10 Questions to Rate Your Readiness for Genealogy Research Success

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 39 Show Notes

Elevenses with Lisa is our little slice of heaven where friends get together for tea and talk about the thing that never fails to put a smile on our face: Genealogy!

Are you ready for a year of successful genealogy? Learn how to develop an effective research plan, and preserve and protect your genealogy. Keep reading for the show notes that accompany this video.

10 Questions to Rate Your Readiness for Genealogy Success

1. Have you selected a place to start?

I started learning how to play the guitar in 2020. I began with an online course to learn the basics, and I picked one song that I really wanted to learn how to play. 

For three months I worked my way through the course and played that song over and over every day. This resulted in two things: I learned how to play the song, and my husband took a blow torch to my guitar! (Just kidding.)

At the end of those three months I had several weeks where I just didn’t feel I was making any progress at all. I practiced every day, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.

It turns out that I had reached my initial goals – I knew the most popular chords, had memorized the Pentatonic Scale and could play the song Crazy On You for a captive audience in my home. However, I had not  stopped to identify my next set of goals. Therefore, stagnation set in.

In an effort to restart my learning and success trajectory, I spent an evening looking through my record collection and I made a list of 6 of my favorite songs. Then I put them in the order I wanted to learn to play them. Most importantly, I identified which one was my top priority to learn. Once I did that, I knew exactly how I was going to spend my practice time.

It sounds simple, but finding and deciding on the place to start (or restart) is really easy to miss. When it comes to genealogy there’s always a bright shiny object online ready to gobble up a few precious minutes, or hours, or days! Having a predetermined project goal in mind will help you get down to business faster and keep you from wandering aimlessly.

2. Have you developed a project research question?

Once you know what your project will be, it is time to formulate the general question. In other words, what is the question you are trying to answer?

In this episode I shared the family story that had been handed down the McClelland family about their ancestor Washington McClelland. The story went like this: “He immigrated to the U.S. from England. He was working on the railroad when he met a girl in Idaho. She became pregnant. They married. He converted to the LDS church. They raised a family together.”

The general research question was “is this story true?” That’s a big question, and one that we’ll break down further in question #3. 

Genealogy Gems Premium Members can learn more about formulating research questions by watching the segment How Alice the Genealogist Avoids the Rabbit Hole Part 1 in Elevenses with Lisa Episode 2. It’s available in the Premium Videos area of the Genealogy Gems website. Don’t miss the downloadable handout! You’ll find the link under the video. (Learn more about becoming a Premium Member here.)

3. Do you have a Research Plan for your genealogy project?

The general project question can usually be broken down into several bite-sized actionable questions. In the example of “Is the story about Washington McClelland true?” we can break that question down into several questions:

  • Where exactly was Washington from in England? 
  • When did he come to the United States?
  • Why/how did he end up out West?
  • Did he work on the railroad?
  • When and where did he marry?
  • When was their oldest child born?
  • Did he join the LDS church?

And many of these questions can likely be broken down further. These more focused question help provide the framework for the project’s research plan. They can then be re-sorted so that they follow a logical progression of answers.

The next step will then be to identify and prioritize the sources (records) that are likely to provide the necessary relevant evidence. Then determine the order in which you will locate each identified record. Finally, add where you think you can find the records to the plan.

4. Do you have the research forms you need?

There are many different types of genealogy research forms: research logs, blank record forms, checklists, just to name a few.

Research logs are great for keeping track of your research plan progress. Blank record forms (such a blank 1900 U.S. Federal Census form) are very handy for transcribing the pertinent information for analysis. And checklists (such as a list of all types of death records) help ensure that you don’t miss and records, and you don’t look for the same record twice!

Free Genealogy Forms at Family Tree Magazine
Family Tree Magazine offers a plethora of free genealogy forms. You’ll need to register for a free website account to download the forms.

Free Genealogy Forms at Ancestry
Here you’ll find several common and helpful genealogy forms including:

  • Ancestral Chart
  • Research Calendar
  • Research Extract
  • Correspondence Record
  • Family Group Sheet
  • Source Summary
  • US, UK And Canadian Census Forms

5. Have you established Your Filing System?

Having an organizational system in place takes the guesswork out of where things should be filed, making it much more likely they will actually get filed. It also ensures that you’ll be able to put your hands on your records whenever you need them.

Here’s a secret: There is no one perfect filing system. The most important thing is that it makes sense to you and that you are consistent in how you use it.

In Elevenses with Lisa Episode 6 (available to Premium Members) I cover step-by-step the system I developed and have used for over 15 years. I’m happy to report I’ve never lost an item. (Whew, what a relief!)

As you work on your genealogy research you’ll find there are two important tasks you will be doing often:

  • Storing items that you have not had a chance to work on yet (I refer to these pending items as “to be processed.”)
  • Storing items that need to be filed. (Let’s face it, we rarely want to stop in the middle of an exciting search to file a document.)

Not having a way to store these two types of items leads to clutter and piles on your desk. Here’s my simple solution:

  • Place a “to be filed” basket next to your desk.
  • Create a “Pending” tab in each surname 3-ring notebook (if you use my system.) The beauty of the surname notebook Pending section is you have a place to put documents (out of sight) that are associated with a specific family. When you’re ready to work on that family line, grab the notebook and jump to the Pending section to start processing and analyzing the previously found records.

7. Do you have the supplies you need on hand?

Make sure that you have a small quantity of all of the supplies you need for the filing and organization system you are using.

Here’s what my shopping list looks like:

  • 3” 3-Ring View Binders
    (allow you to customize covers & spines)
  • 1” 3-Ring View Binder
  • 1 box of Acid-Free Sheet Protectors
  • 3-Ring Binder Tab Dividers

8. Have you settled on a file naming scheme?

How to name digital genealogy files is something we all struggle with. Good intentions don’t make the job any easier. Take a few moments to nail down the basic naming scheme you will commit to follow. I say basic, because there will be times when you’ll need to modify it to suit the file. That’s OK. But always start with the basic format.

Here’s what my basic file naming format looks like:

  • Year (will force chronological order)
  • First Name (filed in surname folder)
  • Location

Example: 1920_robert_m_springfield_oh

Notice in my format I don’t usually include the surname. That’s because I file in surname folders. Notice that I said “usually.” That’s because we are always free to add on additional information like a surname if we think it will prove helpful. For example, if I anticipate that I will have a need to share individual files with other researchers or family members (rather than the entire folder) then I will add the surname so that the person receiving the file has the pertinent information.

8. Are you prepared to make copies?

Protecting and preserving our genealogy for generations to come is a top priority for most genealogists. All of us at some time have worried about what would happen if a website that we upload our content to goes out of business or sells out to another company. Now there is a new reason to take a few extra steps to ensure you don’t lose access to your genealogy data. 

Recently, According to Buzz Feed, on Jan. 9 the largest cloud-hosting service notified a large social media network with millions of users that it would be cutting it off  from its cloud hosting service.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “other tech partners also acted, crippling operators.”

Now we must add to the list of concerns the possibility that a genealogy website we use might be cut off from web hosting. How might this type of action impact our personal family history that we share on websites? Many companies that provide access to millions of historical records and likely house a copy of your family tree and your DNA test results use the same cloud hosting service. In fact, it’s hard to find a company out there that isn’t tethered to it in some way.

My research showed that both Ancestry and FamilySearch have been featured on their website in case studies and blog articles:

The bottom line is that our family history is our responsibility to preserve and protect. While we can benefit from sharing copies of it online, putting all our genealogy eggs in only the online basket puts it at risk because we don’t have control.

While I love the idea of going paperless and I’ve been striving to do that in recent years, I’m changing my tune on this. For several years I’ve been strongly recommending that you get your own genealogy software on your own computer and use it as your master database. All online family trees are simply copies. Many people, particularly those who rely solely on FamilySearch often wondered why I was so concerned. The events of this week make my point and put an exclamation point on the end of it.

Making digital and paper copies of your data is a simple strategy you can put in place today. This means regular print outs of your tree, family group sheets, and the most important genealogical documents. I keep mine in a portable fireproof safe.

We can also make digital copies as well. For example, last year I had all my old home movies transferred to digital and they are stored on my computer. I went the extra step to get copies on DVD and I also copied the digital files onto a terabyte hard drive that is in the fireproof safe.

Remember, your computer is connected to the Internet. If you’ve ever woken up to a Windows update, then you know that tech companies can make changes to your computer. Having your own paper and digital copies are just extra insurance that certainly can’t hurt.

Here’s a checklist of things you can put in place today:

  • a good printer
  • extra ink
  • a stock of paper
  • a portable terabyte hard drive

Ideas for saving paper and ink:

  • Print only the most important documents that might be more difficult to replace.
  • Focus your printing on direct ancestors.
  • Print in draft mode (depending on the document) and / or black and white to save ink.
  • Make double-sided copies.
  • When possible, add two documents to each side of the paper so that one piece of paper holds 4 documents.

 

9. Is your computer backed up to the Cloud?

I use and recommend Backblaze for computer cloud backup. They have their own storage facility. Here’s what their storage pods look like:

backblaze server podcast

Image courtesy of Backblaze.

I am also an affiliate of Backblaze so I appreciate when you use my link if you decided to make a purchase. I will be compensated at no additional cost to you, and that supports this free show. https://www.backblaze.com/landing/podcast-lisa.html 

Learn more: Premium Members can watch the Premium video Your Guide to Cloud Backup and download the PDF handout. You’ll get answers to questions like:

  • What is cloud backup?
  • Why should I use cloud backup?
  • How does cloud backup work?
  • Is cloud backup safe?
  • What should I look for when selecting a cloud backup service?
  • My personal cloud backup choice

10. Have you scheduled ongoing education time?

Pick one area you want to improve your genealogy skills and knowledge and make time each week to learn something new about it.

Thank you for making Elevenses with Lisa and Genealogy Gems one of your places for genealogy learning, laughing and getting refilled!

On the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel:

  • Click the Subscribe button
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  • Use a free service like Blogtrottr.com to receive email notification reminders. Simply paste the Genealogy Gems channel URL into the first field,
    https://www.youtube.com/GenealogyGems
    enter your email address and select from the drop-down menu how often you would like to receive notifications. Then click the orange “Feed Me” button. When I post a new video or schedule an Elevenses with Lisa episode you’ll receive an email notification.

Recap: 10 Questions to Rate Your Readiness for Genealogy Success

  1. Have you selected a place to start?
  2. Have you developed a project research question?
  3. Do you have a Research Plan for your genealogy project?
  4. Do you have the research forms you need?
  5. Have you established Your Filing System?
  6. Do you have the supplies you need on hand?
  7. Have you settled on a file naming scheme?
  8. Are you prepared to make copies?
  9. Is your computer backed up to the Cloud?
  10. Have you scheduled ongoing education time?

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Let us know if you found this video and article helpful. I’d also like to hear from you about the topics you would like to learn more about in future episodes. Thanks!

 

3 Free German Genealogy Websites: Maps of Germany and Poland

Finding German hometowns can be challenging. Guest blogger Camille Andrus, a professional genealogist specializing in German research and Project Manager at Legacy Tree Genealogists shares 3 free German genealogy websites to put your ancestors on the map in the former German empire and modern-day Poland. 

Map of German Reich 1871–1918. from kgberger, Creative Commons license, Wikipedia.com; 

Anyone tracing German ancestors quickly finds themselves puzzling over maps in a region that has experienced a lot of change. Camille Andrus of Legacy Tree Genealogists recommends these 3 free German genealogy websites to help you navigate the former German empire–from Pomerania to Prussia to Poland. Here are her picks and her explanations for using them.

1. www.MeyersGaz.org

“For years, novice genealogists who found themselves embarking on the road of German genealogy were discouraged when needing to decipher an entry for their town in Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs (commonly known simply as Meyers or Meyer’s Gazetteer of the German Empire) due to the old German font in which the book was printed and the plethora of abbreviations that were used. To address this obstacle, the website www.MeyersGaz.org was created.

This online database not only explains the text and various abbreviations in the town entry that are found in the original printed version of Meyers, but also pinpoints the location of the town on both historic and modern maps, indicates the Catholic and Protestant parishes to which residents of the town would have belonged, and notes the distance from the town to all parishes within a 20-miles radius.

The database also allows users to search for a town using wildcards. This is especially useful when the exact spelling of a town is not known. For example, if the record on which you found the new town name indicated that the person came from Gross Gard…. where the second part of the word was smudged or illegible, you could simply put “Gross Gard*” into the database. In this case, the only two options would be Gross Garde in Pommern and Gross Gardienen in East Prussia. If you have a common town name such as Mülheim, you can filter the search results by province.”

Screenshot from MeyersGaz.org.

Note: Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear more about MeyersGaz on Premium Podcast episode 143.

2. Kartenmeister

Kartenmeister is a database for towns which are found east of the Oder and Neisse rivers in the former German Empire provinces of East Prussia, West Prussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. This area is now part of modern Poland. The database allows users to search for towns using either their German or Polish name.

Again, using Gross Gardienen as our example town, we learn that the Polish name for the town is now Gardyny and is located in the Warminsko-Mazurskie province. Like MeyersGaz.org, collaboration between users is encouraged. Individuals can enter their email address into a mailing list according to the town they are interested in and specify surnames they are researching in that town.”

3. Lost Shoebox

Map of Poland from Lost Shoebox shows where to find online records for each province.

“This website is an index to 17 websites focused on research in Poland. The list of websites corresponds with a map of Poland divided into its various modern provinces. Each number (representing a website) is listed on the map in each province for which it has records. Some websites are listed for nearly every province, while others show up for only one or two. The 17 websites featured on Lost Shoebox include either direct access to digital images, indexes to vital records, or lists of microfilms or other archival holdings.

If we were searching for records for Gross Gardienen or other nearby towns, we know from Kartenmeister that we would need to look in the Warminsko-Mazurskie province. The map shows the numbers 3, 10, and 14.” A corresponding key sends users to the appropriate websites.

“The third website on the list for the province brings us to the website for the Polish State Archive in Olsztyn. There are a plethora of digital images for both Evangelical church records and civil registration records available on this website.”

Camille Andrus is a Project Manager for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a worldwide genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in breaking through genealogy brick walls. Her expertise includes Germany, Austria, German-speakers from Czech Republic and Switzerland and the Midwest region of the U.S., where many Germans settled.

Click here to learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team 

 

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Mobile Device

http://www.mindanews.com/buy-topamax/ mobile device” width=”263″ height=”263″ />Ever feel like your tablet or smart phone is smarter than you? Here are 3 quick tips for getting the most out of your mobile device.

If you’ve got a mobile device–a smart phone, tablet or iPad–but aren’t really sure how to use it, you’re not alone. This common problem makes me think of this video below of how one father uses his iPad. Check out the expression on his daughter’s face!

Don’t resort to using your mobile device as a cutting board! There are so many things you can do with it in everyday life, for work or hobbies–and especially for genealogy. I’ll teach you more step-by-step mobile genealogy in the coming months. But let’s get started with these 3 quick tips for getting the most out of your mobile device:

1. Know your mobile device. In the case of an iPad, for example, which generation do you have (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Air, Pro etc.)? Which operating system does it use? How much storage space is on the device itself and how much cloud-based storage space do you have? (How much is available right now?) Your ability to answer these questions will help you to know which apps you can use and will help you best manage your device’s memory.

Don’t be afraid to browse your device to find these answers. If you can’t find the answers, (and there’s no 15 year old handy to help you), just Google your question. Below are two sample Google searches I ran: click to read the top result for each! (You can model your specific Google search phrase after the examples below.)

2. Keep your device updated to its current operating system.

Sometimes when you’re having trouble using your mobile device, it’s because its operating system is out-of-date. (On Apple products, you’ll see that referred to as iOS.) Some people consider it annoying to have to frequently update their operating systems, but the world of mobile technology changes so quickly that you really do need the most current system to be glitch-free and good-to-go.

How to find the version of your operating system:

1. Tap Settings
2. Tap General (iOS) or About Device (Android)
3. Tap Software Update
4. You will either see that your operating system software is up to date (and what version it currently is), or you will be notified it is out of date and prompted to update it.

An up-to-date operating system helps ensure you are getting the most out of your mobile device.

3. Get to know your Settings.

Your Settings icon probably looks like a gear. Open it. Browse the different areas so you’ll become familiar with it. Some features you’ll want to use will require that you activate them in the Settings. Also, sometimes if your device is supposed to support a feature but it doesn’t work, that may be an indication that you need to update something in your Settings. It’s not difficult to do!

mobile genealogy bookIn the coming months, I’ll teach you LOTS more about using your mobile device for genealogy (and everything else). Just enter your email in the “Sign Up for the Free Email Newsletter” box on any page on my website to make sure you’ll receive these helpful articles. (You’ll also receive a free gift just for signing up!)

Ready to make ensure that you’re getting the most out of your mobile device for genealogy?
My brand-new book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research is on SALE for those who pre-order through January 31, 2016.

1950 Census Substitute: What To Use Until its Release Date

The 1950 federal U.S. census will not be released to the public until April 2022. Are you as excited about that as I am? This census will provide volumes of new information about our families and their lives.

An enumerator interviews President Truman and the First Family for the 1950 Census. Image from www.census.gov.

An enumerator interviews President Truman and the First Family for the 1950 Census. Image from www.census.gov.

Answers to Your Questions about the 1950 Census

Here are answers to four of the common questions we receive about the 1950 census:

What will I be able to learn from the 1950 census?

With each decade the federal government has asked more detailed questions. The information collected has expanded our understanding of the families, their backgrounds, and their lifestyle.

Here’s what the front page of the 1950 Census of Population and Housing form looked like:

1950 census form page 1

As you can see there is a wealth of information that will be of interest to family historians. 20 questions were asked of everyone. The detailed questions at the bottom of the form were asked of 5% of the population. 

The back side of the form may not be as familiar to you, but it too collected a vast amount of fascinating data about housing:

1950 census form page 2

Let’s take a closer look at one of the rows:

1950 census up close

1950 census instructions population schedule

Instructions regarding the front and back of the Population and Housing Schedule Form P1

As you can see the back side of the form is focused on housing. Here you’ll find answers to questions about:

  • Type of Living Quarters
  • Type of Structure
  • Whether a business was run from the house
  • The condition of the building
  • If there are any inhabitants who may be somewhere else at the time the census was taken
  • How many rooms
  • Type of water, toilet and shower / bath facilities
  • Kitchen and cooking facilities
  • Occupancy
  • Financial and rental arrangements

Additional questions were not asked of all, but rather were asked on a rotating basis. These centered around additional features of the home such as radio, television, cooking fuel, refrigeration, electricity and the year the home was built.

Are enumerator instructions available for the 1950 census?

The instructions issued to enumerators can provide you with further insight into the records themselves. It can also clarify the meaning of marks and numbers you may find on the documents.

And yes, the US Census Bureau has indeed published the instructions for the 1950 census on their website here. According to their site:

“During the 1950 census, approximately 143,000 enumerators canvassed households in the United States, territories of Alaska and Hawaii, American Samoa, the Canal Zone, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and some of the smaller island territories. The U.S. Census Bureau also enumerated Americans living abroad for the first time in 1950. Provisions were made to count members of the armed forces, crews of vessels, and employees of the United States government living in foreign countries, along with any members of their families also abroad.”

1950 census manual

Also on that web page you’ll find instructions for the following years: 1790, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940.

Can I request individual census entry look-ups?

Yes, you may apply to receive copies of individual census entries from 1950-2010 for yourself or immediate relatives. It’s not cheap—it’s $65 per person, per census year. (Check the website for current pricing.) But if you’re having research trouble you think would be answered by a census entry, it might be worth it. Click here to learn buy lithium medication online more about the “Age Search Service” offered through the Census Bureau.

Is there a 1950 census substitute database?

Yes, Ancestry has one. You might find it a little gimmicky, because it’s just taken from their city directory collection from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. But it’s a good starting point to target your U.S. ancestors living during that time period. The annual listings in city directories can help you track families from year to year.

More 1950 Census Resources

Your 1950s family history may appear in other records as well, and I’ve got some tips to help you in your search:

The 1950 Census for Genealogy

Watch my video All About the 1950 Census

Family History Episode 41: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 4: Get Inspired!

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished August 13, 2014

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh41.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 41: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 4: Get Inspired!

We’ve been talking quite a bit about family history blogging in the last few episodes. Today I have a few goodies for you this week that should help you make significant progress in creating your own blog if that’s something you’d like to do, and some goodies from other genealogy bloggers that will inspire and entertain you.

Blog post: Finding Charlie Stone, by Lee Drew

I really enjoy reading genealogy blogs that share insight into how the bloggers research has enriched their lives and I particularly enjoy reading the family stories they uncover along their journey.

In Episode 69 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast I featured a blogger reading one of their favorite blog posts (and my favorite for that matter) for the first time on the show.  Lee Drew read his post My Mother Was A Quilter – the charming story of his early years growing up in a family of quilting women, and how his life hasn’t changed that much because he is surrounded by them today with his own wife, daughters and daughter-in-laws.

So sit back and enjoy another blog post called Finding Charlie Stone, by Lee Drew, who blogs at FamHist 2  and Lineage Keeper.

Did you start your own genealogy blog?

I have another talented genealogy blogger for you in this episode, but before we hear from her, I want to say that I hope you took a few minutes to follow the steps outlined in Episode 40 of this podcast and got your own blog started. Remember, you don’t have to make it public – so you can dabble all you want and only share if and when you’re ready.

To help you along I have produced two videos for you that walk you through those same steps, but in the videos I show you live on the computer screen how it’s done.  So head to my Genealogy Gems TV Channel at YouTube to watch How to Blog Your Family History, Part 1 & How to Blog Your Family History, Part 2. Rest assured, there are more videos to come because we have only scratched the surface in creating your blog and actually blogging.

Blog Post: How Blogging Has Benefited My Research by Amy Coffin

Here’s a goodie from Amy Coffin who has a masters in Library science and is an avid genealogist who specializes in the use of Web 2.0 technologies to maximize research results. Her experience in the library world has led to a firm belief in the benefits of social networking and blogging to enhance the genealogy experience. Through her web site, www.AmyCoffin.com, Amy offers ideas on how others can maintain blogs and open up their own family history to whole new levels. When she’s not helping clients with their research, Amy shares her own personal genealogy adventures at her We Tree blog. In this blog post, Amy shares a story about how blogging has benefited her research.

We will be finishing up our family history blogging lesson next week with adding a few more gadgets and details, doing a bit of pre-planning for our blog posts, publishing our first article, and then talking about how your readers will subscribe to your blog.

Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on my class called Google for Genealogy. We’ve talked about various Google tools on both my podcasts and in this class we’re going to wade all the way and go in depth!

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