Improve Your Online Search Experience and Protect Your Privacy

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 24 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: September 10, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

how to improve your online experience

Your Online Mindset

In this video episode we explore the “Why” behind the tech tools we use. Then we dig into the settings and preferences to create the online experience we want, and the level of security and privacy that we are comfortable with. Follow along here on the show notes page. Premium Members: exclusive show notes PDF download can be found in the Resources section below. 

Tech Tools, Safety & Privacy

Google, YouTube, Ancestry, and all the other tech tools are simply tools. They shouldn’t dictate what we do. Instead, we should decide how we want to use them to accomplish our goals.

There are two sides to every tech tool:

  1. what it can do for you and
  2. what it can do for the company that created it.

Sometimes those are two very different things. That’s why we need to freshen up our online mindset.

Don’t always follow the prompts (for example genealogy hints, suggested Google searches, etc.) provided by the website. You decide how you will use each tool.

Recommended Viewing:
Genealogy Gems Premium Video How to Take Control of Preserving Your Family Tree Information. This important video covers my specific strategies for how to set up and control your genealogical data.

What is Google?

While Google.com may look like a search engine, that may not be it’s core business. Google is the largest advertising company in the world. We have to remember that first – even over it being a search engine.

Taking Control with My Google Activity

My Google Activity is a website that functions as your dashboard for controlling your experience with Google. Here you can turn off some of the tracking and delete history for a number of Google tools. It’s important to carefully read the details regarding what will and won’t be done when you change the settings.

The activity that Google tracks and stores helps to customize your experience and provide you with a breadcrumb trail. You can go back and visit your past activity to find things you’ve done in the past. It’s also valuable to them for advertising and other purposes. To a certain extent, you can decide how much of it is collected and retained.

At the top of the page you’ll find three areas where you can see and delete your activity:

  • Your Web and App Activity
  • Your YouTube Activity
  • Your Location Activity

Click each one to explore your options. Move the blue slider to off to “Pause” the feature. Click “Auto-delete” to set the length of time your activity is retained in history.

It’s a good idea to periodically (perhaps every six months) review your settings to ensure that everything is still set the way you want it.

Privacy & Personalization Settings 

There are many layers and locations where you can adjust the settings for the wide variety of Google products. These pages and settings can move over time. If in the future you don’t find things where we are showing them in this episode, simply google to find the current location. For example, google “my Google activity” or “YouTube privacy settings.”

One of the places you will find additional privacy and personalization settings for YouTube is on the YouTube website.

When you are logged into your free Google account on YouTube, click your account icon in the top right corner of the page and then click the Manage Your Google Account. Click Privacy and Personalization. Select the Privacy Checkup to be guided through your option. Here you will find YouTube settings where you can control what part of your activity is seen or not seen by other YouTube users.

Slow Down History Tracking with a Different Web Browser

We have been talking so far about websites and how they track your activity and information. Another way that Google tracks your activity is if you use the Chrome browser. For example, if you google for some information, you receive the search results on the Google website. If you click one of the results it will take you to a new website. At this point you have now left the Google website. However, if you are using the Chrome browser, Google can still track and record your activity history. Some people find that convenient and some do not want their history tracked. The important thing is just to know that it is happening and to make an informed decision. Most browsers do some level of tracking and saving of information. Review your browser settings and make adjustments to suit your needs.

Your Email Privacy

Most of us at some point have put our name and even our town or state online. This isn’t necessarily a problem because we share that information in many ways offline as well. It can become a problem though when we combine that information with other personal information, like being away from home.

Many people use an autoresponder on your email service while they are on vacation or away from home. It’s a convenient way to let people who email you know that you won’t be answering right away. However, it’s very important to not state directly that you are “on vacation” or “out of town.” There’s no reason to tell anyone that, and it might leave you open to theft if you do. We often share our email with people we do not know (businesses, etc.) and your name and email are usually all that is needed to find more information about you and your home online. Instead, consider saying “please note that now through (date) I will not be regularly be checking this email box. I will reply to you as soon as possible.” This gets the message across without providing an unnecessary explanation as to why.

Analyzing Google Search Results

Currently, Google is still the top search engine, and that makes it often the best tool for our online genealogical searches. Since we have come to understand that Google is first and foremost and advertising company, that will help us better understand the results we are receiving. Here’s why…

Folks in the advertising business need to know as much about customers as possible in order to be effective. Google has created a wide variety of excellent free tools that are useful to researchers. These free tools also provide an excellent way for Google to collect data. Therefore, it is in the best interest of Google to provide search results in a way that keeps you interacting with their website for as long as possible. In fact, this applies to all websites. Genealogy websites are also interested in collecting data, because data has tremendous value in many different industries. So, it is not a surprise that businesses and other organization want as much user information and data as possible. But we, as the users, need to take this into account as we use their products.

Let’s analyze some of the ways that Google delivers results on their results page.

analyze the google search results page

Elements of the search results page.

We must consider the “Why” behind search results. Ask questions such as:

  • Why are the results being presented in this format?
  • Is the results page giving you the impression that this is the one definitive answer, and that there is no need to click through to the website?
  • Why are these related searches being suggested to me?
  • Could there be more websites and perspectives that are not obvious on this first page of results?
  • Do these related searches have the potential to get me off the track of my research plan?

Here’s another example of how results sometimes appear:

analyze google search results

Analyzing the Google Search Results Page

Notice in both examples, very few specific web page articles are offered.

We are more likely to see these types of results for straight-forward topics and questions. Many of our genealogical searches for records, specific people and other less direct information will likely provide the more traditional list of website results page.

No matter what type of results page you receive, it is imperative that you click through and verify the source of the information. Review several different sources to ensure accuracy. And finally, it’s imperative to cite the source for any information you ultimately use for genealogy.

I cover this important topic in much more depth in my book and videos.

Recommended Viewing and Reading to learn more:
Genealogy Gems Premium video: The Google Search Methodology for Genealogy (Premium membership required)

google search methodology for genealogy
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke available at the Genealogy Gems store.

Search Bias

In this episode we ran side by side comparisons of searches and found inconsistency in Google’s auto-filling feature. Here are the important takeaways:

  • Don’t assume that the auto-filled text represents the quantity or priority of potential results
  • Don’t assume that the auto-filled text represents what’s trending
  • Assume that there is subjective influence and do your own homework. Run your search, analyze the results, and click through to the sources for comparison and analysis. And of course, ALWAYS cite your sources for information you include in your genealogical research.

If there is subjective bias in politics searches, we would be wise to assume that there can be bias in ANY search result. This doesn’t mean we should stop using search. All records have the potential for bias. However, we do need to question and verify and we do throughout our research.

Wrap Up Checklist for Online Privacy, Security and Research:

  • Review your My Google Activity settings
  • Review additional privacy & personalization settings
  • Take the privacy check up
  • Be careful with vacation auto-responders
  • Consider another browser such as Firefox, Opera
  • Understand and take into account the “why”
  • Carefully analyze search results
  • Always review and cite online sources

Resources

Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Live Chat Q&A with Lisa

The Show
Elisa:
Lisa, when you are able to be out in public traveling will we continue to be seeing you on Thursdays this is family time? This is my cup of tea time.
Lisa: Yes, as long as there’s interest I will continue producing Elevenses with Lisa. (Leave a Comment: I invite readers to leave a comment below and let me know if you want to keep seeing the show, what you enjoy about it, and what you would like hear about in future episodes.)

YouTube Restricted Mode
Valerie:
I had restricted mode set on my YouTube for my granddaughter and it would not lode Elevenses until I turned it off.
Lisa: YouTube has strict guidelines for identifying if a show is geared to children (and potentially promoting products to children). If it is, there are more requirements. Only shows identified as “for kids” can be viewed in restricted mode. Therefore, not being available through restricted mode does not imply that the show is inappropriate. Elevenses with Lisa is appropriate for general audiences. Grandkids welcome!

Ads
Vicki:
​Can you set your activity to get rid of the ads?
Lisa: Unfortunately, no. 

YouTube History
Gwynn:
If you “pause” history on You Tube and you save a video on You Tube will it still be in my library?
Lisa: Yes, it will be in your library but you will not find it in your “My Activity” history. 

Google App vs Desktop
K M:
How is the Google App on IOS different than Chrome?
Lisa: I’ve noticed that when a new feature is rolled out it likely shows up on one before the other. For instance, the tools menu appeared on desktop first. I’ve also noticed that some search operators don’t appear to work on mobile. Google doesn’t provide definitive information on this. I would guess that’s because both Google.com on desktop (in any browser) and the Google app are constantly evolving. If I’m using the app and not getting the desired results I will often run a comparison search on desktop.

Ads
Cynthia:
​If you don’t want to see ads, in your google do you turn that off or leave it on to control what you see or how many ads you get?
Lisa: You can’t prevent ads. Leaving it “on” in your settings provides ads more targeted to your specific interests. 

Search Frequency
Gwynn:
Is there another place we can look for search frequencies on key words in Google?
Lisa: Run a Google search for keyword research. There a variety of different tools available. 

Browser Cookies
Gayle:
​What are the benefits of internet cookies? Should I delete cookies?
Lisa: Cookies are used to do things like save your log in credentials and customize your web browsing experience. Generally speaking, this is convenient. If you’ve ever cleared your cookies you’ve probably found yourself having to re-enter your credentials into every website you use. I typically only delete mine when a website (perhaps trying to checkout of an online store) gets “hung up” and won’t process correctly. In those situations I’ll go ahead and delete cookies and clear my browser cache which often fixes the problem. 

Browser Cookies
Marilyn:
​So many web sites ask us to accept cookies. Should we do this? Is this how they follow us.
Lisa: See my answer to Gayle above. If I anticipate wanting to revisit a website, I will go ahead and “accept.” If it’s a one-time visit, I usually ignore it. 

Changing Your Search Experience
Kay: 
What if our search engines are refining our searches so much that we are missing new places we might want to go.  In other words they’re just directing us to “same old same old?” when we’re doing our genealogy searches.
Lisa: What you’re describing is an extension of we’re talking about in this episode. It is indeed possible to start to feel like your online experience becomes an echo chamber of information that websites think you want. Facebook is a prime example of this phenomenon. If you’re ever concerned and want a fresh experience, use Incognito mode in your web browser. In Chrome, click the three stacked dots in the upper right corner and select New Incognito Window

Our Elevenses Community 

I hope you enjoy our weekly get-togethers as much as I do. Do you enjoy the show? You can support it by sharing it with your friends, library and genealogy society. We also appreciate if you when you shop for genealogy products you check out our Genealogy Bargains page and use our links. And finally, please keep the conversation going by leaving a comment or question below. Thanks for joining me!

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. 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 238

The Genealogy Gems Podcast is the leading genealogy and family history show. Launched in 2007, the show is hosted by genealogy author, keynote presenter, and video producer Lisa Louise Cooke. The podcast features genealogy news, interviews, stories and how-to instruction. It can be found in all major podcasting directories, or download the exclusive Genealogy Gems Podcast app to listen to all the episodes and receive bonus content.

Click below to listen to this episode:

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke
February 2020
Download the episode mp3

Do you love genealogy, mysteries and puzzle solving? Well in this episode we have not one but two tales of mystery.

The first has a Valentine’s theme centered around a mysterious love letter. Professional genealogist Kathleen Ackerman will be here to share how a love letter that was missing its last page took her on a genealogical journey full of surprises.

Our second story is a mystery full of twists,  turns and murder that will ultimately resurrect your faith that what you think is lost, may still be found.

Genealogy News

Ancestry Lays off 6 Percent of Employees due to Consumer Slump

23andMe laid off 100 employees due to slowing DNA kit sales

Genealogy Gems Mailbox

The Genealogy Gems Mailbox

Emails from Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners.

Frank recently wrote in saying that he listened to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 227 and my conversation with Ran Snir, MyHeritage DNA Product Manager about their genetic genealogy tools The Theory of Family Relativity™  and AutoClusters. This got him thinking about his own test results and a frustration he has had trying to find matches and records in pursuit of this Galician roots. 

Frank writes:

“Ancestry’s records are almost non-existent, except for some parish records, but this is the region from which Cuba and Argentina were populated, and the ultimate ancestry of Cubans in the US. I have done the AncestryDNA test but my matches are few and far between.

On the other hand, I have worked with a Spanish genealogist and have some records that go back to the 17th century. Is there any program like Ancestry,  23andme, or My Heritage, that can do Galician (Spanish) genealogy well.”

Regarding DNA matches and testing pools:

DNA companies test all types of people and because testers can download their results and upload them to other companies, their pools of people are becoming more similar. Generally, they don’t focus on particular groups. They just report the results based on the pool they currently have. 

Regarding genealogy records:

Start with the FamilySearch Wiki page on Galicia includes links to records within each province.

Conduct a Google Search: Galician (Spanish) genealogy “Galicia”. Click here to see the Google search results.

Additional Resources:

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Third Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke available in the Genealogy Gems Store.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store.

Lisa’s video classes and handouts on Google search are included in Genealogy Gems Premium Membership. Learn more here.

Genealogy Gems premium elearning

Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

From Linda:

“I am a regular listener to your podcasts.  And I am the family historian.  I recently received a trove of documents from my Uncle who had been working to chart the family for 25 years.  He passed away last year.  His most recent quest was to find as many old family pictures as possible and I have continued to reach out to distant relatives.  I enjoyed the recent podcast about the New York photographer website and hope it will help me identify people in some of these very old pictures. 

(Episode 236Interview with David Lowe, Specialist for the Photography Collection at the New York Public Library on a free tool they provide that can help you identify your old photos. Also a discussion of how to find unindexed records at Ancestry.com.)

My question:  a friend of mine has inherited all of her family’s old family pictures.  The pictures are from the late 1800’s.  She doesn’t know who most of the people are.  She is not interested in learning and apparently there aren’t any members of the family who have taken the role of family historian.  Is there anything to do with these pictures other than to dispose of them?  It makes me sad to know that no one is interested.  When I learned a branch of my family tree had tossed all of their old family pictures, I felt awful and it has taken me some time to accept that I might not ever find replacements for this branch.”

There are ways to make real progress identifying photos. I’m going to be covering more of this on upcoming episodes. I would start by asking your friend to write down states / counties / towns where she thinks her family lived, as well as her direct ancestors as far as she knows (even if it’s just grandparents or great grandparents.) With some basic genealogical info on the most recent members of the family and some possible locations, you could then post at least some of the photos on Deadfred.com.

This is a site where people search on families and locations and other identifying information to find unidentified photos of their family members. Many, many photos have made their way to family historians through DeadFred. 

If you don’t have time to post them on DeadFred, and you do know the county where some of the photos came from, you could offer to donate them to the local genealogical society. They might be willing to take them, and their volunteers might be willing to do it. 

I agree with you, it would be such a shame to toss them because you can be sure there is someone out there who would treasure them and may even hold answers. 

MyHeritageThe free podcast is sponsored by MyHeritage

GEM: The Scrapbook Mystery

 

Bill and his dad in 1973

1973: Bill with his dad about six months before he died. (Courtesy of Bill Compton)

 

The Compton Scrapbook

The Compton Scrapbook (courtesy of Bill Compton.)

 

Article featuring William R. Compton in the Scrapbook

Article featuring William R. Compton in the Scrapbook (Courtesy of Bill Compton)

 

William R. Compton, US Marshall

William R. Compton, US Marshall (Courtesy of Bill Compton)

 

Donald Clark featured in the news

Donald Clark featured in the news

Read the news about the murder that occurred on the property where the scrapbook was found:Centerville Fire contained on property where triple murder suspect Donald Clark lived

Resources Discussed:

Learn more about how to blog about your family history. It may just lead to a treasure like it did for Bill. Here is a collection of articles at Genealogy Gems on family history blogging.

Learn more about how to set up your own blog by watching the videos on how to blog at my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.

Visit Bill Compton’s blog.

The free podcast is sponsored by RootsMagic

Rootsmagic

GEM: The Love Letter

Kathleen Ackerman graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of General Studies: Family History degree in April 2012. She now has her own research company, Finding Ties that Bind. She is also working on a Master’s Degree in Genealogy, Paleography and Heraldry from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.

Kathleen Ackerman

Kathleen Ackerman

Kathleen is the director for the Cave Creek Arizona Family History Center.  She loves to help others as they learn about their family history. For seven years, she served as the Treasurer and British Institute Director for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History.  Besides her volunteer and school work, she spends most of her free time either working on her husband’s English and Scottish lines or playing with her granddaughter.

“In 2010, my mother found three pages of a letter addressed to “Mamie” among my grandparent’s things. My grandmother has passed away and my grandfather did not remember who Mamie was or why they had the letter. My mom sent me the letter in hopes that I could figure it out.”

Mamie - a genealogy mystery

Miriam (Mamie) Smith Patelzick 1891-1911 (Photo courtesy of Kathleen Ackerman)

 The last page which may have contained the writer’s signature was missing. This is where Kathleen’s search began.

The first three pages of the love letter

The first three pages of the love letter. (Courtesy of Kathleen Ackerman)

Kathleen turned to census records from the time period, and Google Maps to verify where Medicine Lodge was in comparison to Small, Idaho, the place from which the letter was sent. No such town could be found.

She then turned to old maps to see if the town had once existed. She used maps on the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection website. She found a map of Idaho from 1909, that showed Small, Medicine Lodge river and Reno (all mentioned in letter). They were all in Fremont County, Idaho. Her confidence that she had the right person grew.

Historic Map of Idaho

1909 Idaho map published by Geo. F. Cram, Chicago (DavidRumsey.com)

The search moved on into vital records. A marriage certificate for Mamie and William Patelzick in Dec 1910 was located.Perhaps they had eloped?

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t listened to the episode yet. The next image reveals the writer of the letter.

Later, Kathleen’s mother surprisingly found the final page of the letter:

Found! The last page of the love letter.

Found! The last page of the love letter. (Courtesy of Kathleen Ackerman)

A surprise indeed, and a mystery solved!

Thank you to Kathleen Ackerman for sharing her story! You can visit her at her website, Finding Ties that Bind.

Don’t wait another day. Get the computer backup that I use: www.backblaze.com/Lisa

Backblaze lisa louise cooke

Announcing the Next Generation of Google for Genealogy

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox By Lisa Louise Cooke

Discover the answers to your family history mysteries using cutting-edge Google search strategies. A comprehensive resource for all of Google’s free tools, this easy-to-follow book provides the how-to information you need in plain English. You will first gain a strong foundation in how to search quickly and effectively. Then you’ll dig deeper into solving real-life challenges that genealogists regularly face. This book will show you how to flex your new Google muscles by mining each of the free tools to deliver satisfying and enlightening results. You will develop a mastery of Google that will serve you now and for years to come.

This book features:

  • Step-by-step clear instructions and loads of images that help you easily follow along.
  • Tips for searching faster and achieving better results to solve the real challenges that genealogists face.
  • How to go beyond Google search by using the wide range of powerful free tools that Google offers.
  • Cutting-edge technology like Google Earth to tell your family’s stories in new and exciting ways!
The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Click this image to order your copy of the book.

Download the Show Notes PDF

 

Finding Hard-to-Find WWI Era German Ancestors

This surprise discovery of a WWI German ancestor on a free website can inspire your own family history research discoveries. Bonus: watch a free video on how to find your German ancestor’s home village!

Following Our German Expert’s Advice

Not long ago, I made a surprising military record discovery. It came about because I was looking at the e-book we put together of handouts of all the sessions we presented in the Genealogy Gems booth at FGS 2016. I was reviewing the notes from one of Jim Beidler’s sessions. (These handouts really are a wonderful benefit of coming by our booth at the big conferences!)

In the handout, Jim recommends des.genealogy.net and I didn’t recall having searched that site before. Here you can search among several kinds of records that have been transcribed or indexed by volunteers, including tombstones, memorial cards, World War I casualty lists and directories.

my first find: WWI German casualty list

Following Jim’s advice, I performed a search and, sure enough, I found a one-of-a-kind digitized document. At first glance it wasn’t clear what I was looking. The result contained a VERY rare surname in my family tree, Sporowski, that appeared alongside the name of my great-grandfather’s tiny home village of Kotten, which is rarely mentioned anywhere. The document was a World War I casualty list dated December 22, 1914! Aside from my great grandfather’s naturalization papers, this was the first time ever I had found the name Sporowski and the town of Kotten on the same page of any document. Just seeing them together gave me goosebumps!

Reading German Gothic Script

In order to confirm that I was reading the German Gothic script correctly, I turned to Google for a quick search of German Gothic Script Guide and quickly found several reliable options. I used the Foundation for East European Family History Studies German-Gothic Handwriting Guide available here

The guide helped me confirm my suspicions that the first letter of the first word was “G”, and that I indeed had the first letter of the surname correct, “S”. The entry reads:

“Gren. Emil Sporowski – Kotten”

While this document was not for my great grandfather, I had found the first documentation of his brother Emil! (Gustav also served in the military. Here’s his picture, below.)

Understanding WWI German Military Terms

So what did “Gren.” stand for? I suspected “Grenadier,” but I returned to Google and conducted a search of German Military Abbreviations to be sure. 

Google did not disappoint. The search led to several very helpful documents including one entitled German Military Abbreviations which was prepared by the War Department during World War II.  
Because it was a long PDF document I shaved off a lot of time by using Control + F to find the term “Gren” in this 246 page document. This found the answer instantly on page 72:  

WWI Germany Military Uniforms

I’m a very visual person, so I bee-lined back to Google to get my first glimpse of a Germany Grenadier Military WWI soldier:

WWI German Genealogy Research Success!

What a find in just a few short minutes! And what a lead that may result in additional records that exist for Emil’s military service. (This is the brick-wall family that Legacy Tree Genealogists helped me with recently.)

It was a good reminder that when searching online you never know what you’ll find. Leave no stone unturned — or in this case, no website unsearched — when an expert recommends it, especially if it’s free! And remember to take extra time to familiarize yourself with the sites you search and the collections you find: their original intended purpose, how they are organized, and where they may lead you next.

Learn More Like this 

Genealogy Gems will be rolling out the red carpet and more mini training sessions (like the one Jim gave at our booth) at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree (May 31 – June 2, 2018, Burbank, CA) and FGS 2018 (August 22 – 25, Fort Wayne, IN). Come by the booth to check out the schedule and learn how to get the handouts.

How to Find the Germany Villages of Your Ancestors

Here at Genealogy Gems we’re devoted to helping you be successful in uncovering your family history. Here’s a bonus for you below: a videotaped version of Jim Beidler’s RootsTech 2018 Genealogy Gems booth presentation, “How to find your German ancestral village.” Enjoy!

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

Deciphering Place Names Just Got Easier

When you need help deciphering place names in hard-to-read genealogy documents, two free online tools may have great suggestions for you. Use them to take the guesswork out of identifying great-grandpa’s hometown!

Thanks to guest blogger Katherine Schober, expert German translator and author of the new book, Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting, for this article on deciphering place names (or anything else) in hard-to-read old documents.

There are times when you know from the context of an old document that a certain handwritten word is a city or town–but you aren’t sure of the exact letters the scribe has written. Perhaps you can make out most of the name, but not the first letter. Or maybe you can’t tell whether you’re looking at an “r” or an “n” in the middle of the word. Other times, you can read the place name, but this particular spelling doesn’t appear on a map.

Deciphering place names with a simple trick—and 2 free online tools

Two online resources that are very helpful for identifying town names are Google’s search engine and Meyer’s Gazetteer. At both sites, you can enter what you do know and have these sites help suggest possible place names.

Google search suggestions

Type your transcribed town name into Google—along with any other known place clues, such as the county/province or country name–and see if you get any search results for the region you are researching. If you do, congratulations, you likely transcribed it correctly!

If not, Google may actually suggest the correct transcription of your word for you. For example, when I was translating a nineteenth-century document a few months ago, I read the letters of the town as “L-e-h-t”. I typed “Leht, Germany” into Google, and waited to see what search results would appear. As it turned out, there were no search results for “Leht, Germany,” but Google’s “Did you mean…” function actually provided four other possibilities for what I could have meant as a town name! Here’s what it gave me:

After comparing these Google suggestions with my handwritten word and the specific region of Germany, I realized that the word actually had an “r” and an “e” squeezed in and was, therefore, the German town of “Lehrte.” Taking advantage of this “Did you mean” feature of Google can be very helpful when trying to decipher city and town names.

(Learn hundreds more tips on using Google search–and all the other free Google tools–in Lisa Louise Cooke’s popular book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.)

More help from Meyer’s Gazetteer

If you can only recognize the first few or the final few letters of a German town, Meyer’s Gazetteer is the site for you. Meyer’s Gazetteer is a free database containing names and information on pre-World War I German cities, towns, and villages (meaning that this site includes towns in present-day France, Poland, and other places). Type in the letters you recognize in your word and use an asterisk to represent the letters you don’t. Meyer’s Gazetteer will then provide you with a list of all places with your letter combination. Then you can then see if there is a town that matches your handwritten word and region.

In the example below, I recognized a capital “A” at the beginning of the word. The middle letters looked like a scribble, but I could see “e-n-b-a-c-h” as the final letters of the word. I typed this into Meyer’s Gazetteer, using an asterisk for those unclear middle letters. The website then provided me with a list of possibilities, and–by only looking at the town names in my specific German region–I was able to significantly narrow down what my handwritten town name could be. By comparing this list to my handwritten word, I was able to then decipher the remaining letters and figure out the name of the town. (Click here for more tips on using Meyer’s Gazetteer.)

By taking advantage of the resources available online, you can make your transcription process much easier and much more fun. Best of luck!

About the Author

Katherine Schober is a German translator who specializes in genealogy documents. Her new book, Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting, is available in paperback or Kindle format. She also has a terrific German Handwriting Course here.

Check out Katherine’s other Genealogy Gems guest blog posts:

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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