Easy or complicated genealogy for the folks on this remote island? Tristan da Cunha, Wikipedia image.
Small, isolated populations should mean it’s easy to do their genealogy, right? Well, I wonder.
I came across this Wikipedia article on Tristan da Cunha, described as “the most remote inhabited island in the world, lying 1,750 miles from the nearest landfall in South Africa, and 2,088 miles from South America. Its current population of 264 is thought to have descended from 15 ancestors, 8 males and 7 females, who arrived on the island at various times between 1816 and 1908. The male founders originated from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, United States and Italy and the island’s 80 families share just eight surnames: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello, Patterson, Repetto, Rogers, and Swain.”
Of course, success in doing family history on this island depends a lot on how strong their record-keeping and preservation has been. (Consider what one natural disaster could do to written history) Barriers to migration should certainly mean it’s easy to find ancestors. But what does that family tree look like? How many people will show up in multiple places on the tree?
Have you ever done genealogy research on an isolated or insular group? What are the challenges? What’s easier? Feel free to share on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Feel free to share your tales of complicated genealogy!
Back in “the day,” American consumers window-shopped by mail with the Sears catalog. From 1888-1993, the Sears catalog stocked millions of American households and fed the Christmas lists of men, women and children.
Sears Catalog Fall 1960, Cover. Digital image from Ancestry.com. Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Wouldn’t pages from the Sears catalog make a lively addition to your family history posts, pins, pages and conversations? Ancestry.com thinks so, too! They’ve digitized the catalogs and they’re keyword-searchable here. (Just a word of advice: browse a certain issue or search for a specific product. A keyword search for “bicycle” brings up over 5000 results through the OCR technology used to find matches.)
According to this brief history, the Sears catalog first launched as a mailer for watches and jewelry in 1888. “The time was right for mail order merchandise,” says the article. “Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.”
Here’s one more blast from the American consumer past: Sears kit houses. Have you heard of these? You used to be able to order pre-fabricated homes from Sears. You could customize one of many standard sets of plans, and all the materials would be pre-cut and delivered to your home, “some assembly required,” so to speak. Learn more about Sears kit houses and see images of several designs (1908-1940) here. Did your family ever live in a kit house? Tell us about it on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page!
The official RootsTech 2014 app is available for downloading from the App Store or Google Play! There’s also a web version for those who don’t use an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Like last year’s app, the RootsTech 2014 lets you create your own class schedule, learn about speakers, connect with other attendees and more. For example, here’s my speaker page, below: it tells all about me and Genealogy Gems and lists all my speaking sessions. If you click on the titles of individual sessions you see below, you’ll see more details: the length of the session, a description of it, what track and level the content is and what room the class is in. You can click right from that screen to add my classes (or any others) to your should you buy medication online schedule in the app.
But wait, there’s more you can do with this app! Access maps of the venue, which is enormous. Chime into social media conversations and check for daily news posts. Look up more about specific exhibitors so you can plan which booths to visit. (My booth is filed under “Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems”–I hope you’ll come say hi!)
RootsTech 2014 will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA from February 6-8, 2014 at the Salt Palace. It’s a huge event that focuses on harnessing today’s technologies to discover and share our family history. Whether you’re brand new to genealogy or a professional researcher, there will be something for you there! Early bird pricing is available until January 6, 2014.
Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.
Originally published 2009
Republished January 21, 2014
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 15: Genealogy Cold Calling II: 14 Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives
Connecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that call.
In today’s episode we talk about the skill of “genealogical cold calling.” Relationships are key to genealogical success and by following 14 genealogical cold calling strategies you will find your research relationships multiplying. We’ll chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. She has a knack for quickly connecting with folks she doesn’t know over the telephone in ways that put them at ease and bring to light the information that she’s looking for.
But first, we do some follow up with an email from a listener about family trees. Then, I share a little story that puts into practice what we’ve learned so far in this podcast series.
14 Steps to Genealogical Cold Calling Success
#1. Identify the person you want to call.
#2. Locate the person’s phone number. Below are some great websites for locating people you don’t know. The list is updated from the one given in the show. And Whowhere.com now has an app for Android, iPhone and other mobile devices. Check it out
Don’t forget to search the entire metro area, not just one city. Try just searching their first name particularly if it’s not a really common first name. Try and track down their number through other relatives or researchers. If all else fails consider posting on a message board for the surname
#3. Prepare ahead for making the call.
Every tough job gets just a little easier when you do your homework first. Follow these tips:
- Take into account a possible difference in time zones.
- Choose a time when you are not too rushed
- Do a brief review of the family you are researching so it’s fresh in your mind
- Make note of specific questions you would like to ask.
- Have your genealogy software program open or your written notes at your fingertips.
#4. Get up the “nerve” to call.
Remind yourself how valuable this person’s information could be to your research. If he or she is quite elderly, remember that none of us will be around here forever so you need to make the call today! Say to yourself: “I can do this. This is important!” And be positive and remember, all they can do is say “no thank you.”
#5. Introduce yourself.
Give your first & last name & tell them the town and state where you live. Then tell them the family connection that you share, and tell them who referred them to you or how you located them before launching into why you’re calling or what you want.
#6. Overcome reluctant relatives.
Be ready to share what you’ve learned, and to share your own memories of a relative that you have in common. Mention something of particular interest in the family tree that might pique their interest.
If they are very hesitant you could offer to mail them some information and offer to call back once they’ve had a chance to look at it. That way they can sort of get their bearings too.
#7. What to do during the call
You’ll want to take notes during the phone call. Try a headset which will help to free up your hands for writing. Handwriting is preferably over typing.
Take the opportunity to not just get new information but also to confirm information that you already have–just to make sure it’s correct.
If you have a way to record the call, you don’t have to take notes and focus all of your attention on the conversation, and then transcribe the recording later. If you want to record, ask permission: in some places, it’s illegal to record a conversation without permission and it’s common courtesy to say you’re taping them. But it might put off a stranger; perhaps taping could wait until a second call.
#8. Leave a detailed voice mail message if there’s no answer.
State your name and that you would like to talk with them about the family history. Leave your phone number and tell them that you will call them back. Consider leaving your email address and suggesting they email you with a convenient time to call back.
Be sure and keep track in your genealogy database each time you call and what messages you leave. Having a log of calls and voice mail messages you’ve left will help you keep track.
#9. “Must-ask” questions.
- “Do you or anyone else in the family have any old family photographs, or a family Bible?
- (Reassure the person that you would only be interested in obtaining copies of any pictures or mementos they might have.)
- “Do you know anyone else in the family who has been doing family research?”
- “May I have your permission to cite you as a source in print in the future?”
- “Is it OK with you if I keep in touch from time to time?”
#10. Wrap up the call.
- Ask for their mailing address and email address.
- Offer to give them your address and phone number.
- Let them know you would be pleased to hear from them if they come across any other information, pictures, etc.
#11. Document the call.
Sit down at the computer or your notepad right away and make detailed notes about the phone conversation while it’s fresh in your mind. Include the person’s name, address, phone number and date of conversation. Make notes regarding any items you think may be questionable to remind you to go back and do more research on those points. At the bottom of the page list the ACTION items that come to mind that you want to follow up on based on the conversation. Enter their contact information into your genealogy database as well as your email contact list.
#12. Enter new information Into your genealogy database.
This is a must. Do it right away while it’s on your mind.
#13. Create an action item list.
Create action items based on what you learned. Ask yourself “What are the logical next steps to take considering what you’ve learned through this interview?” The call is not the end result, it’s a step in the research process, and it can really help to make this list now, and while it’s fresh in your mind.
#14. Follow up.
Send the person a written note or email thanking them for taking the time to talk with you. If the person mentioned that they would look for pictures or would look up something in a family Bible etc., mention in your note that you would still be interested in anything they can help you with and that you would be glad to pay any copying expenses, postage etc. Offer to provide copies of your information or copies of pictures you have etc. You never know: they might catch the genealogy bug and become your new research partner!
Next, put their birthday on your calendar and send them a card on their next birthday. It’s another way of keeping the connection going and expressing that you really do appreciate all their help. Try this service: Birthday Alarm.
Occasionally make a follow up call to check in and see how they are doing, share any new family items she’s come across recently, and ask if they have they heard or found anything else.
Recently I heard from David with this question:
“Because of your consistent message of starting a family blog [and] anecdotal success from listeners, I started a family history website. A blog just seemed too small…. The ultimate goal is to display the family information for my known relatives as well as create a site that will pop up on Google search results and hopefully put me in contact with new relatives.
My question is about displaying the family tree on the website. I want to have a page that shows my family tree. I did not know how to accomplish that, so I decided to include links to my ancestry and myheritage family trees. The problem with this method is that ancestry requires you to have an account to view the tree, and MyHeritage only shows you some of the family tree and requires an account to view the rest. This is not a great method to share the family tree with relatives because not everyone has, or wants, an account with these sites. Is there a website where I can upload my family tree’s GEDCOM file and then link to it on my website where it will display all the members of my tree?”
It’s always great to hear that Genealogy Gems is helping out. Congrats on the website David! I recommend blogs to my readers because they are quicker and easier to set up, but in reality I would rather recommend they create a family history website like you are doing. It’s better suited for the long haul of getting your word out and connecting with others.
You pose a great question, and so I did what I just coached everyone in my latest episode #171 to do: just Google it! What you are describing is a ‘website plugin’ so I Googled: family tree website plugin and…Ta-da! There are some out there.
I found one for Word Press (which is where I build my site) so I may have to give that one a try. However, since you are using Weebly I went back and added “weebly” to the search and there are definitely some hits there, though I’m not sure if they specifically include a visual tree plug in. Try the searches and see if you find something you like.
My friend Caroline Pointer has a YouTube video called “Build a Family History Website & Blog on Weebly.” Around the 5:50 mark she shows how she embedded family tree charts into Weebly. Looks like she used Scribd.
Keep up the great work on your family history site!