October 2, 2014

Create a Family History Website with Your Tree

tree_of_knowledge_book_drop_500_wht_489Recently I heard from David with this question:

“Because of your consistent message of starting a family blog [and] anecdotal success from listeners, I started a family history website. A blog just seemed too small….  The ultimate goal is to display the family information for my known relatives as well as create a site that will pop up on Google search results and hopefully put me in contact with new relatives.

My question is about displaying the family tree on the website.  I want to have a page that shows my family tree.  I did not know how to accomplish that, so I decided to include links to my ancestry and myheritage family trees.  The problem with this method is that ancestry requires you to have an account to view the tree, and MyHeritage only shows you some of the family tree and requires an account to view the rest.  This is not a great method to share the family tree with relatives because not everyone has, or wants, an account with these sites.  Is there a website where I can upload my family tree’s GEDCOM file and then link to it on my website where it will display all the members of my tree?”

Mailbox question from Beginning Genealogist

It’s always great to hear that Genealogy Gems is helping out. Congrats on the website David! I recommend blogs to my readers because they are quicker and easier to set up, but in reality I would rather recommend they create a family history website like you are doing. It’s better suited for the long haul of getting your word out and connecting with others.

You pose a great question, and so I did what I just coached everyone in my latest episode #171 to do: just Google it! What you are describing is a ‘website plugin’ so I Googled: family tree website plugin and…Ta-da! There are some out there.

I found one for Word Press (which is where I build my site) so I may have to give that one a try. However, since you are using Weebly I went back and added “weebly” to the search and there are definitely some hits there, though I’m not sure if they specifically include a visual tree plug in. Try the searches and see if you find something you like.

My friend Caroline Pointer has a YouTube video called “Build a Family History Website & Blog on Weebly.” Around the 5:50 mark she shows how she embedded family tree charts into Weebly. Looks like she used Scribd.

Keep up the great work on your family history site!

“Who Else Has Viewed This Record?” Find Living Relatives!

There are lots of ways to find historical records about your ancestors online. Did you know there are also ways to learn who else has added that record to their trees–or who else is researching the same people you are? Here are two ways:

1. On Ancestry.com, when you are looking at an image of a record, there’s a sidebar to your right called “Related Content.” Click on it. Below other suggested records you will see a list showing anyone who has saved this record to their trees. You’ll see a link to that username and you can contact them. This is what it looks like:   Ancestry screen shot who else saved this record

2. On LostCousins.com, you can enter the names of relatives whose names appear on specific censuses. Their database will search for others who are looking for the same people. This is a great resource for people with British Isles roots, as the site originates from there. Here are the censuses they support:

  • England and Wales, 1841, 1881, 1911
  • Scotland, 1881
  • United States, 1880, 1940
  • Canada, 1881
  • Ireland, 1991.

Basic membership at LostCousins.com is free, but has limited functionality. You can only contact new people during certain windows of time during the year. With a £10 annual subscription, you can make new contacts anytime.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and Podcast
Looking for more ways to find living relatives? Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to access my full-length video class, Unleash Your Inner Private Eye to Find Living Relatives. Not a member? Click here to join.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 115 Features 10 Cool Things You Can Do With Evernote

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastIf you’re a Premium member on our site, you can now access Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 115, “Newspapers, Evernote, DNA and a Heartwarming Story.”

This episode is PACKED with news and ideas YOU can use to move your family research forward now. Here are some highlights:

  • 10 Cool Things You Can Do With Evernote when you’re traveling (you have to hear these ideas–they’ll save you a lot of fuss on the road)!
  • Great advice on what to keep on your hard drive v. what to keep on Evernote;
  • A conversation with a listener who reunited lost heirlooms with the right family–the advice I gave her and how it went;
  • An interview with Genealogy Gems’ resident DNA expert Diahan Southard on a recent news story and its impact on genetic genealogy;
  • A recent news story about Canadian birth brothers who were reunited–but are still looking for their sister;
  • Updates on two great online tools, PERSI on FindMyPast sites and the FamilySearch Standard Location Finder; and
  • an update on content at the British Newspaper Archive and some great U.S. newspaper history trivia.

Not a Premium member yet? You’re missing out on the “plus” content in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episodes! Click here for more on becoming a member. Our low annual membership rate is, we think, the best value in genealogy education out there. You don’t just get access to these meaty podcasts: you get unlimited access to Lisa’s online video classes for an entire year. Check it out!

Cruise the Caribbean with Me! Legacy Genealogy Cruise 2015

Genealogy CruiseWant to cruise the Caribbean in style with me–while learning smart strategies for family history research?

I’m pleased to announce I’ll be the featured speaker at the 12th annual Legacy Genealogy Cruise. We embark on June 20, 2015 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA and will visit Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico on the luxurious Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Sea ship.

During the seven-day cruise, I will teach seminars focused on getting quality genealogical results, quickly. You’ll receive loads of strategies and tips you can start using right away, from high-tech solutions to busting brick walls. I will join Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen and others who will offer classes on Legacy and other genealogy technology.

Click here more information or to register! You can also call their travel coordinator, Christy, at 1-800-557-8601 or send an email to LegacyFamilyTreeCruise@gmail.com.

See you on board!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 171 – Coping with Change and Genealogy Storytelling

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryThe newest episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast is now ready for listening! This is a really special episode with a story I think many of us can relate to. It’s about a man who started researching the life of a woman he never met–he doesn’t even know who her descendants are. And yet he feels compelled to learn her story. Learn how and why, and about some of his successes and challenges in the podcast episode.

I’ll give you just one little teaser: 99 postcards found in an attic when he was 13 years old got him started.  He’s held onto them for the past 38 years. Recently he finally started studying the stories on their backs. And that’s when he could see that 86 of them were addressed to a Mrs. Lizzie Milligan and postmarked between 1904 and 1925. Who was she? That’s what he is determined to know. And he’s already blogging his discoveries–in part hoping others can help him solve the mystery.

Episode 171 can be found through iTunes or by clicking here.

Family Tree Etiquette: Online Private v. Public Trees

custom_laptop_internet_safety_13269Recently we heard from Julie who listens to the podcast overseas. She is weighing the pros and cons of having her online family tree be private or public. Public trees can be searched and viewed by the general public and/or other members of that particular website. Private trees are just that. They are generally only searchable and viewable by individuals who have been invited to see them by the owner.

Julie shares some great observations about what it’s like to work with other tree owners and how it feels when information is freely taken from her–but there is no sharing in return.

On working with other people’s public trees:

“If it wasn’t for [other people's] trees being public–even the ones with sketchy information–I would not have made contact with distant cousins or made many of the discoveries I have.  Some of the dodgy information has helped me to improve my search and analytical skills and I always contact the owner if I have found something that doesn’t ring true (hopefully diplomatically!). Most of the time the tree owners are grateful and we then exchange more information.

When information is copied from my tree I will often contact the person to see how we are related and to see if we might be able to collaborate some more. (I don’t post everything I have on my online databases.) If I get no response it does leave me feeling uncomfortable (especially when it is photos) about having posted the info and it being taken without any communication. I do also contact tree owners when I copy photos or documents, even if it is just to say thank you. Maybe it is because photos are that much more personal.”

On working with private tree owners:

“I find it even more frustrating when someone with a private tree copies things from my public tree without making any contact. This is then exacerbated if I contact them and they don’t respond. Maybe I’m being unreasonable – or maybe I’m missing something. It comes across to me that they are willing to take but not that willing to share. One person I did contact who responded very kindly shared some information with me but was very blunt about the fact they did not want to see any of the information they provided on the internet, yet they had happily taken some of the documents/photo’s I had posted. I found that interesting.”

So…private or public?

“I am now feeling unsure about which is the best way to go as I can see pros and cons about both. In the meantime I have stopped adding media to my online tree, and I’m considering removing some of what I have posted and instead include a note saying if you want the document/photo please contact me. However, I am not convinced about this as I love it when I find photos/documents on other trees.”

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistFamily Tree Etiquette:

I do wish for a more communal genealogy world, in which information is shared freely and all branches of a family tree intertwine themselves in love. Of course that’s not how things are. But I feel like every person who “puts things out there” brings us closer to that ideal.

That said, I admit I’ve copied photos and documents from other people’s trees in the past without contacting them. I didn’t mean to be rude. It just didn’t occur to me to contact them, especially if they clearly weren’t closely related and I had no immediate questions about their sources. But you’re right. Photos feel more personal. In the future I hope I will always remember to send a “thank you” message whenever I snag someone’s images for my tree.

I appreciate Julie’s compromise: she keeps a public presence but encourages others to be respectful and communicative by telling them to contact her for images. You’d likely have to look closely at her tree to find those messages from her, which will reward the most intrepid researchers. Beginning or more casual researchers might miss her invitation and therefore an opportunity to collaborate.

For everyone, whether to post a private v. public tree comes down to our priorities. Do we most want to meet distant relatives? Collaborate with other branches of the family to learn the most possible about our shared past? If so, public trees are the way to go.  If personal or family privacy is paramount (especially if your tree holds family secrets that aren’t ready to share), or the research is still very tentative, make it a private tree.

You may even split things up: have public trees when you’re reaching out to others and private ones when you’re not. Lisa says if she had to do it all over again, she would not upload her entire tree but just the “trunk,” or her direct-line ancestors. (Lisa always keeps her master tree on her home computer, not in online genealogy databases over which she has no control.)

Whether your own trees are public or private, Julie’s thoughts are a good reminder about using our best manners when communicating with other tree owners. Here at Genealogy Gems, we do believe in the value of collaborating on your genealogy. In fact, we ran a series of posts on how to collaborate. Check out the first one here! And we have a brand new free video on using the free program Evernote to share your sources.

FGS Ambassadors Needed: Who Wants to Help?

stick_figure_raising_hand_400_wht_12734Become an FGS Ambassor - Here’s their invitation:

“The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is pleased to announce an invitation for FGS Ambassadors. If you are a blogger, social media enthusiast, writer, editor, or in any way interested in spreading the word about the FGS 2015 Conference, FGS is looking for YOU.

The 2015 FGS Conference scheduled for February 11–14 in Salt Lake City, Utah, will be a one-time special event with RootsTech. FGS Ambassadors will blog, share, like, +1, and tweet to spread the news about this unique FGS conference to their friends, colleagues, and everyone interested in genealogy.

Benefits to FGS Ambassadors include:

  • Link to your blog, website, Twitter, or other social media accounts on the FGS 2015 Conference Ambassadors Page.
  • Potential to be guest blogger on the FGS Voice Blog.
  • Direct contact with the FGS 2015 Marketing Committee.
  • Advance notice of press releases and other important updates from the Conference Committee.
  • Participation in the FGS Ambassadors Facebook Group.
  • Meet-up with other Ambassadors at FGS 2015—group photo for FGS publicity.
  • Ambassador badge ribbon at the conference.

FGS 2015 RootsTech SLCHaving a genealogy blog or planning to attend the FGS 2015 conference are not requirements for participating.

Visit FGS Ambassadors at https://www.fgsconference.org/media-center/ambassadors/ to review the full guidelines for participating and to register as an FGS Ambassador. Please register by October 8, 2014.”

Historical Norwegian Maps Online: Great Genealogy Resource!

norway_flag_perspective_anim_500_wht_3647Recently we heard from Gordon in Billings, Montana, U.S.A, who passed on news about historical Norwegian maps online now at their National Map Works. He says:

“I have been enjoying your podcasts for a couple of years now, so I though I would pass on a piece of information that some of your listeners might want to hear about.

I don’t know how many of them do research in Norway like I do but I suspect that most of the ones that do, do not make a habit of reading the Norwegian newspapers. Since my wife was born in Norway, we do read her hometown paper on a regular basis. Just yesterday, that paper, Bergens Tidende, had an article reporting that the “Statens Kartverk” (the National Map Works) has recently digitized and posted on-line 8000 historical maps of Norway. (Click here for the article.)

Unfortunately, the website for the maps has not put a link in their English section yet, but there isn’t much to read beyond place names on the maps anyway. You can view the maps here.

Just choose a county, click the green button, and see a wonderful collection of maps for anyone with ancestors from Norway.”

Thanks for the tip, Gordon! I’ll add this tip of my own: Open the website in Chrome and Chrome will automatically offer to translate the website. Simply click the Translate button, like you’ll see below:

norwegian maps

Disaster Planning for Genealogists and More: New FTM Podcast

FTM podcast logoAutumn gives me the urge to organize and prepare for the future. That’s why I think the new Family Tree Magazine podcast episode is especially timely.

Lisa hosts the September 2014 Family Tree Magazine podcast with these highlights:

  • News from the Blogosphere with Diane Haddad;
  • Preservation tips from the Family Archivist columnist, Denise Levenick;
  • Digital archiving websites from the current 101 Best Websites list;
  • Genealogy estate planning with Family Tree University dean Tyler Moss;
  • and roundup preparedness tips from Publisher Allison Dolan.

For more on disaster planning for genealogists, check out our four-part blog post series on it. Click here for the first one.

Getting the Right Place Names on Your Family Tree

all_over_the_map_anim_300_wht_13636Do you ever find yourself scratching your head about which of many local place names to record for a family event? A question on this comes in from podcast listener Joanne K.:

“On FamilySearch I found birth and marriage records of a direct ancestor, then other ancestors and potentials. The records show they were christened or married in Gossersweiler, Bayern. I subsequently obtained a New York marriage record of the direct ancestors wherein both husband and wife list their place of birth as Volkersweiler, Bayern. A search shows this is ½ mile from Gossersweiler. I assume Gossersweiler is the parish church for the village of Volkersweiler. So therefore, for these two people, I can record Volkersweiler as the place of birth and Gossersweiler as the place of baptism, correct?

My bigger question is, what do I record as the place of birth for all the other family members I have found? Can I show a place of birth if all I have is a christening record or marriage record from Gossersweiler? I believe I would find that they were mostly born in Volkersweiler but know I can’t record this as a fact. I also have no wish at this time to get documents from Germany for all these family members.”

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistJoanne, I can’t speak to whether Gossersweiler is where the folks from Volkersweiler went to church: you’d have to ask a German expert. But you got the basics right: record each event separately as you found it. For the couple, this means the birthplace in Volkersweiler and the christening and marriage in Gossersweiler. For the other relatives, you don’t have residence information yet–just christening and marriages in Gossersweiler. Enter those specific events and let the data stand alone. That way, in the future when you–or someone following in your footsteps–return to research these other relatives in more depth, you’ll know exactly what is what. It doesn’t hurt to enter your guess on the birthplaces (and why) in notes in individual records. That can provide additional clues to future research without confusing anyone.

Not sure you’re using the right place names on your family tree? It can be tricky to determine local place names when there’s a village and a parish or other overlapping jurisdictions. Check out this post to learn about a great online tool for determining standardized place names.