?

Yep.  You're right.  It says "Baby not named".  One can see how someone might make the mistake. So, once again, I urge you to NEVER take what you see at face value.  Check the source!  Having accurate citations - your own or those supplied by other researchers - make it easier for you to double-check a source and make sure you are including the correct information in your own family tree.

-- Submitted by Denise Doyon

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Organize Your Genealogy Email

Yesterday we talked about cleaning up your computer and keeping it clean and organized.  A big part of that process is our email.  We get tons of it and it ends up taking over our life - if we let it.  Linda and I have recently discovered a blog called Genealogy By Barry which is full of very useful information.  A recent post entitled Genealogy: How to Organize And Manage Your Genealogy Email is worth reading.  It's a very well organized list of - well - how to get and keep you email organized!  

Remember, in the end, you have to find a system for getting things done that works for you.  Hope Barry has some tips you can use.

--  submitted by Denise Doyon

The Golden Rules of Genealogy

Did I ever mention that the Internet is OVERFLOWING of stuff about genealogy.  Just when I think I may have stumbled across most of it, I find something new.  Here are twelve little rules that will serve you well as you embark on your journey.


Cleaning Up and Organizing Your Computer

As we work our way through the process of getting started with our family history research, we are learning that, no matter how much we might prefer paper files to computer files, there is no way to completely avoid it anymore. Stuff is going to end up on your computer whether you want it to or not. So staying organized is more important than ever.

Now is as good a time as any to clean up and organize your computer. It is a good idea to do this regularly, and the start of a new, big project is a great place to begin. I know this may sound like a daunting task, particularly if you haven't done it in a while (or ever?). But it doesn't have to be.  Iolo, which develops computer maintenance software, among other things, recently published a quick six-point list of how to clean up your computer quickly and efficiently.

In addition, you can click here to access yesterday's slide presentation.

Step 1: Tidy up the desktop

As a general rule, the state of your Windows desktop is a pretty good indicator of the overall organization of your PC. If your desktop is littered with shortcuts and files, getting rid of that clutter is a good first step to take.
  • Treat your Windows desktop like you would your physical one. You wouldn’t keep stacks of old files on your office desktop, so why clutter up your virtual one? Important reference tools, immediate-response items, and frequently-used files can stay out on your desktop, but old documents, files, installers, or programs should either get deleted or filed away elsewhere.
  • Take out the trash. Emptying the Recycle Bin—especially if you haven’t done it in a while—can free up hard drive space on your PC that could be better used for files and programs that you use and need (as opposed to those you’ve discarded).

Step 2: Clear out old or unnecessary files

Over time, people tend to amass all kinds of documents and files on their work computers. Some of them are important to keep around while others don’t necessarily stand the test of time.
  • Determine which files are important for you to save. Important files that are worth saving or having around just in case usually include:
    • Tax documents and financial statements. While you don’t need to keep these around forever, it’s a good idea to have your recent financial records and statements at hand. These can be filed away in a separate folder, marked by year (or by month, depending on your needs). 
    • Files with sentimental or personal value. Whether it’s a picture from your daughter’s fifth birthday, a note of support from a good friend, or a draft of that novel you’ve been working on, there are some files that you know you can’t afford to lose. Make sure these are clearly labeled so that you won’t accidentally delete them. Ideally, you should also have a few copies backed up in a secure location (see Step 3below).
  • Determine which files are dispensable.
    • Check the dates. When you look through the list of the files on your computer, check the date that each document or file was last modified. If you notice that a document hasn’t been modified for over a year, you should consider whether you need to update them or discard them.
    • Long-finished projects. If you still have projects from a year or two ago still lurking on your hard drive, ask yourself whether or not you need to keep them around. Do you still use them for reference? Can you see yourself returning to them at a later date? If not, delete them. 
    • Ephemera. These include the silly e-mail forwards and pictures that your friends may have sent along to you, fliers for events that have long passed, and so on. Unless they possess any sentimental value for you, it is a pretty safe bet that you can delete them.

Step 3: Back up and save important documents

If you have documents that you’d like to keep around but don’t necessarily need to have on your everyday work or home computer, back them up or save them to an external drive or online storage source. (Ideally, you should back up your information in more than one location.)

  • Save to an external hard drive. External hard drives are usually very capacious and are particularly useful for storing entire collections—music collections, video and image galleries, and so on. If you have a large quantity of this kind of material on your hard drive, consider storing them on an external drive to free up space for new projects on your primary PC.
  • Use a secure online backup source. It’s always a good idea to back up your documents online—whether that means emailing important information to yourself or using an automated online backup program. This way, you can be secure knowing that your most important files won’t disappear even if your PC gets lost or crashes.

Step 4: De-clutter email inbox

Your email inbox is one of the places that can amass the greatest amount of clutter in the shortest amount of time. As a result, de-cluttering your inbox isn’t just a matter of clearing out all of the junk mail, inter-office memos, listserv posts and forwarded chain letters every couple of weeks–it’s also a matter of organizing your folders and setting up your email filters ahead of time to save you headaches later.
  • Delete old emails. First, go through your current inbox and purge old and unnecessary emails. Don’t forget to also delete old items from your “sent mail” folder—especially files with large attachments—since these tend to build up over time. Getting rid of these emails will free up a lot of space in both your email program and on your hard drive.
  • Organize folders. If you haven’t done so already, creating and using email folders to sort your mail into different categories can help you organize your emails more quickly and easily than before. Some people like to sort their email by project or category (e.g. keeping different folders for work projects, client correspondence, personal email, mailing lists, and so on), while others prefer to sort their email in order of urgency (e.g. keep one folder for emails that need an immediate response; another for long-term projects, and yet another as an archive of important information).
  • Set up email filters. With most email programs, you can set up filters to make sure that emails from particular addresses or domains are immediately directed into their relevant folder–automatically organizing your inbox for you! With filters, you can make sure that all of the emails coming from your clients get sent directly into your “clients” folder, the emails from your boss get directed to your “tasks” folder, and emails from your husband or wife get sent into your “home” or “personal” folder.

Step 5: Clean up internet files

Cleaning up and organizing your internet browser program can help you find and access your favorite sites more quickly and easily than before. What’s more, regularly clearing out your browser cache can help your browser run more quickly and securely than before.
  • Organize your bookmarks/favorites. You bookmark your favorite sites to make them easier to access from the browser window, but if there are too many bookmarks for you to scroll through before you find the right one, then it seems almost counterproductive. Besides, do you still need to have all of these sites bookmarked? Take a few moments to get rid of the bookmarks you no longer need, and organize your bookmarks into folders so that you can access them more quickly and easily than before.
  • Empty your internet and browser cache. It’s a good idea to clean out your browser cache every once in a while to get rid of all the junk file and clutter that may have accumulated over time. Additionally, if you work on a PC with multiple users or are vigilant about maintaining your internet privacy, it’s a good idea to clean out the cache on a regular basis to make sure that your passwords and other saved information gets deleted.

Sep 6: Get rid of unused and redundant programs

Chances are, you don’t use all of the programs that are installed on your PC. In addition to the programs that you use on a regular basis, there are a number of programs that may have come pre-installed on your computer, as well as other programs that may have sneakily “piggybacked” in on one of the programs you downloaded and installed.

Getting rid of these unused and redundant programs not only helps to free up hard drive space and keep your PC streamlined and organized, it can also prevent the freezes and crashes that occur when two programs with duplicate functions compete over the same resources.
  • Use the Add or Remove Programs function in the Control Panel to review a list of the programs you have installed on your PC. You may be surprised at the number of programs that you have installed on your PC that you no longer use! If you know which programs you can safely uninstall from your PC, then you can do so from this screen.
If you do regular computer housekeeping, it will make you life easier and help your computer to run more efficiently.  This can easily be accomplished by making it a routine habit.  My routine is not perfect, but it works well for me.  

Every Friday morning, before I do ANYTHING else on my computer I:
  1. Run a clean-up program.  I use the free version of CCleaner and have been using it for years to clean up the crud on  my PC.  Takes about 5 minutes to run and does a great job.
  2. Run a malware program to make sure nothing untoward has snuck into the system when I wasn't looking.  I use the free version of Malwarebytes for this.  It takes about 20 minutes to run on my PC and will find any malware lurking in the corners of my hard drive.  I don't use a subscription security service.  Instead, I use Windows Defender (a built-in program on Windows PCs) in conjunction with CCleaner and Malwarebytes.
  3. I have long subscribed to a paid program called Carbonite which continually backs up my computer files to its cloud-based system and allows me to access those files from any device with internet access.  In addition, my subscription allows me to make a "mirror image" of my computer continually or on-demand.
  4. I make that mirror image of my entire PC on a peripheral hard drive every Friday.  A mirror image is different from a file backup.  A mirror image backs up the ENTIRE contents of your computer, including all our software.  In the event of a crash, which I experienced last year, I was able to reconstruct my entire computer to a new hard drive simply by running a reconstruct program from the mirror-image backup on that peripheral hard drive.  Saved substantial time and $$$$. 
  5. In addition, I use Dropbox as redundant storage.  Never hurts to be a bit redundant when it comes to backing up your stuff.
My Friday routine takes less than 30 minutes.  While my clean-up and malware program is running, I go through my computer files and look at anything I have added in the last 7 days (you can sort your files by creation date) and delete any I know I won't be using again.  

I also have file filters that automatically file my incoming email into the appropriate folders. You can set up your Gmail to do this very easily (  You can also use extensions such as Zapier or IFTTT (If This Then That) to help you get and stay organized.  I never have more than 20 emails in my inbox and clean out my spam and trash folders daily.  

All of this may sound like a lot of work - and setting it all up to work efficiently will take a little time. But once you set it up and establish a routine to keep up with it, it works pretty seamlessly, 

As genealogists, we create a lot of research and accumulate a lot of files, photos, and documents along the way.  We spend a lot of time and sometimes a substantial amount of money doing this. Having a clean, well-organized, virus and malware-free computer will make the job much easier and a lot more fun.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Resources At Your Fingertips

For those of you who couldn't make it to yesterday's meeting - which was chock full of useful stuff - or if you did make it and want to take a look at all that stuff again on your own, here are links to the things we covered:

All of the above, and lots more, are available at the "Resources" tab on this blog.  If you want to get some practice on how to organize a lot of information, you can start by setting up a file or notebook to keep track of all the handouts you are collecting!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dating Old Family Photos

Betty Shubert recently posted an article on the blog (8 Apr 2015) on Historical Fashion Expert Helps Time Date Your Old Family Photos.  Just so you don't think this is all about the women, men's fashions can also give us a lot of clues about the time frame of a particlular photo which can, in fact, lead to discovering who these people might be - in case you didn't know.  

I myself have unlocked a few mysteries using a old photo, a magnifying glass, and a bit of help from the fashion experts. You can click here to read the blog post.
-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Monday, May 11, 2015

Movie Mondays - Record What You Know

This week's Family History Learning Center 5-Minute Genealogy video is entitled, "Recording What You Know".  What better place to start!  There are steps to follow, tips and hints, and a handy glossary of terms.

There is also a PDF handout available for you to download.  You may want to print it out before you start the video.  

Click here to go directly to the video presentation, or use this link - if you need to copy and paste into an alternative browser.

Get out there and start filling in those charts!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Citation Saturday - The Ten-Step Plan

I just love it when someone does good work that I can pass on to others.  Lynn Palmero is a Canadian genealogist who's blog The Armchair Genealogist has been one of my favorite hang-outs since I discovered her way back at the beginning of my genealogy journey.

She has been teaching genealogy to beginners at a local archive and came up with a list of all the things she would do differently if she were starting again, from scratch. One of the items on her list was getting sources and citations under control starting on day one.  She came up with a 10-step plan, and it seemed appropriate to share it on a Citation Saturday.

If you would like to read Lynn's original post, you can access it here where you can see a much larger image of the one below.  For those who would be happy with just the list, here it is:

  1. Identify one main line, and the ancestor closest to you, and begin there.
  2. Identify all your sources for this one ancestor.
  3. Cite your sources in a genealogy software program of your choice (Family Tree Maker, Roots Magic, etc.)
  4. After recording all citations for sources, now is the time to make a to-do list for each ancestor. Make a list of what is missing, creating a search plan in the process.
  5. Invest in a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  As you work through your ancestors and reference this book, your knowledge of sources and citations will evolve.
  6. Print off an individual summary for each ancestor with all information including sources and citations.  Keep a copy for each ancestor with your hard copies and consider saving this information in a cloud storage program such as Dropbox.
  7. Each time you complete an ancestor, mark it "done" so you know where you left off.
  8. Create a schedule.  Don't try to tackle it all at once.  You'll grow tired and sloppy. Dedicate an allotted amount of time each week to the task, or commit to reviewing a given number of ancestors each week.
  9. Rinse and repeat for each of your ancestors.
  10. After you have completed each of your main lines, go back and begin your off-shoots.
Thanks to Lynn and all her good advice!  

Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Video Errors

This morning I noticed that there appears to be a problem with the Learning Center site.  If you are trying to access the "Movie Monday" link to the video showcased in our Monday blog post, you will not be able to do so as of 8am this morning.  Hopefully this is a temporary issue and will be resolved shortly by the IT folks at FamilySearch.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Need Your Help!

I am doing research for an article I am writing about the Baby Boomer generation and their contribution to the genealogy community.  As part of my research, I am compiling a list entitled, "Baby Boomers are the Last Generation to...".

At the moment, my list includes:

  • Ride in a car without a seatbelt
  • Walk to school
  • Use a rotary dial phone
  • Make a phone call using an operator
  • Remember switchboards
  • Share a "party line"
  • Grow up without a computer
  • Remember when stores were closed on Sunday
  • Remember when stores closed each day at 6PM (Noon on Saturday)
  • Get up and walk to the TV to change the channel or volume
  • Remember black & white TV
  • Play outside (until the street lights came one)
  • Walk or bike to and from the playground (library, corner store, friend's house, etc.)
  • Learn to drive on a manual transmission
  • Remember toys without batteries
  • Have the first transistor radios

You get the picture.  I would love to get input from all of you.  I am sure you can all think up dozens of items I can add to this list.

If you would like to spend a few minutes having some fun with this, please email me your list at  Put "Baby Boomers" in the subject line.  When I get the list compiled, I will share it in a blog post for all to enjoy - and give credit to my fellow genealogists at D.I.R.T. for their input on my article.

Many thanks!


Why We Index

If you follow any of the genealogy blogs out there, the trend these days is to have at least one post each week that lists all the new records which have become available.  These number in the hundreds of thousands.  They include records from all over the world and can be as simple as a new batch of marriage records from some county in Alabama to additional digitization of parts of censuses and city directories.  They are out there, waiting for us to type in a few search parameters and find them - from the comfort of our sofa or home office, often free of charge. Family Search prides itself on continuing to provide free, accurate, easily-accessible family history data to the public.  The Library of Congress and the National Archives have tens of thousands of volunteers, people like you and me, working from home, to help do the same.

Information we need to research our genealogy doesn't get from a dusty box on a shelf in a foreign archive to our computer screen by magic.  It becomes available because people just like us take a few hours every now and then to download a batch of records and index them.

At the end of this post I have copied the list published by Geneaolgy In Time Magazine in their 25 April 2015 Newsletter.

It's a pretty impressive list - and it only covers part of the month of April.  You will notice that the vast majority of these were made possible by the Family Search Indexing project.

D.I.R.T. is running an indexing contest through the end of October.  The person who accumulates the most points indexing on Family Search wins.  Our prize is a modest one - a genealogy reference book that any beginning family historian will find useful.  But the real "prize" is the gift of helping provide digital records to our fellow genealogists and making knowledge available to all who want to search. It doesn't get much better than that.

So if you are currently working on racking up those points at Family Search by indexing records, keep up the good work!  If you are not, it's not too late to start.  If you don't know how, just talk to Denise and she will be happy to get you started.

We all know that there is no such thing as "free".  In order for one person to be allowed access to something worthwhile at no cost to them, someone else must volunteer time and talent or make a monetary donation.  Let's work together to do our part to make more records available to people just like us.


Belgium – has indexed an additional 70,000 civil registration records from East Flanders, Belgium. These are birth, marriage and death records from the Belgium National Archives that span the period from 1541 to 1912. These records can be search by first name, last name and type of record. The underlying collection of some 2.8 million images can also be browsed. Access is free. [East Flanders Birth Records]

Canada – has indexed an additional 246,000 records from their existing collection of Ontario marriages. This collection spans the years from 1869 to 1927. Although some jurisdictions in Ontario began recording marriages as early as 1801, province-wide registration did not begin until 1 July 1869. Also note that in the 1800s, people who lived near the US border sometimes chose to get married in the United States where marriage requirements could be less strict than in Canada. This collection can be searched by first name and last name. Access is free. [Historic Ontario Marriage Records]

England – Deceased Online has added cemetery and cremation records from the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough, which is near Birmingham in the West Midlands. The new records consist of some 300,000 burials and 130,000 cremations going back as far as 1858. Access is by subscription. [Sandwell Cemetery Records]

England – has a new image collection of Derbyshire parish records. This collection spans the years from 1537 to 1918 (basically from the formal start of parish record keeping under King Henry VIII to the end of World War I). The collection consists of some 53,000 images with the usual records on baptisms, marriages/banns and burials. Although some of the images can be searched by first name and last name, it is not clear if the entire collection is currently searchable. To learn more about English parish records, see the article A Date Guide to English Genealogy. Access is free. [Derbyshire Parish Records]

England – FindMyPast has seriously increased their collection of Yorkshire parish records. Over 1.2 million new baptism records from North Riding, East Riding and West Riding are part of the latest update. These records are from the original registers. In addition, 1.3 million new baptism records have also been added from bishop’s transcripts (basically transcribed records from the original parish records - these records were kept at the local bishop’s office). Both sets of baptism records span the years from the 1500s to 1914 (the start of World War I).

In addition, FindMyPast has added about 1.7 million parish marriage/bann records. These are both original parish records and bishop’s transcript records. Finally, there are about 1.8 million parish burial records that have also been added to their Yorkshire parish record collection. The records can be searched by first name, last name, place and year. Access is by subscription. [Yorkshire Parish Records]

South Africa – has indexed some 43,000 names in their massive collection of estate files from Orange Free State, South Africa. This collection spans the years from 1951 to 2006. The two items in this collection that will be of particular interest to genealogists are death notices and will records.

A typical death notice (see image below) provides the name of the deceased, date and place of death, place of birth, name of parents, name of spouse and name(s) of children. A typical will record lists the name of the deceased, name of spouse, name of heirs/family members, date and place of the will and the names of witnesses to the will. This collection can be searched by first name and last name. Access is free. [Orange Free State Death Notices]

This legal death notice from Orange Free State, South Africa in 1988 provides a good deal of useful information to genealogists. Source:

US – has added some 700,000 indexed marriage records to their collection of Alabama marriage records. This collection spans the years from 1809 to 1950. To date, some 41% of the collection has been indexed. The collection can be searched by first name and last name. Alternatively, the one million images can also be browsed. Access is free. [Alabama Marriage Records]

US – has indexed some 460,000 records from Cascade County, Montana. The collection spans the years from 1880 to 2009 and consists of an incredibly diverse set of records such as probate records (1903 to 1926), court orders for dependent children (1903 to 1937), naturalization records (pre 1945) and land deeds (1880 to 1941). Other types of records in the collection are cemetery records, election records, military records, school records, pension records, voter registration lists, census records, probate records and obituaries. The collection can be searched by first name and last name. Access is free. [Historic Montana Genealogy Records]

Above is an example of a Montana land deed from 1893 recorded in the official book of Cascade County. The image shows the first part of the record that provides a description of the land that was transferred between the Great Falls Water Power and Townsite Company and a Frank C Park. Source:

Czech – FamilySearch has put online an intriguing collection of some 66,000 school register images. These images span the years from 1799 to 1953 and come from the Opava State Regional Archive. They cover the Moravia region of the former Czechoslovakia. A typical record in this collection provides the full name of the child, date of birth, place of birth, religion, father’s full name and the place of residence. The records are in Czech and can be searched by district. A typical example is given below. Access is free. [Historic Czech School Records]

This school record from the former Czechoslovakia is a rare find. Now you can see if your ancestors really did pay attention in school.

UK – The website TheGenealogist is releasing several new collections this week. First up are 4.66 million World War I medal records. Included are records for the 1914 and 1915 star, the British war medal (1914 to 1920) and the Victory medal (1914 to 1919). TheGenealogist has also added 750,000 new parish records from 22 different counties. Finally, additional tithe maps have been release for more English counties.

A typical map lists the names of the owner and the occupier of lands in addition to details about the amount of land, how it was used and the tithe rent due. Tithe maps are very useful for geographically locating ancestors who lived in the countryside. Access to these new collections is by subscription. [TheGenealogist]

Mexico – FamilySearch has indexed some 411,000 civil registration records from the state of Coahuila, Mexico. These are standard birth, marriage and death records and span the period from 1861 to 1998. The records can be searched by first name and last name. Access is free. [Historic Coahuila Birth Records]

New Zealand – FamilySearch has added another 770,000 images to their collection of New Zealand probate records. This collection spans the years from 1843 to 1998. Some of the records are already indexed and can be searched by first name, last name, probate place and year. Access is free. [New Zealand Probate Records]

Ireland – The birth, marriage and death indexes at are now back online and available to search. They had gone offline several months ago (soon after they were put on the internet) over privacy concerns. Birth records over 100 years old, marriage records over 75 years old and death records over 50 years old can now be searched. You need to go through a process of giving your name and agreeing to the fact the search is for genealogical purposes. Note: these are just indexes, not the full digitized image. Access is free. [Ireland Civil Registration Records]

IrelandIreland – The Irish Genealogical Research Society has put online copies of their annual journal The Irish Ancestor. The journal has been published since 1937 and contains hundreds of articles on Irish genealogy. The articles can be searched by family name and first name. See if someone has already published information on your Irish ancestors. Access is free. [Irish Ancestor Journal]

US – The Plainfield Public Library of Plainfield, New Jersey has put online two new resources that will be of interest to genealogists. First is a collection of 75 local city directories that span the years from 1870 to 1982. The early city directories cover Rahway and Plainfield New Jersey, while the most recent directories appear to cover all of Union County.

This is an incredible resource for anyone who wants to track the exact address of their ancestors over many decades. The second resource is a collection of seven different early Plainfield newspapers that span the years from 1868 to 1916. Plainfield was officially incorporated in April 1869, so these two resources cover much of the area’s history. Access is free. [Plainfield City Directories] [Early Plainfield Newspapers]

This Plainfield, New jersey city directory from 1881 appears to be fairly complete judging by the wide range of occupations in the listings. It is usually a good sign when it lists laborers and widows in addition to tradespeople. Each person is listed by full name, occupation and home address. Notice the first person on the list has an occupation listed as "chairbottomer".

Australia – has put online early editions of the government gazette of New South Wales. The collection spans the years from 1832 (the start of the gazette) to 1863. This was the official newspaper of record for the state government. It was used as a means of communication between the government and the general public. It recorded a broad spectrum of community matters such as land sales, court notices, petitions, licenses, contracts, police activity, etc.

The gazette also contains a considerable amount of detailed information on convicts. For example, the 1833 gazette provides lists of all male convicts, when they arrived in the colony, ship name, occupation and convict number. Records on government employees are also prominent in the gazette. There are some 1.2 million original transcripts in the collection. The collection can be searched by first name, last name and year. Access is by subscription. [New South Wales Government Gazette]

UK – FamilySearch has put online some 10 million records from Westminster rate books. A rate book was essentially a property tax book. In the early days, these books were prepared by local parishes, which were responsible for maintaining roads, sewers, lighting, etc. This collection covers the period from 1634 to 1900 from the city of Westminster (now an inner borough of central London). A typical record lists the head of household, the owner, the street address and the rate owed. The collection can be searched by first and last name. Since this collection comes from FindMyPast, the original image can only be viewed at a family history center. Access is free. [Westminster Rate Books]

UK – Harvard University has begun a multi-year project to put online their collection of early English manor rolls. These are court rolls, account rolls and other documents from various English manors. They range in date from 1282 to 1770. The largest collection comes from Cheshire, with additional rolls from Hampshire, Sussex, Staffordshire and Suffolk. At the moment, this collection is not searchable. Access is free. [Early English Manor Rolls]

US – FamilySearch has indexed some 1.3 million additional Texas marriage records. The records span the years from 1837 to 1977. They can be searched by first name and last name. This collection currently covers 183 out of 254 counties in Texas. A typical record lists the name of the bride and groom, date of marriage and who officiated at the marriage, as shown below. Access is free. [Historic Texas Marriage Records]

This is a typical Texas marriage record from 1930. It provides the name of the bride and groom, who officiated at the marriage and the date of marriage.

Ireland – The Irish Newspaper Archives has added 7 new historic newspaper titles from County Kerry in the south-west region of Ireland. The newspapers span the years from 1828 to 1920. Access is by subscription. [Historic Kerry Newspapers]

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tracking Elusive People Through The Past

On 21 March 2015 Evidence Explained posted some research tips.

It lays out some ideas on how to break down some of those brick walls.  I have reposted the seven tips below.  If you haven't looked at your research issues from these perspectives - perhaps it would be worth a try.

Research problems are rarely solved by simply learning what records exist and where to find—then looking for names in those records. Most tough problems are solved by spotting connections and patterns between seemingly unrelated things. Here are seven tips guaranteed to sharpen your skills at tracking elusive people through past times.
  1. Different research problems require different research processes. We need to build a repertoire of techniques to apply in different situations.
  2. Names were often spelled phonetically. The legal principle idem sonans—if it sounds the same, it is the same—applies to historical research also.
  3. Each legal document we find has to be interpreted according to statute law as it existed in that place and on that day the document was created. Laws do change, and words today have different meanings than they did in the past. Situations that may appear to us today as cold or callous may have represented something entirely different at the time.
  4. To interpret census data correctly, we study the Census Bureau's instructions to the enumerators for each particular year. Those instructions set limits the enumerators had to work within. They define many words differently from modern concepts.
  5. Continue your search for records long after the death of your person of interest. Heirs and excluded heirs often challenged wills or estate settlements, carried on lawsuits for decades, and reopened probates generations later. When our person-of-interest did not pay to have deeds filed, offspring might later deposit those documents in the courthouse to clear property titles. “Later” can be even a century or more.
  6. Learn naming patterns within the community. When using local records, do not just search for the names of interest. Use those records to learn which names are common and which ones were rare. Solutions to problems often rest on this kind of insight.
  7. Study the linguistics and culture of the region. Spelling variants suggest differences in pronunciation and both can offer clues to origin.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Movie Mondays - The Research Process

This week's Five-Minute Genealogy video is entitled, "The Research Process".  I particularly liked this episode because it clearly defines practical steps to doing your research in an organized manner. As was the case with the first episode in the series, there is a challenge at the end to test what you learned and give you a chance to apply that knowledge to your own research.

Once again, please note that there is a PDF handout available for you to download.

Click here to go to episode 2.  If you need a link to paste into an alternative browser:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Citation Saturday - 8 Simple Tips for Genealogy Source Citations

Sometimes it's nice to get a break from research and writing.  This week's Citation Saturday tip comes from the Family Tree blog in a post from Diane Haddad which was published on 23 March.


Citing sources of genealogy information can be a confusing process: How do you know what information to cite, what details to include in the citation, and where to keep all your citations so they'll stay paired with the fact you're citing and the record where you found that fact?

So during Family Tree University's Virtual Conference a couple of weekends ago, I was looking forward to the Source Citations Made Easy live chat. It did not disappoint. Moderator Shannon Combs-Bennett and our participants shared source citation tips I found especially helpful—so I wanted to pass them on to with you.

  • Cite any piece of information or fact you use in your research, whether it's in the form of a family tree, story, book, etc. Each name, date, place and relationship should be labeled with where you learned that information.
  • Several participants fessed up to gathering source details about a newly discovered record, then crafting a citation later, when time allows. Here's one way to speed up the citation-writing process: Make a list of sources you use most frequently, such as a particular microfilm or online record collection. Take a piece of information (such as an ancestor's birthdate) you found in each source and write a citation for it. Copy these citations into a document to use as templates for your future research. Our Genealogy Source Citation Cheat Sheet has a bunch of ready-made templates you can use.
  • You can link your citation to the accompanying record in several ways. Many of our chat participants use more than one of these methods:
    • the source citation system of your genealogy software and/or online family tree (look for the May/June 2015 Family Tree Magazine, which will include a helpful article with steps for citing sources in genealogy software)
    • a sources or research log spreadsheet (you can include a column for a link to the document image file on your computer)
    • in your online tree, in the image notes when you attach a document image to a person
    • in Evernote (upload the image file as a note, and add the citation in the note text)
    • on the document itself. If it's a digital image, you could use photo-editing software, the "Add a text box" feature in Adobe Reader (for a PDF), or an app for adding text to photos (here's a list of apps for adding text to photos)
  • You can note the reliability and provenance of a source when you create a citation in your genealogy software, and/or set up a column for this in your source citations spreadsheet. In a family history narrative, when you cite information, the citation can include a description of the source and its provenance.
  • It's fine to start with the citations automatically provided on many genealogical websites, but check that they contain all the necessary information about the source. If one website obtained its index or digitized record images created by another website, your citation will reflect that.
  • In addition to Evidence Explained, gather these resources for using and citing genealogy sources:
    • Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition, by the Board for Certification of Genealogists  (Turner Publishing)
    • Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W Jones (National Genealogical Society)
    • "General Information Leaflet 17: Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States" by the National Archives and Records Administration (download from here)
  • If you haven't been great about citing sources, start now. Make a goal to review your earlier research a little at a time, creating citations as you go. The more you work with genealogy source citations, the more natural it becomes.