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Thursday, February 13, 2014
8 "Next Steps" For Starting Your Genealogy
Posted by Diane
This week, I had the pleasure of Skyping with a class of sixth
graders working on a genealogy project. Here's a photo their teacher Tweeted:
They'd already interviewed family members and done some research
into census records, so after talking a little bit about how I got
interested in genealogy and answering their questions, I suggested
some "next steps" they could take.
We had to stop before I could really unleash my inner genealogy geek
(lucky for my captive young audience!). I'll add to the list here for you
with tips from our Family
History Starter Kit.
I think these tips work for all ages, whether
you're starting from scratch or you've done a little genealogy and you want to
make sure you covered these steps:
- Look around your house (or your parents' or another relative's
house, with permission) for "home sources": old photos, letters,
yearbooks, military discharge papers, etc.
- Try to find a relative in World War I draft registration
records. This draft captured about 23 percent of the US
population in 1917 and 1918; all men living in the United States
between the ages of roughly 18 and 45 had to apply. That means
if you had relatives in the United States at that time, there's
a good chance you'll find someone. WWI
draft records are free on FamilySearch.org. (And with the
centennial of the start of World War I coming up, it's a good
time to learn about the experiences of ancestors of that era.)
- Find an old map of the place your family lived, and see if you
can locate their home and where they went to school or work. It
gives you a picture of the neighborhood and helps you see how
it's changed. The David
Rumsey website has a huge collection of maps you can
search by place and download for free (registration is required
for very high-resolution versions).
- Go to the library in your ancestor's hometown or visit the
website and browse the local history and genealogy collection.
All libraries are different, but you might find old city
directories (which are like telephone books, not that today's
grade schoolers remember those), newspapers, books about the
area, surname files of papers related to particular families,
indexes to local records and more.
In the general genealogy advice category, I would add:
- Search for relatives' graves in sites like Find A Grave, Interment.net and BillionGraves. Also look
for death information in the Social Security Death Index, also
free on FamilySearch.
- Run a place search of the FamilySearch
online catalog so you an see what type of records are
available for the places your family lived. See what's digitized
for free at FamilySearch.org
for those places, too. Continue your place-based research by
exploring the USGenWeb Project
state and county pages for places your family lived.
- Make a family tree chart so you can see how everyone in your
family fits together. You can do this on paper on a
five-generation pedigree chart, in a genealogy software
program, or on a family tree-building website. There are many
websites where you can build a family tree (usually, for free),
Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, Geni, and Tribal Pages. Find other
options listed at
- Start a research log with your genealogy to-do list of records
you want to look up and databases you want to search. A
spreadsheet works well for this, and you can note the record,
ancestor's name, repository or website, and other pertinent
- Gather information not only on parents, grandparents,
great-grandparents, etc. (your ancestors), but also on aunts,
uncles and cousins (your collateral relatives). Collateral
relatives' records could have information about your ancestors,
and they'll help you find distant relatives who are still
- Keep track of where you found each piece of new genealogy information. Write down the type of record; title of the microfilm, book, or online collection and website where you found it; author and publisher (a person and/or an organization); date and place of publication; the page number with the information; and date you accessed the website (if applicable).
What "next steps" and general advice would you suggest for a beginning genealogist?
History Starter Kit is great for folks who want to start
researching their family history or who've done a little genealogy
and aren't sure what to do next. The collection of how-to books,
downloads and printed lessons have a friendly approach that guides
you through those first steps—they're full of tips you can start
using right away to discover your family history. Learn
more about it here.
Genealogy for kids | Research Tips | Social Networking
Thursday, February 13, 2014 9:46:08 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
In Which I Do Some Genealogical Decorating With Pretty (Easy) Family Tree Charts
Posted by Diane
I promised our Genealogy
Insider email newsletter readers that I'd show the framed
family tree charts I put in my children's rooms.
You can get
these charts as type-in downloads or as blank paper versions at ShopFamilyTree.com. You also can win
a framed one—more on this below.
Leo's tree is the 8x10-inch Watercolor design.
Why not hammer in the picture nail with what your two-year-old has immediately at hand?
For Norah's tree, I used the Floral design, also the 8x10-inch size.
Until Daddy takes care of the picture ledge
item on his honey-do list, its home is on Norah's dresser (next to her hairbow frame, inspired by something I saw on
Pinterest. Yes, I actually completed a project I
These obviously aren't my research charts or a complete record of all of the kids' known ancestors. Nope. Instead, they're a beautiful way to
display the names of my children's parents, grandparents and
Because these trees are in children's rooms, I chose frames in kid
colors. (I printed copies for their baby books, too.)
You also could use a more-versatile gold-tone frame, like our
giveaway family tree. I think these decorative family trees
would make lovely gifts for the holidays, a baby shower or a
Three family tree chart designs are available in ShopFamilyTree.com—the Floral
trees I used, and this Vintage
The family tree charts are available two ways in ShopFamilyTree.com:
Here's how you can win the 11x14-inch Watercolor family tree chart,
printed with your family names and framed: Enter
our drawing. That's it!
- a downloadable PDF, which includes three sizes—8x10, 11x14 and
16x20. You can type names right into the spaces on the PDF file and print it on your
printer (what I did), or take the file to an office store to be
- a printed chart. You get an 11x14-inch blank chart that you fill
out by hand (trace lightly with pencil first, or type names on
your computer and print them onto clear labels). It looks like
this option might be temporarily out of stock, though.
Oh, the giveaway deadline is Nov. 1, and you can get extra chances
to win if you get friends to enter. See details on the Family
Tree Chart Giveaway page.
Editor's Pick | Family Heirlooms | Genealogy for kids | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, October 09, 2013 9:39:04 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, February 08, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 4-8
Posted by Diane
- PBS has gathered its African-American
history content into one place to help you celebrate Black
History Month. Watch programs including Freedom Riders and Finding
Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr., take a quiz about miletones
in African-American history, get ideas for celebrating the month
with kids and more.
Know a young genealogist who could use $500 toward genealogy
education, plus a free registration to attend the Southern
California Genealogical Society Jamboree? Applications are being
accepted for the 2013 Suzanne
Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant, created to
honor the mother of The Family Curator blogger Denise Levenick. It's
open to any genealogist who is between the ages of 18 and 25 and has
attended school in the last 12 months. The recipient must attend the
2013 Jamboree in Burbank, Calif., to receive the award. Application
deadline is March 18, 2013, at midnight PST. Learn more here.
Findmypast.com is giving its registered users the opportunity
to watch the BBC show Find My Past, which reveals how ordinary
individuals are related to people from significant historical
events. With a free findmypast.com registration, you can watch
episodes that first aired during the past 30 days. Thereafter,
episodes will be available to the sites subscribing members. Learn
more on findmypast.com.
Also new in findmypast.com's World subscription is a collection
of 200 British newspapers
from England, Scotland and Wales from 1700 to 1950.
African-American roots | Genealogy for kids | Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, February 08, 2013 3:04:28 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, November 19, 2012
Scavenger Hunt at Grandma's House!
Posted by Beth
If you've got grandkids, nieces or nephews heading over the river and through the woods to your house this Thanksgiving, the holiday gathering is the perfect time to introduce them to genealogy.
Before- or After-dinner Activities:
Whether you're basting the turkey or basking in a tryptophan afterglow, these printable sheets can keep the little ones busy.
Genealogy Word Scramble (Downloadable PDF)
Word Search: Family History Records (Downloadable PDF)
Build Your Family Tree (Fillable and Downloadable PDF)
If you've got a little more time and can be involved in the process, these activities offer a great opportunity to talk about family history while making memories together.
Create a Tombstone Rubbing
Make Picture Magnets
Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy for kids | Genealogy fun
Monday, November 19, 2012 9:17:54 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, June 17, 2011
We Knew Him When!
Posted by Diane
Back in the January 2008 Family Tree Magazine, we had an article about Anthony Ray, a young genealogist, member of California’s Antelope Valley Genealogical Society and webmaster of The Berreyesa Researcher.
Anthony, now a junior majoring in music at West Coast Bible College in Lancaster, Calif., has just been awarded the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant. (Can we spot ‘em or what?)
He was introduced as the grant winner during a banquet at last week’s Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank.
You can read our 2008 article on Anthony Ray here and see the press release about the Suzanne Winsor Freeman grant here.
Genealogy Events | Genealogy for kids
Friday, June 17, 2011 10:24:23 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, March 04, 2011
Baby's First Family History Center Visit
Posted by Grace
Diane's on maternity leave for a few more weeks, but that hasn't stopped her from continuing her genealogy research. She brought baby Leo with her on a recent trip to a Family History Center to request some microfilm. I am sure he was a very popular guy! Look at those hands -- he's just itching to get his mitts on some microfiche.
If you're planning on taking a trip to a Family History Center for the first time, you've got to read our article "Family History Central" (available to Plus members) from the January 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.
FamilySearch | Genealogy for kids | Genealogy fun
Friday, March 04, 2011 11:05:28 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Young Genealogists: Tips and a Grant to Attend the Jamboree!
Posted by Diane
Know a young person who's gung-ho about genealogy? Genealogy writer Denise Levenick is sponsoring a $500 grant to send a young genealogist (age 18 to 25 as of July 1) to the 2011 Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank, Calif. June 10-12.
The Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant honors Levenick’s late mom, who worked with youth organizations and enjoyed attending last year’s Jamboree.
The application requirements and instructions are on Levenick’s The Family Curator website.
We get questions pretty regularly about how to interest younger kids in genealogy. You’ll find our suggestions in these free articles:
Now I’d like to open it up to you: What genealogy projects have you done with your kids, grandkids or students? What are your tips for holding their interest? Click Comments to share your ideas.
Genealogy Events | Genealogy for kids
Thursday, January 06, 2011 4:55:07 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Fun Facts From the December 2010 Family Tree Magazine
Posted by Diane
Here are a few of the things you’ll learn from the December 2010 Family Tree Magazine, just out on newsstands (it’s available from ShopFamilyTree.com both in print and as a digital download):
- In the early 1900s, lamination—now an archival no-no—was a celebrated new tool at repositories nationwide. Thousands of historical documents were laminated, including the Emancipation Proclamation.
Find out how archives are working with these documents in the December 2010 Genealogy Insider column.
- About 125,000 US troops, both Army regulars and new volunteers, served in the Philippine Insurrection from 1899 to 1902. The 1900 US census has information on military personnel stationed in the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Read more in our December 2010 guide to records from America’s lesser-known military conflicts.
- The Washington State Digital Archives holds more than 90 million records, with 28 million searchable online.
Find more state genealogy resources in our guide to 75 of the best state sites for genealogy research (also online).
- The Irish National Museum has a firkin of butter buried in a peat bog (once a common storage practice) in the late-17th or eary-18th century. The grayish substance no longer resembles butter. Brush up on butter in the December 2010 History Matters column.
- To help kids learn about your family’s genealogy, you can get Hearth Song’s stick-on family tree wall mural to personalize with relatives’ names and photos.
Get more kid-friendly genealogy ideas in the December 2010 article Legacy Lessons.
- Some 250,000 Scots-Irish are thought to have arrived in the United States between 1717 and the American Revolution, with later waves in the 1740s, around 1754, and between 1771 and 1775. Many headed for central Pennsylvania, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and the Carolinas, eventually migrating into and across the Appalachians.
Learn how to trace these ancestors (also called Ulster Scots) in our December 2010 guide to Scots-Irish Roots.
- Most PCs come with Window Movie Maker, which makes it easy to turn digital photos and videos into family movies.
See a tutorial in the December 2010 Toolkit.
Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy for kids | Genealogy Web Sites | Historic preservation | Military records | Social History | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, October 19, 2010 12:15:50 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, April 10, 2009
The Cure for Hard-to-Read Web Sites
Posted by Grace
Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist
, shared this amazing Web tool today: Readability
, which boils down horribly busy Web sites to the basic text.
You simply visit the Readability Web site
, select the format you'd like to read in (including how large you'd like the text), and drag the link to your browser's bookmarks toolbar.
Then, when you encounter a site that makes you want to spork your eyes out, just click the link in your toolbar, and the site's content is miraculously legible!
Here's a before and after with our local news site, which can be a trainwreck of ads and popups, with the actual story barely beginning before the end of the my screen.
Amazing, huh? Click here
to try out Readability for yourself.
Genealogy for kids | Tech Advice
Friday, April 10, 2009 12:58:34 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
200 Years of Children's Books on Display
Posted by Grace
Before Webkinz and Tamagotchis
, children had to find amusement in analog activities, such as rolling hoops, kicking cans and—gasp!—reading books.
I recently stumbled across the University of Delaware's online exhibit "World of the Child: 200 Years of Children's Books
," which gives an in-depth look at what kids read as well as the education philosophies behind the often dry books.
You can view sample pages of instructional books
and poetry collections
, as well as more modern pop-ups
. The explanations can give you a whole new perspective
on your ancestors' childhoods:
"Until the middle of the nineteenth century, all books for children were
religious books in the sense that all literature was seen as requiring
a stated moral perspective. Since fairy and folk tales, beloved by
children in both oral and written form, were seen as threatening to the
established moral order, a body of literature was developed to ensure
that children's reading would reflect the conservative Protestantism of
the time. The high infant mortality rate and large numbers of women
dying in childbirth, also contributed to the focus in children's
stories on pious lives and early deaths."
Sure is a far cry from Pokemon. Click here
to browse the collection.
Genealogy for kids | Libraries and Archives | Social History
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 9:46:30 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Video: Making Genealogy Fun for Kids
Posted by Diane
So last week I took a quick trip out to San Diego to talk on the morning news about genealogy for kids and Family Tree Magazine
’s partnership with Tamagotchi
With the latest version of Tamagotchi's digital pets, kids can raise “Tama” families and trace their pets' family trees—which presented an excellent opportunity to help kids learn about their own family trees in a fun way. They can get human genealogy tips in Tama Generations
’ Family Center and on our Family Tree Kids!
For more on Tamagotchi trees and how kids can research their own families, watch the video
(remember, I woke up before
the crack of dawn) on San Diego's NBC affiliate Web site.
Genealogy for kids | Genealogy fun | Videos
Tuesday, April 08, 2008 8:49:01 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Announcing Family Tree Kids!
Posted by Diane
Got a kids or grandkids who are interested in family history? Need to put together a genealogy project for students or a scouting group? We created Family Tree Kids!
just for you.
The site, designed for children ages 8 through 12, has family history-related games and crafts; activities that’ll help kids build their family detective skills and learn about their families; and a fun family tree kids can download, fill in with ancestors' names, and print.
A grownups’ section offers a resource toolkit for parents and teachers who are helping kids with genealogy projects.
Our partnership with Tamagotchi,
makers of the popular digital pets, inspired Family Tree Kids! Familitchi, the newest version of Tamagotchi’s pets, encourages kids to learn about family history.
Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites | Genealogy for kids
Wednesday, April 02, 2008 7:22:29 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)