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More Links

# Friday, 06 January 2017
Writing Your Life Story: How to Bring Back "Lost" Memories
Posted by Diane

Library of Congress

"Recording your own stories" is one of Family Tree Magazine’s list of 17 genealogy habits for success in 2017 (part of our hot-off-the-presses January/February issue). 

How many of us spend months or years tracking down every possible record of an ancestor’s life, the whole time wishing he or she had left a journal revealing personality, opinions, interests, hopes and pet peeves?
But then we neglect to record all those things about ourselves—whether for our own children or for children from other lines who may one day wish to really know us.

FamilySearch has launched the #52Stories Project encouraging you to write one brief story about your life each week. Find motivation, weekly writing prompts and links to others’ stories on the #52Stories home page.

Sunny Jane Morton's book Story of My Life has in-depth guidance on writing your life story, as well as fill-in forms and questions that help you organize and tell your stories. Her helpful tips and exercises for remembering the details of your life events, which will make your stories more meaningful to you and to others, include: 
  • Free associate. Start with a blank page and write a person, place or event at the top. Then begin with "I remember" and write anything that comes to mind, even if it’s not a complete thought. For example, if my page was titled “Grandma,” I'd might write “sewing” (she was a skilled seamstress), “potbelly bear” (she gave me one for Christmas when I was 6), “purple” (her favorite color) and “Wellesley” (the street where she lived). Keep going until you run out of memories.

  • Immerse yourself. Go to a place related to a time in your life you want to recall. Visit your childhood neighborhood, walk around your high school, have a drink at the dive bar where your friends gathered when you were young singles. Listen to the music and eat the food you liked.

  • Read about the places and times you want to remember. Books, contemporary news articles and photos detailing events and eras like the assassination of President Kennedy, Summer of Love and the turn of the millennium will bring back mental images and memory snippets of what you were doing at the time.

  • Reach out. Ask folks who knew you when what they remember about the junior high class trip to Washington, DC, or the day of your father’s funeral. Their memories might fill in where yours gets fuzzy.
Here's where to view all 17 habits for genealogy success in 2017, here's where to pick up the January/February issue, and here's where to get the book Story of My Life.
Genealogy books | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | Writing about your family history
Friday, 06 January 2017 08:41:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 29 December 2016
Let's Celebrate Our Genealogy Research Accomplishments in 2016!
Posted by Diane

Library of Congress

Farewell 2016, hello 2017! It's been a busy year for my family, but I still can pat myself on the back for accomplishing few things, genealogy-wise:
What about you? Make a list of your genealogy accomplishments, however small.

Then, let's raise a toast to our genealogy feats in 2016, and look forward to even more fabulous ancestor finds in 2017.

Happy New Year from Family Tree Magazine!

Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 29 December 2016 12:44:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 19 December 2016
31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes: Mom's Easy Pecan Pie
Posted by Diane

Christmas afternoons when I was little were spent at Grandma's house. After dinner, the grownups would talk in the kitchen upstairs and the kids would play downstairs, eagerly listening for some aunt or uncle to yell "Kids—DESSERT!" 

The spread always included two of mom's pecan pies.  I remembered this recently, when I found her "easy" recipe written in the margin of her 1983 cookbook, next to Betty Crocker's less-easy one.

Pecans are native to the Southeast United States, and recipes for using them in pie first appeared in Texas cookbooks in the 1870s. Pecan pie's popularity picked up in the 1920s, when Karo provided a recipe for it on cans of corn syrup (Mom's recipe uses two kinds of corn syrup, dark and light).

It's still a Southern dish by reputation (half of my maternal family tree is in Kentucky), but people from all over love it. See more pecan pie history here.

I'd "help" Mom make the pies. She had a pastry mat marked with concentric circles for rolling out pie crust, but I think she usually turned to Pillsbury. As for the filling, it couldn't be easier: Just measure everything and stir it together. Chop the pecans if you like them chopped, leave them whole if you don't. Then pour it into the crust and bake.

Mmmm, rich and sweet. See the pecan pie recipe (along with other desserts) here.

One nostalgic dish can bring back a lot of memories. What recipes do you recall enjoying with your family during the holiday season?

From egg nog to Scripture Cake, we at Family Tree Magazine are sharing those we remember—one every day in December—on our website.

saving and sharing family history
Monday, 19 December 2016 12:21:49 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 06 December 2016
31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes: Easy Birthday Cupcakes
Posted by Diane

We at Family Tree Magazine are sharing 31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes in December to honor the folks in our family histories who prepare mountains of cookies, pies, fancy entrees, beverages, coffee cakes (my mom-in-law has about 40 stashed in friends' freezers all over town) and other special dishes.

For those of us who enjoy the fruits of our baking relatives' labor, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without their culinary creations.

Of course, all this cooking and baking takes time, which you might find in short supply at this point of the year (and all the other points, too), so the recipe I'm sharing today is easy.

My sister, arguably my family's best chef, taught me the secret of starting with boxed mix and making it better with a few adjustments.

My husband is a big fan of homemade frosting so I make my own (though I do keep a backup tub of store-bought in the pantry just in case).

I just made these cupcakes for our publisher Allison Dolan's milestone birthday (I'll keep you guessing which one), and they're pretty good if I must say. 

You will need:
  • Your favorite cake mix
  • Cocoa powder if using chocolate cake mix
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Your favorite frosting (Mine is cream cheese from my mom's recipe: Beat together 1/2 cup softened butter and 8 oz. softened cream cheese, then beat in a splash of vanilla and 4 cups powdered sugar, plus a tablespoon or two of milk.) 
  • Sprinkles, mini chocolate chips or other decoration
What to do:
Prepare your favorite boxed cake mix, but use melted butter instead of oil (the same amount) and milk instead of water (also the same amount). If using a chocolate mix (which I do 99% of the time), sprinkle a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder into the dry mix for more chocolately-ness. Beat the batter with an electric mixer (instead of by hand) for about 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners and bake according to the instructions on the box. Let cool and frost, Be sure to add sprinkles or other decorations before the frosting sets.

Follow us on Facebook, visit us on Pinterest and stop by to see all 31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes!

saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 15:33:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 25 November 2016
What Gift Would You Buy Your Ancestor On Black Friday?
Posted by Diane

Today's prompt for Family Tree Magazine's 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge is:
In honor of Black Friday, review resources like the Sears Catalog and “buy” three Christmas presents for an ancestor. Why did you choose them?
I'm going to cheat and skip the Sears Wish Book and choose one gift, because it's allowed and because I know EXACTLY what I want to buy an ancestor—my grandfather—for Christmas.

A pig.

Library of Congress

To be more specific, a sow.

If you want to know why, you have to promise not to tell my dad what he's getting for Christmas.

Thank you.

Snooping in Dad's papers while putting together a book about his dad, I found an essay my grandfather wrote about going to high school at a Texas children's home.

In Grandpa's sophomore year, the animal husbandry students had to acquire and raise a farm animal.

My grandfather spent $75 on a registered sow. He didn't say whether the school provided funds. That would be quite a sum for a high school student today, let alone for a boy in 1919 with no family support.

Unfortunately, the pig fell victim to hog cholera, also called classic swine fever. This virus (now eradicated in the United States) is usually fatal within 15 days. Grandpa's sow died not long after he bought her.

"In the short space of time," wrote my grandfather, "I had grown to like my sow so much that when she died, I cried as if she were my sister."

Library of Congress

I never met my grandfather. What I know of his personality comes from my research, relatives, and my dad. The same dad, a mechanical engineer, who taught me to sweep the kitchen floor in straight lines, following the pattern in the linoleum to ensure thorough coverage. Other than getting worked up at the occasional soccer game, he's pretty stoic.

I get the feeling Dad comes by it honestly. Another of his dad's essays, titled "Studying," includes the recommendations "Each lesson in every course should be allotted a certain time and studied a certain day," and "In going over your lesson, study each sentence, and do not leave a difficult one until you are convinced you must have help to understand it."

My grandfather eventually became a civil engineer, one you'd be comfortable having build the bridges and large river dams you rely on to not fall over.

The orphanage he entered at age 11 wasn't the stereotypical miserable kind of place in Little Orphan Annie. Newspaper accounts describe a pleasant home, efficiently run, with children engaged in activities. My grandfather had friends and adults who cared about him. His brother and sister lived there for a time. So I could be wrong, but I can't help imagining him as a boy, putting on a brave face despite missing his mother terribly.

Great, now I'm going to cry.

Grandpa wrote that his junior year was when he decided to pursue engineering instead of agriculture. Maybe losing his pet played a role.

I have no idea how to buy someone a pig, but if I could go back a century to East Texas, I would make it happen.
saving and sharing family history | Social History
Friday, 25 November 2016 16:51:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 25 July 2016
To Write or Not to Write: Respecting Privacy in Family-History Storytelling
Posted by Diane

When you start writing your life’s stories, you may wonder what to put in and what to leave out. Should you mention that time you got arrested, or when your best friend betrayed you? What about your difficult relationship with your dad? What if telling your stories will reveal someone else’s secrets?

Writing your life story can raise questions about how to be fair and honest, and what stories of your life should keep private. Story of My Life workbook author and guest blogger Sunny Morton has three quick things to consider when you start writing your family history:

  • Everyone has a right to privacy. Writing about your life doesn’t obligate you to share all your stories. Chances are there are some events, relationships, failures or disappointments in your past you’d rather not write about.

    While you should consider acknowledging all life-changing events (even if you choose not to dwell on details), you don’t have to write about everything. For painful events that prompted major changes in your relationships, career, living circumstances or way of life, a passing mention—along with the results—may be sufficient: “After my divorce, I moved to Seattle, where my sister lived. I wanted to leave painful memories behind.”

  • Honesty is key. You don’t need to tell everything—but everything you tell should be true. Of course, you won’t intend to write falsehoods, but it can be tempting to downplay your role in a big family argument or skip over the nice things your “worthless” baby brother actually has done for you. Nobody is all good or all bad, including yourself. Try to write about everyone fairly. In doing so, you may discover some new truths in the process of writing: how you felt about someone, what you learned from a situation, how you feel now.

    Consider including at least some of these insights in your life-story writings. You may think it’s obvious what the past taught you or how you might feel, but that may not be the case. And your insights or life lessons may turn out to be the most valuable part of sharing your memories (for you and others).

  • Think twice before revealing someone else’s secrets. Many who write their life stories have to decide whether to divulge confidential or sensitive information about someone else. Should you write about a relative’s addiction, debts, temper or marital problems? Consider the answers to three questions:

    • First, is this your story to tell? If it didn’t significantly affect your life, it doesn’t really belong in your life story.
    • Second, what are your motives? Revenge, or an unfortunate but real need to set the record straight?
    • Finally, who may be hurt by your revelation? Even if the person with the secret is dead, that person may have living loved ones who may suffer.
After considering these questions, you may still see the need to reveal confidences, but you may approach it more sensitively.

My new book Story of My Life guides you through the process of deciding what stories to tell, telling them (including lessons learned) honestly, and focusing on what’s most important. You’ll find hundreds of memory prompts and reflection questions about the people and events of your past.

Story of My Life is available as an easy-to-use softcover workbook and as a writeable PDF—just type your answers and save them in a preformatted document you can print or share as you like.

Genealogy books | saving and sharing family history | Writing about your family history
Monday, 25 July 2016 10:54:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 19 July 2016
4 Ways to Jog Your Memories & Preserve Your History
Posted by Diane

Struggling to remember part of your past? Check out these four quick ways to spark memories from guest blogger and author of the Story of My Life workbook, Sunny Jane Morton:

Recording your own history can be a rewarding experience, both personally and for your genealogy research—you never know what clues you’ll recall! But it can be frustrating when you don’t remember certain things as clearly as you’d like. Below are four strategies to jog your memories. Use these to evoke the feelings and facts of specific time periods, people, places or events in your past:

  1. Listen to music. Music can be especially powerful for evoking emotional memories. Play songs from the time period in question and see what feelings and memories surface. Pull out your old music albums, cassette tapes or CDs to remind yourself of your old “must-listen” albums. If you no longer own a device that can play these (or the cassette tape has deteriorated too much), look for updated formats at your local library. You could also use YouTube to look for individual songs or playlists of popular songs for a certain time period. Use search terms to bring up the name of a singer, band, song or album. Try a phrase like songs from the 40s or 1960s music, or do similar searches in your web browser. Billboard Top 100 songs 1955 brings up lists of hits you can then track down individually. If that search doesn’t work for you, try searching the Internet Archive. Its Live Music Archive is strongest for music recorded since the mid-1980s, but there is an enormous collection of Grateful Dead music (for example) that you can stream or download. Browse or search for the recording artists and songs you listened to. Or go way back into your family’s music memories with a digital collection of more than 3000 78rpm records and cylinder recordings from the early 20th century.

  2. Visit a place. Travel back to the setting of an event or time period. Walk through your old neighborhood, visit your alma mater or stop at the church or courthouse where you were married. If you can’t go to the actual place you want to remember, find a local surrogate to recreate the ambience. Visit a local beach, suburban street, high school football game or neighborhood street festival. The sights, sounds and smells (funnel cake!) may trigger memories. Or make a virtual visit to that place via Google Earth; try the Street View to see the place at eye level. Even things that have changed may make you better recall what was there before.

  3. Look at pictures and memorabilia. Get out your old photo albums, yearbooks, date books, letters, documents, clothing, jewelry, collections, awards, trophies and other mementoes of the past. Spend some time studying them in detail. Who appears in your memorabilia? What event or memory does it represent? Why did you keep it? What was going on in the background? What related memories does the sight of that person/object/place bring to mind?

  4. Reminisce. Contact someone who was part of your life during the time you’re trying to recall. After reconnecting, see if they’re willing to talk about “old times.” Compare memories: It can be both interesting and revealing when you recall things differently. Ask if they recall the things you’re trying to remember—why you all did something, or the name of the person on the left in a photo you can share. A couple words of advice: Be considerate of those whose memories of that time may be unpleasant or who may not want to bring up the past. And don’t argue when your memories conflict.

In the end, you still may not remember every detail as crisply as you’d like. But life-story writing is rewarding when it’s about your feelings and thoughts about the past, not just the memories themselves. Take special note of how your perceptions of the past may have changed (or not).

Reflect on how an event or person changed you—even if you don’t recall them perfectly. Note life lessons you took away with you, particularly those that have guided your life since. Write these things down.

A guided journal such as my new book Story of My Life is the perfect place to capture your thoughts and memories. It’s organized by time period and contains hundreds of memory prompts and reflection questions.

There are plenty of places to record specific memories and celebrate special relationships. Story of My Life is available as an easy-to-use softcover workbook and as a writeable PDF—just type your answers and save them in a pre-formatted document you can print or share as you like.

Genealogy books | saving and sharing family history | Writing about your family history
Tuesday, 19 July 2016 11:33:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 12 July 2016
3 Tips for Preserving Childhood Memories
Posted by Diane

Want to dig into your past? Guest blogger and author of the Story of My Life workbook Sunny Jane Morton shares three quick tips for recalling childhood memories:

What do you remember from your childhood? If you’re like most people, the answer may be, “Not much.” The older you get, the more remote and vague your youngest years may seem. That can be so frustrating when you want to document your life story (and the first chapter is missing!) or bring to mind clues from your childhood that would help you research your family history.

When starting to piece together your childhood memories, try following these three steps:

  1. Capture your memories as they are. You may not have many clear, consistent memories before about age 10. The ones you do have may seem fragmented. That’s because you experienced the world as a child, with a child’s emotions and perceptions, and you stored them away in the same fashion. But these memories still have value. Write them down. Then think about them over the course of several days or weeks. You may find bits of memory or explanation resurfacing. Add them to your written account.
  2. “Borrow” memories from loved ones. It’s not cheating to gather memories about your youngest years from those who remember them better. Ask parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, old neighbors and longtime friends about specific events or your childhood generally. Their memories will have limitations, too, but it’s worth asking.
  3. Research your past to fill in the blanks. Once you’ve compiled your memories alongside those of your loved ones, you may still identify gaps in the stories. Consider what missing details may be researched, particularly those that would bring the story back alive for you. Perhaps you could look up the specs on the 1950 Oldsmobile your father bought, the names of your grandparents’ neighbors or the route you would have taken on that road trip the summer you turned 12.

Learn more about each of these steps—from writing down and fleshing out vague memories to researching their contexts—in the Story of My Life workbook by Sunny Jane Morton. This life-story writing guide is packed with memory-jogging journaling prompts and more tips for fleshing out your life’s most meaningful stories. Story of My Life is available as an easy-to-use softcover workbook and as a writeable PDF—just type your answers and save them in a pre-formatted document you can print or share as you like.

saving and sharing family history | Writing about your family history
Tuesday, 12 July 2016 10:35:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 31 May 2016
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, 31 May 2016 10:47:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 19 January 2016
8 Habits of Highly Organized Genealogists
Posted by Diane

Why is organizing genealogy stuff perpetually challenging for so many of us? Maybe because finding new ancestry information is more fun than logging it. And organization isn't a one-way-fits-everyone kind of deal—the system and tools best for you depend on how your brain works.

But the pros will tell you that organizing is an important part of research. It helps you figure out how the new piece fits into your family tree and form conclusions about your ancestors. That's why we're holding our Family Tree University Organize Your Genealogy in a Week online workshop Jan. 25-31, where you'll learn best practices from genealogy experts and exchange ideas with other family historians like you.


What I like about the following eight getting-organized principles (which have come from Family Tree Magazine contributors and readers over the years) is that you can apply them with the tools and techniques that are right for you. You'll learn a lot more about such tools and techniques in the Organize Your Genealogy in a Week workshop.

1. Keep the big picture in mind.
You can use genealogy charts such as five-generation ancestor charts and family group sheets to help you visualize how your relatives fit together, or try an online family tree builder with an app on your smart phone. (Find free downloadable blank forms on It’s also handy to have a large working family tree chart, where you can see the whole thing at once. 

2. Take charge of paper files.
Set up a filing system for family papers. Many researchers use binders or file folders arranged alphabetically by surname. Each surname folder holds papers from a couple’s marriage to their death, as well as any general notes. Children go in their parents’ folder, then get their own folder when they marry. You also might keep folders for towns or counties, with maps, historical background and local research notes.

3. Go digital.
To save space in paper files and create electronic backups, scan photos and paper documents. Organize digital files with the same system as your paper files. Determine a file-naming scheme, write it down and stick to it.

4. Establish an organization routine.
If you regularly take short chunks of time to file stuff, it becomes second nature. Set up an inbox on your desk or computer hard drive for items you need to take action on (scan, label, etc.) and a “to file” folder for documents ready to be put away. Once a week or month, schedule time to empty these boxes.

5. Take advantage of tech tools.
You can organize with tons of tech tools and apps, such as Evernote for tracking information and research findings, Calibre to manage e-books, Flickr for photos, Excel spreadsheets for checklists and logs. Find some of our favorite genealogy apps listed here.

6. Designate a workspace.
If you’re like many of us, your genealogy workspace may double as a guest bedroom, dining room table or living room floor. Try to have a designated spot for your files, computer and books.

7. Color-code folders and files.
You could use a color for each surname, though you’d probably run out of colors before too long. I'd color code by branch with a different color for each of my grandparents’ lines. Color-code computer files and folders to match: On a Mac, click on a folder or file in the finder window and then click the down arrow next to the gear icon. From the drop-down menu, select Label and the color. PCs don’t have built-in folder color-coding, but you can download a program such as Folderico.

8. Create a kit for on-site research.
Prepare a bag with tools you might need for research at a repository: notebook, pen, pencil, money for the copier, flash drive, a family group sheet, surname variant lists, blank census or passenger list recording forms, etc. Now you won’t have to run around gathering stuff when you leave for the library.

Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 10:21:39 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, 23 November 2015
StoryCorps App Lets You Record a Story for the Great Thanksgiving Listen
Posted by Diane


The Great Thanksgiving Listen is an initiative of the national oral history project StoryCorps to encourage high school students to spend part of Thanksgiving weekend interviewing an elder and preserving his or her story.

And you can still be part of it even if you're not in high school: StoryCorps suggests making a plan to interview a grandparent, neighbor or family friend over the age of 65.

That advice was written for a general audience, so for folks who are themselves circling 65 and/or might not have older generations around to query: I'd add that you also could participate by sharing your own story with the youngsters in your family.

You could record it, write it down and/or gather the children and tell them in person. My kids love to hear about the trouble my sisters and I got into when I was their age (although I might be sorry I shared when they decide to create their own slip-and-slide on the basement floor with pancake syrup).

Also consider interviewing close-to-your-age siblings, spouses, cousins or friends to preserve their unique life experiences.

StoryCorps has an app you can use on your Android smartphone, iPhone or iPad to record your (or someone else's) story. And if you plan to interview someone about family history, our Oral History Interviewing Made Easy e-book is a handy, informative guide to
  • how to set up the interview
  • what questions to ask
  • how to get relatives to open up
  • how to record and preserve their words
Happy Thanksgiving!

Genealogy Apps | Oral History | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 23 November 2015 14:51:09 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Flip-pal Mobile Scanner's StoryScans: Digital Photos With Recorded Memories
Posted by Diane

Looking through old photos with your family (a fun post-Thanksgiving dinner family history activity) is an often-recommended way to draw out stories and genealogy information. If you have a Flip-pal mobile scanner, you now can capture those stories along with the photos that inspired them. 

Flip-pal's new Toolbox 4.0 software includes StoryScans, a feature that lets you scan a photo, then record the story behind the scanned image on your Windows or Mac computer or iOS mobile device.

The resulting file keeps the image and the audio together, and don't require an additional player to open. The Toolbox 4.0 includes automated uploads to Facebook, Picasa, Dropbox and Evernote.

You could go to Grandma's house, scan her wedding photo (without having to remove it from the album) and touch a button to record Grandma herself talking about the day. Read more about StoryScans and see examples here.

Visit Flip-pal's website to see what else is updated in Toolbox 4.0, check out the system requirements, and click a link to download the software.

And if you've been wanting a Flip-pal mobile scanner, we carry it in!

Photos | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 23 November 2015 11:42:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 18 November 2015
Resolution Rules of Thumb for Scanning Old Family Photos and Documents
Posted by Diane

Anyone undertaking a genealogy scanning project, or just scanning a single old picture for Throwback Thursday, might have wondered what resolution is best for the particular thing about to be scanned.

Wonder no more! Here are some quick resolution tips for scanning old photos and documents from the Family Tree University Digitize Your Family History online course, which starts Monday, Nov. 23.

In general, the higher the resolution (measured in dpi, for dots per inch), the more you can enlarge the image without getting that grainy, pixilated look. But higher-resolution files also are bigger and hog space on your computer or in your cloud storage, so you don't want to scan everything at the highest-available dpi. Instead, go with these rules of thumb:
  • If you plan to post the digitized image to a blog or website, the standard is 72 dpi.
  • If you want to print the image at its original size, scan at least 300 dpi.

  • If you're scanning old letters and other documents to archive, use 300 dpi. (But notes, receipts and papers you're not intending to archive are fine at 72 dpi.)

  • If you plan to view the scanned photos on your HDTV screen, use a minimum of 300 dpi for 4x6-inch originals, and higher dpi for smaller originals.
  • If you want to enlarge the photo up to double in size (for printing or on-screen zooming-in and examining), scan it at least 600 dpi.

  • If you'll want to more than double the size of the original photo, go even higher with the dpi. At 900 dpi, a 4x6-inch printed photo turns into a 16x24-inch digital image.
  • If the original photo is small, scan at 600 dpi or higher. If you scan a 2x3-inch photo at 1200 dpi, for example, it will become a 16x24-inch digital image without losing quality.

  • If the original is a tintype or daguerreotype, scan at 1200 dpi.
  • If you don't know how the digitized photo will be used or you're scanning it to archive for posterity, scan at least 600 and up to 1200 dpi.
Remember that you can always downsave a copy to a lower resolution, but you can't add image quality without re-scanning the original.

Family Tree University's Digitize Your Family History four-week course, starting next Monday, Nov. 23, has guidance from Denise Levenick (author of the book How to Archive Family Keepsakes) on how to digitize your old family photographs, precious documents and heirlooms.

This course will help you achieve the peace of mind that your family's visual memories and their associated stories are safeguarded against fire, weather damage, loss and family discord. And you'll be easily able to share these mementos or publish them in book form. Learn more and register for the course at

Family Tree University | saving and sharing family history | Tech Advice
Wednesday, 18 November 2015 16:34:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
StoryCorps App Lets You Record a Story for the Great Thanksgiving Listen
Posted by Diane


The Great Thanksgiving Listen is an initiative of the national oral history project StoryCorps to encourage high school students to spend part of Thanksgiving weekend interviewing an elder and preserving his or her story.

And you can still be part of it even if you're not in high school: StoryCorps suggests making a plan to interview a grandparent, neighbor or family friend over the age of 65.

That advice was written for a general audience, so for folks who are themselves circling 65 and/or might not have older generations around to query: I'd add that you also could participate by sharing your own story with the youngsters in your family.

You could record it, write it down and/or gather the children and tell them in person. My kids love to hear about the trouble my sisters and I got into when I was their age (although I might be sorry I shared when they decide to create their own slip-and-slide on the basement floor with pancake syrup).

Also consider interviewing close-to-your-age siblings, spouses, cousins or friends to preserve their unique life experiences.

StoryCorps has an app you can use on your Android smartphone, iPhone or iPad to record your (or someone else's) story. And if you plan to interview someone about family history, our Oral History Interviewing Made Easy e-book is a handy, informative guide to
  • how to set up the interview
  • what questions to ask
  • how to get relatives to open up
  • how to record and preserve their words
Happy Thanksgiving!

Genealogy Apps | Oral History | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 18 November 2015 14:50:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 20 October 2015
4 Ways to Record Your Life for Future Researchers on Evernote
Posted by Diane

This guest post was written by Kerry Scott, blogger at Clue Wagon and author of a new book on the Evernote software and its potential for genealogists, How to Use Evernote for Genealogy.

Genealogists are always focused on finding their ancestors, but what about preserving our own family history? Many of us mean to get to that—someday. It's important that we try to be the ancestors we'd like to find ourselves, but finding the time and resources to do that can be a challenge. Evernote is a great tool to make this process faster and easier because we can incorporate it into our everyday lives. That way, the records make themselves. Here are four ways you can use Evernote to preserve your own family history:

  1. Holiday planning: It's that time of year, and many of us are already scrambling to buy gifts, plan meals, and make travel arrangements. Tracking all of that in Evernote makes life so much easier because you'll have all of the information you need, whenever and wherever you need it. That means if you're standing at a store and find something that might make a great gift, you can easily pull up your Gift List note and see how much you've spent on that person or whether you've already bought her something similar a few years ago.

    Tracking meal planning is particularly helpful, because you can ensure you don't make too much or too little of each thing. How many pounds of mashed potatoes did you need to feed 16 people last year? Did people really like that maple-glazed carrot dish? Your notes can answer these questions. Even better, you're saving exactly the kind of small details that most of us would love to have about our own ancestors. Who wouldn't want to know exactly what was served at the family Thanksgiving feast in 1887?

  2. Kids’ stuff: If you have young kids (or grandkids), you know how the stuff piles up. They're constantly drawing you charming pictures and making you adorable cards, and you feel bad throwing them out. You can't store it all, but Evernote can. Use your camera or smartphone to take a photo, and then store the photo in Evernote. You'll have an easy-to-maintain archive that is dust-free, and your closets will have plenty of room for clothes. You can even use Evernote's Presentation Mode to make a slideshow of the kids' work (learn more here).

  3. Garden planning: Our first house was built in the early 1920s, and we often had people visit who had lived there at various points in time. We once found one woman lurking in the front yard and dabbing her eyes, and we asked if she was okay. She said that her late mother had planted the peonies in the yard, and that she was amazed to find that they were still there. Gardens can be part of our family history, and sometimes they even outlive us. As a practical matter, gardening also often involves lots of trial and error, so tracking what worked and what didn't can be very useful. Keep this information in Evernote, and you'll have it at your fingertips.

  4. Family recipes: Most of us have inherited index cards or scribbled notes with treasured family recipes. Those recipes cards are often in constant peril, dodging the liquids and mess of our kitchens and subject to being lost in the shuffle of getting food on the table. Storing those recipes in Evernote allows us to keep them safe. It also means we can add photos of the ancestor they belonged too, plus stories that might relate. Was this recipe served at every family reunion? Where did Grandma learn to make that fudge? Recording those details are as important as keeping the recipe itself.

Learn more about the many uses of Evernote in How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, available on

Evernote | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 20 October 2015 13:27:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 06 October 2015
7 Ways to Celebrate Family History Month in October 2015
Posted by Diane

Cake made by me at Virtual Cake Decorator

In 2001, Congress first passed a resolution to make that October Family History Month in the United States. Since then, although there haven't been official resolutions, genealogy businesses and organizations have continued to observe Family History Month in October.

We love a reason to celebrate! Break out the party supplies and do something genealogical, such as:
  • Pick your favorite ancestor or ancestral family and write about him/her/them, drawing on your genealogical research (here are some tips to get started). This could be a few paragraphs, an essay or an all-out book.
  • Use copies of old photos and records, along with genealogical information you've gathered, for one of these crafty family history projects. Time and skill requirements range from quick and easy to more involved.
  • Have your kids and grandkids help you with a genealogy project, such as going to a cemetery, visiting old family homes, organizing photos, or making a slideshow to share. Little kids might like an activity book such as one of the Zap the Grandma Gap books.

It's a great month for genealogy. Enjoy!

saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 06 October 2015 11:43:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Banish the "But"s: Top 5 Excuses for Not Writing Your Family History
Posted by Diane

A lot of us genealogists have a goal to not just gather names of ancestors, but to weave together all the records, newspaper articles, family papers, memories, local history, photos and random facts into a family history—one that summarizes our research, tells a meaningful story and shares a legacy.

But not a lot of us have actually started doing that. Why? Below are the five excuses I hear most often, which I offer along with what you can tell yourself to banish them from your brain.

And if you're eager to finally launch your family history writing project, you'll find a stronger (but still gentle) push in Family Tree University's Genealogist's Essential Writing Workshop, happening online Oct. 19-25.

1. But I don't have time.
If writing your family's story is important to you, you'll find time for it just as you would for anything else that's that important. Start with a modest writing goal, such as 15 minutes a day or an hour every Sunday before bed. PS: If you time your project to start with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, you can put in a month of concentrated effort with the support of thousands of other aspiring writers.

2. But I'd rather spend my time researching.
Back when you were in school, what did every research project include? A report! Believe me, I understand wanting to look for records forever and ever, but writing is actually an important step in doing family history research. Think of it as a way to take stock of where you are in your search and analyze the information you've gathered. You'll spot holes, work through problems and formulate research plans.

3. But my tree isn't finished yet.
And it probably never will be. If you wait until you find every record and answer every question, you'll never start writing. Give yourself permission to start, even though there's research left to do.

4. But I don't know where to begin.
I hear two problems: The first one is "I don't know how to organize all this information, whether to write about my entire family tree or just one branch, what order to put everything in, what to include and what to leave out ..." and I could go on. It can be overwhelming. The Genealogist's Essential Writing Workshop will help you break it all down into smaller decisions and create an outline to serve as your writing project plan.

The second problem is "How do I start my story?" The first instinct often is with the serviceable-but-not-very-interesting "Fred Smith was born Jan. 15, 1834 ... ." If you're having trouble with your first sentence, go ahead and start this way, then go back and change it once you've done more of the writing. You also could start somewhere in the middle, then do the beginning later. Or start with your most interesting ancestral story.

5. But I'm not a writer.
Then it's a good thing that, unless you want to sell your story, you don't have to be a great writer. Pretend you're writing a letter or talking to a friend. Later on, you can edit that first draft or ask a genealogy friend to take a look at it.

The Genealogist's Essential Writing Workshop is designed to help you develop a full outline of your family history tale. You'll finish the workshop more organized and confident in your ability to see your project through. It includes video classes, written lessons, message board discussions and consultations with published author and family historian Sunny Jane Morton.

See a workshop program and register at

Family Tree University | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 15:59:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 08 September 2015
9 Divine Decorative Family Trees (and There's More Where These Came From)
Posted by Diane

You might have seen my post last year about the decorative family trees I hung in my kids' bedrooms. visitors liked those designs so much that we've come out with a new Ultimate Family Tree Charts Template CD with 25 new beautiful decorative family tree charts.

Our designer pulled together a variety of styles for all kinds of home decor—I'll show you some of my favorite examples below.

Each chart comes in three sizes for easy printing and framing: 8x10, 11x14 and 16x20. They're type-and-save PDFs, so you can type the names (there are spaces for a family or individual name and his/her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents) and print as many as you want, then save the file to update (for example, if you find out what Great-great-grandma's middle initial J stands for).

This would be great for gift-giving—get one CD and have Christmas gifts for your spouse, his parents, all five of his siblings and three of yours; plus wedding and baby shower gifts in perpetuity.

I like how this one is a little bit modern and not too serious, and the clean black-and-white lets it fit in anywhere:

This classic tree is the one that comes to mind when people say "family tree." It makes me think of the gigantic oak in my mom and dad's front yard:

This whimsical tree would be perfect in a kids' room or playroom, or in a family room with colorful accents:

Love old maps? Here's a parchment map design, nice for a library or study:

For a baby girl present (put the baby's name in the pink ribbon):

I love the kitschy, retro look, even though I'm not talented enough with decor to pull it off at home. This retro tree reminds me of my mom's old Betty Crocker cookbooks, the ones with recipes for Jell-O salad:

Here's one with a natural look:

Aqua is my favorite color (and the color of my living room curtains), so I can't decide between the next two for my house. Maybe I'll use them both, one with my husband's tree and one with mine, and frame them with aqua mats. Here they are filled out:

You can see more lovely designs and get your Ultimate Family Tree Charts CD in

(And if it's genealogy research reference forms you're looking for, rather than decorative charts, we have those, too: Check out our Essential Family Tree Forms Library CD.)

saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 08 September 2015 11:37:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Beginner Genealogy Tips: Where to Look for Great Ancestor Stories
Posted by Diane

One of my favorite aspects of genealogy is finding a good story. Maybe an ancestor took part in an historical event, clawed his way to economic success, survived an arduous migration or even committed a crime. The kinds of things you might see on an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

If you're getting started in genealogy, you might think there's no excitement in your family tree—but there probably is if you look for it. These are some of the best family story sources (and I'll tell you where they've led me to juicy family history details):
  • Newspapers: Probably like many of you, I never thought my family was particularly newsworthy. But I've found news items including a brief mention of a small kitchen fire in my third-great-grandfather's home, reports on my Federal League baseball player relative's performance on the field, a very complimentary profile of my grandfather after his graduation from an orphanage, and a sordid tale of another third-great-grandfather's stabbing during a fight over a woman (one day I'll blog about that guy).

    Digitized newspaper sites include the free Chronicling America and subscription-based GenealogyBank and Visit your library or state archive to scroll local papers on microfilm.
  • Military pension applications: I haven't yet had the pleasure of paging through a family member's military pension papers, but in our "What's in a Civil War Pension File?" video class, military records expert Diana Crisman Smith explains how you could find correspondence about military service, documentation of marriage, written testimony about wounds received, photos and more.

    Subscription site and have indexes and some record images for Revolutionary War, War of 1812,
    Mexican War and Civil War pensions. Some of the record images are on's sister site Fold3, which requires an additional subscription (your library or local FamilySearch Center may offer free use of and Fold3).

  • Family papers: Diaries, letters, postcards, scrapbooks, photos, baby books and other passed-down items from trunks, closets and attics hold "everyday life" details and stories you won't find anywhere else. Go through your house (and your relatives' houses, if they'll let you) for these home sources and examine them for clues. Once your relatives start to see you as "the family historian," these types of items—which many people don't necessarily want to store, but don't want to throw out either—may very well come knocking on your door. Advice for digitally archiving and preserving these sources is in the book How To Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise Levenick. 
  • Histories: I've found profiles of relatives (including yet another third great-grandfather) and a story about a tornado hitting a relative's farm (a journalist was having dinner with the family when it happened). These secondary sources may contain errors because they're usually based on recollections and were edited for print, but they're full of research clues. Local and county histories are often digitized on Google Books (here's a step-by-step Google Books tutorial you can download from and start using right away), Internet Archive,, (some FamilySearch digitized books are accessible only from a FamilySearch Center) or your library's website. Find print versions through WorldCat and in local libraries. 
  • Censuses: Your basic census records offer clues such as school attendance (1850-on), the value of his property or home (1850-1870 and 1940), whether the household included slaves (1790-1860); how many children a woman had and how many were still living (1900 and 1910); and whether any household members had visual, hearing or other impairments (1840-1910). Don't overlook these columns, which may prompt you to dig for the story behind the number. Free sites with census records include (some search results link to record images on subscription sites) and; and also have census records and images.
    Some federal censuses also were accompanied by special schedules for certain populations, such as "Defective, Dependent and Delinquent" classes (1880) and owners of industry/manufacturing businesses (1810-1820, few of which survive, and 1850-1880). Many of these records are on | census records | court records | FamilySearch | Libraries and Archives | Military records | MyHeritage | Newspapers | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 11:06:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 11 May 2015
Why You Really Need a Digital Asset Management Workflow
Posted by Diane

This guest post with important tips for managing your growing digital image collection is from Denise May Levenick, author of the new book How to Archive Family Photos:

Genealogists who juggle hundreds of digital images can learn a few things from professional photographers.

When pros moved from film photography to digital media, they needed a comprehensive system to manage all those photo files. They developed a strategy called Digital Asset Management (DAM).

Like pro photographers, genealogists need different versions of their digital files—for sharing via email, archiving for the long term, and posting on the web. Also like the pros, genealogists need to add file names and organization that allows for easy access in the future.

In my new book How to Archive Family Photos, you’ll learn how to set up a system that suits your needs and helps you easily accomplish the seven basic steps of Digital Photo Management for genealogists:

1. Capture photos on your phone, digital camera, scanner or tablet
2. Import image files from your capture devices to one location
3. Rename image files from the generic device-generated names to something related to the image content
4. Back up files to your digital Image Library
5. Add content-related tags and keywords to your image files
6. Archive your images in a permanent, off-site location
7. Edit, export, and share select photos for others to enjoy.

Each step moves you toward curating, organizing, and identifying your digital files for long-term archiving and access. My book offers specific workflow strategies and tools for the Mobile Genealogist, the Family Photographer, the Vacation Shutterbug and others.

You’ll find inspiration and practical guidance in How to Archive Family Photos to help you get control of your digital photo chaos and become a more efficient family historian.
Genealogy books | Photos | saving and sharing family history | Tech Advice
Monday, 11 May 2015 11:25:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 04 May 2015
25 Keepsake Family Photo Projects
Posted by Diane

I've been dying to give you a look at this book by Denise Levenick, aka the Family Curator:

How to Archive Family Photos is about how to manage your collection of digital photos—of kids, grandkids, vacations, cemetery visits, microfilms, etc., etc.—which grows by the day and may be spread across multiple computers, websites and devices. You want to make sure it's backed up, that you can find photos easily, and that future generations will be able to find their photos.

Update: is giving away three copies of How To Archive Family Photos. Click here to enter before 12 p.m. CT on Friday, May 8.

Now that the book is available in, we can share some of Denise's advice from the book. Today, Denise is guest posting about photo gifts you can create so your family will have access to its visual history. 

From Denise:

Genealogists know there’s more to family photographs than the chores of scanning, file naming and organizing images. We want to get those photos out of our hard drives and into family history projects that bring life to our ancestry and share our heritage with family and friends. How to Archive Family Photos will inspire you to create new and unique photo projects with ideas, techniques and step-by-step instructions.
  • If too many choices or confusing instructions have stymied your attempts at creating a family history photo book or calendar
  • If your online projects seem boring or cookie-cutter and you want to add unique personal touches 
  • If you want to design custom photo gifts or even fabric
  • If you’re looking for mobile apps to make photo books more fast and fun

. . . you’ll find ideas, inspiration, and guidance in How to Archive Family Photos Part 3: CREATE. It gives easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for creative photo projects on a variety of websites and apps. If you're stumped about Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts, try one of these ideas: 

Photo-Book Projects

  • Custom Photo Book with Snapfish
  • Auto-Fill Birthday Book with Mixbook
  • Family Yearbook
  • Heirloom Reproduction Book
  • Photo Book for Busy People
  • Grandparent and Grandchild Memory Book
  • Remembering and Celebrating Book

Smartphone and Tablet Projects

Card, Collage, and Scrapbooking Projects Photo

  • Thank-You Card with Shutterfly Creative Effects
  • Collage Mouse Pad with Shutterfly
  • Holiday Greeting Card Collage with Snapfish
  • Ancestor Collage With PicMonkey
  • Facebook Cover Photo Collage with PicMonkey
  • Digital Scrapbooking Tribute Page with Snapfish

Calendar Projects

  • Wall Calendar with Mixbook
  • Perpetual Celebration Calendar with AdoramaPix
  • It’s a Party! Calendar
  • A Year in the Life Calendar
  • Kitchen Duty Calendar

Fabric and Home Décor Craft Projects

  • Vintage Holiday Photo Pillow with Spoonflower & PicMonkey
  • Photo Quilt Block

Next week, Denise will give you Digital Asset Management (DAM) tips. Visit to learn more about How to Archive Family Photos and how this book will help you organize your digital photos.

Genealogy books | Photos | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 04 May 2015 14:13:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 07 January 2015
Tips From the Pros: Baby Steps to Organize Your Genealogy
Posted by Diane

When you hear people talk about organized genealogy and think about your own research, does something like this come to mind?

National Archives and Records Administration. Historical
Records Survey workers inventory records in New York
City, about 1935.

It's an uneasy feeling when you don't know whether you already have this or that information (and where you'd look to find out), where you got a particular record or "fact," or how you'd retrieve files after a computer crash (if you'd even be able to). That must be why "get organized" is at the top of so many genealogy to-do lists for the new year.

Following these tips from professional genealogists (who shared their expertise in the May/June 2014 Family Tree Magazine) won't solve your organization problems overnight, but they can give you a small way to work toward accomplishing organized genealogy.
  • Keep an updated research to-do list. I follow this advice with a research log in a spreadsheet on Google Drive. I can use my phone or computer to add ideas that come to me while doing other research. When I complete a task, I check it off and enter any findings (and then pat myself on the back).
  • Label paper and digital file folders with a consistent scheme. You could use the surname and a type of record, which helps to make the contents easy to find.
  • Come up with a naming scheme for digitized photos and records, too. For example, lastname-firstname-day-month-year-recordtype.
  • Take a few minutes to file or recycle papers and neaten your desk (or the dining room table) as you wind up a research session. You’ll be able to pick up next time with fewer distractions.
  • Keep a “to file” basket on your desk or a shelf, and schedule regular times to file those papers. I do this with my family's nongenealogy paperwork, which helps keep papers off the kitchen counter. Most of my genealogy is digital, so I have a "to file" folder on my hard drive (the problem now being the lack of a paper avalanche to remind me to file stuff).
  • Don't waste money on unnecessary organizational supplies. Before you buy anything, figure out what you need to organize. Declutter and decide how you’ll arrange what's left. For example, would binders or filing drawers work best? What size bookshelf should house your library? Will you need archival boxes to store old photos? You might already have some of the supplies you need.
But no matter how many bins, drawers and shelves you have, it's your research practices—not the boxes and binders—that'll keep you organized.

In Family Tree University's Organize Your Genealogy in a Week online workshop, taking place Jan. 24-31, you'll learn the good research habits necessary to keep your information organized and become a more efficient family historian. You'll also discover tools to help you keep up those organization practices. The video classes and written lessons will teach you how to:
  • organize your genealogy information, paper and digital files, and notes

  • set up and maintain a research log

  • use the cloud to store your files and sync them across all your devices

  • sort through and digitize the family archive of papers, mementos, photos, albums, letters, receipts, etc. that you've inherited or amassed over the years

  • use Evernote to manage your research projects
Participants receive full online access to video classes and written lessons (both of which can be downloaded for later viewing), and the exclusive workshop message board. Denise Levenick, the Family Curator and author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes, will be on hand in the forum to answer your organization questions. You can join in whenever it's convenient for you during the week—no need to log in at any particular time.

See the full Organize Your Genealogy in a Week workshop program and get registered on

saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 12:37:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 01 December 2014
9 Tips for Writing Your Family History
Posted by Diane

Are you itching to put your genealogy research into shareable form by writing your family history? If your goal is to discover the stories of your ancestors, writing those stories in a book will help make sure their legacy lives on (and that all your efforts to document their lives won't be wasted).

Wanting to write your family history and actually doing it are two different things. Writing is part of what I do for a living, so I wanted to share some tips that have worked for me when starting a writing project:

1. Know what you want to write about. An outline gives you a helpful framework for a story involving multiple individuals or a long span of time. Next week in our online Genealogist's Essential Writing Workshop, you'll work with workshop leader Sunny Jane Morton to put together an outline for your family history book.

2. Don't begin at the beginning. If you're having trouble getting started, just start writing a story you like—maybe it's a particular ancestor's immigration story, military service or venture to the wrong side of the law. The words will begin to flow from there. You can always rearrange later.

Also, no one said you have to start your book with the earliest chronological event. Instead, begin with the most dramatic moment, such as your immigrant ancestor stepping off the ship that brought him to America, or purchasing the land that enabled his family's farming success. Then you can jump back to cover so-and-so's birth.

3. Use prompts. If you're still having trouble knowing what to write, try answering the family history writing prompts in a book such as Stories From My Grandparent or a tech tool such as Saving Memories Forever.

4. Remember: You're not carving in stone. You can always edit your words and move the pieces around, so take the pressure off yourself and don't worry about making the story perfect in your first (or second, or third) draft.

5. Write naturally. If you're writing for relatives, pretend you're telling your family story to a friend. If you're writing for a publication, tailor your work to that publication's style.

6. Organize your thoughts with apps. Writing apps can help you create an outline, organize and edit your story. I've heard good things about Scrivener ($45), which is like Evernote but especially for writing projects. Here's a link to more writing apps.

7. Seek inspiration. Read published family histories for examples. One of my favorites is Family by Ian Frazier.

8. Don't delay. Start now and work on your writing project a little at a time once a week or every evening if you can manage it. Imagine where you'll be a year from now!

9. Get help. Look for writers' groups and classes in your community. Or try our aforementioned Genealogist's Essential Writing Workshop, an online event running Dec. 8-15 at Besides outlining your family history book, you'll learn how to incorporate your genealogy research and how to manage the project, and you'll get started writing—all whenever it's convenient for you throughout the week. See the program of video classes and written lessons at

Family Tree University | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 01 December 2014 11:23:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 24 November 2014
17 Family History Questions to Ask Your Relatives at Thanksgiving
Posted by Diane

Happy Thanksgiving! Will you be spending part of this tradition-filled holiday with family? Perhaps you can turn the occasion to your genealogical advantage. All that nostalgia makes a great setup for talking about family history.

Baltimore and Ohio Employees Magazine, 1912, Internet Archive

You can use the holiday and the food as an opener, then delve deeper into family history. Here are some questions to get (and keep) the conversational ball rolling: 
  • How did your family celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • What was your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?
  • What was your childhood home like?
  • How did you get along with your brothers and sisters?
  • What did you do for fun as a child?
  • Did you have any pets?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What was your school like?
  • What was your favorite subject in school?
  • What was your first job? How did you get it?
  • How did World War II (or the Great Depression, or another significant event) affect your family?
  • Was your family religious? Where did you go to church (or synagogue)?
  • How did your parents meet?
  • What do you admire about your parents?
  • How did you meet your spouse?
  • Tell me about getting your first (insert any technological innovation—radio, telephone, television, dishwasher, computer).
  • Who's the oldest relative you remember (and what do you remember about him or her)?
It might be fun to bring some old photos to spark memories, or even a family tree if you think people would be interested in seeing how the folks in the photos fit into your family.

Download our Oral History Made Easy e-book for more questions and prompts to interview relatives about family history, experts' secrets to interviewing success, help getting reticent family members to open up about the past, tips to use the information you learn, and more. 

Be ready for family history interview opportunities with our Instant Oral History Interview Kit, which contains a digital recorder, the above ebook and our Family Interview worksheet.

However you're spending Thanksgiving, and especially if you're away from loved ones, I wish you a day of warmth, contentment and much to be grateful for.

Oral History | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 24 November 2014 10:16:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 21 November 2014 Study: Online Genealogy Research in the U.S. Has Grown by 14X in 10 Years
Posted by Diane

Here’s some news to warm a genealogist’s heart before Thanksgiving: According to the first chapter of’s new Global Family History Report, online family history research has grown in the United States by 14 times over the past decade, with 63 percent of respondents stating that family history has become more important than ever.

The study by the Future Foundation on behalf of examined trends in the family—both past and present—across six developed countries: the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.

Overall, it indicates that generations are growing closer and families are increasingly interested in their history. Other findings include:

  • The number of grandchildren with a close relationship with a grandparent has risen from 60 percent in the 1950s to 1960s, to 78 percent today. family historian Michelle Ercanbreck attributes this to advances in technology and medicine: “As grand- and great-grandparents live longer and stay connected with social media, there are now unprecedented opportunities to engage with younger generations and pass on family stories.” 
  • Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents reported feeling closer to older relatives, with half of older relatives saying they had drawn closer to young relatives as a result of learning more about their family.
  • Younger people (55 percent overall) are among those inspired most to learn more about their family history by talking with older family members.
  • The average family history for US respondents stretches back 184 years, compared to 149 years a generation ago.
  • Among Americans who’ve gone beyond talking to family to research their family history, three of the most commonly used resources are photographs (81 percent); birth, marriage and death records (66 percent); and letters (45 percent). 

Do you like the idea of bringing generations closer and passing on a family history legacy? Take a look at our book Stories From My Grandparent: An Heirloom Journal for Your Grandchild. If you’re inspired to start tracing your family history, Discover Your Family History Online can point you to the best genealogy websites and online resources to start your search.  

You can see more details on these findings and the study methodology in’s press release. | Genealogy Industry | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 21 November 2014 12:05:51 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 04 September 2014
Ways to Celebrate Grandparents Day This Sunday, Sept. 7
Posted by Diane

This Sunday, Sept. 7, is National Grandparents Day in the United States. Do something to honor your grandparents—and if you are a grandparent, to honor your bond with your grandchildren.

My two rugrats with my grandma, their great-grandma.

Here are a few National Grandparents Day ideas:
  • Pass down old family stories to your grandchild. You could fill a notebook, record yourself talking, or fill in a book of prompts such as Stories From My Grandparent.
  • You might know a lot about the lives of your own grandparents, a relatively recent generation, genealogically speaking. Even so, you could focus on fleshing out what you know with newspaper research and local histories, and/or sum up your research and your memories about your grandparent in an essay.
  • Create a "generations" photo like this one, with a member of your family's oldest generation holding a photo of his or her child, who's holding a photo of his or her child. In most cases, the photo is "faked": You take a picture of each person holding an empty frame, then use photo-editing software to add a picture into the frame. Lots of tutorials are available online; here's one.
How will you celebrate Grandparents' Day?

saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 04 September 2014 09:50:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 03 September 2014
Four Pointers to Preserve Your Family Heirlooms in a Disaster
Posted by Diane

As a natural worrier, I do my share of worst-case-scenario thinking—natural disasters, economic ruin, environmental destruction, etc. Uplifting, I know. 

But the good thing about National Preparedness Month, which happens each September in the United States, is the abundance of information about how to minimize harm to your family and your stuff if one of those scary scenarios should happen.

When it comes to stuff, genealogists often prize heirlooms above all else. What would happen to your family treasures in a fire or a natural disaster? Prepare them for the worst with these four tips from Family Curator Denise Levenick, author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes:

  • Inventory: Create an heirloom inventory with pictures of each item and information about it, including its location in your home. You can do this in a document to keep digitally (store the photo files along with the document) or on paper in a binder. However you do this, keep a copy of the inventory in an off-site location.
  • Prioritize: If you have several heirlooms, prioritize them in order of what to save in an emergency—say, if you had to evacuate your home or escape a fire. (Obviously, after any family members or friends in your home at the time.) Make a list of priority items and where they are.
  • Insure: Talk to your insurance agent, especially about valuable heirlooms. Would loss or damage be covered in a cases of fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, theft or accident? You may need to purchase additional coverage.
  • Plan: Make sure your wishes for heirlooms are known in case something happens to you. Put this information in your will or give it to a trusted friend or family member. Along with this, list login details for any family tree or photo storage accounts. 
Find more disaster preparation help for the genealogist in our Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists on-demand webinar, presented by Levenick.

Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 12:40:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 19 August 2014 Won't Retire MyCanvas After All
Posted by Diane

Good news for users of the MyCanvas photo book service (including me—I used it to create my wedding album), which owners had planned to retire in September. just announced that instead of discontinuing MyCanvas, it will transfer the site to Alexander's, the Utah-based printing production company that already handled the printing of MyCanvas photo books, posters, calendars and other products.

Eric Shoup, executive VP of product at, wrote on the blog that the transfer, which will take about six months, should be a smooth one for MyCanvas users. Users' projects will remain available on until the site moves over to Alexander's. More details will be available as the transition moves ahead. | Photos | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 11:13:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 18 July 2014
Genealogy News Corral: July 14-18
Posted by Diane

  • The UK-based genealogy company Findmypast and Wall-to-Wall, the "Who Do You Think You Are?" TV show production company,  are working together on Who Do You Think You Are? Story,  a website to help you "produce" your family story. You'll enter information about your immediate family and upload photos, and the site will play an "animated retelling" of your family story, including events that may have affected your family. It will draw from historical records and British newspaper articles at FindMyPast. You can be notified when the site launches by entering your email address on the Who Do You think You Are? Story website. Read more about the service on the Findmypast blog.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | MyHeritage | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 18 July 2014 09:48:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 May 2014
FamilySearch Centers Add Free Scanning for Your Old Photos and Documents
Posted by Diane

If you have bunches of old photos and records you've been meaning to scan, here's a new option for getting 'er done: FamilySearch has added a free photo and document scanning and preservation service in more than 2,800 of its FamilySearch Centers in North America. (The service is in the works for international centers.)

The scanning equipment, called "multifunction products" (MPFs) is available through a partnership with Lexmark. The MPFs have software that scans your family history materials directly to your account on There, you can tag and share the images, and attach them to people in your FamilySearch family tree.

You also can opt to save your images to a flash drive to take home with you.

To use the service, just bring your photos and documents to your local FamilySearch Center (I would call first to double-check the center's hours and make sure the equipment will be available there for your use).

Use the FamilySearch Center Locator to find the closest location to you.

You can see what the scanners look like in the FamilySearch announcement. From what I can tell, they're flatbed-style scanners, in which you set the photo or document face-down on glass and lower the lid on top. That makes the service best for paper prints. It's usually safer to digitally preserve fragile items, old albums and cased images (such as daguerreotypes) by photographing them. (Here are tips for using your camera to "scan" photos and records.)

FamilySearch | Photos | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:40:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 23 April 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 take home.

Here are some ideas for both types of keepsakes. Some will do double-duty as activities to keep folks busy and talking during the event:
  • 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 (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 share.
  • An autograph album, with the signature of each reunion attendee.
  • 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 processing software.
  • 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.

The Instant Family Reunion Deluxe kit is on sale in April in Check it out today—fewer than 50 are left.

Family Reunions | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 16:07:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 22 April 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 article).
  • 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 contacts, etc."
Our two runners-up each received our How to Archive Family Keepsakes e-book by Denise Levenick.
  • 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 facts. 
  • 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."
A few other tips that resonated with me are:
  • 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. » Tina Telesca
  • 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 escapes!"

Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 11:41:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 01 April 2014
8 Ways To Know It's Time To Start Writing Your Family History
Posted by Diane

genealogy stories wedding photo

We research our ancestors for lots of reasons. For me, it's so they'll be known and remembered—not just by me, but also by my family.

Lots of us genealogists have a goal to write our family history. It's one of the best ways to organize research finds, draw conclusions, and neatly package our family history (instead of delivering it in a pile of records, notes and sources).

But we can't wait until we're "finished" researching to start writing. All genealogists know you never finish researching: There are always more relatives to discover and brick walls in the way. So how do you know when it's time to start writing? Here are eight tipoffs:

1. People are curious. For me, it was when people in my dad's family started asking about my research. I brought my binder of records (this was before I kept most documents digitally) to a family gathering. I promised copies to my aunts, and it occurred to me that I should add some context. Their paternal line was small enough that I could write a simple narrative in a Word document (here's more on that), put it on CDs with PDFs and JPGs of records, and hand them out at Christmas. 

2. An important anniversary is coming up. Your parents' Golden wedding anniversary, or a 25th annual family reunion, is a great occasion to put together some form of a family history book. Or consider current events: The upcoming WWI centennial is an opportunity to share the stories of ancestors of that era.

You don't have to write a complete family history—you could undertake one of these smaller, more manageable family history projects. Just give yourself enough time for whatever you plan to do.

3. You've found a story that wants to be told. Maybe your Civil War ancestor's pension record is a windfall of information about his experiences, your father or grandfather told you about surviving the Great Depression, or you strongly identify with your pioneer great-grandmother. My grandfather who died before I was born grew up in an orphanage and put himself through college. These stories hold important lessons.

4. You're at a brick wall. You might think you have to break through the brick wall first, but this is actually one of the best times to start writing. Writing about a research problem will help you analyze what you've found and come up with new ideas. Plus, if you wait until you solve every question, you might never start writing. You might even invoke Murphy's Law of Genealogy: The moment you finish writing your family story, you'll find the record you've been after for years.

5. You solved a brick wall or achieved a research goal. If you finally found your immigrant ancestor's passenger record or identified a mystery photo, celebrate by writing that story and how you solved the problem. It'll help you take stock of your research and figure out your next goal.

6. You need a break. If you're feeling burned out on doing research, or you need to refocus, stop looking for new information. Instead, look through everything you already have and start writing.

7. You feel like you should be writing this stuff down. If you have a nagging feeling that you should be writing about the family history you've learned, there's a reason for it. Obey the voice in your head!

8. You've done some research. You can start writing a story at any point—no need to wait until your family tree is yay big. If you've only gotten to your grandparents, write about them. Or go closer to home and write how your parents met, or how you met your spouse.

In fact, this may be the best way to do it. As you continue researching, connect these smaller stories together and you'll have an ongoing narrative of your family history.

Our Write Your Family History Value Pack has books and lessons to help you plan out and work on your family history book writing project.
And if you need guidance on managing source information and citations in your research and writing project, look into our Family Tree University Source Analysis one-week online genealogy workshop, April 18-25, with professional genealogist Michael Hait.

Family Tree University | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 10:14:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 29 January 2014
Free and Low-Cost Software to Retouch Damaged Family Photos
Posted by Diane

If you're looking to scan and digitally repair old, faded and torn family photos, we have a webinar coming up that'll show you how to do it.

But first, you'll need photo-editing software so you can make the repairs. Good news: You can find good software for free.

See what photo-editing software might be already on your computer. Windows Live Photo Gallery, for example, lets you do basic retouching and adjust exposure and color. 

If you want to see what else is out there, look for free photo-editing software you can download. According to Gizmodo, Adobe is giving away an older version of its Photoshop software along with the Adobe Creative Suite (CS) 2. This version is suitable for most genealogy needs with tools such as Clone, Brightness/Contrast, and color balance. You do have to sign up for an Adobe account to download it, and Macs will need OSX 10.2.8 to 10.3.8, or the "translator" program Rosetta
Update: Unfortunately, it sounds like this offer is only for previous Photoshop owners. Thanks to the commenters who created an Adobe account, made this discovery and reported back here. (One also recommended Irfanview.)
Want other options for retouching old photos? Gizmodo lists 10 free photo-editors here. One of them is Google's Picasa, which we used for our step-by-step guide to fixing faded, spotted and creased pictures and for the photo above.

A relatively low-cost photo-editing software option that gives you a lot of functionality is Photoshop Elements, a "light" version of Photoshop.

Our Photo-Editing and Retouching for Genealogists webinar, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT, 5 p.m. MT, 4 p.m. PT) will show you what apps and programs are available for photo-editing on your computer and mobile device, how to retouch photos, and more. Check it out in

Photos | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 13:25:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Wednesday, 01 January 2014
10 Genealogy Resolutions for 2014
Posted by Diane

In January, we at Family Tree Magazine typically note an uptick in family history interest, perhaps a result of holiday nostalgia and family get-togethers.

If you're feeling inspired to preserve family memories or kick your genealogy research into a higher gear, we suggest making (and keeping) a few of the following resolutions in 2014.

You could resolve to:
  1. Scan old family photos and other mementos, and share them with relatives. Be specific—resolve to scan one item every Saturday, for example. How to Archive Family Keepsakes has instructions for digitizing and organizing old photos and other family treasures.

  2. Set up a genealogy research log and to-do list database using a cloud service such as Evernote or Google Drive, and faithfully maintain it to streamline your genealogy workflow.

  3. Organize your records—on your computer and in your file drawer—in a way that makes sense for the way you research. Schedule 30 minutes once a week or once a month to file accumulated papers. (For serious assistance, consider our Organize Your Genealogy Independent Study Course Download.)

  4. Finally call great-aunt Betty and ask to talk about your family history.

  5. Pick a family and, for each place they lived, run a place search of the Family History Library online catalog. Records that are digitized on the free will be linked. Otherwise, order promising film online for viewing at a nearby FamilySearch Center. 

  6. Commit an hour or so a week to volunteering for a records indexing project. Try FamilySearch Indexing or’s World Archives Project, or see if your local library or historical society could use your indexing assistance.

  7. Join a genealogical society for your hometown or for a place where your ancestor lived.

  8. Reach out to other genealogy researchers online through genealogy message boards, blogging, posting an online tree, or using a social networking site such as Facebook or Google+. If you find someone with common research interests, propose a research collaboration.

  9. Start a family history tradition: Institute an old family recipe night, for example, celebrate an ancestor's birthday, or make an annual day trip to the family hometown.

  10. Start writing your family history. Take it one ancestor at a time. Our intensive eight-week Write Your Family History online course will get you well on your way, or start smaller with the prompts in our digital download.

It would be a lot to keep all of these resolutions, so think about what you really want to accomplish this year.

Once you make your resolutions, you'll find the how-to help you need to follow through in Family Tree Magazine and at, and you can post genealogy questions to our Facebook page or email them to me.

Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 09:50:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 03 December 2013
12 Gift Ideas for People Who Appreciate Family History
Posted by Diane

I wanted to give you a little help with your holiday shopping list. These are my favorite things from, and they'd be great for genealogists, but not just for genealogists. Anyone with an appreciation for family history would enjoy these gifts.

See below the image for the numbered descriptions and links to learn more. PS: A lot of these are on sale for Cyber Week!

1. From the Family Kitchen by Gena Philibert Ortega is a pretty, hardbound book with food history, old recipe resources and pages to record family recipes. It would be nice for the family chef, for Grandma or a new daughter-in-law, perhaps with a few recipes already written inside.

2. The Children's Preservation Kit has the archival storage materials a new parent needs to preserve baby's coming-home outfit, a baptismal gown, favorite toys and more.

3. A parent, grandparent or other photographer who likes capturing faces will appreciate the photography tips in Expressions: Taking Extraordinary Photos for Your Scrapbooking and Memory Art.

4. For the Civil War buff, Life in Civil War America has interesting and surprising details about what it was like for our ancestors who lived during the Civil War.

5. Our Historical Map Sampler genealogy desktop calendar is a nice stocking-stuffer for genealogy and geography enthusiasts.

6. Not sure what to give? A Cup of Comfort for Christmas has heartwarming stories that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

7. The Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner is on the wish lists of many family historians who want to digitally preserve old family photos discovered on research trips and visits to relatives' homes.  

8. Got a writer on your list? My Life and Times by Sunny Jane Morton, a book in a three-ring binder, is full of prompts, exercises and fill-in pages to help memoirists write their own life story.

9. You can get the Watercolor Design Family Tree as an 11x14-inch paper chart or as a type-in PDF file (includes three sizes) that you can download, fill in with family names, save, print and frame. Print copies as keepsakes for all your relatives.

10. If you're been wanting to give compiled genealogy information to your Mom or Dad, you could give the Family Tree Memory Keeper, filled out. It's a workbook for keeping genealogy information, family stories and records, old recipes, important dates and more (so you might want one for yourself).

11. If your family is proud of its Irish roots, 101 Things You Didn't Know About Irish History: The People, Places, Culture and Traditions of the Emerald Isle will make your relatives even prouder.

12. The Floral Design Family Tree is similar to the Watercolor Design, available as an 11x14-inch paper chart or as a type-in PDF file (three sizes included), just with a different look. I have this framed in my daughter's room.

Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 03 December 2013 15:51:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 05 November 2013
Hooray for the Winner of Our Decorative Family Tree Chart!
Posted by Diane

We have a winner of the framed decorative family tree chart featured on the cover of the October/November Family Tree Magazine:

Kathleen Mehaffey of Citrus Heights, Calif., come on down!

We'll create an 11x14 chart with the family names Kathleen provides, frame the chart and send it on to California.

Want this chart for yourself? It's not hard or expensive: You can go to and purchase a PDF download that includes three sizes of the family tree chart. You can type in your names, print the chart, and frame it. You can save your chart with the names in it, or clear it, add different names, and print another one.

(If you're the hand-lettering type, you also can order a printed chart on nice paper.)

I think they'd make great genealogy-themed gifts for the holidays, or for a new baby or married couple. You can see the family trees in my kids' rooms in this post.

Click here to see the three decorative family tree chart designs in

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 14:38:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 28 October 2013
8 Photo and Document Scanning Tips for Genealogists
Posted by Diane

Does a pile of papers and pictures stand between you and your dream of a digitized family archive? Digitized files are easier than their paper counterparts to share with relatives, back up, and turn into a family history book one day.

Get started scanning with these quick tips from our upcoming One-Week Workshop: Digitize Your Genealogy Documents, Photos and Heirlooms.

1. Not sure where to start? Start digitizing your most valuable and irreplaceable items first.

2. Set an achievable goal, such as scanning 10 items a week, or participating in Scanfest (genealogists meet online the last Sunday each month and chat as they scan).

3. You could speed up the scanning process by scanning multiple photos at once. Some photo software (such as Adobe Photoshop Elements) automatically separates the scanned images into separate files.

4. Choose the right resolution—usually, 300 dpi for documents and at least 600 dpi for images. If you plan to print an enlargement or zoom in for detailed retouching, go up to 1,200 dpi.

5. Consider saving master copies of photos as TIFFs, and use JPG copies to share and for everyday viewing. The PDF format is a good choice for documents.

6. Before you scan, clean your scanner glass with a soft, dry cloth. If it's really dirty, spray a little glass cleaner on the cloth (never on the glass). If the photo or document is dusty, gently brush it with a soft, dry brush.

7. Organize digital files as you scan. Decide on a file structure for your scanned images and file them right away. If you use photo-organizing software, tag images with the name of the person or family associated with the item, plus a place, date, type of record, and other pertinent information.

Back up your scans in multiple locations, such as to the cloud, to an external hard drive, and on your sister's computer.

The Digitize Your Genealogy Documents, Photos and Heirlooms one-week workshop, happening Nov. 15-22, will help you 
  • create a manageable plan for your digitizing project
  • work with fragile and bulky items
  • learn the best options for digitizing items
  • Learn how to back up your digital files
The workshop gives you access to four pre-recorded video classes with presentations and demos, excerpts from Family Tree University's popular Digitize Your Family History course, plus daily message-board discussions and a Q&A with digitization expert Denise May Levenick, author of How To Archive Family Keepsakes.

Register for the Digitize Your Genealogy Documents, Photos and Heirlooms workshop before Nov. 11 to save $35 on tuition with code WORKSHOPEARLY.

Photos | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 28 October 2013 15:44:07 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 18 October 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Oct. 14-18
Posted by Diane

  • The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors has opened its 2014 Excellence in Writing competition. Entries are due by June 15, 2014. Both members and nonmembers, published and unpublished, can enter to win cash prizes. Entries must fall into one of six categories—see them here.  For additional details and entry instructions, download the entrant packet here.
  • The AncestryDNA updates previewed to 6,000 AncestryDNA customers in September are now available to everyone who's tested with The updates offer a more-detailed ethnic heritage analysis, including for African ancestry, a redesigned user interface, and a database of results from more than 200,000 customers. There's no additional cost for those who've tested with; a new DNA test costs $99. Read more on the blog. | FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 18 October 2013 12:54:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Create a Family History Book Workshop Registration Giveaway!
Posted by Diane

Maybe you've thought about putting all your family history research together into a book. I have. It seems like the best way to make all this work available to my family, in a digestible way and an easy-to-find, permanent place. And to honor the ancestors I've gotten to know through my research.

It's a big project. Scary, even.

We want to get you started on your family history book in our Create a Family History Book One-Week Workshop, Oct. 25-31, guided by published genealogy author Nancy Hendrickson. The video classes, written lessons, and message boad interaction with Nancy and workshop participants will help you
  • learn to build a solid foundation for your book
  • put together images, documents, stories and research into a full manuscript
  • share your book with your family or a wider audience
Don't worry, you won't have to do it all now. But the workshop will prepare you with a start and a plan, so you can chip away at your genealogy writing project as you're able.

You can win a free registration for this workshop—click here to enter our giveaway. The entry deadline is Monday. Oct. 21 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Think you need to first "finish" your research or retire first? Nope! Here are five comon excuses family historians give for not getting started—and how to get past those writer's blocks.

Here are some smaller-scale ideas for family history writing projects that can serve as building blocks for your family history, or stand on their own as ways to share your research.

Click here for the Create a Family History One-Week Workshop details and program.

Family Tree University | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 15:30:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 09 October 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 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 pinned).

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 great-grandparents.

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 wedding.

Three family tree chart designs are available in—the Floral and Watercolor trees I used, and this Vintage tree:

The family tree charts are available two ways in  
  • 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 printed.

  • 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.
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!

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, 09 October 2013 09:39:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Is Your Family History Archive Ready for a Disaster?
Posted by Diane

My current family disaster plan is this:
  1. Remember where in the house the kids are.
  2. Run to get them.
  3. Yell for husband and dog.
  4. Leave house (or run to basement, depending what's coming).
  5. Grab purse on the way out.
Notice there's no room for photos or genealogy in this procedure. Most of that stuff backed up online, although for a lot of it, I'd have to look up where to retrieve it. And it sure would be nice, once people and pets are safe, to be able to save our important family papers and photos.

But let's face it: "Do the dishes or we'll be forced to eat cereal with our fingers" trumps "Prepare family papers for a terrible disaster that with any luck won't ever happen" on my to-do list.

Seeing the recent devastating floods in Colorado and fires in California has made me reconsider this non-plan for my family history materials. Before the end of the year, I want to 
  • organize my paper research, documents and photos in one place (using these hints from our interview with Eric Pourchot of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works)

  • digitize everything that can be digitized (hear scanning tips from Family Curator Denise Levenick in this Family Tree Magazine Podcast)

  • make sure it's all backed up and easily accessible

  • share everything with family so multiple copies exist
Would you like to take similar steps to protect your family archive? Our Genealogist's Disaster Preparedness Kit can show you (and me) how to do it. It includes:
  • our Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists webinar with Denise Levenick (it takes place Sept. 25, and you'll receive the webinar recording even if you can't attend the Sept. 25 presentation)
  • How to Archive Family Keepsakes book by Denise Levenick
  • Genealogy in the Cloud how-to article
The Genealogist's Disaster Preparedness Kit is on sale for September, which is National Preparedness Month.

You also can just register for the Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists webinar here.

saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 16:07:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 02 July 2013
Putting It All Together: The Write Your Family History Value Pack
Posted by Diane

I've been doing genealogy research since I started at the magazine 10 years ago (in more earnest in recent years). Lately as I update my family tree, I have this niggling thought: How do I put it all together?

I don't want to just record family history. I want to package it all up in words and pictures, to both summarize and detail my ancestors' lives, and make it easy for people to see all those connections and family events.

This is a comment I've heard in one form or another from many of you. Here's something that might help: Our Write Your Family History Value Pack. It has articles and tools that'll help you carry out a family history writing project, big or small, from start to finish. This value pack includes:
  • Writing Your Family Memoir independent study course from Family Tree University
  • Seven Tips to Write Your Family History article download
  • Personal Historian 2 software on CD
  • Writing Life Stories book download
Learn more about each of these components here. Buying them together in the Write Your Family History Value Pack saves you 66 percent!

The Write Your Family History Value Pack also comes with 25 percent off an instructor-guided Family Tree University course (such as Write Your Family History: Create a Captivating Record of Your Family’s Story or Creating a Family History Book: Guidance for Assembling and Printing a Family Keepsake).

saving and sharing family history | Sales
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 13:40:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 08 May 2013
National Photo Month Giveaway: Photo Preservation Kit!
Posted by Diane

Did you know that May is National Photography Month?

Of course, photography plays a huge role in family history research. Nothing connects you with an ancestor and inspires you to discover more about his or her life, than a photograph.

This one is one of my favorite family pictures. It shows my great-great-grandfather about 1910 in front of the cigar store he opened in Cincinnati. He's standing third from left. His son, my great-grandfather, is in the doorway on the left.

This National Photo Month, we want to help you celebrate and preserve your favorite family photos by giving away one of our new Photo Preservation Kits (now available in

The kit contains specially selected archival photo storage and preservation products from archival supplier Gaylord Bros., plus easy-to-follow instructions from Family Tree Magazine's Family Archivist, Sunny Jane Morton. 

You can enter our National Photo Month Sweepstakes here. And you'll get two extra chances to win for every friend who registers using your referral link (which you'll get after you submit your entry).

Our National Photo Month Sweepstakes entry deadline is May 20.

You'll also find these National Photo Month specials at

Genealogy fun | Photos | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 11:22:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 04 March 2013
Sharing Stories of Heirlooms—Old and New
Posted by Diane

When it comes to preserving and sharing the stories of family heirlooms (something we talk a lot about here at Family Tree Magazine) I think it's important to log not only antiques that have been in your family for generations, but also newer objects you hope will become heirlooms.

That's why, as part of the Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt, I registered my childhood rocking chair in Houstory's Heirloom Registry.

The registry is a site where you can keep a log of your family heirlooms. You affix an Heirloom Registry sticker to an inconspicuous spot on each item, and your descendants can use the code on the sticker to look up what you had to say about that object.

This chair is something I played with, and I hope my daughter Norah will play with it. Santa (aka Mom and Dad) gave it to my two older sisters and me when I was about 18 months old, which would have been in 1975. My mom says that I "kind of took over ownership." This makes me feel better about my sisters always hiding my dolls and calling shotgun first when we were kids.

I  considered posting a photo of myself sitting in the chair, but the only one we have is a diaper shot. So instead I offer this:

Yes, I get to kiss those chubby almost-4-month-old cheeks every day.

Even if you don't want to register your family heirlooms online, pleasepleaseplease write down information about them (you can use the free downloadable Heirloom Inventory on and share copies with loved ones. Please.

Now for the scavenger hunt fun! 
  • If you’d like to start the scavenger hunt now, go to The Houstory Hearth blog’s special Scavenger Hunt Page. There you’ll find information about the hunt, the prizes, and the list of the other three blogs you’ll need to visit today.
  • If you already know what you’re doing, here’s the Heirloom Registry ID Code you need to obtain my secret word: CEFD-304-562-5138-2011
  • If this is your final stop for Hunt No. 1, be sure to submit your entry form with your secret words before Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at midnight PST. Instructions for Hunt No. 2, which starts on March 6, will be posted at the Houstory Hearth blog at 12 a.m. EST on March 6. Good luck—and happy hunting!

Family Heirlooms | Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 04 March 2013 11:15:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 28 February 2013
Go on a Scavenger Hunt for Family Heirlooms (and Maybe Win Prizes)!
Posted by Diane

You might've seen the news about the Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt that the folks over at Houstory have put together for next week.

I love how it will encourage genealogists to record and share the stories behind their family heirlooms, so I'm happy to be part of it. Plus, you can win a bunch of prizes, including our Family Tree Magazine 2012 Annual CD; How to Archive Family Keepsakes from the Family Curator herself, Denise Levenick; Preserving Your Family Photographs from Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor, and more.

Scavenger hunt days are March 4, 6 and 8, with a prize awarded each day plus a grand prize at the end.

To go on the hunt, you'll need to visit four blogs on their designated hunt day—that's Monday, March 4 for this Genealogy Insider blog. Click here to see the list of all four blogs you need to visit on Monday.

Each blogger will post about an heirloom he or she has logged in Houstory's Heirloom Registry. The post will provide that item's registry code. After you visit each blog, you'll go to the Heirloom Registry website, look up the heirloom using the registry code, view the Registry Certificate for that item, and find a secret code word. Then you'll include the code words from the four blogs on the entry form you can link to from this page.

You'll find all the Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt instructions here, and you also can get updates by following Houstory on Facebook and Twitter (#HoustoryHunt).

So I'll see you back here on Monday for the Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt, and I'll share a little about one of my favorite family heirlooms. 

Family Heirlooms | Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 28 February 2013 14:51:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 10 January 2013
Blog Book Tour: How to Archive Family Keepsakes
Posted by Beth

How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records (Family Tree Books, 2012) by Denise Levenick, The Family Curator, launches a blog book tour today that runs through Saturday, Jan. 26.

Visit 14 popular genealogy blogs and websites featuring Denise and her book for book excerpts, interviews, special guest posts, free downloads and giveaways. View the schedule at the Blog Book Tour Page.

With top reviews from leading genealogy bloggers and 5-star ratings on, this new resource by Denise will help you organize and preserve your family history heirlooms and research in 2013.

How to Archive Family Keepsakes offers practical guidance for family historians who are:
  • helping a parent or loved one downsize to a smaller home.
  • needing a simple, effective filing system for genealogy research.
  • interested in scanning and making digital copies of genealogy records.
  • looking for a way to preserve your family history and heirlooms for future generations.
The book is currently available at at a 28 percent discount. Proceeds from the sale of the book during the online book tour will help fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.

Family Heirlooms | saving and sharing family history | Sales
Thursday, 10 January 2013 09:37:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 08 January 2013
Editors' Pick: Organize Your Way to Your Best Genealogy Year
Posted by Beth

Effective family history researchers know that organization is the key to productivity. Are you as organized as you'd like to be—or could be? If your new year's resolution is to cut through your genealogy clutter, check out this trio of PDF book downloads by Denise May Levenick, the Family Curator that provides practical step-by-step solutions for organizing physical and digital materials, once and for all.

How to Organize Inherited Items 
Are you the lucky recipient of Mom and Dad's "stuff"—a lifetime's worth of family photos, papers, and memorabilia packed into boxes? Learn how to organize inherited items in a way that honors them while bringing peace to the rest of the family. You'll learn how to:
    •    Effectively sort and purge boxes that you inherited
    •    Decide which family heirlooms to keep
    •    Donate items to museums, societies, and charities
    •    Protect and pass on keepsakes

People who inherit family archives often take on one of three roles: Curator, Creator or Caretaker (or perhaps a combination). Once you identify why you've inherited the family archive, it's easier for you to determine what to do with it.
Curator: understands the responsibilities involved in caring for a family archive, from organizing to preserving; knows enough to recognize significant objects and suggest and implement ways to care for, display and preserve them
Creator: finds ways to use a family archive materials—whether it be inspiration, raw materials or information sources—in his own creative projects, such as completing a family pedigree, writing a biography, assembling a scrapbook or compiling a family medical history
Caretaker: serves as the temporary family archive "holder" until the next person in line takes it over

How to Organize Family History Paperwork 
Family history research can quickly create mountains of paperwork. This download give you step-by-step instruction to effectively organize and digitize your genealogy research papers. You'll learn how to:
    •    create a personalized filing system to suit your genealogy research style and experience
    •    turn your computer into a filing clerk and research assistant by establishing a clear, consistent naming pattern for files and folders
    •    Scan old paper records and store them electronically to save space and make them easier to find
    •    make digital copies of original source documents
    •    organize your family history research for future generations

Think about your genealogy files as two different record types—original documents that you want to physically preserve and store, and working documents used every day that are more temporary in nature. A different digital routine is needed for each record type.

Use a consistent file-naming scheme for your digital documents. Some genealogists find that a combination of Surname, Date and File ID work well for digital files; others use a numerical reference number that corresponds to their paper files.

Organization Strategies for Genealogy Success
Effective family history researchers know that organization is the key to productivity. You'll learn how to:
    •    Organize your genealogy research methods
    •    Organize your family history source citations
    •    Select the best software for efficient and effective research
    •    Connect with fellow researchers online to help find answers to your genealogy brick walls

Research success begins even before the first internet query box is completed or the first reel of microfilm is loaded. You have a research goal—to find your ancestor. What you need is a research strategy—a written, step-by-step proposal to achieve your goal. An effective research strategy includes at least 4 major steps:

1. Set a goal.
a. Identify the problem or goal.
b. Break down the goal into smaller, focused mini-goals.

2. Decide what sources to search.
a. List record groups that may provide a solution.
b. List specific sources to search.
c. Locate repositories holding the sources you need.

3. Search the source.
a. Note the results of your search, positive or negative.
b. Copy the raw information.
c. Record the source citation data.

4. Analyze the information.
a. Evaluate the information.
b. Record your findings in your notes and database program.
c. Determine your next step.

5. Repeat from Step 1.


You can achieve your genealogy research goals this year with these and other new and recommended books, CDs, downloads, and all-inclusive research kits that will show you how to research your heritage, both online and off. PLUS: Get organized and save, too! Spend $30 on any of these recommended products in January and get the Organize Your Genealogy Life! CD for 50% off; just enter code ACHIEVE2013 at checkout to save on this essential CD.

Editor's Pick | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | Sales | Tech Advice
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 12:54:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 04 January 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Dec. 31-Jan.4
Posted by Beth

  • Entries are being accepted through March 22 for the 13th annual Listen to a Life Essay Contest run by the Legacy Project, a big-picture learning project for all ages, and the nonprofit Generations United.
The contest, open to young people ages 8 to 18, encourages connections across generations. To enter, a young person interviews a grandparent or grandfriend 50 years or older, gathering information about the older person's hopes and goals through their life; how he or she achieved goals and overcame obstacles; or key life experiences. The young person then writes and submit a 300-word essay based on the interview.
The winner will receive a Lenov ThinkCentre computer. Click here for more information, including rules and entry form.

Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 04 January 2013 09:32:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 18 December 2012
Editors' Pick: Search Secrets Webinar
Posted by Beth

If one of your new year's resolutions is to manage your genealogy research time more efficiently and effectively, you'll get 2013 off to a stellar start with our Search Secrets webinar.
Sifting through the millions of records available on can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, yet the wealth of data is critical to your research. Whether you're digging for your family in census records, military records or public member trees, let presenter Laura G. Prescott teach you her top tips for making the most of your searches on this genealogy juggernaut.

Date: Thursday, Jan. 24
Time: 7pm EST/6pm CST/5pm MST/4pm PST
Price: $49.99 ($39.99 early bird until Jan. 17)

What You'll Learn:

  • How to rein in the massive amount of information available on
  • Hints to set manageable search parameters for finding your family
  • How to dig into individual databases for specific records
  • Tricks and tips to make your search efforts more efficient and effective
  • PLUS: Get a free PDF download of our Web Guide

To learn how to harness the information on so you can quickly and easily track down your relatives, register here | Editor's Pick | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:45:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 17 December 2012
December 2012 Family Tree Magazine Podcast: Record and Share Your Family History
Posted by Beth

The December 2012 Family Tree Magazine podcast, hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, offers tips on recording and sharing your family history family, including:
  • Six steps to get your family history book into library stacks, from Family Tree Magazine (FTM) contributing editor Sunny Jane Morton

  • D. Joshua Taylor of brightsolid talks about the website, which specializes in British genealogical records

  • Tips for assembling and printing a family keepsake, from FTM online editor Tyler Moss, as noted in the class Creating a Family History Book: Start-to-Finish Guidance for Assembling and Printing a Family Keepsake 

  • Recommendations for research sources from FTM publisher and editorial director Allison Dolan

You can listen to Family Tree Magazine's free genealogy podcast in iTunes or on  

Podcasts | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 17 December 2012 09:32:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 06 December 2012
Editors' Pick: December's Ultimate Collection: Genealogy Websites
Posted by Beth

At this busiest time of the year, we've made it our mission to help make your web research easier and more efficient. Ramp up your research skills and save time in the process with December's Ultimate Collection: Genealogy Websites. The Family Tree Magazine editorial team has hand-picked its favorite resources to help make you an online genealogy research pro.

Gift yourself the gift of time this holiday season—at a 66 percent discount—to take your research to the next level.
Editor's Pick | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | Sales
Thursday, 06 December 2012 09:23:34 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 03 December 2012
Hilarious Holiday Photos
Posted by Beth

What’s not to love about the holidays? Gaudy decorations, ridiculous costumes, unusual traditions, extended amounts of time spent with family—it’s a recipe for happy memories and hilarious photos.

Share your funny holiday photo (of two- or four-legged friends!) with us, and it could appear on our Facebook page and even in our upcoming book Hilarious Holiday Photos.

PLUS: Submit a photo before Jan. 3, 2013, for the chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card! The photo that the author and editors find the funniest will receive the gift card.

So get out your camera this holiday season and capture those …
    •    Creepy mall Santas
    •    Santa-fearing, crying kids
    •    Bad Christmas sweaters (and sweatsuits)
    •    Pets in seasonal garb
    •    Hokey holiday decorations
    •    Terrible gifts
    •    Unfortunate New Year's outfits
    •    … whatever strikes your funny bone!

We also want to see funny photos from other holidays, including:
    •    Funny couples photos that capture the love of Valentine’s Day
    •    Photos that leave us green with St. Patrick’s Day pride
    •    Funny All-American photos 
    •    Halloween costumes that make us howl with laughter
    •    Thanksgiving celebrations
    •    … and more!

Photos | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 03 December 2012 09:26:45 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 29 November 2012
10 Best Genealogy Gifts for the Holidays
Posted by Beth

Is hard-to-buy-for Aunt Helen the repository for recipes, photo albums and keepsakes? Does Grandpa Joe archive all of your family's facts and dates in his head—not to mention all those lesser-known scintillating tidbits? If you need holiday gift ideas for your genealogically inclined relatives, look no further!

Click here for Family Tree Magazine's 10 must-have items to help discover, preserve and celebrate your family's history, making you the family hero in the process. (And, you can always get a gift for yourself and just wrap it for the big day!)

Genealogy books | saving and sharing family history | Sales
Thursday, 29 November 2012 09:13:39 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 27 November 2012
November 2012 Family Tree Podcast: Digitize Documents and Photos
Posted by Beth

The November 2012 Family Tree Magazine podcast, hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, celebrates family with a focus on digitizing your documents and photos, including:

You can listen to Family Tree Magazine's free genealogy podcast in iTunes or on Show notes are on, too.

Photos | Podcasts | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 27 November 2012 09:49:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 26 November 2012
Cyber Monday Savings
Posted by Beth

Hope you and yours had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Just want to make you aware of our Cyber Monday Savings featuring extra savings on new live webinars, plus limited-quantity value packs, available today only! And, if you didn't get to shop our Thanksgiving Week Sale, you've got until 11:59 pm. EST tonight to take advantage of the awesome savings.

Help friends and family—and yourself!—dig deeper into ancestry at a great value, just in time for the holidays!

saving and sharing family history | Sales
Monday, 26 November 2012 09:26:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Family Tree Black Friday Sale All Weekend Long!
Posted by Beth

We at Family Tree Magazine wish you and yours a Norman Rockwell-esque Thanksgiving filled to the brim with food, family and fun!

After the last piece of pumpkin pie has been devoured and any leftovers are tucked away in the fridge, thoughts often turn to the upcoming holiday season. Why not get a jumpstart on your holiday shopping—for your genealogy-minded family and friends (as well as yourself!)—from the comfort of your own home?

We're pleased to share our BIGGEST Thanksgiving Week Sale ever—from Thanksgiving Day through 11:59 p.m. EST Cyber Monday (Nov. 26)—featuring our BEST prices of the year! Watch for:

  • Up to 64% off Beginner Genealogy Tools
  • Up to 70% off Research Your Heritage Tools
  • Up to 66% off Online Research Tools
  • Up to 64% off Tools to Organize & Share Your Findings

  • Up to 40% off Books
  • Up to 45% off On-demand Courses
  • Up to 50% off CDs
  • Up to 70% off Value Packs

  • We're releasing a limited-edition kit perfect for the holidays that you won't want to miss! Watch for it Thursday in our newsletter and on our website.

Let us help you avoid the Black Friday (and crazy weekend!) shopping and traffic frenzy. Take advantage of our BLACK FRIDAY ONLINE SAVINGS ALL WEEKEND LONG AND THROUGH CYBER MONDAY for the BEST prices—and the BEST gifts—for your genealogist friends and family!

saving and sharing family history | Sales
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 09:00:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 15 November 2012
Mocavo Announces Free Scanning Service
Posted by Beth

If you've got piles of genealogical research laying around, or old books or historical documents gathering dust, Mocavo, the world's largest genealogy search engine, has a "get-'er-done" scanning solution for you to digitize your materials.

The company has announced its Free Scanning Service, available now through the end of the year, that will scan members' historical and genealogical materials—books, documents and standard-size paper sheets—to bring them online for their owners and the rest of the Mocavo community.

ReadyMicro, Mocavo's digitization group, will handle the free document scanning. A member's document(s) will be scanned, and he or she will then receive a digital copy of each document. (Member can have their materials shipped back to them for $10/shipment plus the cost of shipping.) The members' documents will also be placed online at Mocavo.

The company's goal is to work with its community to bring all of the world's genealogical information online for free, helping to put everyone's family history within reach.

This scanning service is applicable for:
  • Paper documents
  • Unbound books and books that can have their binding removed
  • Photocopies of original content
  • Notes and paper family trees
This scanning service is not applicable for:
  • Photographs 
  • Moldy or damaged documents
  • Copyrighted materials
  • Non-historical content
  • Very fragile content
  • Small pieces of paper
  • Old newspapers or clippings
  • Documents larger than 11x17 inches
  • Photographs cannot be processed at this time.

Learn more about Mocavo’s Free Scanning Service here.

Genealogy Industry | Historic preservation | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:56:02 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Family Tree Firsts Blogger Entries Due Friday
Posted by Beth

Just a friendly reminder that if you're a newbie genealogist, you could be Family Tree Magazine's next Family Tree Firsts blogger!

We're looking for someone who enjoys writing and is interested in his or her family history, but is just starting—or hasn't yet started—to research it.

We'll select one winner based on the strength of the application. Over the course of six months, you'll have access to Family Tree Magazine's how-to genealogy products, Family Tree University classes and webinars, as well as other products, services and surprises from our partners. You'll blog once a week to share your genealogical finds, trials and tribulations. We might even include you in a future issue of the magazine!

To enter, click here to fill out an application and compose your first blog post. This will let us get to know you and see how you'd write your blog. But, hurry! The deadline is Friday, Nov. 16. Good luck!

Family Tree Firsts | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 13 November 2012 11:25:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 02 August 2012
Scanning Old Family Photos With Flip-Pal
Posted by Diane

Now that we're carrying the Flip-Pal mobile scanner in, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I gave it a try on one of my favorite pictures: My great-grandparents on their porch in Bellevue, Ky., about 1925, judging from my grandma's age (she's the baby).

The scanner is nice and light, about the size of a book, and it runs on four AA batteries. The scanning window is smaller than a desktop scanner, 4x6 inches, so you need to scan a larger document in parts and then stitch them together. (The scanner comes with Easy-Stitch software to do this.)

You can scan at a resolution of 300 or 600 dpi. 300 is the lowest recommended dpi for images you want to digitally archive, and will allow you to make a good print that's the same size as the original photo. 600 dpi is even better, because you can enlarge the photo before printing it.

I tried the Sketch Kit, sold separately from the scanner, which lets you annotate photos and documents in a low-tech way. It's a clear acrylic panel you place over your picture and write on with an erasable marker, like so:

Then to scan the annotated photo, you pop out the Flip-Pal lid, flip the scanner over and press the big green button to scan the Sketch panel on top of your picture:

(I kept accidentally pressing the green button during the lid removal and flipping.) Here's that scan:

You'll also want the photo itself, minus the Sketch panel. For that, you pop the lid back in and place the picture face down on the scanner, as you would for a desktop scanner. The scan:

The images are saved onto an SD card. I discovered just this morning that my computer here at work has an SD card reader—perfect. (The scanner is also compatible with wireless Eye-fi SD cards.) If you don't have a card reader, you can plug the card into the included SD-to-USB adaptor and stick that into your computer's USB drive.

You can see technical specs for the Flip-Pal scanner here and FAQs here. I did these two quick scans without reading instructions, but I'll check them out to learn more about the scanner settings and how to use the stitching software.

You can find the Flip-Pal scanner and accessories such as the Sketch Kit  and a carrying case in If you're trying to decide whether to buy, we've also got a Flip-Pal product review article download.

Got a bunch of family photos and heirlooms you need to archive and share? Learn how in our Aug. 9 Digitize Your Family History webinar.

Editor's Pick | Photos | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Thursday, 02 August 2012 13:02:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [12]
# Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Learn How to Digitize and Archive Your Genealogy Documents, Photos and Heirlooms
Posted by Diane

Attending Antiques Roadshow last weekend has definitely put me in the mindset of figuring out what family heirlooms we have and where they came from, and how to preserve and share their stories with family.

My sisters and I, for example, didn't know about our great-grandmother's bride's basket until I asked my mom if she had something she'd like me to take to the show for appraisal.

Victorian Glass and Silver Bridal Basket

So I'm glad to see us doing a webinar called Digitize Your Family History: How to Preserve Precious Photos, Documents and Heirlooms. It's on Thursday, Aug. 9, presented by Denise Levenick, known as the Family Curator and author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes (Family Tree Books).

If you register early, you'll be able to submit a scanned photo or document, or a picture of an heirloom that Denise might use as an example during the webinar. That means you could get preservation and digitization advice specific to your family treasure. ("Early" is the key word.)

Here's what else you'll learn in the Digitize Your Family History webinar:
  • What items you should digitize

  • How to deal with fragile and oversized items, as well as heirlooms you can’t scan (like our bridal basket)

  • Tips for creating digital copies of your photos and documents

  • How to archive and organize digital copies for your own research and for posterity

  • Key terms and online resources for digitizing heirlooms
Registrants will also get a free preview chapter of Denise's book How to Archive Family Keepsakes, and a coupon for the book.

And as in every webinar, they'll receive copies of the presentation slides, as well as access to view the webinar again as often as they like (that goes even if you register but for some reason miss the webinar).

Digitize Your Family History takes place Thursday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. Eastern time (that's 6 p.m. Central, 5 p.m. Mountain and 4 p.m. Pacific).

Click here to learn more and register!

Family Heirlooms | Photos | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:15:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 23 July 2012
Behind the Scenes at "Antiques Roadshow"
Posted by Diane

The PBS series "Antiques Roadshow" was filming in Family Tree Magazine's hometown of Cincinnati on Saturday, and I and our intern Jen were lucky enough to see what goes on behind the scenes.

Something like 37,000 people entered the lottery for 3,000 pairs of free tickets for the Cincinnati event—a show record, from what I understand.

I'll write about the experience and my interview with "Antiques Roadshow" producer Marsha Bemko in an upcoming Family Tree Magazine, but we won't have room for all the photos I took. So I'm sharing some of them here (you can see several on Facebook, too).

First, an overview: Here's the line of folks waiting for the "triage" area, where each person got a ticket to see the pottery or prints or folk art or other appraiser. The triage folks would spot unique items and decide whether an item's appraisal would be filmed. The person who brought it was sent directly to the Green Room (off limits to press) until the appraisal took place.

Here's where those lines for various types of items converged. Appraisals and filming happened in the screened area.

A big part of the day for guests was waiting in line.

These crew members are setting up to film an appraisal.

Here Wes Cowan, who's been with the show for years and also stars on PBS' "History Detectives," examines a framed photograph. Cowan is from Cincinnati, but appraisers came from everywhere for the event.

We were invited to bring items for appraisal, too (and even lucky enough to bypass the line in my first photo above), so I wrapped up this glass bowl in plenty of bubble wrap. It was a wedding gift to my great-grandparents in 1908, and I don't want to be the one to break it.

The glassware appraiser told me it's called a bride's basket, and this one's style actually dates it to earlier than 1908, from the Victorian era. So it may have already been an heirloom when my great-grandmother received it. It's not worth much money, which is fine with my mom and me—we want it to stay in our family forever. The appraisal was over in a few minutes. I got the feeling the appraiser has seen a lot of these.

Do want to make sure your family heirlooms are preserved for posterity? Here are some resources for you:

Family Heirlooms | Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Monday, 23 July 2012 21:21:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Thursday, 31 May 2012
Need an Easy, Memorable, Personalized Birthday or Anniversary Gift Idea?
Posted by Diane

Need a quick, fun way to say "Happy birthday!" or "Happy anniversary!" to a loved one? Here's a way to create a personalized, memorable greeting—and at just 99 cents, it's more economical than a store-bought card.

birth year memory page

Each of our Birth Year or Anniversary Memory Pages is a one-page PDF download full of fun trivia from the year of the birth or wedding, including.
  • top news and events
  • movies, songs, fads and celebrity births
  • average prices of common goods
  • notable inventions and advancements in technology and transportation

After you download the PDF, just open it in Adobe Reader (a free download if you don't already have it), type in the recipient's name and birth or wedding information, and save. Then you could:

  • print and frame the customized page to create a personal gift
  • print the page for an album of birthday memories
  • mail the printed page or attach it to a present, as you would a card
  • send it as an e-card via email
  • post a digital image of the page to Facebook

You also could print the page and then write in the recipient's name and other information.

Birth Year Memory Pages are available for each year from 1930 through 2010, and you can also get memory pages covering decades from the 1930s through 2000s.

Anniversary Memory Pages are available in five-year increments from 10th to 70th. This one's for a couple celebrating 25 years in 2012:

anniversary memory page

Take a look at our Birth Year and Anniversary Memory Pages now in

Editor's Pick | Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history | Social History
Thursday, 31 May 2012 10:14:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 02 May 2012
How to Savor Your Family's Food History and Save Favorite Recipes
Posted by Diane

I'm in love with our newest book, From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Family Recipes by Gena Philibert-Ortega.

Before you even open the book, it's pretty: Hardbound, with a lovely cover and a cute yellow ribbon bookmark.

From the Family Kitchen book

And then it's about food history and family recipes, a topic that fascinates me.

From the Family Kitchen book

Who better to describe the book than its author? Here's what Gena has to say about this labor of love:

Do you ever wish you knew more about your ancestors’ lives? When I think of my ancestors, I wonder how their lives were similar to mine. I also ponder what I can add to my genealogy research that will be meaningful to future generations. 

From the Family Kitchen will help you understand and appreciate your ancestors’ everyday lives by exploring the foods they ate. These details make your family history more vivid and more interesting to younger folks—not to mention very tasty. 

This isn’t just another guidebook. It’s a keepsake designed to help you gather and preserve your family’s food traditions, past and present. You can use From the Family Kitchen to:

1. Learn where to find recipes Great-grandma would've cooked. I’ll walk you through the history of American foodways, and introduce you to resources for researching the food traditions of specific eras and regions. The book even includes historical recipes, cooking instructions and entertaining advice to give you a flavor of your ancestors’ experiences. 

From the Family Kitchen book

2. Better understand the foods of immigrant ancestors. Your family’s food traditions today might still reflect your ancestors’ cultural heritage—but how have those dishes changed over generations and across countries? I’ll explain how to find out.

3. Interview your family about their food memories. Get tips for gathering recipes and recollections. The book includes dozens of suggested questions to ask. 

4. Record your family food traditions. Within the book are beautiful recipe journal pages for preserving the dishes you discover in your research, and especially today’s family favorites—creating a legacy for future generations. 

From the Family Kitchen book

This is Diane again. This hardcover book is a great addition to your genealogy or cooking bookshelf, and it makes a wonderful Mother’s Day gift. You can order From the Family Kitchen from on sale for a short time, for $22.39. 

Bon appétit!

Genealogy books | saving and sharing family history | Sales | Social History
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 13:31:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 21 March 2012
FREE Webinar: Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner for Fabulous Family Photos
Posted by Diane

Free Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Webinar

We're hosting a free webinar next Tuesday about one of the most talked-about photo-preservation tools in genealogy: the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.

Presenters Thomas MacEntee and Diane Miller will show you:

  • tips for using Flip-Pal in your genealogy work
  • hints for archiving family photos with Flip-Pal
  • how Flip-Pal can help you share photos with your family
  • how to download the webinar presentation and slides for your future reference

Registered attendees will get access to the webinar to view again as many times as they like (we'll e-mail instructions after the webinar).

Plus, all registrants will receive a special product offer!

The free Flip-Pal webinar is Tuesday, March 27, at 2 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Central, noon Mountain, 11 a.m. Pacific).

The presentation is about 45 minutes, plus 10 minutes for Q&A.

Click here to register for our free webinar Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner for Fabulous Family Photos.

Photos | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 08:33:39 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 27 January 2012
Take the Family History Writing Challenge in February
Posted by Diane

Genealogists have come up with their own version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is in November):

The Family History Writing Challenge is a monthlong event in February. To play along, just commit to writing 250, 500 or 1,000 words per day (your pick) about your family history—whether it's a person, a branch, a place, an era or some other focus.

The challenge basics and a Q&A are here. Sign up here to receive daily writing reminders and quotes, as well as links to weekly advice posts. You also can join discussions in a forum.

When I put together a family history narrative a couple of years ago, I noticed some holes in my research, came up with ideas for next steps and saw how much progress I'd made. Even better, it was an easily digestible way to share me research with my family. 

Need motivation? Here's how to get around five common reasons for not writing family history. And here are six quick ideas for writing family history.

If you want in-depth guidance for writing a family history, look into the FTU course and workshop Write Your Family History. By the end of the session, you'll have an outline for your family's story and a start on your narrative.

Genealogy Events | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 27 January 2012 11:17:30 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 14 December 2011
iPhone App Helps You Record Family Stories
Posted by Diane

Here's a new smartphone app to consider grabbing before holiday gatherings: Record Their Stories for the iPhone has a built-in edit suite (stop, start, join and trim conversations) and more than 100 questions to help you capture relatives' stories. Use it with the phone's built-in audio recording capabilities.

Keep the recording on your phone or computer. You also can upload it to the Record Their Stories website and order a professionally mixed version of the recording, complete with music and sound effects.

You can get the Record Their Stories iPhone app for 99 cents from the iTunes app store. Learn more at the Record Their Stories website.

Get more help preparing for oral history conversations (learn everything from what to ask to what you should bring) with expert articles on

The January 2012 Family Tree Magazine has Lisa Louise Cooke's roundup of favorite apps for family history researchers.

Oral History | saving and sharing family history | Tech Advice
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 12:54:07 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Putting History on the Map
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is joining Historypin, a site that lets users virtually "pin" historical photographs, videos and audio recordings to Google maps.

Users can enhance their pins with descriptions and stories, and compile them into collections and tours centered around a place, time or storyline.

Visit the National Archives on Historypin here. I scrolled down and clicked an image of Samuel Morse's 1848 patent for the electromagnetic telegraph, which opened information about the patent:

Here's the patent on a map of Washington, DC, at the location of the old Patent Office:

Another cool thing you can do is use a transparency slider to overlay a historical image on top of a Google street view of the same scene today. This shows a view from the old Patent Office toward the Treasury building:

Also in NARA's collection, you'll find Mathew Brady Civil War photographs; photos of streets, buildings and historic events in Washington, DC; and images from the recently concluded History Happens Here augmented reality contest. Future additions will include Documerica images, more Mathew Brady, and Brooklyn Navy Yard photos collections.

Go here and type in a place your ancestors lived to see what's pinned there. You don't have to join Historypin to see the pins, but if you join, you can add your own images (you'll need a free Google account).

Historypin is also accessible via a Smartphone app. It's a project of the British non-profit We Are What We Do that seeks to bring generations together around the history of their communities.

Here are images Historypin users have pinned around Cincinnati, where Family Tree Magazine is located. Once I get started exploring these, I'm not sure how I'll stop myself:

Genealogy Web Sites | saving and sharing family history | Social History
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 11:53:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 28 November 2011
Advent Calender of Christmas Memories Captures Family Stories
Posted by Diane

Are you trying to save and share your family history by putting family stories down on paper?

Here's a great way to capture holiday-related memories: GeneaBloggers announces the return of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories blogging event Dec. 1-24. Each day will present a blogging prompt (such as Christmas cookies—yum!) for bloggers to respond to with memories and family history.

Even if you don't have a blog, you can use the prompts to inspire your writing.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories founder, GeneaBloggers' Thomas MacEntee, reports that some bloggers have compiled their posts into books to share with family.

Click here to learn how bloggers can participate in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. Also follow the event on Facebook and Twitter.

Continue your family story writing with My Life & Times: A Guided Journal by Sunny Jane Morton or Morton's Creating a Family History Book course at Family Tree University (the next session starts Dec. 5).

saving and sharing family history
Monday, 28 November 2011 12:12:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Listen Up! Free November Podcast Now Available
Posted by Diane

The free Family Tree Magazine podcast November edition is here! Host Lisa Louise Cooke and Family Tree Magazine experts share tips on how to get relatives to discuss family history, a discussion of the Historic American Cookbook Project, and news on the Genealogists for Families project at

Plus, learn more about creating a family history book from Family Tree University's Nancy Hendrickson.

You can listen via iTunes or on

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Podcasts | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 09:04:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 17 November 2011
It's A Hot Genealogy Mess
Posted by Diane

Our publisher Allison Dolan has been slowly digging through the inherited family archive she's affectionately calling her "hot genealogy mess."

Thank goodness for our upcoming Organize Your Family Archive webinar and the advice from its presenter, Denise Levenick, because Allison's found some things she knows have historical value, but she's not sure what to do with. Here are some contents of just one of the two dozen boxes Allison inherited:

Maybe you've shopped at a Kroger grocery store? In 1883 in Cincinnati, Bernard Kroger founded what's now the largest US grocery chain.

Allison uncovered letters and newspaper clippings from Kroger family members. A handwritten notecard states that one of her ancestors was B.H. Kroger's private secretary from 1928 to 1938. 

Another treasure is an album full of photos from the South Pacific. It belonged to a woman named Dorie, who may have been a friend of an aunt.

Color me jealous. We'll keep showing you more peeks inside this archive.

The Early Bird Special for the Organize Your Family Archive webinar ends Nov. 20, so if you have your own hot genealogy mess going on, register now.

saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Thursday, 17 November 2011 10:42:07 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 11 November 2011
Remembering Grandpa's WWII Service
Posted by Diane

Grandpa doesn’t know it—he passed away in 2003—but his old Army photos have graced several Family Tree Magazine publications. That's his portrait in the September 2005 Family Tree Sourcebook and on our Military Research Guide CD.

He served in the Army 83rd Signal Co. in 1944 and 1945 in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, and received a Bronze Star medal for his service.

The citation above (which I included on a scrapbook page for Scrapbooking Your Family History by Maureen A. Taylor) says he

…showed outstanding leadership in maintaining wire communications between division and regimental headquarters. During the rapid advance of the division, difficult terrain was encountered and artillery fire. His devotion to duty and outstanding services merit the highest praise …

My grandma once told me that Grandpa limped after the war because he’d dropped a big coil of cable on his foot, and she asked him why he hadn’t gotten it checked out. He said he knew he might not be able to return to the same unit. Those were good men, he said, and he didn’t want to leave them. 

He’s among those in the WWII Army Enlistment records, available on the National Archives’ website and on subscription site

His burial information is also recorded in the Veterans Administration Nationwide Gravesite Locator:

You can memorialize your own military ancestors’ service with our military biography form, downloadable from this page

Go here to download our War Service Reference Guide, which has a timeline of US conflicts plus a birth date chart you can use to determine which major wars your ancestor likely served in.

Learning about your relatives' service to our country (and sharing their stories with your family) is one way to honor them today. Here are some of our favorite websites for doing military research.

Thanks, Grandpa.

Military records | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 11 November 2011 09:58:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 09 November 2011
Organize Your Family Archive
Posted by Diane

Remember back when Family Tree Magazine Publisher Allison Dolan (then Allison Stacy) inherited nearly two dozen boxes of family history "stuff" from her grandparents?

Scads of you wrote in with advice and stories about your similar situations in blog comments, emails and letters.

The Family Curator blogger Denise Levenick is going to make an example of Allison for your benefit. In our Organize Your Family Archive webinar, Denise will offer strategies and inspiration for

  • determining your goals for your family collection
  • inventorying your archive
  • deciding what to save, donate and throw away or recycle
  • organizing the materials in your archive
  • safely storing everything from letters to photos to musical instruments
The hour-long webinar is Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 8 p.m. Eastern (7 Central, 6 Mountain, 5 Pacific). Your registration includes:
  • participation in the live presentation and Q&A session
  • access to the webinar recording to view again as many times as you like
  • a PDF of the presentation slides for future reference

For a limited time, you can save 20 percent on your Organize Your Family Archive webinar registration. This may be the incentive and guidance you need to start getting a handle on your family archive—and seeing what genealogy treasures it holds.

Editor's Pick | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 14:37:17 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 04 November 2011
Interview a Friend or Relative on the National Day of Listening
Posted by Diane

African-American genealogy website LowCountry Africana is an official partner with StoryCorps in celebrating the National Day of Listening on Nov. 25.

This will be the fourth annual National Day of Listening. Americans are encouraged to observe it by spending an hour on the day after Thanksgiving interviewing a friend, loved one or community member about their lives.

Lowcountry Africana will participate by recording interviews with residents in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. These areas are home to many descendants of enslaved Africans of the Gullah-Geechee culture. The slaves' rice-growing skills were vital to the massive rice plantations of the Colonial and Antebellum Lowcountry.

Visit Lowcountry Africana's National Day of Listening web pages, with suggestions for how to participate and instructional videos.

StoryCorps, an organization that provides people of all backgrounds with opportunities to preserve thier life stories, has a free online Do-It-Yourself interview guide.

You'll also find guidance for participating in the National Day of Listening in these free articles:

More resources from

African-American roots | Oral History | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 04 November 2011 09:26:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 03 November 2011
Genealogy Keepsakes Ultimate Collection: Save & Share Family History
Posted by Diane

This month’s limited-edition Genealogy Keepsakes Ultimate Collection will help you share your heritage with loved ones. You’ll get books for recording family information and stories, plus ideas for creating heirlooms and family history gifts. 

It includes

The $79.99 price saves you 62 percent on the whole shebang. Only 95 (and counting) of the Genealogy Keepsakes Ultimate Collections are left—now’s the time to get started on your family history holiday projects!

Editor's Pick | saving and sharing family history | Sales
Thursday, 03 November 2011 08:33:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 01 November 2011
Free Webinar: Have an Organized Holiday Season
Posted by Diane

Halloween’s over, which means we’re in the holiday season. My blood pressure just went up a little.

Trying to take care of your gift list, keep family traditions going, get things done at work around vacation schedules, and squeeze in genealogy time can make the holidays one of the most hectic times of the year.

But they don’t have to be. Our colleagues over at Betterway Home are hosting a free webinar to help you cut the chaos, stress and clutter from your holiday season.

The free Have an Organized Holiday Season webinar is presented by professional organizers Jennifer Ford Berry, author of Organize Now! and Organize Now! Your Money, Business & Career, and Susan Fay West, author of Organize For a Fresh Start.

It takes place Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. Pacific).

Sign up and receive:

  • Tips for how to organize decorations, gifts and more
  • Advice to help you manage and enjoy your holiday schedule
  • Help identifying your priorities so you value everything you do
  • Participation in the live Q&A session—get detailed answers to your specific questions
  • Access to the webinar recording to view again as many times as you like
  • Plus a coupon for 20 percent off the presenters’ new books

This year, get organized before you get overwhelmed. Click here to register for the free Have an Organized Holiday Season webinar.

saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Tuesday, 01 November 2011 15:07:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 27 October 2011
New App Puts a Scanner in Your Pocket
Posted by Diane

A free iPhone app released today from memory-sharing site 1000memories makes your phone work like a scanner.

The Shoebox scanning app helps you digitize, organize and share collections of photos from the past.

You use the camera on your iPhone to snap a picture of a photo. Shoebox auto-detects the edges of the photo, then crops and straightens it. You can add information such as dates, names, and locations, then upload the photo as a JPG to There, you can be organize and share your pictures.

Of course, the quality of Shoebox "scans" depends on the phone's camera. If you have the latest iPhone, the 4S, your digitized Shoebox photos will be on par with what you'd produce with a typical desktop scanner, 1000memories cofounder Jonathan Good told me. The 4S has an 8.0 MP sensor for high-resolution mobile scans, as well as an improved f2.4 lens for quality lower-light scans.

Good says he also gets excellent results using his iPhone 4. The app is compatible with all previous iPhone models, as well as the iPad.

An Android version is coming soon, Good added (to the delight of this Android user).

“The popularity of the iPhone camera has proven that people want something that’s quick, accessible, and easy to share,” says 1000memories' other cofounder, Rudy Adler. "For us, that’s what providing a social mobile scanner is about - making it as easy as possible for people to get their photo collections digitized and shared with the people they care about.”

It'll certainly make scanning a box of photos quicker, and it'll be easier to digitize photos in your relatives' possession—no need to persuade Aunt Bertha to let you cart her precious album home.

Note that the app outputs a JPG file, but the TIF format, which creates uncompressed files, is the most widely used type of file for digital master photos. That lack of compression is also why TIF files are large and impractical for electronic sharing. So you may want to create TIF backups of important pictures.

Go here to learn more about Shoebox and download it.

Genealogy Software | Photos | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 27 October 2011 11:04:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Start Writing Your Life Story: Watch the Free Webinar
Posted by Diane

Everyone has a story to tell, but recording those stories for future generations can be a daunting task. What should you share? How much should you write? How can you clear the fog from memories made long ago?

Sunny Jane Morton, author of My Life & Times: A Guided Journal For Collecting Your Stories, answered these and more questions in last week’s free webinar Start Writing Your Life Stories.

One idea that struck me right at the beginning is to imagine that a biography has been written about your life. When you look at the book jacket, what does it say? What main theme of your life, setting and colorful characters does it mention. “In the broadest sense, that book jacket is your story,” Morton says. “Everyday life is found in the chapters inside.”

If you missed the Start Writing Your Life Stories webinar—or you want to watch it again (still free!)—just click here and fill in your name and email address.

saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 13:11:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Writing Down Your Family Stories
Posted by Diane

Thanks to all who entered our family history publishing contest with Abbott Press. We enjoyed hearing your unique family stories!

It was beyond difficult to narrow the field, but we did it. These winners’ entries left us wanting to read more about their ancestors:
  • Grand-prize winner Shirley Booth-Byerly of Robertsdale, Ala., wins a complete publishing package from Abbott Press

I hope the contest got more people thinking about sharing their family history with relatives. If you've been putting off getting your family’s story down, here are five common excuses and why they won’t cut it

If you’re not ready to tackle a family history writing project, try these six ideas on for size: They’re shorter-but-still-meaningful ways to share your family stories.

But if you've been dreaming of recording your ancestors' tales, you can get in-depth help in the Family Tree University course Write Your Family History: Create a Captivating Record of Your Family’s Story with Sunny Jane Morton.

Need inspiration? My favorite family history is called Family by Ian Frazier (I got to interview him for Family Tree Magazine, and I was a nervous wreck). Here are some other family histories you'll enjoy

saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 15:11:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 07 October 2011
Genealogy News Corral, October 3-7
Posted by Diane

  • New records on FamilySearch this week include five million civil registration images from the Philippines from 1945 to 1980, plus records from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy and Spain.
US additions include Sebastian County, Ark., births and deaths; San Mateo County, Calif. Italian cemetery records; Florida Confederate veterans and widows pension applications; Clark County, Idaho, records; Indiana marriages; North Carolina estate files; Columbia County, Ore., records; and Utah probate records. Remember that not all collections are indexed yet, so you may need to browse record images by date or place.

Go here to see details on the additions and link to each updated collection.

  • This one’s for anyone who has worn or is planning to wear a wedding gown: The Wedding Gown Project is sponsoring a writing competition for stories about buying, making, fitting, wearing, storing or passing down your wedding dress. The deadline is Nov. 30, and three cash prizes will be awarded. Author and documentarian Donna Guthrie will compile the stories for a documentary in 2012. See The for entry details.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 07 October 2011 13:02:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 29 September 2011
Personal Historian 2 Software Released
Posted by Diane

Genealogy software company RootsMagic has released Personal Historian 2, a new version of its software for writing life stories of your relatives and yourself.

The software creates an interactive timeline to keep individual stories organized, give context to life events and let you write stories in any order you want. Then it compiles the stories into a book with table of contents, chapters, pictures, indexes and more. You can print the book at home, edit it in a word processing program, have it professionally published, and share it.

Features include:

  • step-by-step wizards
  • filtering and searching of stories
  • a library of LifeCapsules—timelines, historical events, fads and memory triggers covering a variety of subjects
  • importing of word processor documents, photographs and other data
  • importing of events, dates and notes from your genealogy software
  • more powerful publishing and output options

Many of these core features are in a free edition of the software called Personal Historian Essentials, which is fully compatible with the paid version. 

Through Oct. 31, Personal Historian 2 is available for an introductory price of $19.95. Thereafter, the price will be $29.95. Learn more on the Personal Historian website

Look for a review or Personal Historian 2 in an upcoming Family Tree Magazine.

Genealogy Software | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 29 September 2011 10:57:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Genealogy Matters
Posted by Diane

Here's some reading material for your coffee break: A post today on the Scientific American blog called I’m a Johnson from Wisconsin, and It is Pretty Cool

Neuroscientist-turned-journalist and genealogy buff Madeleine Johnson wrote about how she used a circular family tree chart of her own creation as a starting point to her roots research, and is searching for the story of a great-grandmother who died in an institution.

“Genealogy, distant and recent, gives meaning to personal and shared historical experience,” she writes.

Also check out another post and article she mentions: Going Dutch: I’m one of the Van Dusens of New Amsterdam. So what? in which Matthew Van Dusen says his illustrious ancestry—described in a New York Times article about New Amsterdam’s early settlers—doesn’t increase his own personal importance.

I have to agree with him there, but I do think it's neat to be related to someone you might read about in a history book (I'm not, that I know of). Of course, it's also gratifying to discover and honor the stories of "ordinary" folks in your tree. What do you think?

saving and sharing family history | Social History
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 17:17:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 13 September 2011
What Makes Your Family Special? Tell Us & You Could Win a Family History Publishing Package!
Posted by Diane

Looking into lasting ways to share your family’s story? How about a book?

You could win a family history publishing package in a contest from Family Tree Magazine and custom publisher Abbott Press (our fellow member of the F+W Media family). 

To enter, just e-mail us your name, phone number, and 500 words or less about why your family history should be chosen as the contest winner.

Did your ancestors embody the American dream? Were they important in shaping historic events? Is your family tree full of colorful characters? You tell us what sets your family apart.

Use the e-mail subject line "Family Tree-Abbott Press Publishing Contest" and send your entry by Sept. 30, 2011.

We'll pick one winner from the first 200 submissions. The grand-prize winner will receive a complete Premium publishing package from Abbott Press.

The first runner-up will win the Family Tree University independent study course Writing Your Family Memoir (on CD). A second runner-up with get a copy of My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories by Sunny Jane Morton.

All entrants will receive a 25 percent discount off any Abbott Press publishing package.

Check out all the contest rules here

Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 12:30:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 09 September 2011
What I Learned Today at the FGS Conference
Posted by Diane

Instead of the regular Friday Genealogy News Corral, I'm sharing some things I learned at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference today:
  • AncestorSync, the folks in the booth next to me, is a way to share genealogy data or sync desktop and online trees without downloading a GEDCOM and uploading it somewhere else (or manually adding the same ancestors in multiple places). So far, it works with Ancestral Quest, Legacy, Mac Family Tree, PAF, RootsMagic and The Master Genealogist desktop programs, and FamilySearch, Geni and OurFamilyology online tree sites, with more to come.
  • The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (GSP) is having a Pennsylvania Family workshop with Nov. 5. Twelve presentations include experts from plus additional speakers including Lisa Alzo and Dear Myrtle.

GSP also is working on a new website, so keep an eye on GenPa.

  • 1,000 Memories is a website where you and relatives upload photos, audio and video, and written stories about ancestors—a way of sharing the photos that you inherited, and seeing the ones handed down through your cousin Edna’s branch.
  • Sort Your Story is software that helps you organize your data and digitized documents. You enter your data in the software’s profiler and use the software to organize documents. The profiler also helps you see what information you’re missing for each person in your tree.
  • is a service that links orphaned heirlooms with the families that originally owned them. The site works with antiques dealers who have items with family connections—currently, it lists items associated with 40,000 families. You can search the site to see what’s associated with your surname, but you need to join to view information about the listings.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 09 September 2011 21:06:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [14]
# Thursday, 11 August 2011
Your Advice for Organizing Family Archives
Posted by Diane

Last week, Allison fessed up about her so-far-untouched mountain of boxes inherited from her grandmother, full of genealogy records, pictures and news clippings, with some nongenealogical stuff thrown in for good measure.


A bunch of you chimed in with advice, encouragement and stories that’ll benefit other overwhelmed family archivists. The gist of your advice is:

  • Take your time. Baby steps!
  • Sort by family, people or place.
  • Digitize.
  • Archival storage.
  • Share.
  • Consider donating what won’t be kept.

Here are some more details from your suggestions and stories. To read the full comments, go to Allison’s “Organizing Grandma’s Archive” blog post and click Comments at the bottom. 

  • Claire suggested making an inventory of the items: “Tackle one box a week. Label the first box 1, the second 2, etc. Go through the contents and list everything in a notebook under the appropriate tab. For example, in the Anderson-Dugan tab, you might have:
John Dugan birth certificate, box 1
Photo of Anderson family reunion 1930, box 1

"At some later date you might relocate everything to a better storage system," Claire adds, "but at least for now you'll know the contents of each box.”

  • Joseph Martin would allow more time: “I count 15 boxes in your stack. Give yourself two months to sort and organize one box. In less than three years, you will be done.”

  • Renee advises scheduling small chunks of time (30 to 50 minutes) a few times a week, so things don’t feel overwhelming. “I wouldn't begin to move things around until you document how the documents appeared, since what folder they were in or what they were next to can have bearing on the meaning of the document. I would take photos of the box and each item in the box as you unpack them.”

She also recommends digitizing as you go. “If you re-create the folders and boxes digitally, you'll always know the exact order they arrived in. You can then tag them or make digital copies and reorganize them according to your preference. It will make you familiar with what's there and you won't have to reorganize the actual papers. You can just store them (or toss, if needed) and work with the digital copies.” 

  • Patti McElligott describes her system of 3-inch binders for each family name, with each family member on a tabbed index sheet. Paper records for each person go inside clear sheet protectors behind his or her tab.
Patti’s tip for labeling photos: “Take a stack, and anytime you are sitting down, write on the back the who, what, where etc. There are pens made for this that will not damage the pictures.”
  • Cheryl Hughes was also left with an archive like Allison’s, but from several different relatives and families. She’s been working on it for 10 years. “I still get boxes, as I am thought of as the 'picture person' of all these families,” Cheryl says.
She separated papers from the pictures, and had some of the old photos and tintypes restored and copied. “I am copying all pictures to CDs or SD cards and having prints made to share with other family members … the originals are in safe, acid free boxes, with copies in albums.” 
  • Micki Gilmore’s inherited archive is smaller. “I plan to digitize. There are some great scanners out there,” she says, and plans to tackle one box at a time.
  • Diane Hart has been digitizing photos all summer. “The photos are on discs, and then I view them on a slide show on my computer. They look so nice! … From photos I received from my 83-year-old aunt, I made a disc for her with a very nice identifying label, printed a thumbnail photo gallery of disc contents, and included my contact information. Then I drove miles to deliver this to her, and we watched the slideshow. She absolutely loved it! She is the only living child in my Dad's family of 13.”
  • S. Lantz is using Clooz software to keep track of her archive. “[It] allows you to tag names in your genealogy name list with each item (photos, census, documents, books, etc.). If you assign a unique number to each item, you can run an individual report that will list all of the items tied to that individual.” 
  • Juanita Dean uses photo boxes and tabbed dividers to organize her photos by place, then event. “If you look at the photos yearly, put them in a larger box that is handy to share for reunions, otherwise use archival boxes to put them away.”
  • I love Ardith Hale’s words: “The Chinese say you can move a mountain one spoonful at a time.” She advises Allison catalog and digitize, then sort.
“I have been given a huge store of pictures, which we went through with my mother to assign names, then sort by family. Each family gets theirs. Older ones are being digitized, copied and spread around so that hopefully somewhere there will be a copy. Unidentifed ones are kept together in the hope that some reunion or gathering can attach a name.”
  • Shasta says “Take your time, think of a plan, and execute it slowly, a little bit at a time … I managed to scan our family photos by doing a few each day, a little extra when I had time.”
If you're looking for more advice, the January 2011 Family Tree Magazine has Denise Levenick's (she's the Family Curator blogger) guide to organizing a family archive like this one.

Feel free to keep sharing your stories about sorting through family collections—we love to hear 'em.

Family Heirlooms | Photos | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 11 August 2011 09:35:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Thursday, 04 August 2011
Organizing Grandma's Archive
Posted by Allison

Speaking of organization challenges, in the November 2011 issue, I ask for readers’ help with a dilemma: how to sort and store the genealogy archive my grandmother passed on to me. I’m not one to make a mountain out of a molehill ... But this actually resembles a mountain:

For her part, Grandma did manage to loosely organize the collection into boxes for specific relatives or branches of the family.

She also sorted scores of family letters into binders.

Still, some material isn't sorted or labeled. Along with the treasures are random non-genealogy-related items that need to be weeded out. And none of it is stored in what you could call an archivally friendly manner.

I'll admit the prospect of reorganizing and digitizing this mountain of memories has overwhelmed me. So I'll pose the same question to all of you family and professional archivists out there: What's your advice for making this project manageable?

Can't wait to hear your suggestions.

Family Heirlooms | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 04 August 2011 13:42:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [29]
# Thursday, 16 June 2011
A Marriage Certificate Finds its Family
Posted by Grace

Whenever I find loose family photos or paperwork at antique malls (which is very often, because I love antiquing), I always feel sad for the families separated from the ephemera. On a trip home recently, my dad showed me a marriage certificate he'd found in an estate sale cleanout. (Guess where I get the antiques habit from?)

This beautiful certificate was for Walter C. Peck of Cleveland, Ohio, and Irene E. Kershner of Berwick, Pa., who were married on July 5, 1924, in Berwick, Pa., by the Rev. H.R. Shipe. I just had to know if this marriage certificate had a family that would want it.

So I did a little genealogical detective work on

(Click the image to enlarge it)

I found a Walter (age 31) and Irene Peck (29) living at 1273 Bonnieview, Lakewood, Ohio, in the 1930 census (recorded on April 5, 1930). They had two children, Clarke (5) and Carlos (8 months), and Walter was a ticket agent for a steam railroad. They rented their home for $50 a month and owned a radio set.

But Irene also showed up listed with her parents, William and Sarah Kershner, at 373 Monroe, Berwick Township, Pa., on the 1930 census (recorded April 8, 1930). Her two sons, Clark (listed as 4 and 11 months) and Carlos (7 months), are also included. (I'm figuring they were visiting during enumeration time.) I found the Kershners at the same address in the 1910 census, with Irene, 10 at the time, being among seven listed children.

Irene pops up in the 1920 census as a sister-in-law to Jacob and Lucretia Nagel in Lakewood, Ohio. She worked as a stenographer at a chemical company.

A WWI draft registration card filled out June 5, 1918, for a Walter Clark Peck living at 1339 E. 80th St. in Cleveland states he worked at a chemical company in Cleveland -- perhaps Walter and Irene had a workplace romance. Walter's emergency contact was his mother, Elizabeth Peck, who lived at the same address. Walter shows up on the 1910 and 1920 censuses living with his parents, Clark W. and Bessie Peck, in Cleveland.

Ohio death records show Walter C. Peck, born in 1897, died at home in Fairview Park, Ohio, on Nov. 13, 1961. I couldn't find a death date for Irene; Carlos Peck passed away in 2002.

But Clark Peck is still alive, and I called him on the phone today. He's a bit hard of hearing, so I mostly spoke to his wife, Beryl (Heiser) Peck, who confirmed pretty much everything I'd found.

Beryl said Walter Peck and Irene Kershner had met at Grasselli Chemical in Cleveland, where they'd both worked. Walter later worked for the Canadian Pacific Rail for many years; Beryl said Walter traveled around the world a couple times before he passed away in his 60s. Irene lived until the last 1980s. Now in his late 80s, Dr. Clark Peck practiced dentistry and taught at Case Western Reserve University for 30 years. He and Beryl now live in Westlake, Ohio, and have two children and many grandchildren.

By the time I got off the phone, I was tearing up from happiness. Beryl thanked me multiple times for contacting them -- I'll be mailing out the marriage certificate (and a copy of this blog post) to her and Clark today. I'm so glad that this beautiful record will return to its family -- and stay with them for many years to come.

Related resources: | saving and sharing family history | Vital Records
Thursday, 16 June 2011 14:49:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [11]
# Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Free Webinar on Writing Your Memoir
Posted by Diane

If your family history research has led you down the path of writing—and maybe even selling—your life story, think about registering for this free, hour-long webinar hosted by our friends at Writer’s Digest magazine.

How to Write a Marketable Memoir, taking place Monday, June 20, at 1 pm Eastern (that’s noon Central, 11 am Mountain and 10 am Pacific), will give you tips on how to self-edit, “hook” readers, find your voice, and research the potential market for your work.

The webinar is presented by literary agent Paula Balzer, author of the book Writing and Selling Your Memoir.

Click here to register for the free How to Write a Marketable Memoir webinar.

saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 11:20:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 04 May 2011
The Family History Book of My Dreams
Posted by Diane

... only it's not about my family. I came across a unique, fascinating family history display on one of’s sister sites, a design publication called

After the death of Gordon Felton, originally Gunter Fajgenbaum, his son, graphic designer Nicholas Felton, used the hundreds of artifacts his father left to create a visual synopsis of his life.

The 12-page book features infographics showing information about Gordon’s family, each decade of his life, the places he lived and traveled, his collections of music and postcards, and more.

Here are a few of the pages (click each page for a bigger view):

The first page (above) uses pie charts to show the number and types of items Gordon saved from each year of his life.

Page three summarizes his youth in England, with a photo and stats from his school reports (best and worst subject, most frequent adjectives teachers used to describe him, etc.).

The center pages show the places Gordon traveled, with at-a-glance information such as the highest altitude visited and number of locations in each hemisphere.

I admire the mad graphic design skills that went into this book. But beyond the gorgeous looks, I love how Nicholas studied his father’s ephemera and compiled facts (such as movies he saw and the type of music he listened to) that kind of summarize the family archive and give insight into what kind of person Gordon was.

You can read more about the book here.

Flip through all the pages life-size on Nicholas Felton’s website

Have you created a visual display of family history (whether in a book or another form)? Click Comments and tell us about it.

Family Heirlooms | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 15:17:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]