Monday, January 30, 2017

Backup Tools

At the risk of sounding like a nagging spouse or mother - I hope you are all backing up your family history data (and all your other digital files) on a regular basis.  I am a firm advocate of the 3-2-1 rule:
3 copies of your digital information
2 different formats
1 off-site copy
For example - my 3 copies are:

  • on my laptop harddrive
  • Carbonite continuous backup AND a once-weekly mirror image of my whole laptop
  • peripheral hard drive (WD 1TB My Passport)

My 2 formats are:

  • Cloud backup
  • Peripheral Hard drive

My off-site copy is another 1TB WD My Passport that I keep in our safe.

Okay, that may not technically qualify as "off-site" - but the safe is fire and water proof and unless we get hit by a tsunami or Cat 5 Tornado it should be okay.

For those of you who are still trying to figure out the best way to safeguard your data, Family History Daily posted an article entitled, "5 Online Tools For Backing Up Your Family History Data" that is worth reading.  In it, they outline what I consider to be the top five best backup plans/programs.

Trust me - all it takes is one major hardware or software crash and you will appreciate the little bit of time and money it takes to secure all that information you have worked so hard to assemble.

Friday, January 27, 2017


One of the resources we tend over overlook when searching for information about our ancestors is obituaries.  They can be a treasure trove of information.  If you have any idea at all about where an ancestor died, try searching the local papers for that area for an obituary.  Most indexed newspapers have been scanned or digitized using OCR (optical character recognition) meaning you can do a name search of the newspapers archives to find someone.

Here is a list of some of the information you can find in an obituary or death notice:

1. Date of death, name of cemetery, date and place of the funeral and burial
2. Name, place, and year of birth
3. Names of children, where they lived, and their position in the family’s birth order
4. Names of the towns and how long they lived in each one
5. Age of spouse at death and how long ago that was
6. Details on the longevity of parents and grandparents
7. Count of descendants, by generation
8. Name of spouses (and maybe even past spouses)
9. Names of siblings and sibling's spouses
10. Occupation(s) of deceased

You just never know what you can learn - so I hope you will use this valuable resource in attempting to break down your brick walls!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

One Brick Wall Busted!

It looks as though our research project is off to a fabulous start.  We are pleased to announce that "The Royals" successfully helped Denise K. find information about her great-grandparents. These are folks Denise knew nothing about and it seems the group even managed to unearth a photo. WOW!  Good work!

We should also mention that the "Shorebirds" have made some progress in helping the Robertsons find information on Jamie's elusive family.  So it appears that it is true - many heads working on a problem can make a huge difference.

I know the rest of you are working hard as well - and if our current record of success is any measure, I am sure we are going to see many more busted brick walls in the weeks to come.

It was great to see so much productive team-work and one-on-one collaboration happening in our meeting yesterday. Keep up the good work!

Portable Storage with Password Encryptioin

For those of you who are looking for portable storage with built-in password encryption, you may want to take a look at Western Digital's My Passport.  This peripheral storage device is available for personal computers using Windows OS and for Macs using iOS.  The PC version comes in a variety of fun colors and both versions come in four different sizes: 1TB ($59.99), 2TB ($89.99), 3TB ($109.99) and 4TB ($119.99).  They have a USB 3.0 interface (fastest now available) and are reverse compatible with a USB 2.0 interface. The great thing is that there is a built-in 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption with WD Security software that helps keep your content private and safe. You can even add a “return-if-found” message as the password prompt in case your My Passport drive ever gets lost. 

I have been using WD portable drives for years and have found them to be extremely reliable. I have a 1TB I use as a continuous backup and an older, 350GB one that I use like a thumb drive. 

In addition, the company stands by their guarantee. If anything happens to the drive during the first 3 years you have it, they will replace it for free - no questions asked. One of mine decided to go swimming a couple of years ago and I had a replacement in less than a week. 

With its built-in auto-backup software - it is the perfect way to make sure your computer is continually and consistently backed-up to an outside source.  And, unlike cloud storage that relies on wifi to connect you to your files, this little guy will travel with you and always be available.  It is compact and small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.

I highly recommend you maintain THREE backups for your computer and this little drive is a great way to take care of one of them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

17 Genealogy Habits for 2017

If you have $4 to spare each month, I recommend you try a subscription to Family Tree Magazine. It is well worth the money and is always full of information that will make you a better genealogist.

FTM also has a blog that I read regularly, and they recently posted an article entitled, 17 Genealogy Habits to Make in 2017.  All of their suggestions for getting more done on your genealogy in the coming year are good ones and I recommend you take a look and see what you can incorporate into your routine.

If you want to get more done on your family history project this year, you have to do more than just sit at your computer screen looking for records (although that is, indeed, important). You need to explore what other folks are doing, how they are doing it, and educate yourself about what is going on the vast genealogy world.

Everything you learn will make your research easier, more productive and a lot more fun!

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Online Catalog For Genealogy eBooks

Hi.  My name is Denise and I am a bibliophile. I admit it. I have loved books since I was a kid and, in spite of my romance with technology, I still can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than in a bookstore. I have pared down my collection of "real" books over the years in favor of digital books (sometimes referred to as ebooks).  I have over 700 at the moment. This format allows me to access any of the books in my collection anywhere at any time from my Kindle Fire, laptop or Chromebook. It is the quintessential, instant, portable library.  And, if I don't have a resource I need, I can usually find it in one of the millions of library resources or ebook sellers around the world and access or download it in a nanosecond.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

If you follow Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, you probably saw his recent post entitled, Genealogy Publishing Company Adds A New Online Catalog Solely For Genealogy eBooks.  In it he talks about a new ebook store just for genealogists at

One of the advantages of buying ebooks is that they are usually less expensive than their physical cousins and, of course, you don't have to wait for it to be delivered.  According to Dick Eastman,

At you can:
  • Search for books by locality, subject, time period, and other categories.
  • Look inside the book to view pages from the publication and search within the text.
  • Buy the book easily with just one click, registering with Google, Facebook, or your e-mail.
  • Read the book instantly on our site or download it to the eReader of your choice.
  • Cut and paste content directly from the book to your genealogical project, without having to retype the information.

I particularly like the last item as most ebooks you purchase through or other sellers preclude you from copying/pasting text due to copyright restrictions. 

I highly recommend you read Dick Eastman's post and check out this new genealogy library. The more you read, the more you will know!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Information Available

I recently visited the South Carolina History Room at the Charleston Country Library's downtown location.  I collected a variety of brochures I thought our D.I.R.T. members might find useful.

Please go to the "Resources" tab above and scroll down and you will find a new section entitled "Charleston County Library Resources".  The documents are listed under that heading. All the documents are in PDF format and can be downloaded to your computer or printed.

Which Genealogy DNA Test Is The Best?

For those of you who are still trying to decide on a DNA testing service - Family History Daily recently posted an article entitled, Which DNA Test Is The Best? A Detailed Comparison Guide To Help You Decide that you might want to take a look at.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

DIRT Meeting 18 Jan 2018 -

We had a lively evening discussing, showing a demonstration of the site, each member exploring on their own and answering questions.

Here is a presentation that covers the information used for the meeting: agenda 18Jan2017

I also showed two videos that I got from the help section - click on title below
Family Search search tips
How to find your ancestors in Family tree

At our next evening session on February 1 from 7:00 - 9:00 PM at the Lakehouse we will be discussing and Family Tree Maker.

Come join us.

How To Get Started Using DNA For Family History

Guess what, I got a 23andMe DNA test kit for Christmas.  I haven't collected my sample and sent it in yet but I am planning on doing that this week.  Also, I plan on posting the kit contents, directions complete with photos, and my observations for y'all to follow.  Should be fun.

In the meantime, if you haven't done a family history DNA test, or are thinking of doing another one, Lisa Louise Cooke recently published a post entitled How To Get Started Using DNA For Family History which I recommend you take a look at.

It includes a video of her interview with Diahan Southard (from RootsTech 2015) as well as a great outline of the DNA basics.  You also might want to consider adding Lisa's blog, Genealogy Gems to the list of genealogy blogs you follow.  Genealogy Gems is chock full of goodies, including Lisa's well-followed podcast.

Stay tuned for more DNA info and I hope you will check out Genealogy Gems.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Genealogy Charts

Many thanks to Milt and Linda for bringing a fantastic resource to our attention.  If you are looking for some very good genealogy charts (free and paid), you can find them at the Misbach Enterprises website.  You will also find a link to this site under the "Research Project" and "Resources" tabs above with the title "Genealogy Charts (Misbach Enterprises)".

New Year - New Genealogy Goals

I have often written about Lynn Palmero and her genealogy blog The Armchair Genealogist. Today I am going to pass along a few suggestions from Lynn about How To Implement Your New Genealogy Goals.

The new year is a wonderful time to reevaluate your genealogy project and come up with a plan for getting stuff done!  Hope you will visit Lynn's blog and take a look at her suggestions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tips From The Armchair Genealogist

Lynn, Palmero has a blog entitled The Armchair Genealogist. I have been following Lynn and her blog, as well as taking courses and purchasing workbooks through her The Family History Writing Studio for years.  She is one of the first genealogy bloggers I found and one I am still very loyal to.

She recently posted an article entitled 8 Tips To Being a More Productive Genealogist in 2017. Which is well worth reading.  In it she describes, in more detail, her suggested eight steps:

  1. Push your comfort zone
  2. Learn first
  3. Ask for advice
  4. Don't lose site of the big picture
  5. Don't multi-task
  6. Accept the unanswerable
  7. Don't let mistakes hold you back
  8. Ditch the negative people
I would add to that list finding a genealogy group that can help you with some of those items.

I hope you will go to her blog and read her recent post. I think you will find she has outlined a good way to get your research off to a fabulous start in 2017.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Evening Workshop Agenda

Lynn Baker will be hosting a number of D.I.R.T. evening workshops starting next week.  The workshops will take place in Osprey 2 at the Seabrook Lake House from 7:00-9:00 PM.

Dates and topics are listed below:

18 Jan:  FamilySearch & Family Tree Maker (input)

1 Feb: & Family Tree Maker (output & reports)

15 Feb: Newspaper Archives & Evernote use for genealogy

1 Mar: FOLD3 & Family Tree Maker

15 Mar: Armchair Genealogist / Cyndi’s List

5 Apr:  Family Search & Family Tree Maker

19 Apr: Specific State Research (websites & visits)

As usual, a reminder memo will be sent out prior to each meeting.

Borrowing Library Books On Your Phone Or Tablet

Linda and I are always happy to share our reference materials with our D.I.R.T. members. Unfortunately, after working for the last few years to make my life as paperless as possible, many of mine are digital and unavailable to loan.

But the good news is that there is a vast pool of reference materials available that you can use on your tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop.

I recently stumbled on a recent New York Times article that offers guidelines on how to do this. This is definitely worth checking out.

For those of you who are building a group of genealogy blogs to follow, this article was brought to my attention through Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.

Now, you can peruse library shelves and borrow books without ever leaving your kitchen table. How cool is that?!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Online Genealogy Dictionaries

For those of you who are committing to a more productive research year, you may want to consider following some genealogy blogs.  The blogosphere is chock full of them and deciding which one(s) to follow can be difficult - not to mention time-consuming.  So as I find good posts going forward, I will share the post with all of you and you can check out the blog/website and decide if it is something you want to follow.  There are a lot of ways to follow a blog, you can just subscribe and get an email each time something is posted, or you can use a website like Feedly ( to organize all the blogs you follow, and their most recent posts, in one, convenient location.

One of the blogs I follow on Feedly is Dick Eastman's Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.  A recent post entitled Online Genealogy Dictionaries and References is a great list to add to your research toolbox.

Hope you will check it out!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Seven "Cs" of Genealogy and the 2017 Do-Over

For those of you who are familiar with Thomas MacEntee, he is the father of the "genealogy do-over" and the keeper of the popular blog, Geneabloggers.  He recently sent out an email to his ardent followers about the seven "Cs" of genealogy research and the 2017 Do-Over.  If you are interested in taking part in this year's do-over, you can find more information by clicking here.

As for the seven "Cs" - here is Thomas's list:

  • Clean: Take inventory of what is in my genea-cave, get organized and make it easier to find what I need. This also means cleaning up and organizing digital files and folders as well as Internet favorites and bookmarks. Why should I spend time searching for stuff to get ready to research when I could better spend that time searching for ancestors?

  • Collect: Create a solid system for capturing information including digital images as well as paper-based document. Become disciplined in saving images and documents IMMEDIATELY and renaming the file to accurately describe the item. Work as if I only have “one pass” on using a source; wring out as much information as possible!

  • Curate: Review source material to see how it proves or disproves a fact. Write a source citation RIGHT AWAY and don’t put it off. Use proven evidence evaluation techniques to determine the reliability of the source. Document, document, document in my research log!

  • Create: Write a concise proof for specific facts as well as specific ancestral relationships. Write ancestor character sketches based on proven facts. Carry this info over to family history books, photo books, blog posts, calendars and other items to share with family members as well as other researchers.

  • Connect: Don’t become isolated especially with a dependency on online resources. Get out and connect with archives and repositories. Connect with other genealogists at conferences and institutes. Use online resources such as Facebook groups, DNA matching communities and more to keep connecting.

  • Conserve: Don’t forget to focus on preserving your work for future generations. This includes creating backup copies of data, scanning and digitizing images as well as videos, slides and audio tapes. Create a “successorship” plan so that a family member, another researcher or a genealogy society can inherit your work and carry the torch forward.

  • Continue: Basically the “rinse and repeat” cycle. Continue following the C’s especially when it comes to education. Stay on top of the latest technologies, apps and programs. Take time to build a reading list of journals and books related to your research. Attend a genealogy conference or online webinars.

Navigating the Genealogy Cs

The Genealogy Do-Over is one of the better ways to learn how to use the Genealogy Cs and incorporate the practices in your own research. Remember that we all approach our family history with different experiences and skill sets; what works for one researcher may not be the best fit for another. Working through The Genealogy Do-Over is a way of finding out the best navigation route for your genealogy research.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

NOTICE - Research Project Participants

We understand that all of us simply can't make every D.I.R.T. meeting.  But if you signed up to participate in the upcoming research project, we ask that you do your best to make the 11 Jan meeting so we can assign everyone to a group and start getting organized.  Once that is accomplished, missing a meeting here and there won't be much of an issue.

Thanks for all your help and cooperation in making this research project successful!

2017 Research Project

Just a quick reminder that 2017 membership dues ($15) are due. If you haven’t already paid, please bring cash or check (made payable to DENISE DOYON) to the next meeting.

Payment (to cover cost of materials) for those of you who are only participating in the Research Project is $5.00
(this amount will be deducted from the annual dues fee if you decide to become a member)

2017 Research Project

Our next regular D.I.R.T. meeting on 11 Jan will launch the research project. Unfortunately, I will not be there to help you all get started, but Linda and Lynn will be there to make sure everything is organized and everyone gets off on the right foot.

By now I hope that most of you have had some time to attack the research problem you are bringing to the table and are ready to begin working together, in groups, to break down those brick walls and find solutions.

So what happens next?

  • At the 11 Jan meeting we are going to break everyone into groups according to the geographic location of your ancestor and your research dilemma. We hope to keep the groups to 4 or 5 people and, depending on how the geography works, we may have more than one group for a location. 
  • Everyone will introduce each other in their groups and give a brief description of their brick wall.
  • The group will choose one person to keep track of the ToDo list - which is basically a list of each problem the group is going to attack and the order in which they plan to attack them.
  • Decide on the research log/plan you would like to use: digital or analog, spreadsheets, legal pads, index cards, etc. As we begin the project, I would suggest that each person in the group keep their own log/notes. 
  • Come up with a research plan. Each brick wall the group tackles will have a different research plan. Decide where to focus your research based on what has already been done or not done and what has been found or what is missing. See handouts on brick wall strategies.
There is no right or wrong way to do this - each group will work out their own way of getting to their goals. The idea is to be organized in your approach and record-keeping and find the correct tools to help you blast through your brick walls.

We hope that those members who have chosen not to participate in the project will still come to our meetings and help and learn from what our researchers are doing. The purpose of this project is to learn new research skills, foster better research habits and in the process, get to know one another better.

HOMEWORK! We have two weeks between meetings. Please feel free to assign tasks that can be done by your group members on their own. We encourage any of you who want to get together between meetings to do so.

Lynn, Linda and I will be there to answer questions, and make suggestions about where to look for information and suggest methods for tackling these research problems in an organized manner.

Linda and I are making our personal genealogy research libraries available for you to tap and provide handouts with information to help steer you in the right direction. If you click on the “2017 Research Project” tab above you will find a list of handouts in PDF format you can access. Hard copies will be available at the 11 Jan meeting, but please feel free to print out a copy for your personal use. You will also find a list of books that are available for any of our paid members to borrow. Just drop a note to us at and we'll make sure you get the book you want to borrow.

If you are participating in the research project, please bring your wifi-enabled laptop or tablet, workbook, pencil and eraser and a notebook or pad to the meeting and be prepared to get started.

If you have any questions, please drop me a line (

Monday, January 2, 2017

Start The New Year Off Right!

It’s a brand new year and always a good time to evaluate your goals for the next twelve months. For those of us researching our family history, this is a great time to make a list of those goals for the coming year.

Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. One of the tricks I use to make the process easier is to start at the end. If you start off knowing where you want to end up, it makes it a lot easier to outline the steps you have to take to get there. It’s sort of like mapping out a road trip. You can even break the process up into smaller segments, such as quarterly. Start small and work up to the bigger picture.

So let’s look at an example. Let’s say your goal is to complete the story of your grandfather Stuart, from his birth until his death, and you plan to finish this in three months. If you are laying this out on a calendar, your entry for 31 March is “Done with Granddad Stuart”. You now have three months to get there. In order to make this work, you have to set aside time to get it done, and make that time sacrosanct. If you only have one or two hours a week, decide which hours on which days will be devoted to this project - time when you can work uninterrupted - and STICK TO IT. Put it on your calendar and pretend it is a job where have to show up to on time. Once you sit down, set a timer and you will be surprised how quickly the time passes. If you have to “reschedule” your research time, mark your calendar and show up to work on time.

Then set out your research plan. Perhaps your first project will be making a timeline of his life based on the information you already have and lay that over an historical timeline to see where events in his life line up with the big picture. Now you know what you know. Next, figure out what is missing. With that list in hand, write up a plan of all the places you can search for the missing information. Keep a research log in whatever format works for you, (spreadsheet, index cards, notebook, etc.) and keep track of where you look, the search parameters you used, and what you found (or didn’t find). If you click on the "2017 Research Project" above and scroll down, you will see a list of links to some useful tips on using research logs for genealogy. Try to avoid getting distracted by “bright shiny objects”. If something turns up that you want to explore, but it doesn’t get you to your immediate goal, make a note of it, bookmark the webpage, write down the site, book or article, and go back to it LATER. As you find information, make sure you either print out the verification document, save it to your family tree program or file it somewhere (physically or digitally) where you will be able to find it again. Enjoy that feeling of accomplishment when you can cross an item off your milestone list.

Set aside some time about half-way to your goal to determine how you are doing and if you need to reevaluate your goals and how long it will take to complete this part of your research. You are probably thinking that this is all taking a lot of time and planning. Many of us (in fact, probably most of us) are running around willy-nilly through,, and an abundance of other genealogical research sites grabbing what we can, when we can, on who we stumble upon. Then we forget what we found or where we found it and end up doing it all over again. That’s a lot of wasted time - time better spent devising a “plan”.

If you start with your end goal, set up milestones to hit along the way, make time to do the work (and be faithful to that commitment) and keep track of your research, you will find that you will make a lot of progress. Start small. Figure out what you want to accomplish in the next three months. Make sure your goals are reasonable. Be organized and keep track of everything.

Don’t forget you have a wealth of resources and help available to you from all your fellow “diggers” here at D.I.R.T.

And don’t lose track of why you are doing this - because you enjoy it - and you are leaving behind a legacy for generations to come.