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# Thursday, August 11, 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, August 11, 2011 9:35:48 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Civil War Witness Trees
Posted by Diane

Workers at Gettysburg National Military Park last week were cutting up a fallen oak tree on Culp's Hill, a key location in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, when they hit 148-year-old bullets.

Battlefield trees like this one, still bearing scars and bullet wounds, are called Civil War witness trees. (Another kind of witness tree is found in public land states—a surveyor would blaze a tree near a section corner as evidence of the section boundaries.)

I hadn’t heard the term until I read about the Gettysburg discovery, and it makes perfect sense: Eyewitnesses are long gone, but these trees stood on the battlefields when our ancestors dug trenches, reloaded guns, charged the other side, were injured and died.

Many witness trees are famous and were captured in contemporary drawings or Mathew Brady’s photographs, for example:

  • Burnside Bridge Sycamore at Antietam, Md.
  • Appomattox Courthouse Pin Oak in Virginia
  • Copse of White Oaks near Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, Pa.
  • Southern Magnolias at Andersonville, Ga.

You can see photos of these and other trees at The Bivouac website

Sections of the Culp’s Hill tree with bullets will be displayed in a museum at Gettysburg. The Gettysburg Daily blog has posts about witness trees, with lots of photos and directions for finding them.

Here are some Civil War resources from Family Tree Magazine:


Civil War | Historic preservation | Social History
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 9:12:35 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Research Help for Illinois Ancestors
Posted by Diane


If you have Illinois ancestors, here’s an important acronym to know:

IRAD

It stands for Illinois Regional Archives Depository, a statewide records management system that divides the state into seven regions and helps you access genealogical records. 

IRAD is just one of the Illinois resources Thomas MacEntee will introduce you to in our Illinois Genealogy Crash Course webinar, Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. Eastern (6 Central, 5 Mountain, 4 Pacific). 

MacEntee, a Chicagoan, creator of the GeneaBloggers website, and author of the November 2011 Family Tree Magazine Chicago research guide, will cover important Illinois history, including migration patterns:

“From 1800 to 1840, many migrated to southern Illinois from Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia,” he says. “After 1830, they came to central Illinois from Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The period from 1840 to 1920 saw a flow of immigrants to the Chicago area. A great migration of African-Americans from the South to Chicago and other northern cities took place from 1920 to 1970.”

You’ll also get information on essential Illinois records, including the marriage return, and other websites where you can do research on ancestors from the Land of Lincoln.

Be sure to take advantage of our Early Bird special, which saves you $10 off your Illinois Genealogy Crash Course webinar registration.


Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | Webinars
Tuesday, August 09, 2011 4:24:06 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, August 05, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, August 1-5
Posted by Diane

  • Genealogist Michael Hait has started the Ancestry Errors Wiki to keep track of the site’s “errors in imaging, programming or organization.” For example, one contributor noted that on Ancestry.com, “In the 1840 U. S. federal census, the city of Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, is incorrectly listed in Edmonson County, Ky.”

You can search the wiki or use a drop-down menu to find errors by state. Have you discovered such an error? Click here for instructions on adding a page to the wiki.

  • Ancestry.ca now includes UK Railway Employment Records, 1833 – 1963, a collection containing the employment-related records of British railway workers dating back to the early 19th century. These records from the British national archives give employee names, home station, date of birth, information on their career progression, salary increases, rewards, conduct, and notes from superiors. Search the database here
But less than 1 percent of Egypt’s modern-day residents belong to this haplogroup, according to iGENEA, and it’s unknown how King Tut’s ancestors got to Egypt. The company is hoping its search for King Tut’s closest living male relatives will lead to an answer. If you order a test from iGENEA and match King Tut on 16 markers, the site promises your money back and a free upgrade. 
  • The 31st annual International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference starts next Sunday, Aug. 14, in Washington, DC. Online registration is closed, but you can register on-site. Click here for more information

Ancestry.com | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Jewish roots
Friday, August 05, 2011 1:06:05 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Thursday, August 04, 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, August 04, 2011 1:42:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [29]
# Wednesday, August 03, 2011
You Could Win Photo-Organization Help!
Posted by Diane

Got a photo mess like this one on your hands? Old, unlabeled family pictures spilling out of shoe boxes, falling out of albums and deteriorating in the attic or basement?

Show us your photo mess, and you could win a safe place to store your family photo archive, plus expert photo preservation advice from Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor 

To enter, submit a picture of your photo mess along with a short plea (fewer than 150 words) convincing us why you need photo-organization help. You can submit your photo and short story either of these ways:

Family Tree Magazine editors will choose the entry displaying the worst photo mess and the most-convincing plea for help, as well as two runners-up.

One grand-prize winner will receive $250 worth of archival-quality photo-organization supplies and a signed copy of the book Preserving Your Family Photographs by Taylor. Two runners-up will each receive a signed copy of the book.

We’ll announce the winners in the March 2012 Family Tree Magazine. The entry deadline is Aug. 31, 2011. See more Photo Organization Contest details here


Photos
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 10:02:16 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
FamilySearch Adds Records, Launches YouTube Channel
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has added new records from the United States and seven other countries—Canada, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, and Poland—to its record search.

Updates to US collections total 1.8 million records, including the South Dakota 1945 state census, New York court records, Indiana marriage records and Utah Indian Wars service affidavits.

Note that in many cases, the updates consist of unindexed digitized documents, meaning you won’t find them using the search on FamilySearch’s home page. Instead, you’ll need to browse the collections by date or place (however the records are organized).

Click here to see a list of the updated collections, whether each one is indexed, and a link to each collection

FamilySearch also has announced it’s launching a YouTube channel Aug. 4. You can preview it now by watching Genealogy in Five Minutes: Learn From Family (this one’s actually 6 minutes and 8 seconds long), with tips on talking to relatives about family history.

The video is part of what'll be a 24-episode series offering quick tips on various aspects of genealogy. When the channel launches, you’ll also be able to watch inspirational videos, those highlighting the lighter side of genealogy, a series on societies and archives, how-to videos and others.


FamilySearch | Research Tips
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 9:40:45 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Save Your Genealogical Sanity
Posted by Diane

Do you have dents in your forehead from banging it against a brick wall? Our August Ultimate Collection is designed to save your forehead, your sanity, and your genealogical motivation with solutions to research brick walls such as

  • missing records due to fires, flood and other disasters
  • hard-to-find ancestors in censuses and passenger lists
  • pre-1850, head-of-household censuses
  • ancestors born (or married or died) before vital record-keeping
  • not knowing where to look next

The Family Tree Ultimate Research Solutions Collection has expert advice and ideas for conquering genealogy challenges, including

  • The Family Tree Problem Solver, revised edition, by Marsha Hoffman Rising: It has techniques for approaching real genealogy problems, plus case studies so you can see the advice in action. This edition includes new information about online research and using DNA research. 
  • 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges: This Q&A book answers research questions from Family Tree Magazine readers. 
  • Brick Wall Strategies: Advice and Ideas for Getting Past Research Dead Ends on-demand webinar: Learn how to assess your research problems and formulate a plan of attack for solving them.
  • Reverse Genealogy: Family Tree University Independent Study Course download: This course teaches you tactics to research your family tree forward (the opposite of what genealogists usually do) to find living relatives.

The Ultimate Research Solutions Collection is $59.99, a 67 percent discount, during August. Only 39 (and counting down) are still up for grabs, so get yours while you can!


Editor's Pick | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 11:26:42 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Friday, July 29, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, July 25-29
Posted by Diane

  • Stanford University has put together a cool visual timeline of US newspaper publication from 1690 to today, using data from the Library of Congress Chronicling America newspaper directory. The map shows where newspapers were published during various years and eras, with different-sized and –colored city or town markers to indicate the number of papers published there and foreign-language newspapers. Click on a marker and the names of papers published there appear below the map.

Here’s more information on our blog about Chronicling America. Genealogy expert Timothy Pinnick recommended the site as a resource for finding African-American newspapers in our February 2011 podcast

  • If you’re escaping the heat inside tonight and wondering what to do, give GeneaBloggers Radio a listen. The weekly Friday night internet radio show, hosted by Thomas MacEntee, starts at 10pm EDT, 9pm CDT, 8pm MDT, and 7pm PDT. Tonight’s episode is about capturing your personal family history. Click here to learn more about it and tune in
  • Traveling to the National Archives in Washington, DC, in September? Look into attending the archives’ genealogy programs on Freedom of Information Act requests (Sept. 6), military records (Sept. 7), census searching strategies (Sept. 10) and more. On Sept. 10 from noon to 4 pm, you can make a 20 minute appointment with an archivist for individual help. See the list of September programs and descriptions here.

Genealogy Events | NARA | Newspapers
Friday, July 29, 2011 9:57:36 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Thursday, July 28, 2011
This Land Is Your Land
Posted by Diane

Do you have an ancestor's deed or land patent? The strange-looking land description containing letters and fractions is called “aliquot parts.” If you can decode the description, you’ll be able to figure out exactly where your ancestor’s land was.

Aliquot parts is an important element in the public land survey system (PLSS), also called the rectangular survey system, which was used to survey and divvy up land starting shortly after the Revolutionary War.

States with land surveyed under the PLSS, called Public Land States, are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

That's everything except the original 13 states, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and Hawaii. (Parts of Ohio were surveyed with the old metes-and-bounds system, too.)  

The PLSS established principal meridians—imaginary north-south lines—to serve as the starting point for surveying each 24x24-mile tract. A tract is divided into 16 townships; townships (23,040 acres) contain 36 sections, each 1 square mile (640 acres), like this: 

A section could be split into halves, quarters or other parts. A description of your ancestor’s subdivision on a land record might look like N½ SW¼, which you’d read as “the north half of the southwest quarter.”

Here’s an example of how land might be divided and described in aliquot parts:

This free FamilyTreeMagazine.com article has more information about the PLSS and the Bureau of Land Management’s free federal land patent site.

One of the video sessions in Family Tree University’s Summer 2011 Virtual Conference, Aug. 19-21, is Diana Crisman Smith’s demo on platting your ancestors’ properties using PLSS. Learn more about the conference and register here


Family Tree University | Land records | Research Tips
Thursday, July 28, 2011 9:19:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]