Genealogy Basics

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?

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.

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.

Always Keep Backups of Your Online Genealogy Information

A newsletter reader wrote and asked a question:

“I have an account with Ancestry.com and I was using the Family Tree Maker for my back up just in case there comes a time when I can no longer pay for Ancestry and since they stopped using Family Tree Maker. I was wondering if there was anything else I can use as a back up, I would hate to lose all the information I have if I couldn’t pay for it for some reason.”

I replied to the question in email but thought I would also post my answer here in the newsletter in case others have the same question:

First, Family Tree Maker did not go away. The program was acquired by Software MacKiev and has been improved significantly in the past year or so. The Software MacKiev version of Family Tree Maker still exchanges data with Ancestry.com and still can function as a viable method of keeping a copy of your genealogy data in your own Macintosh or Windows computer, the same as it did before the acquisition by Software MacKiev.

HOWEVER, if it was me, I would do even more.

Are You Missing Most of the Available Genealogy Information?

I recently received a message from a newsletter reader that disturbed me a bit. He wrote, “I have been doing genealogy research for 10-15 years but only through the Internet.” He then went on to describe some of the frustrations he has encountered trying to find information. In short, he was disappointed at how little information he has found online.

I read the entire message, but my eyes kept jumping back to the words in his first sentence: “… but only through the Internet.

Doesn’t he realize that 95% of the information of interest to genealogists is not yet available on the Internet?

Are You New to Genealogy?

Welcome to the fascinating world of family history research! You can learn more about you, your ancestors, and why you are the person you are today.

Here is a list of articles from my newsletter that I think are the most useful resources for anyone who is learning how to find their ancestors:

A Genealogy Intro

Family History for Beginners

Begin Your Genealogy Quest, an excellent tutorial for beginners found on FamilySearch

Beginner’s guide to family history documents, a video from MyHeritage.com

Genealogy Basics

Are You a Family Historian or a Name Collector?

Online Genealogy Dictionaries & Other References

Family History Guide

Free Genealogy Software

The Genealogy Library Inside Your Computer: How to Increase Your Personal Genealogy Library without Additional Bookshelves

Are You a Family Historian or a Name Collector?

I have a question. None of my living relatives knows the answer to this question. I have not found the answer to this question in any public records, nor have I been able to find the answer in cemeteries. I have read a few magazine articles and Internet pages about the topic, but none of them have directly answered the question.

The question is… “Why do we study genealogy?”

What makes anyone so curious about his or her family tree? What drives us to dedicate time, effort, and sometimes expenses to go find dead people?

What is it inside of us that makes us spend hours and hours cranking reels of microfilm, then we go home and report to our family members what a great day we had?

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.

Create a Digital Diary and Your Descendants will Thank You

Diaries written by an ancestor are amongst the most valuable family heirlooms of all time. Whether it is a diary written by a soldier in wartime or a day-by-day account of life on the farm, these daily journals provide great a understanding of the lives of our ancestors. However, this begs the question: Are you creating a diary with a plan to leave it for your descendants?

An article by David Nield in Popular Science magazine says:

“Keeping a daily journal lets you practice writing, organize your thoughts, and preserve your habits and events for posterity. But who has the time and energy to sit down for a dedicated recording session every day? Instead, jot down your entries on the go—by keeping the tome on your phone.”

Indeed, writing an electronic journal can provide great benefits to yourself when you need to go back and recall an event or some instructions from your past. However, if preserved properly, the same journal can provide a greater understanding of your life for other family members long after you are gone.

Another Method of Finding Cemetery Locations

I have written before about the U.S. government’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database at https://geonames.usgs.gov that provides exact latitudes and longitudes for thousands of cemeteries and other named places within the United States. To find a cemetery, all you do is search the GNIS database, find the latitude and longitude for the cemetery you seek, enter those coordinates into a GPS, and follow the instructions shown on the GPS to drive directly to the cemetery.

NOTE: Nowadays, you do not even need a dedicated GPS device. Most Android phones and all iPhones have available apps that will provide GPS capabilities within your cell phone. Some of them will even display the latest traffic reports along your planned route wile you are driving. Many of these GPS-emulation apps are available free of charge while a few cost a modest amount of money, always less than the cost of purchasing a dedicated GPS device.

There is but one problem with the government’s GNIS database: it doesn’t include all the cemeteries! For years, it did not list the small, rural cemetery where several of my relatives are buried, where I already own a burial plot, and where I intend to spend eternity. However, I checked again when writing this article and found that the Morse’s Corner Cemetery is now listed in the GNIS database. So much for the idea of my being buried at an unlisted address!

Despite my recent success, the GNIS database still does not list ALL cemeteries. Luckily, I found another source of possible information.

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

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

(I normally post this reminder on the first day of every month. However, April 1 was a Sunday and I normally don’t publish articles on the weekend. Even though this reminder is a day late, it still offers great advice.)

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.

How to Trace your Irish Family History: a Step-By-Step Guide

Irish genealogy expert John Grenham has published an excellent beginners’ guide to Irish genealogy. If you are new to genealogy and are interested in tracing your Irish heritage, I suggest you first read his tutorial published in The Irish Times at: http://bit.ly/2Fyjmdk.

What is Wrong with this Tombstone?

Look closely at the picture above. Do you see what is wrong with it?

Christiana Haag’s gravestone is in the Old Mission Church Cemetery in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.