Making the PowerPoint Plan

It’s about 100 degrees outside and I’ve decided it’s an excellent time to begin working on an interactive PowerPoint program for showing family tree information to my Mom’s family. At times, the thought of creating this becomes overwhelming because I’m the first to admit that I’m a perfectionist with OCD tendencies. I want to make this program “entertaining”, but I also want this to be informative and even a little educational. I want my family to be able to see the information that they WANT to see and also able to skip things they don’t care to see. I have to think I may be the only one fascinated with tax records, but want to make them available in case someone else is! And maybe I can make the tax records more “interesting” by creating some type of chart showing how the number of acres owned or the number of cattle changed over time. Maybe I’ll be able to create a little map showing how the tax records show the migration from one area to another – anyway, I digress…

I want the program to be informative as far as our specific family details go, but I also want to pull in some historical references to help everyone see our family in context with the times that they lived in. Newspaper headlines from the area or snippets from local history websites would be interesting things to include. Can you see why I’m overwhelmed? So I thought I’d begin with making a plan and asking for suggestions from anyone who’s interested in following along.

First, I know I’m going to want some background images that are a little more nostalgic than the typical PowerPoint slide design offers, so I’m going to begin looking online for images and textures that I can use.  For example, my mother’s family is from the Kentucky area, so I will begin looking for images of farmland, rolling countysides and log cabins that I can use as backgrounds for a typical family tree chart or family group sheet that I might want to include. I’m also going to look for images of textures like old fashioned lace or burlap or faded denim.

My program will be using a lot of hyperlinks and triggers so that anyone can click on a name or a entry on a timeline to see the source document if they want. This program will not be a “go to the next slide please” kind of program. I’m hoping it will be something that not only lets everyone see where genealogists get their information from, but also is eye opening as far as what things they might have in their possession that they never thought I’d be interested in.

My plan is that my opening slide will be a typical family tree chart with perhaps 3 generations: my mother and her siblings, their parents and both sets of grandparents. Of course, I’d love to do more, but I think that will be PLENTY for the time being. Plus, they will all be able to relate to these people more than a name from 1780 that I just say “Trust me, they are related!” – at least until they show an interest.

From the family tree, they will be able to click on a name and the program will jump to the section for that person. This page will either be a group sheet type of thing, or a timeline with a button to see the group sheet. (The group sheet will have the similar idea of clicking on a name to jump to that section.) While the timeline COULD become very complicated and crowded, I’m thinking that I need to keep it simple. I’ll begin with the obvious stuff – birth date, marriage date and death date. Then I’ll add the birth dates for each child. If there’s room, I’ll add dates of residence locations as well. Each of these dates will also be clickable. If I have a lot of information for a certain event, clicking on the item will trigger a jump to that part of the program.  For example, clicking on the marriage date could jump to a screen that shows the marriage license or registry. If I have a document, but still have questions, I can include those questions on the side to see if anyone else happens to know the answer. If I don’t have a document, then clicking on the item will trigger an information box to appear that will tell where the information came from and perhaps show a list of  the type of document I’m looking for to help the viewer think about what type of information they might have in a closet or attic.

I’ll want to include as many photographs as I can, but the further back in time I go, the fewer photos I have. So I’m also going to try to find or create some silhouette images that might illustrate an occupation of an ancestor. Not only will images like that help to make a slide more visually appealing, it will also show immediately that I DON’T have any photos of a particular person and perhaps that will trigger a memory of a photo that someone has in an album somewhere.

Several years ago, my mother put together a booklet of stories that my grandmother had told her about growing up. There are not many stories in the booklet because my grandmother did not have a very happy childhood, but if I can incorporate those stories and try to also include some images from the area she grew up in to make the stories “come alive”, perhaps that will create a desire for my aunts and uncles to tell stories that they’ve heard so that they can be included in any updated versions of the program.

So here’s my initial “to do” list in preparation for this project.

1) Begin looking for background images – landscapes and textures.

2) Begin looking through my genealogy notes and making the topics that I want to be sure to include as well as the things that might be a little too mundane for the non-genealogists.

3) Begin collecting documents that haven’t been digitized that I want to include.

4) Begin taking digital pictures of some of the items I’ve collected that were my grandmothers.

5) Make a rough mind map of what a typical section for an individual might include.

6) Begin compiling a list of internet links to include in the program so that a person who might find this “genealogy stuff” interesting can begin doing their own research.

If you’d like to follow along and make your own program as I go, you can start collecting items too and thinking about what you’d like to include information wise. I’ll be using PowerPoint 2010 for my examples, but I think most of what I’m planning to include will be doable in older versions as well.

I’m actually starting to get excited about this project! Time to tell the family they will probably be on their own for dinner for the next few days!

“Fresh Start” Time of Year?

The new school year is about a week and a half away and as usual, I have an overwhelming desire to have a “fresh start”.

I want to go through my closet and get rid of clothes I never wear and organize my new “school clothes” for the new year.

I want to go through all of my school files and toss and/or reorganize the paper files as well as my digital files.

I want to get out in my gardens and trim and cut my perennials (which are really hurting in the drought!) and split and rearrange them so they will be better off next spring.

AND, I want to go through my family tree database and clean it up! This is BY FAR the more overwhelming project! I’ve always had a hard time keeping my computer database up to date. I really prefer to just keep everything on Ancestry. But I see a real value in my computer database and I just upgraded to FTM 2012 specifically because it will sync with my tree on Ancestry. But it didn’t take me long to see that I’m missing pieces of information that I should have included. So now, the desire to go through each person and check those citations and add digital images and detailed notes is kicking in BIG TIME.

How can I do this in an organized manner that would not require huge chunks of time that I do not have? I can say I’m going to look at 1 person each day, for example, but how do I do that and not lose my place? There are 776 people in this branch of my tree, but they aren’t all equally researched. Should I concentrate on the individuals in my direct ancestor 5 gen chart and go numerically? Begin with my mother, then her father, then mother, then paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, etc? Or do I modify that and work in family groups? My mother’s parents along with all of their children, then each grandparent group? If I choose that, how far down do I go? For example, I can see working on my grandparents and each of their children, but when do I work on THEIR children and grandchildren? What about the ancestor with 14 children? My mother had an uncle who had 28 children for heaven’s sake!

And what about source citations? I’m happy to have the citations as they are automatically downloaded from Ancestry, but if I want to follow Evidence Explained, should I delete all citations and start from scratch? Or modify each citation as I come to it?

After years of upgrading FTM over and over, I have some pretty strange things in the files. Notes for images that became citations of some sort. Names of children that became AKA’s for some individuals, etc. At one time, when there was only one “Notes” section per person, I had loooooong notes for each individual that were basically a timeline of events in their life. I had a note for EVERY item I could find for the individual – tax records, mentions in court records, etc. as well as questions and ideas to follow up on and those notes are totally gone from the program (but not from my computer). Should I try to put those back in?

I’d LOVE to do a totally from scratch type of thing, but is that realistic? It could be a FANTASTIC opportunity to really evaluate what I have and what I need and update my research plan and put together a “to do” list for each person, but it’s difficult enough to find “normal research” time, so would this become a project that I begin to resent?

Perhaps, I should keep my current file as a “working file” and begin a fresh file that begins from scratch. Am I shooting too high? I tend to start these grand projects which later get shelved when reality hits…

What do you think? Any suggestions?

1940 Success!

A couple of week-ends ago, my Mom came to my house for a visit. I thought it would be cool to be able to show her the 1940 census for her family, although she would not be born for a couple of years yet.  At the time, Indiana had not been indexed, so I used the One-Step tools on the Ancestry site to find my mother’s maternal grandfather but that’s where my luck ended. When she arrived, we used our detective skills to finally find her family in a near-by county.

Ironically, the announcement came 1 week later that the Indiana index had been completed, which could have made my search much easier. At the same time, it was announced that Kentucky had also been indexed so I did a search for my mother’s paternal grandparents in Kentucky – but no luck.

I thought it would be a pretty simple search! Last name, Smith – which is pretty darn common – but their first names were Oliver and Mintie. How many could there be? Well, apparently, there were NONE.

So today, I had 30 minutes to kill and I decided to see if I could find each of the children of Oliver and Mintie thinking that they probably lived nearby one of them and it worked! They lived next door to their 3rd son. The reason I could not find them was because the names had been indexed as Alian and Misstie.

So I believe I’ve now found all of my direct ancestors that can be found in the 1940 census. I do enjoy reading the employment information and the number of hours each person worked in a week. Because of this, I’ve been doing more research into the WPA as a few of my ancestors listed their employment that way. I’m thinking of creating a spreadsheet of the different occupations of my ancestors through the years – although I believe they are overwhelmingly farmers. But you never know what you’ll find when you begin to look at your information from a different perspective.  That just may be on my “to do list” the next time I find a free 30 minutes!

Nice Catch!

My family genealogy day was VERY nice! It was wonderful to share information – even if it was only with two people. Mom mom had assured me that my aunt would not be interested, but my aunt surprised us both. She was very interested in reading what I brought and looking at old family photos and started telling several stories from when she was young – something she had never done before! In talking about it later, Mom said she thought it was probably because we were such a small group. (And as a side note – we decided on a spur of the moment week-long trip to Florida before school starts, so I’m hoping to hear many more stories from my Mom and aunt next week!)

My cousin was amazed at what I had printed out for her. I think it was probably a little overwhelming, as we never did start at the beginning and work our way through it. Instead, she’d ask a question about a person and I’d jump to that portion of the print out and we’d talk about that – which would bring a new question and another jump! And every time she asked me about a specific person in the tree I loved that I could walk to my computer and print a set of notes for that person as well! Her youngest son is getting ready to go to college to study HISTORY, so she said that he will really enjoy reading what I sent home with her and once he gets settled, would probably love to work together with me to fill out our applications for Daughter/Son of the American Revolution – so that’s something to look forward to!

The visit didn’t “net” (pun intended!) me any new information, but I do feel like I’ve stirred some interest that wasn’t there before! At one point, my mom pulled out the Christmas Poem book that I wrote for her 2 years ago and that stirred even more memories from my aunt and even a tear or two from my Mom. I’m sure we’ll be planning additional time to get together and share more information and I’m thrilled with that! If I’ve inspired a small part of my family to begin thinking about family history, I think that’s a greater thing than collecting more newspaper clippings or documents. (But I sure wouldn’t turn those down!!)

Gone Fishin!

For the first time ever, a few people in my Mom’s family have asked that we organize a time to get together to take a look at my family history information! So I’ve spent a couple of days trying to get my stuff into a more entertaining format that might “hook” me some more information. I will be giving them a Word print out of a 3 generation timeline/narrative format of my notes with as many maps, photographs and certificate images as I could reasonably put in there. I have information from my great-great grandparents births to my grandparents deaths. I also included a lot of pictures of my mom and her siblings growing up hoping to jog some memories out of my aunts and uncles.

It’s a 30 page, color coded, sources cited wonder to behold! (Well, at least to me!) We’re getting together tomorrow and it will be interesting to see the reaction and to see if they are interested in seeing more details or more generations. A warm-up for the DVD project to come!

Wish me luck!!

Using PowerPoint

This past week-end, I was surfing though Ancestry hints in my family tree while my husband and kids enjoyed some time in a hotel pool.  I was quite surprised to find a family tree that was obviously put up by one of my cousin’s sons! I didn’t think anyone else in my family did family research, so I emailed her to make sure it was him and it was! I remember that last year, my cousin had emailed me to get some family tree information for a graduate level class she was taking and I have to wonder if her son caught the “genealogy bug” after seeing some of that information.

So I’m thinking ahead to Christmas. I think I’m going to create an interactive Family History program using PowerPoint. My goal will be to put the program onto DVDs to give to my aunts/uncles/cousins/cousins-once-removed – or anyone who may be interested in the information. This will be my “bait” to see if I can get family members interested enough in our genealogy that they might begin telling me stories that they remember or realizing that they may have some documents or mementos that I might be interested in seeing. This type of interactive program would be much more appealing that the binders that I bring to family get-togethers. And copying a DVD is MUCH cheaper than copying pages and pages of documents!

I’m beginning to formulate a plan to put my genealogy research into an interactive PowerPoint program that will allow the user to jump from a person in the family tree to the section of the program that deals with that person. Each person will have a timeline page (user can click on a timeline entry to jump to that document page) and a Group Sheet page (user can click on any name or date to jump to that page).  The DVD format will allow me to put all kinds of documents into the program, but a family history “newbie” wouldn’t be overwhelmed by stacks and stacks of papers. I’ll make the program “clickable” so that a person will only see what they want to see. I’ll make the documents “educational” with information boxes so a person will see the kind of information we can discover with these documents. Maybe they will understand why I care about “boring” things like census records and tax records.  I want to include as many old photos as possible as well to make everything “come alive” and to perhaps job some memories as to what they might have that I don’t.

I’m thinking this might become a “How To” series on the blog. I’d like to say I’ll make this a weekly thing, but if I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s not to assume that you’ll have the time you think you’ll have!

So if this is something that might be interesting to you, but sure to bookmark the blog and check back often! Or follow me on Twitter and you’ll receive a Tweet every time a new post is created.

Not the Year I Thought This Would Be

Well, here I am, looking at this blog and thinking how sad it is that I haven’t posted in so long. Not only that, how long since I’ve done any real research! This year of new job responsibilities plus quite a battle with health issues have made this a VERY different year than I thought it would be!

So last week, while my mother was visiting for the 4th, I decided to FINALLY take a look at the 1940 census to see if I could find her family – although she wasn’t born for a couple of years yet. I used the links that Ancestry has on the home page to use the Stephen Morse and Joel Weintraub work and I pretty quickly found my mother’s grandfather in Franklin, Indiana, by entering the E.D. from their 1930 census but I could not found her family using the same method.

She tried to think of all the places that she had heard about her family living before she was born and I used that information along with my aunt’s birth certificate (she was born in 1939) to discover that the family probably lived in Shelby County. From there, I used the 1940 census Enumeration District map available at the Online Public Access site found at  (Find instructions for using this site under Number 3 at

Luckily, Shelby County was not a booming metropolis like Chicago or even Indianapolis! I used the Ancestry option of selecting a district within a county to begin a page by page browsing to look for Mom’s family. They weren’t in the same district as the address on my Aunt’s birth certificate, so I began searching districts between that location and the Franklin location where my grandfather lived. As I moved across the county looking for the family, I began to think they would never be found this way. After about 2 hours of searching (and a tiny bit of a census reader’s headache!) I found them! And while I didn’t discover any earth shattering information, we all know that it’s all about collecting all the information we can and I’m happy to have it!

Midwest Geneabloggers Meetup!

I’ve been in countdown mode for quite awhile and it’s finally here! I’ll be attending the MGM today at the Allen County Public Library and I’m super excited to be meeting so many bloggers who share a passion for family history research!

I think part of the reason I’m so excited about today is because I wasn’t able to participate like I had hoped at the RootsTech convention due to illness.  What I thought was food poisoning at the time turned into a month-long hopscotch from test to test that resulted in several days of thinking I had cancer only to have a biopsy reveal that I have sarcoidosis in my lungs along with painful swollen lymph nodes throughout my torso.

I’m looking forward to making some new friends as well as getting some research done.  This will be my first trip back to the library in months and I’m actually a little nervous about it! I had hoped to make a very detailed research plan for the day, but that didn’t happen.  Before my illness, I was deep into research on my Smith family and even though I thought I renewed my FHL microfilms in time, I believe they may have been sent back and not all have returned to the ACPL yet. When I started getting back into research during my recovery last month, I re-opened my Stephens research so I’ll be bringing that along for the day as well.

So my goals for today:

1)  Hoping that the microfilm with the index to deeds for Mercer County is in. Look for Smith deeds that can help me connect my Russell County John M. Smith to Mercer County.

2) Use the ACPL computers to access Fold3 to look for a pension file for Andrew Jackson Stephens. I have the file number, just need to see if it’s been scanned yet.

3) Spend some time looking for information on Andrew Jackson Stephens in Pulaski County. Is he related to my Russell County Andrew Stephens? I haven’t done any research with Pulaski County records, so it has the potential for lots of new information for me.

4) Make lots of new genealogy friends and enjoy a day of genealogy research – doing my very best to forget about illness and work and instead get re-energized about doing genealogy.  After all – Spring break is a week away and I’ll just happen to be in the city with the 2nd largest genealogy library in the world!!!

“The Andrew Jackson 5″

I was showing my daughter the cover that I’m making for my Andrew Jackson Stephens binder.  My son – who is a graphic designer – created the outline of a tree with the silhouettes of 5 men in the tree. When she looked at the image, she told me that the 5 shadows looked like a “boy band” and she told me I should title it “The Andrew Jackson 5″.  Well, she caught me at just the right moment and I found that extremely funny and giggled about it the rest of the night.

I told her that I’d like to use her fingerprints to make the leaves for the tree.  (An idea that I totally stole from the Budget-Minded Bride blog.) So I thought I’d give an update with a picture of my cover as well as a picture of my daughter diligently coloring her fingertips with highlighters to use like rubber stamps to create the leaves of my tree.  I just love it!  She drew the line, however, when I asked her if I could use her hair like a paint brush to fill in the grass.  I guess helping out mom and “being one with the tree” only goes so far…

Piecing it Together

I’ve always said that I tend to make better discoveries whenever I reorganize information into a different format.  Whether it’s putting together an Excel file or a Research Plan or whatever, I usually see something that I’ve had in my notes forever, but never was able to see the significance for.

So I’m loving this binder that organizes all of the information that I have for the 5 different Andrew Stephens men.  VERY little of it is new, it’s just that now all of the information is together in one place. (See the tab at the top to see specific information for each Andrew (still in progress)).

I now realize that Andrew 4 is the Uncle of Andrew 1 AND the wife of Andrew 3.  (Which means that Andrew 1 is the brother-in-law to Andrew 3.) Andrew 2 is the son of Andrew 1 and therefore Andrew 3 is the Uncle to Andrew 2. This makes alot more sense in a diagram, but I haven’t taken the time to create a digital version.

I know that Andrew 3’s father is Ebenezer Stephens.  I tried to do some research on him this evening to try to find a family connection, but so far, no luck. My last Andrew (Andrew 5) is a total mystery for me. He was married to Susan Presha Smiley and while I can find quite a bit on her family, I do not have any reliable information on his parentage, so I cannot tell if there is a connection or not, but I’ll be looking for one! I have a feeling that some of my answers may lie in land records and at this time, I’m not quite up to a day of research at the library, so I’ll have to see if I happen to have something in my filing cabinet already.

I realize that anyone NOT researching these men is totally turned off by my number system here, it’s just more of a progress report on the binder project than anything else.


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