Sunday, June 26, 2016

Genealogical Gleanings about Yourself

I had the good fortune to have dinner with a couple of friends visiting from the Netherlands this week.  Over the meal we caught up on our lives, a conversation that led to the discussion of aging parents, the artifacts of our lives and genealogy.  One of my dinner companions stated that he and his siblings had given their mother a book in which to record the details of her life.  The book interspersed facts with memories and questions about what life was like at each milestone.

It got me to thinking about the issue we all face - what about the details of our own lives?  Every time I head to Missouri I visit my parents and we often visit other relatives, cemeteries and go in search of yet another unanswered genealogical question.  Only in the last few years have I started talking to my parents about their lives and mine.  Even in the years I was at home, it has been valuable and fun to ask the questions such as why did you pick this land? this house? this town?  What made you decide to take this job? this car?  Their answers have provided a depth of understanding of my family during my lifetime, as well as before.

To get started look with your own life story check out Diane Haddad's Blog, Genealogy Insider the post from May 31, 2016 here.  It provides a list of 16 questions you should ask yourself.

Family Search History Books Accessible on the Digital Public Library

I use Google Search daily and find it especially helpful when I reach a brick wall in my research. Twice in the the last few months I found hits on Google that led back to sources in the Family Search library.  The sources I was seeking were history books written about a specific community, in this case Lindsborg, KS.

Then on June 22 on Diane Haddad's Blog Genealogy Insider announced that Family Search and the Digital Public Library had signed a deal to incorporate Family Search's digital library on DPL.  I have used DPL for several years and find it very user friendly and often has digitized version of books helpful to my research.

The DPL website catalogs more than 13 million digitized sources from libraries across the US.  Adding the Family Search collection with further ease access to these useful sources.  DPL is free, requiring only the creation of an account.

TIP: While I found the local history book I was seeking on Family Search, I quickly realized that - as with many local histories the book contained no index.  I decided to see if anyone else had done one for this substantive local source.  I discovered that indeed, the local historical society had indexed the book and in this case it was even online.  I suggest the next time you find a great source that has no index it is worth your time to look online and even contact the local historical society as they often maintain family files and thus, find it useful to provide an index to local resources.

Combining local resources with online discoveries often provides optimum results - saving you time and effort.  Happy Hunting!


The National Security Archive at George Washington University

One of the biggest challenges for a genealogist is to understand the context of history surrounding their ancestors' lives.  What was happening, how did it affect individuals and families and how did these events unfold?

A great source for gaining understanding of American history and international events is the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

According to the website:
Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents ("the world's largest nongovernmental collection" according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.
 What is music to the genealogist's ears is that the Archive provides "evidence-based research and primary source documentation."  There are no opinion pieces here, only facts gleaned from 
US Government documents. Through Freedom of Information and declassification requests the Archive provides insight into the events we and our ancestors may have experienced.

The website contains more than 450 "electronic briefing books" of newsworthy documents on major topics in international affairs.  You can gain access to the information by visiting the website, visiting the reading room on the GWU campus or checking to see if your local library subscribes to ProQuest which includes the Digital National Security Archive.  Finally you can subscribe to their email service that provides updates and information about their research here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

MyHeritage Releases New Family Chart — the Sun Chart

MyHeritage has released an innovative new type of chart — the Sun Chart — available for free to all MyHeritage users. Called the "Sun Chart," the main ancestor (selected by the user) is shown in the center of the chart, with multiple generations of descendants in outer concentric ringsIt can be classified as a descendant fan chart, but it isn't limited in the number of generations and is unique to MyHeritage in that it also includes photos, making it the only descendant fan chart with photos that you will find anywhere. 

The Sun Chart is designed to plot as many descendants as possible on the smallest chart possible. Charts that include hundreds or even thousands of people can now be prepared in this compact circular format and hung conveniently on the wall.

Non-MyHeritage users can easily import their tree to MyHeritage (as GEDCOM) and generate this chart. Check it out here.

TIP: Military Research Begins with the Service Historical Centers & Museums

This week I took the Military Records III: Post Civil War Course the IGHR  at Samford University in Birmingham, AL.  I learned how to identify and trace units; a vital piece to understanding any soldier or sailor's service.  

One of the best places to start your search is with the services historical centers.  All have research guides and tons of information online.

The Army's is in Carlisle, PA and can be found online here.
The Navy's is at the Naval Yard in Washington, DC and can be found online here.
The Marine Corps is in Quantico, VA and online here.
The Air Force is in Montgomery, AL at Maxwell AFB.  Details are here.

Last Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research held at Samford University

This week I have been attending the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research  (IGHR) at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. It was a real treat to attend this year as the program is moving to the University of Georgia in Athens, GA in 2017.

Samford University has been home to IHGR for 51 years and we were treated to a peek into some of the great history at last night's banquet with key note speaker Elizabeth Wells, who has been head of Samford Library's Special Collection Department for 38 years. 

The Collection is a rich source of Alabama and southern genealogical resources as well as a notable Irish history collection. If you are visiting the South or live here as I do don't miss this collection. It's open to the public.

Friday, June 03, 2016

News from May

May was a crazy time for my family.  My nephew graduated from high school in Aurora, MO and is headed to Mizzou in the fall.  My brother retired after 27 awesome years of teaching high school.  Then my husband and I celebrated his BIG birthday in Hawaii.  All the events required planes, trains and automobiles, which left little time for genealogy, so I have spent the last week trying to catch up. I found a couple of newsworthy items to share.

Check Ancestry.com for recently added or updated collections.  A couple of them were jackpots for my research.  My Spencer family line represents my greatest brick wall; however; I found Elias Spencer's (G2 Grandfather) probate records (1852 & 1855) Crawford County (MO) were added to the Missouri Wills and Probate Records 1766-1988.  Not all of the records are indexed.  When I saw that Crawford County was included, I had to search page by page, but it paid off as I found part of his probate and a likely new relative named Nathaniel Spencer.

Another updated Ancestry.com database, helpful to many Missourians with German heritage is the German Immigrants 1712-1933. When looking at this page you can check out the related databases that contain specific regional German records.

Finally, some World War II draft registration cards from the fourth round in 1942 have been added. These cards often provide little known details including occupation and employer, as well as family and address information.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Searching for Military Records

In a recent article on Ancestral Findings details how the 1973 fire can affect military record availability.

Many U.S. Army or Air Force records (1912-1964) were destroyed at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, in a devastating fire on July 12, 1973.

The article explains how "over 6.5 million records were able to be recovered from the building after the fire, though they were in terrible condition. They were carefully dried, sprayed with mold repellant, and pieces of records that were charred began to be put back together in a painstaking, careful, and slow process."

At the 2015 NGS conference in St. Charles a representative from the Center provided a comprehensive explanation of what has been done to ensure veterans, historians and genealogists have access to the records. He explained that the only way to know for sure whether a record is available is to request it from the NPRC. More than 40 years later many records have yet to be scanned. Instead records are found, copied and preserved by request only.

Organizing with Evernote

Guru Lisa Louise Cooke has shared another helpful tip for using Evernote. A recent Genealogy Gems post detailed the process of organizing your notes into notebooks.

This is another tool I use daily.  The Evernote Web clipper is my best friend as I can quickly scan emails, articles or other Web information and save items I want to read later or add to my files quickly and easily. I use both tags and notebooks to organize my documents. Items are easy to move or delete which means you aren't stuck with keeping a lot of data you don't want. I tag data with multiple tags so that I can easily find it again with Evernote search.

Word Press Upgrades For IOS 6.1

On her blog Moultry Creek Gazette, Denise Olson recently explained the attributes of the Word Press app upgrade.  The app now allows users to "manage Publicize and third-party sharing using the app" and "manage comments using swipe gestures to approve, unapprove or trash them."  Additionally users can tag locations by using map search.

I use Word Press for my own blog and find it an effective platform. Even if you don't blog you can set up a free account and follow genealogy, history and local / regional blogs of interest to you.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

2016 FGS Conference Registration is Open



The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) online registration is now open for the 40th Annual 2016 FGS National Conference, “Time Travel: Centuries of Memories” to be held August 31 — September 3, 2016, in Springfield, IL. Register by July 1, 2016, for the early-bird discount here.  visit the conference website for additional details. Also, follow the FGS Voice blog and by subscribing to the FGS Voice Newsletter to keep up with FGS events and conference details.


FREE Fold3 WWII Records 1-15 May





Fold3 is offering FREE access to all of its World War II records to honor veterans this Memorial Day.  Hurry!  Its available only through May 15, 2016.

2016 NGS Family History Conference this Week in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (May 4-7)



The 2016 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference is this week in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Even if you cannot attend there are several ways you can participate.  The conference program is here.  NGS has a live stream option where several of the lectures will be available for online viewing.  Third, you can follow the event or your favorite presenter via Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase professionally-made recordings of sessions after the event from here.  I attended last year's even in St. Charles.  While there were many great lectures and events, Elizabeth Shown Mills blew me away with her presentation on how she traced her "lost relatives" through a combination of DNA and records.  I was overwhelmed with the information so I purchased the recording so I could go back to it and absorb more of the details of her process.

Finally, many nationally-known genealogists participate in the NGS conference so it is a great time to watch their blogs and websites for news and updates - sometimes gratis "conference extas" can be found.  This year's presenters include Lisa Louise Cooke, Dick Eastman, Pam & Rick Sayre and many others.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Is Pinterest a Useful Tool for Genealogists?

Pinterest, if you have never used it, is a social media site where individuals, groups or organization can post pictures and share them with the public.  As a user you can create boards on which you pin anything that interests you.  I have used Pinterest for a little over a year, but in searching recently have found a few gems.  Here are a few highlights:


  • Organizations such as the Library of Congress, GeneaBloggers, the Allen County Public Library and many other genealogy-related organizations post pictures and graphics.  You can follow their boards or simply create your own.  Many localities also have boards.
  • I have found Pinterest to be an excellent source for dating pictures by comparing my photo with ones on the site that have precise dates.  Additionally, you can often find photos or maps of specific locations in a given time-frame that can hone your research. I have maps of all the counties I research in Missouri on a board allowing me quick access when conducting my research.
  • While pictures are a great resource for genealogists, I have found numerous graphics explaining how to use a website or tool, but also succinct lists of event timelines. I have two - one of WWI and WWII that briefly list countries' entry into war and other relevant historical details that can help to pinpoint a fact as well as providing the context of your ancestors actions. 

While there are many tips on the best genealogy websites, methods of preserving or organizing your artifacts, I simply enjoy the ability to browse and find new things. You might just find the key to breaking through your brick wall might be a "pin" on someone else's board.  Happy Hunting!

Google Offering New Tool to Compete with Evernote & Trello

Google is announcing it has added a new item to its toolbox, called Google Keep.  I regularly use Evernote and Dropbox to keep and share my information so any time I hear of a new tool genealogists can use to quickly and easily save from the internet, I have to check it out. I downloaded Keep today and find it very easy to use, especially if you use Google Chrome as your primary web browser.

Family History Daily has a great how-to article on Keep here.