April 20, 2014

FREE FGS Webinars: War of 1812, Using Twitter in Genealogy

FGS logoFor a limited time, you can watch FREE genealogy webinars from the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2014 Webinar Series. These are top-notch experts in their fields who have a lot to share. These three caught my eye:

“Discovering Local and State Militia Records” by J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA is available only until Sunday, April 27, 2014:

So is “Researching in the Post War Records of 1812″ by Craig Scott, MA, CG:

Interested in social media? Don’t miss this webinar: “Capturing the Community: Using Twitter to Connect, Engage and Educate in Genealogy” by Jen Baldwin:

Check out the full webinar series here.

Genealogy Crowdsourcing: 4 Strategies and 4 Tips for Your Brick Wall!

While at RootsTech 2014 I had an opportunity to talk with my friend, author and genealogy podcaster Drew Smith (The Genealogy Guys) about the how to conduct effective crowdsourcing of genealogical ideas and solutions, a technique he covers in his new book Advanced Genealogy.

Genealogy Crowdsourcing Strategies
1. Facebook – Search for a Facebook Group
2. Mailing Lists on RootsWeb
3. Message Boards on Ancestry
4. Search Google as message board posting will appear in results

Genealogy Crowdsourcing Tips:
1. Tell people what you already know.
2. Be specific about what you are looking for.
3. Take what you already have and go back and review it. You may notice things you missed.
4. Vocalize the problem to a person with a fresh set of eyes.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Drew’s book and you use this link Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques to purchase it from Amazon, you’ll also be supporting the free Genealogy Gems Podcast- thank you!

How to Find Enumeration District Maps

enumeration district maps

1940 Census Enumeration District Map, Oklahoma, Wagoner County, http://research.archives.gov/description/5836456

Looking for enumeration district maps for the U.S. Federal Census? You’re not alone! Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Michelle in Denver, Colorado, wrote in with this question:

“Where can I find individual enumeration district maps? I don’t need a state-wide map showing the divisions between enumeration districts, but a map showing the numbered households within a single enumeration district.”

My answer: How to find Enumeration District Maps

First, here’s a little back story from the National Archives (U.S.) website:

“An enumeration district, as used by the Bureau of the Census, was an area that could be covered by a single enumerator (census taker) in one census period. Enumeration districts varied in size from several city blocks in densely populated urban areas to an entire county in sparsely populated rural areas.

Enumeration district maps show the boundaries and the numbers of the census enumeration districts, which were established to help administer and control data collection. Wards, precincts, incorporated areas, urban unincorporated areas, townships, census supervisors` districts, and congressional districts may also appear on some maps. The content of enumeration district maps vary greatly. The base maps were obtained locally and include postal route maps, General Land Office maps, soil survey maps, and maps produced by city, county, and state government offices as well as commercial printers. Census officials then drew the enumeration district boundaries and numbers on these base maps.” (Check out the full article here.)

Enumeration district maps are not available in all years and all locations. 1940 is the most accessible. These are available on the National Archives (U.S.) website. (Scroll down to item 3 for instructions on getting to these through the Online Public Access search.) You’ll see that only the enumeration district numbers and street names are marked on the maps. Individual homes are not.

What about enumeration district maps before 1940? Consult Cartographic Records of the Census Bureau for maps in the National Archives. For censuses before 1900, the government used voting districts as enumeration districts. Find voting district maps in the Library of Congress book, Ward Maps of the United States : A Selective Checklist of Pre-1900 Maps in the Library of Congress.  (The links here lead to WorldCat search results for these titles. WorldCat will tell you about libraries that have these books.) If you just want to find the enumeration district number of an address you already know, go to the Unified Census ED Finder at Steve Morse’s One-Step genealogy website.

Here are a couple more thoughts:

  • In cities,  there are often two columns of numbers in the census population enumeration (typically on the far left of the page). There’s house number and the number representing the order in which the enumerator visited the house (which has nothing to do with the house number). If you can’t find a relative in once census, pull the address from one census and use it in the Steve Morse database above to pull up the enumeration district for your missing decade.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for GenealogyDepending on the year you are researching, try to locate a Sanborn fire insurance map for the area.  Sanborn maps do include drawings of individual homes and include their house number. Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 47 is all about Sanborn fire maps. On the show notes page I even include a list of links to many Sanborn map collections, organized by state.

(Image right: Sanborn
Fire Insurance Map)

 

Which Way Do I Go Now? Organize a Genealogy Research Plan

Recently I heard from Jane, a Genealogy Gems Premium subscriber Genealogy Research Plan Get Organizedin Canada, who needs a genealogy research plan! She’s researched on Ancestry.ca, Scotland’s People, the Free English BMD Index, FamilySearch and joined her local society. But she’s not sure where to go next with her research–there just are SO many options! If this sounds familiar, check out her question and the advice I gave her:

“I often end up wandering around in circles and mazes as one thing leads to another, and another, and …   I am sure you know what I am talking about.  I seem to be jumping back and forth between my Dad’s family, my Mom’s family, their families, etc. until there are times that I find myself at a certain point, only to wonder ‘Where was I going with this?’  I’m now wondering if I would be best to take it one person at a time – to find out as much as I can about that person in that point of time, before going on to another. I have started trying to make notes…but find that I end up hopelessly out of order and lost. Any advice would be appreciated! Help!!!”

My Answer: A Genealogy Research Plan to Deal with the Chaos

“You are not along in this genealogical dilemma! It’s easy to let the records start to take over and lead you around. Set a goal or a genealogy research plan – define what it is you want to know. It might be something very specific about a particular ancestor, or it might just be to fill in the blanks on one particular family. Early in my research I focused on one grandparent, and working backwards, I would strive to fill in all the blanks on that person, then their parents, then their siblings. I wouldn’t “leave” that family until I felt that I had filled in as much of the family group sheet as possible. (We have sort of lost track of the “family group sheet in this technological age. But it is an excellent tool for keeping you on track and focused on the blanks that need to be filled.)

An additional strategy is to have a process for dealing with information that is a bit off your current track. Often we feel like we have to pursue it or we’ll lose it. I like to use Evernote (free at Evernote.com) to capture data that I’m not ready to deal with right now, but definitely want to pursue later. I create an Evernote “notebook” for that family surname, and a note book called “future research.” Drag and drop “Future Research” onto the family surname notebook which will create a “stack.”  Now you can create notes and drop them into the “Future Research” notebook which is inside the applicable family. Add tags to your note like “newspaper,” “death record,” etc. and some good searchable keywords so that the note will be easy to find when you need it. Now you can capture the item, file it away, and stay focused on the task at hand. Whenever you’re ready to ask a new question, open that Future Research notebook. Use what’s there to inspire the next phase of your genealogy research plan.”Evernote Quick Ref Guide

If you would like to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy, I have a quick reference guide in my store that will work wonders in keeping you organized. It’s available for both Windows and Mac, and in both PDF and laminated print format.

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistYour questions are always welcome! Contact me by email, or leave a voice mail at (925) 272-4021 and you may just hear yourself on the show.

 

Family History Episode 23 – Using the Genealogical Proof Standard

Family History PodcastOriginally published 2009

Republished March 18, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-2009. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 23: The GPS in Action: Using the Genealogical Proof  Standard

In episode 20, we talked about using the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), the powerful research process used by the professionals. This process ensures the quality, accuracy and success of our research. Researching by these standards now may save you going back and re-doing some of your hard work later down the road.

In today’s episode I’m going to help you put the GPS into concrete action with an example from my own research. And I have some downloadable free tools that will help you do the job! In this episode we also follow up with a listener question on how to export your family tree from Ancestry.com—see below for an updated link.

The GPS in Action

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a worksheet that prompts you through the GPS process and helps you keep track of everything and stay organized?  Well, I wanted something like that myself. I think we need more than just a blank form: we need and want a detailed worksheet that not only gives the area to record our findings, but also incorporates all the key areas of the Genealogical Proof Standard so that we can be sure we aren’t missing anything.

I didn’t find something like this online so I created it myself.  Click on the Research Worksheets, under Links below, for both a filled-out sample version and a blank version that you can save to your computer.

According to the Board of Certification of Genealogists the 5 keys elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard are:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search
  • complete and accurate source citations
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

I’ve incorporated these elements while keep in mind Mark Tucker’s process map worksheet (see Links section below) into my Research Worksheet.

The Research Worksheet is divided into the following sections:

  • Research Objective
  • Known Facts
  • Working Hypothesis
  • Research Strategy
  • Identified Sources
  • Final Conclusions

In your conclusion which is called a Proof Argument you should:

  1. Explain the problem
  2. Review the known sources which you identified on your worksheet
  3. Present the evidence with source citations and the analysis of those sources
  4. Discuss any conflicting evidence.  This important because it may generate another search that needs to occur, or put to rest questions about evidence that on first glance looks conflicting.
  5. And finally summarize the main points of your research and state your conclusion.

Updates and Links

How to download your GEDCOM from Ancestry.com

Research Worksheet: Example

Research Worksheet: Blank Form

Correspondence Log

Mark Tucker’s GPS Flowchart

Family History Episode 20 – The Genealogical Proof Standard

Family History PodcastOriginally published 2009. Republished February 25, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-2009. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 20: The Genealogical Proof Standard

In this episode we are going to cover a powerful process for doing your genealogy research. It’s called the Genealogical Proof Standard or GPS.

If you’re new to research you may hear some terms that you’re not familiar with. This is the ideal time to start getting familiar with them because it may save you going back and re-doing some of your hard work later down the road.

If you’re an experienced researcher, you may already have had some experience with the GPS. But even if you have, you likely haven’t heard it quite like this. My very special guest is Mark Tucker of the ThinkGenealogy blog. Mark is a software architect by day and an avid genealogist evenings and weekend. And it’s safe to say Mark has a passion for genealogy and he brings his computing expertise to genealogy in some pretty exciting ways, most recently by process mapping the Genealogical Proof Standard – the GPS – into a visual aid that will help you navigate your way to a successful family tree.

In our first segment Mark tells us how he got started using the Genealogical Proof Standard, why he created the GPS map, and what it will do for you to improve your genealogy research. Then he gives us an overview of the Genealogical Proof Standard and the various tools that go along with it.

In our second segment we talk about how the GPS map can be effectively used for breaking down your research brick walls.

What is the GPS?

The Genealogical Proof Standard speaks to the quality of our genealogy research process, as outlined in the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. BCG stands for the Board of Certification of Genealogists, and it’s an internationally recognized organization that certifies qualified genealogists who meet their standards.

The idea behind the GPS is that it provides standards generally accepted in the field of genealogy research. Historically the GPS has been thought of in conjunction with professional genealogists. But more and more it is being used by family historians everywhere who want to do a quality job of climbing their family tree.

The Genealogical Proof Standard is really like a process map. It maps out the proven steps that a good genealogist takes to answer their family tree questions.

Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order for your research to really be accurate and dependable, each conclusion you reach about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be considered as proven. To make sure that conclusions you come to about your family are accurate they really need to meet standards of the Genealogical Proof Standard (The GPS). The GPS consists of five major criteria:

  • You have to be sure that you have conducted a reasonably exhaustive search.
  • You need to have complete and accurate source citations.
  • You need to do the analysis and correlation of the information that you’ve found. It’s not just enough to find a fact, you have to look at it within the context of all of the fact and make sure that it fits together in a way that really makes sense.
  • If that analysis brings to light the fact that there are conflicts when you put your data together, then your next step is to go back and work to resolve any conflicting evidence. You’ll want to look for additional resources to solve the question at hand.
  • You need to be able to write a sound, reasoned, and coherent conclusion. If you can summarize your findings in a way that makes sense and you can show your proof you know that you’re in good shape and your hard work meets the Genealogical Proof Standard.

The GPS is not just a tool for professional genealogists, but it’s also a tool for you and your research. It actually makes a lot of sense, and it’s pretty simple when you break it down into the 5 basic steps:

  1. Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search;
  2. Document complete and accurate source citations;
  3. Analyze and correlate all of the collected information;
  4. Resolve any conflicting evidence;
  5. Write a sound reasoned, and coherent conclusion.

Here are some great GPS resources for you:

Mark’s Genealogy Research Process Chart and Powerpoint presentation “Navigating Research with the GPS.”

Genealogy Standards by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, now updated in a 50th anniversary released in 2013.

The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process Quicksheet, a laminated quick reference guide by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

“Genealogy GPS: Keeping Your Family Tree Research on Course” by Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Jane Morton for Family Tree Magazine. This is a digital download that includes an interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills.

Use A Family History Center to Access the Family History Library

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Those who just attended RootsTech 2014 probably wish they’d had more time for researching at the Family History Library. Others may have watched streaming sessions of RootsTech at satellite Family History libraries, called Family History Centers or FamilySearch Centers. Whatever the case, I’m guessing many of us wish we knew more about how to use the Family History Center (FHC) nearest us.

FHCs are great: they’re free, there’s usually one not too far from you, they are your personal portal to microfilmed content at the Family History Library, and you don’t have to be a member of the sponsoring LDS church. And as it happens, I’ve just republished a three-part series on FHCs from my original Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast. All three episodes feature longtime genealogy researcher Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland Family History Center in Oakland, California. Here’s a breakdown of topics covered in each episode. Click on each to see the episode webpage, where you can access the podcast and the show notes.

Episode 17:  Introduction to Family History Centers, their local holdings and how to order and use microfilmed resources from the Family History Library.

Episode 18: How to prepare for a visit to a local Family History Center, subscription websites you can use for free while visiting, and making copies in all forms.

Episode 19: Educational opportunities available through Family History Centers and Margery’s 7 top tips for getting the most out of your visit. Bonus: Margery shares inspiring stories of genealogy serendipity that happens when researchers come together in person.

RootsTech 2014: Must-Have Tips for Visiting the Family History Library

One of hundreds of drawers of microfilmed genealogical records at the Family History Library.

One of hundreds of drawers of microfilmed genealogical records at the Family History Library.

RT-Blogger-badge-150sqWhether you’re going to RootsTech next week or not, at some point in your genealogical research you’ll want to use the Family History Library (FHL). The FHL, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, has 6.875 billion historical records on microfilm, which contain an estimated 20.6 billion names. That’s a lot of ancestors!

The FHL and its sponsor organization, FamilySearch International, are busy digitizing and indexing all those records, but it’s going to take some time. And some of those records may never be digitized because of publication rights limitations or other issues. So you should know how to access all those great microfilms!

Yesterday I republished Episode 16 of the original Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast. It features a great interview with Margery Bell on using the Family History Library. The show notes have updated tips on using the online catalog.  Click here for some must-have tips on preparing for your visit. You’ll get a lot more out of your limited time in the library if you know exactly what information you’re looking for and where you’re going to look for it!

 

How to Find U.S. Digital Libraries and Archives

download_books_online_library_400_clr_9076 (1)Ever wish there was a really easy directory for U.S. digital libraries and archives, organized by state with great commentary about the content? There is. But it’s not in a place most genealogists would look.

Open Education Database.org has a blog post called “250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives.”  The post is a LONG annotated list of digital libraries and archives that don’t require library memberships, subscriptions, etc. to access. (In other words, open access.) It’s organized by U.S. state, so you can scroll down to the states of most interest to your research.

Digital archives and libraries give us remote, fingertip access to original and published materials we might never otherwise know about or be able to access. Look here for books, government documents, photographs, manuscript items, memorabilia, audio recordings and more. This is a great resource for genealogists. Click the link above to get all the info.

Family History Episode 7 – Best Genealogy Websites, Part 1

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published Fall 2008

Republished November 19, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 7: Best Subscription Websites for Genealogy Research, Part 1

In our first segment, my guest is Lisa Alzo, popular genealogy lecturer and writer (now the author of nine books and online genealogy instructor at Family Tree University and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies). We talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned in her genealogical journeys (which include international travel in Eastern Europe).

In the second half of the show, we tackle an essential topic: the best subscription sites for family history records. This is a two-part topic: in this episode I talk about the best genealogy websites that require payment to access their core content. In Episode 8, we’ll talk about the fantastic free websites that are out there.

Keep in mind that this episode was recorded a few years ago. As I mention in the show, the online records landscape is constantly changing. Here are a few updates:

  • The biggest powerhouse paid subscription website is still Ancestry: it’s just bigger and better than what I originally described. As of fall 2013, they host 11 billion historical records. Member-contributed items include over 50 million family trees and 160 million uploads of photographs, stories and scanned documents. They still have a free 14-day trial membership and multiple subscription options: check out current ones here.
  • WorldVitalRecords is still a great website, though it’s grown more slowly. At our republishing date, it boasts over 158 million digitized images, (including US and UK censuses); 300 million names from vital records; 75 million names from military records, over 100 million pages of newspapers dating from 1739; 1.5 million historical maps; 8000 yearbooks and over 30 million tombstone photos. WorldVitalRecords is now part of the MyHeritage.com family of websites. Click here for a free 3-day trial membership.
  • Findmypast now has two web storefronts: findmypast.com (recommended for folks in the U.S.) and FindMyPast.co.uk (which specializes in British and Irish roots and records). At last glance in fall 2013, findmypast hosts over 1.5 million family history records. It offers great search options and a budget-friendly pay-per-view model or a more traditional subscription.
  • RootsIreland is now home now to over 20 million Irish records.
  • Genline.com for Swedish research is still online, though it’s part of Ancestry.com now. It’s home to over 20 million church record images and more.
  • Scotland’s People is still your official home for online Scottish records, including an enormous collection of parish records with births and baptisms, banns and marriages and deaths and burials.
  • Many other sites support specific topics in genealogy research. An example on my side of the pond is Fold3 (formerly Footnote) for American military records. This site is home to over 400 million total records from the Revolutionary War era forward. Check with others who research families from the same location or ethnic background as your family to see what sites would be perfect for you.

Links

Ancestry

Findmypast.com

Findmypast.uk.com

Fold3

WorldVitalRecords

My website mentioned in the podcast, GenealogyGems.tv, is now better known as www.genealogygems.com. The Genealogy Gems newsletter mentioned in the episode is now my blog, which you can find on my website.