Improving Your Searches With Collections

Are you effectively using collections at Ancestry and FamilySearch? Understanding how to use collections can save time and return more relevant results. One of the best ways to save time when researching is to narrow down results by collection. In this post, I'll show you how to use collections at Ancestry and FamilySearch, but similar techniques can be used at almost any website with genealogy databases. Read More »

WorldCat for Genealogy: A Secret Weapon

I love finding tools that make my workflow easier, and WorldCat is one of the "secret weapons" that makes my research easier and more effective.

As you might guess, WorldCat is the world's largest library catalog and is available online. Instead of searching the card catalog of individual libraries, WorldCat allows you to obtain results from all of their member libraries, which include public, university, and state libraries in addition to sites like HathiTrust. While visitors can search without registering, what I love about WorldCat is the functionality available to registered users. Registering is free and gives users three great tools: favorite libraries, lists, and tags. Read More »

FREE Online Genealogy Workshops

As amateur genealogists, we often don't know what we don't know. Terms like GPS, conflicting evidence, exhaustive research, citation, triangulation, and others can leave the new genealogist overwhelmed and ready to head back to our favorite online service for the low-hanging fruit. If we are going to do this research thing, we need to education ourselves. You never know when it will pay off in a completely unexpected way, and no one wants a family tree with someone else's relatives in it because they just didn't know any better. Read More »

How To Digitize Family History Cassette Tapes

For those of us lucky enough to have recordings on cassette tape with valuable family history information, finding a way to preserve those recordings for future generations can be a challenge. I'm pretty comfortable with technology but it still took me awhile to figure it out, so hopefully what I learned will help someone else. Read More »

Genealogy Research: Start Simple

I attended Heritage Day at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley last weekend. It was a great program (and free!) and in addition to hearing 2 fantastic seminars by Sharon Hodges, I was able to help solve a genealogy brick wall. The attendee sitting next to me was discussing a photo of her great grandfather in an unidentified uniform, and my curiosity got the best of me and I asked to see the photo. She wanted to discover what service and war (if any) the uniform was from and was not having any luck.

What we started with... Read More »

Would Your Family History Research Survive a Disaster?

As a web publisher (I run a popular homeschool website and manage the technology for my daughter's competitive gymnastics team), I am keenly aware of the tragic results of digital data loss. As an amateur genealogist, I zealously guard my family history data (computerized files as well as old family photos and physical documents), which represents thousands of hours of work. I am zealous about protecting both forms of data, and I've come up with a 3-pronged approach for each. I hope this information will help you to consider how to best protect your valuable family history research. Read More »

My Favorite Sources for Genealogy Clues

There are lots of place that genealogists look for clues that will lead them to discovering the next generation in a family tree, but two of my favorites are death certificates and death notices/obituaries. Depending on the state, a death certificate may give you the name, years married, and birthplace of the deceased along with the cause of death, the date and place of burial, the next of kin's signature, and the names and birthplaces of the parents of the deceased. Death notices are more likely to list the names and hometowns of siblings and children. Read More »

Getting Started with Genealogy... What I Wish I Had Known

Twenty-two years ago when I bought my first how-to book about genealogy, I couldn't even imagine what would be available to the amateur genealogist just 10 years later. I am still learning (and making lots of mistakes), but my interest is more serious, my research is more detailed and well-documented, and my criteria for accepting the validity of claims is more stringent than even a couple of years ago. I could have saved myself countless hours and quite a bit of frustration if I had known just a few important tips before I started entering data in my family tree software. These 5 tips will help you avoid frustration down the road. Read More »