Arches at Glendalough 2009

Friday, March 12, 2010

Historical and Genealogical Societies

Today I received a historical society's newsletter and marveled at the genealogical information loaded within the pages. Although they generate the letter with a historic perspective most times their pages contain tidbits of information to help genealogists. From items from their collections to upcoming events historical societies can be a valuable source for family historians.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Brickwalls or Dropped Keys?

Every genealogist has them...the proverbial brick wall. But are they truly brick walls? It is my opinion that they are no brick walls in genealogy but a case of trying to find the one key that unlocks the door.

We often use the basics-vital records, census, newspapers, and online sources to help us look for family. Are we looking at all the possibilities?There is so much more information in land records, court records, and other sources that we forget to look at them. Repositories hold vast collections and not everything is online. I often tell my students to compare sources online as being the size of one hand and the rest of your body is the information still waiting to be uncovered in archives, libraries, and other repositories.

As I mentioned in my other posting, I love timelines. Often when I am stuck on my research I'll go through and transcribe my findings. Many times I'll find something I missed when I'm compiling my information on the timeline.

So what's the best way to find those keys to the doors of information you want? Learn! We are life-long learners. Whether it is a sharing information through a blog or attending a conference you may find someone who has the "key" to the door you want to open. Attending conferences and genealogy meetings gets you off the Internet and meeting people with information. And sometimes it is the chance encounter that can help you solve your genealogical puzzle.

Another idea is to think outside of the box. Think the impossible happened? Other than aliens giving our ancestors a ride into outer space sometimes it is the impossible that is possible. I once heard a story where someone couldn't find their ancestors and followed a train route to only discover them at the end of the line.

So what are you waiting for? Get out your keys and start unlocking those doors.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Everything you have learned can be traced back to elementary school. You learned how to read, write, add and subtract in the primary grades. By the time you reached third or fourth grade you began to learn tools that carried you forward in life. Timelines are one such tool.

If genealogy had a beginner's primer, timelines should be the one technique that is taught. Timelines are wonderful for helping you learn and visualize place and time in history. Why not apply them to your family history?

I'm a huge fan of timelines. It's my favorite technique to use in genealogy research. And it's so easy to use.

Suppose you couldn't find the information you needed to get your research past your brick wall. By examining the information you do have and placing it in chronological order you will quickly realize that you have missing information. Whether it is a census record you never examined or a military pension you didn't order, you will discover that by utilizing a timeline your genealogy research may be back on track.

I format my timelines using a word document. I have used a spread sheet as well. Keeping it simple I create the first column for the date, the second column listing the event, and the third for the source where I found the information. By saving it on my computer, I can add or delete information by inserting rows. At the bottom of the document I keep a place for my notes which allows me to write what items I need to view the next time I'm at a repository or online.

I print my timeline and bring it with me if I'm in a repository that only allows paper. And by having it with me, I can spend less time looking for my notes and more time on genealogy research. The best part is that I can update my information when I get on my computer and email the timeline to others researching the same line or place it in my genealogy files.

There are millions of timelines online available for your use. There are templates to help you get fancy with your information and others that are straight forward. Don't overlook your genealogy software. Many come with features that allow you to create timelines.

Whether you make your own, or use an online site, you will realize that timelines will help your genealogical research.

Google Newspapers

If you haven't used Google News yet, I highly recommend it. Last year I heard Dan Lynch speak about this resource in Connecticut. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled over the back issues of the New London Day! (New London, CT 1880-1990) Although they haven't digitized the complete run I still was able to find over 100 articles on my family. I've learned new things about my grandmother that I never would have known. (Sadly I never knew her-she died before I was born.)

And pictures! I found two new photos of my grandmother's family-one of her brother and another of her cousin. I could definitely see the family resemblance!

The best way to access the search feature is to...
1. Click on "news" on the Google home page.
2. Next to the search box, click "Advanced News Search."
3. Once you are on the page, look for the "News Archive" and click on the link.
4. When the page loads look for "Advanced Archives Search" next to the search box and click that link on.
When I got to the Advance Archives search page, I just typed in my grandmother's maiden name and in the source box, I typed in "The Day."

I did discover one drawback. It doesn't always pick up all the names. In one search, I typed in my grandfather's first and last name. Twice his name was not coming up in searches when clearly his name should have. (I found his name in two articles with my grandmother's name.) Makes you wonder what else they are missing?!

Regardless its a great tool.Play around with it. It's lots of fun!

Genealogy shows

With all the excitement buzzing around about the new TV shows, I feel that genealogy may gain popularity comparable to the Roots series. It is exciting to see people discover their past and embrace it.