Genealogy Basics

Turn Your Friends and Family into Playing Cards

UPDATE: After publishing this article, Tim Crowley of OurCards extended an offer to all readers of the EOGN.com genealogy newsletter: “I hope it’s not too late to mention it, but your readers can use coupon code “EOGN20” to get 20% off their first deck (good until June 17). “

Thank you Tim!


I briefly wrote about this new company’s product a couple of weeks ago after meeting with the company’s owners at the New England Regional Genealogy Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. (See http://bit.ly/2Dr50Ix for my earlier article.)

I wrote, “Make a game from your family tree! These are custom made playing cards, similar to any other deck of 52 playing cards, only with images and brief biographies of family members. When you order these cards, you also get to choose whose picture appears on which card. For instance, your grandmother could be the Queen of Hearts.”

This is a great method of teaching family members about the family tree even if they are not serious genealogists. It even seems to appeal to children, whether they are playing Go Fish or some other card game.

Genealogy’s Often-Misspelled Words

You might want to save this article someplace. I have no idea why, but many of the words used in researching your family tree are difficult to spell. I constantly see spelling errors in messages posted on various genealogy web sites. When someone misspells a word, it feels like they are shouting, “I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Here are a few words to memorize:

Genealogy – No, it is not spelled “geneology” nor is it spelled in the manner I often see: “geneaology.” That last word looks to me as if someone thought, “Just throw all the letters in there and hope that something sticks.” For some reason, many newspaper reporters and their editors do not know how to spell this word. Don’t they have spell checkers?

How to Download Entire Websites for Offline Use

Information on the World Wide Web may not remain online forever. However, it is easy to download and save information when you do see it. The information then remains available to you in case you ever want to go back and read it again in the future.

With today’s low prices for internal and external large capacity disk drives plus excellent software that can search through many gigabytes of saved data to find the specific thing(s) you are looking for, it often makes sense to save huge amounts of data in the hopes that you can find specific items of interest in the future.

In fact, you can download and save entire web sites.

Obama’s Presidential Library Is Already Largely Digital

NOTE: This is a continuation of several past articles in this newsletter about modern-day libraries gong digital. (See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=site%3Aeogn.com+digital+(library+OR+libraries)&t=h_&ia=web for my past articles on this topic.)

“The debate about the Obama library exhibits a fundamental confusion. Given its origins and composition, the Obama library is already largely digital. The vast majority of the record his presidency left behind consists NOT of evocative handwritten notes, printed cable transmissions, and black-and-white photographs, but email, Word documents, and JPEGs. The question now is how to leverage its digital nature to make it maximally useful and used.”

In short, it sounds like most other libraries, including most future genealogy libraries.

You can read more in an article by Dan Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration at Northeastern University and a co-founder of the Digital Public Library of America, in The Atlantic web site at: http://bit.ly/2WYdIVZ.

How to Find Some of the More Obscure Collections of Genealogy Records

Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, and other search engines are great for finding online databases that are useful to genealogists. However, smaller collections and even obscure ones are not prominently listed in the big search engines. Yet there are a few online listings that can point the way to finding what you seek.

The Genealogy Roots Blog at https://genrootsblog.blogspot.com contains pointers to many online genealogy databases, records and resources. The focus is on vital records (birth, marriage and death records), obituaries, census records, naturalization records, military records and ship passenger lists. Although the blog is based in the USA, online European, Canadian, and other records sources are sometimes included. You may also occasionally see a fun post or genealogy news. Joe Beine does a great job of adding more and more links as time goes by.

Another huge resource is Cyndi’s List, available at: https://www.cyndislist.com. The site contains roughly 336,000 links to genealogy-related web pages in more than 200 categories. The various categories include many sources online records as well as pointers to newsletters, religious groups, historical information, geography, and much, much more.

Teaching Kids About Family History Reportedly Helps Increase Resilience

I wish I had read this article when my children were young and I was just beginning to research my family tree! According to an article in the (Utah) Daily Herald:

“Resilience, or the ability to overcome challenges in life, is a trait many parents hope their children will develop. Resilient children are more likely to have good emotional and mental health.

“Research has shown that children who know more about their families and family history are more resilient and tend to do better when facing challenges in life. This may be because seeing patterns of overcoming failures and surviving hard times can help children recognize that people can recover and triumph, despite hardships. One of the best things families can do is develop a strong family narrative.”

You can find this interesting article at: http://bit.ly/2T2Yv3F.

Where to Find Personal Papers in Genealogy Searches

Sometimes, the documents we seek as genealogists go beyond government-generated paperwork like vital records, federal and state censuses and military records. Sometimes, we need private documents — letters, business records and diaries or journals — to confirm dates or relationships. Those aren’t the kinds of things you usually find at the National Archives or your state’s archives.

Daniel Klein has published an interesting article in The Jersey Journal that offers suggestions for finding these personal documents, wherever they may be stored. The article may be found at: http://bit.ly/2Ja1FTy.

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 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.”