What to do with Inherited Genealogy – Episode 74

In Elevenses with Lisa episode 74 Lisa Louise Cooke answers the question “I inherited the family genealogy – NOW WHAT?!”

what to do with inherited genealogy

You’ll learn:

  • how to get started dealing with genealogy research that’s been given to you
  • organizational strategies
  • incorporating the inherited genealogy into your research
  • what to do with inherited genealogy materials you don’t want to (or can’t) keep

Original air date: Oct. 14, 2021.

Episode 74 Show Notes 

(Get your ad-free cheat sheet download in the Resources section at the bottom of this page.)

I Got Handed the Family Genealogy, Now What?

Inheriting genealogy is a big responsibility and can be a bit overwhelming. Even if you haven’t been fortunate enough to receive much from other researchers in your family, chances are your descendants will be faced with inheriting your research. That’s why this week’s Elevenses with Lisa episode 74 is for everyone!

As exciting as it can be to receive new genealogical information, it presents challenges such as:

  • figuring out if each piece of information is correct,
  • finding a way to process it and blend it into what you already have (or if you’re new to genealogy, what you DON’T have!)
  • finding a place to put it,
  • and making the hard decisions about what you can’t keep.

So in this video I’m going to share with you my top strategies that I’ve used myself more than a few times. So take a deep breath, grab a soothing cup of Chamomile tea, and let’s get started.

I’ve received many emails over the years from folks who have faced the challenge of inheriting genealogy research done by another family member.

Jim R wrote me to say:

“I am going through my family tree and have a question. My aunt spent a lot of time back in about 1985 and had a huge hardback book of printed up of the family tree. But I was told by a few family members that some of the information in it isn’t true. How do I go about doing my own research, and properly compare the info? I need to figure out what is right and what is wrong. This is fun, but frustrating at the same time. Thanks.”

Don’t Take Inherited Genealogy at Face Value

Accuracy (or lack thereof) can a real issue when we receive someone else’s work. We can’t just take it at face value, especially if the researcher did not cite their sources. There’s no way to know if an ancestor on their tree is truly your ancestor until you look at the genealogical source documents for yourself. If they haven’t listed which sources they used, you’ll have to go find them. The good news is that it should be a little easier to find them based on the information provided about the ancestor. Usually when you get a family tree from a relative, it will at a minimum include important dates like birth, marriage and death, and hopefully some of the places where those events occurred.

Jim inherited a large, compiled history book, but you may be fortunate enough to receive an entire lifetime’s worth of research. Well, some folks would feel fortunate, others may not! No matter how much you’ve inherited, the genealogical process remains the same: start with yourself and work backwards. It may be tempting to start focusing on new ancestors you see in the family tree you just acquired, but resist the temptation. We must always prove the relationships connecting us to each generation going back in time so we don’t end up adding someone to the tree who doesn’t belong there.

So let’s stop for a moment and go back to the beginning, when you first inherit your relative’s genealogy research. What do we do first?

Assess what you have inherited.

Jim received one big book. But if you’re like me you may have received boxes of items, many loose and unorganized.

I like to divide it up by families and place each pile into a separate bin, in chronological order as much as possible. I use clear stackable bins because you can see what’s inside. I’ve used these for years and never detected an ounce of damage. Damage is more likely to come from heat,  moisture and mishandling than stored undisturbed in a plain storage bin in a room temperature stable environment such as a closet.

Use 3×5 white index cards to label each bin. Use a medium black sharpie pen to write the family surname in large bold letters, and place the card inside the box at one end facing out. You will be able to see it through the clear bin. You can also simply tape it on the outside of the bin.

You’ll also need one location where all the bins can be stored until you’re ready to work on them. A spare closet or even under a bed can work. The important thing is they are all together undisturbed and easily accessible. Once items are sorted and stored, you can then pull out one bin at a time to work on.

If your inherited genealogy appears to be well organized, such as in scrapbooks, keep it in context. Don’t take it apart and divide it up. There’s something to be learned from the order in which things were added to the book.

divide inherited genealogy into bins

my spare closet with bins of inherited genealogy awaiting processing.

Take inventory and prepare to track your progress.

It’s important to recognize that it isn’t likely that all of the materials and information will be digestible in one sitting. And it helps tremendously when you set up a process that makes it easy to pick up the project and put it down easily while keeping track of where you left off.

You can track your progress in a variety of ways:

  • a project log spreadsheet,
  • Word document
  • Evernote or One Note
  • A spiral notebook

Take a moment up front to put your tracking mechanism in place and be as consistent as possible in using it.

I use Excel spreadsheets for my tracking. I find it very helpful to create a separate tab for each item within the collection (book, scrapbook, computer disk, address book, etc.) This helps provide me with a complete inventory at a glance. On each tab I add columns applicable to the type of item and information it contains.

Get a genealogy software program.

If you’re new to genealogy, or you’ve only had your family tree online, now is the time to get a genealogy software program. It will not only help you stay organized, but it will also give you a mechanism for consistently adding source citations. Your genealogy software database while also serve as the “brain” of all your efforts. The database gives you one place to focus your efforts and systematically add information. Also, it puts all of it in your control on your own computer, not solely in the hands of a genealogy website that could be gone tomorrow.

There are a handful of genealogy software database programs on the market. Family Tree Maker, Legacy and RootsMagic are all good and reliable. MyHeritage offers Family Tree Builder for free

No matter which one you choose, download and install it on your computer. Then make sure that you have an automatic cloud backup service installed and running on that computer. I have used Backblaze for years. You can get a free 15 day trial here which will give you an opportunity to see how easy it is to get up and running. (Disclosure: this is an affiliate link.)

Learn more by watching my video classes on databases and organizing your genealogical materials.

organizing genealogy video classes by Lisa Louise Cooke

Learn more with my Premium Member classes on organizing genealogy.

Start processing the inherited genealogical information.

Whether you are new to genealogy or a longer time researcher, start by entering the information you inherited starting with yourself or your parents and then add family members going back in time generation by generation. As I said previously, I know it can be tempting to jump to older generations to work on, but you must methodically prove each generational connection in order to have an accurate family tree.

In Jim’s case, he inherited a compiled history book from his aunt, so he will want to start by turning to the page that contains himself or his closest ancestor (probably his parents.) On his tracking spreadsheet he could include columns for ancestor’s name, page number and notes, and enter that information as he works on each person’s record. By doing so, he will always know where he left off.

A compiled history is just one source, and in fact, it is not even a primary source. This means that even if sources have been cited in the book, it’s important to locate and review those sources to confirm that you agree that the conclusion is accurate. After all, this is your tree and research now.

Never enter a new ancestor without cited sources. If the book or paperwork names someone, and even provides some specific information about them, your job is to go find the records to prove it. Once you are satisfied you are ready to enter the person and their information into your database, and of course, cite your sources.

A few decades ago, back when I was doing genealogy strictly as a hobby and not professionally, I found an amazing compiled family history on my Wolf family line. It contained thousands of people, was meticulously compiled and full of details, and did not include a single source!

Since the book wasn’t an heirloom or one of a kind, I found it very helpful and simple to make a small pencil tick mark next to each person as I worked on them. I set about painstakingly finding sources for every piece of information that was new or conflicting with what I had. As you can imagine, that’s a very big job. Since time is always at a premium I didn’t research everything, particularly information that was not critical to the identification of the ancestor, or perhaps was about a collateral individual. However, I did not enter anything into my database that was not researched and proven. This means you’ll need a way to keep track of what has not yet been researched. I used a red pencil to place a tick mark next to items yet to be researched about an ancestor. You could also opt to add a column to your spreadsheet to track it and then return to it later.

Did I add everyone listed in the book in my database? Absolutely not! I focused specifically on direct ancestors and included their children. Once I made my way as far back as I could go in the book, I selectively filled in additional people from collateral lines that were of particular interest or closely associated with areas that I wanted to research further. Rest assured there is no right or wrong way to do this. Do what is most important to you in the most accurate and methodical way you can.

Cite your sources every step of the way.

Talk to any experienced genealogist and you’ll probably hear some regrets about not citing their sources when they first began doing genealogy. Source citations are like an insurance policy. It’s not very satisfying to invest in it now when everything is fine, but down the road when trouble arises you’ll be glad you did.

So what kind of trouble are we talking about? No family tree is immune from occasional problems such as:

  • discovering an inconsistency in your family tree
  • uncovering a new source that directly contradicts one of your conclusions
  • being contacted by another researcher who is challenging something you have posted or published about your family tree.

The only way to address these situations is to review the sources you used. And that’s where your source citation comes in mighty handy! They help answer the questions and also prevent timewasting duplication of effort.

If the only source for a particular event is the book, go out and find the original record to verify it is correct, and cite both in your database. 

Learn more about citing your sources by watching my free video Source Citations for Genealogy (episode 60 of Elevenses with Lisa).

How to do Source Citations for Genealogy

Elevenses with Lisa episode 60

What to do when you can’t keep all the genealogy you inherited.

As painful as it is to say, it isn’t always possible to keep all of the genealogical items that come your way. The reality is that shelf and closet space have limits, and our collection can grow unmanageable when added to the research of previous generations.

Start by seeing if you can reduce it. Strive to digitize all items that you want to save that are not originals, heirlooms or not readily available somewhere else.

Need help digitizing? I use Larsen Digital. Click our link and use the discount coupon codes found on the webpage. 

Once digitized and recorded in your database, you can toss them. Recently I went through boxes of photographs I inherited from my paternal grandmother. Many were from the late 1970s and early 1980s when double prints were all the rage. By simply tossing duplicates and low quality photos (such as half of grandma’s hand over the camera lens) I was able to reduce the collection by almost a third!

Donation is also an excellent option. Digitize and take photos of the items and then they can be donated to a library, archive, genealogical society or other organization with an interest in them. Sometimes the shared interest is not as much in the particular families as the locations from which they hailed. One woman told me at a recent seminar that when she asked her local archive about her materials, they were ecstatic. They immediately spotted old buildings in the photos that no longer exist but held an important place in the town’s history. You never know what may be meaningful to others.

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne is an excellent resource for both free digitization and donation. Watch Elevenses with Lisa episode 31 to learn more.

free records at the genealogy center allen county public library

Learn more about donating your genealogy in episode 31.

I recently heard from a Hal Horrocks, a long-time member of the Orange County California Genealogical Society. In 2017 they started a program called Rescue the Research. They strive to preserve the research done by their past members. It’s a great example of making hard-won genealogy research more accessible to others while reducing the burden on closet space.

Donation isn’t for everybody. However, sadly it is sometimes the only option when you don’t have descendants or relatives interested in retaining your research. Don’t despair. Donating your research is bound to elicit a genealogy happy dance from some future genealogist who comes across your research!

You can learn more about protecting, preserving and donating your genealogy research by watching my video class Save Your Research from Destruction (Elevenses with Lisa episode 10, available exclusively as part of Premium Membership.)

Your ancestors and your descendants will thank you.

It’s been famously said that “you can’t take it with you” when you leave this earth.

You can't take inherited genealogy with you

“You can’t take it with you”

By following these strategies and addressing that reality now, there’s one very important thing you will be leaving behind: the legacy of family history. One that avoids burdening the next generation while providing a lasting connection between all of the generations of your family tree.

Resources

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Native American Genealogy – Episode 76

Native American genealogy research follows the same path that all good genealogy research does, but it also includes some unique records along the way. It’s a fascinating journey, and in Elevenses with Lisa episode 76 professional genealogist Judy Nimer Muhn (Lineage Journeys) joins Lisa Louise Cooke to pave the way. Judy will discuss:

  • Tribal and personal naming conventions
  • Tribal-specific resources
  • How geography impacts research
  • Native American genealogical records
  • and more…

Episode 76 Show Notes 

Native American genealogy research follows the same path that all good genealogy research does, but it also includes some unique records along the way. It’s a fascinating journey, and in Elevenses with Lisa episode 76 professional genealogist Judy Nimer Muhn (Lineage Journeys) joins Lisa Louise Cooke to pave the way. Judy will discuss:

  • Tribal and personal naming conventions
  • Tribal-specific resources
  • How geography impacts research
  • Native American genealogical records
  • and more…

Five Tribes

  • Navaho/Navajo: Diné
  • Cherokee: Tsalagi or Aniyunwiya
  • Sioux: Lakota, Nakota or Dakota
  • Chippewa: Ojibwa
  • Choctaw: Choctah or Chahta

GEOGRAPHY

Native Land Map

 Features:

  • Enter a location
  • Mouse and click around on the map to see the relevant territories in a location.
  • Select or search from a dropdown of territories, treaties, and languages.
  • Click and links will appear with nation names. Click a link to be taken to a page specifically about that nation, language, or treaty.
  • Export the map to a printable image file
  • You can turn map labels on or off to see non-Indigenous borders and towns
  • Mobile apps available for iOS and Android.
Native Map Digital Map

Native Map Digital Map

CENSUS RECORDS

Census Records at Genealogy Websites:

From the Article: “Native people were largely excluded from the federal census until at least 1860.”

Native American Research at FamilySearch Wiki

Native American Research at FamilySearch Wiki

National Archives

  • Article by James P. Collins called Native Americans in the Census, 1860-1890 which will help you understand what you may be able to find during that time period.

At the National Archives you will find:

  • Links to Native American records
  • Download data collection research sheets for free

Visit the National Archives resource page for Native American Research

The Bureau of Indian Affairs

The Bureau of Indian Affairs was required to take an annual census of Native communities. (ex. Dawes Rolls)

  • Some are available for free at Familysearch.org
  • Compiled into one collection ranging from 1885 to 1940.
  • Not all communities were represented.
  • Collection may not be fully indexed

Free Native American Genealogy Databases

  1. 1817 Cherokee Reservation Roll
  2. 1880 Cherokee Census
  3. 1924 Baker Roll
  4. 1954 Proposed Ute Rolls
  5. Armstrong Rolls
  6. Dawes Commission Case Files
  7. (Dawes Rolls) Final Rolls Index and Search the Final Rolls
  8. Drennen Rolls
  9. Guion Miller Roll
  10. Kern Clifton Rolls
  11. McKennon Roll
  12. Old Settlers Roll
  13. Wallace Roll

Library of Congress

Here you’ll find many resources including newspapers, photos and reports to congress and oral histories.

Judy found materials deep within the Library of Congress website using Googling strategies from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox available exclusively at the Genealogy Gems Store.

Michigan State University

Native American Studies Research Guide: Introduction

Michigan State University Native American Resources

Michigan State University Native American Resources

Resources

These show notes feature everything we cover in this episode. Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes handout PDF.  Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

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Danish Delights in New and Updated Genealogical Records This Week

Genealogical records and research for your Denmark ancestors has just gotten a little easier! New and updated genealogical collections for Danish genealogy have been added to FamilySearch. Also new this week, new and updated records for Sweden, Hungary, Britain, and Ireland.

dig these new record collections

Denmark – Census

It was truly a Danish delight when we heard the 1916 Denmark Census is now available at FamilySearch. Danish genealogy is just a bit easier with the availability of this census, especially when paired with the already published 1911 Denmark Census, also at FamilySearch.

This is an every-name index to the 1916 census of Denmark. This index was created by MyHeritage from images provided by the National Archives of Denmark. The collection at FamilySearch includes an index or abstract version in English and a digital image of the original.

25novpost_1

This census was taken for the countries of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Danish West Indies, however, only the records for Denmark are available at FamilySearch. The enumeration for Denmark was divided into three sections with a different form for each of the sections: Copenhagen city, other cities, and rural areas.

This census names each individual in the home and includes: sex, calculated birth date and year, marital status, relationship to head-of-household, and residence.

Other genealogy record collections for Denmark can be found on FamilySearch, too. See the entire list here.

Sweden – Church Records

FamilySearch has four Swedish church record collections that have recently been updated. Church records are especially helpful when civil records such as birth, marriage, and deaths, are not available. Check out these four updated collections and their titles below.

Sweden, Västmanland Church Records, 1538-1901; index 1622-1860 43,976
Sweden, Värmland Church Records, 1509-1925; index 1640-1860 Browse Images
Sweden, Skaraborg Church Records, 1612-1921; index 1625-1860 Browse Images  
Sweden, Västerbotten Church Records, 1619-1896; index, 1688-1860 36,337

Hungary – Civil Registration

More records have been added to the Hungarian Civil Registration records at FamilySearch as well. This collection includes the years 1895-1980.

The records are bound volumes of pre-printed forms with event information recorded by hand. From 1895 through 1906, the forms are one page per event, but beginning in 1907 each event occupies one row in a printed table, so there are multiple events recorded per page. The records are in Hungarian.

Civil registrations include birth, marriage, and death records. You may be able to find the following information in each of these groups:

Birth records:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Name of child
  • Gender and religion
  • Parents’ names and mother’s age
  • Parents’ religion
  • Signature of informant

Marriage records:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Groom’s name, date and place of birth
  • Groom’s religion and occupation
  • Groom’s parents’ names
  • Bride’s name, date and place of birth
  • Bride’s religion and occupation
  • Bride’s parents’ names
  • Witnesses’ names and their residence
  • Additional remarks

Death records:

  • Name and age of deceased
  • Date, time, and place of death
  • Deceased’s residence and occupation
  • Deceased’s religion
  • Spouse’s name
  • Parents’ names
  • Cause of death
  • Signatures of informant

United Kingdom – 1939 Register

Like a census, the Register can tell you a lot about how your ancestors. You can find names, occupations, and more. The 1939 Register of more than 32.8 million records is now available at Findmypast.

The 1939 Register is pretty unique. It required people to explain exactly what they did. General terms, such as Foreman, Overseer, Doctor, Mill-hand, Porter or Farmer, were not acceptable. Instead, people were asked to be as specific as possible, giving details of the trade.

Additional information you will find on the Register includes:

  • Name
  • Full date of birth
  • Address
  • Marital status
  • Occupation

Ireland – Directories

Also at Findmypast, the Ireland, 19th Century Directories allow you to search more than 120 volumes of directories that contain more than 74 thousand records. Listings may include your ancestor’s occupation, place of business, or home address.

These directories were published annually, which means that you can easily track your ancestor year to year.

You will want to be aware that most of the details in the directories were collected six months before publication; therefore, all the listings are six months old.

The records are presented as PDFs (portable digital files). This feature allows you to narrow your search by publication, year and page number. After selecting an image, you can read through the whole directory by using the previous and next buttons at the top of the image.

Learn more about Danish Genealogy

Read some great gems in our article Digitized Danish Records at MyHeritage!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Ending 2016 on a High Note with New and Updated Genealogical Collections

End 2016 on a high note with these new and updated genealogical record collections. Lisa soaked in Christmas tunes of Harlan County Kentucky’s pride and joy, Jordan Smith (winner of The Voice,) in a concert over the holidays. Harlan County can also be very proud of their incredible genealogical records. Today we are highlighting their county GenWeb page. This U.S. county GenWeb page has gone above and beyond in making Harlan County, Kentucky records accessible to the masses. Also this week, United Kingdom apprenticeship records, parish records, and Scotland mental health and prison records.

dig these new record collections

United States – Harlan County, Kentucky Records

This is not a new collection, though it may be new to you. Discovering the many U.S. GenWeb sites dedicated to genealogy is a great help to many. This week, we wanted to give a special hat’s off to the amazing work that Harlan County, Kentucky has done on their GenWeb page.

Harlan county birth 1852

You will find digital images of people, places, schools, and newspaper clippings, but the best part is their extensive birth, marriage, and death indexes. The marriage records begin as early as 1818 and end about 1925. The birth record index begins in 1852 – 1940, though some years are missing. Lastly, the death records begin in 1852 – 1959, with a special collection on coal miners deaths.

In addition to these great findings, the Harlan County Kentucky GenWeb also has:

  • Censuses

    Christian music superstar Michael W. Smith accompanies Jordan Smith singing “O Holy Night” in Dallas, Texas. 2016.

  • Court records
  • Tax records
  • Deeds
  • Wills
  • Military records
  • Bios
  • Family files

 

United Kingdom – Gloucester – Apprenticeship Records

The Gloucester Apprentices 1595-1700 at Findmypast contain over 20,000 apprentices, masters, and their relatives who were listed in the Calendar of the Registers of Apprentices of the City of Gloucester 1595-1700. The calendar has been digitized with optical character recognition (OCR), which allows you to search images of text for your ancestor’s name or a keyword.

Each record will list the apprentices trade, residence, the name of their father, the name of their master, the name of their master’s wife, the length of their term and the amount they were paid at the end of their training.

These records will be particularly helpful for those unable to find civil or church records regarding their ancestors.

United Kingdom – Kent – Parish Records

Also at Findmypast this week, over 36,000 new additions have been made to the Kent Parish Records collection. Specifically:

·         Over 14,000 additional baptisms

·         Over 1,000 additional banns records

·         Over 11,000 additional marriages

·         Over 9,000 additional burials

These new records date as far back as 1538 and cover the parishes of Wrotham, Stansted, Wouldham, Southfleet, and Leybourne.

Scotland – Mental Health Records

The Scotland Mental Health Institutions Admissions 1857-1859 at Findmypast include over 1,000 records from over 50 mental health institutions including asylums and poorhouses. Though these records tell a sad story, they may help you to piece together the family story.

Each record includes a transcript of an original document and may provide your ancestors’ birth place, birth date, former residence, and the institution they were sent to and the date of their admission.

Scotland – Prison Registers

You can search over 17,000 transcripts of prison registers in the Findmypast collection titled Scotland Prison Registers Index 1828-1884.

Each record lists the prisoners age, birth year, birth place, occupation, former residence, offence and place of imprisonment.

Start the New Year off Right

findmypast_1Here’s a New Year bargain you can’t ignore – 10% off 12 month premium subscriptions to Findmypast. Today is the last day to save! They have over 2 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B!) records and more are added every day. Make 2017 a year full of fascinating family history discoveries by clicking on this image link below.

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