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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
11 Family Reunion Keepsake Ideas
Posted by Diane
Family reunion season is in the summer, which means now is a good
time to think about details such as any mementos or souvenirs you'd
like to create, whether to remember the reunion or for attendees to
Here are some ideas for both types of keepsakes. Some will do
double-duty as activities to keep folks busy and talking during the
- A family tree thumbprint poster for each person to add his
or her unique mark. You would need the blank tree, colored ink
pads, and baby wipes so people can wipe off the ink. A printable
blank tree is part of our Instant
Family Reunion Deluxe Kit in ShopFamilyTree.com (it also
includes a planning checklist and book; coordinated templates
for pretty name tags, signs and other materials, a decorative
family tree you can type in and print copies, and more).
- A family cookbook, consisting of recipes handed down and
relatives' new favorites. You could have contributors send
recipes ahead of time and paste them into a Word document to
print and share, or have people bring recipe cards you can
collect, copy and share. Or go fancier and create a cookbook on
a photo book website. Most sites let you share your photo project so
others can order copies for themselves.
- A quilt made of squares contributed by each person or family.
You would need fabric markers or paint and cloth squares, and a
handy person to sew them all together later on. You could
auction off the quilt to raise money for next year's reunion
(and then the winner could bring it back to be auctioned again
for another relative to keep for the year).
If you want families to be able to take something home, you
could have them create two squares, one for the quilt and one to
keep and frame.
- A scrapbook, with pages created by each family (ask attendees
to bring their family photos). You can scan the pages later to
- An autograph album, with the signature of each reunion
- An ongoing album with photos from each reunion, which a
designated person could keep, update with new photos, and bring
back each year.
- A large group photo, like this
one or even this one.
You can have reprints made for each person, or email digital
copies (if a professional photographer takes the shot, be sure
to get his or her permission first).
- Have the children interview their grandparents and record it,
or have someone write down the questions and answers on an
interview form (part of the aforementioned Instant
Family Reunion Deluxe Kit). You can create a video or
compile the forms into a book to share.
- T-shirts with your family name and an old photo or a group
shot from a previous reunion. It might be fun to have fabric
paint or markers so people can personalize their shirts.
- A family calendar with birthdays and anniversaries marked, and
perhaps important dates in family history. You can download
calendar templates from the internet at sites such
as this one or use the ones available with your word
- Plants from Grandma's garden. You could root cuttings ahead of
time, then distribute them in small flower pots.
What reunion goodies has your family created? Click Comments
below to tell us.
Family Reunion Deluxe kit is on sale in April in
ShopFamilyTree.com. Check it out today—fewer than 50 are left.
Family Reunions | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 4:07:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
10 Tips for Genealogy Spring Cleaning
Posted by Diane
Sweeping, mopping, dusting ... I could do without that kind of
spring cleaning. When you already sweep the kitchen floor twice a
day (I have two toddlers and a shed-happy dog), you don't get
excited about deep-cleaning.
But genealogy spring cleaning: Now that's a different story. Looking through my research, labeling folders, filing
documents and giving files consistent names sounds like heaven.
Whether or not it sounds heavenly to you, the tips readers sent for
our Genealogy Spring Cleaning Contest will help you get—and
keep—your research organized. Here are the winning tips and some of my
other favorites (we're compiling a free download with
categorized additional tips from the contest, and we're also
planning on featuring some in a Family Tree Magazine
Our two runners-up each received our How
to Archive Family Keepsakes e-book by Denise Levenick.
- Anita Boynton, who won our grand prize, will get a free
registration to the Family Tree University Organize
Your Genealogy online course. She says: "I color coded
my four grandparents' lines, so that I can easily grab a
folder or whatever as I need it. I used red, yellow, blue and
green, so I can easily use colored pens, pencils, binders,
stickers, etc., to sort, tag and mark boxes and pages,
color-code categories in my Outlook email browser for tasks and
- Luanne Newman's tip helps her keep an ongoing timeline of
ancestral residences: "As I find dates pertinent to an
ancestor, I enter it into an Excel file. For instance, my
grandfather was a chef in Chicago and as I run across
correspondence from an employer or information on his draft
card, I'll put the employer's name and the date he was employed
there. I have a file for each relative to update when I find fun
A few other tips that resonated with me are:
- Herbert Boring has a tip for keeping track of master
copies of records and forms, "A lot of the time when I
can't find a copy of a paper, I just make more copies until I
don't know what the original is. When you make or get the first
copy of something, make a small mark on it with a yellow
highlighter. It will not show up when you make a black-and-white
copy, so you'll always know which is the original."
- I have written up a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for
my digital files. This way I am saving photos and
documents the same way and I'l be able to find them later. »
- For future generations and their organization—I am collecting
autographs from family members. I take my autograph
book with me at family get togethers, reunions, and whenever we
have a chance to visit family out of state. » Marsha Landry
- I file all documents, photos and other items in chronological
order in binders using sheet protectors. Each binder
starts with a couple's marriage and ends with their death. As
each of their children marries, a page is inserted directing
reader to a new binder starting with the marriage of that child.
» Jan Rogge
- I've scanned all of my parents' and grandparents' photos
to Flickr. It only costs
about $25 a year, and that way the photos are safe if my house
gets blown away by a tornado. I've created "sets" for each
grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. If a family member is
interested, I can send the link to the person they're inquiring
about. I have the majority of pictures labeled with who they are
and other information. » Melissa Hull
- I have a great little multi-sectioned notebook in
which I've dedicated a section for each family I am researching.
I no longer have bits of paper and post-its wandering around my
research space. It fits inside my purse so I can bring it with
me. » Sharon Sommier
- As I receive papers, I make a goal to scan them right away.
The original then enters my folder that is building up
continuously. Once that folder is full, the sorting begins.
For digital materials, I have a folder on my computer
desktop. There's nothing like a good movie to sit there
and watch while sorting through, documenting information and
putting them into their digital folders! » Sarah Stout
- I used OneNote to organize all those pieces of information
that just don't fit into the family tree—at least not yet.
I have a scribbler called Family History with tabs for each
family surname. When I find information that I'm unsure
fits, I enter it under the appropriate family tab then on
the individual's page. I make sure I put the source, so when I
want to go back to that information I know where I can find it.
You can make other scribblers, such as research logs,
genealogy general information or anything else you'd like to keep
track of. » Ellen Thompson-Jennings
And Carolyn Hoard has the honor of submitting the funniest tip. I have a feeling most genealogists can relate:
"Shut your office door when people arrive. Don't forget to migrate
stuff into your storage room. Close the door fast, before it
Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 11:41:35 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, April 18, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, April 14-18
Posted by Diane
Happy Passover and Easter to you! I hope those of you observing
either holiday are enjoying family traditions your ancestors held
dear. In this week's news corral:
The US National Park Service is kicking off National Park Week with
free entrance days Saturday and Sunday, April 19 and 20. The parks
are full of opportunities to discover
history at places such as Mesa Verde National Park
in Colorado and the Wright
Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina. (As an aside, I
went looking for a few history-related parks to mention here and I'm
realizing how many are always free. Of the 401 national
parks, 133 usually charge an entrance fee.)
Genealogy Apps | NARA | Social History
Friday, April 18, 2014 1:39:47 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Genealogy Q&A Time: The Genealogical Proof Standard
Posted by Diane
Q. What is the Genealogical Proof Standard? Do I need to worry
about it if I research my family history as a hobby?
A. The Genealogical
Proof Standard (GPS) is a set of guidelines the Board for
Certification of Genealogists developed to help researchers draw
sound conclusions about their ancestors. It has five elements:
- Reasonably exhaustive search
- Complete and accurate citation of sources
- Analysis and correlation of the collected information
- Resolution of conflicting evidence
- Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
genealogists do a lot of work to show they understand the
GPS, but anyone can use the guidelines to be as sure as possible
they're tracing the right ancestors and sharing accurate
family information. The
GPS is outlined here, with bullet points about how
each element contributes to the credibility of your research.
For example, to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search,
"finding multiple sources for a single piece of information,
such as a birthplace, is key," writes Sunny Jane Morton in the
October/November 2012 Family Tree Magazine guide to
using the GPS.
“If you look at just one source, you won’t see that there’s
more than one possibility for what happened,” Elizabeth Shown
Mills explains in the guide. Mills is the author of source
analysis references including Evidence!
Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian
(Genealogical Publishing Co.).
“We know that when there are
multiple eyewitnesses to an event, the accounts differ," she adds. "In
historical research, there’s no such thing as the final answer.
All we can do is gather the best evidence possible and make a
In following the second element of the GPS, complete and
accurate citation of sources, Mills recommends "For every ‘fact’ we gather, we need to consider why we are
accepting it as ‘fact.’ What is there about this source that
makes it credible?”
Chances are that with your family
commitments, job, volunteering and other activities, you don't
get to spend as much time as you'd like on your genealogy research. Using the
GPS as a guide will help you make sure that the time you can
spend is devoted to researching your ancestors and honoring
their true experiences.
You can purchase Family Tree Magazine's GPS guide as a download here, or Family Tree Plus
members can read it here.
Family Tree University's Source
Analysis One-Week Workshop, April 18-25, will show you how
you can use the Genealogical Proof Standard as you evaluate the
reliability of your genealogical sources, resolve conflicting
information, and draw conclusions about your ancestors' lives. Learn
more about it at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Family Tree Magazine articles | Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:10:54 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Free Civil War Records on Fold3 Through April 30
Posted by Diane
Historical military records website Fold3 is opening up its Civil War
collection for free from April 14 to 30 in commemoration
of the start of the war in April 1861.
The military collection includes
- service records (Union and Confederate) for soldiers from more than 50 territories and states
- Union pension index cards
- some Union widows’ pension files
- Navy survivors certificates
- Army registers
- court records of compensation to former owners of freed
slaves in Washington, DC
- Southern Claims Commission records
- investigations into subversive activity
- and other records
more about this offer on the Fold3 blog.
Click here to search
Fold3's Civil War records collection.
Fold3 has records of US wars from the Revolutionary War up through
Vietnam, plus nonmilitary records such as city directories,
naturalizations, passport applications, Indian censuses and more.
help finding ancestors on Fold3 in Family Tree Magazine's
downloadable Fold3 Web Guide, available in ShopFamilyTree.com.
more resources for tracing Civil War ancestors in our listing
Civil War | Fold3 | Free Databases | Military records
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 10:28:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Genealogy Q&A With Mocavo Chief Scientist Matt Garner
Posted by Diane
We were thrilled when genealogy website Mocavo's
chief scientist, Matt Garner, agreed to be quizzed by Genealogy
Insider columnist Sunny Jane
Morton for the "Five Questions" Q&A in the May/June 2014
Family Tree Magazine (now mailing to subscribers
and coming soon to ShopFamilyTree.com).
Garner has one of the brightest minds in the
genealogy technology field. He leads the team developing "intelligent character recognition" software, which
eventually will be able to "read" handwritten records—making them
(relatively) quickly and easily searchable online.
Journalists typically ask more questions than they think they'll
need, to elicit the most interesting information.
We had a hard time limiting Garner's answers to just five for the magazine, so we're sharing them all here:
You’re the chief scientist at Mocavo now. Do you wear
a lab coat, use test tubes or anything like that?
While my title may conjure up images of Bill Nye, or
perhaps a mysterious, maniacal laugh, it simply means that I
oversee the research and development team at Mocavo. We work on
exciting things like electronically detecting and transcribing
handwriting from historical documents, improving the accuracy of
documents read by optical character recognition (OCR) and
generally using technology to both accelerate the pace and the
usability of historical data that is brought online.
What’s your lab like?
My “laboratory” is pretty amazing: a supercomputer, containing more
than 2,000 high-end CPUs. At the helm, my desk rivals NASA’s mission
control. My walls are covered with additional screens displaying
up-to-the-minute data, surrounded by oversized white boards
containing copious amounts of detailed scribbling from our most
How did you land in the genealogy industry?
I remember spending full days alone in the Family History Library in
Salt Lake City when I was only 9 years old. Every time I have left
the family history industry, my heart finds its way back. I’m just
as passionate about a document that contains hundreds of names as
I am about, say, a handwritten letter that may only relate to a
single individual. I know that to someone, somewhere, that
document has great value.
I’m also passionate about using technology to solve large-scale
challenges and problems. I’ve worked in a number of IT-related
positions and have been lucky to be able to find a number of
positions where both my engineering skills and my passion for
family history have aligned. Every time I have left the family
history industry, my heart finds its way back.
What historical writing style just about drives
you—and the computer—crazy?
Interestingly, it’s modern handwriting that is
disastrous. The advent of the typewriter (and subsequently the
computer) has lowered the standard of handwriting beyond
recognition and utility. Centuries-old handwriting, with a bit of
practice, is still largely legible by both man and machine.
Some of the bigger challenges surround cases where script is
handwritten on preprinted forms and overlaps printed lines and
text on the forms. It is more difficult to read such documents
accurately than freeform, handwritten letters.
What’s the coolest historical document you’ve ever
seen? OR Do you have a favorite historical font, type of writing,
I’m very fascinated by the RMS Titanic. While
working at FindMyPast in London, I was involved in bringing online
the complete, handwritten passenger lists for her fateful voyage.
Also, I later got to take a look at the original, handwritten
personnel file of Edward Smith, her captain, which was from the
personal collection at the private home of the Commodore of the
present day Cunard White Star line.
In a past job you handled credit card megadata.
What’s more fun, Mastercard accounts or genealogical documents?
The last position I held prior to making the jump into
the family history industry was in the Chief Technical Officer
role at a large credit card processing company. I was responsible
for making sure that literally millions of dollars got from point
A to point B on a daily basis and especially, that no
hackers invited themselves into the mix. The security protocols
were stringent and extreme. I was on-call 24/7. The position was
exceptionally stressful and demanding.
I recall once a split-second-long glitch in our system caused a
six-figure sum of our clients’ money to disappear into thin air.
Luckily, after some considerable, and painstaking,
around-the-clock effort, we got every penny back to its rightful
I certainly don’t miss even an ounce of the day-to-day stress of
that much responsibility. Luckily, all the gray hairs I gained
from that position have since regained their color.
What do you do when you’re not at your computer?
I pretty much spend all my spare time entertaining my
twin 3-year-old daughters, which is undoubtedly the highlight of
my day. Other than that, you might run into me at the local home
improvement store. I’m always in the middle of two or three DIY
projects around the house.
You’ve flipflopped between leading companies and
providing brainpower behind the scenes. What role suits you best?
I’ve enjoyed my time at each company in the industry
that I’ve had the privilege of contributing to. Pretty much all of
my roles have been similar—working simultaneously in product
design, software engineering and R&D, in one way or another.
I’ve also founded two of my own companies in the family history
space. Both were acquired by bigger companies in the industry and
became integrated into their respective products.
Much to my wife’s chagrin, I think I really am an entrepreneur at
heart. I prefer small, nimble teams and am always on the lookout
for the next big thing in the industry.
Mocavo features a genealogy search engine, historical records (free to search one collection at a time) and family trees. Want to see how you can find ancestors with Mocavo? Watch Family Tree University's Making the Most of Mocavo video course, available in ShopFamilyTree.com.
5 Questions Plus | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 10:01:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, April 11, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, April 7-11
Posted by Diane
- The British
Newspaper Archive, a partnership between D.C. Thomson
Family History (owner of the findmypast websites) and the
British Library, has a new, free iPhone app called Here &
Then. It shows you newspaper articles about what happened on
this day in history, amusing news blurbs from history, and
historical news articles related to today's headlines. Download
the app from the iTunes store.
- Findmypast has announced an initiative to release 100 databases
in 100 days. The databases will come from around the world
and so far include the Birmingham Pals WWI battalion, Glasgow
Pals, Liverpool Pals and more. Learn more here. In
related news, subscribers to the British site Findmypast.co.uk
in arms about site updates many say make the site harder
to navigate and search. The new site was rolled out to
international customers over a year ago, but only recently
introduced to UK customers, according to a
Q&A on the problems.
- Professional genealogist and house historian Marian
Pierre-Louis has started a new podcast called The Genealogy
Professional. It provides guidance on running a genealogy
business for professional genealogists and amateur researchers
considering going pro. Shows are broadcast weekly, released
every Monday through the Genealogy
Professional website as well as iTunes and Stitcher.
- British genealogy site Origins.net
has updated its free Devon
Wills Project index to include more than 300,000 Devon
wills from 1164 to 1992. Not all of the original wills
referenced survived WWII bombings; the index tells you whether
an original, copy, transcription or abstract of the will
survives and how to access it. Search
findmypast | Genealogy societies | Podcasts | UK and Irish roots
Friday, April 11, 2014 1:35:22 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Polish Genealogy Research Challenges and Tips
Posted by Diane
If you have Polish ancestors, the country's historical partitions
and border changes have probably presented some genealogy research
challenges. Here's an example of why:
- If your ancestors lived in eastern Poland, records from 1868
to 1917 will be in Russian. Records from 1808 to 1868 generally
should be in Polish.
- As for western Poland, controlled by Germany while Russia
ruled the east, records generally will be in German or Latin
(the language used by the Catholic Church), although you may
find some in Polish.
- In Galicia, the part of the partition ruled by Austria, most
records will be in Latin, although some will be in German and
- The present is almost as confusing: Poland had 49 wojewodztwo,
or provinces, until a January 1999 reorganization. There now are
16. The old provinces frequently had a city with the same name
as the province.
In our Polish
Genealogy Crash Course webinar on Thursday, April 24,
Eastern European genealogy expert Lisa A. Alzo will show you US
records to help you locate your immigrant ancestor's town or
village in Poland, what Polish records you should look for, and
the leading websites and library resources for tracing Polish
You can learn
more about the Polish Genealogy Crash Course and register at
You'll also want to explore
the Polish genealogy websites on this list, and bookmark
this chart of Polish-language genealogy terms.
International Genealogy | Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 2:18:18 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Cigars and Sewing Machines: Finding My Ancestor's Estate Inventory in Old Court records
Posted by Diane
So this was exciting: I found the estate inventory for my
great-great-grandfather H.A. Seeger, who died Aug. 18, 1923, in Hamilton
County, Ohio, court records digitized on FamilySearch.org.
This collection isn't yet indexed and can't be searched, so I've been browsing. I'm
still trying to figure out how the records are organized, which
according to our upcoming Mastering
Genealogy Research in Court Records online course, can vary by
county and time period.
Many of the volumes have indexes in the front (usually grouped by
first letter of the last name, and then sometimes by first letter
of the first name). In slowly clicking through volumes around
dates of family marriages, deaths and other events, I found H.A.
named in the index of an inventory record volume for 1923. I went to
the page number listed.
The estate inventory separates the contents of H.A.'s cigar
store, which one of his sons took over, from the household goods
in the residence above the store.
He owned $230 in store inventory and equipment, including "2 doz.
Lucky Strike," "14. pkg. Old Va. cheroots," "lot miscellaneous
stogies" and $15 in penny candies.
In the house was a chiffonier (I had to look this up—it's a high
chest of drawers, which may be the one now in my uncle's house), a
sewing machine (probably belonging to H.A.'s wife, who died in
1916, or one of their daughters) and other goods, totaling $54.25
The inventory also listed bank accounts worth $110.58 and $210.70
(about $4,411.14 in today's money, according to the CPI inflation
The inventory was notarized Oct. 1, 1923, and filed the next day.
Now I'm looking for a will and other probate documents, and I'll
use the information in the four-week Mastering
Genealogy Research in Courthouse Records online course to
help speed up my search. The course isn't just about finding
records online, but also what you can find at the courthouse in nondigitized
records. It's great for starting your foray into these richly
detailed, but often intimidating, genealogical records.
For expert advice on using the free collections at FamilySearch.org—including the unindexed, not-searchable ones—check out our webinar 10 Simple Strategies for Using FamilySearch.org, happening Wednesday, April 16.
court records | Family Tree University | FamilySearch | Research Tips
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 2:14:35 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, April 04, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, March 31-April 4
Posted by Diane
- Genealogy website MyHeritage
has added the Jewish Chronicle, the world's oldest continuously
published Jewish newspaper, to its SuperSearch subscription
collections. MyHeritage has more than 200,000 digitized pages of
the London-based newspaper, dating back to 1841.
Additional Jewish records now being added include the
Israel Genealogy Research Association databases (1860-1890) and
Avelim (Israel death notices). Read
more about these additions on the MyHeritage blog.
- The Statue
of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation (SOL-EIF) said in a
fundraising email that it will expand its collection of free
ships' passenger lists on
the EllisIsland.org website, with help from FamilySearch.
The site will add records from 1925 to 1957 to its current
collection, which spans 1892 to 1924. Ellis Island was open from
1892 until 1954, but immigration plummeted in 1924 due to the National
Origins Act. The site now holds 25 million names; about 11
million are immigrants and others are ships' crew members and
Americans returning from abroad.
- If I could go back to my youth, I would totally beg my
parents to let me do this: The National Archives building in
Washington, DC, will host summer and fall sleepovers
for children ages 8 to 12. Kids will have fun learning about
historical records, then spend the night in the National
Archives Rotunda. Registration opens in mid-May. Learn more
immigration records | Jewish roots | MyHeritage | NARA
Friday, April 04, 2014 11:40:23 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)