Google Searches for Genealogy Leads to an Opera’s Worth of Stories

Google searches for genealogy are a main focus of our Google Guru, Lisa Louise Cooke. Read this inspiring story of how one Genealogy Gems reader used Lisa’s Google search tips to find a trove of family stories worthy of an opera.

Google searches for genealogy

Opera house image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

You never know when the amazing technology of the internet and Google will lead to a discovery that will open the doors on your family history. I recently received a letter from Genealogy Gems listener, Kristen. She shared the sad tale of her maternal grandmother’s history. Her grandmother had lost her mother before the age of two. Then, as an only child, her father abandoned her to be raised by a less-than-loving step mother. This young woman grew-up and had children of her own, but all she had in the way of a family history was the memory of her father’s name and a handful of unnamed photographs.

Merton E. Markert

Kristen went on to say, “She never really spoke of her sad childhood, save to say that the stepmother would tell her she had always been unwanted and that her mother was unloved and the marriage was forced.”

Among the handful of mystery photographs of her grandmother as a child, was a brief article from a newspaper. It was a lesson in manners titled Silence is Golden and it was written by Merton Markert, a student of the Modern Classics. A photo of a young woman was attached.

 

Using Clues for Google Searches for Genealogy

Here’s the rest of Kristen’s letter:

I took your advice and Googled Merton Markert Modern Classical Silence Golden. Up came the Lancaster High School Yearbook for 1905, featuring p. 41, the senior class portraits with their course study descriptions and a small personal quote for each. There was that exact photo of her, and the name Merton Markert, Modern Classical with the quote, “Life seems a jest of Fate’s contriving.”

Photo courtesy of Kristin Wat

The whole yearbook had been digitized by Mocavo, and it is the only yearbook for that high school in several years. My great-grandmother [Merton Markert], who had been buried and unspoken for a hundred years, had reached out to me. She wanted me to find her! Lisa, I cannot adequately describe the feelings I experienced at that moment of discovery. You understand how a moment like that feels, I’m sure. The chills, the tears…I felt like I was staring into her eyes, reaching through a century of silence, and finally able to acknowledge her sacrifice and legacy.

On the football team that year was my great-grandfather, and the whole book was ripe with clues that still hold nuanced significance.

From there, I was able to grow a tree on Ancestry.com and get the basics. But that does not tell you who the person is, the struggles, the character, the story. So taking your lead, and thinking like my brother the Sherriff Detective, I got creative. Using all kinds of searches and sniffing and turning over and under, I was able to uncover a veritable opera’s worth of stories within this one branch [of my family tree]. The cast of characters include: A Colonial founder, a secret bastard half-sister, a suicidal mother, a Klondike Gold Stampeder, alcoholics, a rejected Baptist Pastor, a homosexual affair-turned-murder victim,  a bonafide Monuments Man (buried at Arlington), and a chorus of war veterans. And cancer. Lots of it. In fact, breast cancer was the reason for Merton’s death in 1910. That kind of information is vital to my sisters and female cousins.

So thank you, my clever inspiration.

Ain’t opera grand?
 

Lisa’s Response to Kristen with Additional Ideas

Thanks for sharing your fascinating story. I completely understand the emotions you felt the moment she was looking back at you on the screen. Those moments are precious and meant to be savored!Using search techniques from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition, I also discovered this same yearbook on the  robust and free Internet Archive website. Perhaps there is more there to be found. And I have an additional idea I thought you might like to try. It’s Ebay.

Ebay currently has a commencement program from 1902, old post cards of the school, and other yearbooks from Lancaster High School. Who knows what could be put up for auction in the future. You could sign up for a free Ebay account, run a search, and then click to Follow the search. You will then be alerted to future auctions that match your criteria. Happy hunting and thanks for being a Genealogy Gem!

Genealogy Gems Premium Members can listen to Premium episode 16 which goes in depth into my Tips for Finding Family History Related Items on eBay.

More on Google Searches for Genealogy

Google is an effective and easy-to-use genealogy tool, you just need to know a few basics. Watch my YouTube video on speaking Google’s language and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of our tech tips and more!

15 Genealogy Freebies – Audio Podcast Episode 272

A ton of genealogy and family history research can be done for free. In this episode I’ll share 15 fabulous free websites and what I love about them. These are essential for everyone serious about saving money while climbing their family tree.

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Show notes article and watch the video version: 15 Genealogy Freebies

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How to Start a Genealogy Blog: FREE 5-Part Podcast Series

how to start a genealogy blogHave you thought about starting a blog to share your family history research, but just haven’t done it yet?

  • It’s a free, no fuss-way to publish your family history as you write it, one little piece at a time.
  • It shares your family stories with loved ones who are interested enough to read your short snippets.
  • It’s “out there” on the internet for long-lost relatives to find and connect with you.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastWell, Lisa has just republished a FREE 5-part podcast series on how to start a genealogy blog! It’s from her original Family History Podcast, a step-by-step how-to series for genealogists. I’ve just finishing remastering the last of the how-to-blog episodes, and I’ll tell you, they are inspiring!

In fact, after one of the episodes originally aired, listener Will Haskell contacted Lisa and said he thought he’d start a blog. I was curious–did he ever do it? He DID! I found Will’s Genealogy Blog here and started reading. He’s posted all kinds of great information about his family history. He hasn’t posted much recently, so I contacted him. What he said was really interesting:

“Lisa definitely was the instigator in starting the blog. I have not been keeping up with the blog in the past couple years. Being a business owner has cut in to the family history research and blogging quite a bit. I am still amazed at how many people visit my blog even without regular updates. I have been able to reconnect with several relatives through the blog.”

So that’s another great aspect of blogging: it’s not a forever commitment, and it often continues to reward you even when you’re not actively blogging! Check out the blog series here:

Episode 38: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 1. The Footnote Maven, author of two popular blogs, joins us to talk about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, commenting on other people’s blogs and more. This is a fascinating inside look into the geneablogging community, whether you’re interested in starting your own or not!

Episode 39: How to Start a Genealogy Blog,  Part 2. This week we continue to explore of family history blogging. In this episode I interview TWO more successful genealogy bloggers, Denise Levenick (author of The Family Curator and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful” on the Shades of the Departed blog) and  Schelly Tallalay Dardashti (author of the Tracing the Tribe blog).

Episode 40: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 3: Step by Step. In this episode, learn step-by-step how to create your own free family history blog on Blogger.com. Learn tricks for designing a simple, useful blog and how NOT to overdo it!

Episode 41: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 4: Blog readingsGet inspired by two seasoned bloggers who each read a great post for you. And hear a special announcement about an exciting project I’ve been working on.

Episode 42: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 5. In this final episode, learn a few more gadgets for formatting your blog and making it easy for others to subscribe. Learn tips for writing that first post and using keywords that will help others researching your family to find you.

Interview with Laura Ingalls Wilder Editor Pamela Smith Hill: Genealogy Gems Book Club

Are you a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, lover of western U.S. history or writer of family history? You’ll love our exclusive interview with Pamela Smith Hill, editor of the new Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography Pioneer Girl.

Pioneer Girl Book ClubThe “grown-up” version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular Little House children’s books has been published, and the Genealogy Gems Book Club got an exclusive interview with its editor, Pamela Smith Hill. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. We bring you this conversation in the new Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 127 (Premium membership required to access). You can also find an excerpt in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 183.

Pamela Smith HillLaura wrote this never-before-published autobiography in the 1930s. She scrawled “Pioneer Girl” across the cover of a dime store paper tablet. Then she filled it with detailed recollections of family, neighbors, wagon trains and homesteads: memories of pioneering in an American West that was fading away.

For someone raised on the gentler Little House re-tellings, Laura’s straightforward stories are intriguing and sometimes stunning, as are the behind-the-scenes look at Laura’s life that Pamela offers. I was riveted by the real story behind Jack the Brindle dog! And then, as an accomplished writer and editor, Pamela shares ways that all of us can improve how we share our family history stories. If you’ve been yearning to write your family’s story, this is a must-listen episode.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Pioneer Girl Rocky Ridge FarmI had the very good fortune of visiting the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, MO) last week. It was icing on the cake to see the treasure trove of historical artifacts in person that were detailed in the Little House books, and that Pamela brought to life even further through her annotations in Pioneer Girl.”

The Genealogy Gems Book Club brings you exclusive interviews with authors of fabulous books that anyone who loves family history will love. We feature a new title each quarter: best-selling fiction, non-fiction, memoir–anything that resonates with those who love history and themes about family and personal identity. Click here to see titles we’ve recommended in the past and hear excerpts of author interviews.

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipAbout Genealogy Gems Premium Website Membership
The The Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast is one of the perks of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. For one low annual fee, members can listen to the monthly podcast–and all previous episodes. These are archived in the members-only area of our website along with more than 2 dozen Premium member-only videos on genealogy research strategies, organization, technology tools (like Google, Google Earth, Evernote, Dropbox and cloud computing) and more. Premium members can access Premium episode 127 through iTunes, the Genealogy Gems app (for iPhone/iPad or Android users) or on our new mobile-friendly website.  Click here to learn more!

Tackling Your Inherited Genealogy Files: Merging Duplicates

Merging duplicate records in your family tree is important. Perhaps you have inherited a giant genealogy file (GEDCOM) from a relative. What now? Follow along in our series on Inherited Genealogy Files as we talk about how to merge the duplicates in your family tree.

merging duplicate in your tree

Have you cleaned up your family tree lately? Whether you have inherited a genealogy file from a relative or have been an avid researcher yourself, clean-up is necessary from time to time, especially as your database grows.

Merging Duplicates from an Inherited Genealogy File with RootsMagic

When you sit down to do your genealogy research, the last thing you want to worry about are duplicate names. Duplicates can be distracting and confusing.

You may have inherited a genealogy file or files in the form of GEDCOMs. (Read more on what and how to use a GEDCOM file here.) While inheriting this family history is great, it can also be a lot of work to clean-up, confirm the data, and add source citations where needed.

If you use RootsMagic or other similar software, it can be quick and easy to clean up duplicate names in your database. Start by running a duplicate search by clicking on Tools, selecting Merge, and then clicking Duplicate search merge.

You can search for duplicates by surname or given name. You might consider running a duplicate search for sounds alike, as well. This is particularly important if you have merged two databases in which you and the other contributor may have used different surname spellings.

When you are ready, click Search for duplicates at the bottom of the box. The system will tell you how many duplicates it finds and allow you to compare them one-by-one.

If you find a duplicate, the primary person will be on the left and the matching record on the right. Whichever record/person is most correct, use the Swap button to move that record to the primary position on the left.

If you feel these are a match, click Merge duplicate into primary at the bottom left corner. You have now merged these two individuals. It should be noted that you do not actually lose any of the data of the duplicate person. If I find Dean Howard Lockwood in my index and double click on his name, a pop-up window appears and I see he now has two birth and death entries, however. To fix this, click on the duplicate fact to highlight it, then click Delete fact at the top.

Cleaning Up Duplicate Places

You may not have considered cleaning up the duplicate places that exist in your file. For example, perhaps Great-aunt Susie liked to use the old format for place names. [i.e. , Ross County, Ohio] Notice the comma before the county name Ross. This was the way in which genealogists used to indicate Ross was the name of the county. Now, we use the more recent accepted format and change that to: Ross county, Ohio, United States. You can quickly merge these two places into one by clicking Lists at the top left, and choosing Place List.

Now, choose the place you would like to fix and double click it. In the pop-up window that appears, simply type in the place name as you desire it to appear in your database.

In the example above, we have changed , , Kentucky to Kentucky, United States and clicked OK. But wait, there’s one more step! You may notice your list now shows duplicates of Kentucky, United States or some variation. To fix that problem, click on the merge button at the top of the Place List pop-up window. A new window will pop-up and you can choose all the places you wish to merge together. Then, click Merge selected places.

More on RootsMagic Software

RootsMagic is the genealogy software used and recommended by Lisa Louise Cooke and The Genealogy Gems Podcast. You can purchase this amazing software from the Products We Love tab in our store or by clicking on the RootsMagic 7 image link. When you use our affiliate links, you are helping to support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. Thank you!

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