Friday, July 31, 2015

Ten Places You Didn't Think To Look

There are a dozen good places to find a date of birth, but did you know some of those same resources could be holding much more difficult-to-come-by information, too?

Earlier this month posted a very good "research help" article in their blog listing places to find information about your ancestors that may not have made it to your research log.  You can click here to read it.

Regardless of which family tree program you may be using, and even if you aren't using any of them, each of them has a blog you can subscribe to.  In addition, there are hundreds of other blogs devoted to genealogy - many of them specific to a certain aspect of family history research.  

If you find the idea of having a zillion emails showing up in your inbox every day a bit overwhelming, consider a service such as Feedly which organizes all your on-line reading in one place where you can peruse it at your leisure.

You can also download an app to your phone or tablet called Pocket which stores all those things you want to read until later when you have more time.

There are a lot of resources on the Internet.  You are missing out if you aren't taking advantage of them!

Have a great weekend!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stuff You Can Find In Your Ancestors Will

I've been searching for information about my ancestors for a long time. It never ceases to amaze me how many things I miss. Sometimes we become so focused on validating a single piece of information that we forget that the source of that validation can often supply us with a lot more information.

If you are lucky enough to have an ancestor will or two hanging around, here are some of the things you may find if you take the time to read them thoroughly:

  • If you don't have an actual date of death, a will can help you narrow down your search. You can determine a range of time for your ancestor's death - sometime between the date the will was written and the date it was presented to probate.  For example:  John Doe Smith wrote his will on 6 Feb 1840. His will was recorded in the county in which he lived in November of 1854.  John died sometime between 6 Feb 1840 and Novem 1954. His place of death is the county in which the will was presented to probate.
  • Where your ancestor lived can often be determined by reading the very first paragraph of the will, which usually reads along the lines of, "I, John Doe Smith, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, being of sound mind ....".  
  • An indication of what our ancestor owned and the kind of wealth he had can be found in his will.  Since the purpose of a will is to dispose of one's assets after one's death, it would stand to reason that the will would include a list of assets and who they are left to, which brings us to
  • family relationships. Ancestors commonly name family members in their wills.
  • How your ancestor signed his will can tell you about their level of literacy. Did your ancestor actually sign his name - or an "X".
  • Lastly, who was named executor and who served as witness(es) will often tell you something about your ancestor's associates.  
All of this can serve as clues for further research.  If you get a piece of paper in your hands that relates to an ancestor, READ THE WHOLE THING.  Don't let any piece of valuable information slip through your fingers.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Recommended Reads

Heading off to the Beach Club or Lake House pool today with a wifi enabled gizmo? I've got some reading ideas for you.

Check out this recommended reads list from the Empty Branches On The Family Tree blog.  While you are watching the grandkids splash around - you can explore what's new in the genealogy world!

Don't forget your sunscreen!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Friday, July 24, 2015

Using Fashion to Date Old Photographs

You can learn a lot from a photo.  Even if you know nothing at all about the people pictured - the way they are posed, their clothing, hair style, and hats can tell you a lot about when (approximately) the photo was taken. In some cases, you can even figure out where it was taken.  

Women's fashions are the first thing to check when trying to date a photo. Fashions changed as often as they do today and they are an excellent indicator of the date. Things like sleeve style, closeness of buttons, pleating and even fabric can tell you a lot.

There are a number of great publications out there that can help. If you click here you will be rewarded with a pdf document full of helpful hints.  f you want to take your research further, check out the following:

You can find dozens more resources on Google!

-- submitted by Linda Mecchi

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Power of DNA

We haven't spoken much about DNA any of our meetings.  Indeed, with so many of you asking for help getting started, we are a long way from those discussions.  But some of you are more than a few years into your research and confronting brick walls that are challenging. had a recent post on its blog about the power of DNA and how it helped one women find some very elusive ancestors.  For any of you who are thinking about getting tested, or have gotten tested and have not really explored the possibilities - I recommend you read this interesting story about how DNA helped prove the validity of a 100 year old family story.

You can read the post by clicking here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Genealogist's Toolkit

A while back,'s Juliana Smith published a blog post entitled, "The Genealogist's Toolkit.  It is a list of the resources available on to help you find your roots. Here are a few of the items she covered:

  • Charts and Forms
  • Blank Census Forms
  • Soundex Converter
  • Tools for Source Citations
  • Research Guide
  • Genealogy Glossary
  • and many more!
Click here to read the whole post and access links to the information shown above. You can never have enough tools in your research arsenal.

Happy Hunting!

--  submitted by Linda Mecchi

Thursday, July 16, 2015

7 Time Management Tips For Genealogy Researchers

So now that you have your research plan under control - all you have to do is find the time to do the research.  I recently stumbled on a blog post by Kenneth Marks on The Ancestor Hunt that lists seven tips for getting down to the actual work.  It isn't always as simple as it seems. You can click on the link above to read the original blog post, or read an abbreviated version below.  Here are Kenneth's suggestions to make it easier for you get your research done.

  1. Have an online plan - although I am a huge fan of "intuitive" and "stream  of consciousness" searching online - that should be only for a short time. Write yourself a research plan - for a person of interest, or a family, or a location. You will get a lot more results and won't be wasting time searching for the same thing over and over again.
  2. Have an offline plan - if you plan to spend some time at an archive or genealogy section of a library, prepare a research plan BEFORE you get there. Don't just show up with your pedigree chart and hope for the best.
  3. Get organized - 50 slips of paper with scrawled notes is not going to save you time. It will cost you time since you will always be looking through them.
  4. Get off of social media sites - you heard me - although they can be useful as part of your education and can from time to time reap rewards in finding new "cousins" - social media can be a huge "time suck." Do you really have to look at your Twitter stream every 15 minutes? And Facebook and Google+ status updates and new posts will be there even if you don't check them every hour. So manage your time spent on social media and you will discover a lot more time for research.
  5. How many genealogy blogs do you really NEED to read? - some people scan through (and read) over 50 blogs a day. Are you kidding me? I have less than 10 that I regularly read and I don't always read those. And I scan through titles - if it is really interesting I may flip to it and read it.
  6. Manage your use of social media sites - it bears repeating. Manage this potential "time suck" well and you will have more research time - I guarantee it. Create Twitter lists, Facebook interest groups and Google+ circles for the folks that REALLY interest you regularly and you will save tons of time. Use notifications wisely and you won't be interrupted with a "ding" from your phone or PC every 3 minutes that entices you to look.
  7. How much education do you really NEED? - For some folks, there isn't a webinar, hangout, or podcast that they would skip. Sure it's a good idea to acquire more knowledge, but for me if it gets in the way of research time - forget it. One might argue that increased knowledge might equate to "smarter" researching. True, but make sure that you have the proper balance.

I would add to this list one more item:  Set research goals - have a to-do list to help keep you on track.

So make a list, gather your research plan(s) and use your time wisely.  Before you know it, you will find yourself making progress.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Monday, July 13, 2015

Get A Little Help From Your Friends

When it comes to genealogy, you can never have enough friends.  Whether they are the folks you hang out with at your local genealogy group meetings, or the virtual friends you have found on social networks or blogs, there is a whole world of other people who share your passion and are willing, indeed, anxious, to share their knowledge and experience.

When I first started out on my family history adventure I stumbled upon a blog entitled "The Armchair Genealogist" by Lynn Palermo.  The guidance I found there helped me get organized and get started. Her blog is full of useful information, and her Family History Writing Studio is one of my new, favorite hang-outs.  Indeed, I am taking a five-week family history blog writing workshop there in the Fall. 

One of the pages on her blog is entitled "Beginners - Start Here".  In that section, there are six helpful topics you can click on to help you get started with your research.  None of us set out on our genealogical journey with a full box of tools and an inherent knowledge of what we were doing.  All of us needed help and guidance along the way.  For all of you who are still struggling to get started, this may be a good place to begin. 

The point I am trying to make here is that there are an awful lot of resources out there for you to tap into. There are more genealogy-related blogs than I can count. But I recommend you take some time to wander about and check them out. Subscribe to the ones that interest you and follow along for a while and see what you learn. There are free (and paid) webinars, Utube videos, classes, ebooks and pdf files full of useful information. And I cannot emphasize enough the advantage of attending conferences. The Family History Library in West Ashley is sponsoring one this Fall.  

Here is a list of genealogy blogs I subscribe to:

Go find some new friends!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Start The Day With An Organized Inbox

I don't know about all of you, but I work best when things are organized. As genealogists, this is important if we hold out any hope of ever getting anything done. But I think most of us would say that one of the least organized parts of our digital lives is our email inbox. And as our lives become more and more digital - as we bank, shop, and research online - our inbox becomes the repository for a lot of junk. Everyone has to figure out ways to do things that best suit them and their personal style, but I have developed a system that works for me - and maybe all, or parts, of this will work for you as well. It takes me less than 10 minutes each morning (I do this while enjoying my first cup of coffee), and when I am done, my spam box is empty, my trash is empty, all the emails that require my attention are replied to, filed, or allocated to a location where I will deal with them later. My rule - never more than 10 emails in my inbox.

It all starts with figuring out what to do with all those subscription emails - you know, the ones we get from all those places we bank, shop or visit that required us to submit an email to gain access. We are then cursed with a flood of emails from these places that, for the most part, we don't need or want. Many email services, such as Gmail, offer a tab set-up for sorting your mail. When you sign in, all your emails are organized into groups.  If you use Gmail, this is worth looking into - just Google "how to configure your gmail (or Yahoo, AOL, etc.) inbox" and there are hundreds of articles and videos showing you how to do this. I have chosen, instead, to use a program called Unrollme to do the work for me.  If you missed my article about this program in The Seabrooker, click here to find out how it works.  There is also a video on the Unrollme website. By using this program, my email box only contains emails that require my attention or action, which is usually less than a dozen on any given day.  I also use Gmail's file feature and have created "file folders" into which I can move my emails to make them easy to find if and when I need them in the future.

So here is what I do (after pouring that cup of coffee):
  1. Open email and scan through those that have arrived since yesterday
  2. Immediately delete any that should be in the trash
  3. Open and read each email that requires my attention.  I then do one of the following:
    1. Delete
    2. Reply
    3. Forward (if that is appropriate)
    4. File in the appropriate folder for future reference
    5. Move to my "deal with later" folder. This can be a folder in your email program, or a folder in Evernote or a todo list - whatever works for you.  But it should be a repository that allows you to "tickle" it with a date so it will pop back up to remind you to take care of it at some point in the future.  If you don't take care of it on the appointed date, tickle it for a different date.  Once it is taken care of, delete it, or, if you want to keep it for future reference, file it in it's appropriate folder.
  4. Open my "Unrollme" folder in Gmail, deal with each email (read, forward, delete or file) and leave that folder empty
  5. Quickly scan through and delete all "spam" (and leave that folder empty)
  6. Empty the trash.  Since I empty this every day there usually aren't that many items to be thrown away.  If you have dealt appropriately with all your emails up to this point, everything in this folder should be, well ... trash. Before I hit the "delete forever" button, I quickly scan through them to make sure nothing important snuck in there. 
When I am done, all the email in my inbox has been dealt with and my inbox is nearly empty, my spam, unrollme, and trash folders are empty and all items that need attention in the future are "tickled".

Tools To Help You Organize Your Email


-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Things You Should Know About!

Lot's of interesting things have cropped up in the genealogy blogosphere and various email announcements in the past few days that thought I should share with all of you.

Catholic Parish Records at the National Library of Ireland

Lynn Palermo at The Armchair Genealogist shared the news that Irish Catholic church records are now available online, for FREE.  These parish records are considered the most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 census. These records have been maintained and available on microfilm since the 1950s, but only in Dublin.  This is HUGE!  Click here to go to the site.  

World-Wide Indexing Event is, once again, sponsoring its one-week, one hundred thousand volunteer project. Here is your opportunity to rack up some points toward that October prize and help FamilySearch expand its digital records.  Click here to learn more, sign up and get involved!

Half Off My Heritage through 10 July

Click here to learn more and take advantage of this great offer!

Best Online Family Tree Builders

Looking for a family tree builder?  If you haven't yet decided which service to use (not everyone uses ...) click here to find out what's out there and see if one of these recommendations will work for you.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Monday, July 6, 2015

Research Plans Don't Have To Be Complicated

There is sooooooo much information available today on genealogy that it can sometimes become overwhelming.  There are as many ways to get something done as there are genealogists doing it.  If you head into the Internet and search for "Genealogy Research Plans" you could spend hours scrolling through and reading all the available articles, blog posts and internet postings explaining how to utilize this resource - and each form or plan was developed because it worked for the individual who put it together.  Linda and I have presented you with many examples of research plans, but at the end of the day, you have to figure out what works for you.

Whether you use a template we provided or download a template (or four or five) from the Internet to "test drive" you will end up spending a lot of time experimenting with various forms and formats.  In cleaning up the mess of paper I have accumulated on research plans, I have discovered that all of them contain the same six basic parts.  You can put these in a template format, or scribble it on a yellow lined legal pad.  You can use them in digital or paper form no matter the format, or even a combination of these.  But in the end, these are the six things you need to cover:
  1. Objective (name of ancestor and what is it you are looking to find)
  2. Known Facts (list what you already know to be true)
  3. Working Hypothesis (what do you "think" about what you know and how does it fit into your objective)
  4. Identified Sources (what sources do you already have that contain accurate, proven, cited information)
  5. Research Strategy (where do you plan to look next)
  6. Results (what did those searches listed in #5 above tell you)
That's it.  Plain and simple.  You need a separate plan, template, lined yellow sheet, or whatever form you choose to use for each objective.  And you have the whole back of the page for taking notes. This is particularly important if you are traveling somewhere to use a new resource (library, archives, town hall, court house, etc.). Having everything on one piece of paper makes it much easier, keeps you organized, and saves lots of time. If you are using a template, you can even print our blanks on colored paper coded to whatever color system you are using for your computer files or three-ring binders.

Don't get distracted by all the options.  Figure out what you need to know, where you need to look, and figure out a format that gets you results.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Reading

So D.I.R.T. is in a summer hiatus, of sorts, and we hope that many of you are hanging out at the pools and beaches with family and friends.  Maybe you are taking a car trip to visit the grand-kids or are finally taking that long-dreamed-of river cruise through the heart of Europe.  In any event, you may be looking for some light reading to take along.

So why not learn a bit about genealogy research why you are at it!  There are a ton of interesting stories with a genealogy theme.  Why would you want to read a novel about genealogy?  Because the methods these family history sleuths use to unravel their mysteries are the very same methods and tools you have at your disposal to solve your own genealogy conundrums.  Okay, they may employ a bit of literary license in their quest, but the basic research premises are still in place, and you get to see how someone else gets the job done and be entertained at the same time.

I have put together a short list of recommendations and you can check out this link to a "Goodreads" list with about seventy more suggestions.

In addition to the extensive list on Goodreads, you might want to consider:

  • The Heir Hunter by Chris Larsgaard
  • Any in the Torie O'Shea mystery series by Rett MacPherson
  • The Nick Herald Genealogy Mysteries by Jimmy Fox
  • Hangng Katherine Garret: A Novel Based on the 1727 Trial of a Pequot Woman by Abigail Davis
  • Genealogy of a Murder by Lee Martin
  • The Jefferson Tate genealogy mysteries by Steve Robinson

All of the above, and the list on Goodreads, are available through and can be delivered immediately and inexpensively right to your Kindle anywhere you are sitting and have a WiFi connection.  If you are more into paperbacks and hardcover reading, almost all of the above are available in at least one of those formats as well.  

So entertain yourself while you are sitting at the pool, the beach, or on the deck of that Viking longship on the Danube and see how the literary sleuths break through their brick walls!  If you discover anything interesting, we hope you will share it at the next meeting.

Happy Reading!

--  submitted by Denise Doyon