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# Monday, 08 August 2016
Five Genealogy DOs and one DON'T on
Posted by Diane

For folks who are newer or less-frequent users on, we're sharing some genealogy DOs and a DON'T for searching for ancestors on the site. They come from Family Tree University's Master Workshop next week, Aug. 15-18. is a genealogy staple, but because it's so large and contains so much information, it's not always easy to find what you're looking for. As the site evolves, certain views and features change, too, which can add to your confusion. If you want to take advantage of the full complement of's databases (which number more than 30,000 and range in size from 2 million-plus names all the way down to one name), there are some essential steps you should add to your to-do list: 
  • Do search specific collections. It's easy to head straight for the global search on the home page, but the other, smaller collections listed in the Card Catalog may turn up hidden gems.
  • Do create a game plan for your search. It's tempting—and it can be useful—to just type in a name and hit Search, but you end up with a lot of results to wade through. Once you get past the relevant results on the first couple of pages, try a different approach: Set a specific goal for the type of information you want to find and the kind of record that would contain this information. Adjusting your search terms accordingly (and using filters when you view your matches) will bring more-accurate results.
  • Do familiarize yourself with everything has to offer—from trees and shaky leaf hints (yes, these can be very helpful when used with care)—to historical records, message boards (which are free for anyone to use), and AncestryDNA.
  • Do try for free during a free-access weekend (usually around holidays such as the Fourth of July or Veterans Day), at a FamilySearch Center, or at a library that offers Ancestry Library Edition. This way, you can get comfortable with the site before you subscribe (or decide not to).

  • Do revisit your searches every so often, as databases are frequently added and updated. New results may show up.

And we'll add one don't:
Monday, 08 August 2016 12:02:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 02 August 2016
How to Mine Family Memories for Genealogy Clues
Posted by Diane

Your family history begins with your own memories—and what you remember can serve as a useful springboard for learning more about your whole family's history, connecting you emotionally to past generations.

Your memories also can provide critical research clues for genealogy research. When's the last time you mined your own memories for details you can use to research your family tree? Story of My Life author Sunny Morton is here with a guest post on three focuses for your dive into your memories:
  1. People. Who do you recall—even vaguely—in connection with your family? The neighbors across the street from your grandparents? Your mother’s sorority sister? Dad’s business partner? Memories of people can lead to more memories, and even to research resources.

    Mention your grandparents’ neighbors—the ones who always came to play cards—to your cousins or an aunt and see what stories come to light. Does anyone know how they came to be good friends? How did your grandparents act around their friends? What else do relatives recall about the neighborhood? Did anyone stay in contact with that neighbor’s family?

    If Mom’s sorority sister is still alive, her memories or memorabilia may give you fresh perspective on your mother’s younger years. Recalling the name of the sorority can lead to its records, photo collections and more insight into your mother’s time at college. A similar line of thinking about a father’s business partner may lead you to that family’s recollections, business records, ads or listings in city directories, or news articles about your father or his business partner.
  3. Places. What places were part of your childhood, or your parents’ lives? Think about where you (or they) went for family gatherings, and about family cemeteries, churches, funeral homes, schools, places of business, vacation destinations and other locations that figure in family memories. Consider your old neighborhood, your grandparents’ ranch or farm, or your mother’s description of her childhood home.

    What can these memories tell you about your family history? Mention them to relatives and see what recollections they prompt. Look for Sanborn or other maps of old neighborhoods. See if you can find old images of the cottages at Lake Erie. And definitely look for records connected with these places, such as membership records for Grandma’s Methodist church or burial information from a cemetery or funeral home.

    Use the same line of thinking to explore the “researchability” of other memories: a sporting event you attended with your dad (find news coverage to flesh out the memory), or an annual trip to the state fair to see Grandpa’s prize-winning livestock (look for state fair award lists and photos).
  5. Objects. The "stuff" you associate with your family, such as an automobile or household appliance, provides another piece of the family puzzle that can jog memories. Did your mother use only one brand of detergent? Was your brother obsessed with Superman comics? These details provide insight into daily lives, personalities and values. Memorabilia such as photos and heirlooms can further inspire your memory of people and places. What pictures or descriptions can you find, and what meaning did they have? Share these and other treasured family artifacts with relatives—you never know what they might remember.

My new book Story of My Life can help you remember and document memories of the people, places, events and objects associated with your family history. The book provides a place for you to organize your thoughts and tie them to a certain time, place or person.

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.

Writing about your family history
Tuesday, 02 August 2016 09:53:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 01 August 2016
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Family Tree Craft
Posted by Diane


Hi there! My name is Madge Maril and I’m working with Family Tree Magazine this summer. You might have seen my photo in September's issue of Family Tree Magazine. Working with FTM’s editorial team has been a blast. Today, they let me pop onto this blog to talk about two of my favorite things: DIY crafts and Harry Potter.


"While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted," reads the official description of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the newest book in the Harry Potter series. Those problems might sound familiar to some of us genealogists!

Harry Potter has taught the world the importance of family and genealogy for over a decade. One of my earliest memories is listening to my dad read the books to my brother and I before bedtime. Harry fought for the first seven books to protect his adopted family, the Weasleys, from the dark forces at play in the magical world. Each family in the Harry Potter books boasts their family trees and lineage. Harry works as hard as any modern genealogist to find out the story of his deceased parents, Lily and James.


The Cursed Child follows the life of Harry’s son, Albus. Like many kids, Albus is insecure about his place in his family. With plenty of magic and fun, this book delivers the same important lesson: You are who you are because of the people who came before you. 

If your kid or grand-kid has already finished the book—or you haveand wants to keep exploring the Potters’ world, try this Harry Potter family tree craft to spark their interest in the genealogy of the series. It’s DIY and easy as can be. All you need is:

  • Windows Word
  • A printer
  • Paper
  • Coffee
  • A cookie sheet or other shallow pan

1. Type out the Weasley family tree on your computer in Windows Word. For more fun, download our free family tree templates <> to add a creative spark to the project.

We found this easy-to-follow harry Potter family tree on Tumblr, from user –harrypotter:

Tip: Need to see this family tree bigger? Right-click on it with your mouse, then click "View Image" for a larger version of the Harry Potter family trees to open in your browser.

2. Print out your family tree on regular printer paper.

3. Next, put a third of a cup of coffee (instant works as well) in a cookie sheet or other shallow pan. Add a full cup of boiling water to the cookie sheet. There’s plenty of wiggle room here, though. Use more coffee grounds to make your paper darker and more antique looking. Allow the coffee and water to rest in the pan for at least five and a half minutes, which will allow the coffee to steep and the water to cool.

Tip: Do you have leftover coffee from this morning? Use it! Cold coffee will also add a weathered patina to paper.

4. Take your printed out Weasley family tree and place it in the coffee for at least five minutes. The longer the paper is in the mixture, the darker it will become. The paper will also darken as it dries.

5. Remove the Weasley family tree from the coffee when you’re happy with the color. Carefully hang the paper to dry somewhere safe

6. For an even more antique look, after the paper is completely dry, crumple the Weasley family tree in your hands then smooth it out. Do this as many times as you want to make it look like the family tree has been passed down through Weasley and Potter generations.

Once your craft is finished, it might look a bit like this:

Have fun with your DIY Harry Potter family tree craft! If the paper rips a little when it’s wet, don’t worry. A few tiny tears will only make the Weasley family tree look cooler. After all, a family tree should be just as unique as the family it represents.

Monday, 01 August 2016 14:20:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]