Genealogy Success Stories that Inspire

Genealogy Success Stories that Inspire

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 35 Show Notes & Video

Original air date: 11/26/20

Viewer Voices: Genealogy Success Stories

When you’re faced with a genealogy brick wall hearing short stories of how others have kicked their research into high gear may be just what you need. In this episode I’m sharing how viewers from the Elevenses with Lisa family have put into practice what they’ve learned from the show. Click to watch the video and follow along with the notes below:

Thankful for Elevenses with Lisa Viewers

This episode aired on Thanksgiving Day 2020. And yes, even though it’s 2020, there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’m certainly thankful that you join me here each week. We’ve covered a lot of ground together in the last 34 hours or so. So, this special episode is all about you. I don’t get to hear your voices here on the show, But I do hear from you in many ways: Email, Voice mail, and even letters in the mail.

Voice Mail Line: (925) 272-4021
Mail: P.O. Box 531, Rhome, TX 76078

Let’s take a look back at some of the episodes and hear from you about how you’re using what we talk about here on the show.

Applying Google Lens

Elevenses with Lisa episode 27 was all about how Google Lens can be used in a variety of genealogical applications.

how to use google lens

Learn where to find Google Lens and how to use it in episode 27.

In that episode I gave the example of how I used Google Lens which is built into the free Google app on my iPhone to help identify an unusual item I had inherited from my great grandmother.

The ornate metal item which came in two separate pieces turned out to be a shelf accessory for an old cast iron stove. 

Vintage cast iron stove metal shelf accessory

The vintage metal shelf I inherited from my great

Jennifer wrote in with some ideas about that shelf:
“What really had me smiling was the “plant shelf,” which turned out to be an accessory for a stove. I cannot be the first to think upon seeing it that there was a different punchline. I was waiting for you to say that it was some kind of a traveling toilet seat to carry to a strange outhouse. What a letdown!!!”

Karen in Oregon had another theory about the shelf:
“I just watched your Google Lens program and wanted to share with you that I might have a different take on the little “shelf” that you showed. As soon as my hubby and I saw it, we both thought that it was a “speakeasy”. That is a type of ornament that was on many a front door back in the day. The part that you have would have been the inside half.

It would have been attached to the front door, over a hole, and when someone came to the door, they would open the outside part and you would open the drop down part on your side and you could talk to one another.  So, you would know if it was a friend, someone delivering a package, a Fuller Brushman, etc. These were very common. We actually owned a small Inn in Manzanita that was built about 1945 and had similar art deco type “speakeasy” on each outside door.”

I ran a Google Image search on speak easy metal (image right) and can certainly see the resemblance. However, the weight of the shelf plus the fact that it opens down rather than to the side (like a door speakeasy) leads me to believe it is indeed a shelf.

Speak Easy door

Google Images search results for Speak Easy Metal

Mary French was one of many people who immediately put Google Lens to work:
She writes “I am a new (Genealogy Gems) Premium Member in the early process of organizing photos and researching my family history.

My parents were born and raised in North Dakota. I came across a photo of my mom at age 6 in front of a sculpture/fountain and used Google lens to discover that it was taken in front of the “Fountain of the Atom” in 1939 at the World’s Fair in New York.  What a gem!  Thank you for all of the great information.

Fountain of the Atom 1939 World's Fair New York History

Photo: Courtesy of Mary French (Identified by Google Lens)

Waylande Gregory was commissioned for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair to produce The Fountain of the Atom. It was comprised of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water surrounded by eight electrons, four male and four female. He described the electrons as “elemental little savages of boundless electrical energy.”

Tip: Search YouTube
There are several interesting videos available on YouTube when you search for 1939 World’s Fair New York fountain.  Results include old newsreels, home movies and promotional movies. 

A room with a view:
Cristen Strubbe sent in this photo. She watches Elevenses with Lisa on her smart TV.

Watching Elevenses with Lisa on YouTube on TV

Cristen likes to Watch Elevenses with Lisa on her TV.

I think most smart TVs this day come with a YouTube app in the menu (on my TV I have to go to Input 3 to access it.) Then you can just search for Elevenses with Lisa. Better yet, Subscribe to the Genealogy Gems channel (click the red subscribe button at our channel) and make sure you’re signed into your YouTube account in the app. Then you can easily navigate to our channel in your Subscriptions.

Since I have an Apple iPhone, I find it also quick and easy to pull up YouTube videos in the YouTube app on my phone and Airplay them to my TV.

You can see a framed piece of art above Cristen’s lovely river rock fireplace mantel. Cristen writes: “The artwork is a beautiful charcoal owned by my mother-in-law, Jane Strubbe, who was with the Ladies Art Auxiliary of Stanford University. She was very Art knowledgeable and intimidating as heck! She left it to me and I just love it.”

Cristen wondered if that beautiful cathedral was a real location. So, while she was watching episode 27 on Google Lens she grabbed her phone, opened the Google App, tapped the Google Lens icon in the search bar and captured it with her camera. Google Lens knew exactly what it was! 

Using Google Lens to identify a family heirloom

Cristen used Using Google Lens to identify a family heirloom after watching episode 27!

Cristen writes “After having google lens tell me this is the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral I continued snapping photos with google lens.

Next was my grandmother cookie jar, which I knew was Staffordshire but didn’t know it was so sought after (not a chance I am parting with it though).”

Using Google Lens to identify Straffordshire cookie jar

Google Lens identified Cristen’s family heirloom!

The jar is adorable. I don’t blame her for now wanting to part with it!

Learn more about using Google Lens for family history at the Episode 27 show notes where you can watch the video and read the step-by-step article.

How to find Elevenses with Lisa show notes on your phone:

  1. Go to
  2. In the blue menu at the top tap the three horizontal lines MENU icon
  3. Tap Elevenses
  4. Scroll down and tap the desired episode
  5. You will then be on the show notes page for the episode where you can also watch a replay of the video.

Surprising Things Viewers Have Been Finding in Google Books

Elevenses with Lisa episode 30 was called 10 Surprising Things You Can Find with Google Books.

10 surprising things to find at Google Books

Episode 30: 10 surprising things you can find at Google Books

Margaret Ma got busy after that episode and found some surprising things too! She writes, “I have really been enjoying Elevenses.  The recent Google Books episode just came in very handy. 

My grandmother (Frances Summers), long deceased, took a European “Grand Tour” in the summer of 1926 when she was a young, fun single woman of 25.  I had a couple dozen photos of the trip in her old photo album, pretty well documented, but she never talked to me about the trip at all. 

genealogy passport record immigration

Image courtesy of Elevenses with Lisa viewer Margaret Ma.

Just  recently in the bottom of an old memorabilia box, I found a manila folder with 20 single spaced typewritten pages by Grandma where she wrote stories about the entire trip!  OMG, Genealogy Gold! 

The stories are so entertaining that I am currently working on typesetting the text and photos into a hardcover book to give to family this Christmas.

I have been trying to add supporting details to Grandma’s trip and stories and I turned to Google Books. She had saved a souvenir passenger list of her tour, so I knew the tour company’s name was Gates Tours. I put it into Google Books and got hits on print ads in a couple magazines. But of course, Google is all about ads to sell you stuff so up also popped an ad for a 1925 Gates Tours to Europe informational brochure for sale on eBay.  One year off but close enough!  I bought it and it is spectacular. 

I confirmed that the Tour itinerary I had first reconstructed from passport stamps and her text was mostly correct.  The Gates Tours brochure is full of quirky 1925 turns of phrase like “Comfort Without Extravagance” that I plan to use here and there in the book.  But what caught my eye the most was the description of why an American should visit Europe.  The 1925 text is very Eurocentric, as it was at the time, but the sentiments could apply equally to Asia, Africa, Scandinavia, etc. I just thought it expressed really well why we have connections with our ancestral homelands, and by extension why we seek the genealogy of our ancestors.” (Watch the video at the 20:54 mark in the episode 35 video.)

I couldn’t agree more. I thought it would be fun to take a video tour pulling together the brochure text with the actual photos from Margaret’s Grandma’s real-life experience. I created the video using a software program called Camtasia. You can learn more about it here (and using our link helps compensate and support this free show at no additional cost to you. Thank you!) If you’re looking for a quick and free way to make a similar video, watch Elevenses with Lisa episode 16 called How to Make a Video with Adobe Spark.

Making Family History Videos with Adobe Spark 

And that brings us to Episode 16 on How to Make a Video with Adobe Spark. After watching that episode, Karen Harrison got to work creating a short video paying tribute to her family’s visit back in 1989 to their “old country”, Norway. This will inspire all of us to keep on reaching out and making connections in preparation for our next trip. (29:01 mark in this episode 35 video)

I love how she intermixed photos, home movies and text titles. If you asked your kids ‘do you want to sit down and look through all our old scrap books, or would you like to watch this 2-minute video?’ I think I know what they’d say: video! And that’ why videos is wonderful for telling family history stories.

A Family Bible Adds Hundreds of Names to the Family Tree

After watching Elevenses with Lisa episode 29 on finding and using family bibles for genealogy, Sue Gregg wrote in to share her family Bible story. She writes, “Many years ago, I was postmaster in a small town where I knew pretty much everyone and everyone knew me and that I was ‘into’ family history with some of the families that had lived in the area.

There was a public sale held one day at a very old farm just up the road from my post office and the next day a neighbor came into my office and showed me a very old Bible she got at the sale.

She said it had ‘family info’ in it and thought maybe I could recognize some of the names in the Bible.

There were 6 pages of info, 2 births, 2 marriages and 2 deaths. Nothing looked familiar until I saw on the death page a name and a date that I knew from other research.

family Bible record for genealogy

Image courtesy of Sue Gregg

My main research was for the Gregg family and this was a James Gregg, died in 1864 from Civil War injuries and here it was recorded in this Bible.

I looked a little harder at names and dates and discovered that the bible had belonged to Susan Gregg Bryson born 1824. This date matched what I have been told by my family connections, except that I was told her married name was Murray, not Bryson.

Turns out she married the Murray after her Bryson husband died at Andersonville prison in 1864 (also recorded in the Bible).

So, in the Bible was all this information about the very family I had been searching for 30 years. I was able to add 400+ people to my records which I had suspected were connected but had no proof and here it was!

I was able to copy the pages of the Bible, but the woman would not sell it to me. She wanted it because she was moving a log cabin that was located across the street from my post office because the date of the log cabin was about the same as the Bible, 1860’s and she planned to place the Bible in the log cabin after its move to a new town as a decoration!

When Genealogy Opportunity Knocks

Longtime friend of the show Dana Van Wormer Schreder watches show the show wherever she is. In fact, during the summer she sent me this photo of her watching while she was camping!

Watching Elevenses with Lisa genealogy show

Dana Van Wormer Schreder watching Elevenses with Lisa on her phone while camping.

Recently Dana called in on the voice mail line and shared a very special road trip. On that adventure, she learned a very valuable lesson from her supportive husband and in the process found genealogy gems.

Using her voice mail and a few photos she sent in I created a little video to tell her story. (39:42 mark in the episode 35 video.)

Family History Wall Display Inspires this Viewer

Many times over the last 35 episodes I’ve shared not only my family history wall displays but yours as well. I thought we’d wrap this episode with another wonderful display, this time from Pamela Fane in Canada.

Pamela writes, “On our office wall I have displayed photos from my father’s English & Welch roots, my mother’s Scottish and Irish roots and my husband’s Russian and Prussian roots.

Family history wall display idea

Photo courtesy of Pamela Fane.

To earn a place on the wall the photo must be antique, and I must know the names of the people in the photos. As you can see I have room for more applicants.”

I love how the display not only celebrates her family and her own accomplishments in finding them, but it serves as inspiration to find more!

She also has a nifty idea for ensuring that future generations don’t have to work as hard to determine who’s who. She says, “I have labelled every photo on the back and included what I know about each person and family in an envelope attached to the back of each photo frame.”


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How to Find and Decipher Ellis Island Passenger Lists

How to Find and Decipher Ellis Island Passenger Lists

Passenger Lists Records:
Elevenses with Lisa Episode 34

Video & Show Notes
Original air date: 11/19/20

If you’ve ever struggled to find a passenger list or figure out what it’s telling you about your family history, you’re in the right place. In this episode I’ll show you where to look, and how to interpret what you find. Click to watch the video and follow along with the notes below:

A Question About Passenger Lists

Genealogy Gems Premium Member and Elevenses with Lisa viewer Deborah Huber wrote in about some challenges she was having with passenger lists. 

“Hi  Lisa,  I have a few questions about the passenger records I have found for my mother and grandparents.  They are all from” Let’s go through Deborah’s questions  step-by-step.

Deborah is looking for the Felberg Family:

  • Otto age 33 (Grandfather) b. 1894
  • Marta age 23 (Grandmother) b. 1904
  • Ruth age 3 (Mother) b. 1924
  • They Sailed March 25, 1927 from Hamburg Germany to New York

“My mother was born in Heinrichshoff on “Stork Day,”  a day celebrating the return of the storks in the spring and welcoming them to their nests on top of the chimneys.”   

Passenger List records to look for:

  • German Passenger list (the outbound record)
  • New York Passenger lists (the incoming record)

Searching for the New York Passenger List

How to search for passenger lists at Ancestry: Search > Immigration & Travel > Search by name and birthdate. If you don’t see both expected passenger lists (ex. Hamburg and New York) check the Card Catalog. Example search: Hamburg passenger or Germany passenger. From the results page you might have the opportunity to click through and see a photo of the ship. You may also find a link to additional passenger lists (in this case, the Hamburg Passenger List).

passenger list results page

Results page for Otto Felberg

Question: “Also, my mother always said that they didn’t go through Ellis Island but did land in NY City.  I think Castle Gardens was already closed in 1927 so I’m trying to figure out where they did land.”
Answer: The record collection title alerts us to what is included in the passenger list collection: New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

A quick Google search will tell us the dates that Castle Garden was in operation: “From August 3, 1855 to April 18, 1890, Castle Garden was America’s first official immigration center, a pioneering collaboration of New York State and New York City.”

Tip: Search Multiple Sources for Passenger Lists
You may find the quality of the digitized image varies from one genealogy website to the next.

Top Free Resources for searching for Ellis Island passenger lists:

Tip: Finding Passengers When Names are Hard to Read
When names are difficult to read, focus on other information that is easier to spot such as the person’s age. In the Felberg family’s case, Ruth was 3 years old. Looking for a “3” in the age column proved much easier than reading the names.

Identifying the Location Named in a Passenger List

Question: On the screenshot from the Hamburg list is says the destination was “Greenlake”.  Is that a port?  All I could find on the internet about Greenlake is that it is a NY state park.  
Answer: The “Greenlake” mentioned in the indexed passenger list record refers to the final destination, not the port of arrival. Carefully review both original passenger list records.

Tip: Don’t Miss Page 2
Like many genealogical records, passenger lists records may be more than one page. If the index refers to something that you do not see when you click through to the original record, it is a strong indication that there is another page. Always look at the pages before and after any digitized record. In this case, we find Greenlake, WI on page 2!

  • 1820 – 1907: Ship manifests are 1 page in length
  • After 1907: Manifests are 2 pages with additional information provided.

Source: The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

Now that we know that Greenlake is Greenlake, Wisconsin, we can run a quick Google search to find the correct name and county: Green Lake, Wisconsin. Then continue your googling to find more historical information such as old maps and postcards. Click “Images” on the results page to quickly review the results.

Here are a few of the resources we found for Green Lake, WI:


Deciphering the Passenger List

There is a wealth of information on the Felberg’s passenger list, starting with the name of Otto’s father and the town where he lived: 

Nearest relative listed on a passenger list

Nearest relative listed on a passenger list


how to decipher a passenger list form

How to decipher an Ellis Island passenger list form.

Hamburg Passenger Lists

Question: “I can’t read the actual document which is the Hamburg Passenger List.”
Answer: The Hamburg passenger list can be found in the Card Catalog. Card Catalog > Search Title (Hamburg Passenger Lists)
2 results: the passenger lists and the index.

We discovered that not only was the passenger list extremely difficult to read due to the ink copying over the page, but also the link did not go to the correct page. This is where the Index, found through the Card Catalog, because indispensable.

Index: Hamburg Passenger Lists, Handwritten Indexes, 1855-1934

  • 1925-1934 (The Felberg’s arrived in 1927)
  • Band 161 (1927 F-J) (The year of their arrival and “F” for Felberg)
  • F (for Felberg)

Search the Index to locate the page number for the passenger’s record. Then go back to the original record and find the handwritten page number in the upper corner.

Tip: Quickly Navigate the Ancestry Record

Simply press the appropriate key on your computer keyboard to quickly navigate the pages.
“N” = Next page
“P” = Previous page
Visit Elevenses with Lisa Episode 17 for more Ancestry search tips and tricks.

We found the Felberg family on page 117, exactly where the index said they would be. It’s a good idea to search all the passengers for others with the same last name. In this case, Otto’s brother Rudolph Felberg was also on the ship. This aligned with the family lore that Rudolph may have sponsored the family’s move.


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Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 247

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 247

Filling in the Blanks of a Genealogy Research Plan

You will find the complete show notes for the topic discussed in this episode at the show notes page here

Sometimes we just a need a little help with a brick wall. That was certainly the case with the Irish line of my family tree. In episode 18 of my YouTube video series Elevenses with Lisa I enlisted the help of professional genealogist Kate Eakman of Legacy Tree Genealogists. In that 45 minute consultation she broke things wide open on my Irish family lines and gave me the information and resources I needed to make substantial progress. It’s the best investment I’ve made in my genealogy in a long time. They have experts in all areas. Learn more about how easy it is to book a consultation here.

Watch the video of Elevenses with Lisa Episode 18. During the consultation we spent significant time digging into Irish genealogy websites. However, I think you’ll find Kate’s approach to brick walls helpful and informative even if you don’t have Irish ancestors. (The consultation doesn’t lend itself to an audio podcast because we spent a lot of time digging into websites. )

After my consultation I updated my research plan and got to work collecting more genealogical evidence. In this episode. In this episode you’ll hear the audio from Elevenses with Lisa Episode 19 called Filling in the Genealogy Blanks. Watch the video and get the full show notes here on my website

I’ll take you through how I went about filling in the blanks in my genealogy research plan. I hope it inspires you to take on your own brick walls, and provides you with a pathway to success. We’ll explore a variety of genealogical records and I’ll share some of my favorite tips along the way. 

Click below to listen: 

Genealogy Gems Premium Members can download the handy PDF show notes for each of these Elevenses with Lisa episodes. Simply log into your membership, and then in the menu under “Elevenses” click “Elevenses with Lisa Video and Show Notes.” Click the episode and scroll down to the Resources section of the show notes.

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Podcast Resources

Download the episode mp3
Show Notes: The audio in this episode comes from Elevenses with Lisa Episode 19. Visit the show notes page here

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