November 28, 2015

About Lisa

Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show at She is the author of the books Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies and The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, and the Google Earth for Genealogy DVD series, an international conference speaker, and writer for Family Tree Magazine.

“I Was Robbed!” They Took the Computer AND the Backup Drive (Why You Need Cloud Backup)

cloud storage computer backup plan backblazeA Genealogy Gems listener was robbed of both her computer AND external hard drive. “Thank goodness we had a web-based backup, so we did not lose our precious research or photographs.” Here’s what web-based backup is–and how you can save a whopping 50% on Backblaze backup service THIS coming Monday only).

Recently Kathy from Carmel Valley, California wrote in with a sobering message.

“Lisa, I thought you  might share a reminder with your listeners. My husband and I were out of town last week and were robbed. The robbers took only electronics (thank goodness) and did not mess up the house….another thing to be thankful for. But your listeners can not rely on external hard drives as backup. If the external hard drive is by the computer….the robbers will take that as well.

“Thank goodness we had a web-based backup. So we did not lose our precious research or photographs. It could have been so much worse. This is just another reason why your listeners should look at BackBlaze or another company that provides the same service.  I am grateful that I did.  Yes, we have to purchase new computer equipment….BUT we have our research and our photos.  Gratitude, gratitude.”

backblaze online cloud backup for genealogyWeb-based computer backup–also referred to as cloud backup–can certainly minimize our losses if we experience a disaster or robbery. My cloud backup service is Backblaze. Backblaze works behind-the-scenes 24/7 to save a copy of every file on my computer to its secure cloud storage. If I ever need it, I can log in to Backblaze and there it will be, waiting for me.

THIS coming Cyber Monday–November 30, 2015–you can purchase Backblaze cloud backup service for 50% off ONLY through Genealogy Gems. Sign up for my email newsletter now and I’ll send you a coupon code and special instructions for redeeming it on Sunday evening. This fantastic Cyber Monday offer is only valid on Monday, November 30, 2015 and only with the coupon code and instructions you’ll get via my email!

backblaze sale cyber mondaayWhy I Use Backblaze and More About the Cyber Monday Special


What’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine Was, I Hope!

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-free Life

Black Friday starts NOW & supports the Free Podcast

black friday deals on amazonHere are our top Black Friday Amazon picks. I’ve paired each pick with a tip for how to use it for family history (yes, even the TV).

Amazon has already announced Black Friday deals and you can get them now! These are my favorite deals! And just in case you want an excuse to buy, I’ve paired each item with an idea for using it to further your family history. Thanks for shopping with these links: your purchases support the free Genealogy Gems podcast.

Samsung tvSamsung UN40J5200 40-Inch 1080p Smart LED TV (2015 Model) (SAVE 40%)

It’s got a 4-star rating on Amazon, where it’s a #1 best-seller in its category. The built-in wi-fi gives it smart functionality. The refresh rate is 60CMR (Effective); LED backlight. There are 3 inputs: 2 HDMI, 1 USB. Definitely worth checking out!

Family History Idea: Here’s How You Can Bring Your Family History to a Big Screen: How to Use Chromecast


amazon earphonesAmazon Premium Headphones (SAVE 52%)

Also a #1 Amazon seller in its category. Designed with magnetic earbuds and a flat cord to keep your headphones free of tangles, the headphones deliver clear, crisp sound through ergonomically-designed earbuds. They’ve got a mic and multi-function button to allow you to control your calls, music, and more. Compatible with Kindle Fire, Fire HD 8, and Fire HD 10 tablets.

Family History Idea: How to Listen to the Genealogy Gems Podcasts Offline

Samsung tab 4Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 (7-Inch, White) (SAVE 41%)

This Android 4.4 (Kit Kat OS) has a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 8 GB Flash Memory and 1.5 GB RAM Memory. The WXGA Display has 1280 x 800 resolution. 32GB of memory is available through a microSD slot and 50GB of free Dropbox storage. It even comes with over $300 of free content and services.

Family History Idea: Do You Have These 5 Free Family History Apps? You Should!


brother printerBrother HL-3170CDW Digital Color Printer with Wireless Networking and Duplex

This printer provides fast, high-quality printing at up to 23 pages per minute, at a resolution up to 600 x 2400 dpi. It does automatic two-sided printing. Its wireless capabilities make it easy to print from a laptop or mobile device. The 250-sheet capacity paper tray is adjustable for letter or legal size paper.

Family History Idea: A Family History Photo Display with Mementos: What Would Yours Look Like?

backblaze sale cyber mondaay


This last pick IS NOT an Amazon Black Friday deal. It’s even better. It’s our very own HOT DEAL. ONLY available on Cyber Monday at a full 50% off is Backblaze online backup service–the same technology we use here at Genealogy Gems to keep our documents, media files, photos and more backed up in web-based secure storage. Click here to learn more.


CyberMonday SALE: 50% Off Backblaze Cloud Backup

backblaze sale cyber mondaayOn Cyber Monday 2015 get 50% off Backblaze cloud backup service through Genealogy Gems. Sign up for our email newsletter to receive the coupon code and special instructions for this deal, which will only be valid on Monday, November 30, 2015.

Santa LisaI protect all of my genealogy data by backing up my computers with Backblaze, and Cyber Monday is your chance to do the same. Start off 2016 with peace of mind!

Here’s what I love about Backblaze:

  • Continual Backup: Backblaze operates behind-the-scenes through your internet connection to continuously back up all your computer files (or just those you select). This includes music, photos, data, documents, etc.
  • Unlimited: Backblaze will store an unlimited amount of data for you, even for multiple computers.
  • Easy Restoration: In the event you lose data, you can sign in to Backblaze and download from any computer.
  • Protection: The off-site storage secures your data in a separate physical location. That protects you against a natural disaster that could easily wipe out any backup storage devices or drives along with your computer.
  • Versatile: Backblaze serves both Mac and PC owners.
  • Free Trial: You can try it for free before paying a cent.

Backblaze’s regular price is already low: just $5 per month or $50 for an entire year. With our exclusive CyberMonday sale, you’ll get 50% off your purchase of a new plan.

This offer won’t run on the main Backblaze site: it’s only available through Backblaze partners like Genealogy Gems. So we can’t advertise the coupon code on our site or on social media.

We will mail the coupon code and instructions for redeeming it to our email newsletter subscribers on Thursday, November 26, 2015 and again this weekend (Happy Thanksgiving!). 

Still Thinking About it? Read These Posts

backblaze online backup for genealogy Cloud backupWhat’s Your Computer Backup Plan? Better Than Mine Was, I Hope!

Dropbox v. Backblaze: Does Cloud Storage for Genealogy Replace Computer Backup?

How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-free Life

sign up newsletterRemember to sign up for our newsletter! You’ll get the coupon code and ordering instructions, along with a free Google for genealogy e-book as a thank you.

Here’s how to get 75% off Findmypast Subscription through Nov. 30, 2015

findmypast subscription sale 75 offWe see a lot of genealogy website subscription deals. This one for a findmypast subscription is fantastic! Don’t miss it if you have UK roots. Keep reading for the special link and coupon code that you’ll need for the discount.

This weekend, findmypast is celebrating Thanksgiving with a highly tempting offer: a full 75% off a 12-month World subscription (usual cost: $199.50; your cost: about $50–for the entire year!).

  1. CLICK HERE  and set up a free trial account
  2. Then go click My Account
  3. Click Subscribe
  4. Enter the code THNKSGNG15 on the right hand side of the page in the Discount Code field by Monday, November 30, 2015.

If you have roots in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland, you should be using Findmypast to research them. For those readers in the US, Findmypast estimates that 35 million of us are descended from those first 51 Mayflower passengers (including these celebrities). And that’s just from those 51 people! That doesn’t hold a candle to the millions of other UK descendants who now live all over the world.

Findmypast is home to millions of records you will find only there, from British and Irish newspapers to the crucial 1939 Register. The site has strengthened its US, Canada and Australia collections to help descendants trace their families back to their British, Irish, Welsh or Scottish roots.

This weekend, findmypast is celebrating Thanksgiving with a highly tempting offer: a full 75% off a 12-month World subscription (usual cost: $199.50; your cost: about $50–for the entire year!). CLICK HERE  and use the coupon code THNKSGNG15 by Monday, November 30, 2015 to get the discount.

More UK Research Gems

1939 RegisterAccess the 1939 Register Online at Findmypast

The Bombing of London: Interactive Map of The Blitz

Irish Catholic Parish Registers from the National Library of Ireland




Save 50% and then 25% MORE with our exclusive code!

You don’t see a deal like this every day!family history writing sale

The Video course Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects is packed full of strategies to help you finally get your family history written!

The story of your own or your family’s history is likely to be the most personal, emotionally satisfying and overwhelming writing project you’ll ever undertake. Our own Sunny Morton will help ease your exasperation with easy and accessible genealogy writing activities in this digital download video course.

The course is currently on sale for 50% off, and now you can double dip for an extra 25% off! 

Use coupon code LISA100 by 12/31/15 and you’ll receive an exclusive Genealogy Gems 25% discount ON TOP of the 50% sale price!

family history writing sale

You must use this link: Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects, and then enter the coupon code LISA100 at check out. Hurry, offer expires 12/31/15.

How to Use a Microfilm Reader or a Microfiche Reader

how to use microfilm readerNot sure how to use microfilm or microfiche readers? Watch these quick video tutorials before your next trip to the library!

Recently I heard from a Genealogy Gems Premium member who is digging in deep to her family history. But she confessed that she left the Oklahoma Historical Center in Oklahoma City “in tears because I really didn’t know what I was doing” with the microfiche machine and with microfilms.

I totally understand. Microfilm and fiche readers are not my favorite part of genealogy research, either. But despite the wealth of digitized records that continue to appear online, microfilm is going to be around for a while! FamilySearch and other publishers of microfilmed data (like state archives) do not have copyright permissions to digitize all their microfilmed materials. Even if they can get it, it’s going to take a long time to make that happen.

how to use microfilm reader how to use microfiche reader

Rows of microfilm lay neatly organized in rows of tall cabinets at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Meanwhile, we will continue to need microfilm and microfiche readers!

  • Microfilm is a long reel of film (up to 125 feet, I’ve heard) that are essentially page-by-page photos of a document collection, book, newspaper, etc.
  • Microfiche is a single sheet of film (about 4″ x 6″) that contains the same, only shrunk down so small you need a magnified reader to make sense of it.

These were standard technologies for duplicating records in the pre-digital era. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City alone has over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Yes, that’s million! (And yes, they will lend them out to a Family History Center or FamilySearch Library near you.)

To access these fantastic films and fiches, you will need to use microfilm readers and microfiche readers. It’s easy to walk into the library and think everyone knows how to use them but you. But that’s not true. In fact, every single genealogist has had to face their first encounter with a reader. Don’t be shy about asking politely for a tutorial (and help when you do it wrong and something gets stuck). And don’t be shy about watching these tutorials on YouTube before you go to the library again:

How to Use a Microfilm Reader:

How to Use a Microfiche Reader:

As you can see, YouTube is a fantastic place to pick up essential genealogy skills! Click here to check out our more great ideas for using YouTube for family history.

More Beginning Genealogy Tips from Genealogy Gems

4 Beginning Genealogy Answers to Get You Started

6 Sources That May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online: Google and FamilySearch Wiki

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsEvery week, we post about exciting new genealogy records online. Scan this week’s list for anything you should search (or share with a friend): a colonial North American digital archive; Revolutionary War-era residents of Alabama; U.S. military burials; Freedmen’s Bureau records; California naturalizations and British WWI databases.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN RECORDS. Over 130,000 indexed images were added to the United States Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records 1865-1872 collection, searchable for free on FamilySearch. The index includes “patient registers, registers of sick and wounded, prescription books, and other medical records from freedmen hospitals and dispensaries….Records include letters and endorsements sent and received, account books, applications for rations, applications for relief, court records, labor contracts, registers of bounty claimants, registers of complaints, registers of contracts, registers of disbursements, registers of freedmen issued rations, registers of patients, reports, rosters of officers and employees, special and general orders and circulars received, special orders and circulars issued, records relating to claims, court trials, property restoration, and homesteads.”

ALABAMA REVOLUTIONARY WAR. A new database of indexed images at Ancestry “contains biographies, news clippings, and cards in paragraph form detailing persons who were residents in Alabama during the Revolutionary War in America.”

BRITISH WWI RECORDS. Findmypast has released new databases relating to World War I service: Surrey, Military Tribunals, 1915-1918 (military exemptions for the county of Surrey); and two British Army memorial rolls for employees of Lloyds of London and the London Stock Exchange who died in service.

CALIFORNIA NATURALIZATIONS. A database with indexed images of over a century’s worth of California naturalization records (1887-1991) has been updated at

COLONIAL NORTH AMERICA. A new digital archive has been launched: The Colonial North American Project at Harvard University. Its goal is to post digitized versions of “all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th and 18th century North America.” According to the site, its “documents reveal a great deal about topics such as social life, education, trade, finance, politics, revolution, war, women, Native American life, slavery, science, medicine, and religion. In addition to reflecting the origins of the United States, the digitized materials also document aspects of life and work in Great Britain, France, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico.” (Click here to read our blog post about the project’s announcement in 2013.)

U.S. MILITARY BURIALS. recently added over 8 million U.S. military veterans’ burial records to the Special Collections that can be accessed by BG+ subscribers. These records include burial and cemetery records from the Veterans Affairs office, as well as military headstones from civilian headstones around the world.

thank you for sharingThanks for sharing these new genealogy records online with friends and fellow genealogists and through your genealogical society social media channels. It’s fun to spread good news!

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #3 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #3The ultimate library for U.S. history research is the Library of Congress. The #3 post on my genealogy blog shares how to access great family history content at the Library of Congress–right from your computer.

Most of us won’t ever get to visit the Library of Congress (LOC), which is a shame. The public reading areas are beautiful, and the library shelves are packed with resources for family history research.

Fortunately, as I blogged about here, the LOC has put tantalizing resources at our fingertips. Especially photos and millions of digitized newspaper pages! Click here to read more about the World Digital Library, Chronicling America, the LOC’s Flickr Creative Commons page and even helpful video on how to care for our own family treasures.

More Library Gems at the Genealogy Gems Blog

Premium podcast 125 with library cardPacked among our 1000+ blog posts and podcast episodes are lots more tips on finding your family history at libraries. Here are a few examples:

Use Your iPad (or Phone or Tablet) for Genealogy Research at the Family History Library

Look for Genealogy Records in State Libraries and Archives

How to Research at the Public Library in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #125 (Genealogy Gems Premium website membership required. It’s worth it! Click to read more!)

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Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #10 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy blog posts Coundown #10I’m still a little bit bewildered as to how we got to 1000 genealogy blog posts! But here we are, and we are celebrating!

Our website has changed over the years to new platforms and web hosts, and our analytics don’t even go back to the very beginning. Therefore, I’m content with recapping your top 10 favorite blog posts of 2015, which was a significant year since almost 1/3  of the 1000 appeared in the last 11 months. This demonstrates our growing commitment to blogging about genealogy and bringing you the best GEMS we can find! So, here’s my take on a Casey Kasem-style TOP 10 Countdown of our most popular genealogy blog posts, starting with…#10!

I think it is pretty safe to sum up 2015 as the year of DNA. Genetic genealogy was a sizzling hot topic as Ancestry blazed a new trail, after abandoning mitochondrial and YDNA testing in 2014 and focusing all of its efforts on autosomal. Those efforts included a concentrated marketing campaign that resulted in a database of more than 1 million DNA testers.

genealogy blog posts countdownWhen I first met Diahan Southard at a conference in Florida in March of 2014, I knew instinctively that she was a Genealogy Gem and immediately invited her to join our team. Now as Your DNA Guide she expertly navigates us all through the sometimes murky DNA waters. Through her blog posts and podcast segments, she helps us make sense of genetic genealogy through her warm and easy-to-understand style. So it is no wonder that the tenth most popular and widely read blog post on the Genealogy Gems blog was penned by Diahan on this very hot topic.AncestryDNA common matches tool

In the #10 genealogy blog post New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA. After hinting at what the Common Matches tool was doing for her own research…

A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

…Diahan lays out in a fun and easily digestible way how you can put it to work for you. It’s a great read or re-read – just click the link above.

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #9 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #9In our continuing series counting down the 10 most popular genealogy blog posts here at Genealogy Gems in the last year, we come to #9 that strives to answer the eternal question: “how are we related?”

I  love getting email and voicemail questions from Genealogy Gems readers and listeners. When you take the time to write, you represent all of the people who didn’t hit “Send.” Our genealogy blog is the perfect vehicle for answering your questions and getting the word about the tools we like best.

A while back Shirley in Austin Texas wrote in to say that she had determined that her great grandmother Caroline’s great grandfather Franz Joseph  was the also the grandfather of her great grandfather Eduard. She wondered if there is a way Genealogy relationship cousin calculatorto easily identify their relationship in relative terms.

Genealogy post #9 in our countdown offered the answer. Read How are We Related? Use a Cousin Calculator  and discover a simple, easy online tool that I offered up.