Monday, September 29, 2008

Organizing Your Genealogy

As I complete the finishing touches on my move - I realize that this is the perfect opportunity to organize all of that family history information, pictures, and other odds and ends related to genealogy.

So first - I'll discuss the paper files, which is often the first genealogical issue that comes up when it comes to organizing your genealogy. First, I'll give you some basic tips on this and then I will delve a little deeper to the specifics. Then, I'll give you some tips on organizing all of those pictures that you have (or soon will - trust me). Finally, I'll give you some basic tips on scanning those pictures and organizing them once they scanned.

Basic Tips About Paper Files:
  1. There are 3 charts that will be your best friend through all of this genealogy: Pedigree Chart, Family Group Chart, Research Log. You can find these charts all over the web for free ( offers some nice ones) and often times your genealogy software will be able to print one out for you. There are so many slightly different styles with these, depending on how many generations you want to show and how fancy you want it (Basic black and white to ones with color and borders). Pick what you like - and stick with it!
  2. Pick a system - file folders or binders. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages to them - and it really is a preference. Some genealogists swear by binders, others by filing cabinets. If you aren't sure which you like - try a trial run for a week to test it out. I had to learn through trial and error also to figure out what style I wanted.
  3. What are your categories going to be? Well - personally, I like sorting everything by surname. Then, I can easily find exactly what I want. But others like sorting by record type (Like all birth records in one area, all census records in another), but personally, I find that too confusing. Others like to number every person and document (There are a TON of different systems) but I personally have never liked numbers and feel that it doesn't fit my needs.

Organizing Your Paper Files - Specific:

  1. Two words: Archival Safe. Please - please start now and make sure the important stuff is archival safe. That means that these items are acid-free and that the plastics are PVC free. This is especially important with original documents, letters, and anything that needs to be preserved for a long time. I would even prefer if you put your basic charts in archival safe stuff, since it will save you trouble in the long run.
  2. Depending on the type of person you are, you may find it highly beneficial to color code your filing labels. I follow a system of colors for each of my 4 grandparents and the code follows with their ancestors. That way, I can see at a glance, what side of the tree a person came from.
  3. Label, Label, Label. Give everything a home and a name! But with the home, make sure that there are ways to add information or people easily, because you'd be suprised how fast something like that comes up.

Organizing Those Pictures:

  1. Archival Safe. If there is any question in your mind about whether or not a piece of paper or plastic is archival safe, please be sure to ask. It is better to keep those precious pictures safe than to have them destroyed. This includes wearing gloves before you touch these pictures because the oil on your hands can damage the pictures. I know it sounds annoying, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
  2. The first thing I usually do, is seperate the pictures into groups and place them into archival safe envelopes. Sometimes the pictures are all about a particular person or event - even a year. Then as time goes by, it'll be easier to just grab an envelope and begin scanning whenever you get the chance.
  3. Then, you need to buy boxes and storage for these pictures for their permanent home. Once you have scanned the pictures and they are out of their envelopes, they can be placed into the boxes and stored in a cool, dry place. Try to think of the safest place you can that will have a consistent temperature and won't come into contact with moisture. If you can, store these pictures in a place that you can access at quick notice - in case you must evacuate your house because of a disaster. I know it is hard to think about, but the reality is that these sort of things happen and if you have the chance to grab those pictures - do it!

Organizing the Pictures On the Computer:

  1. First things first - save every picture in a .tif format instead of a .jpeg - it is better quality for the picture.
  2. Scan at a resolution of atleast 300 dpi. Dpi stands for "dots per inch". The more dots, the nicer the picture looks.
  3. Every picture that I scan is given a number AND a title. Most people only do a title or last name, but I prefer both because I like the advantages of both. Each picture is given a number so that I can index the pictures and easily find the person or place that I want. I also use the title, because sometimes I know what picture I want, but I don't know where the number is.
  4. I personally save my pictures into 2 places to make sure that there is always one around - even if my harddrive fails. I save some of the pictures to a flashdrive and the rest on my harddrive.
  5. I save my pictures and documents that I scan into a folder on my desktop called "Genealogy". Then there is one folder for "Pictures" and one for "Documents". Within there, everything is organizing by Surname, First Name or by the event. (As for married women I usually write their names like this when I do it: Married Name, First Name Maiden Name). If I feel that there are too many pictures in one particular file, then I will reorganize it.
  6. Remember how I mentioned that index? Well, I create the index in Microsoft Word, but you could certainly do it in whatever manner you want. Some people prefer Excel, but really it is all up to you. I then organize the index by both person and event - then listing the number of the picture, so that way I can easily see what pictures and how many each person or event has.

Alright - so I hope that this has been an article that will inspire you to look at your documents and think about how organized they are. You might find yourself re-organizing everything.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Teacher Of The Year

As I was packing all of the vast amounts of pictures, newspaper clippings, and old letters that I have recieved over the years from family member, I came across a newspaper clipping about my Uncle Dudley.

My Uncle Dudley was a teacher for many, many years. He taught in the U.S. as well as overseas in Spain, Morrocco, and Germany. He taught everything from kindergarten to high school, and even served as a high school counselor at one point. He had a Masters in Education from California State Los Angeles...his life and passion was with children.

He had a way of breaking the rules with teaching, and yet coming out on top. He went above and beyond the standards of being a teacher...

I remember being a kid and discovering a photo album full of pictures of children and a classroom. I started asking him questions and he was very enthusiastic as he answered my questions. This photo album in particular was of a kindergarten class he taught in Pasadena, California. He showed me a picture of the "reading corner" which included a Morroccan rug to sit on, pillows from spain, and hand carved bookshelves with a lion's head carved into the corner. It was magnificent and beautiful how he incorporated his travels in with his classroom. He made learning a fun adventure - something to be embraced.

I then learned that this was a photo album of only one of his years of teaching. He had one album for each year and class. In the back of the albums he had letters and pictures that his former students had sent them as they got older.

That dedication and passion for children and teaching is what earned him the Teacher Of The Year Award in California. His write up in the paper is what I found:

It was probably him and the rest of the teachers in my family (another uncle, an aunt, my grandparents taught odd classes at a community college, and my cousin) who inspired me to become a teacher. Since I was in kindergarten, I've wanted to become a teacher. I guess it is in my blood to be one.

He touched so many people throughout his life as a teacher: I met my best friend because of him. I was in 7th grade and a girl next to me was talking to a small group of her friends about how her mom had had this teacher who had the weird last name of Doerflinger. All of the girls began laughing and I marched over there angry and told them that my last name was Doerflinger. They all looked at me with shock on their face, and made me pull out my school ID card to prove that I wasn't just kidding. I then told her that I had lots of people in my family who were teachers and sure enough - my Uncle Dudley was her mom's teacher. Ever since, we've been best friends.

At his Celebration Of Life, people came from all over the country to honor him. We had 6 tables of people who were only his students, and tables upon tables full of cards from those that couldn't make it. So many of his former students stood up to speak and told the stories of how he had been such a wonderful teacher and mentor to them. One person spoke of how Dudley had saved his life when he was depressed in high school. Another person spoke of how Dudley had gotten him into a loving foster care because his home life was not good. Everyone had wonderful things to say about him.

As I go through college persuing my dream of becoming a teacher, I think of him and his passion for teaching. I know that if someday I am a fraction of how good he was - I will be proud. He is what I strive to someday be.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hilarious Pictures Of My Family

While I was searching through the old photos today (getting sidetracked from packing), I discovered a hilarious picture of my grandpa and I when I was a baby. I then remembered that there was yet another Genea-Bloggers Carnival on funny images - and I knew I just had to share it.

Now, this picture was taken in 1989, when I was only a few months old. My mom took me to visit my grandpa in the hospital. He was sick and suffering from Alzhiemers, but seeing me seemed to brighten up his days since my grandma had passed away the year before. The family often gathered around his bedside, bringing him trinkets and asking him to tell stories from his childhood.

In the picture, you'll see my aunt holding me as she sat on my grandpa's bed. Look closely at what my grandpa is reading - it is pretty funny!

Did you see it?! When I first discovered this picture a few years back (I was about 11), I was all giggles. When she told me that she was the one who bought it for her, my expression turned to shock and suprise. (If you can't tell what it is - he is reading a Playboy Magazine...Blogger seemed to make the picture blurry)

"Well, what else do you get an old man who is dying?!" she replied.

Alright - so there you have it. My submission for a funny picture.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Moving...And How it Affects Your Genealogy

Well, come Sunday, I will be moving a town over to another apartment. In this process, I have been cleaning out all the clutter in my room and going through the mass amounts of stuff that I have.

As I was doing this, I began to find more old letters, pictures, and newspaper clippings in a box stuffed in a cabinet in the hall. I began looking through them and I was stunned as I realized that I didn't even know I had them! (And the dangerous part is - they weren't in archival safe boxes!)

My packing instantly stopped as I began to search through the gigantic box of information. I never even knew it was in my house...and yet, here I was staring at old letter my grandmother wrote to her father, hand drawn Christmas cards, and pages from old family albums that I didn't know existed.

Then I came into a huge brick wall...What am I going to do with all of this stuff? The pile I have of the things I need to scan is already to the ceiling - and I am beginning to wonder when I am going to have the time to scan, label, and organize all of it. I now have A LOT more archival safe boxes to buy come November when my grant money gets in...(Yes, I spend my school grant money on genealogy - don't tell!)

I love being the family historian, I really do. I love getting all the stories and going on the hunt to find out more. Trust me, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have all of this stuff...but please - cut a girl some slack! Scanning is not the most fun part of genealogy!

Oh well, I just thought I'd give you a quick update on that, and explain that things might be slow on here for a week or so. I apologize for that, and trust me, I'd rather be writing than packing!

When I get back online, I have some wonderful things to show you and some suggestions to share with you about scanning your pictures and such!

Update: Abba-Dad made a create comment with a good question. I'll answer it in detail on another post, but I'll give you the Cliff Notes version right now.
The question was: "What kind of archival safe boxes do you use? I don't even know where to look for some and have no clue what's good and what's crap."
My answer: Well, I use boxes that specifically say "Archival Safe" on them and if it has plastic, I make sure that it is PVC-free. I know that there are a bunch of websites online where you can buy them, but I get mine from a scrapbooking store near my house. Ask someone at a craft store - especially one with a focus on scrapbooking or framing because they should be able to lead you into the right direction.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Getting To Know Me, Getting To Know Elyse's Genealogy Blog

Hi everyone!

Over on Facebook, Terry Thorton challenged all of us Genea-Bloggers to write up a post about ourselves so that others can get to know us. is mine.

I am a 19 year old genealogist...yes, you read correctly...only 19. Whenever someone discovers my age and my number one hobby, they always get shocked. I gotta admit though - I wouldn't change it for the world.

I started genealogy when I was about 13 years old. I have always thought of history as an interesting subject (which my mom gets credited for - all those weekends watching the History Channel really pays off!). When I was about 12 or so, my Aunt Deb began to play around with As she started showing me all that she was learning, I began to slowly catch the genealogy bug.

However, it wasn't until I went to visit my Grandpa when I was about 13 that I became completely and utterly addicted. He lives in Tennessee in a rural town in the Appalacian Mountains. The controversy, the secrets, the rural lifestyle - I was hooked! It was better than any soap opera that you could watch on daytime TV!

Since then, I've been addicted. My addiction has certainly made me an odd teenager: I asked for a filing cabinet for my 16th birthday, I asked for an all-in-one printer-copier-scanner for Christmas 2 years ago, and I begged and pleaded for an subscription from anyone who would listen. As I did this, my parents looked at me like I was a foreign being.

My mom has a saying that I think describes me rather well: "Elyse - you are either 6 or 60...and never in between!"

My goal in writing this blog has always been to share my love of genealogy. I wanted to document my frustrations in genealogy while also giving you guys the lessons I've learned along the way.

I want to now share with you some of my articles that I am very proud of:

1.) My brightest article: How To Fix Your Newbie Mistakes ( This article describes the hard lessons I have learned over the years when it come to genealogy

2.) My breeziest article: My New Heart Award ( This article just shows my huge appreciation for everyone who reads my blog - you guys always brighten up my day!

3.) My most beautiful: What Would You Save? ( While this article has some seriousness to it, it includes pictures of some of my most valuable possessions. I love these heirlooms and I feel so honored that I have them.

If any of you want to get to know me or have any questions or just feel like talking - you can email me at You can also become my friend on Facebook if you'd like (just look me up). And of course, I love reading the comments you guys leave on my articles - they really brighten up my day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My New Heart Award

I feel so blessed this morning thanks to Linda in Lancaster (Find her blog, From Axer to Ziegler at She gave me the "New Heart Award".

I'll admit that I have never heard of this before - but I certainly think its a great way to honor our fellow bloggers. It is good to feel like someone is reading this crazy blog of mine.

So, the rules (as far as I can tell) are that I have to give the award to 7 other blogs, and leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know that I have given the award to them.

So the 7 blogs that I believe deserve this award are:

  • DearMyrtle's Genealogy Blog: This blog is honestly one of my favorites. Not only is Pat Richley (DearMyrtle) one of the sweetest people I know on facebook, she is also incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to genealogy. She knows what she is talking about. (
  • 24/7 Family History Circle: I am not a huge fan of, but Juliana Smith sure knows how to write an interesting and helpful article. I love the tips she gives because they are practical and creative. I highly suggest reading her weekly planner! (
  • Rainy Day Genealogy Readings: This is such an interesting blog. Great, well-written articles on genealogy. A great, must read! (
  • I Find Dead People: The title says it all! (
  • Writing Your Memories: A great blog full of wonderful tips about how to begin writing your own memories. She makes writing so much less painful! (
  • The Baca/Douglass Genealogy and Family History Blog: Not only is the author a kind, helpful person on Facebook to anyone who has genealogy related questions, but he also knows how to keep his own genealogy interesting - even to those who aren't related to him. (
  • GeneaNet Genealogy Blogs - GeneaSofts: A great read. Lots of information about genealogy software. Definitely a useful blog! (

Alright everyone - Thank you so much for honoring me with this award! I hope you check the above blogs out because they really are great reads. Good luck, and happy ancestor hunting!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Scanning, Scanning, Scanning

Ah - a dream of every genealogist is to have photos, letters, and other pieces of paper that give a clue as to the everyday life of our ancestors.

Well, since I've been letting everyone in my family know that I am doing genealogy (and trust me, it hasn't been an easy task to get everyone to listen), they began giving me boxes and boxes of photos, letters, funeral cards - you name it.

While I love these precious items because they bring my family to life in ways that a census record never could, I get a headache just thinking about scanning, labeling, and storing all of these items safely.

It is a daunting task! I want to make sure that I do all of this right so that my children may have these items someday. But how do you do it right? Well - that requires research, lots and lots of research.

I know that one of the few things that are keeping my sane is playing music as I scan. The good beat atleast keeps me from loosing my mind!

So what are some of the things that YOU recommend to make scanning easier, more enjoyable, and safe for your items? I would love to hear from you guys!

Friday, September 12, 2008

What Would You Save? (Meme: Family Heirlooms)

With all the hurricanes and evacuations going around, I think it is vital that everyone start thinking about an evacuation plan; both for yourself and for your family history.

Let's say, that tommorrow you were told that you had to leave your house immediately. Maybe you only have 30 minutes to grab what you can and get out. What would you save?

When making this decision, you have to find a way to choose what to save - and things that would certainly go under this category would be family heirlooms and pictures. These items can't be replaced like a census or death record can - besides, I already have most of my genealogy scanned and online so I can access it from anywhere if need be.
So what would I save? Well here are a few things I would certainly save:

I recieved this kaliedoscope on my birthday. After my uncle died, he left me a lot of precious jewlery, but the only thing I wanted was a kaliedoscope that used to sit in his guest bedroom. As a child I spent hours gazing into it. It is something that is very precious to me.

Another object or objects I would save would be the metal statues that my grandpa created throughout his life. While my mother and I only own a few of the many he made, these are very precious to me. Since I never knew my grandfather (except for the first few months of my life before his death), these items are very precious to me and bring his personality to life for me.

I would also save my filing cabinet, which houses a lot of photos in protective boxes and albums and a few other small items from my family. I would carry that filing cabinet and walk if need be because it houses so many prized possessions - I couldn't handle the loss of them.
I hope that all of you in Texas and surrounding areas are safe tonight as Hurricane Ike pulls in. I will keep you guys in my thoughts.
And I hope the rest of us learn that with a little preparation, we can hopefully save our wonderful family heirlooms.
(By the way, this article was inspired by Julie Cahill Tarr. You can find her great GenBlog at:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

To Publish Or Not To Publish - That Is The Question

Eventually, every genealogist gets to the question of whether or not to publish their hard work onto the internet (or even in book form, although I will only briefly discuss this because I don't think it is something that is not cost effective these days...well, you'll see what I mean).

There are so many pros and cons to publishing your work that is makes it difficult to decide. But I think the key here is to decide whether or not you want to share your work (despite the risks), and in what form you want to do this.

I personally made the choice to share my work on the internet. My main motivation for this was that I wanted other researchers to find me so that we could exchange information just like so many wonderful people had done with me (Well, I didn't really have anything that they didn't have, but that is beside the point). Their kindness helped me get through long stressful hours of confusion. Mind you, they shared their information with me but they also helped me find the information on my own, which is especially helpful because my skill at finding the records I was looking for improved.

So, when you're at the point in your genealogy where you aren't sure if you want to share your hard earned family tree - here are some things to consider:

  • Other researchers that have similiar research interests, either with someone in your tree or in a particular area you are researching, can find you and your information.
  • If you include your email address, you'll be able to be contacted by another researcher who might have some information you don't have.
  • You are building genealogical-karma points by helping out a researcher who may be just starting their tree. Maybe they'll find their great-great uncle in your family tree, giving you the opportunity to not only help this person out with their tree, but you also just found a long lost cousin who might have those pictures of Uncle Joe you've been dieing to get your hands on.


  • Some people will take your work and just steal it. They'll take you're hours of blood, sweat, and tears and place it in their own tree without crediting you. They'll forget who/where they got it from and pretty soon - they are claiming that they found the information on their own. Trust me, nothing is worse.
  • Or they'll take your work and place it all over the internet, incorrectly, and cite only your name or that email address you had 5 years ago. Oh well, so maybe this one is the worst of the two cons.

Alright - so let's say you make the decision to put your family tree up on the web. Now the question becomes - where do you put it?

Well, a lot of people put their trees on - which does have the benefit of having a good chance that it'll be seen. Since is such a popular site in the world of genealogy, you will probably have your work seen. The downside is that likes to make a seperate database (OneWorldTree) that combines trees submitted by its users that include the same people into one tree. In theory, this is a great idea. In practice - its a disaster. I can't tell you how many trees I have seen that have incorrect information, no sources, no records, nothing! The information in most of this database is just plain wrong. But - people can still find the individual tree that you uploaded and contact you either through your email or through's service that keeps your email private. Plus - they have some pretty cool things that you can add to your tree such as audio stories, pictures, videos, and it has the ability to just add a record that you find in one of their databases directly into your tree.

A lot of people also try creating a website, either on their own or through a website such as or Creating a website is a great idea because you'll be found in the major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Plus, you can upload exactly what you want to share and you control pretty much everything. These can also be a great way to stay in touch with family that may live far away (as long as they are tech savvy - if they aren't it won't work much. Trust me, I've tried!).

There is also - a sister site to People like to also upload their trees there. It doesn't have as many cool features as - but it still will be visited.

When you have a good amount of information (I'm talking several generations, full of legitimate sources, and you are confident in your work) then you might want to consider uploading your gedcom onto Your work will then be taken to a huge vault in Salt Lake City. I also believe that your work will be accessible to others on their website and in LDS sponsored Family History Centers.

Not to mention - there are a TON of other websites where you could upload it - and I don't have the time to mention every single one of them.

So the bottom line is that you need to weigh the pros and cons of posting your tree to the internet. Then, if you decide to put your information on the web, figure out where you think it would be best to put your information.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How To Fix Your Newbie Mistakes

So, like nearly every genealogist out there, I jumped into the pool of genealogy and made a ton of newbie mistakes. I didn't bother reading books to learn about citing your sources, how to keep your paperwork organized, or even about the census!

No...instead of doing my homework, I jumped right in.

When I began spending time on, I found a family tree that someone had created and shared with my ancestry going back to the 1600s...Great I thought to myself. Now I just have to enter it into this PAF program and TA-DA I'm done!!

Well, I was so focused on getting the information into PAF, printing out the fancy charts, and then dragging it all along with me to show off to my family - Oh look everyone, look at the wonderful job I did. What I missed during my excitement was that there were no sources (or horribly cited sources), the dates didn't make sense (There is no way she was married and had a child at 12), and I honestly think some people must of been made up.

So - once you make this mistake - How in the world do you fix it?

Well, here are some helpful hints:

  1. Create a brand new tree in your genealogy program (Most programs will allow you to do this, even the free ones). Print a basic pedigree chart from your old tree, with yourself (or you're kids) as the first person, working its way back.
  2. Now, go through the census abstracts, photocopies from books, print-outs of other trees, etc and double check to make sure that the source is credible (For example, a random person's family tree with no email or address to contact them and no sources is not credible...try contacting the person, they might be willing to give you their sources or a step in the right direction). If you find that something is not credible, but you think the information might still be correct, then jot it down so you can try to find a credible source that supports it.
  3. Now, double check that you have the correct information down for all of your credible sources. Go to the actual source and view it with your own eyes again...make sure that what you have matches it. Be sure to write down any questions or comments that come to mind. You'll probably want those questions later for reference.
  4. Now - cite your sources correctly - and do it for everything! (For example: Censuses give you a ton of information - like where the person was born and the person's occupation. Make sure you list that source for the occupation, the census, and where/when the person was born). In order to know how to do this, you are going to need to do your homework and learn how to do this correctly. Remember, without your sources, your information is not want to make sure that other people can check your work.
  5. Finally, the fun part - entering it all into your brand new is kind of like having a fresh start.
  6. Next, you are going to want to print your pedigree/family group sheets so that you can figure out where you are lacking information. Then you can start researching credible sources to find the missing information.
  7. And lastly - Learn from your mistakes...

Remember, mistakes happen...and they are okay as long as you learn from them.

Genealogy is not a one stop complete. There are always more ancestors to find, more cousins to contact, and more information to discover.

*Note*: Sometimes uncredible sources can seem very credible (like Ancestry's OneWorldTree). A good rule of thumb is that the information should be recorded around the time it occured (Birth certificates are more credible than a census record), there should be as little of the "telephone effect" (Indexes are a perfect example of how we can misread, mistype, misinterpret things from the original document...Is that a B or a P?), and not just anyone should be able to contribute to it (For example, FamilySearch allows anyone to submit their tree - which seems like a good idea, until you've realized you've submitted wrong information). The best thing to do is to communicate with other genealogists and to do your homework so that way you make a few mistakes as possible.

Good luck everyone!