Tag: hints

I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.

Ideally, I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.

I’ve long been a proponent of the open and free exchange of genealogy data to ensure ready access to information for everyone researching their family history.

This morning, however, I read “Cooperation Makes Records Available for Free” at FamilySearch.org and it made me think.

As much as I’d like all genealogical data to be free, I can understand someone wishing to recover their costs of researching the data.

Database profile for Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky, including references to numerous images, documents and sources. (Click on the image to see in full size.)

Although the costs of genealogy research have reduced considerably over the past two decades due to computers and the increasing availability of records, images and data online, we’re seeing a correlating increase in sites online offering valuable data for a fee of some kind, making free data harder to find.

FamilySearch.org is one of the few sites still offering data for free.

In my case, ALL of my data (including images, sources and documents) is available online for free download. I do not charge for anything. I do, however, make revenue from ad clicks and sponsored posts on my sites. The end result is that, at least at present, I can offer all of my data for free as the ads pay for the upkeep and maintenance of my sites – for the most part.

There is a delicate balance here, though. As long as I can afford to offer this information free of charge it will remain so. If there comes a point where I have to recover my costs, I will have to either charge for downloads or remove the site from the internet altogether. Rest assured that this is not anywhere in the foreseeable future.

I’ve also seen a marked increase in the amount of personal genealogy data online that is ‘locked’ or marked ‘private’. I have contacted the owners of such data and in most cases they have been very forthcoming and willing to exchange information. In a few cases, however, the owner can be very protective of their data and will not make it available. Luckily, these appear to be few and far between at present.

I welcome the exchange of data offered by anyone doing genealogy research. It is important that this information remain available. One caveat, however, is to ALWAYS categorize the data as it appears when received. If there are no sources attached, it is questionable at best and it is important to use this information as ‘clues’ to further finds. Do not take this information at face value.

I have a very large database and about half of the data is sourced, while about half is not. I am constantly actively seeking and adding sources to prove the data.

I have received some criticism for this. One researcher contacted me about a particular line of information because it was claimed I had a place name incorrect. Little did this person know I had lived in the area for 21 years and knew it very well. To say this person was hostile is putting it mildly. I couldn’t believe it when it was demanded that I remove the lines pertaining to HER RESEARCH as she was the researcher of this family and I had no business researching it since our connection was only by remarriage, adoption and the birth of half-siblings. She also demanded that I remove anything that was not sourced or proven. To do as she demanded would break up lines and create gaps, leaving me without clues to search for sources to prove the information I do have and fill the gaps.

As I stated above, a good portion of my data is accumulated through free exchange of information, including the import of gedcoms of other peoples’ research. The sources (or lack thereof) remain as they have cited them, but I do search for actual copies of listed sources to attach where possible. I leave unsourced data as I receive it until I can research it further and I categorize any sources I have confirmed or added.

It is important to realize that cooperation and goodwill among researchers is essential to keeping the lines of communication and free flow of information open. Once we start becoming territorial and protective of our data, we contribute to the scarcity of information and increased costs for all.

Again, although such data can be invaluable as clues to further research, it is important to note that all sources are only as good as the attachments and assessed quality.

Can anyone help identify this mystery military uniform?

Joseph (wearing the mystery military uniform), Émilie, Marguerite and Azilda Labelle.

Joseph, Émilie, Marguerite and Azilda Labelle.

I’m in the process of writing an article about my Labelle and Périllard ancestors from Quebec, and decided to try to identify the mystery military uniform worn by the gentleman in this photo.

This family lived in Québec and Ontario, as well as Vermont on the Périllard side. Could it possibly be attached to Vermont during the civil war? I especially noticed the light colored (perhaps white or yellow) cuffs, collar and pants stripe, as well as the leaf shaped, uneven edged embroidery on both sides of and between the buttons (rather reminiscent of oak leaves).

If you have some information about this military uniform, please comment with the information in the comment section below.

Google Tools, Tips and Tricks for Genealogy

Google Tools, Tips and Tricks for Genealogy

Google Tools, Tips and Tricks for Genealogy

In my 12+ years of genealogy experience, I have become very attached to the Google tools, tips and tricks for genealogy research!

Once I discovered these tools, I haven’t looked back. I use them frequently in the course of my research.

Free Genealogy Search Help

This is the one Google search tool I use most often – and therefore I’m listing the direct link here. It creates a series of searches using different groupings of keywords from the input boxes for given names, surnames, birth and death places.

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher

Provided by Ancestor Search, this page provides several pre-set custom Google searches and tools. This is especially valuable for those who are not familiar with the codes and conventions for custom searching in Google. Below are basic descriptions and hints for effective use of each search tool. The tools on this page include:

Google Genealogy Search

  • Use (“) quotation marks around a specific word or phrase to be included “as is” in your results.

Search for Genealogy Surname Websites

  • This tool is valuable for finding websites with specific surnames in the title, most especially when surnames are also common English words in every day use such as ‘Mason’ or ‘Forest'; are also ‘given’ or ‘first’ names like ‘James’ or ‘Stuart’. In addition, this search helps to delve into more obscure sites that are deeper in Google results.

Google Book Search

  • An inordinate amount of valuable genealogy data exists within books and publications that in the past were not easily searchable. Google has taken great strides in digitizing ‘in copyright’ and ‘out of copyright’ material for access online. This tool searches the full texts of books digitized by Google. Although not as high in quality as vital records such as births, deaths and marriages, when such records are not available or cannot be found, this is the next best thing. A great benefit of material obtained this way is that it is frequently in narrative form, recounting actual events and circumstances, adding ‘flesh’ to the ‘bones’ of most genealogy research.

Google Blog Search

  • Tool for searching within other blogs. This can be very helpful for finding data compiled by other genealogists who have their own blogs.

Google Newspaper Search

  • Search for obituaries, news stories or other items appearing in newspapers. Be sure to use the surname as well as specific keyword(s) in your search.

Google Search Within or Excluding a Genealogy Site

  • Enter the keyword(s) and relevant site name in the appropriate boxes and select either ‘only with’ or ‘excluding’ in the drop-down box.

Search for Sites Similar To

  • Enter the url of a site you’d like to use as an example. Useful for finding similar sites on a specific topic.

Search for Gedcom Files

  • GEDCOMS are valuable files created by genealogy software for easy transfer and import of data in a manageable size. For this to be useful, it is necessary to have software to either convert to a viewable format or with the ability to import.

Search US Newsgroups for Genealogy Queries

  • Newsgroups are online communities of like-minded researches who post information, queries and answers. To limit results to just genealogy sites, add the word ‘genealogy’ to the search string.

Search for Definitions of Genealogical Words

  • The Google Dictionary searches for definitions for dated words, terms and acronyms. Very useful for finding the meanings of old-fashioned terminology frequently used in genealogy data and research.

Google Genealogy Calculator

  • An amazing tool for calculating are or distance using old-fashioned words and phrasing (i.e. calculating dates using mathematical functions: [1927-82] or converting old fashioned measures into contemporary measures (i.e. 40 rods in miles). If an immediate result is not shown, the page will likely list another calculator to use (i.e. arpents – no answer shows, but an arpent calculator appears toward the bottom of the results page).

Search for Genealogy Images

  • A tool to search for images by keyword using file type and size filters. This is actually quite an amazing little tool. I always use it when reseraching and I’m constantly amazed at how many images it finds on obscure websites that I never would have found.

Search by Location

  • Perform a keyword search filtered by location using address, city, state, and or code.

Google Search for a US Street Map

  • Search for specific locations (old or recent) to locate nearby landmarks (i.e. civic buildings, schools, churches, hospitals, etc.)

Google Search by Language and Country

  • This tool is invaluable for those seeking to search websites in a specific language and/or from a specific country.

Google Translate Text

  • A quick and easy tool for translating snippets of text. Select the languages of conversion from the drop-down box.

Translate a Genealogy Web Page

  • To translate a full web page, type the full url (including ‘http://’) into the search box and select the languages of conversion in the drop-down box.

Google Search by Family Tree

  • This is the one Google tool I use the most. It’s ideal for searching for specific combinations of names and relationships, thereby eliminating a great deal of ‘chaff’.

Following are more generic tools that can be very effective for genealogy related searches:

‘Related Images’ Image Scrolling

  • Every keyword search produces a set of links in the ribbon across the top of the screen. Click on ‘Images’ to go to only image results. Then, across the top of every Google image results page is a list of any ‘related search’ links that exist. Just hover over a link to view a preview ribbon of images from that search.

Image Search

  • This search can be very useful for trying to identify photos by individuals, locations, etc. by uploading the photo for Google to compare to other photos on the Internet to finds similar photos. Searches can be filtered for only faces, clip art, high-res, etc.

Results from Those We Know and Trust

  • When signed into Google+ and with the search options set to allow personal results, Google will highlight results from within your own Google+ community with this icon.
  • If you wish to toggle personal results off, just click on this icon in the top right of your screen.
  • Here is an image of some of my own personal results after searching for the town in which I live:

    Google Plus Personal Results

Include or Exclude Words in Search Results

  • To make sure certain words are included in the search without regard for order, use the ‘+’ symbol (i.e. Christian +Keefer). Likewise, to exclude words, use the ‘-‘ symbol (i.e. Christian -Keefer).

Ensure an Exact Phrase or Group of Words in Search Results

  • Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of the string that you wish to be exact in your search results (i.e. “Christian Keefer”).

Using a Wild Card Effectively

  • Wild card searches are especially effective in genealogy. With Google, the ‘*’ can be used in place of a word if there could possibly be more than one choices in a phrase or if you don’t know what the word might be. For a wildcard search, insert the ‘*’ wildcard in place of the word(s) in question.  (i.e. “Christian Keefer” “* Jacques”). In this example, the missing first name is represented by the ‘*’ and search results come up showing several possible first name possibilities.

Narrowing Search Results

  • Despite our first instinct to throw as many words as possible into a search, this actually can defeat the purpose. The extra words will most likely result in unrelated results due the the extra word(s). Start with as few words as possible and add ‘key’ words to your search in an attempt to narrow your results.

Targeted Searches

  • To search only specific sites, add the ‘site:’ prefix to the desired url (i.e. site:emptynestthemes.com). You can also search specific site types, domains and/or countries signified by a url suffix. Just add the same site prefix when searching (i.e. ‘site:edu’ for education sites; ‘site:ca’ for Canadian sites).
  • To find related websites, use the prefix ‘related:’ in front of the site’s url (i.e. related:emptynestthemes.com).
  • To search for specific file types, use the  ‘filetype:’ prefix in front of the desired file extension within your search string (i.e. filetype:png chilliwack schools).
  • To find definitions with Google, use the ‘define:’ prefix in front of the term to get a list of definitions from several online dictionaries.
  • Search for any numbers in a specific such as price ranges by placing two dots ‘..’ between the two numbers (i.e. Chilliwack real estate $100,000..$300,000).
  • Google can be used as a calculator. Just type in the equation using symbols to represent the functions. (i.e. 100*10, 100/10, 100-10, or 100+10). The first entry in the search results page will be the answer to the equation entered.


Genealogy News Bites – May 14, 2014

Following are the newest ancestry and genealogy news bites and headlines since May 5, 2014.

Genealogy News BitesFamilySearch.org Blog

Discussions: Users Can Now Delete Legacy Disputes

A few years ago, FamilySearch.org copied disputes from new.FamilySearch.org into the Discussions feature in Family Tree. Those disputes are referred to as “legacy disputes.” When they were copied into Family Tree, the contributor of the dispute was listed as FamilySearch, and the comments could not be deleted

FamilySearch Adds More Than 5.1 Million Images to Collections from Belgium, England, India, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States

FamilySearch has added more than 5.1 million images to collections from Belgium, England, India, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United States. Notable collection updates include the 2,571,405 indexed records and images

FamilySearch Adds More Than 5.4 Million Images to Collections from England, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and the United States

FamilySearch has added more than 5.4 million images to collections from England, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and the United States. Notable collection updates include the 2,152,718 indexed records

Genealogy and History News

Explore New Records from New Zealand on findmypast

Findmypast, one of the big name companies in the genealogy field, are part-way through their 100 in 100 project (100 new data sets in 100 days). And part of that they have just released a whole bunch of New Zealand

Genealogy Canada

Alberta Quilt Project

The Alberta Quilt Project will be coming to Pincher Creek’s Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village at the end of May and the start of June. The project will index all the quilts either made in Alberta or brought there by the immigration process from the 1800s to the 1960s

Building Personal Archives

The Quinte Branch of the OGS will hold their monthly meeting on Saturday May 17, 2014 at 1 pm at the Quinte West Library, 7 Creswell Dr, Trenton.
Entitled Building Personal Archives, the presentation

Olive Tree Genealogy

100 Years of McGill University Yearbooks Online

If you have an ancestor who attended McGill University in Montreal Quebec you won’t want to miss this new database. The years online are 1898-2000 and you can browse or search by name. For details see Gail Dever’s blog post  More than 100 years of McGill University yearbooks digitized

The Childen’s Home Website Now Online

The first phase of The Children’s Home website by Peter Higginson is now live. According to Peter who also created The Workhouse website: The Children’s Homes website aims to provide information on all of the many and varied institutions that — for whatever reason — became home

Fold3.com Blog

Access the World War II Collection

This Memorial Day season, explore Fold3′s World War II Collection for free now through May 31st. Find your family heroes in Fold3′s vast collection of WWII documents, records, and images, including draft registration cards, Army enlistment records, Navy muster rolls, “Old Man’s Draft” registration cards, missing air crew reports, casualty lists, and more…

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

National Genealogical Society Gives Awards for Excellence in Genealogy Scholarship and Service

The following was written by the folks at the National Genealogical Society: Arlington, VA, 9 MAY 2014: The National Genealogical Society held its annual banquet on Friday evening, 9 May 2014, at the NGS 2014 Family History Conference in Richmond, Virginia, to present awards that acknowledge and honor genealogical scholarship and service


Genealogy Tool Can Now Pinpoint Ancestry Through Genetics

Genealogy is a fun pastime for many people throughout the world. Tracking down ancestral information and filling out family trees is a way for many to connect with the past. Beyond birth and death records, however, the study of genealogy is now being

Library and Archives Canada

The United Empire Loyalists – Finding their Records

The term “United Empire Loyalists” (often referred to as UEL) refers to the American colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution, and many of which fought for Britain during that conflict. They fled the United States and settled in what are now the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario

photo credit: North Carolina Digital Heritage Center via photopin cc

New to genealogy? Get started with numerous free genealogy sites and tools available online.

Gerard Ronald Joseph Turmaine, c. 1938.

Using available free genealogy sites and tools to the best advantage.

I’ve been doing genealogy research for well over fifteen years now and have amassed a database of over 100,000 individuals with supporting sources, images, and documents for over 90% of the individuals, which are available for free download. Yet, I still find new information every day.

There is a certain pattern of research I highly recommend to new researchers and here it is:

  • Interview or have a questionnaire completed by as many accessible family members as possible. Everyone needs a place to start and with genealogy, depending on the location of the information sought, privacy laws vary, but information can be inaccessible for up to 100 years back. To successfully trace back further than 100 years, one must have information from a closely linked generation to provide clues for working back in the family history. From here, one can also work forward and fill out collateral lines by contacting individuals who are willing to impart information, documents and sources that are not public due to privacy laws. Here is a double-sided Family View Report sheet I designed for interviews or for others to fill out and return. The reverse side is for notes, tasks, etc.
  • Explore, download and set up free genealogy software for cataloging data, sources, images and documents. Using free software allows you to learn which functions and features are important to you if you find you wish to use paid software later on.
  • Using the Family View Reports gathered, enter the data into your genealogy software of choice and then research the individuals mentioned with the free sites, databases and tools available online. I have amassed a very large collection of links to free resources of all types in the right sidebar. It pays to explore the free resources first and obtain as much information as possible until one or more ‘brick walls’ are reached and no further information is forthcoming for free. I also highly recommend the free genealogy link directory site Cyndi’s List, which offers over 300,000 categorized and cross-referenced links.
  • Once one reaches a brick wall (sometimes called a dead end), it is advisable to explore the paid resources available online. The paid site I recommend most highly is Ancestry.com, where I find I get by far the best return for my dollar. I post weekly with a listing of all of the updates and additions to both of these databases and they can be accessed by clicking here or the Updates/Additions button on the upper horizontal menu of any of the other pages on this site.
  • If the cost of research is a concern, I have found that it’s best to purchase a short-term subscription for the paid site you prefer, work within this site as much as possible during the subscription period to try to find information to help break through any brick walls, and then once the subscription expires, once again use the free resources to continue. Working in this manner can save a considerable amount of money over time.

Family Tree Maker 2012 is winning me over.

When I started using it, I hated Family Tree Maker 2012.

I’m one who is very uncomfortable with change, especially if that change leaves me in an unfamiliar environment where I don’t know what to do or how to get around. I’m left feeling very frustrated and vulnerable – as was the case for the first little while with this software.

Initially, all I noticed were the glitches.

For whatever reason, when I initially installed this software, the web clip feature would not work. After several frustrated attempts, I counted to ’10’, and starting researching the issue online. There I found that others had experience the same issue and resolved it by uninstalling FTM 2012, installing an earlier version or FTM (I used FTM 9), uninstalling the new version and then reinstalling FTM 2012. I have no idea why this would be necessary, but it worked – sort of. Unfortunately, only the data clipping feature works. The web clipping feature for clipping images does not work to this day and I’m still trying to rectify that. If anyone knows the answer, I would appreciate it if you could enlighten me, PLEASE??

The interface is very different from that of RootsMagic and I had a hard time figuring out what to do. Each task I performed took substantially longer than it would have in RootsMagic because I had to use the help feature and/or the internet to learn how to do it in FTM 2012.
The basic functions of FTM 2012 are comparable to RootsMagic, but with a much more advanced interface. This can have its drawbacks, however, as I had to upgrade and buy a new computer as my old one could not run the software effectively, even though the specifications say it should have. I must say I love it on my new laptop. It was about time I upgraded, but I would have preferred to not spend the money at this time. Although the software runs well now, it frequently shuts down spontaneously. I found this rather alarming and disconcerting, but I always follow the advice upon reopening and compact the file (>Tools >Compact File), being sure to back up the software every time.

I’m not fussy about the media handling capabilities of FTM 2012 if the option of copying to the software’s own data folder is used. It seems to make multiple copies of the same file, sometimes making finding media to relink to other persons or facts very difficult. I have therefore started linking to media directly from my own genealogy media library and I’m much happier with the result.

All of this aside though, the sole reason I am staying with this software despite these very frustrating glitches is how the interface is built around a browser window in the center. It’s possible to switch between the browser window and the main ‘Person’ or ‘Family’ windows without losing my place or losing track of what I am doing. This makes it easy to compare more detailed data between ‘hints’ produced by the software and the persons already existing in my data file. With RootsMagic, it was very difficult to compare data. This was a real detriment when working with individuals in my database who did not have much information available to make a definite match with a hint. It would be all too easy to make a mistake – matching the wrong people. With FTM 2012’s browser interface, the ‘hints’ appear in a list and it’s easy to click on each link and compare the data in each hint all at once.

Let’s say I have an individual in my database for whom I have only the first name and birth date and their spouse’s name. In these cases, the information is so generic that numerous ‘hints’ can be produced. At first this looks discouraging but it’s actually a huge help. One can switch between hints in the list and compare to the data in my own database. Perhaps there’s an individual with the same name but a slightly different birth date and showing the names of both parents. Although it’s tempting to decide they’re one and the same person, there isn’t enough information to make the definite match. However, the next hint could show the individual’s name, the parents’ names and the spouse’s name. If the name of the spouse in the original data and that in the second hint open are the same, one can assume that the parents showing in the hint are the same parents if they match. With this comparison, it would be clear that all three hints refer to the same family and the data from the hints can be merged into the original database. Performing these same data comparisons in RootsMagic was very annoying and time consuming as I had to have multiple browser windows open and switch between windows, and without the benefit of the hints. I had to find my own hints, which could also be very time consuming and frustrating.

The final issue that convinced me to work with Family Tree Maker 2012 was the ability to use it on both my Windows laptop and Mac desktop. The process of converting the file is a bit ‘clunky’, but at least it’s possible – which it isn’t with RootsMagic. It’s a shame that after about ten years of using RootsMagic and numerous comments and requests that they come up with a Mac version, I had no choice but to switch. I’m not the only one who has been making this request. There are numerous entries in forums, blog posts and RootsMagic’s own forum requesting the same, only to be told to set up a virtual Windows environment on our Macs. I did so, trying every version of virtual Windows environment software available at great expense and frustration, never finding one that was ideal. The virtual desktop software are also not ‘user friendly’. If I hadn’t had a more advanced knowledge of my computers and software, I wouldn’t have had a hope of understanding it.

I look forward to the next updates where the issues I’ve mentioned above will hopefully be rectified. Once that happens, I will be 100% happy with this software.