How to Organize Your Genealogy Paper – Episode 6 Elevenses with Lisa Show Notes

Live show air date: April 23, 2020

Episode 6 Video and Show Notes

Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn. Click to watch below, and scroll down for all the details from Episode  6.

From You:

Elevenses with Lisa is about connecting with each other and sharing ideas around family history. Margaret shared a wonderful story revolving around the recent discovery she made about the historical significance of a teacup collection that at first glance just appears to be a mis-matched lot.

Margaret's Bridge Tea Cups

Margaret’s “Bridge Tea” Cups

From Margaret in San Jose, CA:

I inherited these 6 teacups from my Mom, who only told me they were “wedding gifts.”  I always thought them odd gifts for newlyweds.  Why not a toaster? 

Nevertheless, I loved dusting them as a kid, because to me there was nothing more thrilling than a matched set of anything, and the cups and saucers are so intricately decorated to complement each other. 

I am in a True Tales/Memoir writing group and I recently read one of my stories aloud (virtually of course) about an ancestor honored at two Bridge Teas to celebrate her engagement.  A member spoke up about the tradition at Bridge Teas for each attendee to bring a different matching teacup and saucer as an engagement present to the bride.  I suddenly realized my Mom’s teacups were not odd wedding presents.  They were given to her at a Bridge Tea by her girlfriends!  I look at the six teacup sets now and see a circle of friends, each personality as unique as their teacup, symbols of friendship. 

Tech Tip:

Google can’t always find what you’re searching for, and a few days ago they launched a new message that tells you that.

Now, if you run a search and Google can’t find what it determines to be a good match, you will see a prominent message at the top of the search results page that says “no good results available.”

While a message like that can be discouraging at first glance, you shouldn’t stop there. This message doesn’t say that what you are looking for doesn’t exist. It is only saying that Google can’t find it.

There could be several reasons for this, and the search results page will likely contain clues. By following the clues and incorporating the strategies I discuss in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, there  is a very good chance that you can indeed find (with Google’s help) what you are in search of.

Here’s the example I showed in this episode. I was searching for the name of the musical group that Bill’s grandpa performed with in the 1940s, the Centennial Syncopators (seen below in the only photograph I have of the group.) The original was a sepia tone photo, but I love this version that I colorized at MyHeritage (image below.)

Centennial Syncopators musical group-Colorized

Centennial Syncopators musical group. (Salem, Oregon, circa 1940) Grandpa Mansfield is in the back row on the far right.

I was typing quickly on my phone, and as you can see in the image below,  I have typos in the first word of my search.

Google indicated that “It looks like there aren’t any great matches for your search.” Google offered a few suggestions for alternative ways to search to try and get better results. Generally speaking, these are helpful suggestions. But as is so often the case, they really didn’t help with the very specific, genealogically-driven research that I was doing.

New Google Message: No good results

New Google Message: “No good results.”

Correcting the spelling was important to try, but it didn’t yield any better results.

Google Search - fixed spelling.

Google Search – fixed spelling, but still not great results.

Instead of following the suggestions, I used the method I describe in my book. In this case I incorporated a simple search operator – quotation marks – and it made all the difference.

improving the search with search operators

improving the search with the quotation marks search operator.

There, in the first two results, was grandpa’s name: Sydney Mansfield.

There is another strategy from my book that I like to use as well. Instead of digging straight into these Web results, I take just a moment to tap Images to see what my results look like visually. Image results give you a quick visual overview that can help you spot gems that might not be obvious from the snippets appearing in the Web view.

Image results

Google Image results.

 

Tapping the first result yielded a wealth of information.

Sidney Mansfield and the Centennial Syncopators named in old photos.

Sidney Mansfield and the Centennial Syncopators named in an old newspaper.

Not only is Sidney Mansfield listed in the preview of the article (image above), but all of his band mates are too! 

Resource:

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 3rd Edition (2020)

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

New book for 2020 by Lisa Louise Cooke

 

GEM: DIY Family History Art Project

I’ve been redecorating my family room. this room is really the equivalent of a junk drawer, but MUCH bigger.

Family history and music are central themes in the Cooke household, so I was keen to incorporate both into this room. Below is a photo of my hubby playing the bass in the family room. This was about half way through the project, so things were still a bit jumbled.

The family room "before"

The family room “before”

After seeing an episode of Restaurant Impossible where they used an old family photo as artwork in the redesign of a restaurant, I was inspired to do the same.

I started with the 2 ½” x 3 ½” photograph of Bill’s maternal grandpa, Sydney Mansfield, with the Centennial Syncopators of Salem, Oregon (circa 1940). Sid was an accomplished musician, playing the violin and the organ. (Bill was blessed with the musical DNA on both sides of his family. His paternal grandpa started his career playing in a theater orchestra in England at the age of thirteen, was a high school orchestra leader, and music teacher his entire life.)

The next step was to scan and dramatically enlarge the photo.

My scanner: The Epson Perfection V550 Photo flatbed scanner. (I LOVE this scanner! It can do the high resolution I need for all my projects. If you decide to buy online, I appreciate it when you use my links because we will be compensated at no additional cost to you. This helps support this free show.)

I set the scanner to Professional mode which provides much higher resolution scanning options.

Scanning resolution: 1200 dpi.

My goal was a very large piece of artwork: 71” x 51” in a matte canvas, preferably mounted.

Printer: PosterPrintShop.com – After seeing the show, the folks at PosterPrintShop.com emailed me and offered a 10% discount promo code for for Genealogy Gems / Elevenses with Lisa viewers. Use coupon code: courtesy10x2020va  

I did a lot of research and it was a challenge to find an online service that could meet my project needs. The most important thing to me was the size, so I decided on PosterPrintShop.com. They were able to produce huge custom sizes in the matte canvas. However, they didn’t offer frame mounting. That was fine though, my hubby is very handy and agreed to build the frame.

wood frame for family history artwork

Wood frame for family history artwork

I uploaded my digital image, and I was happy to see that the printer immediately confirmed it was excellent quality for the enlargement. This gave me confidence that the finished poster would not be blurry or grainy.

In just three days it was up on my wall, sure to inspire many future evenings of music!

Completed project: family history art

Completed project: family history art.

How to Organize All This Genealogy Stuff!

Save yourself future frustration and disappointment by putting a solid plan in place for all the types of genealogical items that will be coming your way: paper, digital files, data, and notes.

I personally use all of the organizational systems that I am sharing with you in this series on the show. They have proven to be reliable and efficient, and I can honestly say I have never lost a piece of paper. All my archival paper is off my desk, within easy arm’s reach.

But don’t take my word for it. Test drive these methods and feel free to adjust to suit your individual needs. Consistent yet flexible implementation is the key to success. Every family is different (and a bit messy) so it’s understandable that you may implement this system with some minor alterations to suit your particular needs.

The most important piece of the organizational puzzle is in your court. Your system will only succeed if you stick to it!

In this episode we discussed:

Organizing All This Paper! The Physical Items Organization System

We begin our genealogical research by pulling together information that we already have around our home. A lot of that information will be on paper in all shapes and sizes. The sooner you establish a place to store it, the sooner you will become more productive.

Genealogy research is becoming more and more digital, but there will always be paper. Typically, the paper worth keeping will be precious items like original documents, postcards, letters, etc.

When you first acquire an item, you will “process” it, as I like to call it. This entails, reviewing it carefully, extracting all pertinent information and adding that information to a variety of locations (your personal genealogy database on your computer, your online family tree, transcription into another format, etc.)

After completely processing the information, you have a decision to make:

  • Do you archive this piece of paper? (possibly also digitizing it)
  • Do you digitize it and toss it?
  • Do you toss it?

If you determine the paper is precious and worth archiving, you will archive it in my 3 ring notebook system. Be absolutely sure that this paper is worth the precious real estate available on your office shelf.

My Genealogy Notebook System

This system organizes your paper to mirror the organization of your computer files (which we will cover in Elevenses with Lisa episode 7.) It is also based on your pedigree chart, meaning that it concentrates on your direct line of parents and grandparents, etc.

Since we can’t realistically keep every scrap of paper, typically the most important will be paper that relates to those ancestors you directly descend from. Whenever possible, opt to digitize (scan, photograph) paper, file it on your hard drive (backed up of course. I use Backblaze available here – we’ll be talking more about data in Episode 8), and toss the paper. Paper saved should be considered archival worthy. All other paper can ultimately be digitized (if desired) and tossed when you’re done working with it.

There are many advantages to my 3 ring notebook organizational system:

  • 3 ring binders keep paper items secure, clean and protected.
  • They can be stacked neatly on shelves.
  • Binders allow you to easily retrieve items for a family.
  • When you remove a binder from the shelf, it is obvious where it should be returned.
  • Binders are flexible – allowing you to add and remove items easily without disturbing other items.

I have found that organizational systems that are complicated and completely unique are difficult to stick with. My simple binder system is organized under the same logic as the census. This makes it easier to follow and it dovetails nicely with your digital organization (which I’ll be discussing in Episode 7) and your genealogy research.

The census is organized by households (typically families) with a designated head of household (typically the father.) Of course, this isn’t always the case. There are always exceptions. But we are focused on a big-picture over-arching principle that will guide our organization. 

Start with the ancestors closest to you. In my example, I began with my grandparents. Each direct line in your tree gets a 3-ring “surname” binder.

Tabs within the binder are organized by the head of household, just like the census. Again, typically, this is the man of the house.

Items are placed in acid-free sheet protectors and filed behind the appropriate head of household tab, in reverse chronological order, beginning with death records.

This process may take a while depending on how much you have already collected. Don’t worry about organizing everything in one sitting. If you have amassed a lot of paper, there is no need to stop all research until everything you have is organized. It’s just not realistic. All you need to do is get the supplies, set up your first generation of notebooks, and any notebooks for the lines you are currently researching. Use this method and file as you research and come across new paper. Schedule blocks of organization time and use that time to go back and process and file your existing paper. By doing this you can continue the fun of genealogy while continually making progress organizing and archiving your paper backlog.

Organizational success also depends on having the material you need on hand. Below is my shopping list, including what I generally think is the minimum number of items to start with. If you decide to buy online, I appreciate it when you use my links because Genealogy Gems will be compensated at no additional cost to you. This helps support this free show.

Shopping List:

Setting Up Your First Notebook

Create a cover and spine for your notebook in a simple Word document or other program. Save it as a template so that you can quickly generate covers and spines as needed.

Add the tabbed dividers to the notebook.

Label the first tab as Pending. This is where you will place items for that family line that you have not yet finished processing. Think of this tab as a staging area for paper you acquire throughout your research before they have been entered into your database.

Dividing Tabs: Label the second tab with the head of the family for the generation closest to you. Each generational head of household (Father, Grandfather, etc.) gets a tab. Label the remaining tabs as far back as you can. (Click here to jump to the spot in the episode on YouTube where I show the tabs.)

Generally, I organize the items behind the tabs in chronological order no matter who they pertain to within his family. This creates a sort of timeline. However, for a large volume of documents you could use colored dividing tabs to divide items by each person in his family while that person is in his household. If you do want to break things up a bit, you don’t have to have a colored tab for every family member. You could have one for the wife, and one for all the children. You could even have one for all the kids but break out just your direct ancestor and give him or her their own. Do what works for you, and then stick to it!

How to File Paper in the Notebooks

Filing Records for Women

Documents for female children are filed under their father prior to marriage, and then all documents generated after their marriage are filed under their husband.

A widowed woman has a married name, and her items are filed under her husband’s tab. If she remarries, all her items generated from that point forward are filed under her new husband unless you think you’ll have enough paper to warrant a new book. Otherwise, you can certainly just continue filing paperwork for her and her new husband under that tab. The choice is yours. Feel free to add cross-referencing notes.

Filing Collateral Lines:

Collateral relatives are the ones that descend from the brothers or sisters of your direct ancestors (i.e. nieces, nephews, cousins). File paperwork for collateral relatives under the direct ancestor they are most closely related to, or in a tab at the end of the family binder called Collateral Relatives. (That’s what I do.) Strive to digitize as much as possible. Chances are, you won’t have a lot of paperwork to archive for collateral relatives. If you do, ask yourself if you really need all of it!

Eventually your families will branch out into other surnames, and you will need to start new binders. Use the smaller 1″ 3-ring binder for this purpose.

As your research progresses, you may need to move the family from a 1″ binder to a 3″ binder. But some families, particularly those farther back in your family tree (where there is less original archive-worthy paperwork) will be adequately accommodated by 1″ binders. Save space by not automatically moving families into 3″ binders.

Organizing Heirlooms

My system includes a Family Heirloom Tracking binder and digital file folder. Each page features one heirloom and includes:

  • a photograph,
  • brief history of the item,
  • current location,
  • and who will inherit the item. 

Free downloads:

Example page from the Heirloom Tracking binder: Click here to download.

Blank Heirloom Tracking worksheet: Click here to download

Premium Member Downloads:

Notebook cover and spine template Word documents (Log In requiredClick here to download.

 

Why Do You Do Genealogy?

I don’t know about you, but I get asked a lot by people who aren’t into genealogy, “Why do you do it?”
I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years, and I’ve come to an important conclusion:

Family History is Knowing the Full Story - Lisa Louise Cooke

Quote by Lisa Louise Cooke

Please take a moment to share in the comments as to why you do genealogy. I’d love to hear your personal reasons. 

Resources

Premium Members: Show Notes PDF – Genealogy Gems Premium Members can click here to download the show notes PDF for this episode. (Log in required.) Become a Premium Member here

Click the image below to watch episode 7 of Elevenses with Lisa. If you’re reading these show notes after that date, click here to get all the episodes and show notes, starting with the most recent. 

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 7

Click the image to watch episode 7

Questions and Comments

Did you like this episode? What resonated with you? What goals are you setting this week? Do you have a questions for me? Please leave your comments and questions below. I can’t wait to hear from you, and I look forward to seeing you next week on Elevenses with Lisa. 

Turn Spring Cleaning Into a Treasured Family History Christmas!

honor your female ancestorsIt’s the last day of March, so it must be time to start thinking about Christmas, right?

OK, so you may not be thinking about your next Christmas craft project or gift-giving. But March has been Women’s History month and I’ve got a fun and easy craft project for you that will honor your female ancestors, help you do a bit of Spring cleaning of your stashes of left over fabric, and put you well ahead of the game when it comes to holiday prep.

Follow along with me in the video below as I piece together a crazy quilt Christmas stocking.

 

Familiar Female Faces

This stocking not only possesses a nostalgic flare with its Victorian-era crazy quilt design and embroidery, but it’s also brimming with familiar female faces from my family tree. Gathering together as many photos as I could of the women that I directly descend from was a fun challenge. I scoured old photo albums, searched online family trees, and put the word out to family members to make sure I had every available image. I was pleasantly surprised at how many I came up with.

Not Just for Stockings

This crafty idea certainly isn’t limited to Christmas stockings. You could translate this into a wall hanging, or even a full-size bed quilt. Make one as a gift, and it will surely be handed down the family lines for generations as a treasured heirloom.

Create a Video Story of Your Creation

I made this video with Animoto, a web and mobile app that makes this job of video creation oh, so easy! And it got me to thinking how lovely it would be to give a “bonus” gift of video to the recipient of this family history present.

  1. Re-purpose the Photos – since you’ve already pulled out the photos to create the transfer images, why not drop them into Animoto? Add your memories, poems they wrote, and any other tidbits that help their legacy shine through. Sprinkle with a bit of music (Animoto has loads of songs to choose from), and in minutes you can create a short tribute video to the women in your tree.

  2. Document the Project – Grab your smartphone and snap pictures and videos during the process of creating the stocking (or other form of this project). Toss your photos and videos into Animoto, add personalized comments, and you’ll have a sweet video to accompany the gift. It will show how you poured love into every stitch! (Ah! What I wouldn’t give for such a video of my Grandma sewing the lovely items I treasure today!)

Made with Love

(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)

Animoto is a trusted sponsor of the Genealogy Gems Podcast.

 

DIY Heritage Stocking Stuffer: Make Sweet Memories by Wrapping Them Around Chocolate

Are you looking for a fun, easy and downright delicious way to share some family history this Christmas? What better way to entice your family to have an interest in the family tree than wrapping that history around a luscious chocolate bar?

DIY Christmas stocking stuffer candy bar

 

DIY: Stuff Their Heritage in Their Stocking

I firmly believe that family history should not sit on a shelf, but should be seen, touched, felt and even tasted! 

Sometimes when a passionate genealogist shares the family history discoveries they have made, their relatives are less than enthusiastic to hear about it. (Sound familiar? I know I’ve experience this phenomenon.) This lack of interest may be more about the delivery of the information rather than the information itself. The trick is to serve up the family tree in an appealing and fun way. 

That’s why a few years ago I designed these customized candy bars which I call Sweet Memories. They’re basically your favorite chocolate bar wrapped in a custom label with your own sweet family history memory on it. What could be better than that?!

sweet memories chocolate bar

Here’s the first Sweet Memories stocking stuffer candy bar I made for Christmas.

They are really simple to make. The candy bars themselves are store bought. All you need is a computer, printer and some paper and you can whip some up in an hour or so.

What I especially love about these customized delectable delights is the conversation they stimulate. I loved seeing the surprises on the faces of my family, and then the reminiscing that soon followed. They loved seeing the old photos and the clever list of “ingredients” that provided insight into the character of their ancestors. 

Don’t feel like you have to do exactly what I did on mine. Instead of a list of ingredients you could include a short funny story, favorite family quotes, or little-known fun facts about the ancestors in the photo. Use your imagination and have fun!

Christmas 1966 stocking stuff idea

Me having fun at Christmas in 1966. Did you have the Booby-Trap game too? (Leave a comment) 

Keep reading because after the step-by-step instructions below, I’ll share some more design ideas. 

How to Make “Sweet Memories” DIY Stocking Stuffer Candy Bars

Here’s how to make your own custom labels and turn plain chocolate bars into wonderful holiday gifts for your loved ones.

Start by gathering up the following supplies:

  • A 3.67 oz approximately sized Chocolate Bar wrapped in foil with a paper wrapper. (Dove and Cadbury are some of my favorites. Hmmmm!)
  • Bright white printer paper
  • Computer and printer
  • A software publishing program that you can create your label in, like Microsoft Publisher. (Or try using a word processing programming using the text box feature.)
  • Double sided tape (I use Scotch Brand Double Sided Photo Safe tape available here.)
  • Scissors
  • Scanned family photos, especially old holiday photos

These instructions are for creating the labels in Microsoft Publisher, but you could also do it in PowerPoint or any other design type software or app.

1. Create a Rectangle 

On the blank page, create a 7 ¾” high and 5 ¾” wide rectangle using the Shape tool. This just gives you a nice outline to work in.

2. Add a Background 

An easy way to add an interesting background is to scan a piece of scrapbook paper that you like. The scrapbook paper could be textured or have a repeating design. But you could also choose a favorite digital image.

Use the INSERT IMAGE function to get the image onto your page. Next, resize it to fit just over the rectangle that you created.

Another other option for the background is to select the rectangle and use the FORMAT FILL COLOR function to color the box with the color of your choice. I used green and then chose a gradient that went from light to dark for added interest.

3. Add an Old Photo(s)

You can add any digitized photo that you like. Dig through your old family photo albums to find Christmas photos from the past, or simply feature an ancestor or family. You can use the same photo for all your stocking stuffers, or surprise each member of your family with a candy bar featuring a different ancestor.

Use INSERT IMAGE to add your photos and resize them to fit.

For the front side image, I measured down approximately two inches from the top of the label, and that is where the top of the photo was placed. I set it ¼” from the left edge. Both photos are about 2” x 2”.

Christmas at Grandma's house 1956 - DIY stocking stuff ideas

My uncle, mom and aunt in 1956. I used this photo for the front side of my stocking stuffer candy bar label.

4. Adding Photos to the Back of the Label

The backside photo begins 5” from the top of the label and is set ¼” from the left edge.

You may also want to include a small text box that states the date and location of the photos and the names of the people.

Christmas at Grandma's house 1964 - DIY stocking stuff ideas

Christmas Dinner at Grandma’s House (I’m in the bottom left corner, mouth wide open as usual.) I featured this photo on the backside of my label.

5. Add Descriptive Text

The last step is to insert the text boxes.

Both the “Sweet Memories” text box and the “Ingredients” text box that I included are about 3” wide and 1 1/4” high. You can format them with the borders and colors that you want.

In my example, you’ll see that I took the color cues from the colors in the photos – the crimson red and soft green. Many apps have a color picker feature that will allow you to get an exact match. 

sweet memories chocolate bar template6. Add the Ingredients List

Every food item has an ingredients label on it, and this bar is no exception. I had some fun with the ingredients list and played up the family theme. I thought about my memories of my Grandmother and the values and elements she poured into each holiday. So my ingredients list reads:

  • Love,
  • Family,
  • Attention,
  • Politeness,
  • Grandma’s Cooking,
  • Smiles,
  • Caring
  • and Time.

Feel free to reflect your own family values in the list.

7. Print Your Label

Once you’ve got everything laid out on the screen the way you want it, it’s time to print.

From the menu, click FILE then PRINT and then click the PROPERTIES button. From this window be sure to select “high resolution paper” or “high brightness” as the media type, and select HIGH for the print quality to make sure you get the best, most professional looking label.

Print the label, then carefully cut it out.

8. Fold the Label to Fit

Follow the folding guidelines shown above, but keep in mind that your candy bar is going to dictate your actual fold lines.

The first fold line for my standard size Cadbury chocolate bar (which you can buy in bulk here) was 1 ½” from the top of the label and the second fold line is 4 ¼” from the top of the label.

(Disclosure: Genealogy Gems is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thank you for supporting articles like these by using our links.)

9. Tape the Label Closed

Remove the original wrapper of the chocolate bar, being sure to keep the foil wrapper in place and undisturbed. Use a small piece of double sided tape to stick the label to itself on the backside snugly.

And there you have it, your own custom family history themed chocolate bar! It’s ready to tuck into a Christmas stocking, use at your next family reunion, or at any other time you want to tickle someone’s sweet tooth and share memories.

 

More DIY Stocking Stuffer Design ideas

I promised you more examples of these Sweet Memories candy bars. Here are some from my Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners. 

I love the vignette styling Judy gave her family history photos. 

Judys stocking stuffer candy bar

Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Judy shared her version of the Sweet Memories stocking stuffer candy bar.

And this listener took this DIY idea and used it to create candy bar treats for her family reunion. What makes these SO unique is that she used a family heirloom crocheted blanket for her background image. (How clever is that?!) She spread the blanket over the bed of a scanner to make a digital image of that she could use on the label. 

FIY family reunion treats candy bars

Click here for more family reunion ideas.

Get more DIY project here at Genealogy Gems. You’ll also find great heritage crafting ideas–including photo displays and heritage quilts–on my Pinterest boards. If you enjoyed this idea I’ll hope you’ll share via Pinterest or Facebook. Did you like this idea and do you have other suggestions for a new spin on it or a favorite DIY family history project? I’d love to hear it so please leave a comment below. 

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