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<June 2016>

More Links

# Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Digital Public Library of America to Catalog FamilySearch Online Genealogy Books Collection
Posted by Diane

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and FamilySearch have signed an agreement that will make’s growing, free digital historical book collection accessible through the DPLA website.

The DPLA website catalogs more than 13 million digital resources from libraries, archives and museums across America. You can keyword search the site's catalog listings (but not the digitized items themselves) for names, places, military regiments, employers, social clubs and other terms from your family tree.

From search results on DPLA, you can click to view—and usually, keyword search—the digitized item on the holding library's website.

With this new partnership, DPLA will incorporate metadata from’s online digital book collection, making more than 200,000 family history books discoverable through DPLA’s search portal later this year. Users who find a FamilySearch book via DPLA will be able to click to see the digital book on

The digitized historical book collection at includes genealogy and family history publications from some of the most important family history libraries in the world. You already can search the collection on the FamilySearch website, but listing its contents in DPLA will make the books easier for a broader audience to find.

The March/April 2016 Family Tree Magazine has our how-to guide for finding ancestors in the free FamilySearch digitized books, and our Unofficial Guide to book helps you make the most of all the site's free genealogy resources.    

Genealogy books | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 9:29:47 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Braving the Inbox: Five Steps for Organizing Your Email
Posted by Diane

If you’re like many people, your email resembles Pandora’s box: full of unknown content that you might be afraid of opening. The scary part isn’t so much each individual message, but the unending stream of new content filling your inbox faster than you can deal with.

While some productivity gurus preach the elusive concept of “inbox zero,” you actually have a few practical ways to better manage your inbox. Co-host of The Genealogy Guys podcast and author of Organize Your Genealogy Drew Smith shares a few quick steps for organizing your mess of an email inbox:

  1. Set up an email account just for your genealogical research. This minimizes losing important personal and financial messages amidst genealogical correspondence. If you’ve been doing genealogical research a while and are reluctant to start over with a new email address, reverse the situation and create a new email address just for your non-genealogy work.
  2. Check your spam folder on a regular basis. You don’t have to do it every day—just do it often enough so that you won’t lose something due to the automatic spam-deleting system or when you were expecting something but couldn’t find it in your regular inbox. If you’re worried about forgetting to check your spam folder, add that (and any other research tasks) to your calendar.
  3. Learn as much as you can about your email software’s filters. This will allow you to automatically move low-importance email out of your inbox and into another folder, to be read when you have more time. Email that fits into this category might include messages from mailing lists and society newsletters.
  4. Use email filtering to identify important email and move it to a high-priority folder. This might include email coming from specific correspondents, such as another genealogist you are working with on a research project.
  5. Scan through the remaining items. Use the subject line to see if you can delete the item without opening it. In some cases, you’ll want to read the contents, but you’ll still be able to delete it after reading. In a few other cases, you can forward the email to someone else who can do a better job of dealing with it. If the email is something that you yourself can deal with in just a few minutes, reply right away (or do whatever quick task the email is asking you to do).

What remains are items that you want to save for reference (get this content into a note-taking system, such as Evernote) and items that will take some time to deal with (move these into a folder to be dealt with when you’ve scheduled a block of time to work on them).

Learn more about organizing your correspondence and genealogy research by purchasing your copy of Drew's Organize Your Genealogy today.

organizing your research
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 10:04:02 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 13, 2016
Three Ways to Get a Closer Look at Your Genealogy With Evernote
Posted by Diane

Evernote isn't just a great tool for organizing your genealogy, it's also makes a good tool for analyzing the information you find.

Kerry Scott, who wrote How to Use Evernote for Genealogy and who will be on hand to answer questions in next week's online Evernote for Genealogy Bootcamp, has a ton of ways you can use Evernote to take a closer look at your genealogy research. Here's a quick look at three of them:

  • Create a table of contents: This is an easy way to see a list of certain notes at a glance. Simply select a number of related notes—here, we've chosen census notes for an ancestor—by holding down Control or Command and clicking (or you can use Control+A or Command+A to select all of them) and click Create a Table of Contents Note. Now, you have one note that lets you see at a glance a list of all the notes you selected. Just click on one of the notes in your list to link to that note.

  • Use tags to find patterns: When you create a note in Evernote, you can assign tags for the name, hometown, occupation, record type, etc. So you might have tags called Smith, Abigail St., Occupation: Railroad, WWII, Public School No. 52, and Census: 1910. Searching for all the notes with the same tag can be a helpful way to reveal hidden commonalities and details. Did two of your ancestors go to the same school or serve together in the military? Did all your farming ancestors turn to different work in the early 1900s? With information like this, you can form new theories and problems to investigate.

  • Save notes with the Evernote Web Clipper: With the web clipper, you can save screenshots of your search queries, websites that contain great historical background for your relatives' lives, and leads you want to follow up on. It would be difficult to keep these items together using another method. (This feature also is great for everyday life: Clip receipts for online orders, recipes to try, items for your holiday shopping lists, etc.)
Want to be more organized about your genealogy research? To have your information and records about each ancestor or family gathered into one place, where there easy to find and view wherever you are, and to know what your next research steps for each person should be?

You can do this with Evernote—learn how in Family Tree University's Evernote for Genealogy Bootcamp, taking place online from June 20-26. See how the bootcamp works and what's included at

Family Tree University | organizing your research | Research Tips
Monday, June 13, 2016 4:36:34 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 07, 2016
3 Pre-trip Steps for Making the Most of Your Research Trip
Posted by Diane

Summer is the perfect time for taking road trips, including journeying to record repositories and libraries. Co-host of The Genealogy Guys podcast and author Drew Smith shares some thoughts about how to best plan for research trips.

In a time when documents from all over the world are being digitized and made available to us in online databases, we might not spend much time thinking about the need to travel to physical repositories, near and far. Libraries, archives, courthouses, cemeteries and churches continue to hold materials that may never be scanned during our lifetimes, and this means that eventually we genealogists need to pack up our travel kits and hit the road for hours, days or even weeks to accomplish our research goals.

But before you put the first piece of clothing in a suitcase—or even worry about which chargers to bring—you need to knock out a few quick tasks before planning the rest of a research trip;
  1. Do as much online research as you can. There is no point in wasting a single moment of precious research trip time in viewing materials that we could have seen from the comfort of our own research workspace at home.
  2. Learn all you can about each repository’s online catalog, including how to use it. This will help you not only do preparatory research, but also make you proficient in checking it when you’re at the physical repository. You should also read (and if possible, download) a copy of the finding aids for the research collections you plan to use. These finding aids will describe the scope of each collection, and may identify the specific boxes and folders you’ll want to request when at the repository. In some cases, you may want to request that the repository pull the items you so you can have them as soon as we walk in the door, saving you time better spent on examining the materials.
  3. Study the repository’s hours, rules and regulations. What can’t you bring into a repository’s research room? Can you make an appointment with an archivist or member of the staff? How long is the repository open? Knowing answers to these questions ahead of your visit will free you to do more research when you’re actually at the archive. Specifically, you might even email the repository in advance with your planned dates of visit and the kinds of records you’re looking for. The repository can then inform you of any unusual closures for local events or renovations, or if records you want to use are actually located elsewhere.

When you’re done with all of this pre-trip research work, you’re finally ready to create your research itinerary, book your flights and hotels, and think about what to pack. Safe travels!

Learn more about planning research trips and organizing your travel by purchasing your copy of Drew's Organize Your Genealogy today.

Libraries and Archives | organizing your research | Research Tips
Tuesday, June 07, 2016 9:59:23 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, May 31, 2016
The Big Picture: Using Mind Mapping to Organize Research Ideas
Posted by Diane

When the dreaded brick wall hits, genealogists often step back and collect their thoughts. A difficult problem may require a plan of attack, and you can create such a plan in a brainstorming session in which you generate as many ideas as possible. In this guest post, author and co-host of the Genealogy Guys podcast Drew Smith describes how to use one organization strategy, mind mapping, to brainstorm and arrange new research leads and tactics.

While plain paper or a whiteboard can be useful tools for recording and visually organizing these thoughts, you can also find a digital solution: computer-based mind mapping. And when the mind-mapping tool is online, you can then collaborate with other researchers and put the brick wall problem in front of as many other people as possible.

A number of free web-based mind-mapping tools are available, and my current favorite is Coggle. Set up your free Coggle account on the app’s home page by using any Google account that you might already have.

Coggle allows you to create as many different mind maps as you like; Coggle refers to these as “diagrams” or “documents.” When you start a new diagram, you begin with a central concept or question. For instance, you might start with a brick wall question (e.g., “When and where did Edmund Manley Martin die and when and where was he buried?”). This forms the center of your diagram. From there, you can add branches to the left, right, top or bottom, entering any new questions and ideas that pertain to the central concept/question (e.g., “When does he last appear in the census?”).

At each step, you can choose colors for the lines that link the parts of your diagram together, change the size of the text, and include images and URLs. You can create branches again and again, creating a complex diagram that captures everything in your head related to the question. Then you can drag items around in order to change where they appear on the screen and how they relate to each other.

When you are done, you can save the diagram as an image, print it or share it with others. And you can continue to edit it as new ideas occur to you. If you have many diagrams, you can organize them into folders.

If you like to visualize your genealogical research problems—or just like to get any kind of information out of your head and into an organized structure—you should give mind mapping a try!

Learn more about mind mapping and other organization techniques by pre-ordering your copy of Organize Your Genealogy today.

organizing your research
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 11:23:50 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
16 Things to Write Down About Yourself for Posterity
Posted by Diane

Genealogists are often so busy trying to find and record all the details about our ancestors' lives, that we forget our own history will eventually become family history.

We forget to preserve information about our own lives. Thus, in 100 or 200 years, our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will be struggling to understand our lives and what we were really like.

Of course, it's also often personally beneficial to reflect on your own life and experiences.

In Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy, Sunny Jane Morton has worksheets and writing prompts to help you get started preserving your own memories—even if you don't think you're a writer. Here's a list of topics to consider writing about for the future generations of your family tree. Not all apply to every person, but they're adaptable to fit your unique life:
  1. Your full name and when and where you were born
  2. Your siblings' names, and when and where they were born
  3. Your parents' names, when and where they were born, what they were like, the kind of work they did, special memories about them
  4. The same for your grandparents and great-grandparents, if you knew them
  5. How your parents met
  6. Your childhood: the games and books you liked; your hobbies, sports and activities; where you went to school; favorite and least favorite subjects in school; what you wanted to be when you grew up; your chores around the house; trouble you got into
  7. Your high school years: school subjects you excelled at and struggled with, sports and activities, jobs, friends and dates, learning to drive, how you got along with your parents
  8. Your college years, job training, and/or transition into working life
  9. Experience serving in the military
  10. Adult relationships and/or how you met your spouse
  11. Where you settled as a young adult, your friends and activities, religious life, travel, work
  12. Being a parent: when and where your children were born, their names and how you chose them, what you loved and didn't love about having children
  13. Life lessons you've learned and advice you'd like to share
  14. Family stories passed down to you, that you in turn want to pass down to others
  15. Medical struggles that might also impact others in your family, if you feel comfortable sharing them
  16. Of course, your genealogy discoveries 
Another easy, fun way to get started writing about your life is with Sunny's Memoir Mad Lib (free on Just fill in the blanks as indicated, with a person, place, event or adjective.

Story of My Life covers the above topics in sections on parents, siblings, childhood, high school, career and adulthood. There's also space to note vital statistics about yourself and immediate family members as a genealogical record.

See more about this valuable book, along with a quick tip for gathering memories about people and events, in

Genealogy books | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 10:47:44 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, May 24, 2016
12 Free Websites to Search for & Honor Fallen Military Ancestors on Memorial Day
Posted by Diane

“We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance ... Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” 

First Decoration Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, 1868.
Library of Congress.

These are the words of Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who declared in 1868 that May 30 would be a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers.

Daisies gathered for Decoration Day, 1899.
Library of Congress

After World War I, Decoration Day became an opportunity to honor Americans who've died serving in any war. The term "Memorial Day" was first used in 1882 and became common after the Second World War. A 1967 law made it the official name of the holiday.

Decoration Day at Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, New York City, 1917.
Library of Congress.

To help you honor your military ancestors, we've gathered these websites where you can search for those who died serving in US wars:
  • Nationwide Gravesite Locator database from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which catalogs burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, other military and Department of the Interior cemeteries, and private cemeteries (after 1997) when the grave is marked with a government marker

If you're ready to learn more about your family's military heritage, you'll want our genealogy guides to two of the most important types of military records: compiled service records (CMSRs) and pension records. Download these expert guides in and start using them today.

Grave Decorated on Decoration Day, Gallipolis, Ohio, 1943.
Library of Congress.

Genealogy Web Sites | Military records
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 11:10:46 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, May 23, 2016
It Takes Two: The Research Benefits of a Two-Monitor System
Posted by Diane

Handling all your data and research can be a struggle. In this guest post, author and co-host of the Genealogy Guys podcast Drew Smith explains why it’s important to have dual screens in your workspace to best keep your research organized.

Before genealogists had the benefit of computers, they used a desktop or table to spread out their documents and notebooks. In the ideal workspace, they had plenty of room in which to make notes to themselves or fill out a handwritten pedigree chart or family group sheet. With a large desk, they could simultaneously view a printed copy of an original record. They could put two records side-by-side, comparing the information to see whether or not the records referred to the same person or to different people.

The modern genealogist is more likely to view digital documents and record their research conclusions in desktop software or in an online family tree. But if everything is displayed on a single average-sized monitor, you’ll have to switch the view back and forth between different windows, just to make comparisons between records or to record notes and conclusions.  

A larger monitor may make it possible to have two different windows viewable at the same time. You can buy 27-inch PC monitors for as little as $200, but higher-quality monitors may cost as much as $500 or more. If your budget allows you to do so, you can even find 32- to 34-inch Windows monitors for around $900 to $1,000. But for the price of a 32-inch monitor, you can easily buy two 27-inch monitors, with far more total viewing space.

If your physical workspace provides enough room for at least two 27-inch displays, I would recommend considering that configuration. This provides room to do your writing on one display (taking notes, entering data into your software, etc.) and to do your research on the other display (viewing one or more records). You’d be surprised how much time and mental energy you save by not having to switch window views in and out.

Besides the cost of a second monitor, is there a downside to having multiple monitors? Yes: If you try to do serious research work on one screen, you may have distractions on the second screen, such as your email inbox or social media sites. In this case, you may find yourself less productive than if you had only a single screen! So if you don’t need to do real work on the second screen for a while, use it instead to display an inspirational photo or the text of your research goal in big letters.

Learn more tips and strategies for organizing your genealogical workspace by pre-ordering your copy of Organize Your Genealogy today.

organizing your research | Tech Advice
Monday, May 23, 2016 2:43:24 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Little-Known Courthouse Records: My Ancestor's Mechanic's Lien
Posted by Diane

Genealogists researching old court records generally expect to find records like deeds, probate files and trial proceedings. In our Courthouse Research Made Easy Family Tree University course (running May 23-June 27), you'll learn about these and other, lesser-known, ancestor records you can find at the courthouse.

I was lucky to discover an interesting one by chance, and it told me a lot about a few days in the life of my third-great-grandfather Thomas Frost, a carpenter. Even luckier, the record was online.

The Hamilton County (Ohio) Genealogical Society has a downloadable PDF "sundries" index, kept for non-deed documents, from the county recorder's office. I casually scrolled through and spotted Thomas' name with "mechanic's lien."

My first stop was FamilySearch's collection of Hamilton County, Ohio, records. It's not yet indexed, so you can't search it. Instead, I browsed to Land and Property records, then to the book, volume and page number referenced in sundries index: Mechanic Liens Vol. 7 (1864-1869), page 50.

The document outlines the materials and labor Thomas provided to a Mr. S. Schwab on a two-story brick building at 177 West Third Street, October 26-28, 1864. The list included "Repairing front gutter and trimming same and making new cornice and turning and furnishing tin spouts to rear of house," "Time & Trouble Fixing Clossets" and "nine square and 20 ft. of Shingling at $2.00."

I had to look up what a mechanic's lien is. It serves as security for a person working on a construction project. The tradesperson receives interest in the property title, and if the person in charge of the project doesn't pay his workers, they can be paid from the sale of the property. Similar laws have existed for centuries, according to Wikipedia, but Thomas Jefferson conceived of mechanics liens in their modern form to encourage construction in Washington, DC.

Thomas was owed $391 and at the time he filed the lien Jan. 27, 1865, he'd received only $90. If I'm interpreting this correctly, it looks like he did receive payment.

You can bet I looked for an old map to find the location and see if the building still exists. It's a parking lot now.

But I know exactly where my ancestor was for three days in 1864, and what he was doing. Courthouses are filled with records like this, records you never would've realized existed. The four-week Courthouse Research Made Easy online course will show what records exist and how to find them, as well as offer strategies for in-person courthouse research. Learn more about the course and register at

court records | Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 2:39:17 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Five Resources For Finding Early Immigrants to the US
Posted by Diane

Looking for early immigrants to America, before passenger lists were required in 1820? Try these resources, which you'll learn more about in our online workshop How to Find Your Ancestry Before 1850, May 16-22:
  • Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s: This index by P. William Filby and Mary K. Meyer compiles information from a variety of records. It's in print at many libraries and searchable on, and through HeritageQuest Online (available at many libraries). 
  • Early passenger lists: A few early lists exist. For example, Philadelphia passenger lists from 1729 through 1808 (with a break during the American Revolution) are transcribed in Pennsylvania German Pioneers by Ralph B. Strassburger and William J. Hinke, and the National Archives has microfilm of some early lists for New Orleans and Philadelphia lists.
  • Land records: The colonies of Virginia and Maryland made land grands to those who sponsored immigrants.  The patent or headright would name those transported.
  • Naturalization records: In the Colonies, non-English immigrants had to swear oaths of allegiance as part of the citizenship process. The US passed its first naturalization act in 1790. These records have sparse information but may include the date, ship name and port of departure.
How to Find Your Ancestry Before 1850 also covers the 1790 through 1840 US censuses (which name only heads of households), tax records, "cluster" research, and other strategies and records for researching early Americans. See a workshop program at

immigration records | Research Tips
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 9:59:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]