DIY Family History

Do your family members roll their eyes when you starting chatting about your genealogy research? Make family history FUN with these clever and inspiring DIY family history ideas!

Ideas in Your Purse

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Craft Ideas

DIY Family History Bracelet Upcycled from Your Old Watch

Watch the tutorial video below to learn step-by-step how to create this TIMELESS DIY gift that your family will love! Turn old non-working watches into keepsake family history bracelets. Dig through your jewelry box, or scour thrift stores, eBay, & garage sales. I turned my grandmother’s old watch that doesn’t work anymore into a bracelet that honors her. 

 

Holidays

Legacy Christmas Stocking
In this video
I’ll show you how to create a Legacy Christmas Stocking.  This crazy quilt / embroidered project allows you to share your family history with family and friends in a unique and creative way. Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 102 for more details and visit the show notes to download the supply list and other information.  Download the instructions (PDF).

Easy DIY Stocking Stuffers

Click here to see how to turn ordinary store-bought candy bars into extraordinary family history delivery treats!

sweet memories chocolate bar

“Sweet Memories” Stocking Stuffer Candy Bars

Displays

Finding your family history is just the first step in the genealogy journey. Displaying your findings and honoring your family lets your research live on and inspire others.

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 229

with Lisa Louise Cooke
May 2019

Listen now, click player below:

Download the episode (mp3)

In this episode:

  • Two listeners shares an exciting find using Lisa’s research strategies
  • Lisa provides next steps on German research in response to a listener question
  • Your Master Family Tree, and Sharing Branches Online Explained
  • The unusual history of one of the earliest forms of the World Wide Web

 

NEWS:

Lisa Louise Cooke is back in the studio after two weeks on the road speaking at the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) Conference and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Conference.

Each conference was great and had its own unique feel, and there were many new genealogists in attendance.

Genealogy Gems listener Carol stopped by and enthusiastically shared with how the eBay search strategies for family history that Lisa discussed in episode 140 paid off in a big way!

Carol and her ebay find

 

family name on back of postcard

MAILBOX:

Robin wrote in to share how Sydney Orton’s song with her grandpa in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 228 brought her to tears in a toll plaza while driving!

Steve wrote in to rave about the value that his new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning membership has brought to his family history research.

Rylee says she’s grateful to have found the podcast and she shares a story of genealogical discovery that she hopes will inspire others. Rylee asks “How do I find sources for these people? I have searched all over ancestry and Family Search and have had no luck again. I really want to believe that the people I have as Adam’s parents and siblings all the way through his 2nd great-grandparents (paternal) are truly his family but I need to get more information. Where can I go for help with German records and where can I continue my search?”

Lisa’s comments:  You’re absolutely right, what you found are just hints. It sounds like it’s time for you to move on from the “Genealogy Giants” (Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc.) and into German records websites, libraries, and archives to find real sources that nail down the family tree.

Lisa recommends the Genealogy Giants quick reference comparison guide.

We have several articles and episodes at Genealogy Gems that can help you do this:

  1. Go to genealogygems.com
  2. At the top of the home page select “German” from the “Start Learning” drop down menu
  3. That will take you to these results pages featuring our German research strategies.

I’m optimistic for you because Germans are known for keeping excellent records, and I have had good luck in searching them.

 

GEM: Your Master Family Tree, and Sharing Branches Online Explained

planting your master family tree

I describe it this way: Plant your tree in your own backyard and share branches online.

A master family tree has three important characteristics:

  1. It is owned and controlled by you.
  2. It is the final say on what you currently know about your family tree.
  3. It is protected with online backup to ensure it is safe.

Plant Your Master Family Tree
Lisa uses RootsMagic software for her master family tree. Learn more about GEDCOM files in this article: GEDCOM File (What is It & How to Use This Genealogy File)

Protech Your Master Family Tree
Lisa uses Backblaze to back up her master family tree and computer. Visit www.backblaze.com/lisa
(Using this link also helps keep this free podcast free. Thank you!)

Read more: How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps

Share Branches Online
Genealogy Giants Guide available in the Genealogy Gems store.

Read Lisa’s article: Planting Your Master Genealogy Family Tree for all of the strategies mentioned in this episode.

The free podcast is sponsored by:

Rootsmagic

PROFILE AMERICA: Friday, May 24th, 2019

In a way, today marks the 175th birthday of the World Wide Web. Only it was electro-mechanical, not digital. On this date in 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse activated the first telegraph line, sending a dots-and-dashes code message from the U.S. Capitol building to a receiver in Baltimore.

By the late 1850s, the first telegraph cable had been laid across the Atlantic Ocean, and in 1861, the telegraph spanned the continental United States. Over the ensuing decades, the wires wrapped around the world.

From the 1844 demonstration, telecommunications today has grown into a half-trillion dollar a year industry, and employs more than 1 million workers in over 59,000 industry establishments.

You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at www.census.gov.

Sources:

Joseph Nathan Kane, Kane’s Famous First Facts, Fifth Edition, H.W. Wilson Co., New York, NY, 1997, #7692.

 

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member

Genealogy Gems premium elearning

 

Gain access to the complete Premium Podcast archive of over 150 episodes and more than 50 video webinars, including Lisa Louise Cooke’s newest video The Big Picture in Little Details.
Learn more here.

(Membership doesn’t auto-renew because we don’t like that either. Prior to your membership expiring you’ll receive a friendly reminder email from us.)

 

Genealogy Gems App Users
Don’t miss the bonus content in this episode. Tap the “gift” icon on the episode screen in the app.
Get the app here or search for “Genealogy Gems” in your device’s app store.

Download the Show Notes PDF in the Genealogy Gems Podcast app. 

3 Free German Genealogy Websites: Maps of Germany and Poland

Finding German hometowns can be challenging. Guest blogger Camille Andrus, a professional genealogist specializing in German research and Project Manager at Legacy Tree Genealogists shares 3 free German genealogy websites to put your ancestors on the map in the former German empire and modern-day Poland. 

Map of German Reich 1871–1918. from kgberger, Creative Commons license, Wikipedia.com; 

Anyone tracing German ancestors quickly finds themselves puzzling over maps in a region that has experienced a lot of change. Camille Andrus of Legacy Tree Genealogists recommends these 3 free German genealogy websites to help you navigate the former German empire–from Pomerania to Prussia to Poland. Here are her picks and her explanations for using them.

1. www.MeyersGaz.org

“For years, novice genealogists who found themselves embarking on the road of German genealogy were discouraged when needing to decipher an entry for their town in Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs (commonly known simply as Meyers or Meyer’s Gazetteer of the German Empire) due to the old German font in which the book was printed and the plethora of abbreviations that were used. To address this obstacle, the website www.MeyersGaz.org was created.

This online database not only explains the text and various abbreviations in the town entry that are found in the original printed version of Meyers, but also pinpoints the location of the town on both historic and modern maps, indicates the Catholic and Protestant parishes to which residents of the town would have belonged, and notes the distance from the town to all parishes within a 20-miles radius.

The database also allows users to search for a town using wildcards. This is especially useful when the exact spelling of a town is not known. For example, if the record on which you found the new town name indicated that the person came from Gross Gard…. where the second part of the word was smudged or illegible, you could simply put “Gross Gard*” into the database. In this case, the only two options would be Gross Garde in Pommern and Gross Gardienen in East Prussia. If you have a common town name such as Mülheim, you can filter the search results by province.”

Screenshot from MeyersGaz.org.

Note: Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear more about MeyersGaz on Premium Podcast episode 143.

2. Kartenmeister

Kartenmeister is a database for towns which are found east of the Oder and Neisse rivers in the former German Empire provinces of East Prussia, West Prussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. This area is now part of modern Poland. The database allows users to search for towns using either their German or Polish name.

Again, using Gross Gardienen as our example town, we learn that the Polish name for the town is now Gardyny and is located in the Warminsko-Mazurskie province. Like MeyersGaz.org, collaboration between users is encouraged. Individuals can enter their email address into a mailing list according to the town they are interested in and specify surnames they are researching in that town.”

3. Lost Shoebox

Map of Poland from Lost Shoebox shows where to find online records for each province.

“This website is an index to 17 websites focused on research in Poland. The list of websites corresponds with a map of Poland divided into its various modern provinces. Each number (representing a website) is listed on the map in each province for which it has records. Some websites are listed for nearly every province, while others show up for only one or two. The 17 websites featured on Lost Shoebox include either direct access to digital images, indexes to vital records, or lists of microfilms or other archival holdings.

If we were searching for records for Gross Gardienen or other nearby towns, we know from Kartenmeister that we would need to look in the Warminsko-Mazurskie province. The map shows the numbers 3, 10, and 14.” A corresponding key sends users to the appropriate websites.

“The third website on the list for the province brings us to the website for the Polish State Archive in Olsztyn. There are a plethora of digital images for both Evangelical church records and civil registration records available on this website.”

Camille Andrus is a Project Manager for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a worldwide genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in breaking through genealogy brick walls. Her expertise includes Germany, Austria, German-speakers from Czech Republic and Switzerland and the Midwest region of the U.S., where many Germans settled.

Click here to learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team 

 

Photo Editing Apps and Software for Family History

Every where we go, we are snapping pictures. Whether you are interested in capturing your current family history or want to preserve the past through pictures, photo editing apps and software are a must! Read more to learn what software and apps are out there for the active genealogist who loves to take pictures.

A Gems reader recently asked if we have any suggestions on photo editing software and apps for family history. Our Genealogy Gems team members are each active in their personal family history and are quite savvy when it comes to some of the best photo editing apps and software out there.

Lisa Louise Cooke’s Favorite Photo Editing Software and Apps

Lisa shares:
I think one of the best photo editing software programs out there is Adobe Photoshop Elements, the consumer version of the high-powered Photoshop CS/CC software. On my mobile device, Photoshop Express is my go-to photo editing app which I discuss in Chapter 8 of my book Mobile Genealogy. In fact, I use the app far more for the photos I’m actively taking with my iPhone 6 Plus than the software on my computer.
 
With our link you can get Adobe Photoshop Elements & Premiere Elements 14 (the video editing software) bundled and on sale, and support our free podcast at the same time.
 

Adobe Photoshop Elements is an ideal editor for entry-level photographers, image editors and hobbyists. You’ll find most of the features of the more expensive professional version, but with fewer and simpler options. It allows you to create, edit, organize, and share your images to social media sites. Use the built-in Guides to quickly accomplish your goals.

Adobe’s Photoshop Express app can be downloaded to your mobile device for free from Google Play (for Android) or the Apple Store (for iPhones.)

In her book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research, Lisa explains how the Blemish tool can be used to restore old family photos.

Using the Photo Express Photo Editing App for Photo Restoration

If you want to restore old family photos, this app is now also capable of doing a lovely job with the new Blemish Removal tool. The app allows you to access your photos straight from Dropbox, as well as Adobe Creative Cloud, and Facebook. You can copy the old photos you want to edit to a dedicated folder in Dropbox. Remember, always leave your master digital photos where they are on your computer, and make sure your computer is backed up. (The Genealogy Gems Podcast uses and recommends Backblaze.)

How to add photos to Adobe Photoshop Express:

  1. On the computer where your photos are stored, go into Dropbox (either your Dropbox desktop application, or sign in to your account at www.dropbox.com)
  2. Create a folder called “Photos for Editing”
  3. Save copies of the photos you want to edit into the folder you created, leaving the originals where they are on your hard drive
  4. On your tablet, tap the Adobe Photoshop Express app
  5. Tap Dropbox. (See the chapter on File Sharing and Storage for more information on Dropbox)
  6. Tap the “Photos for Editing” folder
  7. Tap the photo you want to edit
  8. The photo is now on your screen and ready to edit and embellish
  9. When editing is complete, tap Close, then Save

Photo Editing Apps

Above is a photo of Lisa’s great-grandfather. On the left is the original scan, and on the right is restoration with the Blemish Removal tool (the icon looks like a band-aid.) After the touch up, Lisa applied the Dream filter which provided a bit more clarity and softened the rough spots in the background. Dream is one of the many free “Looks” available in the app, in addition to “Premium Looks” filters that you can purchase. She loves the fact that if she finds a certain combination of filters is working well, she can save it under “My Looks.” This saves time in the future because with one tap, you can apply your own special mix.

Amie’s Favorite Photo Editing Software and Apps

Amie says:

“One of my favorite photo editing tools is Pixlr Express. It is easy to use without having to read through the ‘instructions.’ It is a web-based tool or a mobile app. It makes correcting and enhancing my old photos a breeze.”

Using Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express is a web-based tool and a mobile app. Resize, rotate, filter, correct, and even add borders and text. Pixlr Express is free to use, which is always a plus. On your laptop, simply go to www.pixlr.com/express. Click on Browse.

photo_editing_pixlr

Choose the photo you wish to edit. The example below is a cute little picture of Amie’s dad in the fourth grade.

photo_editing_before_1

It could use some more color definition, maybe a new border to clean up the edges, and a caption on the front so that when shared, others will know who it is. To begin doing these edits, first click Adjustment.

photo_editing_before_2

From the icons that pop-up, choose Auto Fix. It really looks great with just the click of one button! Add a fun border if you wish and click Type to add the text you want. Here’s the finished product in less than 3 minutes:

photo_editing_before_3Don’t you just love it!

Enlisting the Help of Others

In some cases, our old photos are in seriously bad shape. We could pay to have a professional doctor it up, but I enlist the help of others at one of my favorite Facebook groups. Photo Restoration Free Service group on Facebook is dedicated to fixing images for free. Many of the people offering their talents are truly amazing. One man in particular caught my attention and gave me permission to use a before and after shot of his work. Thank you to Balazs and others who gave their permission for the before and after screenshot you see here.

photo_editing_

What are your favorite photo editing apps? Do you use a different app for your mobile device? We’d love to hear from you and what you are doing to make the most of your treasured family photos. Please leave a comment in the comment section below.

Sunny’s Tips for Restoration of Digital Documents

It’s not only the pictures of ancestors we sometimes need to restore, but it can also be those hard-to-read images of documents. When dealing with this problem, Sunny says:

“I do most editing on my laptop. This is where the nearest free software is and the default photo editor for Microsoft 2010. Most of the time, I just want to tweak the lighting: brighten up a scanned image or heighten the contrast in the image. To do this quickly, I open the image, then click Edit Pictures > Brightness and Contrast. In the Before/After images shown here, I just adjusted the midtones (+22) to make the gray areas lighter, then upped the contrast (+43).”

photo editing apps for documents

With so many photo editing apps available, it is hard to know what is going to work best for your needs. We hope that our experiences might help you to decide! We would love to see some of your before and after photos of a remarkable restoration. Will you share with us on our Facebook page? We’d love to hear from you!

More Gems on Photo Restoration and Preserving

“I Lost My Photos on My Phone!!” Here’s What You Need to Do

Tips for Digitizing Old Home Movies and Photographs

How to Use Google Image Search to Identify Old Photos on Smartphones and Tablets – Free Video

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