December 7, 2016

About Lisa

Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show at www.GenealogyGems.com. 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.

Avoid the Eye Roll with New Video Creation Tool

It’s a common phenomenon for the genealogist: the eye roll!

image_1Relatives who have never had a desire to delve into genealogy often roll their eyes when an enthusiastic genealogist in the family shares a newly discovered census or other genealogical record. And who can blame either party? The genealogist is giddy having won a long fought battle to unearth another piece of the family tree puzzle, and the non-genealogist hasn’t a clue what difference it all makes.

Creating a short story slideshow video about your family history is an ideal way to bridge that gap. Here at Genealogy Gems (on my blog, podcast, and YouTube channel) I’ve shared not only examples of professional-quality videos, but also the step-by-step instructions for creating them with one of my favorite website tools called Animoto. It’s an online video creation tool that requires no special skills or software. You just drag and drop your content (digital images and even video files) and select from Animoto’s cache of professional video styles and music tracks. Within minutes you can whip together a video that generates not eye rolls, but instead, ooos and ahhhs!

Simple slideshow videos aren’t the only eye-rolling defense weapon in Animoto’s arsenal. You can take your video creation to the next level with Animoto’s Marketing Video Builder. Don’t let the name fool you, because it’s rich with features that any genealogist can sink their teeth into.

One of the key features you get with the Marketing Video Builder, available with Professional and Business subscriptions, is the ability to add voice narration to your video. Your voice (or the voice of relatives that you interview) will bring an intimacy and personalization to your video project that will tug on your viewer’s heart strings.

Raymond and Harry

Raymond age 13 (4th from left) and his father Harry Cooke (2nd from right), Tunbridge Wells, England circa 1909

Recently I took the Marketing Video Builder for a whirl on a project that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: the story of my husband’s great grandfather. My husband’s grandfather, Raymond Cooke, wrote up a short autobiography just before his death in 1987. It’s a wonderful glimpse into the world of his youth and his memories of his father, Harry Cooke.

I used the portion of the autobiography that was focused on Raymond’s father Harry to create an outline for my video. I then set up a project folder on my hard drive, selected images that represented the story, and copied them into the folder. In the image below you can see how I laid out my plan in a simple Word document. This created a script that indicated which portion of the autobiography would be read for each image. 

video script

The video script indicates the image and the narration that accompanies it.

The next step was to head to Animoto.com, sign in to my account, click the “Create” button and select “Marketing Video.”. I selected a pre-built storyboard called Portfolio because I really liked the design, but changed the music to a lilting melody called A Thousand Years that I found in the vast music collection. It had just the right for the feel of the story!

The beauty of a marketing video is that you can personalize the storyboard with your choice of font and colors, and you can add and delete sections as you see fit. Animoto always gives you the ability to customize your storyboard so that it fits your imagery perfectly.

With my storyboard set up, I proceeded to upload all the content I had gathered in my project folder. It’s super simple to drag and drop them into the right order.

record video narration

Bill recording his Grandfather’s words for the video

Next, I recruited Raymond’s grandson, my husband Bill, to narrate the video, using Animoto’s voice-over feature. He was a little hesitant at first, but once he saw my outline and script, his enthusiasm for the project grew and he agreed. 

I kept the dialogue brief for each image, because the length of the narration dictates how long the image appears on the screen. I found that 2-3 sentences per image was plenty, and the recordings averaged about 14 seconds each. You will be able to see in the bottom left corner of the tile how many seconds you recorded. And rest assured, you can record as many takes as you like and play them back to ensure you love the final result!

The Preview button is your friend, and I encourage you to preview your project several times throughout the creation process. When you are happy with the final video, click the Produce button that appears in the Preview window. This part of the process is just like Animoto’s Slideshow Video Builder. Click here to read my blog post and watch my step-by-step tutorial video.

With a bit of planning out your story, collecting your content, and production time on the Animoto website, you can get results like this:

I love that Raymond’s grandsons voice shares his words with the viewer!

Videos like these are so simple to create, and will bring your family history to life in a way that every member of your family will enjoy. And the holidays are just around the corner. Why not share your family history video when your family gathers togethers? Then, get ready for the ooos and ahhhs!

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2016-11-23_10-11-25

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DNA testing is an incredible tool for genealogists. But with several different types of tests and testing companies, hundres of matches, and lots of technical jargon, it can be challenging to make sense of it all. Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard has written these

digital DNA Quick Guides to help you pick the right test, understand your results, and take the next steps with your matches. Mix and match and get 40% off all digital DNA guides! Just getting started with DNA?

 

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Get over 30 of Lisa Louise Cooke’s online genealogy video classes (with downloadable handouts). Genealogy Gems Premium Membership lets you learn all year long when and where it’s convenient for you. Topics include Brick Wall Busting, Google Search, Evernote Organization, Mobile Computing, Newspapers, Historic Maps, Hard Drive Organization, and much more! As a member you will also get access to over 140 episodes of the exclusive Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast, AND the bonus ebook “Lisa Louise Cooke’s 84 Best Tips, Tricks, and Tools“! 
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  • The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd Edition
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  • How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers
  • Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies

 

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How One Genealogist Used YouTube for Family History with Astonishing Results!

Here’s a gem of a success story about using YouTube for family history. This woman found footage of her daddy racing his 1959 El Camino.

youtube genealogyOne of my favorite places to teach classes is at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree, where they know how to have a great time AND pack in top-notch family history learning.

Are Your Ancestors on YouTube?

youtube for family historyJust before one of my sessions at the 2016 Jamboree, Robyn came up to me and introduced herself. Then she proceeded to accuse me of keeping her up all night!

Turns out that she had attended my class the day before on the subject of finding your family history on YouTube. The tips and examples I shared in that lecture came from chapter 14 of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, which is devoted to YouTube. The session inspired her to stay up late that night and try it herself.

It can seem so far-fetched when I first tell the audience that they might find amazing footage relating to their families on YouTube. But results don’t lie.

The Search on YouTube for Family History

Robyn reported a thrilling find! She searched YouTube for Cleves, Ohio:

cleves-oh-youtube-for-family-history

The Results

“Up came a video that was Edgewater sports park, which was where my father drag-raced when I was a little girl,” she said. “There was a picture of him racing his 1959 El Camino! It was so exciting!” It was a black and white video. She sent it to her brother to share–and came back to my class the next day to report her success and see what else she could try.

Thanks for sharing, Robyn! Here’s the video:

More Ideas for using YouTube for Family History

Want more inspiration and ideas for using YouTube for family history? Click the image below to read about 6 fantastic ways to use YouTube for family history!

YouTube for family history

Find Your Family History at ScotlandsPeople: New Look and Free Content

 

ScotlandsPeople has a new look and more free features. Here’s what the makeover involves, and how customers of the former host Findmypast.com are affected.

scotlandspeople genealogyRecently, ScotlandsPeople gained a new site host, after finishing its previous contract with Findmypast.com. ScotlandsPeople is the official Scottish government website for searching government records and archives.

Hundreds of thousands of people use it each year to research their family histories and access documents such as censuses, statutory and parish vital records, valuation rolls, wills and other critical historical records.

New on ScotlandsPeople

ScotlandsPeople has undergone its most extensive overhaul since 2010. It recently relaunched with several new features, including free content and services. Here’s a summary list taken from an article on the site:

  • You can now search indexes to records, including statutory records of births, deaths and marriages, free of charge for the first time. (You will be charged when you view or download a record image.)
  • The improved site design allows you access across digital devices.
  • An enhanced search function makes it easier to locate and view records.
  • New features include a quick search for people (across all records indexed by name) or the advanced search for specific types of records.scotlandspeople-search-interface
  • You can now link to the Register of Corrected Entries from the relevant entry in a statutory register free of charge.
  • Transcriptions of the 1881 census can now be read without charge.
  • Indexes to births, marriages and death for 2015 and early 2016 have been added.
  • You can now search coats of arms up to 1916.
  • There are now more than 150,000 baptism entries from Scottish Presbyterian churches other than the Old Parish Registers of the Church of Scotland. More will be added in the near future, including marriages and burials.
  • Over the next few months, more records will be added from the National Records of Scotland, including records of kirk sessions and other church courts.

Effect on Findmypast.com users

So, how did this transition affect Findmypast.com subscribers? Did they lose any access to Scottish records? No, says company rep Jim Shaughnessy: “Nothing is changing from a Findmypast perspective. Because of how Scottish records work, we didn’t have a reciprocal arrangement with ScotlandsPeople; our users didn’t get access to their records. We’ll continue to have the extensive Scottish records we already have, our users aren’t going to lose anything at all.”

findmypast-scottish-portalFindmypast.com has Scotland’s census for 1841-1901, indexes to births, baptisms and marriages back to the 1560s, and some other collections. Click here to search Scottish records on Findmypast.com.

 

Episode 197

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Episode 197

with Lisa Louise Cooke

This episode celebrates the most recent family history there is?our own. A chat between host and producer Lisa Louise Cook and Gems editor Sunny Morton explores the meaning and memories behind heirlooms hanging in Lisa’s bedroom. They comment on the larger value, for self and others, of recording our own memories in honor of Sunny’s new book, Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy.

Also in this episode:

A spotlight on new marriage records online for the U.S. and around the world.

Lisa walks a listener through several tips for learning more about her immigrant ancestors (a mother and daughter). Lisa shows how to use today’s technology tools to help with traditional research skills such as locating passenger lists, immigrant society records and naturalization.

Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard talks about organizing your DNA matches so you can get the most out of them.

Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author and Victorian lifestyle expert Sarah Chrisman describes what it’s like in her home?which doesn’t use electricity?as the days grow shorter and the darkness comes earlier.

 

NEW RECORDS ONLINE: Marriage Records

New York City Marriages: a new index to more than 3 million marriage licenses for recent New York City marriages (1950-1995)

Free FamilySearch marriage record collections recently added or updated include:

Arkansas Church Marriages, 1860-1976 

Nebraska, Box Butte County Marriages, 1887-2015

Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013 

Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950 

Washington, County Marriages for 1855-2008

Washington, Marriage Records, 1854-2013 

California, County Marriages, 1850-1952 

New Zealand, Civil Records Indexes, 1800-1896 

Belgium, Antwerp, Civil Registration, 1588-1913; Belgium, East Flanders, Civil Registration, 1541-1914Belgium, Liège, Civil Registration, 1621-1914Belgium, Limburg, Civil Registration, 1798-1906

Nicaragua Civil Registration, 1809-2013

Russia, Tatarstan Church Books, 1721-1939

Argentina, Cordoba, Catholic Church Records, 1557-1974

Sweden, Gävleborg Church Records, 1616-1908; index 1671-1860

Learn more about marriage record research: Listen to Using Marriage Records in Family History: Episode 24 in Lisa Louise Cooke’s free step-by-step podcast, Genealogy: Family History Made Easy.

 

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users: Finding Copies of Images Online with Google on Your Mobile Device

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is an exclusive step-by-step tutorial PDF that shows you how to use your mobile device and Google to locate copies of images online. Remember, the Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.

 

MAILBOX: Finding a Female Immigrant Ancestor

Question from Jo: “I have been fortunate to find information about most of my great-grandparents.  I have hit a wall with my maternal great grandmother who immigrated from Switzerland to the US in the 1880’s when she was 8 years old. I was hoping that by upgrading to International records on Ancestry that I could find the ship and where she and her mother came from. The curious thing for me is that she and her mother travelled solo to the US and went to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ve been to Cincinnati and have searched there and have found directories with addresses but no profession is listed like other people. I didn’t find any ship records either. Where might you suggest that I look or search to find more information?”

Tips for searching passenger arrival lists:

Consider what ports would have been the most logical point of arrival for an immigrant ancestor based on the time period and the U.S. location in which you find them. Cincinnati, Ohio, was reachable by rail by the 1880s from major ports, as well as by water via the Mississippi River for southern ports, so that doesn’t narrow things down much. According to an Ancestry.com article, more than 80% of immigrants arrived at the Port of New York by the 1890s, so Jo might scrutinize those New York passenger arrival lists for the 1880s again.

Free New York City passenger arrival databases at

Castlegarden.org

Major U.S. Immigration Ports (Ancestry.com)

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Ancestry.com)

New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891 (FamilySearch.org; New York City, NARA M237)

New York Passenger Lists & Arrivals, 1846-1890

Search multiple NYC passenger lists simultaneously at Steve Morse’s One-Step web portal

For “deeper” searching at Ancestry.com or other sites with powerful, flexible search interfaces: do a “nameless search” (without any name) for girls around age 8 for arrivals in particular years. Try additional searches with various combinations of name, place of origin (Switzerland) or “Swiss” in the keyword field, which will bring up that word in the ethnicity or nationality column. That column doesn’t have its own search field in Ancestry.com but it is indexed, so use the keyword field to search it.

Research Swiss immigration to Cincinnati during that time period. Who was coming, why they were coming and where they were coming from? Click here for free tips about researching historical questions such as these.

The Swiss in the United States at Internet Archive

Swiss-American Historical Society and Swiss Center: Genealogy

Tips for researching records of immigrant societies:

In the U.S., the time between an immigrant’s arrival and naturalization is often documented in records of ethnic organizations such as fraternal benefit societies, immigrant aid and colonization societies. These kinds of community groups often existed in cities and towns where specific immigrant groups had a strong presence.

Germans in Hamilton County, Ohio (FamilySearch wiki)

Finding aid for the Swiss Benevolent Association (Cincinnati, Ohio) records, 1871-2011

Swiss Benevolent Association, Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati Library’s Genealogy and Local History Department

Hamilton County Genealogical Society

Become an expert Google searcher (for genealogy and everything else you want to find online) with The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd edition, by Lisa Louise Cooke. Or click here to get started with basic Google search strategies you can use now.

Tips for researching naturalizations:

Naturalization records from that time period won’t reliably tell you where an ancestor was from. But they’re still worth looking for, especially if census or other records indicated that the person naturalized.

When looking for women’s and children’s naturalization records, remember that during this time period, they automatically became naturalized if their husband or father did, so individual records for married women and minor children won’t exist under their own names. But a woman could apply on her own, too. Click here to read a free article on women’s naturalizations.

Learn more in a free, 3-episode series on immigration and naturalization records: episodes 29-31 in the free, step-by-step Genealogy: Family History Made Easy podcast.

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. By the end of 2016, RootsTech will be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

 

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

 

INTERVIEW: Sunny Morton on recording your own life stories

 

Story of My Life

 “Some people about writing their life stories like I do about going to the gym. I put off going, but once I do I remember how much I enjoy it?and how much good it does me.” -Sunny

Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy available as a writeable PDF ebook or as a full-sized softcover workbook

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: Sarah Chrisman

 

This Victorian Life

Featured Genealogy Gems Book Club author Sarah Chrisman describes what it’s like when the days get shorter and the darkness comes early?in a house without electricity.

 

 

 

 

Legacy Tree Genealogists provides expert genealogy research service that works with your research goals, budget and schedule. The Legacy Tree Discovery package offers 3.5 hours of preliminary analysis and research recommendations: a great choice if you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and could use some expert guidance. Click here to learn more.

GENEALOGY GEMS EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Go to www.legacytree.com/genealogygems and use coupon code SAVE100 with your purchase of research services.

 

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland.


Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you
: it’s free to get started.

 

 

DNA WITH DIAHAN SOUTHARD

Parents spend a good portion of their parenting time ferreting out the real story from their children. One time when Henry was in Kindergarten he was playing outside with another little boy. I was in and out of the house watching him and checking on other things. Hours later I noticed that his bike had been spray-painted black. When confronted, he claimed he had no idea how such a thing could have happened. Unfortunately, I jumped to conclusions and blamed the other kid (you have to give me credit, at six Henry was such a good boy and had such an angelic face with his blue blue eyes and blonde blonde hair). But as I was on the phone with my husband telling him about the issue I looked over at Henry and I saw it- that guilty look and my stomach sank, recalling the things I had said to the other boy’s mom. “I’ll have to call you back,” I told my husband.

As genealogists, we spend our time trying to ferret out the real story from our ancestors, or at least from the records they left behind, because they’re not sitting in front of us with guilty looks on their faces. We are constantly checking family stories against, say, the information on a census record, then comparing it to the family will, then making sure it all agrees with what’s in the military records. And even if we have total agreement, which isn’t always, more information often comes along, like in the form of DNA testing, and we may find even more apparent discrepancies.

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a reporter, Cameron McWhirter, who talks about finding just that kind of discrepancy between his family lore and his DNA. He even goes so far as to say, “I am descended, at least partially, from liars.” And he makes the point that “many immigrants reinvented themselves when they arrived here (the United States),” which could be a nice way of saying they had a chance to INVENT a new legacy, not just reinvent it. His assessments are certainly interesting, and worth reviewing, to help us see how DNA testing can affect the way we look at family stories and traditional research results.

McWhirter may be the classic modern genealogist, never having set foot inside a courthouse or scanned through microfiche, relying instead entirely, he reports, on internet research. Now before you roll your eyes, just stop for a minute and appreciate how exciting this is. Here is a man who never gave his family history a second thought, yet because of the death of his parents started to tinker around a bit, and then due to the large volume of information online “was quickly pulled into the obsessive world of modern genealogical research.” I say, score one for the genealogy world!

What he found was that while his dad was proudly and solidly a self-proclaimed Scot, the records and DNA revealed his heritage was actually from Ireland and eastern Europe. McWhirter says that his “father hated Notre Dame, but judging by my results he could have been one-quarter to one-half Irish. He spoke dismissively of people from Eastern Europe, but part of his genetic code likely came from that region.”

McWhirter’s evaluation of his genetic report includes only his ethnicity results, which as you can hear, were meaningful to him in the way they flew in the face of his father’s prejudices and assertions of his own identity. But the ethnicity results fall short of the point of testing for most genealogists. He might even more powerfully transform his sense of family identity if he took a look at his match list and saw an actual living cousin, for example, a third cousin perhaps who was also descended from his German great-grandmother, who maybe never mentioned that she was also Jewish.

Connecting with other cousins who also have paper trails to our ancestors serves to provide further confidence that we have put all of the pieces together and honored the right ancestor with a spot on our pedigree chart. It’s like we multiply our own research efforts by finding more people like us?literally?who are descended from the same people and interested in finding them. As long as they’re as diligent in their research as we are, of course.

At a recent conference I met a 5th cousin. Even with a connection that distant it was exciting, and it made we want to look again at our connecting ancestors and pause for just a minute to marvel how my DNA verified my paper trail back to them, and that part of them was around, in me, and in my new cousin. To me, THAT’s a bigger picture I want to see?when the paper trail comes together with the DNA trail and turns into real live cousins, even if they turn out to be a little different than the stories and sense of identity that were handed to us when we were young.

Maybe you’re something like Cameron McWhirter: you’ve taken a DNA test, been intrigued (or disappointed) by the ethnicity results, but haven’t yet fully explored all your matches on your list. I’m telling you, you may be seriously missing some opportunities. If that’s you, I may actually have written my new DNA quick guide just for you. It’s called “Next Steps: Working with Your Autosomal DNA Matches.” This guide will teach you how to leverage the power of known relatives who have tested. You’ll get an intro to chromosome browsers and their role in the search process, and access to a free bonus template for evaluating the genealogical relationship of a match in relationship to the predicted genetic relationship. This guide also gives you a methodology for converting UNknown relatives on your match list into known relatives, which is what we’re going for here.

So check it out, either as a solo purchase or as part of my Advanced DNA bundle, which comes along with my new Gedmatch guide and a guide expressly for organizing your DNA matches.

 

PROFILE AMERICA: Lights Out

 

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Editor

Amie Tennant, Content Contributor

Vienna Thomas, Audio Editor

Lacey Cooke, Additional Production Support

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Bust a Brick Wall by Speaking Google’s Language

bust a brick wall by speaking Google's language

Bust a genealogy brick wall by learning to speak Google’s language. Proper use of Google’s basic search operators will have you plowing through walls in your research in nothing flat! 

Genealogy information is sprinkled across the millions of websites on the web. Whether it’s a digital image of your great-great grandma on a distant cousins website or an out-of-print history book listed in the online card catalog in a library on the other side of the globe. Google can help you find it all.

Gaining access to that information is not as hard as you may think. I’d like to share a question I received recently from a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener, and show you how you can bust a brick wall by speaking Google’s language.

Here’s the email that I received from Ruth last week:

I’m sitting here listening to one of your free podcasts…I’m working, I’m listening, and I’m thinking…about my brick wall James Craig, what I know and what I’m trying to find out!

I know that James Craig was born about 1795-97 in New Jersey and was at Ft. Jesup, Louisiana in 1823, [and] that he was discharged in 1825. I researched New Jersey military records and found a James Craig, from Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey, who joined the Army [in] August 1820 for five years [and] he was sent to Fort Scott, Georgia. I read articles that state, when Fort Scott closed sometime around 1822/23, the men were sent to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Do you see the trail I’m following? It’s not hard to make the connection from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Fort Jesup, Louisiana. My problem is that I haven’t found any transfer papers!! So, how do I verify that James Craig from Pittsgrove, New Jersey is my 3rd great-grandfather. Is it possible that there are journals from the commanding officer of each encampment that might shed some light on this? 

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have on this long standing brick wall!

Tips to Bust a Genealogy Brick Wall

Ruth asked “Is it possible that there are journals from the commanding officer of each encampment that might shed some light on this?” I certainly think it is possible! I would suggest using Google to search the web because such items might be digitized online, or they might be listed on a library or archive website as being available at their location. Either way, you would gain valuable information on how to access the items.

Here’s an example of a search I would run:

google search strategies for genealogy

 

This search is based on my Google Excellent Method Search Let’s break down the pieces of this search query:

The quotation marks tell Google that the word or phrase must be in every search result (in other words, they are mandatory.) When used around a phrase, that means the phrase must appear exactly as searched.

The asterisk tells Google there might be a word or two between the words in a phrase, such as a middle initial.

By putting OR between two versions of the phrases, such as last name first and first name first, you cover all your bases. Note that the word OR must be capitalized to work as a Google operator.

Finally, two numbers separated by 2 dots is called a “numrange search” and that tells Google a number that falls within that range must appear in each search result. And of course, four digit numbers represent years to genealogists!

Your Genealogy Google Guru

Google packs a powerful punch for genealogists. Let me be your Genealogy Google Guru and watch my video below for even more helpful tips and tricks. Remember to subscribe to my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel so you’ll get all my upcoming Google video tips. Happy searching!

Send a Letter, Make Cousin Connections

When was the last time you sent a letter or email to someone you didn’t know? Gail did, and you will be touched and inspired by her sweet story of finding a long lost cousin in Italy. Sometimes, all it takes is sending a letter to make a monumental cousin connection.

cousin connections with letters

I often encourage our readers and Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners to reach out of their comfort zone. Writing letters is just one way we can expand your search for records and cousin connections. I wanted to share with you this story of how reader Gail was rewarded by simply writing a letter.

Gail shared:

 Antonio Capetti Italy

The only known photo of Antonio Capetti – the ancestor who links Gail with her Italian cousins.

“It is because of listening to your podcast, that we just returned from the most amazing trip of a lifetime!

My husband & I had scheduled a fabulous trip to Italy, where I’d always wanted to go. It is the home of my father’s ancestors, and I have been researching this side of the family since the early 1980s.

A couple weeks before we left, I was determined to find a living relative still in Italy. I remembered your suggestion to write to the priest in the old family village. I wrote to the priest and included a letter to any “found” family member briefly outlining the family tree and including a return envelope. Imagine my excitement when, the week before we left, I received a letter from a long lost relative! 81-year old Mario was amazed that after over a century, the two branches of our family would get together again. We began texting and set up a meeting place.

We met Mario in Venice and all cried when we met – feeling that family connection immediately.

Trip to italy

Then, at his suggestion, we hired a car to take us to our old family hometown, where he walked us through town and showed us a concrete medallion on the building where our ancestors lived, inscribed with the family name.

Italy visit write a letter Gail

We went to the church and saw our name also inscribed on the baptismal font, as it had been a gift from our family. We walked to the cemetery and then had lunch together.  During lunch, we face-timed with my father back in the U.S. and everyone cried as we stated that “our relatives in heaven are smiling today!”

Our trip was the trip of a lifetime and the highlight was meeting family we didn’t even know we had, walking together down the roads that our ancestors walked!

the roads our ancestors walked

Thank you, Lisa, for your suggestion.  It made a wonderful trip so much more special and personal – one we will never forget.”

How absolutely fabulous! I am so happy to hear when readers and podcast listeners take a little Gem and turn it into such a once in a lifetime experience.

Thank you to Gail for taking the time to write and share this with me, and all of us who seek to know our ancestors!

More Gems on MAdvanced DNA Bundle by Diahan Southardaking Cousin Connections

Follow Gail’s example and put into action new ideas for cousin connections. If you’ve had your DNA tested, don’t miss Diahan Southard’s newest quick reference guides that will help you get much more value out of your results. And keep reading below for more ideas:

“We’re Cousins?!” DNA for Genealogy Reveals Surprising Relationship

How are We Related?? Use a Cousin Calculator

DNA Matches: What To Do With All Your Genetic 4th Cousins

Why You Should be Researching Court Records

Researching court records may require some advanced genealogical skills, but the benefits are worth the effort. Lisa Louise Cooke helps a reader get out of a genealogical slump and makes the case for why you should be researching court records.

researching court records inspiration

Our reader shared:

I have been doing my family tree on and off for about 10 years. Right now, I feel I’m in a slump. A couple of years ago, I started the NGS Home Study Course. I have only got up to lesson six. I feel obligated to finish all 16 lessons. I get motivated to do genealogy when I read various articles on it. However, I can’t get motivated to do the work. This has bothered me for a year. Do you have any suggestions on how to get back on track? I know court records seems like a big mountain for me. Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

We all definitely hit slumps. I have some ideas and some motivations for you, because you are not alone.

Getting Over the Slump

You mentioned that you “feel obligated.” In reading your email, I’m curious as to what your original motivation was to do the course. If it was to become a professional genealogist, my answer would be different than if this was for your personal improvement. If this was for your own personal improvement, then you have much more flexibility.

At one time, the NGS American Home Study Course gave you a very lengthy time to finish the course work. Now, the classes are offered virtually online. Because of this change, the Home Study Courses are currently divided into four segments. Within each of these segments, you have four classes, or assignments. You are given six months to complete these four classes within your specific segment. For those who need extra time, a one-time extension of three months is granted by contacting the NGS Course Administrator. Also with this change, you may feel a little more pressure to finish quickly.

Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant offers this advice:

“First of all…when I took the NGS Home Study Course, I got in a huge slump too! It took nearly 3 years for me to finally finish all the course work. One thing that helped (which helps me now with getting behind in my certification portfolio,) is a method I call “A record a day, keeps procrastination at bay.” When I get bored or unmotivated, it is usually because something has gotten difficult. Lessons 1-6 of the NGS class were really easy for me, but after that it got harder, especially when it was time to do the courthouse review exercise that encourages you to make a visit. Even if you can’t visit the courthouse, you can often find appropriate records online. By promising myself a smaller more attainable goal like finding one key record a day online, I could keep motivated. Eventually something clicks and you get that excitement again.

Lastly, when I was really struggling, I took a friend. We made a day of it with researching at the courthouse and then having a nice relaxing lunch. It was a great day!”

Like Amie, when I find myself unmotivated, it is usually because it’s not my burning interest at that time. If I’m doing genealogy for personal use, I don’t fight it. Life’s too short and genealogy should be fun and invigorating. Sometimes, we’re just not ready for a particular record type, and if it’s not bringing your research to a standstill, there isn’t as much motivation. For me, there’s nothing like revisiting the excitement of what is waiting to be found! I asked Genealogy Gems followers on Facebook to share the Court gems they have found, and I hope it fills you with renewed excitement and enthusiasm. But first, here are some ideas on how to research court records:

Researching Court Records – How to

To get the most from researching

researching court records for probate

Will records are always a great find when researching court records.

court records, here are four tips to keep in mind:

1. Call the courthouse first. Ask them when they are open, days and times, and if they close during the lunch hour. (Sometimes this information on their website is not up to date.)

2. Ask what records are available at that location and for what years. It would be awful to drive to a far off location, only to find the probate records you are interested in are now housed 5o miles away at another repository!

3. Take the following with you: paper, pencils, a camera or smartphone, small bills and coins, a bottle of water and small snack. Even though there may be rules preventing you from snapping a picture of the document you want, you never know. The money comes in handy if you have to pay for copies of the records you want. Also, you are likely going to be there for awhile, so having a little snack will keep you from thinking only about your empty stomach.

4. Make your visit to the courthouse when you are not in a hurry. Let your finds determine how long you stay. When you are pressed for time, you may inadvertently skip over an important find, so set the whole day aside.

Making the Case for Court Records – Inspiration!

I asked our readers “What Genealogy Gems have you found in court records?” Get ready to soak in their excitement!

Kathleen shared: “An ancestor in the 1840s was living in Mississippi and had a 2nd wife and children. Everyone always assumed that the 1st wife died. Nothing in any records ever indicated anything different. On a trip to Salt Lake City ten years ago, I was frustrated and hitting dead ends. I decided to pull a film for Lawrence County, Mississippi loose court papers. It was NOT indexed and I was just browsing out of curiosity. I found my ancestor in 1849 with eleven pages of hand written divorce papers! She accused him of mistreatment and moving a slave woman into their residence who had threatened her with a knife when she went to get money for her nine children!”

Brian shared: “My brick wall has been my 2nd great-grandfather, John B. Reese. I knew he died sometime before 19 Dec 1856, as that was the date his estate entered probate. On a recent research trip to Missouri, I visited the Bates County Historical Museum where Chris Wimsatt found an entry in the County Stray Book indicating that John B. had found a stray “strawberry rone [roan] 3 years old 14 hands 3 inches high” 24 May 1856. Woo hoo! Narrowed that death date right down!”researching court records breaks brick walls

Helen shared: “Just solved a century old mystery in the basement of a courthouse in the insane books. What would now be called postpartum psychosis.”

Diane: “My mom had a wealthy Aunt Jenny; we have her silver, antiques, etc. She was married to a lawyer who became Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the 1890s-1900s. I knew she was from a poor family and couldn’t imagine how they met. I found a hidden first marriage for her that my mom never knew about. When I got the divorce papers, turns out husband #2 had BEEN HER HUSBAND’S LAWYER. My mom almost fell over when I called her on the way home.”

Maria: “I also found a great uncle who ended up marrying a widow who was a millionaire from her late husband – she was old enough to be his mother & had step children older than him! Her life was in newspapers and court records! I found someone local to scan her succession & her late husband’s succession court documents to me. Fascinating stuff from the turn of the century to the 1930’s! It’s all public records! Also tracked down her great grandson; he sent me priceless photos. The kicker is after I found where the late husband was buried to document on Ancestry, the cemetery actually mailed ME a bill for grass cutting! – twice!”

Pat: “My great uncle came from Germany to wild West Denver 1860 and became a hard rock miner. How did I know? His court records regarding his death “found frozen to the floor in his mining cabin” shows what he owed at the time of death. Actual grocery list from Hancock Bros. Dry Goods Store where he bought (among other things) blasting powder, helped ID that he was hard rock rather than placer miner. Funeral info about how much it cost to dig his grave, use of team of horses, and a new set of clothes… Amazing. Find a Grave volunteer found the spot where he was buried WAY off the grid, off a side road. No headstone. Depression in grass x many feet from old fence. Volunteer contacted local historical society for me to find this on his own. Incredible. I wrote his story.”

More Gems on Researching Court Records

It seems many of us have had exciting breakthroughs researching court records. If you have had a triumph and would like to share, please let us know in the comments below. You can also read about even more inspiring ways to take your courthouse research to the next level in these articles below. Happy hunting!

4 Ways to Power Up Your Courthouse Research Skillls

Where to Look When There’s Been a Significant Record Loss

3 Ways to Improve Your Genealogy Blog

Creating and maintaining a genealogy blog is a fun and rewarding way to share your family history. Blogging is also effective in finding cousin connections! If you are worried your blog isn’t pulling in the cousins you expected, elevate your ranking in search results by implementing these 3 ways to improve your genealogy blog.

improve your genealogy blogI recently received this exciting email from Ruth:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Several months ago, I attended one of your all-day seminars in Bossier City, Louisiana and I must thank you for motivating me!

I’ve been researching my family tree off and on for 25 years or so, and at times it has taken a back burner to whatever was going on in my life; only to be dusted off when I would get an inquiry or perhaps when someone in the family passed away. In the last 3 years, I have been attending these local seminars with a distant cousin. They were fun and I learned a few things, but none had generated the enthusiasm that I have at the moment!

The knowledge that you share and the easy manner in which you deliver your presentations are so down-to-earth and it inspires me to learn more. I left your seminar with a Premium Membership package and I have been listening to your podcast ever since.

You also encourage your readers to blog about their genealogy. I took your advice and I’ve done just that. Please take a look at my blog – any suggestions you might have would be welcomed. The title is My Family Tree: Hobby or Addiction? and I have dedicated it to my father who passed away in 2005! Here is the link: http://myfamilytreehobbyoraddiction.blogspot.com/

Thank you again for all you do that encourages us and for the new tools that you share with your listeners to help their journey along the way!

Many thanks,

Ruth Craig Estess

Ruth, thank you and congratulations!

improve your genealogy blog ruth

I love hearing how you have put it into action what you learned at the seminar.

Tips for Improving Your Genealogy Blog

Ruth is doing a terrific job including family information on her genealogy blog that others might be Googling. That means they are very likely to find her. But there’s more that can be done. Here are 3 additional tips for Ruth and anyone who wants to get more traction with their genealogy blog:

1. Add more images. Google looks postively upon websites that have images. It considers the website to be more of an authority on the subject covered in the blog. Images improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO.) In layman’s terms, SEO refers the ways in which you have made your blog easy to use, and easy for Google to understand what it is about. The better Google understands the subject, the better chance it has of delivering your blog as a result when people search on things you write about (like your family tree!) It’s important that your image files have names that accurately reflect what they and your blog post are about. Therefore, it’s a solid strategy to include relevant genealogical information such as names, places and dates in the image titles. If you don’t happen to personally have photos about the subject of your blog post, include images of documents or other related items.

2. Include a Call to Action. At the end of each post, invite your readers to comment and contact you if they are researching the same family. It’s amazing what a little invitation will do to prompt interaction. If you skip this step, your readers may just “lurk”, or in other words, quietly read and then go on to the next website. That’s a missed opportunity for connection and collaboration. Even though a reader may be researching the family you are writing about, they may not think to reach out to you or comment unless you prompt them to do so.

3. Make use of blog categories. Categories and Labels help organize you blog content. Create a category for each surname you discuss on your blog. The category can appear in the side column on your blog. That makes it easy for readers to click a surname they are interested in and jump directly to your posts that discuss that name.

Surname labels in genealogy blog

Categories and Labels are great for SEO too. Google loves well-organized websites because they are easier to understand and deliver in search results.

More Gems on Creating Your Own Genealogy Blog

Ruth wrote to tell me she has already started putting these ideas into practice. She’s on her way to rising in the search results and hearing from distant cousins. How exciting! Click below to continue reading about rewarding and effective family history blogging.

Why Marketing Experts Would Agree That You Should Write a Family History Blog

Why and How to Start a Family History Blog

Genealogy Blogging, the Future of Genealogy and More

Tell Us About Your Genealogy Blog

Do you have a genealogy blog? Well, here’s my call to action! Please share your family history blog, SEO tips, and success stories in the comments area below.

And I would so appreciate it if you would share Genealogy Gems with your friends and blog readers by including a link to our website in your list of favorite genealogy help sites on your blog. Thanks!

Upcoming Events and Lectures for Lisa

We know you want to keep up-to-date with where Lisa will be giving her lectures and presentations. This fall, we have three upcoming events. Here all the details:

upcomingevents_featureimage

Lisa Louise Cooke speaking at the Columbus Ohio Metropolitan Library

Upcoming Events: Kansas

The Johnson County Genealogical Society will be holding an all day seminar on the 22nd of October. Lisa’s topics include:

  • How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case
  • The Great Google Earth Game Show
  • Tap Into Your Inner Private Eye: Nine Strategies for Finding Living Relatives
  • Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps

What: Johnson County Genealogical Society 2016 Annual Seminar

When: Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016

Where: The Ritz Charles Event Center, 9000 West 137th Street, Overland Park, KS 66221

The event will take place at the Ritz Charles Event Center, 9000 West 137th St., Overland Park, Kansas. Registration is now open. To register online, click here.

Upcoming Event: Texas

Next on the list is the four day conference hosted by the Texas State Genealogical Society. This conference will take place in Dallas on October 27th through the 30th, and includes 35 speakers and an exhibit hall. Lisa will be giving two lectures:

  • Beginning Evernote for Genealogists
  • Using Google Earth for Genealogy

What: Texas State Genealogical Society Conference

When: Oct. 27 – 30, 2016

Where: Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown

Online registration and payment is available through October 21st, but after that date you will need to register and pay in-person at the event, if space is still available.

Upcoming Events: Florida

Lisa’s final in-person speaking engagement for 2016 will be presenting as the Keynote Speaker for the 20th Annual Central Florida Family History Conference.

What: 20th Annual Central Florida Family History Conference

When: Saturday, November 12, 2016

Where: Olympia High School at 4301 S. Apopka Vineland Rd., Orlando, Florida.

You can register for the all-day conference online here. If you have a young person who is interested in genealogy, you’ll want to be aware that all students under the age of 18 are admitted free! Learn more details by visiting the Central Florida Family History Conference homepage.

Can’t Make it to an Upcoming Event?

Premium_2016A Premium Membership to Genealogy Gems will give you access to over 30 of Lisa Louise Cooke’s video classes. From Evernote to DNA, Cloud computing and advanced research techniques, you will find this a great resource for your learning and inspiration. For more information on becoming a Premium Member, click here.

 

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