Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 44: Family Secrets in Genealogy Records
Today’s episode is unlike any other I’ve done on the podcast. Today we are going to tackle some difficult subject matter: family secrets in genealogy. You know, none of us have a perfect family tree. In fact, I would venture to guess that at some point each one of us who are delving into our family’s past will come across some sad and painful stories. An ancestor abandoned at an asylum, incarcerated for acts of violence, or perhaps who committed suicide.
For Crystal Bell, my guest on today’s show, that sad and painful story was very close to her branch of the tree. In fact, the troubles lay at her parents’ door, and she bore the brunt of the chaos that was created. And yet there is tremendous hope that comes from Crystal’s story. She is a wonderful example of the freedom that can come from facing your fears and breaking down the mystery of a troubled past. It’s what I call the redemptive gifts of family history.
Crystal also shares some of the research strategies that her co-workers at Ancestry.com gave her for taking the next steps in finding her mother, who passed away under an assumed name.
Thoughts from Crystal on responding to the family secrets in your own tree:
“Hatred and resentment only make you look older. They have a great toll on your health. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t hate my mother and father because I don’t know their circumstances were. I can only try to determine their ancestors. I want to know who were my ancestors. Where did they come from?
I feel badly when people…just don’t want to know. I don’t want to die with that sense of abandonment. I want to move on, I want to get past the grief. I want to know who my people were. I just, for the first time in my life, want to experience a feeling of joy and happiness that I feel like I deserve.”
Ancestry.com “Shaky Leaf” Hints Technology
Crystal made connections on her Ancestry.com family tree by reviewing the automated hints provided on the site, known popularly as “shaky leaves.” Learn more about using these in this video.
The MyCanvas service mentioned by Crystal is no longer offered by Ancestry.com. But it is still around! Learn more in my blog post about it.
Here’s a final family history thought for today:
We are not just defined by one relative, or the product of a dysfunctional family or parental relationship. We come from all of our ancestors….
The ones who did amazing things,
The ones who did everyday things,
And the ones who did wrong.
You deserve to know them all, and as the saying goes, the truth will set you free.
Using your mobile device for genealogy is a great idea, but with that convenience takes some additional know-how. Back-up your mobile device images in a few simple steps and you’ll never say, “I lost my photos on my phone!”
“I lost my photos on my phone!!”
This is NOT what you want to hear from a dear friend who is also a genealogist. So my heart sank when Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant’s email dropped into my inbox.
“I spent 6 hours researching at a cemetery and archives in a far away location. You won’t believe this, but when I got home I realized my smartphone wasn’t working. I had taken all the tombstone images with it, all the document copies were made with it, all my notes were on it. And I hadn’t even had time to back it up.”
That’s the problem, unless you back up as you go, you can’t be sure that just an hour later it won’t all be gone. These days you’re more likely to snap photos of records with your phone than a camera. But with that convenience comes the need for a new game plan to keep those precious images safe.
Back-up Your Mobile Device Images: The Plan
I put together an immediate email to Amie with a restoration and preservation game plan. If, like Amie, you are using your smartphone and mobile devices more and more, you’ll want to put this plan into place too.
First, I advised Amie to visit her phone store (for example, The Apple Store if you have an iPhone) and see if they could retrieve the lost photos and data. You never know unless you ask!
Image of Amie’s 4th great-grandfather she was able to retrieve.
Next, it’s important to consider automatic back-up options. Automatic back-ups are great, which is why I love BackBlaze. But BackBlaze is back up for your computer. The BackBlaze app on your phone only gives you access to those computer files, and doesn’t back up your phone.
One option is to back-up manually as you go. In other words, as soon as you snap that image of a record, save it to a Cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. You could even activate Cloud back-up so that it happens automatically, though with the size of image files, you would likely need a paid subscription service to allow for adequate storage space. However, if you are going to continue to use your phone as a genealogy tool, it may be well worth the investment. Let’s look more closely at these two options:
Free Manual Option: If cost is an issue, you can save your photos to a free Dropbox account at the time you take the photo, and then move to more permanent storage on your computer at a later time.
1. Take the photograph
2. Tap the photo in my iPhone’s Photos app
3. Tap Edit and do a quick edit to clean it up (improve contrast, rotate so that it is right side up, crop to get as close-up as possible)
4. Tap Done to close the editor
5. Tap the Share icon and tap Save to Dropbox
6. Select the folder in Dropbox where I want to save the image and tap Save
However, it would definitely be faster and simpler to have your phone automatically backing up to the Cloud.
Low Cost Automatic Option: If your phone is going to be one of your genealogy tools, then automatic cloud back-up may be worth the low cost of around a dollar a month.
Personally, I am not a fan of iCloud even though I have an iPhone. I just don’t find it very user friendly to work with. Setting up your photos and videos to automatically back up to your Google Photos library via Google Drive is another option. Again, since photos and videos do take up a lot of space you’ll likely need to invest in a low cost monthly storage plan. Click here to learn more, or Google search Google Drive Plan Cost (or substitue the name of the service you are considering) for current plans.
Bottom line: There are several Cloud services available for our smartphones and mobile devices, so there’s sure to be one that’s right for you. Where ever your images find their final resting place, make sure it has Cloud back-up.
Amie’s Response to the Plan
I quickly sent the plan to Amie. She responded by saying:
“Thank you, Lisa! It was devastating. You were right, a nice man at the phone store was able to restore them! But, I don’t ever want to have this happen again. When I set up my new phone, a Samsung Android, I noticed a setting that said something like “automatic save to Google drive” and it would sync your images. So I clicked it “on” but now I can’t find where I did that! Any ideas?”
Troubleshooting Backing-up Your Mobile Device
When people shoot me a question, my usual response is “Just Google it!” I Googled Automatic backup of android phone and got several great hits on the results list.
One article on Android Fact.com was particularly helpful. (Read the full article here.) Remember, it can get pretty expensive to be instantly uploading images with your cell phone carrier. I suggest clicking Wi-Fi Only to ensure that uploading only takes place when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
I regularly emphasize backing up important documents that live on your computer. But let’s face it: If you have a smartphone, it would be oh, so sad to have to say “I lost my photos on my phone!” So don’t wait—back up your smartphone or mobile device today.
Another Tip for Using Smartphones for Genealogy
Here’s a another mobile computing tip my book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research.
Smartphones and other mobile devices offer a plethora of editing tools. It is well worth the investment of a few extra seconds to clean up and maximize images as you go. This is particularly true of records that need to be clear for future reference or printing.
Try applying a filter to your images for maximum readability. I like the Noir filter in my iPhone’s Photos app editor.
More Gems on Using Mobile Devices for Genealogy
How to Use Your Mobile Device for Genealogy: Free Video!
3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Mobile Device
Did you know your iPad or tablet computer can be one of your best genealogy buddies? It makes it easy to access and share family trees, documents, and photos on-the-go. It can even help you gather NEW family history treasures: images, interviews and more.
However, iPads aren’t just miniature laptops. They work differently and in very specific ways, depending on what apps you have. If your tablet time has been limited to playing Angry Birds and checking your email, then it’s time to check out these 7 great ways to use a mobile device like an iPad for genealogy:
1. Access family trees
Access your online family tree (and even make changes) with apps like those from Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage and RootsMagic. Last we checked, Findmypast doesn’t have a mobile app, but its website is optimized for mobile devices (meaning it’s friendly to iPad users).
2. Take pictures
Snap digital images of old family documents, photos, memorabilia and artifacts when you visit relatives. From the iPad, you can upload and share them via Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, email, or access them from your other computing devices via cloud-based storage such as Dropbox or iCloud. (Genealogy Gems Premium members may access the video tutorial, “A Genealogist’s Guide to Dropbox”).
3. Share your family history
Access old family pictures from your iPad to share with your relatives. You can put them right on your device’s hard drive, which makes them accessible even if you don’t have a wireless signal, but space on iPads is often limited. So make the most of your iPad’s ability to access cloud-based storage by putting your pictures in iCloud or on Dropbox.
4. Image new research finds
When you research your genealogy in libraries, use your iPad to take digital images instead of wasting time and money on photocopies. Image pages from a county or local history or take a snapshot (and a closeup) of a historical map. You can even take digital shots of microfilmed materials! Learn more here, and always get permission at each library before you start taking pictures.
5. Organize on your iPad
Keep track of all your genealogy sources with Evernote–and keep all your sources at your fingertips by using the Evernote app. My new Evernote for Genealogists Quick Research Guides, available both for Windows and Mac users, are cheat sheets that will help you start using Evernote immediately across multiple platforms.
6. Access podcasts, books and magazines on your iPad
Genealogy podcasts are the online equivalent of radio shows–all about family history! You’ll find tons of free, entertaining and informative content in:
Save genealogy and history e-books, magazines and pdfs to your iPad so you can read them anytime, anywhere. Click here for more on how to do this. What kinds of titles might you read? What about:
7. More tasks you can accomplish with your iPad
The best apps for genealogy are the ones that help you accomplish what you need to, not just the ones intended for family history use (like the free family history game Family House). For example, sometimes you need a quick magnifier and flashlight to better see old documents or photos–here’s a great app suggestion for that. Also, many of us find ourselves turning more frequently to YouTube. Well, there’s a YouTube app–click here for ideas on using it for genealogy.
Genealogy Gems FREE e-newsletter. Subscribe to keep up to date with iPad/tablet developments other tech topics for genealogists!
Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse by Lisa Louise Cooke, with an in-depth look at over 65 apps, 32 fabulous tricks and tips to make you a power iPad user (and not just for genealogy!) and “see it for yourself” demos in recommended online videos. It’s available in print and e-book.
Genealogy on the Go with the iPad instructional video, recently updated and re-released for Genealogy Gems Premium members
Find Genealogy Apps with the FamilySearch App Gallery
Mobile Friendly Search Results Come to Google
The iPad, PC and Android Phone Can All Play Nicely Together for Genealogy
Thank you for sharing this page with others who may want to use a tablet or iPad for genealogy.
At this time of sheltering at home, we’re fortunate that we can continue to pursue our favorite past time at home. Here are some of the latest genealogy records to come online this month. From my family to yours , stay safe and well friends.
The latest genealogy records from Genealogy Gems.
The first two items in this list of new and updated records is important for everyone who is researching their family history. If you had difficulty finding an ancestor in the 1850 or 1860 in the past, now is the time to search. Ancestry has updated portions of these two important census records.
UPDATED – 1860 United States Federal Census
UPDATED – 1850 United States Federal Census
Example of the 1850 US Federal Census.
Speaking of the census, all genealogists are looking forward to the release of the 1950 US census. We don’t have that long to wait now. The 1950 US Census is due to be released to the public in April of 2022. Until then, be sure to read our article answering the most important questions about this census. Read 1950 Census Substitute: What To Use Until its Release Date.
Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 181 for more about finding your family history in the 1950s.
Let’s continue on looking through the newest records on Ancestry:
UPDATED – South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1968
NEW – New York, Episcopal Diocese of Central New York Church Records, 1800-1970
NEW – New York State, Extradition Requisition and Mandate Registers, 1857-1938
NEW – South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964
NEW – South Carolina, Chesterfield County, Original Marriage licenses, 1911-1951
UPDATED Berlin, Germany, Births, 1874-1906
UPDATED – Montana, Divorce Records, 1943-1988
UPDATED – Montana, Birth Records, 1897-1988
UPDATED – Montana, Marriage Records, 1943-1988
UPDATED –U.S., Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files, 1890-1963
One of the important aspects of this update according to Ancestry is that “changes were made to improve the performance of this collection. Family relationships such as parents and spouses are enabled to attach to your tree.
Note: This database does not yet include the entire collection of personnel files. Currently, only the file numbers listed in the browse are included. The remaining files will be added to this database at a later date.”
UPDATED – Ohio, Death Records, 1908-1932, 1938-2018
UPDATED – Ohio, Birth Index, 1908-1998
NEW – Irish Emigrants in North America, 1775-1825
According to Ancestry, “This present work is a consolidated reprint of two pamphlets by Mr. David Dobson that shed light on more than 1,100 Irish men and women and their families who emigrated to North America between roughly 1775 and 1825. As such, this volume adds to the list of 1,000 men and women compiled by Mr. Dobson in three earlier pamphlets in this series, which were published by Clearfield Company as Irish Emigrants in North America. Unlike the earlier collection, which was derived from a variety of Scottish and North American source records, the persons named in Irish Emigrants in North America, Parts Four and Five, were found primarily in contemporary newspapers in Canada and the United States. Each of the two lists of Irish persons is arranged alphabetically by the emigrant’s surname and, in the majority of cases, provides us with most of the following particulars: name, date of birth, name of ship, occupation in Ireland, reason for emigration, sometimes place of origin in Ireland, place of disembarkation in the New World, date of arrival, number of persons in the household, and the source of the information.”
NEW – Web: U.S., Congressional Medal of Honor Society Recipients, 1839 – 2012
UPDATED – Massachusetts, Boston Archdiocese Roman Catholic Sacramental Records, 1789-1900
NEW – Maine, Piscataquis County, Deed Books, 1838-1902
UPDATED – New York, New York, Index to Birth Certificates, 1866-1909
NEW – Maine, Veterans Cemetery Records, 1676-1918
NEW – Maine, Nathan Hale Cemetery Collection, 1780-1980
NEW – Maine, J. Gary Nichols Cemetery Collection, ca. 1780-1999
NEW – Maine, Faylene Hutton Cemetery Collection, 1780-1990
NEW – Maine, Tombstone Inscriptions, Surname Index, 1718-2014
NEW – Maine, York County, Probate Estate Files, 1690-1917
Here are the latest new and updated records from Findmypast, the home of the largest collection of UK parish records online.
Unique to Findmypast, these records can reveal details about the start of your relatives’ lives in Middlesex. The collection has been enhanced with over 17,000 new records from the following parishes:
Click here to search.
“Our thanks go to Cliff Webb and West Middlesex Family History Society for providing these latest additions.”
Over 6,000 burials from Mt Pleasant Cemetery, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire have joined the largest collection of British parish records online at Findmypast.
These latest additions join the largest collection of UK parish records online at Findmypast.
Click here to search the Cambridgeshire burial records.
“The burial records date from 1881 to 1925 and have been provided by Fenland Family History Society. You won’t find them anywhere else online.”
Jamaica, Civil Death Registrations
Discover your Caribbean roots with over 1.5 million new civil death registration records from Jamaica. Brought to you in partnership with FamilySearch, these death records can tell you more about your relative’s life and death in Jamaica.
As you trace your Jamaican past, be sure to also delve into these other useful resources:
Dating as far back as the 1500s, our Jamaican family history records are essential for finding out more about your Caribbean ancestors. What’s more, they’ll provide hints for any Jamaican ancestors already on your Findmypast family tree.”
“The Caribbean-themed releases continue in our newspaper collection this week. We’ve added new papers from Jamaica and Ireland and updated a range of others. Brand new to the site are:
While the following newspapers have been supplemented with more issues:
We’ve added almost a century’s worth of pages from one new newspaper along with substantial updates to 10 titles from England and Ireland this week. Brand new to the site is:
As well as that, here is the list of papers that have had more pages added and the years covered:
Newspapers are a goldmine of information on your family’s past. Not only could you find your ancestors making headlines, but you’ll also get insight into the world they lived in, the kind you won’t find in other records.”
Thanks to the amazing new colorization tool at MyHeritage, their collection of old family history photos is larger than ever before. (Learn more this new tool in our article Myheritage Launches Colorized Photos!
As of Mar 26 2020, the updated collection of old photos reached a total of 141,129,707! This is a great time to check your smart matches
Now through April 23, 2020, you can enjoy Free and Unlimited Access to MyHeritage In Color™. Read more about that here.
Click to read the Genealogy Gems article.