Genealogy Basics

The Cemetery Symbol of Eternal Love

Tombstones often contain art, especially those from the Victorian era. Did you ever wonder what is the meaning behind the various images engraved on tombstones. An article by Allison C. Meier in the Jstore Daily web site explains the meaning of clasped hands on tombstones.

The article may be found at: https://daily.jstor.org/the-cemetery-symbol-of-eternal-love.

Numerous explanations of other tombstone symbols may be found by starting at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=tombstone+art&t=h_&ia=web.

Tracking Family History of Enslaved Ancestors in Louisiana? The Donaldsonville Museum can Help

According to an article by Ellyn Couvillion in The Advocate web site:

“Researching family history for African-Americans in Louisiana often means traveling to parish courthouses to pull old records of slavery, the conveyance documents that in jarringly neat handwriting detail the buying and selling of human beings.

“There’s an effort underway that would make the process far easier. The River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville has partnered with a genealogy website affiliated with the Mormon church for a pilot project that will use mostly volunteers to make slave conveyance records dating from 1777 to 1861 in Ascension Parish easier to find online.

Are You Recording Fairy Tales in Your Genealogy Records?

WARNING: This is a “soapbox article” in which I rant and rave a little.

A newsletter reader wrote to me recently expressing unhappiness with all the erroneous information found in online family trees. The bogus information is usually found in family tree information submitted by other users of whatever online family tree service is being used at the moment.

My belief is that this newsletter reader wasn’t spending much time looking at online images of census, birth, marriage, and death records or at other online documents of value to genealogists: old newspapers, military pension files, and such things.

I decided to share my response publicly in this newsletter so that others could either benefit from or reject my ideas and suggestions.

Attention French-Canadian Descendants: You Are Undoubtedly Related to Almost All Other French-Canadians

If you are new to French-Canadian genealogy, you may be surprised by the number of famous relatives you have. My own ancestry is 50% French-Canadian (thanks, Mom!) but I researched my father’s Yankee ancestry first. Sometime later I started on my mother’s side of the family and was soon amazed by the number of interconnected families. I also found French-Canadian family trees to be rather easy to research when visiting a major library dedicated to French-Canadian genealogy.

I have often jested, “I never met a French-Canadian that I am not related to.” That’s a bit of a joke, but it also seems to be true!

Almost all French-Canadian descendants can find family relations to Madonna, Justin Bieber, Justin Trudeau, Hillary Clinton, Ryan Gosling, Angelina Jolie, Camilla Parker-Bowles, and about half the players and coaches in the National Hockey League!

Why Was the Information Removed from Online?

NOTE: This is a slightly updated version of an article I published three years ago. I have added a new section about the restrictions recently added by the European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Several newsletter readers have sent messages to me expressing dissatisfaction with records that were available online at one time but have since disappeared. I am offering this republished article as an explanation about why we should not be surprised when that happens. I will also offer a suggestion as to making sure you keep your own copies of online records that are valuable to you.

Two newsletter readers sent email messages to me recently expressing dissatisfaction that a set of images of vital records has been removed from a popular genealogy site. Indeed, removal of any online records of genealogical value is sad, but not unusual. Changes such as these are quite common on FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Ancestry.com, Fold3, Findmypast, and many other genealogy sites that provide images of old records online. Removal of datasets has occurred dozens of times in the past, and I suspect such things will continue to happen in the future. I thought I would write a brief explanation.

Contracts

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

So Where In Armenia Was Your Family From?

If you have Armenian ancestry, you will be interested in an article by Mark Arslan in The Armenian Weekly web site:

When someone asks you this rather straightforward question, many of us can come up with a place name based on our family’s oral traditions – Keghi, Evereg, Kharpert, Dikranagerd, Aleppo, Bardizag, Bitlis, Kars, whatever. But can we actually find that place on a modern map or prove the family’s origins with primary documentary evidence?

Understanding Cemetery Symbols

Have you ever stared at a cemetery symbol on a grave and wondered if it meant something or if it was merely decorative? Understanding cemetery symbolism can give you clues to understanding your ancestor’s lives.

To make your next trip to the cemetery totally fascinating, check out BillionGraves’ latest blog post written by Cathy Wallace and The BillionGraves Team, Understanding Cemetery Symbols, at: http://bit.ly/2RYYd27.

Don’t Store Books or Documents in Sealed Plastic!

A newsletter reader sent me a link to an online article that made me shudder when I read it. The article claims:

“Do you have an old book or important document that has been passed down from generation to generation? These books and documents break down over time due to oxygen, moisture, and other hazards. By sealing it, you’re also giving it added protection in the event of a flood, fire (smoke), or accidental damage.”

I am no expert in preservation, but I believe the last thing you want to do to a valuable old book or photo or other document is to seal it in an airtight plastic bag, especially a bag that is not labeled “archival quality.” Sealing in a cheap plastic bag can cause more damage than it prevents!

How to Easily Convert Old Cassette Tapes to Modern MP3 Files

Do you have old cassette tapes but have no way to play them? Luckily for you, there are multiple ways to convert cassette tapes to modern MP3 or other format files that can be stored in your computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, a flash drive, CD disks, stored in the cloud, or even sent to anyone via email.

There are at least two methods of copying cassette tapes to modern digital files. I will call the two methods the easy way and the much easier way.

The Easy Way

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

The Cousin Explainer

Trying to determine all the relationships of all your relatives at a Christmas gathering? A tea towel can help.

As described on the web site where you can order the towel:

“Second cousin once removed, or first cousin twice removed? Calculating cousin-hood has never been easier with this brilliant tea towel. Finally you can establish which of your cousins are once, twice or even thrice removed. A hand lettered design by Geoff Sawers.”

If You Don’t Want to Deal with Family Skeletons, Don’t Look in the DNA Closet

Amy Dickinson is an American newspaper columnist who writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy. In a recent column, she published a letter from a reader asking how to handle a family surprise: upon having her DNA tested, the writer discovered she had a half-sibling that she was not aware of previously. She then shared this bit of information with her family, including with both of her parents.

The information was not well received.

You can read this rather interesting letter and Amy Dickinson’s advice in a number of newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press at: http://bit.ly/2QxfdL6.

Comment by Dick Eastman: I certainly cannot compete with Amy Dickinson’s nationally-syndicated advice column but I will offer one piece of advice to genealogists: If your research finds a something that was previously not widely known within the family, you might want to stop and consider the implications before you broadcast that information to your relatives. Do you really HAVE to tell everyone? or anyone?

U.S. Life Expectancy Declines Again

Most experienced genealogists are aware that the average life expectancy of our relatives has increased over the years. Most of the increases can be attributed to major improvements in hygiene, medicine, and (in recent years) the decrease in the use of tobacco products. Sadly, in 2016 and 2017 the trend went in the opposite direction. Americans now have a slightly shorter life expectancy than they had three years ago and the trend is getting worse.

We are now seeing the longest sustained decline in expected life span at birth in a century, an appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918. That four-year period included World War I and a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in the United States and perhaps 50 million worldwide.

Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza Collection of Cuban Genealogy

Since the university was founded in 1972, Florida International University has always been an epicenter of Cuban heritage studies. The school now offers more than 70 courses related to Cuba across more than 20 disciplines, spanning the humanities and social sciences, the natural sciences, law, architecture and medicine. Of interest to genealogists is the Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza Collection of Cuban Genealogy.

Florida International University Libraries has acquired this collection of thousands of books, handwritten and typed letters, photos and other primary documents relating to Cuba and Cuban genealogy, collected over four decades by Felix Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza. The collection includes rare 17th and 18th century books, long out-of-print publications and periodicals that few, if any, U.S. libraries hold in their catalogs. Additionally, thousands of unpublished family genealogies and manuscripts make this collection particularly significant.

Record and Share Your Family History in 5 Steps

I don’t see many genealogy-related articles in the New York Times but J. D. Biersdorfer has written a great article that has now been published by the media giant. Quoting from the article:

“Holiday gatherings offer a great time to create a multimedia digital archive of interviews with your relatives so they can share their memories with the current — and future — branches of the tree.”

and:

“Many people have pieced together their own family tree. But how much do you really know about the early lives of your living relatives, especially those with decades of stories to share?

Bullet Journaling for Genealogy

I must admit that I am not familiar with “Bullet Journaling.” However, a notice about an upcoming genealogy presentation in Ohio caught my eye:

The next meeting of the Lake County [Ohio] Genealogical Society is set for 10 a.m., Nov. 29, in the basement of the Morley Library, 184 Phelps St. in Painesville.

Carla Cegielski will talk about “Bullet Journaling for Genealogy.” Attendees can learn about how a bullet journal can help plan, guide, and organize genealogical research, according to a news release.

People can capture their random thoughts and midnight revelations and turn them into actionable tasks.

How Many Ancestors Do You Have?

A newsletter reader asked a simple question this week that generates a longer answer:

How many individuals does it take to make up 42 generations? Is there a website or other source that would help me calculate the answer?

I am sure there are such web sites, but you can also calculate the same numbers within a few seconds by using Excel or any other spreadsheet. I used a spreadsheet to generate the following:

Why Are There Mistakes in US Census Records?

If you have been searching census records for a while, you probably already know that the records are not 100% accurate. If you are not already aware of the inaccuracies, you absolutely need to understand the reasons why as explained in a new article in the FamilySearch Blog at http://bit.ly/2NuUl1L.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.