Easy Family History Craft: Framed Ornaments

ornament brandedLooking for a quick and easy craft to do? My mom made these cute ornaments for volunteers who work in the genealogy room of the public library with her.

These little framed photos of the volunteers’ ancestors would make fantastic ornaments to hang on a holiday tree or–year-round as my mother-in-law does–on a decorative metal family tree.

All you need are copies of old ancestral photos and these basic supplies:

  • inexpensive wood or paper mache cutout frames, which you can purchase at craft stores;
  • tape or craft glue to adhere the picture to the back of the frame;
  • silver spray paint (or any other paint suitable for the frame surface, with a brush);
  • Mod-Podge or another acrylic sealer (optional) to protect and further adhere the front of the ornament;
  • decorative ribbon or string to use as ties.

This would be an easy family history craft to produce in bulk, and it’s inexpensive! Consider making them for your own family history display or for family gifts. This is a great project for kids to do, as it should turn out looking nice even with young or inexperienced crafters.

large_thumb_tack_800_16520Looking for more great family history-themed craft or display ideas?  Follow Lisa Louise’s board Family History Craft Projects on Pinterest or Follow Lisa Louise’s board Kids – Genealogy and Family History on Pinterest.

West Virginia Genealogy Research and Working with Changing County Boundaries

As many American’s know, the state of West Virginia was formed in 1863 from the state of Virginia during the Civil War. Those researching their West Virginia roots prior to that year, may wonder which counties to search and what records are available. We have some tips to make your West Virginia research a little easier!

West Virginia genealogy research

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Boston Public Library collection, Wikipedia Commons.

County level research is important when trying to find the vital records of our ancestors. Birth, marriage, and death records typically are found on the county level. This means you will need to obtain a copy of these types of certificates from the local courthouse or other county repository, such as a county archives.

But what happens when the state or county wasn’t around when your ancestor lived there? Such is the case with this Genealogy Gems reader. Here is her question regarding West Virginia research:

I have a 3rd great-grandfather I am trying to find with his parents who may have been born in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He was born in 1814. My question is that Greenbrier County was in Virginia at the time of his birth. Now it is in West Virginia which was made a state in the 1860s, so where do I look for his records? Finding his parents has been a brick wall! What would you suggest?

Birth Records in the 1800s

The first thing we want to address is the hope that this reader will find a birth record for 1814. Early birth records of this time-frame were typically kept by the churches in the form of christening or baptismal records. Civil registrations of births, which were created by the local or federal government, were not kept regularly for American states until much later. The earliest cities and states to require civil registration can be seen here, but a few examples include: New York in 1880, Virginia in 1853,and Florida in 1865. [1]

Because birth records can not always be located in church or civil registration for this early time period, we suggest using alternate records as your supporting evidence. Substitute birth records might be, but are not limited to: school records, censuses, pension records, marriage records, and biographical sketches. (Click these links to learn more about each type of record.)

West Virginia Genealogy Research: County Level

Next, let’s discuss the uniqueness of researching in West Virginia. West Virginia was created in 1863 out of the state of Virginia. Many of the counties that were once in Virginia, kept the same name and retained their records when they became part of West Virginia.

There is a wonderful resource in the book titled “Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources” which was edited by Alice Eichholz. This book has a chart for each U.S. state listing the year each county was formed and from what parent county. To find the chart, flip through to the West Virginia section. Each county is listed in alphabetical order. In this case, we would locate “Greenbrier” and take note that according to the chart, Greenbrier County, West Virginia was formed in 1778 by portions of both Montgomery and Botetourt County, Virginia. A chart like this is helpful for any genealogist in determining which counties should be researched.

Greenbrier County, West Virginia: A Timeline of Changing County Boundaries

I took the liberty of looking further into Greenbrier County, West Virginia by examining more closely the changing county boundaries of this county over time. I did this by using the chart I mentioned above found in the Red Book. First, I found Greenbrier county and it’s parent county, then, I searched the list for further instances when parts of Greenbrier county were used to form newer counties. You see, we want to see the changes of this county’s boundaries so that we know what possible places to look for records. Let me show you what I found. We are going to need a time line for this!

  • 1778: Greenbrier county was originally formed in 1778 from two parent Virginia counties: Montgomery and Botetourt.
  • 1788: part of Greenbrier County, Virginia became Kanawha County
  • 1799: Greenbrier shrunk further when a portion of its boundaries became Monroe County, Virginia
  • 1818: Nicholas County, Virginia formed from Greenbrier
  • 1831: part of Greenbrier created the new county of Fayette, Virginia
  • 1863: Greenbrier county, Virginia became part of the State of West Virginia
  • 1871: Summers County, West Virginia was created by a small portion of Greenbrier

As you can see, our Genealogy Gems reader may need to visit and research several county repositories both within the state of Virginia and West Virginia.

Greenbrier county is rather unique, as it had boundary changes quite regularly. It may be difficult to visit each of these county courthouses, spanning many miles apart, in hopes of finding targeted records for their ancestor. For this reason, our reader may wish to begin at the West Virginia State Archives. At most state archive repositories, records for all the counties can be easily looked at via microfilm. This may save valuable travel time. (Note: Before visiting any state archives facility, call ahead to verify what information and records they have, so that you do not have a wasted trip.)

There is also a free guide at Family Tree Magazine for West Virginia genealogy research that we highly recommend.

More on Advanced Research Strategies

Creating a FAN club tipsChanging county boundaries is just one area that must be mastered to ensure accurate genealogy research. Here are 3 more articles that will help you beef up your genealogy research skills:

The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls

Missing Census or Missing Family: Legacy Tree Genealogists Answer

Resolving Three Common Conflicting Evidence Problems in Genealogy

ARTICLE REFERENCES

[1] Johni Cerny, “Births and Deaths in Public Records,” originally written in “The Source: A Genealogist’s Guidebook to American Genealogy,” online article, Ancestry Wiki, accessed 20 Feb 2017.

Finding Family History in WWII Newspapers: Narrowing the Results

Newspapers can fill in the gaps to the long-lost stories of your ancestors. These tips will help you narrow your search in digitized WWII newspapers for experiences directly relating to the war and to the lives of your ancestors.

wwii_newspaper2

In this previous post, I provided step-by-step tips for locating WWII-era newspapers. Those tips helped you locate the actual newspapers. In this post, I’ve got 7 tips for to help you focus on narrowing down a large list of results in search of war-related family stories.

Tip 1: Try Various Name Combinations in WWII Newpapers

If you are keyword searching in digitized newspapers, remember to try different name combinations. A man may be identified by just his first initial and last name. During the 1940s, a woman might be referred to as “Mrs. Ted Johnson” instead of Barbara Johnson.

Tip 2: Search for Addresses

You might find a family identified as “the Johnson’s of 132 Cherry Lane,” so try using street addresses in your searches, remembering that “Lane” might be spelled out or abbreviated. You may also find the family listed by their town or township. An example of this might be “the Johnson’s of Brown township,” or “the Johnson’s of Conover.”

Tip 3: Expand Your Search to Events and Organizations

Use any search terms you already know about for your family in World War II: a military unit, a battle or local service organization, or a war effort project that the folks back home may have helped out with. Do family stories mention rationing, air raid drills, bomb shelters, blackout rules, or one of the women getting a job at a certain factory? All these make excellent search terms.

Tip 4: Take Time to Browse

Browsing the pages will give you a sense of how the war affected everyday life at home. You may find recipes that make the most of ration allowances and reminders about blackout rules and curfews. You may even find tips on how to conserve gasoline or how to be fashionable without silk stockings!

Almost every news item on the front page of this Jan 8, 1943 issue of the Euclid News Journal (OH) has to do with the war. It's easy to see how the war affected everyday life of this small Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie. Issues of this paper are searchable at the Euclid Public Library website (click image to view more issues).

Almost every news item on the front page of this Jan 8, 1943 issue of the Euclid News Journal (OH) has to do with the war. It’s easy to see how the war affected everyday life of this small Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie. Issues of this paper are searchable at the Euclid Public Library website (click image to view more issues.)

Tip 5: Be Aware of Newspaper Stoppages

If your family lived in an area that came under attack or was occupied, the local newspapers may have stopped printing. In that case, search other papers to see if they reported what was going on in your ancestor’s town.

Tip 6: Keep an Eye on the Homefront

For relatives who served in the military, watch for updates in local papers about how they were faring on the fronts during the war. Watch for casualty lists of the wounded, dead, and missing. Here’s something cool: newspapers also printed maps showing the progress of the war on the various fronts.

Tip 7: History Provides Hints

If you’re looking for reports about soldiers’ bodies returning home and funeral services, it will help to know that according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the War Department didn’t start bringing back remains until the fall of 1947 because of the huge logistical challenges involved. Over 93,000 American soldiers who died in World War II are buried overseas in one of the American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries.

Making the Most of Newspapers for Family History

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersFind more tips like these in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions for my foolproof research process, along with everything you need for success: worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources (and websites worth paying a few bucks for), a massive amount of location-specific websites (U.S. and international)–and a case study that puts it all to the test!

Ancestry Publishes HUGE Collection of U.S. Wills and Probate Records

US Wills and Probate AncestryMore than 100 million people are mentioned in Ancestry’s newest database of U.S. wills and probate records, an exclusive collection spanning over 300 years. To celebrate, Ancestry is offering free access through September 7.

This morning, Ancestry launched an enormous–and enormously significant–new online records collection. According to its press release, “More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.”

Wills and estate records are one of those record types that have been less-accessible online. First, the records themselves are not easy to digitize or even index. They are often thick files, packed with various kinds of documents that may be fragile and of varying sizes. Several people may be mentioned throughout the file, but finding and picking out their names to put in an index is time-consuming.

Furthermore, the U.S. has no central will or probate registry. This happens on a county level, generally. Compiling a centralized database from all those county offices or archives is a huge undertaking.

According to the Ancestry release, “Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records.”

Better yet, “the documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.”

Todd Godfrey, VP of Global Content at Ancestry, loves the fact that wills and probate records can reveal not just names, dates and family relationships, but stories. “Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors…providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Godfrey. “Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived.”

Learn more about this collection in Finding Your Family in Wills and Probate Records (Ancestry’s new in-depth guide) or click here to search the collection. Great news for those without Ancestry subscriptions: The U.S. Wills and Probates collection is free to access on Ancestry, along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, through September 7 (10pm MT).

share celebrate balloonsPlease share the great news! Click on your preferred social media channel on this page or copy the link into an email and send it out to your family and friends!

Resources: More Great U.S. Records Online!

U.S. State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

NEW! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

4 Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy 

Here’s How You Can Bring Your Family History to a Big Screen: How to Use Chromecast

display family history photos on TV with ChromecastHere at Genealogy Gems we love using Google for genealogy. Today we have another exciting Google resource that can transform how you share your genealogy with your family – because ultimately, genealogy is all about sharing your family’s story!

While the mobile device era has made communication and sharing easy and instant, sometimes it’s hard to really see the ‘big picture’ on our tiny screens. And crowding around the computer monitor isn’t much better. Chromecast by Google is a tool that allows you to stream content from your mobile devices and computers directly onto your TV!

You can share slideshows, photos, videos, and more while everyone is seated comfortably in the living room. If you are looking for an easy and inviting way for your family to enjoy all the hard work you put into constructing the family tree, Chromecast is for you. The Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player currently sells for $35 and takes a mere 5 to 10 minutes to set up.

Even though I’m Lisa’s daughter, I am not a techie person at all, so if I can do it in just a few minutes without help, you can too!

 

How to Use Chromecast
After you’ve completed the initial set up, simply open the app you want to stream (YouTube, for example) and tap the Chromecast icon. Streaming is now enabled. (Chromecast primarily works over wifi, but Google recently announced that Ethernet cables are now available as an alternative.)

While streaming, you control the app functions on your mobile device or computer. For example, if you’re streaming a movie from the Netflix app on your iPad, you would play, pause, and make your selections directly on your iPad. If you want to switch back to viewing on your mobile device (or simply stop streaming), tap the Chromecast icon again.

Dozens of photo and video apps are compatible with Chromecast and all are listed on their website. Here are a few that I think genealogists will really enjoy, and they’re all available on both The App Store and Google Play:

photosPhoto Cast for Chromecast
Free
Premium Upgrades – $2.99 and up

albums for Google ChromecastWhen you open the app, you can view all the photos and videos (including TV shows or movies you may have purchased) on your device. You can also create slideshows by picking individual photos or entire albums and adding songs from your music library. Then tap the Chromecast icon to instantly stream to your TV. It has four viewing modes available. Photo streaming has very little lag, but video streaming could take a little longer to load, depending on your wifi speeds. Multiple devices can stream to the same TV, and slideshows can continue to play on the TV while you use your mobile device for other tasks.

chromecast goog;e slidesGoogle Slides
Free
Google Slides is an ideal tool for Chromecast because it is linked directly to your Google account. I recommend using Google Slides from your laptop or desktop because you can pull pictures from your hard drive (or anywhere – you’re not limited only to the pictures on your mobile device). And personally I find I can work much more efficiently with a full mouse and keyboard for this kind of project. You can create a wonderfully detailed and multi-media slide show or presentation. Then, download the app to your mobile device and your presentations will be accessible there as well. I find streaming from your tablet works a little better than streaming from your computer, but you can still stream from a computer as long as it’s connected to wifi and is close enough to the TV to detect Chromecast.

Chromecast youtube iconYouTube
Free
Chromecast youtube app screenChromecast offers you an easy and convenient way to watch videos from our Genealogy Gems YouTube channel and other favorites on your TV! Open the YouTube app and tap the Chromecast icon. Browse videos as usual. When you select one to watch, it will stream to your TV with no loss of video or audio quality. You can also create a TV queue, specifically for videos you want to watch on the big screen. Tap on a video and a pop-up will ask to either play it or add it to your TV queue. The best part? YouTube will continue to play your video on your TV even if you minimize the app on your device to do other tasks. Before you finish your viewing session, be sure to tap the Subscribe button at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel so you’ll have easy access to all current and new videos.

Desktop Streaming
Streaming from your desktop browser is another great feature. Anything you are viewing on your browser (videos, audio, website content, etc.) can be projected to your TV. You will need the current version of the Chrome web browser, as well as the Chromecast extension installed. In my personal experience I found streaming video from my browser to be a bit slow and choppy, but results may vary based on browser settings and wifi speeds. It’s worth a try, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this technology continues to evolve and improve.

TIP: How to Update Chrome
Normally, Chrome updates automatically in the background when you open and close your browser. But here’s how to check if you have the most current version of Chrome:

  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. In the top right, click the Chrome menu
  3. Click About Google Chrome.
  4. The current version number is the series of numbers beneath the “Google Chrome” heading. Chrome will check for updates when you’re on this page.
  5. Click Relaunch to apply any available update.

Another cool thing about Chromecast:
Once you have Chromecast set up, your devices will detect any Chromecast that is nearby, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. So if you’re at a family member’s home and they have Chromecast, you can stream from your device to their TV as well! Can you say “time to share the latest version of the family tree?”

Again, as a non-techie I found Chromecast to be very user-friendly, and a huge value for the price. There are loads of fun apps to explore (music, podcasts, interactive games, and even a karaoke app!). Happy streaming!

thanks youre a gemP.S. If you decide to purchase Chromecast, will you please use this link? Purchasing through our site supports the free Genealogy Gems podcast and all the free content on our website.

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