Wednesday, May 30, 2012

20 Minute Genealogist

20 Minute Genealogist

20 Minute Genealogist tree 

I recently came upon website that will help us know where we need to be concentrating our efforts in our research. It uses our family trees collected on New FamilySearch.  It also has an app available for your phone.  it is called "20 minute Genealogist" it's a fun site that gives a graphic representation of the work needed in our family trees.

Although it doesn't give you any further research information I can tell by looking at it that I need to focus more on my mother's side of the family!

20 Minute Genealogist
It is still in Beta test but like I said, a fun way to see where you are at in your family history work!

Happy Hunting,
Land Records
The use of land records are often overlooked in doing genealogical research and yet they have a vast amount of information available.  Looking at the Grantor and Grantee can sometimes give clues to family relationships.  Building a neighborhood picture also helps in defining relationships.  I recently began using  land records available from the Bureau of Land Management  according to their website, "they provide image access to more than three million Federal land title records for eastern Public land states, issued between 1820 and 1908." I was fortunate enough to find records on a couple of my ancestors.
transfer between William Mays and Ephraim B Tillotson

The land transfer is between William Mays, Private, Captain Harris's Company, Virginia Volunteers, War of 1812.  Now if I were looking for more information on William Mays, I would have gain an entirely new avenue to explore in his military records.  The deed states he was a Private in Captain Harris's Company. This information isn't something that people are traditionally looking for when they are accessing land records but can be a tremendous help in locating information about family members.

Luther Tillotson, Warren County Indiana
The above is an example of land acquired by Luther Tillotosn in Warren County Indiana, and lead to the discovery of a family journal about life on the frontier.

Happy Hunting:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Using Archives

I think it is about time that Peg and Mary Jane got back on the stick with this blog!  Yes?  We have both been extremely busy with many things.  We repent, and move forward.

In January I attended John Philip Colletta's class, "Beyond the Library: Using Original Source Repositories," at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG).  Of course taking any class from Dr. Colletta is an amazing experience, but an entire week?  I was in heaven.  He covered everything from Federal and State Archives to the County Courthouse to private collections--personal and corporate.

Of course, in order to access the majority of records in archives, one must venture out beyond technology and into a bricks and mortar facility, so a tour of the Utah State Archives was included.  The course was a great reminder of why I need to get out from behind this computer screen more often if I really want "the rest of the story".

But how does the everyday researcher learn how to use these archives?  Trial and error?  That was my standard method of operation until I took Dr. Colletta's class.  Today I received information from Anne Hartman, Editorial & Production Coordinator at the Society of American Archivists, about a new online publication that was created to help researchers both find and use archives.  This should speed us all up a bit.  She writes:
The Society of American Archivists recently published "Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research", a free online resource giving readers straight-to-the-point tips to help them adeptly utilize a collection for genealogy research. In the guide, Laura Schmidt (archivist at The Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College) describes how to locate archives that have appropriate materials specific to users’ research; how to effectively use tools such as finding aids, catalogs, and databases; and how to plan a visit to an archives, among other topics.
Thanks to SAA for developing such a wonderful online tool!

Happy researching!


Thursday, November 10, 2011


I've been working on genealogy and trying find the documents needed to have my ancestor listed in the DAR.  I found this great free research log to assist me in keeping track of where I have looked and where I need to go next and why! They also have an electronic version which will come in handy as I am going on a fact finding mission to Danville, Illinois after thanksgiving.  I hope to pull original documents for the DAR.

I hope it helps to keep me more organized. I have been hit or miss in recording where I have looked.  Previously, the only time I recorded where I looked is when I found information!  It has caused a lot of duplication on my part in research.  I hope to post my family tree here shortly so soon as I figure out how to put a copy on the blog. I also watch two webinars this week that were very helpful in organizing your family history.  Both can be found on the Legacy Family Tree site here:

The two I watched on Organizing are: FamilyRoots Organizer System by Mary Hill and Organizing for Success by Karen Clifford.  They each contained different approaches to organizing your files. Karen's involved the use of notebooks and Mary's involved the use of color file systems.  Both will work well with my Legacy system.  I think that I will be using both of the systems in my work.  Both have great applications for how my documents are currently organized. I have massive amounts of documents collected not only by me but by my Aunt Ruthie.  The great thing about being interested in genealogy, is the family helps out by passing documents on to you!

I also watched Cracking the case of Natan Brown's parents by marian Pierre-Louis.  An excellent example of working on solving brick walls.  And although she didn't introduce any new strategies I haven't already done or tried.  It was nice to have my research techniques validated!

As you might have guessed I use Legacy software to keep track of my family history but I think the webinars are worthwhile no matter what software you use.  By the way, when my computer arrived from India, Legacy had disappeared from my computer, when I tried to reload it, the computer would lock up.  A big thank you to tech support.  I heard back from them in fifteen minutes and had my computer up and running again.  I have an IMac computer which I love.  So for family history software I run it under VMFusion so I can use the windows software.  I also use VMFusion for my quilting software.  Although Mac has great programs, I just haven't found a good replacement for them in apple technology.  I have all the family history software because I help people do their family history so I try to be knowledgable about the various programs available.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Summer of Learning

I can't believe it has been since April that we posted something.  Shame on us! 

This summer has been a summer of genealogy learning fun for me personally.  First, I attended the FEEFHS workshop (Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies), held in SLC in the Plaza Hotel right next to the Family History Library.  I spent three wonderful days listening to expert speakers on  topics related to Eastern European research and all afternoon and evening researching.  Part of the charm of this particular conference is that one of the experts spends an hour in consultation with you on your subject of interest.  This was my second year of what I hope will be many to come as I will be the "conference planner" of sorts for next year (simply applying previous skills to an area of interest).  So, if your ancestors came from the old Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, or parts of Germany, there might be something there for you next year.  Watch for updates and announcements, or mark your calendars for July 12-14, 2012.

My next adventure was to attend the BYU Genealogy and Family History Conference, four wonderful days in their conference center, listening to excellent speakers on various topics.  I specifically chose to focus much of my attention to the tracks on British Research since I plan to take a course on British Research present-day to 1700s this fall.  My second focus was taking my technological skills to a higher level.  As such I attended several presentations, as well as an afternoon lab taught by Jill Crandell, Director of the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy, on utilizing database tools like Excel and Access to enhance the research process. 

Finally, I attended the UGA (Utah Genealogical Association) conference the past two days.  Also a great experience--good speakers, great topics, and a lot of fun meeting old friends.  I even ran into someone who attended the FEEFHS conference from Arizona.  Again, I selected a couple of areas to focus on--first, classes taught by the wonderful Lisa Alzo, an Eastern European researcher, who I hadn't had the pleasure of hearing previously, and second, classes on enhancing my skills as a professional researcher taught by Tristan Tolman, first Vice-Chair of the Board of ICAP-Gen, an accreditation organization.  Of course I hoped I would win one of the two laptops in the final vendor giveaway; alas, they went to two other deserving people instead!

So why am I writing all of this?  I believe there has been a common theme applied this summer as I've attended these conferences, one that has made them much more productive for me than conferences have been in the past.  And that theme is Focus.  Focus is obviously one of the first things we teach beginning researchers--often making trite statements like "make a plan and stick with it" or "don't jump all over the place".   Quite simply, we have found that successful research is usually the result of a focused effort rather than a sporadic, random attack.  That same skill, applied to conference participation through preliminary planning and strategic selection of presentations, makes for a more successful experience there as well.  Therefore, my very specific efforts this summer to focus on a handful of topics at these conferences, rather than attempt to enjoy the smorgasbord of information available in random fashion, has clearly enhanced my level of learning as well as my enjoyment.

I've finally learned that I don't need to bemoan missing the class in the other room that also seemed interesting....I will eventually have another opportunity to hear that topic presented I'm sure.  Which brings me to the second "re-learned" lesson of the summer...something good bears repeating, or repetition builds understanding, or something like that.  These weren't the first sessions on British research or professional skills ever attended.  But hearing them from a different presenter, in perhaps a slightly different format, and after practicing or first utilizing some of things previously learned, I was able to build a clearer understanding, ask more specific questions, and clearly learn at a much higher level than I did the first time around.

Well, that's been my summer.  That and taking care of my 98-year-old mother.  I'm looking forward to harvesting the rewards of my educational efforts as I continue my research and prepare for fall classes.  I truly am a gluten for punishment, as I will be taking both British Research to the 1700s and Latin for Genealogists.  At my age, just one of those would normally be quite sufficient to keep me busy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Value of Joining Societies

     In our current economic situation I think we are all holding on to every spare dime we can, something I think we should do.   When I was in India, I found myself answering the question again and again about why Americans don't save money.  My answer went something like this, " We don't save we invest, why would you put your money into a bank savings account which will only earn you less then 1% interest, when you can invest and earn more?" By the way, our local account in India paid 8% on savings, so it's easy to see why the Indians didn't understand our attitude.
    When I spend money I also try to make it an investment in my future.   There are so many organizations available to aid in our family history research. I have memberships to several of those organizations.  The Association of Professional Genealogist, The National Genealogical  Society, The New England Historic Genealogical Society and then of course there is  Each of these organizations require a fee.    Are they worth the money, do they provide value and have they helped to further my research or my work?
     I have been a member of for many years.  They have made the retrieval of records on line very easy and quick with good search engines and vast repositories available.  Lately, though instead of records I am finding more indexes to records, and while indexes are good, I prefer to look at the document in question for any clues they might hold for further research. I also worry about Ancestry limiting competition especially with their recent purchase of I would hope the goal of all the organisations is to make records more available not to limit access via membership at exorbitant rates. As Ancestry's rates increase so does my desire to look elsewhere for records.
     A great place to begin is local societies where your ancestors lived.  Depending on the area, they can contain vast amounts of information to aid in your search. They help provide local history books, pictures, yearbooks, newspapers etc. I like to search them out and give support to these local groups in an effort to help them in their work at a local level.  Especially in these rough economic times where many states are cutting funding these local libraries and societies can really use our support.
     Several years ago (OK, about 20 years now but who's counting?) I was beginning research on my husband grandfather, Frank Saylor.  Frank was born in the early 1900's and we were told he was from Paulding County, Ohio. I couldn't find him anywhere, I knew his parents names were Frank and Mary Saylor.  I also knew that he raised his family in the Lansing area in Michigan.  With a great deal of research (because of course, the family knew nothing or at least wasn't willing to share what they knew) we found that he grew up in Elsie, Michigan. The local library in Elsie had a wonderful selection of yearbooks and collections of local family histories.  We were able to obtain yearbook pictures, obituaries and cemetery records that helped us in our quest to know about the family.
    These local organizations are run by volunteers and these volunteers are a great resource in looking for information on your ancestor.  When I was trying to find more information on Mary Saylor, who it turns out was from Paulding county Ohio, I contacted the local society and was able to find Mary Smith Tschannon Saylor's father, John Smith. The local volunteer was able to track down her birth record for me.  May I also add here, she did it free of charge.
     Another great place run by volunteers is, more and more records are being added all the time and you can request pictures of existing headstones which can be very helpful in finding lost relatives (I have found a few that way).  I work as a volunteer taking pictures of headstones that people request in my local cemeteries and posting them on the site as I can.  In a small way, I can help others further their research.
     And although I prefer free, sometimes you do have to spend money.  As stated earlier, I have joined a few organizations and found them to be quite helpful.  The New England Historic Genealogical Society publishes a weekly newsletter that has helped me find wonderful resources on line. . This week's e-mail contained links to several local societies who have a presence on line.  I can't wait to spend time exploring these links and seeing what information they have for me! Here is a link to their newsletter:
They also offer copies of over 10,000 rare and out of print books that can aid in our research.   This is just one organization that has contributed to my growth as a genealogist.  What are some of your favorites and why are they your favorites?  I hope to explore more of these organizations in future posts now that I am back on line.  Have a great week everyone and good luck in your research! MJ

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Best Kept Secret: FHC portal

Well, you learn something new everyday.  Today's lesson is watch those blog "drafts".  Apparently this one that I wrote some time back didn't get published.  Found it waiting in "draft" mode.  So, a bit late, but here it is:

For those of you close enough to a Family History Center, you are able to access all of the following programs via their "portal" to several premium websites.

Of recent note is that has recently returned to their previous practice of providing their full subscription database through the portal rather than a downscaled "institutional" version.  I applaud this move heavily.  Those of us who want to have for use at home will continue to subscribe, even when there is a FHC only a mile away.  And for the rest?  What a great service!

In addition to, the FHC portal provides family history center patrons free access to these premium websites:

19th Century British Library Newspaper Digital Archive
Alexander Street Press – The American Civil War
Find My Past
The Genealogist
Genline Family Finder
Godfrey Memorial Library
Heritage Quest Online
Historical Map Works Library Edition
Paper Trail (from the Oregon-California Trails Association)
World Vital Records