Have you gone to a genealogy conference in the last year? Or watched a great genealogy webinar? Did you get excited about the information you were hearing? If you took notes, did you put your notes into practice when you got back to the “real world”?
I went to the Rootstech conference a few weeks ago and I took TONS of notes. I was most excited about the information I was collecting on doing German genealogy research for my husband’s line. But since I’ve come home, I have only gone back to look at 1 set of notes. (Couldn’t attend? You can still watch 38 presentations here!)
Maybe you can’t go to genealogy conferences. Have you ever searched for “Genealogy” on YouTube? How about watching the free webinars on Legacy Family Tree Webinars? They consistently put out 2-3 webinars every week and they are always free to watch for the first 7 days after they have been published. I have a subscription so that I can go back and binge watch whenever I like – and I have lots of notes on what I’m hearing!
But I don’t often go back to my notes to see what my action items were. So if you’ve ever taken notes at a conference or during a webinar, this week’s “Snack” is to find your notes and see what it was that made you so excited as you were taking those notes.
And here we are at the end of another month! Let’s take a look at the “Snacks” so far:
Blaine Bettinger is a well-know genetic genealogist. He has done a fantastic job of collecting data to help us understand our DNA matches better. Yesterday, I posted about the Shared cM project in which Blaine has collected DNA information from thousands of participants in order to create a chart showing the range of shared cM numbers for each relationship.
One of the ways that he collects this data is through a Google form that is open to anyone who has completed dna testing. You can help further this project by adding your own data for KNOWN RELATIONSHIP MATCHES to the project. Blaine updates this chart whenever he has a significant amount of new data.
Today’s snack: look up the number of shared cMs you have for at least 1 known ancestor and contribute that number to the project. You can fill in the form for as many known matches as you have.
Before you go to the form, you’ll need the following information:
The relationship between the two matched individuals (brother/sister, aunt/nephew, 1C1R, etc.)
Total shared cM
Number of shared segments
Any known endogamy or known cousin marriages? (yes/no)
Source of the dna test
Optional information includes:
Number of cM in the longest block (this data is not available through AncestryDNA)
Any notes you’d like to include about a special relationship
Your email so that he can contact you if you have questions.
Click on the link below to contribute to the project!
Here’s a challenge for you. How many different formats for an ancestor’s name can you list? Think Google Searching. I seem to get fixated on a name and rarely consider searching for different formats of a name. As I’ve been working through the weekly newspaper clippings for Russell County, I notice that 90% of the names are given with initials – something I would rarely look for in a Google search. A book index might have your ancestor’s name listed with the last name first.
Think about possible nick-names. You can use Google to find a list of nicknames for a specific name. Another great site for this would be Wolframalpha.com. If you enter a name, you’ll get lots of information about the name. Popularity ranking, estimates for the current US population, etc. But if you scroll down, you’ll see a box labeled “Alternate versions”. That box will give you a list of variations for the name you’ve entered. Here’s the list of alternates for the name “Mary”.
Family tree magazine also has a list of female nicknames. Link
Think also about common misspellings of the name. For example: Stephens vs. Stevens
If your ancestor was from another country, or THEIR parents were from another country, don’t forget to consider foreign versions of the name as well. For example – Andrew vs. Andreas.
Once you’ve created your list, consider adding it to your Research Plan for that ancestor.
To get you started:
First Middle Last
First Middle Initial Last
Last, First Middle
Last, First Middle Initial
First Initial Last
First and Middle Initials Last
If you are brainstorming for a female ancestor, don’t forget that often, females were referred to with their husband’s name. For example, Mrs. A.J. Stephens. Think of ways that “Mrs.” could be included in your list.
Here’s my list for one ancestor:
Andrew Jackson Stephens
Andrew J. Stephens
A. Jackson Stephens
Stephens, Andrew Jackson
Stephens, Andrew J.
Stephens, A. Jackson
Andrew Jackson Stevens
Andrew J. Stevens
A. Jackson Stevens
Stevens, Andrew Jackson
Stevens, Andrew J.
Stevens, A. Jackson
In a future “snack”, we’ll be using these variations for another quick exercise.
It’s March! For some of us, we might be sensing the very first hints of spring. Maybe you’ve had your fill of winter and you are getting a bit of cabin fever. Wouldn’t a genealogy road trip be nice?
Time for a little day dreaming. If you could hit the road tomorrow, where would you go and what would you research once you got there? Take a few minutes and make a list. Keep your list handy for the next week because once you start thinking about something, your brain will keep working on it even when you aren’t aware that it is. Suddenly, a new idea will come to your mind. (Especially in the middle of the night!) Keep your list on your night stand with a pencil handy. Keep it on your desk at work. Keep it on the table next to your chair while you watch tv. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Visit a cemetery?
What’s the address?
Who is buried there? Do you have a list of every ancestor in the cemetery?
Add this information to your Research Plan for that ancestor!
Visit the library?
Look for their website
Do they have a genealogy section?
Do they have vertical files? Many library keep obituaries from the local paper.
Does the library have old newspapers?
What specific books would you look for?
Make a list of ancestors with dates that might be included in the book.
Add the book to your Research Plan for that ancestor!
Visit the courthouse?
Make a “To look for” list
Does FamilySearch happen to have those records available online?
Add the records to your Research Plan!
Visit the historical society?
When do they have their meetings?
Interview a relative?
What would you ask?
Ask about old photos.
Take photos of historical places?
Can you find the address where an ancestor used to live or work?
Does it still exist?
I’d love to hear what you’d add to the list! It might be just the brain-jogger the rest of us need when making our own list!
Imagine that you’ve just been told that an ancestor has passed away and you are being asked to write the obituary. Could you do it?
Open the website or software that you use for your ancestor’s timeline – Ancestry, Family Search, Roots Magic, Family Tree Maker, etc. Take a look at the information you’ve collected and write a basic obituary. Think about what’s included in a traditional obit. Here’s a link to several obituary templates. Do you have all of that information? What else would you like to know?
As your write the obituary, keep your Research Plan for that ancestor nearby. As you think of things you wish you knew to fill out the obit, add those things to your Research Plan. Later, you can brainstorm places to research to find that information.
Feel free to post your “obit” in the comments. I’d love to read it!
And here we are at the end of February! Here’s a list of Snacks so far:
How many group sheets can you fill just by connecting surnames in the same cemetery on Findagrave.com?
Sometimes I prefer scribbling the info on paper versions as I have time and sometimes, I prefer to get the information directly into digital format from the start. It depends on where I’ll be while working on this “project”. If it’s something I might like to work on while riding in the car or waiting at the airport and I’ll be looking at Find-a-grave on my iPad, then I’m paper and pencil all the way. If I have access to my digital files on the computer, I prefer to keep it that way from the start because that’s where it will eventually end up anyway.
Now go to Findagrave.com and find one of your ancestors. I’m assuming you already have a group sheet for them. What about group sheets for their children? If you click on a name, do you see names of THEIR children? The maiden name of a wife? HER parents’ names? Begin filling out the group sheets knowing that there’s a decent chance that sooner or later, you will begin to make some FAN connections.
Find-a-grave recently experienced a “face lift”. Some love it and others…not so much. I’m including screen shots in case you haven’t been on the site in awhile.
From your Ancestor’s page, scroll down and look at the section titled “See more surname memorials in:”.
Notice that the options start specific and move out from there.
Entire Find-a-grave site
Assuming the project is not overwhelming, begin filling in group sheets as you have time. Can you include every person with your surname in that cemetery in your group sheets? If the cemetery is small, or your surname is unique, you might want to move “out” and collect all of your surname in the town or county.
Finding connections with the same surname – that will be the low hanging fruit. But the potential of making a connection through in-laws…that could be a tool to help you break down a brick wall you’ve been working on for a long time.
And don’t forget that somewhere on the group sheet, you will want to make a note that all of the information included has been collected from Find-a-grave.
Today, let’s snack on a PERSI search. Believe me, if you haven’t tried this, I think you will be pleasantly surprised!
PERSI is an index of articles in genealogy and local history periodicals around the world. The index was created by the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center, and they have copies of all of the periodicals in the index. For years, the PERSI index was in a collection of books in the Genealogy Center, but you can now search the index on Findmypast.com.
Don’t have an account? That’s ok. You don’t need one to do a PERSI search. And this can be very quick – with great potential for later research.
We’ll be working on a quick but significant list of specific things to spend time researching later.
PERSI listings rarely give an individual’s name unless there is an article title that includes that name – for example, a biography. So instead of using the Research Plan forms, you just need a place to keep a list. I’ve created a very simple one that you can download here, if you don’t want to take the time to create one of your own. I have designed the sheet to fit all of the information within the width of one landscape oriented page. If you have time today, I will list steps at the end of this post on how I quickly format the information to fit. But if you don’t have time for that, be sure to come back to this post and skip to the instructions at the end.
If this will be a new experiment for you, I’m going to give you one search to complete. Tomorrow, I’m going to post more about PERSI, but that would be for a day when you have more time to spend – not a Snack day.
From the search page – enter your state and county toward the bottom of the search form. Note: When you begin to type, a suggestion will appear below where you are typing. If you don’t click on that pop-up, your filter may not be included. If no suggestions appear as you begin typing, then there are no filter terms with that criteria.
Every article you are seeing in this list has been tagged by the Allen County Genealogical Library staff as having something to do with the county you have entered. You are probably seeing quite a few articles in periodicals you never would have thought to look at before.
In the upper right corner, you can decide how you would like to view your list: Relevance, Article Title, Subject, Periodical or Publication Year. If you are using Excel to track your articles, you can always sort these later.
Because we are just in collection mode, we will make a list of every article now and take time to look at them later.
You can highlight all of the information on the page at a time by clicking at the the beginning of the first article and dragging your cursor all the way to the bottom. Copy it and paste it into your tracking document. Use the numbers at the bottom of the list to go through every page in your PERSI list and copy and paste the information for every article.
Tomorrow, we’ll dig into what we can do with the list but for now, we’re just collecting information for later when we have time for a larger “Meal”.
If you have a Findmypast account and your search resulted in a long list of articles that you don’t have time to look through, click on the “Save Search” button on the left. You will be able to find the same list of articles when you come back to the site under the “My Account” button in the upper right corner.
If you are using my Excel form for your list, here are the list of things I did to format everything so that every row fits on one page. It allows everything to fit and prints out nicely and it takes under 5 minutes.
In the right column, you probably see the word “Index” all the way down. Highlight those cells, but keep the header row and click “Delete”.
(I like to use this column for checkmarks after I print out my list and I find and look at a record. There is actually a white period in the header row to force the column to print with the gridlines.)
Highlight all of the cells except the Header row.
Change the Font to Arial and the size to 8.
Click the arrow next to the bucket icon and change the color to “No Fill”.
Click the “Wrap Text” button.
Click the down arrow beneath “Format” and click “AutoFit Row Height”.
Create a “template” that you will use for naming your digital files.
When I first started working on my family history research, I had a folder for each person and I was happy with file names like “1850 census”. But as my files grew and I wanted to share information with other genealogists, I quickly saw the flaws in my “system”.
Again, you can turn to Google to see many examples. I’d say that most people start their file names with Lastname_firstname. But I would run into problems pretty quickly with 2 brothers who each named a child after the other brother and other similar examples.
I am a very visual person. When I came up with my file naming system, I not only wanted a “template” so that I could find a file quickly, but I wanted a system that would help me see patterns or abnormalities. I wanted a system that could be a visual “timeline” without the need to actually open a file. Here is my template:
Year County State SourceInfo Page Name (identifier)
As you are moving files into your Digital Folders, make sure that all of your files follow your updated “template”.
Make an outline of your ideal digital file system.
It doesn’t matter if you use a word processor or a scrap of paper. If you already have a system, would you change anything? If you don’t have a system, think about how your brain processes information best and come up with a system that would work best for you.
Some people organize their files by record type: Birth records, Marriage records, Probate records, etc. Some people organize by locations. Some people keep all of their genealogy records in 1 folder and they rely on their file names to find what they are looking for. I think one of the fastest ways to see a variety of organization systems is to Google “Genealogy Folder Organization” and then look at the images. You can get a pretty good idea of the system by looking at the images. If you see something interesting, visit the site.
Here’s my folder system:
My folders are based on my 5-Gen chart. I know that my computer is going to alphabetize my folders, so for this “top” layer of folders, I add numbers so that the folders are listed in the same order as my 5-Gen chart when I read the great-grandparents column from top to bottom. I include the mother’s maiden name as well:
If I were to write an outline for one of my surname folders, it would look like this:
1 – Smith-Ellis Research
Excel– any Excel databases I’ve created
Group Sheets – fewer clicks to keep here than with each person
Notes – fewer clicks to keep here
1 – Herman Smith (1912 – 1985) – all would follow this format
1 – Don
2 – Barbara
3 – Jack
4 – Phyllis
5 – Betty
2 – Oliver Smith (1872 – 1950)
3 – Elias Smith (1845 – 1885)
4 – George Smith (1805 – 1890)
5 – John M. Smith (1775 – 1835)
6 – Peter Ellis (1765 – 1837)
7 – Edmond Ellis (xxxx – xxxx)
Andrew Meadows (1791 – 1873) – This is a FAN, therefore not numbered
Elias Smith (1810 – 1853)– This is a collateral line
Places* – Anything related to history or research aids and files not connected to a specific person
Barren County KY
Deeds and Land Records
Mercer County KY
Deeds and Land Records
Additional Counties would follow the same pattern
*Places – I tend to collect a lot of records “in bulk”. For example, when I am just beginning to research in a specific place, I like to collect everything I can that contains the same surname. This was especially true when I was ordering microfilm and only had access to it for a limited time. And even now, I always download whenever I can because you just don’t know that a record set will be available forever. I feel like as long as I’m taking the time to find these records, I’d rather collect everything at the same time as opposed to realizing later that I was looking at a sibling’s records and I didn’t know it. So I will have a folder of all the tax records I’ve downloaded, all the marriage records I’ve downloaded, all the deeds I’ve downloaded, etc. But if a record is for a specific ancestor, then it goes into their “People” folder. I also use the “Places” folder for potential connections. For example, I believe that my Smith line came through Mercer County, Kentucky, but so far I have not found the proof that I need to confirm that. Those files go in the Places folder.
Making an outline and actually organizing your files are two very different things, I know. But often, the hardest step is the first step. Make a plan and let your brain mull it over for a few days. As you create or modify different documents for your research, it is very helpful to be able to include a clickable link to take you directly to the document being reference. If you move the document after that, the link will be broken.
So here we are at the end of January. I’d like to include an updated list of Snacks at the end of each month so that they are easy to find.
Quick! You’ve just discovered that you have a free day to research. What will you work on? Will you have to spend a significant amount of time reminding yourself what you were working on last? Ready to move on to a new ancestor, but not sure where to start?
You need a research plan that you can pick up on the spur of the moment that will tell you exactly what you were hoping to look for. A research plan allows you to keep track of questions you’d like to answer, where you’ve searched and what you found – very similar to a research log, but more focused on keeping track of the questions and how you plan to answer them.
I use Excel to keep my research plans. I have one tab for each person or couple. I have basic vital information at the top of the log along with a visual aid to help me remember which County I should be researching in at any specific point in time. I love using Excel for this because I can add or delete lines as needed, everything stays nicely lined up and I can hide or reveal different lines to help me save space or to help me focus on a single question at a time. I can add color to text or to cells if I want to make something stand out.
In the main section of the plan, I type in the question(s) that I’d like to research. Below each question, I make a list of resources that I’d like to look at. And below each resource, I tell what I did (looked at index, skimmed through, looked at each page, etc) and what I found, even if I found nothing because I don’t want to waste time repeating a search I’ve already spent time on. And it’s so easy to work on with small chunks of free time!
So today’s Snack is to create a Research Plan document. Feel free to download mine, if you like using Excel. I plan to write a longer post tomorrow about using the Research Plan Excel file. As future Snacks bring new questions or resources to mind, you’ll have the perfect place to keep track of them so they’ll be ready when you have time for a bigger “meal” of research time. Be sure to keep it in a location that you can get to no matter where you happen to be when you have a little free time!