Thursday, August 30, 2012

Land Record Research

William Dollarhide recently wrote an article about land records for Lelend Meitzler’s Genealogy Blog. He points out that property records are some of the most complete records sets we have about our ancestors. Even when courthouses and their records were burned, property records were typically quickly reconstituted, because without them, defending ownership as well as buying and selling land becomes difficult.

For a more detailed explanation of why land records are important to genealogists, read the article at If He Owned Land, There’s a Deed

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

South Bay Genealogical Society Seminar Features John Colletta

The South Bay Genealogical Society is sponsoring a seminar on February 19, 2013 at the Little Harbor Resort in Ruskin Florida. The featured speaker is Dr. John Philip Colletta.

Dr. Colletta's topics will include
--Breaking Through Brick Walls: Use Your Head
--The County Courthouse: "Your Trunk in the Attic"
--Turning Biographical Facts into Real Life Events, How to Build Historical Context
--Discovering the REAL Stories of Your Immigran Ancestors

The cost is $40 for SBGS members and $45 for non-members. Doors open at 8:30 AM and reservations close on February 8, 2013. For more information or to make a reservation send an email to

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Suncoast Genealogy Society Seminar Scheduled for October 27

The Suncoast Genealogy Society Fall Mini Seminar is scheduled for October 27 at the Palm Harbor Library. Registration begins at 12:30 PM.
The speakers this year will be Patti Schultz and Pam Treme. They will talk on "Paint and Genealogy-Create Uniqe Captures of Pages from a Website to Add to Your Research," and "Next Generation-Who Will Continue Your Research?"

For additional information contact Ann James at 727-791-1983 or

Solve Those Brick Wall Problems

The GenealogyInTime Magazine recently published an article on brick wall solutions—50 of them. It starts with a quote attributed to Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” How appropriate when applied to some of our research challenges we call “brick walls”!

The article addresses categories of solutions: names (maiden names, middle names, aliases), geography (changing jurisdictions, searching by village), local resources (schoolhouse records, poor houses), and migration (port of entry, land records, place of birth).

I’ve only listed some of the topics. There are actually 26 of them. At the bottom of the last page is a link to part two of the article where the next 24 suggestions are found. The categories for those suggestions are death, family, military records,and general. 

This article may contain just the tip you need. You can find it at 50 Best Genealogy Brick Wall Solutions

Sunday, August 26, 2012

View of Genealogy’s Major Players

Recently James Tanner in his Blog Genealogy’s Star, wrote an overview of the “giants” of the genealogy world. In his view, the “giants” include,,, and

His treatment of each includes some of their history, recent acquisitions, and possible strategies in some cases. It is well worth reading if you want some help in making sense of what we see happening in the marketplace. You can find James’ article at Genealogy's Star: Movement among the giants

Friday, August 24, 2012

War of 1812 Pension Application Files Free at Fold3

This is the two hundredth year anniversary of the War of 1812. As a consequence, that war is receiving more attention than it usually does…it is often referred to as “the ‘other’ war” or the “forgotten war.”

There is a huge effort underway to digitize the War of 1812 Pension Application Files. The work is being done by Fold2 with funding provided by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. At this point only about 3% of the files have been digitized, but they are free for viewing at Fold3. This is a site worth checking regularly because you can’t tell when your ancestor’s records will be added. While you are there, there are a couple other 1812 record sets that you can look at too.

Check it out at War of 1812 Pension Application Files - Fold3

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Planning to Visit an Archive

You have probably seen articles on how to plan a research trip, how to prepare for a visit to a cemetery, etc. But how about preparing for a visit to an archive?

The thought of going to an actual archive can be intimidating to some people, but help is here. The Society of American Archivists has produced some guidance on effectively using archives. It covers such topics as the difference between archives and libraries, how to plan a visit, and usage guidelines.

If you wish, there is also a PDF version of the guide that you can download. You can read the article at

Monday, August 20, 2012

What Genealogists Can Learn From Cats

I’m a cat lover. Those who have taken genealogy classes from me get an idea of that because the wallpaper on my computer consists of pictures of my cats, and you see them before I start any slide shows associated with the class. Granted, I first got into cats because they came as a “packaged deal” with my wife, but somewhere along the line I turned a corner and now I’m an official, card-carrying cat-person all on my own.

The other day Nelson (my rough and tumble SPCA cat) and I were on the patio together--he was training me to scratch him in just that right spot—when all of a sudden he went “on point.” He tensed up; his blink rate went to zero; he focused his attention entirely on one point by the door some six feet away. Then he darted out of my lap, and before I could react he had a chameleon captured in his mouth.
For the next week, whenever he was on the patio, he stationed himself at that same door and waited patiently for the chameleon he was sure would appear there. After all, if he saw one there once, surely there would be others.

And there you have it; three things genealogists can learn from cats: focus, persistence, and patience. All of these qualities that serve cats so well in their hunt for prey, serve genealogists well in their search for ancestors.
We have all see articles about focus being a necessity in our research efforts. They typically deal with the value of a research plan to give focus and concentration to our research. It keeps us from becoming side-tracked and ultimately over-whelmed by data as we set off on a research task.

Persistence is also a necessary quality, and we realize that early on in our hunt for family information. When we first start out collecting data from our living relatives and our basements, attics, and old trunks; we find the information coming fast and furious. Pretty soon, however, that flow of information slows to a trickle, and it’s a trickle that requires hard work to sustain. The “easy” information has been collected. Now we have to deal with the information that is hard to come by. Now we have to write to courthouses, make research trips, fight through the misspelled names in published records, and otherwise do battle to breakdown any number of brick walls we encounter. Nelson’s persistence in hunting for that next chameleon serves as a good model for what our own persistence should be.
Patience is also something that all researchers need to have. This is especially clear to me as I use the Internet in my research, which increasingly we all do. As you know, the information available on the Internet changes daily as more people publish or update their family trees on sites like, and more sites make vital record indexes and images available. You can search a particular site one day and come up dry, and the next week you can revisit the same site and find a piece of information you have been pursuing for months. Sounds a lot like Nelson going back to that same spot where he captured that first chameleon, doesn’t it? In our world of research it is profitable to revisit sites, knowing that another “genealogy chameleon” may appear at any moment. We should keep track of our research successes, but also our failures as well. Recording those failures gives us an idea of when to revisit a previously searched site and what to look for. That sounds like an element that should be included in a research plan to me.

So there you have it—a few things that genealogists can learn from cats: focus, persistence and patience. I already knew that those characteristics were important, but it took observing Nelson’s behavior to remind me of them. Like so many other things in research, I need to be reminded of what I already know at some level because there are so many things to keep in mind.
By the way, just to keep the peace, I’m sure there are things that Genealogists can learn from dogs, too.

First published in Largo Leader, April 2010.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Analysis of Genealogy Trends

The Genealogy In Time Magazine recently conducted a survey of genealogy on the Internet and came up with  interesting and informative results.

The title of the article is “Top Trends in Genealogy,” and although some of the results may fit you suspicions, some may be surprising. Expected or not, they are worth looking at.

The areas explored are as follows:

  >Stability of the field
  >How fast the field is growing
  >What countries have the strongest growth
  >Which sectors within the field are growing faster
  >The growth picture comparing free and pay websites
  >How genealogy sites are linked to the Internet

You can find the article at Top Trends in Genealogy

Thursday, August 16, 2012

English Equivalents of Foreign Given Names

Here is a site that can help you with online searches. For a given name, it will tell you what alternatives are in several different languages (English, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak, Russian, and Yiddish/Jewish).

You start by looking up the “root” of the name, and then you read a table to see the male and female variations in each language.

As an example, I started with “Peter” and found Pierre and Pierrick in French, Peter and Peti in Hungarian, Peko and nine others in German, and Petechka plus a bunch more in Russian.

The list you are given is in PDF format, so you need the free Adobe reader to use the site. Start your exploration at Equivalent Czechslovakian, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak, Russian & Yiddish Foreign Given Names

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

FGS Seminar features D. Joshua Taylor

The 3 November 2012 all-day seminar offered by the Florida Genealogy Society features D. Joshua Taylor, the internationally recognized genealogy researcher, author, speaker and featured expert on the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Taylor's subject area,
“Becoming a 21st Century Genealogist," will include these topics:. Going Digital: Organizing Your Research Files Electronically
. New Tools & Ideas in Research
. Legends & Fairy Tales: Finding the Roots of Your Family Legends
. On& amp; Off the Net: Locality Searching

The cost for FGS members is $35 and $40 for non-members. The seminar will take place at the University of South Florida (Tampa Campus), Marshall Student Center, Room 2708 (Plaza Room).

For more information, visit the website:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Indexes Available Online From Chester County, PA

If you have ancestors from the Chester County, Pennsylvania area, you may find the county archives online service very helpful.

The archive was created in 1982 and currently holds over 2,940 volumes and 1,823 cubic feet of original public records. It is quite a collection.

After you click on the link below, next click “Online Indexes” to see a list of the categories of indexes available. That list is shown below, and as you can see, it is quite extensive. Those categories are even further subdivided as you follow the links.
  • Birth, Marriage and Death Records
  • Civil Court and Debt Related Records
  • Criminal and Prison Records
  • Land Records
  • Military Records
  • Municipal and Road Records
  • Naturalization Records
  • Occupation and Licensing Records
  • Pauper Records
  • Probate, Estate and Guardianship Records
  • Servant and Slavery Records
  • Tax and Census Records

The indexes are in PDF format, so you need the free Adobe reader to work with them…and they are just indexes, not digitized documents. But if you find a name you want to pursue, you can email the archives the reference and they will provide you with a price quote and mailing instructions.

Get started at Archives Department

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chinese Genealogies on

If you have Chinese ancestors in your line, here is a collection that could be invaluable. Family Search recently added a collection of Chinese genealogies to its online offering. They come from public and private sources from around the world, and date back as far as the 1500’s.

I browsed several of the images and found them  to be very clear copies…and not in English. I had no expectation that they would be, but it is worth keeping in mind that some translation will be necessary.

Check it out at View Images — Free Family History and Genealogy Records

Friday, August 10, 2012

Canadian mail-order catalogues

The Canadian Museum of Civilization gives us a fascinating view of the history of Canadian mail-order catalogues. It covers the years from 1880 to 1975.

Not only do you get interesting pictures of items (like clothing…which can help to date old photographs), but the site offers insight to company business practices and histories. Access is free and can be found at - Before e-commerce, A history of Canadian mail-order catalogues

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Incorrect Conclusions Can Get In Your Way

Michael John Neill in a recent post on his Genealogy Tip of the Day Blog gives a good example of how a logical but incorrect conclusion on his part prevented him from exploring a possible family connection.

Check it out at Genealogy Tip of the Day: Is Your First Conclusion Incorrect?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Getting Ready for a Genealogy Conference

Like me you have probably read several article on how to prepare for a genealogy research trip…what to take, etc.

Diane Haddad in her blog Genealogy Insider gives us a different twist to this theme: how to prepare for attending a genealogy conference. It makes sense. You want to be comfortable, and you want to get the most out of the time you spend there. That will not happen automatically…it will require a bit of prior planning.

The summer is the time when many conferences are held and you may be including one in your summer trip plans. If so, take a minute to read what she has to say at Genealogy Insider - Tips to Get Ready for a Genealogy Conference

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone complain to me that they have searched and searched (usually on-line) and have found nothing about their family, or how many times I’ve heard someone lament that they got lost or confused while doing their research.

Here’s a news flash that most of us don’t want to hear: effective research requires planning. Comments like those above generally come from people who have no established research objective other than simply wanting to find some about their ancestors. They mine the Internet or the library in haphazard fashion hoping to stumble across a nugget of information. I do that too, but I have a name for it:  it is called recreation, not research, and I engage in it without the expectation of finding anything. If I do find something, I rejoice. If I don’t find anything, I don’t become frustrated because I have no real expectation of doing so.

Research, to be effective, has to be planned, specific, and targeted. The vehicle we should use is the research plan. It requires effort before the actual research begins, and that is why many don’t use one. Remember the saying—if you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know when you get there.  Every trip needs a map, and if research is a trip, then the research plan is the map. It is meant to give you focus, reduce your search to bite-sized objectives, separate what you know from what you don’t know, and bring what to do know to bear on your objective. In other words it does what any plan should do for you; it increases your chances for success.
The research plan consists of five parts: the objective, known facts, working hypothesis, identified sources, and research strategy.
The objective is a statement of what it is you want to learn about your ancestor. You should limit this to a specific item such as a marriage date, a maiden name, etc. After getting all of the “easy” information about your ancestors, this focus on specific pieces of information is necessary for success.
Next identify all of the information you already know about the ancestor in question. Be sure to rate the accuracy of what you know. Is it credible information or is it speculation?
The working hypothesis is the possible/probable conclusion that you hope to prove or disprove through your research. Think of this as your best first estimate of what the answer might be based on what you know. The working hypothesis gives an idea of how to formulate the last two elements of your plan, the potential sources and the research strategy.
Next is a listing of the sources that are most likely to yield support for your hypothesis and achieve your objective. Consider such things as census records, deeds, probate records, military pension files, etc. Identify not only the possible sources, but also the repositories where those resources can be found and examined.
The research strategy is a product of putting the foregoing information together…it is your plan of attack. What resources should be researched first—perhaps information from one source is required to make best use of another source. Perhaps you need to solidify some of your “flakey” information before you can proceed.
Now, and only now, are ready to start actual research. The plan should be a guide; rely on it, but not so rabidly that you are not willing to revise it. Your research may reveal new sources to explore and new elements for your strategy. Be flexible, but not to a fault.
And what if you still come up dry? That is merely an indication that you need to redefine your objective and hypothesis to match the new information you have found. Perhaps you were too aggressive in your objective and there was other information you needed to focus on first.
This may sound like a lot of work, but the alternative is the often frustrating “shotgun” approach that we all have used. So aimlessly nose around in your research if you wish, and revel in the nuggets you find, but don’t be discouraged if you come up empty or become over whelmed. Backup and do a research plan.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Family Tree Strategies

The Genealogy In Time Magazine recently published an article on “Ten Effective Strategies for Building a Family Tree.” The piece should be of interest certainly to those just getting started in their family research, but also to old hands who want to polish up their own techniques.

Check it out at Ten Effective Strategies for Building a Family Tree