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 45: Genealogy Blogs Started by YOU!
In recent episodes of this podcast, we’ve been talking about how and why to create a genealogy blog. In this episode I’m going to share some of the family history blogs that YOU—the listeners—have created. I’m hoping you’ll be inspired to blog by what others are doing, or that you’ll take note of any blogs that can help you or perhaps are relevant to your own family history. Being a community is what gives genealogists strengths and inspiration. Get your notepads out and get ready to jot down these terrific blogs!
Below are the blogs mentioned in the show. Most of them stayed active and have very recent posts! What a great thing to see the success they’ve had since getting started. There’s only one blog we didn’t find when we republished this episode: Teri’s blog on her Pomeranian ancestors.
Writing up your brick walls and family groups is a great way to summarize in your mind where you are in your research, which often generates new leads.
Try posting more articles to generate content for the search engines.
Put your blog URL on message boards relating to your surname.
Have you lost track of someone else’s blog that is no longer at its old URL? Search for the blog, the blogger’s name and other keywords (surnames, topics, places) to discover whether it’s migrated to a new URL. That’s how we located some of the blogs above when we republished this episode.
Starting a Genealogy Blog Q&A
(Please note that features and layouts of blogging platforms change over time. These answers were current as of the original podcast publication date. If things have changed, use clues from the answers to find the current answer!)
Question: I set up my blog in Blogger. There does not appear to be any spell checker. How is your blog set up in terms of writing and editing?
Answer: Yes, Blogger has a spell check. When you’re in Compose mode, there are buttons across the top of the Compose box. You’ll see Font, Bold, etc. There you will find an icon “ABC.” That’s the spell-checker. Click it and it will run while you’re in Compose mode.
Question: How do I insert the name of the site as a link without typing out the name of the URL? The URL is somehow encoded in the name of the link.
Answer: When links are embedded in the text, this is called a hyperlink. Highlight the text or the name you want to send people to. Then in the Compose box, you’ll see a little button that looks like the link of a chain. Just click that and you’ll get a window in which you can type in the complete web address where you’re sending people (I always go to the webpage I want to link to, copy the full URL and then paste it.)
Question: I set my blog as available to all, but a search even for the exact name of the blog doesn’t bring it up in my search engine. Why is that?
Answer: You can do a couple of things in your blog to help search engines notice you, but the reality is that perhaps Google hasn’t yet “crawled” your blog. Google combs and indexes website every day, and perhaps they haven’t gotten to you yet. You can go to Google.com/addurl, and there you can send your blog address to Google and that will get it indexed much more quickly. Get lots of new posts up with specific words (surnames, locations and other terms about your family).
Family history can, and should be found around our own homes. Your house is a great place to look for clues as well as the ideal place to display what you’ve already found! In this free genealogy live webinar Lisa Louise Cooke will show you how.
Elevenses with Lisa Episode 65
In Elevenses with Lisa episode 65 Lisa Louise Cooke will:
explore our homes for family history
see if we can’t unlock some mysteries, and
look at some fun and creative ways to incorporate family history into our homes!
Episode 65 Show Notes
Watch episode 65
Home is where the heart is and it’s certainly where the family history is. If you’ve found an interesting piece of family history around your home tell us about in the Comments section below so we can all get more ideas of what to look for.
She wrote about being retired and becoming a grandmother. “The new baby (my first grandchild) and new house ignited one of my long-awaited projects—excavating crawl spaces and basement corners on a hunt for possessions to pass on to the next two generations. It’s easy to predict how this played out. My son and his wife turned down many more items than they accepted. Much of what I had hoped to “upsize” to them stayed in my basement and attic. What wasn’t easy to predict, however, was how complicated this seemingly simple transaction could be. It involved multiple perspectives, across multiple generations. It showed how possessions, when held up to the light, often lose the very qualities that prompted us to set them aside. And, in my case, it offered a glimpse of a future that I’ve thought about—and looked forward to—for years.”
She proceeds to describe how she went through items in the house, offering them up to her son and daughter-in-law. She got replies like:
No Shelf space now, maybe later,
“They did give thumbs-up to desk lamps, guest sheets and towels, a few kitchen items and one folding chair, among other things—utilitarian items with no stories or expectations attached.”
It’s an interesting dilemma I hadn’t thought about when I was carefully collecting and saving things over the past few decades: that being attached to the story behind the item was key to valuing it. We’re attached. They aren’t.
Then of course if enough years and even generations go by, we develop an interest in family history and can’t believe our good fortune to unearth such a treasure.
“Then there was the collection of unrelated items I now saw in a different light—those whose stories matter only to me: the child’s battered wooden rocking chair from the porch of my grandparents’ summer house; a faded, inscribed photograph of my father as a young man standing next to his own father, whom I never met; and the small tarnished music box with a twirling ballerina on top that was a gift from my godfather when I was young enough to still dream about being a dancer.
These things will stay with me here in the home where I have lived for decades.
One day a young girl visiting her grandparents comes upon the music box. She picks it up and turns the key that starts the music playing. “Grandma,” she says, “what’s this? Can I have it?” “It’s yours,” I say, my heart skipping a beat. “It always has been. You had only to ask.”
I’ve inherited a lot of sets of dishes, and I have three grown daughters, and so far there aren’t any takers. My friend Kim recently proposed the idea of taking a class to learn how to make mosaic stepping stones for the garden. I can’t think of a better way to downsize some of this china!
making mosaic tile stepping stones with my besties
So during last week’s live show (and you’ll find the link to the video replay here on YouTube in the video description below or go to genealogygems.com and click Elevenses in the menu to go to episode 64) I asked if any of you have family china:
Ann Baker: Inherited? No, but we have some wedding china from our wedding 52 years ago that our kids absolutely don’t want. I’m putting it in the will that they must keep them. Or I’ll haunt them.
Barbara Dawes: Wedding gift from my grandmother was my set of sterling silver – do I take it with me?
Anne Renwick: And yes, I have LOADS of old china!
Karen de Bruyne: had to give lots of grandparents old china away earlier this year, I kept one cup and saucer
Louise Booth: 3 or 4 sets — I’ve lost track!
mosaic tile stepping stone
China Plate Mosaic Stepping Stone Supply List (the links below are affiliate links. We will be compensated if you make a purchase. Thank you for using them and supporting this free show):
Concrete stepping stone from the local garden or hardware store
At least 2-3 large dinner plates or several smaller sizes. Strive for flatter plates.
Masonry cutters – ABN Glass & Ceramic Tile Nippers, Premium Carbide Cutting Wheels and Comfort Grip Handle
Grout Sealer (about 1/3 cup applied to the grout with a small paintbrush.)
2-3 popsicle sticks
Small cheap paint brush
China Plate Mosaic Stepping Stone Instructions:
Cut the plates up into piece 1-2” in size. Toss the pieces that aren’t fairly flat (like the raised rim that the plate sits on.)
Arrange them as desired on the concrete stepping stone. Place them as close as possible while leaving room for the grout. You don’t want large grout lines that might crack later.
Using the popsicle stick, apply a coat of mastic to the back of each piece. Cover the entire back evenly and press the piece back in place.
Clean up the grout lines so that no mastic sits higher than the plate pieces or clogs the grout line spaces.
Let drive 24 hours.
Mix the grout – use water sparingly and leave extra grout in case it gets too wet.
Let the grout stand or slake for 5 minutes.
Wearing the gloves and using a popsicle stick, fill all the grout lines completely and smoothly.
Follow package directions for set-up time and then buff it clean.
Allow to dry 24 hours.
With a small paintbrush apply the sealer to the grout lines and let dry.
Grandma’s Kitchen Utensils Wall Display
Do you remember spending time in your grandmother’s kitchen? I sure do. My maternal Grandma would take us out to the fields to pick fruits and vegetables and she canned a lot of it to preserve it for winter, keeping it in an old wooden pie safe in her garage.
I inherited many of her trusty kitchen utensils. I’ve hung on to them for years in a cardboard box, dragging them with me as we moved around the country. I’ve always wanted to display them but shelf and counter space is always so limited and precious. I needed a way to get them up on the wall and I finally found it.
When I was out shopping at an antique store I came across an old wire basket. It caught my eye because it wasn’t round. It’s rectangular shape turns into a hand display shelf when it’s turned on it’s side. Being wire, it’s not only easy to hand (place the bottom of the basket against the way and secure over a few good nails or hooks), but it’s the perfect canvas for displaying your utensils. Items can be placed on the “shelf” portion, and wired onto it from all directions. The nearly invisible wire means all you see is the beautiful patina of these old kitchen work horses – flour sifters, peelers, mashers, blenders, funnels and more!
Let’s hear from you: In the comments section tell us what your favorite family kitchen utensil is and who it originally belong to.
Watch Elevenses with Lisaepisode 27 on using Google Lens for genealogy.
Music Box: Name that Tune!
Now we’re going to start off with a little family history mystery that Sharon emailed me about
She writes: “I’m a long time listener and I’m loving Elevenses with Lisa! After watching Beginning German Genealogy, I remembered that my friend, Tera Fey, had shared a unique music box with me, hoping I could identify the tune. Tera had been given the music box by her grandmother, Cora (Cornelia?) DeWein, who had been given the music box by her grandmother from Germany. Tera remembers that the top used to have a crest attached to it but doesn’t remember what it looked like. I was hoping you could share the tune with your many listeners and perhaps someone could “Name That Tune”. Many thanks for the work you do and that you share with us.”
How fun! OK we’ve had success playing Name that Tune before on my Genealogy Gems Podcast so you’ve come to the right place Sharon!
So, here’s my research plan on Tera’s music box. The first thing I did after receiving her email was to put it out on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page asking for help a few months ago.
While I waited for an answer I ran a Google search on the audio, and if you ever need to identify music you can do this too.
How to search for music using the Google search app:
Open the app and tap the microphone
Say “what’s this song?” or tap the “Search a song” button.
Hum or sing the song for about 10-15 seconds.
This works in English on iOS, and in more than 20 languages on Android, as well as Google Assistant.
You’ll get suggested matching results or the response “Try Again”
In this case, we didn’t get a match.
Back on the Facebook post front, my daughter Lacey actually was the one who identified it as a Thorens Music Box, which are Swiss made. She said “Looks like 30-36 note? There would have been a card attached to the inside with the list of tunes. Looking at others for sale on eBay show similar boxes with their songs listed. Could listen to those songs to see if they match?” This is a good strategy.
A great place to listen to the songs available with a particular brand of music box is YouTube. I listened to several and although I didn’t hear a matching tune, there are many videos available naming the songs this box played, so it might be worth a more comprehensive search of Thorens Music Box.
Now it’s your turn. Let’s see if anyone out there knows the name of this song.
If you do, and you’re here watching live, post the title in the Live Chat. If you’re watching the video replay, go down to the Comments section and leave a comment. Let’s see if we can help Sharon and Tera out!
Help Send the Madden Family Tablecloth Back Home
I bought this tablecloth about 5 years ago on ebay.com. It’s covered in embroidered handprints with names and birthdates. Since it’s the “Madden Family Branch” I would guess that those listed without last names are Maddens. Associated surnames are Egge and Arrants. Although a color key to the generations sewn into the corner of the tablecloth, there were other colors in the embroidery, so the “generation” distinctions aren’t hard and fast. I’ve also grouped families together where they appear to be a unit. If you think you know which family this is and have a contact for them today, email here.
When we try to research our family history from recent decades, we often find privacy barriers: U.S. census records for 1950 and beyond
1950s Fords by Bob P.B. on Flickr Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
are closed, as are many vital records. Here are some ideas for finding family history in the 1950s and beyond:
1. Interview relatives. The good news is that in many families, there are relatives around who remembers the 1950s. If there’s not, then look to the memories of the next living generation.
Interviewing a relative is one of the most fun and meaningful ways to learn your family history. You can ask specific and personal questions, deepen your relationships with those you interview and gain a better understanding of the lives that led to you. Older people often love to have someone take a sincere interest in them. The free Family History Made Easy podcast episode 2 has a great segment on interviewing your relatives.
2. Read the newspaper. Use newspapers to find obituaries and discover more about daily life, current events, popular opinions of the time, prices for everyday items and more. It’s getting easier than ever to find and search digitized newspapers online, but more recent papers may still be under copyright protection.
Use online resources like to discover what newspapers served your family’s neighborhood, or even whether an ethnic, labor or religious press would have mentioned them. In the US, I always start with the US Newspaper Directory at Chronicling America to search for ALL newspapers published in a particular place and time, as well as the names of libraries or archives that have copies of these papers. Historical societies and local public libraries are also wonderful places to look for newspapers. My book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, teaches readers what to look for in papers and how to locate them online and offline.
3. Search city directories. By the 1950s, most towns and cities published directories of residents, mostly with telephone numbers. I use annual directory listings to track buy generic medication online families from year to year. These might give you your first clue that someone moved, married, separated, divorced or died! I can often find their exact street address (great for mapping!), who lived at the house and sometimes additional information like where they worked, what their job was or who they worked for.
Ancestry.com has over a billion U.S. city directory entries online, up to 1989. But most other online city directory collections aren’t so recent. Look for city directories first in hometown public libraries. Check with larger regional or state libraries and major genealogical libraries.
4. Search for historical video footage. YouTube isn’t just for viral cat videos. Look there for old newsreels, people’s home movies and other vintage footage. It’s not unusual to find films showing the old family neighborhood, a school or community function, or other footage that might be relevant to your relatives.
Use the YouTube search box like you would the regular Google search box. Enter terms like “history,” “old,” “footage,” or “film” along with the names, places or events you hope to find. For example, the name of a parade your relative marched in, a team he played on, a company she worked for, a street he lived on and the like. It’s hit and miss, for sure, but sometimes you can find something very special.
My Contributing Editor Sunny Morton tried this tip. Almost immediately, with a search on the name of her husband’s ancestral hometown and the word “history,” she found a 1937 newsreel with her husband’s great-grandfather driving his fire truck with his celebrity dog! She recognized him from old photos and had read about his dog in the newspapers. (Click here to read her stunned post.) Learn more about searching for old videos in my all-new second edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, which has a totally updated chapter on YouTube.
Click here to read more about the 1950s U.S. census: when it will be out and how you can work around its privacy restrictions.
Just five years earlier, the 1860 U.S. federal census counted nearly four million people in this its largest state. New York claimed two of the three biggest U.S. cities: New York City and Brooklyn, with a combined population of over a million.
According to FamilySearch, “This collection contains most of the 1865 New York state census records still in existence. Ten schedules were filed for each locality, including population, marriages, and deaths schedules. The population schedule included the name, age, birthplace, and occupation of each household member. Most counties are covered, but some records were destroyed. The record is a printed form that was filled in by hand by the enumerator. The records are usually buy bipolar medication online arranged by county and town.”
Several counties are missing from this dataset. But it’s got a hefty 2.5 million records, over 60% of the population as counted in 1860. So check it out if you have Empire State ancestors!
Didn’t know New York conducted state censuses? Check out these additional resources:
Ancestry.com has a database of New York State censuses for 1880, 1892 and 1905. The 1892 census is especially critical because of the 1890 U.S. federal census is almost entirely lost.
Learn more about U.S. state censuses and other special censuses in Episode 10 of our Family History Made Easy podcast. (This episode is the second of a three-part series on using census records: click here for the full list of episodes of this step-by-step free genealogy podcast.)
Among the 3.7 million+ records new on FamilySearch this week are two updates that caught my eye for international regions that need more record sets online:
Nearly 1.4 million images are now browsable in a newly-posted collection of Nova Scotia, Canada, probate recordsdating from 1760-1993. According to FamilySearch, “This collection includes records of probate proceedings from Nova Scotia. The records include estate files, inventories, wills, administrations and other records related to probate. Most of the records are dated from 1800-1940, but coverage varies by area.”
Nearly 400,000 digitized parish registers for the Church of the Province of South Africa (1801-2004) have now been indexed. FamilySearch describes the collection as “digital images and partial index of parish registers of the ‘Church of the Province of South Africa.’ Since 2006, the church has been officially known as the ‘Anglican Church of Southern Africa.’ Original records are contained within the collection of the William Cullen Library, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The Church presently includes dioceses in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, South Africa and Swaziland. Availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.”
I hope these datasets can help your South African genealogy or help you find your Nova Scotia kin.