How to Get Back Into Genealogy

Show Notes: Restart Your Genealogy!

Has it been a while since you worked on your genealogy research? As passionate as we may be about genealogy, the reality is that a little thing called “Life” can get in the way!

Getting back into genealogy can actually be a bit daunting. Where did you leave off? Where should you start back up?

If it’s been months or even years since you had your hands in genealogy, you’re in the right place. In this video, we’re going to talk about how to pick up your genealogy after a hands-off spell so that you can quickly and efficiently get back on the trail of your ancestors.

how to get back into genealogy

 Get your Genealogy Restart checklist in the Resources section.

And by the way, perhaps you haven’t taken a break, but you feel like you’ve gotten a little out of control and disorganized in what you’ve been doing so far. This process also works very nicely as a quick audit to help you get back on track. 

How to Jump Back into Your Genealogy

Has it been a while since you worked on your genealogy research? As passionate as we may be about genealogy, the reality is that that little thing called life can get in the way.

In my case, my daughter got married earlier this year. There were plans to make, bridal shows to throw, and the wedding itself which meant planning a trip because it was a destination wedding. Needless to say, I didn’t work on family history for several months.

If it’s been months or even years since you had your hands in genealogy, you’re in the right place. In this article and companion video we’re going to talk about how to pick up your genealogy after a hands-off spell so that you can quickly and efficiently gets back on the trail of your ancestors.

Even if you haven’t taken a break, you might be feeling a little out of control and disorganized in what you’ve been doing so far. This quick genealogy audit can help you get back on track too!

Genealogy Restart Checklist

I love a good to-do list where I can have the satisfaction of checking things off and knowing that at the end of it I have accomplished something. Some of the things on this list may not apply depending on how long your genealogy hiatus has been. If that’s the case you get to check them off right away!

Get my comprehensive downloadable Genealogy Restart Checklist. (Premium Membership required)

Step 1: Find Out Where You Left Off in Your Research

Do you remember where you left off the last time you were researching your family tree? If not, your search history is a great place to start. For example, if you used the popular genealogy website Ancestry.com you can pull up your past search history.

How to find your search history at Ancestry.com

At the Ancestry® home page you will see a box at the top that highlights the recently modified items in your family tree. According to one source at Ancestry.com, this “shows a list of last modified nodes in the tree. For a shared tree – any user who has access to the hint can modify the nodes and it will show up in that list. It (also) shows a hint leaf for the nodes that have at least one undecided hint.”

This could be a place to start, but I recommend reviewing Your Recent Searches if you want to pick up where you left off.

You’ll find your search history in the menu under Search. Click All Collections. Toward the top of the All Collections page you’ll see Your Recent Searches. It’s just above the map. You’ll see a few buttons listed for the most recent names you searched. Next, click the View All button to get a more comprehensive view of your activity history, starting with the most recent activity.

On the Recent Activity page, you’ll see the names you searched for and the details you included such as a place and time frame. Ancestry also tells you the date you ran the search.

how to find search history at Ancestry

Recent Search History page at Ancestry®

If you see searches in the list that you don’t need anymore, click the trash can button to delete them.

Notice over on the left that you are viewing Recent Searches, but you do have other options:

  • All Recent (activity)
  • Viewed Content (records you’ve viewed)
  • Viewed Collections (record collections you accessed)

All Recent provides the best overall picture of your past search history. This is a great tool for jogging your memory and helping you decide where to pick back up.

Review your activity history in your genealogy software.

You can also review your most recently activity in your genealogy database software.

In RootsMagic for example, in the menu go to Search > History or click the History tab at the top of the side bar on the left side of the screen.

Step 2: Identify Gaps that Need to be Filled

Many people enjoy focusing their research on their direct ancestors (grandparents, great grandparents, etc.) While you may have traced back many generations, you may have missed a few things along the way. This is a good time to start with yourself and work backwards through the direct ancestors in your family tree. Look for gaps in your timelines and information, and then start back up by researching to fill them in. Of course, you can also do with any relative that you want to learn more about.

Once you’ve identified the person you want to work on, create a research plan. If you’ve never created a research plan before, don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You create and track it on paper, a spreadsheet or any number of notetaking programs. The important thing is that you identify:

  1. your specific research question,
  2. the records you think you’ll need to answer it
  3. the locations where you think those records may be housed.

See this in action in my video Hard to Find Records, a Case Study.  

Premium Members check out these classes with downloadable handouts:

 

Step 3: Prepare for Genealogy Research Success Going Forward:

Since you’re picking your genealogy back up, this is the perfect time to check to make sure you’re set up for success going forward. These remaining items will help ensure that your new discoveries will be well-documented, organized, and protected from loss.

Genealogy software database

If you already have genealogy database software, open it up and see if there’s a newer version available. Look for Check for Updates in the menu.

If you don’t have a genealogy database software program on your computer, go get one now! We’re talking about a software program that you install on your computer. It’s a database specifically designed to record all the information you find. It keeps it organized and searchable, allows for source citations, photos, links, and more. It also gives you tremendous flexibility in running reports. This is something with which an online tree can’t compete. And most importantly all your data resides on your computer hard drive. This means it’s completely within your control and not subject to a paid subscription, or problems with a website such as the site being closed or sold off. The tree you build can be synced to an online tree if you wish to do so. Back in the old days (early 2000s) a database on your computer was the only option, and it remains your best option today.

Genealogy software is typically very affordable. You can  even download Family Tree Builder at MyHeritage for free. If you’re willing to invest a few dollars there are several excellent programs to choose from such as RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, Legacy, etc. I use RootsMagic but all of these programs have been around a long time and are great. The one you pick really depends which user interface you like, and to what extent you may want to sync your tree online.

Premium Member Resource Video: Take Control of Your Family Tree.

Cloud backup

If you don’t have a cloud backup program running on your computer, now is the time to get one. What’s the point of restarting your genealogy research if you’re going to risk losing everything if your computer is damaged or stolen? I’ve used Backblaze for years because it’s reliable, affordable, has an app, and automatically backs up all my files including video. There are several out there to choose from. The important thing is to pick one and get it installed on your computer. It will run automatically in the background, giving you peace of mind that your files are backed up offsite on the cloud in a secure location.

Status of Genealogy Website Subscriptions

Now that you have the tools you need to restart your genealogy research, it’s time to check genealogy websites. Did you have subscriptions to some of the popular genealogy websites like MyHeritage or Ancestry? Log in and go to your account to see if they are still active, and if they are, when they are set to renew. This will help you decide where to spend your time first. Start with the subscription that is up for renewal first. Then you can determine if you want to allow it to renew or cancel and try another genealogy website subscription to round out your research.

If you don’t have any current subscriptions, consider focusing first on familysearch, the largest free genealogy website. Then, depending on your research goals, you can select the paid subscription(s) that will support your research plan.

A Paper Filing System

While we don’t generate as much paper these days as we used to, some paper is inevitable. Don’t add to the paper clutter. If you don’t have a paper filing system in place, take a moment and set one up. Pick a filing system and stick to it. Then as you start your genealogy research you’ll always have a place to put things.

Filing Digital Content

The same goes for digital files as goes for paper files. Don’t jump back into your research without a filing system in place. It’s important to download the digital records you find so that you have access to them even when your subscriptions run out. Avoid a messy computer and commit to a digital filing system and filing name convention.

Check out all of my organization system classes.

Source Citation Brush Up

Were you citing your sources consistently when you last worked on your family history research? If not, STOP EVERYTHING and watch my video Source Citations for Genealogy. Citing your sources will save you headache down the road. You may discover that a previous conclusion was incorrect, and you’ll want to review the source where you got that information. A downloaded record usually doesn’t include specific details as to where you go it. Going forward, as you download records and add the details into your database be sure to also add the source citation.

With this in mind, familiarize yourself with the source citation tool in your genealogy program. If it looks daunting, don’t panic. Head to the menu and click Help, and then search for source citation. There you’ll find the instructions you need to once and for all get a handle on how to cite sources in your software.  

Now’s the Time to Restart Your Genealogy

Don’t let the passing of time stop you from getting back into your favorite hobby. By following this checklist you will quickly get back into goal-oriented research and exciting discoveries about your family.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout (Premium Membership Required.)

Bonus Download: Genealogy Restart Checklist (Premium Membership required)

 

French Genealogy: Filae.com launches English language site

Filae’s French collection opens the door for non-French-speaking people to discover their family stories online.

40 million people in the world (excluding France) claim French descent. Here’s the latest press release from Filae:

French Genealogy opening the door

Paris, France – September, 18, 2019 – Filae.com, the world’s largest online resource for accessing French official records, today announced the launch of its first foreign language international sister-site: https://en.filae.com

With more than 40 million people in the world claiming French heritage, the launch of an English language version of Filae.com gives all of them an unprecedented and exclusive access to more than 150 million images of French Census and Vital records (birth, marriage, death) which have been indexed by Filae.com.

As Elvis Presley, Alec Baldwin, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Kurt Cobain, Warren Buffett, and many other celebrities, 4% of the US population, 17% of Argentinians and 14% of Canadians have French roots!

“The launch of Filae.com is just the beginning of a more global strategy whose aim is to facilitate access to the largest resource of French records and to help people with French descent tracing back their ancestry whatever their language is and wherever they live! We are thrilled to share information we digitized and indexed with family history fans all over the world.” said Toussaint Roze, CEO and founder of Filae.com.

Starting as early as 1500, Filae’s French historical collection features records such as:

  • Parish registers,
  • Civil records,
  • Census and vital records,
  • Passenger lists,
  • Military records (Napoleonic wars, WWI, WWII),
  • Indexes provided by French societies,
  • Directories
  • and many other historical records (French revolution, etc.)

Filae.com also provides its users with easy-to-use tools to build their own trees or import their gedcom files, upload photos and documents and share them with other members.

Here’s a look at the Filae website:

French Genealogy website Filae

About Filae.com
Launched in December 2016, Filae.com is the first and largest resource for French digitized and indexed records online.

The service was created by Toussaint Roze, a French serial- entrepreneur dedicated to genealogy who previously created successful online services like notrefamille.com, genealogie.com and gedlink.

Filae.com hosts and indexes more than 150 million digitisations of French original records for the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries.

How To Find Your Family Tree Online



tree_grow_300_wht_10100As you may have already noticed, a lot of websites these days host millions of family trees: MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Geni.com, FindMyPast.com, Archives.com and more. There are virtual forests and forests of family trees out there! How can you find a tree that includes your family? How can you be sure it’s yours? How do you know that what you see is accurate?

Get started with these 7 Steps: How to Find Your Family Tree Online:

1. Choose a site from the list above and create a free log in.
Which should you choose?

  • FamilySearch.org is the only one that offers totally free access to all user-submitted family trees as well as the historical records that can help you with your research. However, the other sites offer a variety of free access options, especially to user-submitted trees.
  • MyHeritage is known for its international user base (check out its user map here) and multi-language access.
  • Some sites have different portals that specialize in records from different countries. For example, Ancestry.com (with a U.S. focus) owns Ancestry.ca for Canadian genealogy, Ancestry.co.uk for the United Kingdom and Ancestry.com.au for Australian records. Similarly, FindMyPast.co.uk (U.K. focus) also hosts FindMyPast.com (U.S.), FindMyPast.ie (Ireland) and FindMyPast.com.au (Australia). Check out additional sites for specific countries (including non-English-speaking) here. If your family recently immigrated, look for a site about “the old country.’ If you have pretty deep roots in your current country, or you’re not sure, pick a site that specializes in your current home.

2. Enter the name of one of your relatives in the Search bar.
Each site files its family trees a little differently: some with historical records and some separately. Search trees at FamilySearch here. On Ancestry.com, look under the Search option for Public Member Trees. Enter names of your relatives, along with any other details you know (like a birth date and place or a spouse’s name). Try different combinations, sometimes using the person’s first and middle name, trying a maiden name, entering a nickname, etc. Increase your odds of finding people by entering a range of years (like 1880-1890) for a date and a more general place, like a state, rather than the name of a little town. If you get too many results, enter more specific information.

Which relative(s) should you choose?

  • One who is deceased, if possible. Records about living people may be restricted for some places (but not all).
  • If possible, one with a relatively unusual name. They may be easier to spot.
  • One you know several things about: a full name (including maiden for women), dates and places of birth, marriage and death; burial place; where they lived during their lifetime; names of their spouse(s), sibling(s) and/or child(ren).
  • One who lived as long ago as possible, to increase the chance that someone has posted a tree. But a grandparent is a great starting point, if that’s as far back as you know. If your grandparent is still alive, ask them their parents’ names, and start with your great-grandparent.
  • Need to learn more about your relatives first? Read this article on how to gather information about your family.

3. Click on results labeled as “family trees.” Are they “yours?”
Browse the search results. Do any of these names and details look  familiar? Everything doesn’t have to be a perfect match for a tree to include your roots. Sometimes different information is handed down through different branches of a family. Sometimes people get their information from sources that don’t match yours. Sometimes people just guess or patch together parts of different family trees without looking closely to see if they’re right.

Tech tutorial: What exactly are you looking at when you look at a family tree online? Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in one of several specially-designed software programs. These programs could generate .GED files (often referred to as GEDCOMs) that would allow researchers using different software to share their findings. Many people have now uploaded their GED files to genealogy sites like the ones we’re talking about–or they’ve just built a family tree from scratch right on the site.

4. Evaluate the accuracy of what you find.
The best way to judge the accuracy of a family tree without researching it yourself is to see what proof is offered. Do you see any records mentioned (like footnotes) or attached to the tree? Common records include tombstone images; government or church vital records (birth, marriage or death records) and census listings. Do you see photos attached? Photos may indicate the submitter has access to family records or albums (bonus!).

If a tree mentions lots of sources, it’s more likely to be accurate–at least for the pieces of information that are sourced. If a tree doesn’t have sources, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means you don’t know if it’s right.

Sometimes you’ll find a “branch” on a tree that goes back many generations without a single source mentioned. Beware! Sometimes these branches are just copied from other trees. This may particularly be true if a branch is connected to a royal line. Royal lines are well-documented in history and some people have created family trees with the hope of running into royal relatives. These connections may not have been thoroughly researched–they might just represent “wishful thinking.” Again, look for sources.

5. Optional step: reach out to the submitter of promising-looking family trees.
Some sites allow you to contact them through confidential email routed through the site (you may have to purchase a subscription first). You might contact a submitter to meet a possible cousin, share information you have or ask for more details about what they posted. If you contact them, be polite–don’t open with “you got my grandfather’s birthday wrong” or you may never hear back. You may not hear back anyway, if the submitter is no  longer researching, their email changed or they have passed away.

6. Google your surname along with the phrase “family tree” or “genealogy.”
See if any personal websites pop up with your family tree (or other family history information) in them. Evaluate the information by looking for accurate details (as far as you know) and lots of sources mentioned. Look for an “About” or “Contact” page to learn more about the submitter of this information.

7. Verify it yourself.
Wandering through forests of online family trees may give you the urge to create your own tree. An accurate, and sourced tree! If so, good for you. Keep reading the articles suggested below to learn how to get started!

Up next, read:

Get Started: How to Find Your Family History for Free. Perfect for the beginner!

Explore the Genealogy Gems website for more tools, tips and resources that can help you put together your family’s “bigger picture.”

Sign up for our free e-newsletter and receive my FREE ebook on using Google to find your family history.

Check out my step-by-step Family History podcast for beginning genealogists.

Post an Online Family Tree. Listen to a podcast episode (or just read the show notes) on how to post your own family tree online.

Episode 69 Alice the Genealogist Parts 3 & 4 Online Productivity

Video and Show Notes

This week we’re going to revisit two more early episodes of Elevenses with Lisa that will help you be more productive and organized no matter what device you using for your genealogy research. I’m bringing these episodes out from behind the Premium Membership paywall and making them available for free this week. These will be presented back-to-back as Live Video Premieres on my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Part 1 and part 2 of this short series can be found in episode 68. In part 1 we covered what makes us vulnerable to getting distracted, and how a research plan can help. In part 2 we talked about how to deal with BSOs (bright shiny objects!) In this episode 69 we will cover parts 3 (Mobile Organization) and 4 (Online Productivity Strategies).

How Alice the Genealogist Avoids the Rabbit Hole Continued…

Part 1 and part 2 of this short series can be found in episode 68. In part 1 we covered what makes us vulnerable to getting distracted, and how a research plan can help. In part 2 we talked about how to deal with BSOs (bright shiny objects!)

Part 3

In episode 68 we covered:

1. Use a Cloud-Notetaking Service

  • Get a free Cloud note-taking tool and use it consistently. (Examples include Evernote, OneNote, and Google Keep.)
  • Use the website, software, and/or app to capture unexpected finds while researching. Both Evernote and OneNote work on all platforms.
  • Your notes in your account will synchronize between your devices (depending on the program and plan you choose.) You can add to your notes or work with them anytime, anywhere.

2. Schedule BSO Time

I use Google Calendar to stay organized and schedule my BSO time. Create a BSO calendar, and then schedule BSO time on your calendar. These will help you remember to follow up. Knowing you have set aside time in the future to explore the BSO helps you mentally let them go and stay on track with your research plan.

In this episode:

3. Mobile BSO Organization

Success comes from pairing your research plan and process with a great supportive research environment. We have a variety of “environments” we work within such as:

  • On paper at our desk
  • On our mobile devices
  • On our computer
Mobile Genealogy Organization (Alice

Mobile Genealogy Organization

Let’s look at how we can set up a workflow for BSOs while mobile computing. My two favorite methods for capturing BSOs on a smartphone or tablet are 1) Cloud Notetaking, and 2) Home Screen “Bookmark Apps”.

Option 1: Cloud Notetaking

I’ll be using Evernote on an iPhone as an example. (You may see slight variations in the instructions depending on the service you use and your device.)

Evernote is a great choice if you want to easily sync and use your notes on all devices including your desktop computer and / or laptop computer.

Before you begin, you’ll need a free Evernote account at evernote.com. You’ll also need to download the free Evernote app from your device’s app store, and log into your account.

When you come across a BSO while researching online in a web browser (such as the Chrome or Safari app), here’s how to capture it:

  1. Tap the Share icon on the web page.
  2. Select Evernote from the menu. If you don’t see it tap More for the complete menu of available apps. If you still don’t see it, make sure you have downloaded the app.
    Tap More to find the Evernote app

    Tap More to find the Evernote app

  3. The app will open and should open a new note. Edit the note as desired.
    Edit the BSO note

    Edit the BSO note

  4. Tag the note with the “BSO” tag, as well as any other tags you find helpful.
    Tag with the BSO tag

    Tag with the BSO tag

  5. Tap Save.
  6. The note is now saved to Evernote. If you are on WiFi, Evernote will synchronize so that the note will be available from any device signed into your Evernote account.
    The BSO tagged note

    The BSO tagged note

Option 2: Home Screen “Bookmark Apps”

Keep in mind that these aren’t the same as “Bookmarks” found in your web browser apps. I call them “Bookmark Apps” because they do save a particular web page, and they look just like apps. In the menu this feature is called “add to home screen.” (see image)

Bookmark Apps are best for when you plan to do your BSO follow up on the same mobile device.

How to capture a BSO as a Bookmark App:

  • In your browser app, when you come across a BSO web page, tap the share icon.
  • Tap Add to Home Screen.
    Tap Add to Home Screen

    Tap Add to Home Screen

  • Edit the title so it will be easy to remember why you wanted to follow up on it.
  • Tap Add (iOS – this may be different on Android, or different browsers)
  • The web page “bookmark app” is now on your home screen.

Once you have created at least two BSO bookmark apps, you can then create a folder.

How to create a folder:

  • Move the bookmark app by pressing and holding it until it shakes.
  • Keep your finger on it and drag it onto the other BSO bookmark. This will create a folder.
  • Name the folder “BSO”.
  • Press the home button to save.
    Bookmark apps in the BSO folder

    Bookmark apps in the BSO folder

     

Now whenever you have some spare time you can tap the BSO folder and get back to one of those items that previously caught your eye.

How Alice the Genealogist Avoids Falling Down the Rabbit Hole Part 4

Creating a Supportive Computing Environment

The following tools are available for your computer desktop or laptop.

Restore Tabs

In addition to using Ctrl+Shift+T (Win) or Cmd+Shift+T (Mac) to restore a closed browser tab, you can also right-click on the new tab plus sign and select Reopen closed tab from the pop-up menu. You can do this multiple times and web pages will continue to open in the reverse-order that they were closed.

Turn Multiple Tabs into One and Save Memory with OneTab

Online genealogy research can leave you with a lot of open web browser tabs. While using multiple tabs allows you to jump back and forth between web pages and records, they can take up valuable computer memory.

You can dramatically reduce your memory usage with the OneTab extension available for both the Chrome and Firefox browsers. With one click, OneTab will combine your open tabs into a clickable list in one browser tab. You can even export the list for future reference.

Get OneTab in the Chrome Web Store here
Get OneTab in the Firefox Web Store here

Reduce Email Distractions

  • Gmail now has a Snooze feature which allows you to temporarily file an email until the date and time you select.
  • Snoozed emails will reappear in your Inbox at the scheduled time.
  • Retrieve snoozed emails at any time by clicking “Snoozed” in the menu on the left.

Get Back on Track with MyActivity

When you are signed into your Google account, MyActivity tracks the searches you conduct and the websites you visit. By visiting your MyActivity, you can search for and return to any previous activity. You can also turn it off. Go to MyActivity and click Activity Controls from the menu. Switch the slider to the off position. Visit MyActivity at https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity

Save Time by Previewing Your Google Search Results

Rather than clicking on each search result and loading the page (which also takes you away from the rest of your search results), use  the Google Results Previewer web extension for Chrome. Once installed you can simply hover your mouse over a result link to reveal a preview of the page. Then you can decide whether to click through or preview additional results.

Click here to get the Google Results Previewer web extension for Chrome.

Resources for Further Learning

Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF.  Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

Genealogy Gems Premium Videos:

  • Organize Your Online Life
  • Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan

Evernote Quick Reference Guide, by Lisa Louise Cooke. Available at Genealogy Gems Store

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Member

 

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