by Lisa Cooke | Nov 11, 2015
Here are the reasons every family historian should be writing a family history blog–and how can you get started NOW.
Why Start a Family History Blog
Many of us want to write up our family stories, but with busy schedules, a 300-page book may not be in our future!
You don’t have to have a lot of time to write and share your family history. Blogging about family history is a perfect alternative. Blogs are just simple websites that present articles in chronological order beginning with the most recent. This is a great format for telling a story that travels through time.
Blogs also allow your readers to “subscribe” for free much like a podcast. In other words, your readers don’t have to remember to visit your blog and read the latest. Instead, they can receive email prompts when you publish new articles, or they can receive those new articles alongside their other favorite blogs and podcasts in a blog reader. Very convenient indeed!
Still not convinced it’s possible to start your own genealogy-themed blog? Here are 7 reasons why and how you can start a family history blog.
1. You can write a little bit at a time.
You don’t have to fill hundreds of pages or lay out an entire book. With a blog you can write as little as a paragraph at a time. There are no rules because it is your blog!
Over time, even a one-paragraph blog post, once a week, will eventually result in many pages. It’s a great way to pace yourself and still get your family’s story in writing.
2. Every word you write is searchable by Google.
Gone are the days of simply posting a query on a genealogy message board that only reaches genealogists.
By blogging about your family history, other people who are researching the same family lines can find and connect with you through their Google searches. You’ll be writing about the family they are searching for, so you’ll very likely be using many of the same keywords, dates and information that they will include in their search query. This means your blog should pop up high on their Google search results list!
Think of your family history blog as your own big message board. Your posts can be found by anyone in the world searching for the same information. The connection possibilities are endless. So essentially, family history blogs are your way to “fish for cousins.” This of it as “cousin bait!”
Blogs typically include a Comment section at the end of each of your articles, so encourage visitors to your blog to leave comments. Don’t worry, you can set your blog to only show the comments after you have reviewed and approved them.
3. You might bust your toughest brick wall.
I’ve heard and shared countless success stories here at Genealogy Gems from readers and listeners. By just “putting it out there” on a blog they have opened the door to a distant relative contacting them with a treasure trove of new information about their family tree.
“Your encouragement to blog genealogy has given me courage and a vehicle for which I can share the stories of our family’s common history. So, over the past month I’ve been posting digital images of each day (from my great grandfather’s) journal from 50 years ago, the transcription of the journal and an historical image that gives context to what he was writing about. I plan to include family photos and other documents as I expand this blog.”
– Chris C.
4. You’re more likely to spot your mistakes and missing links.
Have you ever told a story out loud and discovered in telling it that something in the story didn’t quite jive? A blog can help you tell your family’s story “out loud” too.
The process of writing up your family history discoveries can often reveal gaps, errors, or bad assumptions in your research. And that’s a good thing! Use it to your advantage to identify further research that needs to be done. But those items on your research to do list.
And don’t be afraid to let your reader know what your gaps are and where you’re stuck. They just might be able to help!
5. Your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, etc. are online.
Your descendants probably prefer to read quick and easy stories on-the-go on their smart phones and tablets, and a blog fits the bill perfectly.
Putting your research on a blog provides your relatives with an easy way to digest the family heritage. And of course they can subscribe to it, since blogs can be delivered to their email inbox or to a blog reader like Feedly.
Blog posts are also super easy to share to Facebook, which means your post can get even more traction.
“The family response has been amazing. The cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles think it is cool and want to see more! They love the stories and can’t wait for subsequent postings so they can hear detailed history about (him) that they never knew about.
I believe this blog will be part of how our family begins healing and comes back together again.”
6. Because there are no excuses.
You can start a blog for free, so cost is not a barrier.
There are no rules, so you can decide how often and how much you write at once.
There is just one thing you have to do to successfully blog about your family history: begin.
7. Because your blog continues to share even when you aren’t researching.
The best news of all is that your family history blog will be out there working online for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Even when life gets in the way and you need to take a sabbatical from blogging and genealogy, your blog is still out there ready to be found. You will still be sharing your family’s story, and attracting relatives to it. And when you’re ready, your blog will be ready for you to add the next chapter.
How to Start a Family History Blog
Starting a family history blog isn’t hard. But some people find it intimidating. So I’ve created two entire series to help you get started.
Click to watch this free series of videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel These videos show you how to set up a family history blog. They are a few years old, but will give you the basic idea. You’ll see how to get started for free in Blogger, with your Google account.
(I use WordPress for my website and my blog. They have a free version at wordpress.com.) Need more encouragement? Click here to hear from other readers who are very glad they got started.
Learn More About Blogging on the Family History Podcast
Click to listen to a free series from our Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast(an online radio show).
Starting with episode 38, you’ll learn:
The “Footnote Maven,” author of two popular blogs, talks about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, tips for getting people to comment on your blog posts and more.
We hear from two additional popular genealogy bloggers, Denise Levenick (author of The Family Curator and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful” on the Shades of the Departed blog) and Schelly Tallalay Dardashti (author of the Tracing the Tribe blog).
How to create your own free family history blog on Blogger.com. Learn tricks for designing a simple, useful blog and how NOT to overdo it!
In this concluding episode, learn how to add a few more gadgets and details to your blog; pre-plan your blog posts, publish your first article, and how to help your readers subscribe. You’ll also get great tips on how to create genealogy content that others looking for the same ancestors can find easily online.
Share the Blogging Adventure!
Invite someone you know to start a family history blog of their own. Send them a link to this webpage or share it through social media. They’ll thank you for it later!
And if you have started a family history blog, please comment below and share your experience.
by Lisa Cooke | Apr 2, 2014 | 01 What's New, Census, Maps
Looking for enumeration district maps for the U.S. Federal Census? You’re not alone!
1940 Census Enumeration District Map, Oklahoma, Wagoner County, http://research.archives.gov/description/5836456
Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Michelle in Denver, Colorado, wrote in with this question:
“Where can I find individual enumeration district maps? I don’t need a state-wide map showing the divisions between enumeration districts, but a map showing the numbered households within a single enumeration district.”
My answer: How to find Enumeration District Maps
First, here’s a little back story from the National Archives (U.S.) website:
“An enumeration district, as used by the Bureau of the Census, was an area that could be covered by a single enumerator (census taker) in one census period. Enumeration districts varied in size from several city blocks in densely populated urban areas to an entire county in sparsely populated rural areas.
Enumeration district maps show the boundaries and the numbers of the census enumeration districts, which were established to help administer and control data collection. Wards, precincts, incorporated areas, urban unincorporated areas, townships, census supervisors` districts, and congressional districts may also appear on some maps. The content of enumeration district maps vary greatly.
The base maps were obtained locally and include postal route maps, General Land Office maps, soil survey maps, and maps produced by city, county, and state government offices as well as commercial printers. Census officials then drew the enumeration district boundaries and numbers on these base maps.” (Check out the full article here.)
Enumeration district maps are not available in all years and all locations. 1940 ED maps are available on the National Archives (U.S.) website. (Scroll down to item 3 for instructions on getting to these through the Online Public Access search.) You’ll see that only the enumeration district numbers and street names are marked on the maps. Individual homes are not.
You might be wondering, are there enumeration district maps before 1940? They are limited but the answer is yes. Enumeration District maps are also available for the 1900 through 1930 censuses. You can browse and download the maps for free at FamilySearch. Search for title The United States enumeration district maps for the twelfth through the sixteenth US censuses, 1900-1940.
For censuses before 1900, the government used voting districts as enumeration districts. Find voting district maps in the Library of Congress book, Ward Maps of the United States : A Selective Checklist of Pre-1900 Maps in the Library of Congress. (The links here lead to WorldCat search results for these titles. WorldCat will tell you about libraries that have these books.)
Next, turn to the book Cartographic Records of the Census Bureau for a listing of maps available back into the 19th century at the National Archives. It’s available as an ebook which you can read online or download for free from Google Books. This book is an invaluable resource for finding much early maps at available at the National Archives on microfilm.
Enumeration District (ED) Map Finder
If you just want to find the enumeration district number of an address you already know, go to the Unified Census ED Finder at Steve Morse’s One-Step genealogy website.
At the top of the Unified Census ED Finder page start by selecting the census year (currently 1870 through 1950.) Next, enter as much information as you know about the location such as the county. Select the city from the list of cities displayed. You will then be able to enter street-level information. If you select “other” from the city list, you can then type in the city or town name. Continue to follow the prompts and instructions.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you find and use ED maps:
In cities, there are often two columns of numbers in the census population enumeration (typically on the far left of the page). There’s house number and the number representing the order in which the enumerator visited the house (which has nothing to do with the house number). If you can’t find a relative in once census, pull the address from one census and use it in the Steve Morse database above to pull up the enumeration district for your missing decade.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps can be helpful when searching for old Enumeration District Maps.
Depending on the year you are researching, try to locate a Sanborn fire insurance map for the area. Sanborn maps do include drawings of individual homes and include their house number. Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 47 is all about Sanborn fire maps. On the show notes page I even include a list of links to many Sanborn map collections, organized by state.
Final Thoughts: The Newest ED Maps Available Online
The 1950 enumeration district maps are now available for free online. Read my article The 1950 Census for Genealogy and watch the video to learn how to access them for free.
by Lisa Cooke | Mar 31, 2015 | 01 What's New, Adoption, images, United States
Recently Genealogy Gems Premium member Katharine Ott wrote in this with newsworthy gem:
“Recent adoption records are being released in Ohio. Such an exciting time for those adoptees yearning to connect with their bloodlines! Before the bill took effect, they allowed birth mothers to redact their names. Out of 400,000 only around 110 took them up on that. There’s also a preference form with the birth records where the mother can request not to be contacted. I wonder how often that might not be respected. It’s such an interesting situation for someone to be in.”
Wow, that’s huge news about Ohio adoption records! Thanks for the news, Katharine. She sent us this link to a local news story that covers the story. The Ohio Department of Health posted this webpage about ordering adoption records.
Want to learn more about accessing adoption records in any state? Check out the U.S. Adoption Research page at the FamilySearch wiki for a terrific overview and helpful links.
Also, try running a Google search for the name of the state and the keywords adoption and genealogy. You’ll find lots of great resources, like this page on adoption records at the Pennsylvania state library or this online resource from the State Historical Society of Missouri.
The right Google search can shorten your search for the records you want! This tip brought to you by the newly-published, fully-revised and updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke.
by Lisa Cooke | Apr 10, 2013 | 01 What's New, Records & databases, Research Skills
It’s time to pay taxes in the United States! Is it any consolation that our ancestors paid them, too? Here’s a brief history of U.S. federal taxation and tips on where to find tax records for the U.S. and the U.K.
History of Tax Records
According to the National Archives (U.S.), the Civil War prompted the first national income tax, a flat 3% on incomes over $800. (See an image of the 16th Amendment and the first 1040 form here.)
The Supreme Court halted a later attempt by Congress to levy another income tax, saying it was unconstitutional.
In 1913 the 16th Amendment granted that power. Even then, only 1% of the population paid income taxes because most folks met the exemptions and deductions. Tax rates varied from 1% to 6%–wouldn’t we love to see those rates now!
Where to Find Tax Records
Ancestry.com has indexed images of U.S. federal tax assessment lists from the Civil War period (and beyond, for some territories).
Here’s a sample image from Arkansas:
Of course, the U.S. federal income tax is just one type. Taxes have been levied on real estate, personal property and income by local, regional and national governments throughout the world.
Some tax records can be found online at the largest genealogy websites.
Here are examples of tax records that can be found at Ancestry:
- tax records from London (1692-1932);
- the U.S. states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Ohio, Georgia and Texas;
- and many from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Russia (there’s more: see a full list and descriptions here).
FamilySearch.org hosts over a million records each of U.S. state tax records from Ohio and Texas.
FindMyPast hosts a wealth of U.K. tax records, from local rate books to Cheshire land taxes and even the Northamptonshire Hearth Tax of 1674.
In addition to genealogy websites, here in the U.S., look for original real estate and personal property taxpayer lists in county courthouses or state archives.
It’s also a good idea to consult genealogical or historical organizations and guides. A Google search for “tax records genealogy Virginia” brings up great results from the Library of Virginia and Binns Genealogy. And here’s a search tip: Use the keyword “genealogy” so historical records will pop up. Without that term, you’re going to get results that talk about paying taxes today.
If you still haven’t found the tax records you are looking for, there are two more excellent resources available for finding out what else might be available within a particular jurisdiction.
The first is the FamilySearch Wiki. From the home page you can drill down using the map, or try a search in the search box. Search for the jurisdiction and the keyword tax. Click through to the page for that jurisdiction. Typically you will find a table of contents that includes links to the section of the page covering various topics. Look for a link to tax, taxes, tax records, or taxation. They will list known sources for tax records in that area.
Tax records at the familysearch wiki
The second resource for finding out what else might be available is the free USGenWeb site. Like the FamilySearch Wiki, it’s organized by location / jurisdiction. Drill down to the place and then look for the section listing the known records for that area and look for tax related links.
Find information about tax records at USGenWeb
Why It’s Worth Finding Tax Records
I’ll leave you with this tantalizing list of data gathered in the Calhoun County, Georgia tax list of 1873. It enumerates whites, children, the blind/deaf/dumb, dentists, auctioneers, and those who have ten-pin alleys, pool tables and skating rinks. Then, real estate is assessed in detail. Finally, each person’s amount of money, investments, merchandise, household furniture, and investment in manufacturing is assessed.
As you can see, it can pay you big to invest time in looking for your ancestor’s tax records! Just make sure that if you’re here in the U.S., you’ve got your own taxes out of the way before you go searching for someone else’s.