Weekly Planner: Set Family History Goals

As we look towards 2009, let’s set some goals in our family history research. Whether your goal is to finally find great-grandpa in the 1900 census, to file that stack of papers, label those photographs, or master a new skill–make a list of things you’d like to accomplish this year. Put it on your desktop where you can review it regularly. Then take each item and set up a plan to make it happen. For example, you could set aside a certain amount of time each day to browse through the census for great-grandpa, even if it’s just ten minutes over that morning cup of coffee. Keep track of where you left off for the next day. File or label photos for fifteen minutes a day. Investigate webinars, classes, or publications that can help you further your research and grow your skills. Let’s make this a great year for your family history!

It’s Not What You Find, It’s What You Do With It, by Juliana Smith

We’ve come a long way technologically with family history research tools. Years ago locating a record sometimes meant many hours cranking away at a microfilm reader and often transcribing the record because there was no machine to print it out. Now, with many records, we can sit in the comfort of our homes and locate our ancestors with the click of a mouse. Another click prints a copy, and with another click we can attach it to our electronic family tree. Voila! We’re done.

Ah, not so fast. While I love the advances that technology has brought us, sometimes we’re a little too quick to attach the record to our tree and move on. That wonderful find is relegated to a kind of electronic purgatory where we never fully explore it.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure that you’re getting the most from every find:

1. Transcribe it.
While this might seem a bit tedious, the act of transcribing a record forces you to read and think about every element of the record. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can glean from a find when you examine it closely.

2. Put it in context.
Create a chronology or timeline for all the records you’ve found on your ancestor and copy your transcription into that timeline. Seeing the information in the context of other information you have found can help you to estimate important dates and learn more about your ancestor.

3. Create an action or to-do list.
While you’re plucking clues from your new find, ideas will pop into your head for follow-ups. Keep a to-do list open on your desktop and add these ideas as they come to you. That way you don’t risk forgetting about them, and the next time you get a chance to return to your research, you know exactly where to start. Continue reading

Missing Links? Try Religious Records, by Loretto D. Szucs

St Matthew Chapel Westmeath-crop.jpgReligious records rank among the most promising sources for discovering dates, places, and family relationships. In fact, in years before civil registration of vital statistics (a relatively late development in the United States and some other countries), religious or church records rank as the best available sources for birth, marriage and death information.

Traditionally, various denominations have kept different types of records. For example, presbyteries transferred membership records when a member moved to the new church. For centuries, Catholics and most Protestant denominations have kept careful records of baptisms and marriages that included names of godparents and witnesses–many of whom were relatives. Some religions baptized later in life and these records will contain important information about adult members.

Death and funeral information was not always recorded in official registers by some denominations and may therefore be harder to find.

Locating Religious Records
Church records themselves are becoming increasingly available on the Internet. Put the name of the denomination of interest into a search together with the name of the place where your ancestors lived and you may be pleasantly surprised to find great clues. The Jewish Family History Collection is just one indication of how rapidly religious sources are being added to Ancestry.com. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: The Benefits of Posting Family History Online, from Juliana Smith

tobin card.jpgThis Christmas I was able to give my mother a one-of-a-kind gift. A while back, I wrote about my Tobin hatters in an article that was posted to the 24/7 Family History Circle blog. A lady in England had happened across an old business card for “Tobin’s New Hat Store” in New York and posted it for sale on eBay. Thankfully, she did a quick search for more information online about Tobin hatters in New York and found my article posted on the blog. She left the information in the comments section of the blog and I was able to bid on and win the auction for that card. For a very modest sum, I was able to give my mom one of the best gifts ever! And the interesting image on the card had the whole family talking about it on Christmas night. What on earth does a donkey serenading a goose (Mother Goose?) have to do with a hat shop? If you have any thoughts on the meaning of the image, please share them with me through the comments section of the blog. I’d love to hear your ideas!

You don’t have to have a blog to broadcast your family history interests, although it is an increasingly easy and popular way to share your interests and finds publicly. Public Trees on Ancestry are a great way to connect with cousins or complete strangers who may have valuable information or long-lost heirlooms. Every day more people decide to explore their family history and search Ancestry.com looking for leads. If your tree is out there, that search can lead possible family members to you.

Message boards are another great way to share your family surname interests and leave a breadcrumb trail for those with information to share.

How much you choose to share is entirely up to you, but even just the names, estimated dates, and locations of your ancestors may lead you to a family treasure too!

Your Quick Tips, 05 January 2008

Simplify Finding Distances between Locations
Not long ago I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how far my ancestor lived from the cemetery that I believe he is buried in “as the crow flies.” I could locate both locations on a map, but didn’t know where roads might have been on the frontier. I have since found a free website for joggers and bikers very useful for getting distances. GMaps Pedometer allows you to get straight line distances (manual) between two or more points.

Distances on current roads are available taking into account curves and turns onto other roads (automatic). This will be useful to get an exact driving distance from a landmark to a cemetery or other location. The site is based on Google Maps and has that look and feel to it. Double click to set your start, turn, and end points. I like to zoom in quite a bit and then click and hold to move the map when my route starts to go off the edge. The cyclist route will not let you go down a one-way street the wrong way like the runner route would.  

Gerald M. Graves
Van Meter, Iowa Continue reading

The Year Was 1905

The year was 1905 and it marked the end of the Russo-Japanese War, which was fought over a dispute stemming from Russia’s occupation of territory in Manchuria. Losing a series of costly battles made the war unpopular in Russia. In January 1905 when protesters assembled at the Tsar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present a petition asking for better working conditions and an end to the Russo-Japanese War, the Imperial Guard opened fire on the crowd turning the peaceful protest into a massacre. “Bloody Sunday” led to riots and strikes throughout Russia as resentment for the Tsar spread. The disorganized Revolution of 1905 forced the Tsar into concessions, many of which were quickly withdrawn, leaving little change other than the temporary break-up of the revolutionary factions that were fighting for change. 

Norway, which had been united with Sweden since 1814, made a peaceful break and became in independent nation with the signing of the Karlstad Agreement.

Canada added two new provinces in 1905 as Alberta and Saskatchewan, formerly part of the Northwest Territories, joined the Canadian Confederation. Continue reading

Photo Corner, 05 January 2008

Henry RoseContributed by Andrew Nichols, Phoenix, Arizona
This is a picture of my great-great-grandfather, Henry Rose, just back from a successful rabbit hunt.  This picture was taken in the late 1800s near Agra, Kansas.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Henry Lowe, Aunt Lucille, and Grandmother Lowe in their 1908 MaxwellContributed by Donna and George Ballamy
This picture is of my Grandfather Henry Lowe, Aunt Lucille, and Grandmother Lowe in their 1908 Maxwell.