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 HowAlice 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!
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 LisaEpisode 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)
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
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 Backblazefor computer cloud backup. They have their own storage facility. Here’s what their storage pods look like:
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Recap:10 Questions to Rate Your Readiness for Genealogy Success
Have you selected a place to start?
Have you developed a project research question?
Do you have a Research Plan for your genealogy project?
Podcasts have always faced an obstacle: it just hasn’t been that easy to find them or listen.
After I launched The Genealogy Gems Podcast in early 2007, I spent most of my time trying to explain to potential listeners how to “subscribe” to the show. Along came the smartphone, and eventually podcast apps, and things got a little easier. In 2010 we launched our own Genealogy Gems Podcast app in hopes of improving the listener experience even more. That’s great for those tenacious enough to find us in the first place, but what about everybody else? Also though podcasts have experienced a huge surge in popularity thanks to the viral Serial podcast, 83% of Americans still aren’t listening on a weekly basis.
Pandora, the largest streaming music provider entered the game today and plans to change all that. And thanks to you, our loyal listeners, The Genealogy Gems Podcast has been selected by Pandora as part of their initial offering of podcasts!
Read below how this music giant is going to tap technology and human curation to recommend podcasts to those who are sure to love them. I’m sure that once Americans discover through Pandora that their family history is just waiting to be discovered, and that The Genealogy Gems Podcast is here to help them do just that, we’ll be welcoming many new listeners. Keep reading for all the details from Pandora. And, be sure to sign up for the early access offering here. You can expect to start seeing our show on Pandora sometime in December.
Thanks for listening friend! Lisa Louise Cooke
OAKLAND, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Pandora (NYSE:P), the largest streaming music provider in the U.S., today unveiled its podcast offering, powered by the Podcast Genome Project, a cataloging system and discovery algorithm that uses a combination of technology and human curation to deliver personalized content recommendations. Beginning today, Pandora will roll out beta access to select listeners on mobile devices. Those interested in early access to the offering can sign-up here, with general availability in the coming weeks.
“It might feel like podcasts are ubiquitous, but, eighty-three percent of Americans aren’t yet listening to podcasts on a weekly basis, and a majority of them report that’s because they simply don’t know where to start,” said Roger Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, Pandora. “Making podcasts – both individual episodes and series – easy to discover and simple to experience is how we plan to greatly grow podcast listening while simultaneously creating new and more sustainable ways to monetize them.”
Similar to how its namesake the Music Genome Project has helped Pandora become the best and easiest way to discover music online since 2005, the Podcast Genome Project recommends the right podcasts to the right listeners at the right time, solving the questions, “is there a podcast that’s right for me?” and “what should I listen to next?” It evaluates content based on more than 1500 attributes – spanning MPAA ratings, timely and evergreen topics, production style, content type, host profile, etc – and listener signals including thumbs, skips and replays. It also utilizes machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, and collaborative filtering methods for listener preferences. And, similar to the Music Genome Project, the Podcast Genome Project combines these techniques with our expert in-house curation team to offer episode-level podcast recommendations that reflect who you are today and evolve with you tomorrow.
“With the introduction of podcasts, listeners can now easily enjoy all of their audio interests – music, comedy, news, sports, or politics – on Pandora, the streaming service that knows their individual listening habits the best,” said Chris Phillips, Chief Product Officer, Pandora. “The Podcast Genome Project’s unique episode-level understanding of content knows exactly what podcast you’ll want to discover next, and will serve it up through a seamless in-product experience that is uniquely personalized to each listener and will continue to grow with their tastes over time.”
At launch, Pandora has partnered with top-tier publishers including APM, Gimlet, HeadGum, Libsyn, Maximum Fun, NPR, Parcast, PRX+PRI, reVolver, Slate, The New York Times, The Ramsey Network, The Ringer, WNYC Studios, and Wondery, and will continue to feature existing podcast content including Serial, This American Life and Pandora’s original Questlove Supreme, with many more to come in the future. These partnerships introduce hundreds of popular podcasts across a wide variety of genres including News, Sports, Comedy, Music, Business, Technology, Entertainment, True Crime, Kids, Health and Science, offering inspiring audio experiences for a variety of diverse interests.
Pandora is the world’s most powerful music discovery platform – a place where artists find their fans and listeners find music they love. We are driven by a single purpose: unleashing the infinite power of music by connecting artists and fans, whether through earbuds, car speakers, live on stage or anywhere fans want to experience it. Our team of highly trained musicologists analyze hundreds of attributes for each recording which powers our proprietary Music Genome Project®, delivering billions of hours of personalized music tailored to the tastes of each music listener, full of discovery, making artist/fan connections at unprecedented scale. Founded by musicians, Pandora empowers artists with valuable data and tools to help grow their careers and connect with their fans.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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!
In this episode, I’ll share a moving family history video, inspired by a listener’s Where I’m From poem. We’ll also discuss RootsTech news, talk to author Sylvia Brown, and Michael Strauss will explain the difference between different kinds of military service: regulars, volunteers and militia in Military Minutes. Listen here or through the Genealogy Gems app.
The Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
NEWS: HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR TO KEYNOTE ROOTSTECH
Click here to read about all RootsTech keynote speakers
Click here to hear Lisa Louise Cooke’s conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 133
To gain a better understanding of what life in the military was like for your ancestors, it is essential to know in what capacity someone may have served. Did your ancestor serve in the regulars, or was he a volunteer soldier, or did he have service with the local militia?
These terms are generally associated with the records of the United States Army. The other branches enlisted men using different terminology.
Because of his age he wasn’t able to enlist until 1865 when he turned 18. He was a volunteer soldier who served as a substitute for another man who was drafted.
After his discharge, he again enlisted in the Regular Army in 1866. He was assigned to the 13th U.S. Infantry, where he served one month before deserting at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.
Samuel was married in 1867 (this may have some relevance to his decision to leave the military). He lived in Pennsylvania from the end of the war until his death in 1913. Shown here in 1876, Lebanon, PA.
Both his Regular and Volunteer Army enlistment forms are included here, along with the above photograph of Samuel with his wife circa 1876 from an early tintype. The forms look very similar, as each contains common information asked of a typical recruit. However they are decidedly different as the one covers his Civil War service and the other his post war service when he joined the regular Army after the men who served during the war would have been discharged.
Learn more about the Where I’m From poetry project and hear a conversation with the original author, Kentucky poet laureate George Ella Lyon in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 185.
Hannah’s Animoto Advice:
You’ll find when using the video templates, timing the photos to the narration can pose some challenges. Originally, when she put the photos in place and “previewed” the video, the narration didn’t line up at all with the images. Hannah explains: “When I was in “creator” mode, I selected a picture that I wanted to appear on the screen for a longer duration then I clicked the “spotlight” button that is on the left-hand side in the editor column. Or If you double click the image, it will open into a larger single view and you can select the “star” button which will do the same thing. I applied this spotlight option to several photos within my gallery. I knew which photos to do this to by previewing the video several times to make sure I liked the timing of it all.
Now if your problem is not with just a few photos but the overall timing, then try editing the pace of your photos. In the top right-hand corner, click the “edit song/trim and pacing” button. Here you can trim you uploaded mp3 audio as well as the pace to which your photos appear. My photos appeared too fast on the screen in comparison to the narration I had, so I moved the pace button to left by one notch and previewed the video. This did the trick and the result was a heart-warming poem, turned into a visually beautiful story.”
Do you have a darn good reason to take action right now to get your family history in front of your family? Perhaps:
a video of the loving couples in your family tree for Valentine’s Day
a video of your family’s traditional Easter Egg hunt through the years
a tribute to the mom’s young and old in your family on Mother’s Day
your child’s or grandchild’s graduation
a video to promote your upcoming family reunion to get folks really visualizing the fun they are going to have
Or perhaps it’s the story of a genealogy journey you’ve been on where you finally busted a brick wall and retrieved an ancestor’s memory from being lost forever.
5 Steps to Jump-Starting Your Video Project
Pick one family history topic
Write the topic in one brief sentence ? the title of your video
Select 12 photos that represent that topic.
On a piece of paper, number it 1 ? 12 and write one brief sentence about each photo that convey your message. You don’t have to have one for every photo, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Scan the photos if they aren’t already and save them to one folder on your hard drive.
And now you are in great shape to take the next step and get your video made in a way that suits your interest, skill, and time.
4 Easy Methods for Creating Video Update 2022: Adobe Spark Video is now part of and called Adobe Creative Cloud Express. Some or all of the features may require a subscription.
Got an iPhone? iOS 10 now has “Memories” a feature of your Photos app that can instantly create a video of a group of related photos.
There’s the free Adobe Spark Video app now called Adobe Express which can you can add photos, video clips and text to, pick a theme and a music track from their collection, and whip up something pretty impressive in a very short time. Visit your device’s app store or Adobe Express. Watch my video How to Make a Video with Adobe Spark (Premium Membership required)
There’s Animotowhich does everything that Spark does, but gives you even more control over the content, and most importantly the ability to download your video in HD quality. You can even add a button to the end that the viewer can tap and it will take them to a website, like your genealogy society website, a Facebook group for your family reunion or even a document on FamilySearch.
And finally, if you have the idea, and pull together the photos, you can book Hannah at Genealogy Gems to create a video with your content. Go to GenealogyGems.com and scroll to the Contact form at the bottom of the home page to request ordering information.
The most important thing is that your family history can be treasured and shared so that it brings joy to your life today, and also, to future generations. The thing is, if your kids and grandkids can see the value of your genealogy research, they will be more motivated to preserve and protect it.
PREMIUM INTERVIEW: SYLVIA BROWN
In Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #155, publishing later this month, Sylvia Brown (of the family connected to Brown University) will join Lisa Louise Cooke to talk about researching her new book, Grappling with Legacy, which traces her family’s involvement in philanthropy, Rhode Island history and the institution of slavery hundreds of years. A Kirkus review of this book calls it “an often riveting history of a family that left an indelible impact on the nation.”
Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager
Disclosure: These show notes contain affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting this free podcast and blog!