November 30, 2015

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #6 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #6We use Google for everything, especially genealogy. From the response we had to our #6 genealogy blog post, I guess many of you love that idea!

Lisa is well-known for teaching genealogists to harness the power of Google to search for ancestors  online. Earlier this year, she shared this post to remind everyone that Google searching isn’t just about using the search box (though that’s a great start).

Google searching facetsIn fact, you can use different facets of Google to schedule your favorite searches to run 24/7. You can digitally dig into books, running an OCR search instead of tracking down the book in print and hoping it has a good index. You can find images, news articles and even scholarly articles that may shed more light on your family’s past. Click here to read the post and see how!

Want to see an example of how to use Google searches to locate missing record types? Click here to see how we taught one Gems follower to do just that. Want to read more inspiring posts like these? Click here to scroll through a run-down of all our Google posts.

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverFor the ultimate Google for genealogy education, purchase The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. This fully-revised 2nd edition for 2015 is packed with hundreds of time-saving, ancestor-discovering Google strategies.


Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 128 Is Ready for YOU!

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast 128Courthouse research tips, adoption search strategies, an inspiring Google search success story, an important (but little-used) U.S. record type and more are packed into the newest episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast.

The Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 128 is ready for the listening pleasure of Genealogy Gems Premium website members!

One of our listeners sent in a question with a fascinating research problem. She’s an adoption “search angel,” someone who helps adoptees connect with birth roots. She describes her current research, which involves her own spreadsheet of FamilySearch data and an advanced Google search question on finding obituaries. I gave her some guidance that could help anyone looking for obituaries online.

That’s just the first segment in this episode of the podcast! You’ll also hear some great courthouse research tips with Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton, who wrote the curriculum for the Family Tree University course called Courthouse Research Made Easy. You’ll hear a letter from a listener with his inspiring “Google for genealogy” success story and a spotlight on state and regional census records. And our resident DNA expert Diahan Southard joins us to explain New Ancestry Discoveries at AncestryDNA.

About the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast

GGP thanks for sharingThe Genealogy Gems Premium podcast is a monthly podcast available exclusively to Genealogy Gems Premium website members. It’s similar in format to our free monthly Genealogy Gems podcast, but you get MORE news, stories, and in-depth interviews to inform and inspire your own family history research. Premium website members also have access to more than two dozen video tutorials that will also help take your research to the next step. Click here to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium membership.

Google Alerts for Genealogy: “Not What They Used to Be?”

Google Alerts

Do you ever feel like Google Alerts aren’t what they used to be? Or have you never used them? It’s time to revisit your strategy for using Google Alerts for genealogy!

Google Alerts are customized, automated Google keyword searches. You can set them up to constantly search the Internet for new mentions of your ancestors, their hometowns or anything else.

The key to Google Alerts is that they tell us about NEW material. After an initial barrage of results, you may not see anything for awhile, especially for very specific topics. Don’t get discouraged! Google Alerts are long-term strategies for finding family history. And Alerts will at least let you know as soon as someone puts something new online–which won’t happen if you just do your own searches every so often.

If you haven’t gotten results for a while, consider modifying your keyword search terms. Set up multiple searches, if you feel like that might help!

All editing of alerts is done in the Google Alerts dashboard. Here’s how to edit a Google Alert:

1. Go to Google Alerts and sign in to your account.
Google Alerts edit2. Locate the alert you want to edit in the alphabetical list and click the Edit icon that looks like a pencil (shown here).
3. Make the desired changes in the edit window.
4. When you’re done, click the Update Alert

How to use Google for GenealogyGoogle Alerts offer genealogists a rare opportunity to get more done in less time. That’s why in the 2nd edition of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (totally revised for 2015!) I devoted an entire chapter on how to use Google Alerts effectively for genealogy. In that chapter, I suggest several different types of alerts you may want to create. For example, with what businesses, churches, schools and other organizations were your ancestors affiliated? Create alerts with their surnames and the names of these organizations. You’ll find several more suggestions in that chapter that will help you get the MOST out of Google Alerts!

Additional Resources

How to Set Up Google Alerts for Genealogy

A Fabulous Use for Google Alerts (Finding Homes My Great-Grandfather Built) in the FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 146 (listen and/or read the show notes)

Google Alerts for genealogy and family historyWho else do you know who should be using Google Alerts? (Like, just about everyone?) Will you please share this post with them? Just copy and paste the URL into an email address or share with your favorite social media platform, like Facebook or Pinterest. Thank you!




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

display family history photos on TV with ChromecastHere at Genealogy Gems we love using Google for genealogy. Today we have another exciting Google resource that can transform how you share your genealogy with your family – because ultimately, genealogy is all about sharing your family’s story!

While the mobile device era has made communication and sharing easy and instant, sometimes it’s hard to really see the ‘big picture’ on our tiny screens. And crowding around the computer monitor isn’t much better. Chromecast by Google is a tool that allows you to stream content from your mobile devices and computers directly onto your TV!

You can share slideshows, photos, videos, and more while everyone is seated comfortably in the living room. If you are looking for an easy and inviting way for your family to enjoy all the hard work you put into constructing the family tree, Chromecast is for you. The Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player currently sells for $35 and takes a mere 5 to 10 minutes to set up.

Even though I’m Lisa’s daughter, I am not a techie person at all, so if I can do it in just a few minutes without help, you can too!


How to Use Chromecast
After you’ve completed the initial set up, simply open the app you want to stream (YouTube, for example) and tap the Chromecast icon. Streaming is now enabled. (Chromecast primarily works over wifi, but Google recently announced that Ethernet cables are now available as an alternative.)

While streaming, you control the app functions on your mobile device or computer. For example, if you’re streaming a movie from the Netflix app on your iPad, you would play, pause, and make your selections directly on your iPad. If you want to switch back to viewing on your mobile device (or simply stop streaming), tap the Chromecast icon again.

Dozens of photo and video apps are compatible with Chromecast and all are listed on their website. Here are a few that I think genealogists will really enjoy, and they’re all available on both The App Store and Google Play:

photosPhoto Cast for Chromecast
Premium Upgrades – $2.99 and up

albums for Google ChromecastWhen you open the app, you can view all the photos and videos (including TV shows or movies you may have purchased) on your device. You can also create slideshows by picking individual photos or entire albums and adding songs from your music library. Then tap the Chromecast icon to instantly stream to your TV. It has four viewing modes available. Photo streaming has very little lag, but video streaming could take a little longer to load, depending on your wifi speeds. Multiple devices can stream to the same TV, and slideshows can continue to play on the TV while you use your mobile device for other tasks.

chromecast goog;e slidesGoogle Slides
Google Slides is an ideal tool for Chromecast because it is linked directly to your Google account. I recommend using Google Slides from your laptop or desktop because you can pull pictures from your hard drive (or anywhere – you’re not limited only to the pictures on your mobile device). And personally I find I can work much more efficiently with a full mouse and keyboard for this kind of project. You can create a wonderfully detailed and multi-media slide show or presentation. Then, download the app to your mobile device and your presentations will be accessible there as well. I find streaming from your tablet works a little better than streaming from your computer, but you can still stream from a computer as long as it’s connected to wifi and is close enough to the TV to detect Chromecast.

Chromecast youtube iconYouTube
Chromecast youtube app screenChromecast offers you an easy and convenient way to watch videos from our Genealogy Gems YouTube channel and other favorites on your TV! Open the YouTube app and tap the Chromecast icon. Browse videos as usual. When you select one to watch, it will stream to your TV with no loss of video or audio quality. You can also create a TV queue, specifically for videos you want to watch on the big screen. Tap on a video and a pop-up will ask to either play it or add it to your TV queue. The best part? YouTube will continue to play your video on your TV even if you minimize the app on your device to do other tasks. Before you finish your viewing session, be sure to tap the Subscribe button at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel so you’ll have easy access to all current and new videos.

Desktop Streaming
Streaming from your desktop browser is another great feature. Anything you are viewing on your browser (videos, audio, website content, etc.) can be projected to your TV. You will need the current version of the Chrome web browser, as well as the Chromecast extension installed. In my personal experience I found streaming video from my browser to be a bit slow and choppy, but results may vary based on browser settings and wifi speeds. It’s worth a try, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this technology continues to evolve and improve.

TIP: How to Update Chrome
Normally, Chrome updates automatically in the background when you open and close your browser. But here’s how to check if you have the most current version of Chrome:

  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. In the top right, click the Chrome menu
  3. Click About Google Chrome.
  4. The current version number is the series of numbers beneath the “Google Chrome” heading. Chrome will check for updates when you’re on this page.
  5. Click Relaunch to apply any available update.

Another cool thing about Chromecast:
Once you have Chromecast set up, your devices will detect any Chromecast that is nearby, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. So if you’re at a family member’s home and they have Chromecast, you can stream from your device to their TV as well! Can you say “time to share the latest version of the family tree?”

Again, as a non-techie I found Chromecast to be very user-friendly, and a huge value for the price. There are loads of fun apps to explore (music, podcasts, interactive games, and even a karaoke app!). Happy streaming!

thanks youre a gemP.S. If you decide to purchase Chromecast, will you please use this link? Purchasing through our site supports the free Genealogy Gems podcast and all the free content on our website.

A Tip for Harnessing New Technologies for Genealogy

Lisa BYU Keynote

Photo courtesy of The Ancestry Insider

New technologies don’t stay new. They keep evolving. Here’s a tip for harnessing new and emerging technologies to advance family history research and stay connected with living relatives. 

Last week, I was at the BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy in Provo, Utah. What a friendly, welcoming group! (Be sure to check out the BYU Family History Library here.) All week, I taught sessions and gave a keynote address on various technologies that help our research. The week’s discussions reminded me how quickly technology moves–and how enthusiastically genealogists continue to embrace new opportunities given them by technology.

It’s part of my job to learn about these new technologies and pass the best ones–the “gems” along to you. But here’s a tip I shared during my keynote address that will help you focus on the technologies you care most about: Think about which tasks you want to accomplish with technology, rather than just learning genealogy-specific technology. Then keep up with developments in the technologies that accomplish those tasks.

For example, by now, many of us have used (or at least heard of) Google Translate. We can use it with foreign-language documents and to correspond with overseas relatives and archives. But Google Translate’s functionality keeps improving. “By the audible gasps of the audience” (during my keynote address) reported the FamilySearch blog, “most were not aware that the Google Translate app enables you to literally hold up your phone to the computer screen or typeset document, and it will translate foreign text on the fly for you—a must have free tool when dabbling in nonnative language content.”

Genealogists are really thinking about these issues. The Ancestry Insider blogged about my keynote talk, too, and my observation that genealogists haven’t been embracing digital video at the same speed at which they embrace other forms of digital media. In the comments section of that post Cathy added, “Now what we need to do is get FamilySearch to figure out a way to let us upload our URL YOUTube videos, not only for our deceased, but for our living….Our children and grandchildren don’t write letters, they email, text, instagram. They don’t write journals, they blog. They make videos of current history….We all need to look to the future and [learn] how to save the new technologies.” Cathy gets it!

A special thanks to conference organizers Stephen Young and John Best, who welcomed me and Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton all week long. They did a fantastic job of organizing a large event while retaining a warm, personal environment.

Continue reading about applying technology to your family history here.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 125: Research at the Public Library

Premium podcast 125 with library cardThese three quick tips and a new podcast episode can help you research your family history at the public library, which is both free and convenient!

In Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 125, now available to Premium members in the members-only section of our website,  Lisa Louise Cooke welcomesCheryl 5 (2) Cheryl McClellan, the genealogist for the Geauga County Public Library system in Ohio. They chat about how to use your library card to check out your ancestors, not just books!

Cheryl shares seven great tips for researching at public libraries. Here are three of those tips:

  • Generally, using the Library Edition of a genealogy subscription database like Ancestry Library Edition or MyHeritage Library Edition is a little different than logging in at home as a subscriber. However, Findmypast Library Edition lets users login as a free user and build a tree on the site, so you CAN attach records while researching in the Library Edition.
  • HeritageQuest Online is a database available only at libraries, with quick access to U.S. census records being an absolute plus. Cheryl shares what she loves about it.
  • Library websites for your ancestor’s hometown may have a page of genealogy links to digital memory websites, obituary projects, etc. Sometimes they have indexes to local records, too!

We’ll also catch you up with mail from our readers and listeners, share new tips on using Gmail and Evernote and more.

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipIf you’re ready to become a Genealogy Gems Premium member so you can access this and ALL previous Premium podcast episodes, as well exclusive full-length video tutorials on Lisa’s most popular topics (think Evernote, Google and Google Earth, and organizing your files), click here.

She was a “Rounder?” Use Google Search Operators to Define Old or Unfamiliar Words

define rounder

McSorley’s Bar, a 1912 painting by John French Sloan. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Get quick definitions of old and unfamiliar words with the Google “define” search operator.

Recently, Shelly wrote to us about some correspondence she didn’t understand from an older relative. One mysterious phrase particularly stuck out:

“She has mentioned several times that various relatives of mine were ’rounders.’ An example: ‘I found out later she was a real rounder.’ Does this mean a drinker, a promiscuous person, or just someone who ran around a lot as a younger person? Apparently, I come from a big family of ’rounders’!”

The answer to Shelly’s question is a perfect example of how Google can help with genealogy questions like this one. Google’s Define search operator is the key here. Go to and type define:rounder and you’ll get the following answer:

Define Google Search operator

So yes indeed, it sounds like Shelly’s ancestors enjoyed “making the rounds” to drinking establishments!

Did you know that Google is getting smarter about answering our questions with search results? Instead of just showing us links to sites with the keywords in our questions, Google has started providing answers at the top of the search results. Click here to see an example!


How to use Google for Genealogy

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox covers the use of search operators for genealogy in depth. I’ve fully revised and updated this new second edition.

How to Unsend Gmail email message

Unsend gmail email messag
Have you ever clicked the Send button on an email message only to seconds later have a wave of regret fall over you? At a moment like that it would be very helpful to know how to unsend Gmail email messages. At one time or another we have all left out vital information, or sometimes worse, said too much. Now you can change your mind and undo what you did!

On June 22, 2015 Google announced the Undo Send feature for Gmail on the Web. By default the Undo Send feature is turned off (that is unless you are already using the Labs version.) To flip the switch and start undoing your sends, simply:

1) Click the Settings gear in Gmail

2) Under the General tab, scroll down until you see Undo Send

3) Click to check the Enable Undo Send box

4) From the drop down menu select how much time you will have to decide to unsend an email message

how to unsend gmail email message

5) Scroll down the General Settings page and be sure to click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen to activate your unsend Gmail email selection.

Save unsend gmail email messageNow if you want to unsend Gmail email messages you will be able to do so for the short amount of time you specified (in my example I selected 30 seconds)

unsend email in Gmail

Unsend Gmail email and get it right – the second time!

How to use Google for Genealogy
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition features an entire chapter on using Gmail effectively.

Google Alert to Remember Your Wallet? Yep, It’s Coming

Google patent to remember your walletIf you’ve read my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, then you know that Google Alerts is an incredibly powerful tool for automating your online genealogy searches and finding things.

But l admit it, there are days when I just want to find my reading glasses (typically sitting on my head) or my car keys (I’ll never forget when my kids were toddlers and would hide them in the compartment under the seat of their Big Wheel!) Wouldn’t it be great if your smartphone issued you a Google Alert if you left your keys or eyeglasses behind when leaving the house? It’s a concept under development, based on a new Google patent recently posted on the U.S. Patents and Trademark website.

According to the patent, the device uses short-range wireless technologies to link your smartphone (and who would travel without their smartphone?!) with other commonly-needed items like your wallet, keys or glasses.

According to this article on VentureBeat, “The user can control the amount of distance between the mobile device and the paired object that must exist before an alarm goes off. They can also control the type of alarm, as well as how often the device checks to see if all paired objects remain nearby.”

VentureBeat further comments, “The patent is interesting because it shows Google trying to differentiate Android products by enabling them to directly address some of the little friction points in everyday life. Features such as these may not use cutting-edge technology, but they could sway a consumer to buy an Android product over an iOS product.”

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverSpeaking of patents….you can find out if your ancestor ever applied for a patent by searching Google Patents for his or her name! Google Patents is also a great place to learn more about the household items and inventions that shaped our relatives’ lives. You can learn more about using  Google Patents –and other fabulous and FREE Google tools you can use for family history–in the new, fully-revised 2nd edition of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? This week seems to be all about U.S. records: newspapers, military and railroad employees.

U.S. NAVY SURVIVORS. A new collection with nearly 2 million records from case files of Navy approved pension applications (1861-1910) is now searchable on Fold3. These include Civil War survivors and later Navy veterans.

U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Over 450 historical newspaper titles for all 50 states (1730-1900) have been added to GenealogyBank. Over 160 of the papers date to the 1700s. Notable are an Ohio (Northwest Territory) paper from 1795, a New Orleans paper from 1803 and a Detroit paper from 1817.

PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPERS. Notable recent additions at include nearly 400,000 pages of the Wilkes-Barre Record (1881-1949PA) and over 400,000 pages of the Standard-Speaker (1961-2000, Hazleton, PA).

U.S. RAILROAD RECORDS. Ancestry subscribers can access the Chicago and North Western Railroad Employment Records, 1935-1970. The line passed through Wisconsin, Minnesota, SD, Iowa and Nebraska. The collection includes Social Security numbers (born before 1912) and applications (with parents’ names), birth and death date, residences and occupational details.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Google search tip: Though no longer actively digitizing and indexing newspapers, Google News Archive can help you locate online content for specific newspapers. Click here to access its alphabetical listing of newspapers. You can also enter keyword-searches in the search box on that webpage for all the newspapers listed here. There’s an entire chapter on the Google News Archive and what it can still do for us in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, fully revised and updated in 2015.