Thursday, December 21, 2006


You have probably heard about The Source which is now out in its third edition. You may have looked it up and discovered it run around $80. Despite its nearly 1,000 pages and nothing but rave reviews you thought was a little too pricey for your research.

That was an error in judgment. Oh yes, it is not inexpensive. But it is worth every penny.

The subtitle is "A Guidebook to American Genealogy" and that is precisely what it is. Think of it as a self paced course in American genealogy in one very thick and quite heavy volume. There are 20 detailed chapters. Take court records. There are 66 pages of detailed information as well as a comprehensive and up to date list of resources. That's because all the chapters are written by experts in that field of genealogy. If you concentrate on that chapter like there was a test you will become very knowledgable in court records. If you absorb all of the chapter on land records and then absorb Hone's Land and Property Research you will be an expert in land records. If you don't want to be an expert or even very knowledgable it is still the resource to have in your genealogy library.

Then there are the appendixes with all the extra information you might want about genealogical societies, historical societies, lineage societies, not to mention the National and State Archives.

Ok, your budget is really limited. Go online and search for a copy of the second edition. The price should be less than half. It won't be up to date but it will still provide you with a wealth of information that you can use in your genealogy research.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I'm one of those people who tries Ancestry every time there is a freebie but I have yet to find anything of major interest and nothing I couldn't find elsewhere free -- and better. Why pay for their transcription of a page or a view of a small portion of a page when you can see the actual page in its entirety somewhere else for free? Serious hightly respected researchers have told me they have indeed found good information at Ancestry so perhaps my ancestors did not leave a paper trail that Ancestry has copied. Next time there is a freebie I will check again to see if they have found it yet.

I like Heritage Quest. I love digging through the old public domain books. Unfortunately, the search engine leaves a lot to be desired but if you know the title of the old book you can just search for it. They also have census and Revolutionary War records among other things. Mere mortals cannot get Heritage Quest but their public library can and a great many do have it. If your library doesn't have it ask for it and have your genealogy friends ask for it too. It worked with mine.

Another place I like is Godfrey. It is a bargain at $35 a year. I am particularly fond of their old newspaper collection. I have not discovered anything earth shattering there but I have discovered some interesting news items which add a little excitement to my genealogy. For example, my husband's grandfather was interviewed when he witnessed the crash of a military plane in a residential neighborhood. Who knew? They have other databases too.

Before you pay for an online database see what is available to you free. Start with your local library. Check back because libraries do increase their offerings and drop others that aren't used. Check for a Family History Library near you. Check for your state's online offerings. More and more states are providing records free online -- and some are taking them off unfortunately. Check the offerings at university libraries and archives for all the states where you are researching. The online collections are growing. Goggle for the information. Linkpendium is a great resource.

There are a lot of subscription online databases, from straight commercial to those of the big genealogy societies. Most are not inexpensive. Only you can tell if one is really useful to you. Ask people you know before you buy. See if you can try it out before you buy. See about a short term subscription to see if you really find it useful before you spend the big bucks.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I was looking at various genealogy freeware recently and found some interesting programs.

One is Genealogy Finder. From the readme file: "Genfinder is a collection of more than 750 quality links in 27 categories. It is the result of hundreds of hours of surfing time and will no doubt save you time regardless what your level of expertise in Genealogy is." Since it is free, easy to use and it doesn't install on your system you have nothing to lose. I can't swear every link is up to date but if you find even one that helps you you are ahead.

GenDB is free software to help you enter data on a cemetery. For the great people who actually walk and record cemeteries for fellow researchers this is a great way to record the data. It also works for researchers who only want to enter their own families in various cemeteries.

Simple Family Tree is a program for people who don't want to bother with a complex program. Better, I think, it allows you to set out a small part of a family tree in a format anyone can understand. The downside is you have to type the information in. But it is free.

You can get an older version of Legacy, a genealogy software program. It was new in 2003 so it isn't THAT old. And the price is right.

All of these programs can be obtained at various download sites. I was using CNet but there are many. PC Magazine has one. Tucows is a good one. Try searching for genealogy on the download site. Generally it is under hobbies or home and family. You will probably see one or more programs that appeal to you. Not everything on these download sites is free of course. Those you pay for can generally be tried before you decide to buy.

You can also go to the LDS site at and download their genealogy software, PAF, free.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006



For the last year or so I have been urging folks to protect their genealogy data. I grew up in the land of tornadoes. Now I live in the land of hurricanes. Our genealogy work is priceless. Our old pictures are irreplaceable. We have to be proactive. I note that genealogy organizations are now getting on this bandwagon. I rather think it has to do with the flooding that threatened the national archives and not my regular reminders [some have said harping]. Whatever caused it, I'm for it.


When something threatens you don't have time to backup your data. You have to do that regularly. I suggest you back up to something other than the hard drive in your computer as a general rule for a number of reasons. The computer may fail but probably not the computer and the external backup at the same time.


One of the smartest things you can do is regularly send a copy of your backup to someone in another city, hopefully in another region of the country. Better yet, send the backup to two or three people. Even if your computer AND external backup go there's that backup you sent to cousin Meg safe and sound. You can probably send the backup attached to an email. What could be simpler?

In times of disaster the backup should be something you can grab and shove in a spare space in your purse, pocket, suitcase, whatever. Unless you use a laptop you won't be grabbing your computer but you can grab the backup.

Genealogy data from your genealogy software probably won't take up that much space. I like jump drives because you can use the data almost anywhere. They are small and easy to carry. You can also burn your data to a CD, which takes longer. CDs are more fragile too. However, CDs are cheaper. Periodically burn some and share with the family. Why not DVDs? I am of the personal opinion that DVDs technology as we use it in our computers now will not be with us all that long. It is an evolving technology. Also, the LDS tests did not indicate they were good for long term storage.

Now, what about all those pictures of your ancestors? I confess, on my first evacuation I carried two storage containers of pictures. The smart thing to do is scan the pictures to your computer, make backups and share -- just like with your data. We tend to put this off and I am guilty of that too. But you have to do all that scanning now if you want to be safe later.

The problem is your picture files won't fit on that jump drive or CD. You are going to need an external hard drive. I have some of the new ones which are about 3" x 5" and hold 60, 80 or 120 gig. They fit in my purse, some of my pockets and the safe deposit box as well as the glove compartment, under the front seat of the car, just about anywhere. Prices on these have come way down but you probably won't be giving one to cousin Meg so you'll still have to burn some CDs for her.

On to the paper documents you have collected -- birth, death and marriage records, wills, deeds, etc. You do have a scanned copy of each and every one, right? And they are saved on the same storage device as the pictures, right? If not, get moving and get it done. And don't forget to share.

You probably also have a bunch of CDs with assorted data on them that you have purchased from various sources. Make a list and keep a copy on your storage device. I own one of the medium size "fireproof" and "waterproof" safes you buy at office supply stores and even Wal-Mart. I store all my data CDs in those, including software program CDs. If you don't have one put the CDs in plastic which you have sealed as well as possible. If you are leaving them behind no matter how they are stored try to put them up high if flooding is even a remote possibility. Be advised the "waterproof" safes are extremely heavy to lift.

Books - we know they are staying. Keep a list on that storage device. If you have time put them up high. If you are like me there are just too many of them. You might try to take the irreplaceable ones. Fortunately most books are replaceable.

Whatever you do, don't put it off. Have a plan and put it in action now. You never know when you will need it.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I know. You don't even have an iPod or clone. But read on.

You don't have to own one. You can go to the podcast web site, click on it and listen right on your computer at that moment. Or you can save it and listen to it later on your computer. Or you can burn many of them to a CD and listen to it on a CD player -- the kind you listen to other music on in your music system or a portable that plays MP3. [Older ones might not.] Or you can save it to a flash drive and insert it into a small and inexpensive flash drive player to carry with you when you are jogging [or something less taxing like walking or standing in line]. Maybe you have a newer vehicle with a CD player that plays MP3 so you can read while stuck in traffic.

Everyone has a way to listen to podcasts. Once you figure out the best way for you you'll find there are thousands of things you can listen to besides music.

There are some interesting genealogy podcasts out there and no doubt the field is growing. With a genealogy podcast you can multitask, learn about genealogy while doing something else.

Dick Eastman, noted gadget guru and genealogist, author of Eastman's Online Genealogy, former owner and Wiz Op of the what I suspect was the original genealogy forum online, Roots at CompuServe, etc. etc. now has some of his postings as podcasts. Dick is one of the pioneers in online genealogy. If you aren't familiar with Dick Eastman you need to be. Eastman's podcasts have no set schedule that I can determine. He seems to take live interviews that he uses for some of his daily online genealogy reports and share them through a podcast. You can subscribe to notification of his podcast in an RSS feed.

Dear Myrtle began her columns in 1998 and her radio broadcasts in 2000. She has columns, blogs, broadcasts, podcasts and all sorts of information on her web site. I found the setup made it difficult to download the mp3 files. Other podcasts sites have a list of podcasts with a link but this web site has you going from link to link to link just to download one file. She has many, all of which apparently were originally radio broadcasts. However, there is a LOT of information on her web site and it is worthwhile to wade through and download the mp3 files of interest.

The Genealogy Guys have a chatty podcast which they have recorded every other Sunday for the past year. George Morgan is a speaker and author of genealogy books including the useful How to Do Everything With Your Genealogy. Drew Smith is a librarian and speaker. They started in September of 2005. The shows were approximately one half hour for the first four months and then expanded to an hour. Go to The Genealogy Guys website where you can sign up for the RSS feed to be reminded or just check the site out periodically. The notes for the podcasts are on the web site and that's where you download the podcast. At the moment the Genealogy Guys are the only podcast I am aware of which consistently puts out a new program on a regular basis.

A newer and promising podcast is Bill Puller's Genealogy Tech. This podcast is just beginning, having recorded four shows as I write this. It starts with basics. The show's notes, which are particularly good, are on the web site. While his shows so far are pretty basic I found there is also always something "basic" I didn't know. He has some ideas and programs you probably won't find on your own.

Putting out a regular podcast [or blog] is time consuming and it isn't easy to come up with something new. Let's face it -- there's not a lot of "breaking news" in genealogy. While these four have ongoing podcasts many others have tried and have not been successful. If you find podcasts useful let them know.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Symbols on tombstones have you confused? There are many sites with information on the symbols found on tombstones. Like everything else in genealogy, the information should be doublechecked but here are some places to start:

Here's a encyclopedic site with all sorts of information on subjects like tombstones, illnesses, occupations, etc.

California Death Index

Illinois Death Records
1916-1950, some pre 1916

Kentucky Death Index

Maine Death Index

Texas Death Index

Social Security Death Index
If you don't find it in a basic search move up to the advanced search. Try using only the first letter of the given name. If you enter "Robert Smith" and for some reason the death record was entered as "R. D. Smith" it won't find it using Robert.

How to Find a Place
Once you find it -- and this includes cemeteries, towns, schools, etc. -- you can click on a link and get a map of the location.

Find a Grave
Graves of the rich and famous -- or infamous -- and a few others.

Cemetery Junction
If the cemetery listing is online there is a link to it. In this database you search by location and then by cemetery.

Find a Person in a Cemetery
In this database you search by location and then by surname.


Obituary Daily Times

There are some great newspapers archives -- which of course include obituaries -- on Heritage Quest, part of ProQuest, a subscription database which may well be available through your local library. If it is not ask for it. Your library may also have a subscription to the Ancestry databases. Do not overlook these resources which become free when you get them at your local library.

Remember, the internet is fluid and URLs do change. I have tried to pick the most stable locations for this information but that doesn't always work.

Monday, July 24, 2006



At a genealogy conference a year ago I bought a two volume A Basic
Course in Genealogy
. It is actually the text of the time [about 50 years
ago] for LDS genealogical training classes. Needless to say, it does not
include computers.

One of the more amazing things to me is those questions we struggle with,
how to indicate this, what about this, are answered. As we struggle with
them now we are reinventing the wheel. Example, "place of birth is known but
it is in a town different from the christening or "full date of an event
unreadable." [Imagine that!] There is a procedure for listing children who
die before their 8th birthday and their name is not known. [son
Jones/daughter Jones] Those who die after their 8th birthday and their name
is not known are Mr. Jones or Miss Jones.

Why the 8th birthday? It doesn't particularly matter why. It is a system
that works in all cases and provides uniform recording, something we all
strive for. We may not want to use that system but we can look to it for
suggestions on how to handle sticky or unusual issues.

It also tackles foreign sources because so many LDS came over from Europe in
the 1800s.

Way out of date and yet useful -- give those old books a second look even if
they don't mention computers.


Here's a link to an article on basic genealogy that makes some good
points for everyone to remember:

It's fairly short.


Here is an interesting web site:

Your ancestors had to come from some and most of them came by boat.* [Well, I have a couple who apparently came by UFO. Further research indicates that time and place apparently had a lot of UFOs.] This web site is a list of links for, the owner thinks, all the online passenger listings. There is also some information on naturalization papers.

*Obviously I am talking about coming to the US. Admittedly this blog is centered on research in the USA.


The new second edition of Rose and Ingalls' Complete Idiot's Guide to
is out. So what did they do with the first edition? It's
available free online!

Go to

and download it. It's a BIG file and it downloads immediately with no help
from you so keep that in mind if you are on dialup. It's worth the time.



DJ Weber, original author of this post, kindly gave me permission to pass it along to you. I think may of you will find it interesting. Remember, this is about emigrants and NOT colonists. Their ships went to whatever colony they were going to.

When you think of emigrants arriving at North American ports you need to think of the historical times of their arrivals.

First, we may need to know from which port our ancestors left Europe. Prior to 1783 as a result of British Maritime laws governing its North American colonies no ships legally might arrive in North American unless their port of departure was in Britain, usually Hull, London, Bristol or Liverpool.

In addition, considering that within the British Empire of that time, Philadelphia was the second (or third) largest town after London (depending on which historical source you find, either Calcutta or Philadelphia was number two or number three but there is no consistency in records as to which was in which position), the port of Philadelphia was an early important port of arrival. English port to English port!

For Colonial times, therefore, think PHILADELPHIA, BOSTON and NEW YORK.

After 1783 ships could leave from most any European port, from LeHavre, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Emden, Bremen (and later Bremerhaven) and dozens of other sea ports eastward to Stettin and Danzig as well as numerous Scandanavian and Mediterranean ports. While this time period is later than the era when the European Hansa was of high importance, many of those ports were still quite active and only the ability to receive a cargo was necessary for the ship to return to North
America with a return cargo of emigrants. You may think Hamburg as a vital European port and it was but not one of the early-time European ports.

This era also increased the potential of North American ports. New York grew while Boston and Philadelphia became less of importance. By the middle 1800s, you would have had New York, Baltimore and New Orleans as the major ports of arrival. New Orleans was very important prior to the American War of the Rebellion as its shipments to Europe were loads of cotton and the then, empty ships had ample space for return emigrant cargo.


There were many smaller ports, particularly if for some reason the ship from Europe stopped in the West Indies first. Galveston and Charleston are noted for smaller arrivals. Often it was cheaper to arrive through Halifax.

The cost of emigration was a particular problem. Did the emigrant pay his passage, was the passage paid by his town (many towns "weeded out" financial distressed families during times of crop failures, heavy taxes, famine and other almost-regular European disasters) or perhaps handled by an agent for a North American activity. Each of these might be a reason for using certain ports in Europe and in North America

We might think of a trip up the Rhine as the logical method of transportation to a sea port but just from the Alsace area on north, there were over thirty toll locations on the river. It was costly enough that many south-western Germans, Swiss and others walked, barged, horse-backed their way across France to LeHavre as that route could be cheaper to reach a sea port and a ship headed for North America. This route, as a result of the American War from 1861 to 1865 became less of value.

If you have a 1900s arrival, think NEW YORK. If you have an 1800s arrival, think NEW YORK, BALTIMORE or NEW ORLEANS. If you have a very early 1800s arrival or a 1700s arrival, think PHILADELPHIA, NEW YORK or maybe BOSTON.

Many smaller ships which were not direct from Europe disembarked their passengers at most any port along the shores of eastern United States and Canada. These came from the West Indies, from Cuba and from South America, normally. Any port is possible.

Remember that long after the area of the Louisiana Purchase lands its animals were trapped and its lands were occupied by French Canadians. Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and other of those eventual states were all areas where the lands were native to those who had migrated westward from French Canada. There was no border. In many towns, those French Canadians were the original settlers. Records for Canadian emigrants of the eastern provinces were not recorded until the 1900s.

The true question should be of what nationality were your ancestors, what might be their logical ports for a ship from Europe to the Americas and during what time period did they emigrate. Then keep in mind that if they did emigrate normally and legally during a time period for which there would have been records, many of those Manifests bit the dust through fire, water damage, rat gnawings, deterioration and every excuse which can be identified by NARA before its predecessor activity started to microfilm those Manifests. Many records do not exist.

If you want to go on to migratory routes through the United States, the Mississippi river and its tributaries (Tennesse, Ohio, Missouri and all the rest) were excellent routes from New Orleans. From New York for the Erie Canal, by 1823 navigation was possible from Genesee River to Albany and Lake Champlain and on October 26, 1825, the first complete passage was recorded. From Philadelphia and Baltimore for the National Road (Cumberland Road/National Pike) actual construction stated in 1815 and by 1818 the road had reached Wheeling, Virginia (West Virginia) by 1833 Columbus, Ohio and by 1841 Vandalia, Illinois.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Did you know you can search the 1880 Census Index at 1880 Census FREE?

You won't get to see the image free but you will get some basic information. Here's what I got.

Name: Robert Downing
Age: 86
Estimated birth year: abt 1794
Birthplace: Pennsylvania
Occupation: Retired Farmer
Relationship to head-of-household: Self
Home in 1880: Mt Pulaski, Logan, Illinois
Marital status: Married
Race: White
Gender: Male
Spouse's name: Jane Downing
Father's birthplace: PA
Mother's birthplace: PA

The next two people I tried were not found -- although I did find them on the LDS 1880 census index. I specifically told them what county I wanted but they persisted in showing me everyone in the US.

If you are out of other ideas it's worth a shot. But I'd go to the LDS site first. They have a complete index of the 1880 census too. If you have the CDs or know a place that does you can search for the neighbors too. Knowing the names of the neighbors can provide a lot of information.


When the census taker went door to door what was he supposed to do? Knowing that can be useful information. To find out go to:


You might find a useful free spreadsheet here:

He has spreadsheets for all the federal censuses and more, also for cemeteries, passenger manifests, research, family groups.

If you don't have a spreadsheet program -- it doesn't have to be the latest version -- he has them in pdf.


I started to put together a blog on the census. Then I remembered I don't need to reinvent the wheel. Try Rootsweb's Guide.

It covers just about everything including censuses. Be sure to read the pitfalls -- don't take census information as gospel. If it is a transcribed census look at it even more cautiously. Note the dates the census was "as of" -- the official date of the census. It is almost assuredly different than the day it was actually taken. Were they always careful about that? What do you think?

Knowing what was asked is important too. Unfortunately you can't know who they asked it of. Was it an adult? A child? A neighbor? The census is a guide but not necessarily completely factual.

Did you know the 1900 census asked the exact month and year of birth and the number of years married? Did you know the 1880 census asked for the birthplace of each individual AND their parents? The 1910 census asked when you arrived in the US. My favorite is the 1930 census which asked if you owned a radio.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006



Ancestors. We all have them. We all have about the same number of them. Why is it that some of us have found many of ours and others have found only a few?

Sometimes it is where and how you were raised. I have Revolutionary War ancestors buried almost literally in the backyard where I grew up. This is not uncommon on the East Coast. People came to this country and next moved more than a few miles from where they landed. I was raised in the Midwest but once my ancestors got there their traveling days were over.

My family was a large extended family and they knew their history, angels and scoundrels. I had first cousins and second cousins, first cousins once or twice removed -- didn't matter much. We were all related. I confess I was nearly 30 before I found out this was not the norm!

Sometimes it is the result of serious and dedicated research, hours spent looking over dusty documents in courthouses and archives. Sometimes it is a combination of both. There are those who went online and collected whole genealogies but they don't really count.

I've been at this awhile. These are my thoughts, mostly random. Some you may already know. Some you didn't until now. If it helps you in your search I'm happy.


  1. Write down all you know now. Start with yourself and work backwards.
  2. Include the source of every piece of information. Yes, it is a pain in the rear but some day you will be happy you listened and did it. Trust me. BTDTGTTS (been there, done that, got the tee shirt)
  3. Minimum to include is birth, marriage, death, burial location, parents -- same for your spouse and children. [I heard you say you aren't dead yet.] You don't know it all? There's your first serious research, filling in the blanks you didn't know.


I always assume that everyone knows about Cindi's list. Even if you do perhaps you don't realize it is a work in process and is constantly being updated and added to. It's a massive site.

Karen Isaacson and Brian Leverich, the founders of Rootsweb, have put together pages of genealogy links at:

Both of these lists are worthy of checking regularly to see if there are any links you can use.