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# Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Doing Genealogy Almost From Scratch
Posted by Diane

Q. Both parents and my grandparents are deceased, and I know little about either parent’s family. I tried to get vital records and was only able to able to find my father’s death certificate in New Jersey. I know the street where the family lived in Philadelphia some time ago and I believe I have an aunt living somewhere in Pennsylvania. Do you have any ideas for how to approach my research?

A. You don’t have a whole lot information to start with, but you can learn more. First, sit down and make a timeline with everything you know about your family, even if it doesn’t seem genealogically important—names, dates and places of birth and death, jobs, high school, residence, vacations, etc. They’re all clues.

Include any of the family members (such as your aunt) you do know of. If you don’t recall the dates associated with an event, make your best guest or create a separate list. Use the information on your timeline to help you find these records:
  • Marriage records: Request your parents’ marriage license and certificate from the county clerk where they were married, or look for it on Family History Library microfilm (run a place search of the city or county where they married). Rent the library’s microfilm by visiting a local Family History Center.
  • Censuses: Search each family member whose name you know in every available census during his or her lifetime. You can use HeritageQuest Online or Ancestry Library Edition at libraries that offer these services; use Ancestry.com ($155.40 per year) at home; or check microfilm at a National Archives and Records Administration facility, large public libraries or a family history center.
  • Old telephone books and city directories: Larger local libraries often have these listings of residents going back years. You may be able to search by name or address, and you’ll see where the person lived and his or her occupation.
  • Deeds: If you know a person’s name and address, you can request his deed records (assuming he was a property owner). In general, they’re at county courthouses. You can search Philadelphia historical deeds and other records at the city archives, which has an excellent Web site explaining its holdings.
  • Death records: Since you know when and where your father died, look for a will and/or probate records in court archives. (The September 2008 Family Tree Magazine has a guide to finding will and probate records.) Search local newspapers for an obituary, and look for cemetery and funeral home records, too.
  • Military records: Was your dad or grandfather the right age to have fought in any wars? Records of 20th century wars aren’t as readily available as prior conflicts, but you can find WWI draft registration cards (which covered virtually every man of age between 1914 and 1917) on Ancestry.com (or use Ancestry Library edition) and WWII enlistment records on the National Archives’ Access to Archival Databases site.
  • Newspapers: Run a name search in newspaper indexes such as NewsBank (available through many libraries)or GenealogyBank ($69.95 per year, a monthly rate also is available). You might find birth and marriage announcements, graduation notices, obituaries, articles about school activities—you never know.
  • High school yearbooks: If you can find out where a family member went to school, look for yearbooks. Some local libraries have them for the area, or contact the school the person attended.
Research names of people who come up in your search, even if it’s not clear they’re related—you might find clues about your parents.

Explore the collections at state archives in places where your family lived (click here for the Pennsylvania archives’ site). I’d also suggest reading a how-to genealogy book, such as Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th edition, by Emily Anne Croom (Family Tree Books, $18.99). It’ll show you where to look for basic records and give you strategies for solving genealogical problems.


genealogy basics
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 9:56:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 02, 2008
How to Order a Big Family Tree Wall Chart
Posted by Diane

Q. Where can I get a giant genealogy chart printed to hang on the wall at a family reunion?

A. Plenty of businesses will take your GEDCOM or genealogy software's proprietary file and turn it into a large wall chart. Find links to charting companies on FamilyTreeMagazine.com and Cyndi's List.

Some companies focus more on artistic presentations with photos and illustrations, which are beautiful but may limit the size of the chart; others specialize in, yards-long text charts showing every member of your family. Some do both.

Take a look at photos of finished charts on the company Web site. Narrow your list to companies that offer the type of chart you need, then look at the ones that can work within your time frame and budget.

Some questions to ask each company when you’re deciding which one to go with:
  • What are my options (if any) as far as chart size, typeface, text color and size, paper color, etc.?
  • Will I get to see a digital proof of the chart before it’s printed? (So you can make sure the information is correct.)
  • If I don’t like how the proof looks, are there any charges for making changes to it?
  • Do you keep the chart on file in case I want to order additional copies?
  • What is the charge for updating the chart with new genealogical information and having it reprinted in the future?
  • What special steps should I take to prepare my GEDCOM (or proprietary software file) before sending it to you?
  • What are your file specifications for photos? (If you want to include pictures in your chart.)
  • What delivery method do you use? How long will shipping take?
For best results, before you export your GEDCOM, go through your genealogy files and standardize date and place formats. For example, if you abbreviate one state name, abbreviate them all; and format your dates as day/month/year, as in 22 April 1907. Also make sure names are spelled correctly and check for typos.

When you tote the chart to your family reunion, remember to bring pens so people can add information or make corrections.

For our reviews of several chart-printing companies, see the April 2006 Family Tree Magazine.


family reunions | genealogy basics | Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Wednesday, July 02, 2008 1:53:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]