Posted by Crista Cowan on January 6, 2012 in Family Tree Maker, Website

The first week of the new year is now behind us. I know it took me a few extra days to recover from the holiday. In fact, my mom just flew home yesterday. We had a wonderful December full of family and food and fun. I hope you did, too.

Now life is now back to a more regular routine so I’ve spent the day focusing on the upcoming year a little more clearly. I’m not much for New Years Resolutions but I am a big fan of goals. So, in the spirit of the New Year I would like to share my 2012 genealogy goals with you. I hope you will do the same.

1. Backup, Backup, Backup

If you are using Family Tree Maker (or some other desktop software program) you probably notice each time you shut down that it takes a moment to create a backup file. This is great but what happens if your computer crashes or (heaven forbid) there is some kind of disaster that affects you or your home. Today I took the time to set a reminder on my calendar for the 1st and the 15th of every month to backup my genealogy files to a remote location. I also made a note to send a copy of the file to my parents every three months. AND, I have put my passwords for both my online backup service and my account into my “Final Papers” notebook. That way if anything happens to me my family has access to all my hard work.

2. Get More Family Members Involved

That brings me to my second goal. If something ever did happen to me I hope my family would appreciate all of the hard work and the time and money (and love) that went into building our family tree. But, how can they appreciate it if I don’t ever give them an opportunity to participate? How can they recognize what went into this or even care if I haven’t allowed them to be part of the process? Over the holidays my mother and sister and I spent ten hours or so sorting through old family slides. Stories were told. Memories were made and relived. And, a plan was crafted to share these memories at my grandmother’s 90th birthday later this year. My goal this month is to create a list of other ways to help more family members be more involved in OUR family history. (Maybe I’ll share it with you in another blog post once it’s finished.)

3. Digitize, Digitize, Digitize

Those slides I was just talking about, there were over 2000 of them. They date from the early 1950s through the mid-1980s. We pulled out about 1500 of them that we are going to have digitized.  We then sorted them into clean, new boxes that we got from the company that is going to do that for us. They’re still sitting on my dining room table. The goal is to get them digitized as soon as possible. Then I need to make sure they are all tagged and labeled with the right dates and the names of all the people. Then I need to make sure copies of these pictures are shared with as many family members as possible. This is not a small job in terms of time or money. But, I have help (see #2 above) and I have some time. It’s a 2012 goal not a January goal.

4. Make Sure Everything Has A Source

I got started in family history much the same way many of you did. I was interested in learning more about who I am and where I come from. I didn’t have a lot of skill or education as to how to do it “right.” I eagerly went about collecting as much information as I could from whatever source I could to grow my family tree as big as I could as quickly as I could. What that means is that I have a whole lot of unsourced, and potentially inaccurate, information in my tree. My goal this year is to make sure that everything in my tree is sourced with all the appropriate records I can find. If I can’t find a source for the information it’s getting pruned – or at least set aside until I can prove it or disprove it.  I want to know that what I am putting out there for the world to see is as close to the truth as I can get it. This isn’t a small job. But, I am certain that if I pace myself and do a little each month, I will have a stellar tree by the end of the year.

5. Respond to Messages

Hopefully, you are all aware of the ability you have to contact other members who are researching the same family lines as you. Over the years I have contacted lots of members. Sometimes those efforts yield genealogy gold and long-term relationships with cousins I didn’t know I had. Other times I get very frustrated when I send out query after query and no one responds. Well, late last year I realized that I had a dozen or more messages from other members sitting in my Ancestry inbox that I hadn’t responded to. I was appropriately chastened. So, I have set a goal (and a reminder on my calendar) to spend some time every Friday going through my inbox and responding to other members who have emailed me. Even if it turns out they aren’t really related to me, I owe them the courtesy of a response.

There you have it – my top five genealogy goals for 2012. I have a feeling it’s going to be a great year!  And, I want to know.  What are YOUR genealogy goals for this year?

Until next time – Have fun climbing your family tree…

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Google Twitter


  1. Matt

    Some notes on #1. To make backing up your tree files as effortless a possible, there are a few easy ways to automate this process. 1) If you are using FTM 2012, you can sync it with an tree, giving you a backup in a way. 2)Site will scan your hard drive and backup all family tree files you may have in a multitude of genealogy formats. 3) You could place a copy of you tree files and data in a DropBox ( folder, which will then be uploaded to your online DropBox account. 4) There is also CrashPlan ( which can help with sending files to your parents.

    For me this year, I will probably focus on your #2 & #3 and just generally getting more organized.

  2. Christa,

    I have a major comment in your first paragraph.

    “If you are using Family Tree Maker (or some other desktop software program) you probably notice each time you shut down that it takes a moment to create a backup file.”

    I suggest that the Automatic “Back Up” that you wrote about is NOT a Back Up. It is a COPY of the file that you are closing. The Filesize, the Date / Time stamp will be the SAME.

    Within Each version of Family Tree Maker is a File, Back Up Command. If you run that, in most cases, the Filesize will be different. That is because the Back Up command, does file maintenance, before the file is written to the Disk.

    I can NOT tell you how many End Users, like myself, have assumed that the Auto Back Up was a good back up.

    And while you are at the back up, every once in a while to a File, Restore, just to test to make sure that the Back Up works.

    The good news is, that with FTM2008 – FTM2012 the Back Up that is created from the File menu, will contain the Date of the Back Up as part of the filename. So, when you do the File Restore, you will not have to worry about your working file being over written. AND you can then Delete this Test of the Back Up file when you are done.

    Thank you,


  3. Janet

    Do you have suggestions for companies that digitize? Or suggestions how to find reliable ones? I have many slides too and worry I won’t find a reputable company. I feel like I’ll be sending my family off into the great unknown!

  4. Rick

    I just went to a local business the other day that digitized slides and I only had about 250 slides with pictures of people. They gave me a price of $.50 a side which was more than I wanted to pay. I have a Canon EOS Rebel T3 with a 18-55mm lens. I am not a very knowledgeable photographer, but I was able to set up a jig to back light the slides and take pictures of them using a tripod to hold the camera. Using the auto focus feature, I saved all of the pictures to my PC and used photo software to crop and fix some of the colors and played slide show for my wife tonight. You might try a few slide if you have a simiar camera to see how they may look for you. The lens was about 5.5 inches from the slide when I took the picture.

  5. Janet

    Sadly Rick, mine are Kodak slides taken in the 50’s and 60’s. I’d never be able to do them justice. Thanks. The advice might help someone else.

  6. Rebekah

    Another goal could be to create a book on some of your family’s history. It could include a story as well as many pictures. Ancestry’s MyCanvas section does a marvelous job and is user friendly. I’ve done books on my mother’s family and recently on my husband’s family. I included copies of the many records I had located on Ancestry and other places as well as copies of documents in my possession. I then sent invitations to his relatives so they could order their own copy. I also created books within Family Tree Maker and had a copy shop make copies and bind with spiral binding and sent to relatives. Sometimes that helps create interest in researching history and gives more people access to your research.

  7. BEE

    I bought a “film and slide digital converter” a couple of years ago on a close-out sale at one of the “big-box” stores. Unfortunately, I didn’t do any research until long after the purchase. After reading all the comments online, I decided to return it, but I had it so long, they wouldn’t take it back, so I decided to give it a try.
    Once I figured it out, I was pleased with the results. These were very old slides from the 1950s.
    We already had some put on a DVD at a local photo shop, and I think my work came out just as well. From the computer, I put them on a flash drive and then printed them out, but I suppose it would have been possible to put them on a DVD.
    I’m sure there are newer, better products than the one I bought, and might be worth the cost and effort.

  8. Dana

    My brother sent many slides to ScanCafe ( located in Burlingame CA, a few years ago. He had done no organizing or sorting beforehand so the order was haphazard but the CD they put together was good and I have been able to use the photos for my tree or other projects without difficulty. I am not sure what happens to the originals but I can find out from my brother–he sent them about 800 slides.

  9. Rosanna

    I need to do all of these goals this year. My end goal is a book so my goal right now is to organize my information, find any holes or gaps in research, make sure everything is sourced properly so that I can begin writing. As far as scans make sure you find someone that does them in-house. The place I took my baby picture slides to shipped them out and they were lost. If I had a lot to do I would invest in my own slide digitizer. I love to respond to messages on my Ancestry but I have 5 trees and many times I can’t remember which tree a certain person is on – I wish the messages contained the name of the tree being referenced.

  10. Monika

    4. Make sure everything has its source!
    I recently had a new “leaf” on one of my ancestors profile page, and it turned out that this “leaf” took me to 12 ancestry trees. All 12 of them said that my ancestor died in 1862 and then gave her six children that were born between 1863 and 1871. It was clear that one person “created” this data and the other 11 copied it without using their brains. I wrote to all of them! Two responded by saying “whoops”, the others did not! All twelve of them still have the same data in their trees and there will be others coming along, I am sure, who will copy that data as is! All of my trees used to be public. When I discovered that people would take accurate data from my tree, but then change it to fit their needs, I made all my trees private. But, even when you have private trees, people can infer information from your tree when they are in “search” mode. So, recently, someone who has a public tree, decided to put me and my mother in her tree (even though she is in no way related to us…thank God!,,,but when you have 27,000 people in your tree I guess you start feeling related to everyone. Unfortunately, she decided that both my mother and I are dead (we are both still very much alive), thereby “outing” all of our data. Then she proceeded to make my husband my SECOND husband (I was only married once). She gave us two children (we never had any children)…oh, and she had my parents immigrate from Europe to Hawaii (neither of them ever had the pleasure of coming to the United States). I put a very nice message in her “comments” section, simply making her aware of these inaccuracies and asking her not to show my mother and me as deceased. She responded in the fowlest language asking me to mind my own business and I had to involve to force her to not show us as deceased. I guess, in protest she made her tree “private” (Thank God! That way all the brainless people who copy blindly, will not copy her mistakes)! Before she did I noticed that she had also given my husband the wrong father, but, by then, I did not have the energy left to deal with that! At least, now that she has a private tree no one can copy her inaccurate data! But I decided to now not only have my trees private, but also as “do not show in index”. I do not know what could do to reign in the people who try and turn into a playground for junkologists.

  11. jeanette walker

    When you back up your information it is a good idea to update the mode of backup = years ago I used a zip drive because it could hold more information than my computer. Later I found out I have no way the zip drives and had to redo what I had done.

  12. Betty Chambers

    I have inherited letters from my g-g-grandfather to his wife during the Civil War. They span over the four years that he away. They are really intersting and I would like to find a way to share them but I’m not sure how. This year is the year to complete transcribing them and share this history. Any ideas?

  13. Susan

    Betty, I scanned some letters and pages from family Bible and uploaded them to tree info. but never discovered how to share them at large. I really like the goals you have set up Crista. I will be adopting some of them for myself. Getting my information right, corrected and supported is a biggie. You are right, Monika, we newbies (ME) tend to stretch things sometimes in our (MY) anxiousness to get everything settled about a person. I hope I have not caused the kind of trouble that you have had to go through!

  14. Kirk Sellman

    Betty, scan the letters and upload them to your tree to share them with others. Also, upload the transcription to make it easier for others to know exactly what was in the letters.

  15. Mark

    #5 — Too late for me to verify this tonight, but I believe that in, you can specify (in email preferences or notifications) that certain actions, such as a message to you, will trigger an email to you.

    The other day, someone contacted me via ancestry, and I knew about it because I received an email. Might want to check that out.

    Re Monika’s comments, I’m find it hard to believe that someone can reveal private data from your tree by including you in their tree. Perhaps I misunderstand her comments. When I see info about living people in someone’s tree, there is nothing I can share. It says private. Please elaborate so I may understand.

  16. pat

    Monika is right about people just keep copying what other people have, it drives me crazy. so if one person writes down a wrong date or info, 11 other people will copy it. I have wrote to many , I tell them you need to follow that person in the census, look to see if you have the right census by looking to see if its the same kids and wife or not. also if someone can’t find them in a certain year they put down that they died. I get crazy over this. I wished people would just get clues from other people but double check it , ook for documents, census, see if it makes sense! I had to get that off my chest. I do have a question about family tree maker, I understand it connects with ancestry and that is great, but what if we don’t have a subscription for a while with ancestry, can we still use out family tree maker? thanks

  17. Jeff Ford

    As to goal #2, that’s great if you can get others involved. One BIG problem that I have, is that I might have individuals semi-interested in their branch of the family but I have NO one, besides myself, interested in the entire family.

  18. Monika

    #15 – You are absolutely correct, my e-mail informs me within minutes of someone having left a message on

    Also, actually even the data from private trees that you can find in “search” mode can be very helpful to you! Yes, you do have to do some of your own research. It’s not as easy as blindly copying from a public tree, but the data from private trees in the “search” mode can be very helpful as well. Example: The person in question (in my blog #10) is remotely related via a second marriage to my husband’s grandfather. That is what people who have 27,000 people in their tree do. They add the lines that marry into the lines, that marry into the lines, that marry into the lines, and this is how they come up with that many people in their tree. (I have my hand’s full just sticking to the direct blood line!) SO, persuing one of the lines that married into her tree, she stumbles onto my husband’s grandfather’s name. Now, she can go and look at the census records of 1900 to 1930. Those records tell her the names of all of his children. She now puts all of his children into her tree. One of them is my mother-in-law! She goes into “search” mode on my mother-in-law. There, in “Search” it says “Private Member Stories – Name of my mother-in-law (1914-2010) OBIT”. So, now she also has the death year–not just the birth year given on the census records) and she knows that she can find an obit on She goes after that obit which, of course, mentions the names of the surviving children. So, now she puts all of them into her tree. One of them is my husband! So, now–even though he was born after the 1930 Census was taken, up comes his birth record of 1933 on Once she has that, she can easily find his marriage record as well, which mentions my name. Once she has that, she can download all the data about me (e.g., my Naturalization papers of 1968 are on, my marriage record, the addresses where I used to live these last fifty years, as well as the address (city) where I currently live, etc.) And so on and so forth! You get the picture! I have found a large amount of data by taking a close look at what the data in “search” mode reveals about people in private trees (e.g., birth and death years, marriage dates, etc.). But, since you can find gazillion people by my maiden name on, she got derailed into giving me second husbands and children I never had. So, whether you copy from public trees or private trees due diligence is important.

  19. Monika

    #15 – I just re-read my message (#18), and I think it would have been more obvious that the data was collected from a private tree if I had used my mother (who never lived in the United States) as an example, instead of my mother-in-law. But, I am sure you get my point! The point is that the data that you can find in the “search” mode when looking at private tree data can be helpful to you when building your tree….if used correctly!

  20. Valerie B Garton

    1. Backup
    Thanks for this timely reminder. This has been on my ” must do ” list for eyars AND is still there.
    I am using Legacy which does its own backup as one leaves the program BUT I need to also have a backup somewhere else.
    Can I have some suggestions please.
    Cheers from Valerie in sunny Sydney

  21. Chris

    The point you miss, Monika, in your post #18, is that all of the “private” information you said was exposed by tree activity could just as easily have been discovered by someone never looking at a Member Tree. The census records, birth records, obituaries, marriage records, naturalization records, city directories ….. all can be found from a myriad of sources including but not limited to

    The moral of the story? The information that you think should be private never was private, and you can’t blame that on Ancestry or tree searchers.

  22. Chris

    For Valerie, #20: copy your backup file to a flash drive (thumb drive). Copy it to the cloud, via one of the many free cloud storage services. Copy it to your own personal web space that your ISP may provide. Copy it to a CD or DVD and give it to a relative/friend/neighbor, or put in in a bank box.

  23. Monika

    Chris #21
    You did a poor job of reading my original message (#10). The subject matter of my message was “Make sure everything has its source!” I said “people can INFER information from your tree when they are in “search” mode!” (That is true whether you have a public or private tree.) NOWHERE did I say that this information was private! I do not have a problem with people having me in their tree (particularly if they should be related to me). All I am asking for is “do not show me as dead when I am still alive, because now you have unwittingly disregarded the rules of that say that you are not to “out” a living person in your tree!” And, if you have me in your tree, when you are barely related to me, at least make sure that your information is accurate and don’t give me husbands and children I never had. Where, in ANY of my messages did I refer to any of this data as “private” data? It is as important to interpret data on correctly as it is important to interpret messages in the blog section correctly! Even though I choose to keep my trees private, I invest an inordinate amount of my time in contacting others on to share data I have and add data to their trees that I have been able to obtain by visiting the places where these people lived (visiting historical museums in these places, taking pictures in cemeteries, etc.). We all contribute in our own ways, whether we choose to keep our trees public or private. My concern are the people who–unlike you–do not take a close look at census records, birth records, etc., and, in the process, turn genealogy into junkology. (E.g. Margarette Gamble who unquestionably was born in New York–confirmed by Census records, books written about the Goodrich family, and other historical data. But everybody who has her in their tree has her born in Moline, Illinois (unsourced data on One World Tree). THEN, because that was the only sets of parents they were able to find for her under the name of Gamble, they give her a set of parents who have lived (and died) their entire lives in Tennessee. So, the mother gives this Margarette birth in 1813, in Moline, Illinois, and then she has no additional children until she gives birth to all of her other nine children between 1846 and 1866, all of whom were born in Tennessee. Poor woman: she gave birth over a period of 53 years! What good are all the sources on if people use them in this fashion.) What good is a “source” if people misuse it?? Anyway, thanks for your input!

  24. Helen Spencer

    I have a large pile of ‘stuff for scanning’! Just a little tip for folks looking for a unique way to digitize – try It’s a family website designed to help you preserve your memories in chronological order on a timeline of your life (or any family members’ lives). Free to use too.

  25. Lauri

    I see that Rick already talked about using his digital camera for slides. This is what I used and they turned out fine. I had about 3500 slides from both my husband and my families. I used a lightbox to put the slide on, making a template to show where the slide should go. Set up the tripod so the camera was parallel to the lightbox, used autofocus and started taking pictures of the slides. Key is to have everything level, so used a small level. I got all 3500 slides done in two weekends. You need to do a bit of cropping, but it goes quickly. A friend had one of the machines and it took him over a year at about 1 slide per minute. For volume, I think it is worth a try.

  26. Mark

    Maybe I’m unusual, but really, I don’t give a hoot what people do with the data I share. I use the trees of other people rarely, and then only to get a few new ideas to try to find support for. In fact, in FTM, I set the option to NOT show me hints from family trees. Too many people are just out to add names, with no discipline at all. I fall more into the amateur historian category, and want to have reliable info. Life is too short to get wound up about stuff I can’t control.

  27. This is a great article and has goals that I need to make in 2012 Doing genealogy research for my family tree has taken me many years and I would hate to lose it. So I will Backup, Backup, Backup as recommended.

  28. I have a great suggestion as to how to get your family members really involved in your family history. RECORD their memories also and thereby create a LIVING branch of your family tree and preserve those memories forever. I have been recording “oral” history for some years now and have worked with the National Library of Australia Oral History Program, and now run my own business recording family history. But I can’t be in more than one place at a time, and it can be a time consuming occupation, so I have complied a very easy to follow ebook to enable families to record their own memories. It’s not complicated, and it;s not difficult. It IS enjoyable. So why not check out my site at and pick up a copy of my easy ebook. I am passionate about this and want everyone else to share, as I did, in the joy that hearing your loved ones’ voices, long after they have gone. MJ xo

  29. I also have a comment for Jeff … Jeff, don’t worry about family members not being interested in the entire family history … just get whoever is interested in TALKING. It’s really important, as they are your LIVING history, and can provide up to date information for future generations. And the oral history recordings can be transcribed into written word to place with your family tree. It’s like trying to eat an elephant if you’re trying to get everyone to be interested in the entire history. People traditionally like talking about what they know, usually themselves, and there are many great connections that will come out of it, so I’d say, just get started and “eat the elephant one bite at a time”. Good Luck. MJxo

  30. Michael Jones

    I’ve asked over the years about a report that would show all data that had no source and have always been told it didn’t exist. Did FTM 2012 add this? If not, how do you know what you have that needs a source added? With 16,000 people in my tree and many facts per person, there is no way I could go through them all just looking for something with no source attached.

Comments are closed.