I saw an ad with some really interesting and cool graphics last week for a company called Twile. That ad promised easy to create graphics that would make genealogy more interesting and accessible for family members that perhaps don't have the genealogy fever that some of us do.
The graphic that was showed looked really interesting and cool.
I saved the link, but I put off messing around with the site until I had a little bit of time.
I like their "Trees Without Roots Fall Over" Tagline. It is catchy.
The infographic that is offered is eye catching as well. I downloaded the 2 that are currently offered. One is called pastel, and the other, in honor of Saint Patrick's Day is Green and Orange.
Follow their easy instructions about getting your gedcom file. It is pretty simple. I opted to use my gedcom file from Ancestry.com. I searched online about how to download my gedcom from Ancestry and it was pretty simple.
After I uploaded the file to Twile, it took less than five minutes and I was able to look at their site and see how they presented the information that is my family tree.
I can't wait to see what else Twile has up their collective sleeves to make genealogy fun and engaging for the family historian to engage other members, but this is a really good, fun and easy to use tool!
As you know, I advocate making good notes of the results from your searches, but I am now also advocating something else. I think that you should keep a log of what you are searching so that you can pursue good searches and eliminate dead ends.
I found an excellent search via great notes a couple of weeks ago. There was a lot going on in my personal life around the end of January, so when I found this really amazing link, I made notes, but I was unable to bookmark the link or I flat out did not remember to.
When I was looking in my history for a website, there was the search from January. I went through the entire history of searches that went back for a few months and made some really diligent notes.
I discovered that my mind is not a steel trap like I tend to think of it. One search term I have looked up every weekend for about 4 months.
Now, by making notes, I am able to continue where I left off, rather than searching like a tumbleweed.
I also am noting the search engine that I use, and so far, I am the most impressed with google, followed by bing.
Save your searches!
For Christian families, a lot of activity can happen around Easter. One of these is baptisms. If you are lucky, there may be a listing of this in the family bible.
If you are even luckier, there may be a certificate of the person who was baptised, listing off their names, the name of their parents as well as other information.
Catholics may also have First Communion and Confirmation.
If your church, or your family has traditions such as these, you may also be able to write to your church for records.
Don't forget that the Easter holiday can be a source of records!
I have been looking at records and family trees for my darling fiance. He happens to be black. I have given cursory looks at helpful tools for black families who are doing family history before I was with my fiance, but I am using them a lot more now and I want to share some of the things that I have discovered.
In marriage records in the south, there may be separate books for white and black people. Black families may be called black, negro or colored.
The spelling of names will vary much more wildly than in white records. I have no reason for this, but I am seeing a lot more spellings of last names than in white records.
I would like to give a piece of advice that can save you a lot of time: Lose the term "African American" when looking at old records. It is a 20th century phrase, and to be blunt, my husband to be to be finds it very offensive.
I was on the FamilySearch.org site this weekend, and I discovered that for the time period that I was looking at, there were state marriage records and there were county records. There were white records and colored records. I looked at the state records and I had no success in my search. I looked in county/coloreds and it was there I had success. I found one of my fiance's great uncle's marriage record. It was actually a court paper for a 200.00 marriage bond. I am not done researching the 200.00 bond, and I will write another article about it when I am done, but listed there was the name of his uncle at the turn of the century, with a relative pledging the money for him to get married.
The way that I even learned about the marriage was through this uncle's death certificate. This was probably one of the most detailed death certificates that I have ever seen. It listed his name, place of birth, parents names and places of birth, and spouse name. I then learned why the death certificate was so detailed. This was a death certificate issued as a result of a homicide. The uncle was murdered. The shooting happened in September, but he did not die until the early part of November. He basically died of complications from the shooting: toxemia and uremia as a result of being shot in the stomach with a revolver. Having never viewed a death certificate from a gunshot before, I have to say, the amount of information that is contained is very detailed. For a genealogist, it is very rich with family facts.
As I mentioned above, this certificate lists names and places, and it lists birth and death dates. I find it very interesting to note that his wife had already passed. At the time of his death, he was less than 55 years old.
I am now searching for what happened to this person between the marriage and his death. It is proving to be very elusive, but hopefully, I will find something.
I spend a lot of time at libraries all over the United States and the world. One of the things that I have grown really used to is making sure that I have the means to capture the information that I find while I am there.
Here are the methods and tools that I use.
Notebook. Bound and loose leaf.
Sometimes, It is easier to go to the library with one small notebook, a handful of change and a USB drive. Other times, I know that I will be there for a while and I want to be as organized as possible. When I am in that mode of research, I bring a loose leaf notebook that I have pre-tabbed to make everything easier for adding to my computer when I get home.
Change or funds for the copier machine.
The way to pay for copies generally speaking is one of two ways. Drop some money into the machine or add some money to a card/your library card. Make sure to bring enough money to make twice the amount of copies that you are expecting to make. Not all libraries accept credit cards or are located near ATM's.
USB storage device.
Some but not all libraries will allow you to copy information directly to your USB drive. I always bring 3. A small storage with less than a gig, a medium around the 16-32 gig mark, and my jumbo, which is 1T. No matter what, I am able to copy as many documents and photos as I have run across.
Photos with phone or tablet.
There have been some weird things that have happened when I have been at libraries doing research.
A copier that had a paper jam prevented all of us who wanted to make copies from being able to do so. That particular library did not have the ability to copy to a USB or to email. I pulled out my phone, turned the flash off, took as clear of shots as I could manage and then painstakingly wrote, line by line the information and the source so that I would be able to return to that library in the future and have an easy time of finding my information.
Creative thinking to problems in accessing the information.
Another library had a microfiche library, but the machine's display screen was badly damaged. I ended up making 100+ copies of pages to find the portion that I was looking for. It was worth the cost because the information that I was looking for was very obscure.
Always notate your records.
I bring pens, pencils and highlighters to make sure that I don't miss something on the pages that I made the trip to find. A link to a family member was once found on an inscription in a church cookbook. You never know where you will find the link you need, but if you don't notate your records, you may never find it again.
Crying Over Spilled Water
Last week I had a minor mishap. I spilled a glass of water on a loose leaf notebook that I use when I am doing general research. I was using a water bottle, but the lid was not fastened on well. I went for a drink and I spilled water on the open pages. I grabbed the notebook as quickly as I could, but the water had already landed.
I was heartbroken when I looked down at the notebook. The first sheet was soaked, and even though I patted it with a cloth, there was some ink smearing that happened.
I was lucky that I had already sent myself a Google Document with the relevant information, but I still did not want to lose that page.
I quickly did 2 things. I took a photo with my phone, and I made a scan of the page before any further damage happened.
Here are some things that I would like to share with you:
DON'T WIPE the page. Pat it of excess water. Don't do anything more than touch the towel or napkin to the page. No motion. Make copies right then and there. Lay it flat, pin the corners to keep them from rolling and let it air dry. If several pages are involved, separate them and spread them out.
After the page is completely dry, you can try setting the iron on the lowest possible setting and going over the page very quickly. Test a corner first, and DON'T do this on old papers or things that cannot be replaced.
I managed to salvage my pages, and they are now in plastic protectors, but I now check my water bottles very carefully when I am using them!
It has been discussed on many other forums about how we as family members tend to accept without question the information that is passed to us about our ancestors.
Stop that practice. Make it a point to verify, cite sources and document your findings.
The discovery that I made is actually an old one for me, but I wanted to share it here in case anyone out there is hitting dead ends in their searches.
I had always been told that a portion of my family was from Louisiana for over 100 years. I never bothered to look anywhere else, even when my search went cold.
Doing a US Census search one time, I forgot to limit the search to Louisiana. There, in Alabama was my missing family. Every single member of that family, with the correct birth order and ages! For a moment, I was willing to discount and discard my new lead. After all, my great grandmother had told me straight from her own mouth that her family had been in the state of Louisiana for "over a hundred years." I never doubted the veracity of her statement.
Years later, I was updating this family line. I cross indexed this search on Find A Grave to see if there was a photo or information of any headstones. There was. Below, you will see the photo of the actual headstone for John Marion Moore, husband of Sarah Elizabeth (nee Brittenham OR Brittingham) Moore. The headstone actually gives us a lot of information.
Let's look together at the headstone, located below this entry.
At the top, there is the emblem for his membership into the Freemasons. You can go to Find A Grave and see my relative there. I have direct linked for convenience purposes.
Something to be aware of, as is the case with this relative: The name is actually common, but if you narrow the search to Louisiana, you will quickly find my ancestor. Born in Alabama, John Marion Moore served in the Confederate Army through Alabama, he settled and later died in Louisiana. The rest of the information can be found at Find A Grave, where the information on the main page was very well done. The point that I am making here is that this grandparent--4G to be exact, was documented in family trees and so forth, but I ignored clues because that is not what my family historians told me.
After I discovered where my trail picked up, I did a further search on various websites and also conducted in person searches at various libraries and I was able to very easily and quickly pick up the cold trail on my family.
His wife is also listed. They are both listed on the stone only by their initials, so I did some sleuthing. Armed with my research, I knew the names that I was looking for was John Marion and Sarah Elizabeth Moore. The initials matched and the dates were near exact to the ones that I had listed in the information that I had in my records.
Location, location, location.
In the state of Louisiana, the French influence is felt in many ways. One of them is that we have Parishes, NOT counties. I knew where my family is generally from in Louisiana. I knew that it was the northern part of the state. That helped me when I was looking, because although I am from the southern part of the state, eliminating the common name of John Moore from New Orleans was a boon to my search. (Common name!)
Look for other relatives in that cemetery or family plot.
My great grandmother was from Caldwell Parish when I would visit her at her home, which is a short drive from Ouachita Parish. Because I also have family in Ouachita Parish, I was able to ask if we had family buried in the cemetery that I found John Marion Moore listed in. We do. I have loads and loads of family that are interred there. That helped me to make the link, especially when direct relatives of his were also interred there.
Online Photos, if there are any, can help you add or eliminate a person from your family tree. The Find A Grave listing for John Marion Moore has the same photo of him that I think we all must be issued upon birth. It is John Marion Moore with a very full beard, looking off to the side. When I saw the listing with that photo, I knew that we were related! Another person that I was looking for showed a person was assuredly not my relative as the photo made it very clear that they were not the gender that I was looking for. (It was a name that could be either male or female, so there was a reason for confusion.) Seeing that photo saved me a lot of research and I reached out to the person that had the info so that we could both clear up our family trees.
Obituaries and Funeral Cards are a BOON to your search.
I know that it can be hard to find these when you are going back a distance, but when you do find them, it can be a huge help. Often, the person that is reporting the death is a relative, and the next of kin of course is a relative. These documents will sometimes list things such as occupation, address, cause of death, name and birthplace of parents and plenty more details that can help in your search. One of the best obituaries that I ran across when I was searching listed the names of the deceased person's parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. I am convinced that this person was a genealogist because it was extremely thorough!
Always make notes when searching. I even have a file that I call "Cold Case Files". (Because it makes me laugh is why I named it that.) Until I can either rule that person out or include them in my family, they remain in that file. If they are not related (as far as I can prove, anyway) they go into a new file "Red Herrings". I still visit my Red Herrings file about once a year. I have been able to effectively prove some of these people are not related, and surprisingly I also discovered one relative is a distant cousin.
Don't get stuck on the dates that you see in print as being right or wrong. My greatest loss of a really great file that I disregarded in a search was because the dates did not match up 100 percent with what I showed in my files. I lament to this day that I have never found that file again in any search that I have ever performed.
Leave breadcrumbs for yourself, no matter what type of research that you are doing. I now bookmark things if I am searching online. I keep paper notebooks with me and make diligent and detailed notes. I know now that I won't remember the information that I am looking at. There is simply too much. If I am searching for 4G grandfather, the bookmarks that I gather will go into the bookmark folder named "John Marion Moore". If those bookmarks can apply to another relative as well, I will drop it into their file. This has saved me a lot of time searching for information.
Make your paper trail easier to follow.
When I am making notes in a paper notebook, I write the name and then go back and highlight it if I am using a bound notebook. If I am using loose leaf pages, I divide each person with a tab or at least a piece of tape bent in half and written on with a Sharpie. It may seem extreme, but in the long run, it makes my searches more organized and makes me take the time to take better notes. By being less jumbled, I waste less time of searching within my own notes.
Let me know if any of these tips are helpful, and share your search gaffes here!