Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 242 – Genealogy Research Questions

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke

June 2020

In this episode we discuss how great genealogy questions and research plans can help you accomplish your family history goals. Then I’ve got ideas you can start using right away to manage distractions effectively. 

Download the episode mp3

Watch Elevenses with Lisa live on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel on Thursdays at 11:00 AM Central. After the live show you can watch the video replay at your convenience. You’ll find the show notes for Elevenses with Lisa here on the Genealogy Gems website.

Research Plans and BSOs

On March 26, 2020 I started producing a new weekly YouTube Live show called Elevenses with Lisa. Originally it was in response to the fact that COVID-19 had created a situation where we were all staying home. For me that meant that all of my in-person speaking engagements for the foreseeable future had been cancelled or rescheduled. I saw it as an opportunity to take on a new challenge, which is live video production.

I love doing the live show on YouTube. It’s definitely different than doing a podcast. It’s more interactive which in turn makes me more animated. And obviously it’s a visual medium so it provides an opportunity to show as well as tell.

Of course, sitting down to watch a video is more stagnant than listening to a podcast. When you’re listening to a podcast you can still move about and get things done if you want. So, I’m sure there are some of you who haven’t seen the Elevenses with Lisa show yet. That’s why in this episode I’m bringing you a few highlights of the YouTube Live show in audio form.

In episode 2 of Elevenses with Lisa I talked about the importance of creating research questions and plans. This was the first presentation in a series called How Alice the Genealogist Avoids Falling Down the Rabbit Hole. If you want to stay on track and achieve your genealogy goals, a research plan is really essential.

Then in the third episode I talked about “Bright Shiny Objects”, also known as BSOs, that can distract you from your research plan. I shared the techniques I use to deal with them so that I don’t miss a good thing while still staying on track.

If you watch the show this will be a refresher for you, and if you haven’t gotten around to watching it, I hope it will inspire you to join us in the future, as well as help you improve your genealogy research today.

You will find the complete notes for the topics discussed in this episode (and more) in the show notes web pages for these episodes of Elevenses with Lisa:

Episode 2 – how research questions and plans will improve your genealogy research.

Episode 3 – dealing with Bright Shiny Objects that threaten to get you off track.

  

Get the Entire “Alice” Video and Handout

If you enjoyed this portion of How Alice the Genealogist Avoids the Rabbit Hole and you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium member, I have the entire presentation edited together in one complete video class for you in the Premium Videos area at genealogygems.com.

how Alice the genealogists avoids the rabbit hole

Premium Members get the entire video class plus 7 page downloadable handout.

There you can also download the complete handout which is ad-free and 7 pages long. It includes not only research plans and BSO management but also creating supportive research environments both on your computer and mobile devices.

Become a member here.

GEM: June Weddings

Monday, June 15.

For centuries, the month of June has been the most popular choice for weddings.

free British family notices wedding photo

All about June Weddings – Genealogy Gems

One of the purported reasons was that some hundreds of years ago, this time was just after May’s annual bath, so the happy couple and the guests were about as clean as could be hoped.

With the ensuing advances in plumbing and overall hygiene, dressy weddings are readily staged year-round, from simple civil ceremonies and backyard or back-to-nature vows, to elaborate church functions. In normal years, there are more than 2.2 million weddings across the nation.

The median age at first marriage for women is now 28 years— up six years since 1980. Men are now an average age of 29.8 when they take their first vows.

Sources:
June weddings, accessed 2/3/2020  
Number of marriages, accessed 2/3/2020  

Getting Your History Digitized

Our family’s history comes in many forms, and some of them over time can become obsolete. I shared in this episode my continuing progress on my own project of converting the rest of my old home movies that are in a variety of formats (8mm, mini DV, High 8, and VHS.)  I use Larsen Digital and have been extremely pleased with the service and results. The folks at Larsen Digital have put together special and exclusive discounts for Genealogy Gems listeners and readers. Click here to learn more and receive exclusive discounts and coupon codes.

Read more: 5 Steps to Digitizing Your Old Negatives

5 steps to digitizing old negatives

Learn how to tackle the task of digitizing your old negatives at Genealogy Gems


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follow Lisa Louise Cooke on Instagram

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Download the Show Notes

Download the Show Notes PDF

 

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. 

Here are the Genealogical Resources You are Not Seeing

In the digital era, it’s more important than ever to digitize your family history: tree data, photos, stories, interviews, home movies and compiled research. Digitizing preserves the information against loss and allows others to enjoy it now. And for future generations, it’s even valid to ask, “If it hasn’t been digitized, does it even exist?”

The Library Experience in the New World

Recently I read a thought-provoking article at Forbes.com called “In the Digital Era, If It Hasn’t Been Digitized Does It Even Exist?” Of course I had to read it. This passage caught my attention:

“Libraries as physical spaces are evolving in the digital era. In the front of the house, vast warehouse-like rooms filled with stacks of physical books, microform readers, film viewers, listening booths and other specialized equipment are being replaced by collaborative working spaces. In the stacks, materials are increasingly being moved to offsite high density storage facilities that prohibit direct researcher access. Gone are the days of serendipitous discovery, where a researcher could just walk down endless rows of stacks uncovering works they never knew existed. Today, if a scholar doesn’t know to look for a particular work, for all intents and purposes it simply doesn’t exist.”

This brought to mind my last visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the largest genealogical library in the world. The first floor, which used to be filled to the brim with cabinets of microfilm and other resources, is now the Discovery Center. (To learn more about the Discovery Center watch my YouTube video tour, shown here.)  On other floors, there have been dramatic changes as well, and the collaborative workspaces mentioned in the article are front and center. While these changes are exciting and innovative, they have changed the library experience.

This evolution also relates to our genealogy research: all those existing but still hidden-to-us history books, directories, old letters or reminiscences, photograph collections and other items in which our family’s stories may lay hidden. The chances of stumbling upon them through genealogical serendipity have been reduced.

Bottom line: knowing how to navigate online searching and card catalogs is more important than ever.

“Gone are the days of serendipitous discovery,
where a researcher could just
walk down endless rows of stacks
uncovering works they never knew existed.”

 

An Existential Question about Digitized Records

In the case of online archives, it’s not so much a case of what is being moved out, but rather, what has never been moved in. One of the really intriguing arguments in the Forbes.com article is what’s missing from our online digital archives: much of the 20th century.

Unlike a physical library where the latest books appear alongside books of years gone by, online repositories are often void of these newer works. This occurs because so many post-1922 published and creative works are still copyright-protected. Therefore, their contents are not as well-represented in open, free digital archives such as HathiTrust, the Internet Archive and Google Books. (I dig into these more in depth in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 105.)

The article points out, “Nowhere is the impact of copyright more apparent than the map [below], which places a dot at every distinct geographic location mentioned in English language books in the Internet Archive book archive by year of publication 1800 to 2013.”

Watch the dots as they map out mentions of place names in books over the years (the years progress along that bar on the lower left). As you’ll see, starting in about 1922 when copyright kicks in, a lot of place-mentions disappear because fewer resources are on The Internet Archive. The article concludes: “To the world of open data mining and full-text search, the most recent century largely doesn’t exist: our automated algorithms know more about 1850 than they do of 1950.”

This data visualization map makes it clear that when it comes to genealogical research and online databases, we must keep in mind the impact that copyright may be having on what we are seeing. This is not to say that it isn’t possible to find post-1922 works online. Instead, it’s a reminder that no archive, whether online or offline is complete. We need to keep fine-tuning our search skills to tease out the gems from the wide range of available resources. In specific terms, this means bringing online card catalogs usage to the forefront of our approach and familiarizing ourselves with the search “Help” pages offered on most websites that feature large online or offline collections.

Is Your Family History Missing?

Though this concept of “what is missing” clearly applies to the way we research, it also applies to decisions we make about digitizing our own family history. We want our painstakingly-reconstructed family tree data, precious family photos, stories, oral history interviews, home movies and compiled research to exist well into the future. And they won’t “exist” nearly as effectively if they aren’t digitized and shared.

This begs the question of how best to organize and share all your family history data. That’s a big topic, and it can quickly become overwhelming. But like just about everything else in genealogy, answers start at home.

 

I’m a big advocate of maintaining your own master family tree. This entails using a genealogy database software program (I use RootsMagic) on your own home computer which is properly backed-up with a Cloud backup service. (I use the 24/7 cloud backup service Backblaze). When your master data is on your own computer, it isn’t vulnerable to the changes experienced by websites and companies that can come and go.

If you started with building your family tree on a website, start by exporting / downloading it as a universally recognized GEDCOM file. (Here’s how to download your family tree from Ancestry.com.) Once you’ve got your master family tree, import it into your software. This master family tree on your own backed-up computer is your first step toward digitizing and sharing your family history with future generations in an organized, coherent way. You now have one place for everything, and it’s completely under your own control.

 

Next, start going through the stuff you haven’t organized yet: all your digitized documents, images, and research notes. Then move on to those paper files and photos that haven’t been digitized yet. A flat bed scanner will come in very handy at this stage.

The final piece of the puzzle is to share what you have learned about your family history:

These are just a few ideas.

More Help

If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning member, there are several videos available to you to help you start organizing, digitizing, and sharing your family history:

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.

Declutter Your House: 3 Questions for the Family Archivist

To declutter your house, you may have to ask yourself hard questions–especially if you’re the family archivist. Is that old apron or state fair ribbon just clutter or is it history? If it’s a nice piece of history but you can’t keep it, where can you donate it? Professional archivist Melissa Barker takes on these important questions for genealogists.

Before you declutter your house, ask yourself these 3 questions.

1. Will this item help to tell my ancestor’s story?

So many of our ancestor’s stories have been lost to time or by people throwing things away. Many of the artifacts and memorabilia that we own help to tell our ancestor’s story. A first place ribbon from the State Fair where Grandma won for her apple pie recipe tells a story. Because Grandma won a ribbon, her pie was the best of all the pies submitted and she was a great cook! A great idea would be to keep the ribbon and write up a story about how she won the ribbon so that your descendants will have this story. A bonus would be if you have the actual apple pie recipe to put with the ribbon and story. If the item helps to tell your ancestor’s story, maybe it should be kept and preserved.

declutter your house

2. SHOULD I DONATE THE ITEM TO A LOCAL ARCHIVE?

Before tossing those genealogical records, photographs, or artifacts, consider contacting an archive where the family is from and see if they would be interested in the items. Many of our libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, archives, and museums accept records donations to add to their collections. This way, if a researcher contacts or visits the archive and is researching the same surnames you are, they could benefit from the items you donate. Make sure to call ahead and find out if the archive takes donations and set a time to take your items to them. (TIP: Click here to see how to use ArchiveGrid to search for repositories in specific locations.)

declutter your house

3. ARE THE ITEMS VALUABLE?

Many times we don’t know the value of what we have in our genealogical collections. The value could be monetary and what we own could be worth money. It’s always a good idea to get objects and memorabilia appraised by an expert if you think they could have a monetary value. But maybe your items have historical value and if you toss these items, you would be throwing away history. Many genealogists have one-of-a-kind documents and artifacts that help to tell the story of an historical event. That event could have taken place at the local level, state level, or even the national level. Checking into the monetary value and historical value of an item before tossing it just might change your mind!

So, if you are considering cleaning out that closet and tossing items that you don’t think mean anything to anyone and are just taking up space, ask yourself these questions and make sure you are making the right decision.

Declutter your house by repurposing old family heirlooms

You can often transform the family “gems” from your piles or boxes of clutter into meaningful items to use or display. Get inspired by these upcycled heirloom projects:

A New Heritage Quilt from Old Family Fabrics

An Old Earring Gets New Life as a Wearable Conversation Piece

Create a Heritage Scrapbook

Melissa Barker

Melissa Barker

The Archive Lady

Melissa Barker is a Certified Archives Records Manager, the Houston County, Tennessee Archivist and author of the popular blog A Genealogist in the Archives and bi-weekly advice column The Archive Lady. She has been researching her own family history for the past 27 years.

Getting Genealogy Organized for Genealogy Gems Premium Members

Getting genealogy organized is just one of the topics we cover here at Genealogy Gems, and Premium Members have exclusive access to podcast and video content to help you accomplish that goal.

We’ve put together a step-by-step plan for getting the most out of Premium Membership, and going from unorganized to organized in nothing flat!

get-organized-Genealogy-Gems-Membership

A new Gem’s reader recently sent us the following email:

Dear Lisa,

I have recently joined Genealogy Gems as a Premium member and wanted to ask if there is a good place to get started.

I have a ton of family information collected, but as yet have not figured out a plan of attack.

I was wondering if you could guide me in which podcasts, premium podcasts, and videos would be good ones to start with. I need to put this information into some semblance of order so that I can move constructively on it, as well as to be able to share the family history with others and have it make sense. Thanks, Gerri.

Getting Genealogy Organized with Premium Content

We are so glad to have you as a Genealogy Gems Premium Member. Welcome!

Getting Organized with Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

The best place to start is by digging into these blog posts that I highly recommend:

When you are ready to move onto the Premium Podcast episodes, I suggest you focus first on:
  • Hard Drive Organization Part 1 and Part 2
  • Use Evernote to Create a Research Plan
  • Podcast episode 114: Paper Organization
  • Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast episodes 31 & 32: Organizing Your Genealogy Files.

Getting genealogy organized is one of the most overwhelming tasks new and seasoned genealogists deal with. Whether you’re new to Premium Membership or a long time member, make sure you have a solid basic structure for your genealogy organization, as it is the backbone of everything that follows. That basic structure for getting genealogy organized might look like this:

A Quick Plan for Getting Genealogy Organized

  1. Assess what you have.
  2. Pick a genealogy database software program. We recommend RootsMagic.
  3. Set-up a few 3-ring binders with acid free sheet protectors so you have a place to put documents and other important things.
  4. Set-up a basic folder and file structure for your hard drive based on the Premium videos Hard Drive Organization.
  5. Have a back-up plan for your precious family history files. We recommend BackBlaze as a way to automatically back-up your computer files.
  6. Sign-up for our free newsletter (if you haven’t already) to stay up-to-date on all the latest records and techniques.
  7. Don’t wait to be fully organized before you begin. Stay motivated by scheduling “fun” research time, as well as organization time.
  8. Make appointments with yourself to stay on track, and listen to the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast while you organize.
  9. Regularly tap into all of the Genealogy Gems resources like what’s new in books and guides.

Like us on our Facebook page to see more genealogy ideas

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member

If you are not a Genealogy Gems Premium Member, take a look at what you are missing! Premium Members are able to listen to our Premium podcasts packed with even more tips and techniques for all things genealogy. You also have access to my most popular training videos.

BONUS e-book:

Bonus EBookFor a limited time, new members will receive
this exclusive digital PDF e-book,
a collection of my most popular
articles from Family Tree Magazine!
(the e-book will be emailed to you
within 24 hours of purchase)

 

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