Archive | Trace Family History

20 May 2011 ~ 0 Comments

News! Get Your News Here! (While it lasts)

A fantastic free resource that has helped thousands of genealogists is about to stop being updated. I speak of the Google Newspaper Archive. Google has been scanning old newspaper from microfilm and even running them through an OCR so that they are searchable. And I’m not talking about the big papers. I am talking about the little towns and areas with local papers all the way back to the 19th century. This has been an incredible resource for finding obituaries and stories about ancestors that appeared in the papers. It was a great way to avoid paying for or other sources.

The archives of several hundred newspapers will continue to be available at, but Google is “no longer accepting new microfilm or digital files for processing,” a Google spokesperson confirmed in an email to Mashable.

I know that I found a lot of great information in these archives. It might not be the easiest way to search and sometimes the OCR process doesn’t catch everything, but it sure beats having to go across country to a library and dig through microfilm. Have you used Google’s newspaper archive with any success?

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16 March 2011 ~ 1 Comment

101 Things You Didn’t Know About Irish History [Kindle Edition]

To celebrate St. Patrick’s day, I found a free Kindle book on Amazon titled “101 Things You Didn’t Know About Irish History” and thought it would be something some of you would enjoy. And yes, it’s free. As in costs nothing. Well, some might say you need to buy a Kindle to view it, but the answer to that is no, not really. You can use any of the free Kindle apps for your iPod, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, PC, Mac, etc. to read Kindle books. You can of course buy a Kindle Wi-Fi, Kindle 3G or a Kindle DX, but you don’t have to. And once you download it you can read it on any device. By the way, the 3G and DX come with free global 3G service.

One more thing before I go. You can use your Kindle apps to download and read all the free books from Google Books and every other repository that houses free files, like the Internet Archive.

Happy Saint Paddy!

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24 September 2010 ~ 3 Comments

This is NOT Your Family Tree

I ran across this cartoon today that deals more with evolution than with tracing your family tree, but I figured my readers would enjoy it as well:

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18 September 2010 ~ 0 Comments

My Ancestors Are Online?

Yes! They are and actually, they are all over the place!

One of the reasons genealogy has become such a popular hobby is that so much information is now available online. In fact, when I began to trace my family tree I did most of the initial research online. Eventually you will need to get your lazy butt to a county courthouse or a cemetery, but the internet will probably be your best source for information and collaboration opportunities with other researchers.

While there are some commercial ventures out there that make a tidy profit from all this web traffic, there are also a lot of free sites with fantastic information. They might not have the best search engines (if at all) and it might take a little longer to get to what you were looking for, but most of the time you will find what you need. The obvious first place to go to is which is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or also knwon as the Mormons). One place to start is the pedigree resource file. Another great resource is RootsWeb (which is owned by but is free to use). By the way, you can always get a free trial of US Deluxe Membership and then cancel it before your subscription goes into effect.

Another great place to start (and once again, totally free) are message boards. You can find a lot of information as well as connect with other researchers who are working on the same surnames. One of the best boards is GenForum – it is very easy to navigate and you can easily find your surname and search within that board. Some of the posts tend to be on the ancient side and getting in touch with the researchers might be tough at times, but there is too much good information to pass it up. You should also check out the message boards.

Keep a log of your searches and boards you have visited so that you don’t waste your time on redundant work. It’s also a wise idea to bookmark your favorite places or even sign up to an RSS feed if one is available for your board (if this is too technical for you right now, don’t worry about it, I’ll try to expand on this later). Don’t forget to save everything you find!

And of course there’s Google. But that’s a topic for a different time.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more step by step instructions to using online resources. Good luck!

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09 September 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Suggested Reading – Shaking the Family Tree (by Buzzy Jackson)

In my last post I wrote about working on one surname at a time. But what if your last name is Jackson (the 20′s most common surname in the US)? Buzzy Jackson published a book about this exact question.

Update: I just got my copy in the mail yesterday! Can’t wait to read it! I have to admit I haven’t read this book yet, but I am buying it from Amazon right now! I read a few reviews and I think it is exactly what every beginning family historian needs to read to get inspired. When I began to trace my family tree I read a lot of books. I will review some of them here shortly. but in the meantime, get this book and leave a comment if you already read it and tell us what you think?

Buy Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist today!

Here’s a video Buzzy made about her journey:

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06 September 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Start with a Single Surname

So now that you’re busy filling out pedigree charts, you might come across a problem. You have too many ancestors! Don’t worry we all have the same issue. Since every person has two parents and not taking into consideration that there are several ancestors with the same surname, this means that in a 9 generation family tree (as you can see on the image on the left) you will have 256 surnames and 511 people, including yourself. And this doesn’t take into account spelling variations or people who’ve had name changes. Yikes!

So the tip for today is to stay focused and start with a single surname. When I began to trace my family tree I was pretty much all over the map (or tree). That caused a lot of holes and missed information, lots of to-do lists and so on. Avoid that headache and stay focused. Don’t  work on too many parts of your family tree at once. Resist the urge to wander down (or up) other branches. Everyone will get a turn. I promise.

The easiest surnames to start with are the ones on your paternal side. In the fan chart they are the one shaded in blue. “Why?” I hear you asking. Because those surnames tend to stay in the family and don’t change due to marriage like the maternal side.

So there you have it. Let’s set this plan in motion.

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03 September 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Filling Out Pedigree Charts

Download Pedigree Chart

Now that you’ve collected everything you can about your family and interviewed family members, it’s time to make some sense of all the information you have. That means you’re going to start filling out genealogical forms. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds!

Most people start with what’s called a pedigree chart. This form gives you a quick overview of your family and makes it easy to track your research progress. You will usually start with yourself and then go back in time filling up the branches as you go and eventually you’ll have a family tree showing your direct ancestors. By clicking the image on the left you will be able to download a five-generation pedigree chart.
Pedigree charts will normally have room for four-six generations, and will include have room to enter names (first middle last) as well as important dates and places of birth, marriage and death for each person.

So start with yourself in the number 1 spot (or whoever the person is that you are researching). This should be a snap since you probably know most of this information, right? From there, the male lines follow the upper track and the females follow the lower track. The idea is to enter biological parents and while there are all sort of discussions about same-sex partnerships, adoptions and other relationships, I won’t get into that here.

So your dad goes in box number 2 and your mom in box number 3. Other than the first person, all the males will have odd numbers and women will have even numbers. Makes it easy to remember, right?

After filling out the chart with 4 or 5 generations, you’ll need to create additional charts for each of the individuals included in the last generation on your first chart. Each person will become the first ancestor on a brand new chart and you’ll reference their number on the original chart so it will be easy to go back and figure out where everyone fits and follow the family through all generations. Don’t forget to give the new charts new numbers and this way when you want to reference the other charts fill out the bottom where it says “Person 1 appears on page __”.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all the information or even all the people who are supposed to be on the chart. That’s what you’re going to be doing later when you try to find your elusive ancestors. When I started to trace my family tree I had huge holes in my charts which I am still slowly filling out today. Each new find makes you do a little genealogy happy dance!

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