Are you a FamilySearch indexer, or have you considered joining this worldwide volunteer effort? FamilySearch has just launched a new websitethat’s all about making indexing EASIER.
If you’re already an indexer, here are the highlights of the new site, according to FamilySearch:
Getting started with indexing just got easier. With an easy-to-navigate Overview page and an all-new Get Started page, the new website is the perfect introduction to indexing.
Looking for more indexing help? Check out the completely redesigned resource guide. Now called Help Resources, this page guides you to the help you need.
Find projects you want faster. In the old indexing website, you had to scroll through over 200 projects, now you can click on an interactive map and filter the project list based on language and country.
But wait, there’s more! According to FamilySearch, “The change in the indexing website is just the first step in a total redesign and improvement of the indexing experience. The coming year will see the all-new indexing program become more integrated with FamilySearch.org, bringing indexing to your Internet browser, enabling indexing on tablet devices, and much more.”
They plan to announce more at RootsTech next month, where there will be a session on FamilySearch indexing and where the FamilySearch booth will have hands-on opportunities to try out the new system. (Haven’t registered for RootsTech yet? Register here!Early-bird pricing has been extended until Monday, Jan. 27.)
P.S. WHY INDEX?
Indexers for FamilySearch have already generated more than a billion names that are free to search at FamilySearch.org. The company’s press release points out that improvements to the indexing site have in the past accelerated the pace of indexing and they expect that to happen over the coming year, too.
Here’s my favorite tip for the researcher who wants a little more out of indexing for themselves. Use indexing to become more familiar with different record types. Do a few batches of naturalization records, border crossings, church registers, etc., from different places or time periods, and you’ll quickly become more familiar with that record type. You’ll also become more adept at reading old handwriting, picking out the genealogical details from the legalese and other skills that will help you in your own research.
Show Notes: Over the years I’ve talked a lot about how to use Evernote and Snagit. Both are amazing tools for research and make it easy to do web clipping. If you’ve been wondering what the difference is between these two powerful tools, or if you haven’t and you’re trying to figure out which one you should start using, you’re in the right place. Today we’re doing a head-to-head comparison of Evernote and Snagit (with a focus on web clipping) and figuring out which one is best for you and your genealogy research.
I got an email from one of our Premium Members named Nancy, and she says, “Can you help me understand why I would need Evernote and Snagit? I have both installed on my computer, but need to spend time becoming proficient in both. If they duplicate one another wouldn’t want to spend time learning both if Snagit is superior.”
This is a really smart question because like the old saying, time is money. And in the case of genealogy, time is ancestors! No one wants to stop and learn yet another tech tool if they don’t have to. So, let’s look at Evernote vs. Snagit, in a head-to-head comparison, and dig into their strengths and weaknesses. If you have both, this will also help you decide what to use in any given situation.
Evernote is a cloud-based notetaking tool that includes a web clipper.
Snagit is a screen capture / AKA web clipper tool.
So, first and foremost the thing they have in common is that they both can capture all or a portion of content that appears on your computer screen. You can clip exactly the part you want and save it as an image for future reference or use.
That’s a pretty simplified description – but essentially, web clipping is the common denominator. But from there, they diverge.
Evernote is primarily a note taking tool. It takes all kinds of notes (audio, photo, video, documents, web clipping, typed, handwritten.) All notes are added to it, and you work in it like a workstation where you can organize and quickly search and retrieve your notes. It can apply OCR to your screen captured notes, making them keyword searchable and editable. Evernote allows you to instantly access your notes from any device that you are signed into your account.
Snagit is primarily a screen capture tool. In fact, it’s screen capture on steroids compared to Evernote. It’s not a place to store notes, but it’s a fantastic way to web-clip or capture information, edit, annotate and manipulate it, save it, and use it in other programs (and we’ll talk more about that in a moment.) Snagit can capture both images and video of content on the web, and it can do other things like use OCR to convert the text that appears in the web content you’re clipping as an image and turn it into editable text. When you web clip with Snagit, you are creating an image. That image must be saved to a cloud service like Dropbox in order to be able to access the note from all your devices.
You can learn a lot more about what these two tools do in my other videos:
Another thing they have in common is that they are both software programs.
Evernote: In addition to being able to use it as a software program on your computer, you can also use Evernote on your mobile device by downloading the app from your app store. You can also use it on any computer by simply signing into your account at Evernote.com. That being said, the software is preferred over the website because it resides on your computer and is faster.
Cost: About $9/monthly or about $80 for the yearly subscription ($6.67 / MONTH).
There is a free version, but you can only use it on 2 devices, it doesn’t include OCR and there are very strict limits on storage, which we’ll address in just a moment. If you’re going to use Evernote for your research and other things, you’re going to need the yearly subscription.
Snagit: Snagit is software that you download to your computer (whether desktop or laptop.) You can buy it as a stand alone purchase, or you can also purchase an ongoing maintenance subscription which provides you with upgrades. There is not mobile app.
Cost: About $64 for one software license + 1 year maintenance (free upgrade). You don’t have to pay for ongoing maintenance.
Conclusion: Unless the free version of Evernote is adequate for your needs, Snagit it more economical. 10 months of Evernote on-going subscription would cover the cost of the one-time purchase of Snagit. However, if you need all the features of Evernote, then go for the yearly subscription to keep the cost down.
Storage and Retention
Because Evernote is a subscription, this brings up the question of whether you can use your notes after you stop subscribing. And storage limits are also a concern.
Snagit: No storage limits. All the content you capture is stored on your computer, not the cloud. It’s yours forever. There’s no limit to how much you can clip or create.
Evernote: Evernote does store your notes on your computer, but it also stores them in the Evernote cloud. While Evernote doesn’t have an overall storage limit, it does have limits on how much you can create each month. There is a free version that allows you to 60 MB of monthly uploads. This is talking about the size of your notes. If you add photographs to Evernote, you’re going to use that up very quickly. There’s also a 25 MB maximum note size limit. No note or clipping can be larger than 25MB. With the subscription you get 10 GB of monthly uploads (which would be pretty hard to max out) and the note size limit is 200 MB.
Conclusion: You’ll need the yearly subscription to really be able to use Evernote for genealogy. And while there are limits, you’re likely never to reach them. And you can use it offline because notes are on your computer.
Snagit has no limits and stores only on your computer unless you share your content to other sources. And that brings us to comparing how these tools allow you to export your content. In other words, can you get stuff out that you put into it?
The necessity for an ongoing subscription to Evernote brings up to the next important comparison: how can you export and use your web-clippings and in the case of Evernote other types of notes?
Evernote: Not easy. You can export your notes as the Evernote file format called ENEX or as HTML, which is used in structuring web pages. Keep in mind that web clippings are image files, and we normally need image files in JPEG or PNG format to be able to use them in a variety of other programs.
In the menu click File > Export Note. Available file types are limited.
Snagit: Easy. You can export your clippings in countless ways. Pretty much all major file types are supported. You can easily add content directly to a large number of popular programs such as Word, PowerPoint and even Evernote! So, if you’re writing a family history story or book and you want to clip something on the web and include it, Snagit can send it right to your document with just a click.
Conclusion: If you need to be able to easily get web clippings and captured content out of the program and use it in other ways, use Snagit. If you want to keep your clippings and notes all in one place and be able to keep them organized and find them easily, use Evernote.
When it comes to sharing content with other researchers or your family, both Evernote and Snagit do a great job in their own way.
Evernote: Each note has a convenient Share button that allows you to invite other people to view just that note. It also gives you a unique link to the note that can be shared. And you can email notes. You can also put a group of notes into a notebook and then share the entire notebook. You can control whether the person being shared with can just view the notes or if they can edit them. So, it does facilitate collaboration by allowing you both to edit the same note. That permission can also be turned off. That all being said, Evernote is really a tool for you, and it’s not focused on sharing as a priority, or on sharing in order to be able to publish the content in many other ways.
Snagit: With Snagit, if you want to share with someone else to collaborate, you’ll need to send it to them, either by email or shared cloud storage. They can then edit the item in their Snagit software and send it back. So, it doesn’t offer the ability to collaborate quite as easily as Evernote. However, Snagit’s sharing and publishing capability is one of its greatest strengths and priorities. Just click Share in the menu and you’ll have the ability to save the content as a file to your computer, email it to someone, upload it to your own website, your printer, a wide range of software programs and cloud storage services, and yes, even to Evernote!
Click Share in Snagit’s menu
Conclusion: If you want to share with other people, both tools can do the job, although Evernote inches ahead because it facilitates both people being able to edit the same note within Evernote. If you want to share your content for use in other programs and publish it in other ways, Snagit is the best choice.
Evernote vs. Snagit Conclusions
After a head-to-head comparison, we’ve discovered that your selection between these two tools depends on your task and your goals:
Use Evernote if you want to be able to:
keep all your work in one place organized and searchable
create a wide variety of notes such as audio, video, web clippings, PDFs, typed notes, etc.
have OCR automatically applied to web clippings and images
collaborate with other people on your notes
easily create notes on mobile
Use Snagit if you want to:
create high-quality web clippings and videos in universally usable file formats that are exportable
create web-clippings of hard to capture content like wide screen family trees, and information that appears further down a web page that you can’t see all on the screen at the same time
be able manipulate your content with annotations or drop it into project templates
easily export your captured content into a variety of other programs
not have to pay an ongoing subscription.
Another way of looking at it is that Evernote is more of a final destination for content you’re collecting, and Snagit is a content collector that makes it easy to use that content wherever you need it.
If you want to have one place to store and use a wide variety of notes including web clippings, Evernote is the best choice. If you want full flexibility in capturing and creating online content and using it in other programs and projects, Snagit is the best choice. I like to use them in combination. I keep my genealogy and other notes organized in Evernote, and then I use Snagit to capture web content exactly the way I want it and send it into Evernote as needed. And I use both programs for a whole lot more than just genealogy! I clip recipes, projects and ideas, and I use Snagit for all the images I create for Genealogy Gems.
(This post contains affiliate links that help support our website.)
Family historians often end up with family heirlooms and documents that need archival storage.
In addition to the items you already have, you may find yourself receiving things from other relatives like family bibles, scrapbooks, and military uniforms.
The task of correctly archiving the family history can definitely get a bit overwhelming. However, with the right tools and supplies you can make a real difference in preserving your family’s treasures for future generations.
Denise May Levenick is the author of The Family Curator blog and writer for Family Tree Magazine and she joins me in episode 81 to share her top ten archival storage solutions for family historians.
Short on time? This week’s video is just 20 minutes and packed with the archival solutions you need. The video premieres on Thursday and features a live chat.
Watch the live premiere of this week’s video and participate in live chat with our Genealogy Gems YouTube channel subscriber family. (Subscribing to our channel is free. Click the red Subscribe button on the video page on our channel.)
1. Video Player (Live) – Watch the video premiere at the appointed time in the video player above. 2. On YouTube (Live) – Click the Watch on YouTube button to watch live at the appointed time at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Log into YouTube with your free Google account to participate in the live chat. 3. Video Player above (Replay) – Available immediately after the live premiere and chat.
(Please note: This interview transcription has been minimally altered for ease of reading and clarity.)
Lisa: I’d love to talk about the archival supplies we need. Because obviously, to complete a task and do a good job of it, we got to have the right tools. That’s certainly true when it comes to archiving. You’ve got 10 of your top tools that I know that you’ve used as an archivist. What is number one?
1. Archival File Folders
Denise: The first thing has to be archival file folders. They are not terribly expensive. And really, what you want to do is put your item, whatever it is, in the highest quality folder or box or something to protect it right away. But since most of us have pictures and paper, a file folder really is a good place to start.
Lisa: That sounds great because often other family members are giving us things, and we may not have time to deal with it right then and there. It sounds like this would be a very safe place to put it.
Denise: It is. You can purchase them in a box of 50 or 100. If you have a lot of items or just 10 or a dozen folders, it really can scale to suit whatever the size of your archives might be.
We really do need to take that extra step and seek out acid-free, lignin-free archival file folders. The kind you buy at the office supply store are just not the quality you need to preserve your papers and your photos. You can actually cause more damage if you put things in those.
Lisa: Because there’s probably acids in those, right?
Denise: Right, because the regular office supply ones, particularly the kind that are just for regular office use, they have so much acid in them that they can cause your item to deteriorate even more.
Lisa: Okay, so number two I see here is flip-top document case. This sounds like a specialty item. What are we talking about?
2. Flip-Top Document Case
These boxes are so confusing when you’re shopping. The names of these document cases and boxes can be confusing. The one I use looks like a mini file folder box. That’s exactly what it is. Examples of the kinds of things you can store in them include old rolled up documents, military photos, and banquet photos. I have a process to flatten these, but meanwhile I needed to store them.
You can reuse this kind of a box for anything. It doesn’t have to just be file folders. But because it’s designed for file folders, it’s really perfect. It’s even got a little tag to pull it out on the shelf if you need to pull it out. There’s a place to add a label.
It’s about five inches wide. I like this size because when you get those file folders in there, it gets heavy and a lot of people store these up on shelves. They can be heavy to move down. I bought some real wide ones that are seven or eight inches. And man, those things are heavy! So, I recommend smaller ones.
Lisa: I have some items that are definitely odd sizes, or like you said they were originally rolled up and I haven’t flattened them out and decided what to do with them yet. So, this sounds great.
The third item on your list is oversized document or photo box. So, it sounds similar. We often have larger items we’re struggling with, and we don’t want to fold it up.
3. Oversized Document or Photo Box
Denise: No, in fact, you want to unfold the item, and let those folds relax.
The archival suppliers make a box that is large, larger than a shirt box. So it might hold a fully open newspaper. Or they work well for portraits or drawings or maps. They’re typically quite shallow. They won’t be necessarily a clamshell kind of opening like the boxes we just mentioned. It might be a lift off top. But you can use it for anything. And the reason it is shallow is you don’t want to put a lot of weight on the things that are on the bottom.
If you can afford it, buy large file folders that will protect your item, and then you put it in the box.
You should keep things like newspapers separate. You do not want to store newspapers with anything else other than newspapers because they’re so toxic. The newsprint is just full of acid. You want that isolated from everything else.
4. Newspaper Preservation Kit
Lisa: So that must be why number four is the newspaper preservation kit. I didn’t realize that there was one.
Denise: Yes, newsprint is a big offender.
When I visited the New England historic genealogical library in Boston, and I got a tour of their upstairs archives. It was so exciting. I felt like I was you know, in the inner sanctum. I was shown rows and rows of archival boxes. And then just stacks of items people have donated like Bibles and books and family papers. They all had to be processed and organized. The archivists there told me they will not accept donations of newspapers. Because they are so toxic, anything they touch will turn brown. And it just degrades everything around it. So ,you want to be sure to isolate your newspapers if you’re going to keep them.
What they do at the library is photocopy the newspaper onto acid free paper. Or they scan it and then print a copy on acid free paper and get rid of the newsprint.
Lisa: That sounds like a really clever way to deal with that problem. So even if grandma gives you her newspapers, and she’s also got other stuff with it, you don’t want to keep it that way. You need to separate it out.
Denise: If you really want to keep like an obituary because it’s an original paper or something, that would be a good case for encapsulating in between two sheets of archival plastic. You can encapsulate it and then you can put it right back in that Bible because it’s isolated.
Lisa: Alright, so next we have acid free tissue paper. What would you be using this for?
5. Acid Free Tissue Paper
Denise: I love this stuff! I keep a stack of it here at home.
One time my dad gave me a stereograph, you know the thing you hold up and there’s double pictures. He gave me one of those. It was my grandfather’s. It was in of all things an envelopes box. A crummy, terrible box. And it was wrapped in red tissue paper! Have you ever like gotten a drop of water on red tissue paper? It bleeds terribly!
In the box along with the stereo cards were photo cards. And, being my dad, (he’s very strict) it’s “my way or the highway.” So, I couldn’t really tell him anything.
I took the box and he said he wanted it right back. I had some acid free tissue paper, so I just took the red tissue paper out, and cushioned everything in that dumb non-archival box with the acid free tissue paper. I took some pictures of it and looked at the cards, and then I gave it back to him. It was in a lot better shape! So, if you have acid free tissue paper, you are golden when stuff like that happens.
You can also use it to stuff the sleeves of a military uniform or wedding dress. You can wrap a pair of baby shoes in it. You can use it between layers of photographs. It’s just really helpful to have on hand.
Lisa: It sounds like we definitely need a stack of it on hand at all times.
6. Acid Free Flip top Photo and Print Box
Lisa: So now we are onto number 6 and another box designed for an unique purpose.
Denise: These boxes are designed in different sizes and colors. It doesn’t matter what color they are. They’re made out of a heavier board. And actually, this little box will protect your contents against even mild changes in temperature and humidity. It’s a really good protection.
I use one that is five inches by seven inches. It’s designed to hold five by seven photos on edge. Putting them on their edge ensures that there isn’t pressure placed on them by the weight of things on top. These come in all sizes. You can get big ones that are more like a shoe box.
If you have a lot of photos, you can get dividers to use in the box. But this would also be fine. You could even use some acid free tissue and put a pair of baby shoes in there.
Lisa: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Denise: The thing I like about these boxes is you can write on them, or you can add a label.
I cleaned out my parents homes after they died, if I came across a box like this, this says to me, “oh, there’s something special in there.”
Lisa: Yes. I totally agree with that! As I’m putting stuff together in my office, I’m thinking when I’m gone, I want something that signals to people “Keep this! Don’t toss this! This is important!” You’re kind of dressing it up and letting them give them a signal that this has been already taken care of so it needs to continue to be taken care of.
7. Archival Quality Albums
Well, number seven is archival albums. This one resonates with everybody. I mean, is there anybody who doesn’t have magnetic photo albums from 1970s, where we just struggled with things sticking and you can’t take it apart? I imagine an archival quality album would really help us with photos, negatives, letters and anything flat.
Denise: Right! The albums are designated archival quality. You want to look for a binder that is archival, as well as the inside pages. If you want to scrapbook, then you just want the paper and you would probably use photo corners. You could then write with an archival pen.
Something to be careful about is when you put a binder together. You might want to put it on a bookshelf, which is fine, but the dust can still get in from the top. Light and dust are the real enemy of things that you’re trying to preserve. So, buy a slipcover or keep them in your closet. That’s really the best place for these things because they’re protected from the light and the temperature that way.
Lisa: Good point. So, you’re saying that if you want them in your living room where people can pull them off the shelf and look at them, you will want to lay something over the top of the albums so that dust isn’t settling inside.
Denise: Yes. You know how the top of your books can get dusty!
Lisa: Exactly. I hadn’t thought about that with my photo albums. That’s a really good point.
Sometimes we have still have negatives. I know my husband inherited a lot of negatives from his side of the family. And, you know, we may or may not be ready to make prints out of all of them as soon as we get them, but we want to keep them What do you recommend for that?
8. Negative Preserver
You can use a box that is designed for negatives. It’s shorter.
Typically the 35mm negatives came in a little plastic sleeve, and that is good to use. A lot of times you can get archival supplies at a camera store. They use good quality, and I think they have something called a print file available.
Another option for negatives is binder sleeves. They’re a full page and they have little slots to put the negatives in, and then you put them in a binder that has sort of a clamshell closing. I have several of those and they work pretty well. They protect the edges of the negatives.
9. Archival Slide and Media Boxes
Number 9 takes us into even more kinds of media with Archival Slide and Media Boxes. I know when I got all my VHS tapes digitized, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. So you’re saying that if we want to keep different forms and media, there are special boxes for that too?
Denise: Right. There are boxes that are acid free, like the ones I showed you that are sized for media and slides. You can get metal slide boxes that are pretty nice. I would avoid wooden ones. I have a few of those we inherited. But even metal ones I found at the thrift shops. People got rid of their old slide boxes.
The Kodak slide boxes that they came in aren’t bad. Slide carousels just take up a lot of space. Remember those carousels? But you can get them and they make boxes for all kinds of things. You don’t have to only use a box that is labeled a slide storage box. You can put it in something that fits.
Lisa: Good to know.
Denise: They also make them uniquely for the different types of films.
Lisa: Yes, I think I’ve got some home movie on every type of media ever created over the decades which is a good problem to have, but it’s a challenge.
Number 10 reminds me of when you and I first met gosh, probably a dozen years ago at least. And I remember talking to you about quilts. One of your specialties is really your knowledge of dealing with textiles. So often we’re thinking photos and paper but if we’re fortunate we might have a uniform, tablecloth, quilt or other textile. Tell us what this kit can do for us.
Denise: I love these! The archival boxes that I showed earlier are wonderful, but they’re heavy. Just the box itself. Imagine you have a full size bed quilt. You need a big box which is expensive and heavy.
The E flute is a kind of plastic. You’ve probably seen it used as packing material. It’s got little ridges. And it’s kind of translucent plastic stuff. That’s the best description I can think of, but it’s very lightweight. You can order one of these boxes, it comes folded or flat and you kind of assemble it. There are other types too.
Archival quilt storage solution box
I bought one for my quilts. The only trick is because the E Flute is translucent, it won’t keep the light out. I have a beautiful old velvet album quilt, and I have folded that inside a sheet and put that whole thing in the E flute box, and then stored it in a dark. I have a little archive space where I keep that kind of thing.
They make them different sizes and in kits. I really do recommend them.
Lisa: Well, that’s the next thing on my list. I have my husband’s father’s military uniform. Part of what was holding me back in storing it was getting the right kind of box. I was thinking it was going to be one of these really heavy big boxes. So, this sounds like a really nice alternative.
Denise, you’ve given us 10 fantastic archival heirloom solutions. It’s wonderful to hear that they’re available in such a wide variety. Thank you so much, my friend. It’s wonderful to see you and I really appreciate your sharing your knowledge with us.
Denise: Thank you. It’s been nice to talk with you again, Lisa. And hope to see you again sometime soon.
The Library of Congress (LOC) is a dream destination for many U.S. genealogy researchers, but most of us can’t get there in person. Here are 4 ways–all online–to access the mega-resources of the Library of Congress for genealogy.
1. World Digital Library: for the bigger picture
The Library of Congress is home to the World Digital Library, “a collaborative international project led by the Library of Congress. It now includes more than 10,000 manuscripts, maps and atlases, books, prints and photographs, films, sound recordings, and other cultural treasures.
2. Chronicling America: for finding ancestors in the news
The Chronicling America newspaper site, hosted by the Library of Congress, catalogs U.S. newspapers and provides free access to more than six million digital newspaper pages (1836-1922) in multiple languages. Run searches on the people, places and events that shaped your ancestors’ lives. Results may include:
Advertising: classifieds, companies your ancestor worked for or owned, store ads, runaway slaves searches and rewards and ship arrivals or departures.
Births & deaths: birth announcements, cards of thanks printed by the family, obituaries and death notices, funeral notices, reporting of events that led to the death, etc.
Legal notices and public announcements: auctions, bankruptcies, city council meetings, divorce filings, estate sales, executions and punishments, lawsuits, marriage licenses, probate notices, tax seizures, sheriff’s sale lists.
Lists: disaster victims, hotel registrations, juror’s and judicial reporting, letters left in the post office, military lists, newly naturalized citizens, passenger lists (immigrants and travelers), unclaimed mail notices.
News articles: accidents, fires, etc. featuring your ancestor; front page (for the big picture); industry news (related to occupations); natural disasters in the area; shipping news; social history articles.
Community and social events like school graduations, honor rolls, sporting and theater events; social news like anniversaries, church events, clubs, engagements, family reunions, visiting relatives, parties, travel, gossip columns, illnesses, weddings and marriage announcements.
With Chronicling America, you can also buy medicine online china subscribe to receive “old news” on many of your favorite historical topics. Sign up for weekly notifications that highlight interesting and newly-added content on topics that were widely covered in the U.S. press at the time. (Click here to see a list of topics.) To subscribe, just use the icons at the bottom of the Chronicling America home page.
3. Flickr Creative Commons – Library of Congress Photostream for old pictures
Flickr Creative Commons describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.” Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others. The (U.S.) Library of Congress photostream has thousands of photos and a growing collection of front pages of newspapers.
Tip: The Library of Congress isn’t the only library posting cool images on Flickr Creative Commons. Look for photostreams from your other favorite libraries and historical societies. (Use the main search box with words like “Ohio library” and limit results to groups. You’ll see who’s posting images you care about and you can even follow them!)
4. Preserving Your History video for archiving your family history
The Library of Congress has a FREE video about how to create and properly preserve digital or print archival scrapbooks.
It’s a 72-minute video by various experts with a downloadable transcript on these topics:
Basic preservation measures one can do at home for long-lasting albums and scrapbooks
Pros and cons of dismantling old scrapbooks and albums in poor condition
How to address condition problems
Preservation considerations for digital scrapbooks and albums
How to participate in the Library’s Veterans History Project.
In Elevenses with Lisa episode 74 Lisa Louise Cooke answers the question “I inherited the family genealogy – NOW WHAT?!”
how to get started dealing with genealogy research that’s been given to you
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 Resourcessection 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.
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,
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 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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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