Recently I decided to learn more about my great-uncle Paul McClellan, my grandfather’s brother. After World War II, Paul left his Idaho hometown for Pennsylvania. Surviving relatives know hardly anything of his life or family.
The census only takes me through 1940 and he lived through the 1970s. Pennsylvania vital records are pretty tight-lipped. So almost immediately, I found myself looking for obituaries.
Our online community tree at FamilySearch told me when and where he died. I emailed the local history and genealogy contact at the public library in that town. I heard back within a day and had this obituary within a week.
I’ve seen a lot of detailed obituaries. But perhaps because I’m so thirsty for information on Paul, the level of detail in this obituary made me especially happy. I see his:
- Street address
- Hospital where he died and length of stay there
- Birthplace and age
- Parents’ names, including mother’s maiden name
- Employer and retirement date
- Membership in local civic organizations
- WWII Army veteran status
- Surviving widow’s name, including maiden name
- Names, spouses and residences of surviving siblings
- Name of funeral home and officiator of funeral
- Cemetery name
Wow! Some of these details confirmed that I had the right guy: his age, birth data, relatives’ names. Others open new avenues of research for me. I’ve already started following leads to the civic organizations, funeral home and cemetery.
You know, what is NOT said in this obituary may also prove important as I continue my research on Paul. First, there are no surviving children or grandchildren listed. This disappoints me as I was told he did have children by at least one previous marriage. If he did have children, the informant (his widow?) either didn’t know about them or didn’t choose to mention them. Second, the informant did know a lot about Paul’s kin. Maybe Paul and his wife didn’t totally lose touch with the folks back home–it just seems so years later.
Have you worked much with obituaries? Do you know how to find them? Learn more in Lisa’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available in print or as an e-book. There’s an entire chapter on online digitized newspaper collections, and one on online resources for finding newspapers (either online or offline). Yet another chapter is devoted to African American newspapers. This book will teach you to find all those elusive obituaries–and plenty more mentions of your family in old newspapers.
The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes
2011 Season Six
Episode 101 Listen & Show Notes
Tons of great gems in the news, and learn all about becoming a certified genealogist from Alvie Davidson.
Episode 102 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy Gems News, Updating your Podcast iGoogle Gadget, Research Strategies and an interview with Kendall Wilcox, Executive Producer of The Generations Project about the new Season 2.
Episode 103 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy Gems News, “Cemetery Justice,” the New Google Books, the New Google Earth Version 6.0 for Genealogy.
Episode 104 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy and Technology Converge. Interview with professional genealogist Kory Meyerink on the 50 most popular family history websites. Geo-Tagging photos with Chris Bair.
Episode 105 Listen & Show Notes
Interview with Josh Taylor of the New England Historic Genealogical Society on RootsTech. Tips for getting the most out of a conference, NARA videos, and free RootsMagic webinars.
Episode 106 Listen & Show Notes
Lisa shares her experience at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show held recently in London, as well as some her own Cooke ancestry sleuthing. Interview with New Zealand genealogist Jan Gow on how to create your own family history resource library.
Episode 107 Listen & Show Notes
Free Webinars, the 1911 Scotland Census, Fraternal Organizations, and Dick Eastman joins Lisa to talk about Cloud Computing and Computer Security.
Episode 108 Listen & Show Notes
Census Tips and Tricks with Jason Harrison of FamilySearch. Also how to cite sources from Wikipedia, Lisa finds a newspaper article for a listener, and where to start in looking for Germany records.
Episode 109 Listen & Show Notes
The Civil War 150th Anniversary with Mike Litterst of the National Parks Service. Also, the new Jamboree apps, free upcoming webinars, and a tale of a military heros bible finding its way home again.
Episode 110 Listen & Show Notes
Divorce Research: Little White Lies at the Turn of the Century, free webinar, and special guest Maureen Taylor The Photo Detective from the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event in London.
Episode 111 Listen & Show Notes
Military Records: How to find Invalid and Pension files, New Mexican records, and special guest Roger Kershaw of the National Archives UK gives the back ground on the British Home Children from his book New Lives For Old.
Episode 112 Listen & Show Notes
Helping kids embrace family history at the Genealogy Jamboree.
Episode 113 Listen & Show Notes
Family History Writing with author John Paul Godges.
Episode 114 Listen & Show Notes
Online Security, Records Roundup, Genealogy Blogging with Becky Jamison.
Episode 115 Listen & Show Notes
How to Travel to Your Ancestor’s Homeland.
Episode 116 Listen & Show Notes
The Genealogy Gems Podcast recorded live at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. Special guests: Allison Stacy, Publisher of Family Tree Magazine, and Certified Graphologist Paula Sassi.
Episode 117 Listen & Show Notes
Find out if you should be using “Flourish” in your genealogy research with my guest DearMYRTLE.
Episode 118 Listen & Show Notes
PERSI, Grandmas and Grandpas and Free Transcription Software.
Episode 119 Listen & Show Notes
Prepare for Family History Christmas Gifts, Listener’s Grandparent Terms of Endearment, and 1000Memories.
Episode 120 Listen & Show Notes
Part 1 of Lisa interview with Washington Post editor Steve Luxenberg, author of the riveting true-story book Annie’s Ghost.
We know you want to keep up-to-date with where Lisa will be giving her lectures and presentations. This fall, we have three upcoming events. Here all the details:
Lisa Louise Cooke speaking at the Columbus Ohio Metropolitan Library
Upcoming Events: Kansas
The Johnson County Genealogical Society will be holding an all day seminar on the 22nd of October. Lisa’s topics include:
- How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case
- The Great Google Earth Game Show
- Tap Into Your Inner Private Eye: Nine Strategies for Finding Living Relatives
- Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps
What: Johnson County Genealogical Society 2016 Annual Seminar
When: Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016
Where: The Ritz Charles Event Center, 9000 West 137th Street, Overland Park, KS 66221
The event will take place at the Ritz Charles Event Center, 9000 West 137th St., Overland Park, Kansas. Registration is now open. To register online, click here.
Upcoming Event: Texas
Next on the list is the four day conference hosted by the Texas State Genealogical Society. This conference will take place in Dallas on October 27th through the 30th, and includes 35 speakers and an exhibit hall. Lisa will be giving two lectures:
- Beginning Evernote for Genealogists
- Using Google Earth for Genealogy
What: Texas State Genealogical Society Conference
When: Oct. 27 – 30, 2016
Where: Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown
Online registration and payment is available through October 21st, but after that date you will need to register and pay in-person at the event, if space is still available.
Upcoming Events: Florida
Lisa’s final in-person speaking engagement for 2016 will be presenting as the Keynote Speaker for the 20th Annual Central Florida Family History Conference.
What: 20th Annual Central Florida Family History Conference
When: Saturday, November 12, 2016
Where: Olympia High School at 4301 S. Apopka Vineland Rd., Orlando, Florida.
You can register for the all-day conference online here. If you have a young person who is interested in genealogy, you’ll want to be aware that all students under the age of 18 are admitted free! Learn more details by visiting the Central Florida Family History Conference homepage.
Can’t Make it to an Upcoming Event?
A Premium Membership to Genealogy Gems will give you access to over 30 of Lisa Louise Cooke’s video classes. From Evernote to DNA, Cloud computing and advanced research techniques, you will find this a great resource for your learning and inspiration. For more information on becoming a Premium Member, click here.
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
A professional genealogist can help you apply to lineage societies. Joining is a time-honored way to honor your heritage and document your family history research. But it’s not easy! Here’s why even experienced genealogists may want to hire a professional to help with the process.
Thanks to Legacy Tree Genealogists for supplying this guest blog post.
Applying to lineage societies
Do you have an ancestor who lived in Colonial America when the Revolutionary War was fought, or perhaps earlier in Jamestown, Virginia? Does your ancestry extend back to New England when the Mayflower arrived? If so, there are various lineage societies you could consider joining:
While each organization has different requirements for their lineage society application, most have the same principles: prove a connection from yourself to the person of interest by use of vital records (where available). Where not available, other documentation that proves family connections can be used. (DAR now also accepts DNA evidence.)
You may not know that most societies allow you to “piggy-back” on applications they have previously accepted. Let’s say your second cousin Steve already joined a society based on your common patriot (or pioneer) ancestor, Alexander Smith. You would just need to provide documentation proving your connection to your parents, your relevant parent’s connection to his/her parents, and your relevant grandparent’s connection to your common great-grandparents, who were already mentioned in Steve’s application. You may then be able to reference Steve’s application for the remainder of the lineage going back to Alexander Smith.
Overall, this may sound like a simple process. But it often takes quite a bit of work because the records needed to prove each generational link are not always readily available–and sometimes they just don’t exist at all.
Why get help when applying to lineage societies
Below are five ways that a professional genealogist can help you apply to lineage societies:
1. Help you determine how to apply. As we mentioned, each lineage society has different requirements, so you’ll want to be sure you know what they expect in order to be as efficient as possible in gathering documentation. A professional can help you determine exactly what documentation is required and locate contact information for those with whom you need to work to submit your application.
2. Identify where your research should stop and start. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes. If your lineage ties into one that has already been acceptably documented by another member of the society, you should use it! A professional genealogist can help you identify any previous lineage society applications that have already been approved for your lineage. This single step can save you a lot of time and money.
3. Organize your information. A professional genealogist can work with you to determine what documentation you already have and what you will need to order. They can help you order copies of missing vital records or find acceptable substitutes in archives, libraries, and online.
4. Conduct in-depth research as needed. Many times, at least one ‘problem’ generation requires in-depth research, circumstantial evidence, and a proof summary in order to make the connection. A well-written proof summary explains how all the circumstantial evidence fits together to support the generational link, and often aids the applicant in obtaining membership when not enough concrete documentation is available (or when it conflicts). This often involves delving into land records, tax lists, probate records, and other more obscure sources to find any and all clues and pieces of information that can be used to tie two generations together. It can be a time-consuming task. A professional genealogist can do this efficiently and thoroughly.
5. Compile and present all records to the lineage society for admittance. You’ll be the one to present or submit your documentation, but professionals can help you get it all ready so that you’ll be as prepared and organized as possible.
Save time and money when applying to lineage societies
A well-prepared lineage society application often shortens the waiting period to be accepted into a society because it is easier to verify and follows the rules of the society. If an application is poorly prepared, it can take several submissions before acceptance into the society is granted. And of course, the lineage society determines what they will and will not accept as proof, so there’s never a guarantee. They may request additional information, and then you have to go back and keep digging! But since professional genealogists have experience working with the various societies and know what types of documentation are usually accepted, working with a pro can make the application process to a lineage easier, more efficient, and in the end, more rewarding.
If you have an ancestor in your lineage who may qualify you to join a lineage society, experts at Legacy Tree Genealogists can help you gather your documentation and prepare your application. They are the world’s highest client-rated genealogy research firm. Founded in 2004, the company provides full-service genealogical research for clients worldwide, helping them discover their roots and personal history through records, narratives, and DNA. Based near the world’s largest family history library in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, Legacy Tree has developed a network of professional researchers and archives around the globe.
Contact them today to discuss your options–and your ancestors. EXCLUSIVE OFFER for Genealogy Gems readers! Receive $100 off a 20-hour+ research project from Legacy Tree Genealogists with code GEMS100. Offer good through December 31, 2017.