Saturday, February 27, 2010

This Blog Has A New Home

I have officially made the leap and moved my blog over to a hosted website.  You can find the new home of this blog at - and I encourage you to go over there for all future articles.

I will however keep all previous articles here.  I have a copy of them over at my new blog home, but just in case anyone is referred to this blog they can still find me and all of the posts that I've written.

I want to thank everyone for their continuous support and friendship that gave me the courage to take the next step and make my blog even better.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are There Common Traits All Genealogists Share?

After reading What Does It Take To Be A Successful Genealogist on the Genoom Blog, I started thinking about what I considered to be the traits that are needed to be a successful genealogists.  I decided that patience was a much needed trait to be mentioned (read my comment at the bottom of the post if you'd like to see exactly what I said).  As I was writing a comment with my thoughts, I began to contemplate whether I shared any of these traits.

I began to realize that I am not always patient in my research by choice but rather by force.  I am forced to wait until the microfilm comes into the library.  I am forced to wait for the 1940 census to be released before I can gain more clues about my grandparents.  I am forced to wait for the record that I ordered to come in the mail.  I am forced to wait until June for a good time at the Jamboree.  If I had things my way I am sure that I would choose things to be much more instant.

I also realized that I am a perfectionist in my research.  I want my research to be perfect.  I want my citations to be perfect.  I want my pedigree chart to be filled in completely with just the perfect font (Oh yes - the details do matter).  I want detailed notes on each person in my database.  Everything relating to my own research must be perfect.

(Just to clarify real quick - this isn't to say that my ancestors must be perfect or fit into some neat little box.  Rather, my research techniques and the way that I display my ancestors must be perfect)

I am also a busy body.  While your family tree is just something that is never complete, I am always one who is willing to jump from one ancestor to the next.  When I finish one ancestor I do not take a break - I dive right into the next ancestral adventure and continue looking for clues.  I am always on the search for the next story of a black sheep, revolutionist, non-conformist, courageous immigrant, proud patriot, loving mother, etc.  Each ancestor has a story that I am desperately searching for and anxious to share.

But after reflecting on myself, I began to realize that there are other researchers who I believe share some of these traits.  How often am I on Facebook reading about another genea-friend wishing for more hours in a day?  How many of us genealogists are frustrated about finding an incorrect source citation in our database?  How many of us are always searching for further clues to discover the story of the next ancestor?

It isn't to say that any of these traits are bad.  If anything they have made me a better genealogist.

So what do you think?  Do you share any of these traits?  Or do you believe there are other traits that genealogists share?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Featuring A County From USGenWeb: Cattaraugus County, New York

This week's featured county webpage from USGenWeb is Cattaraugus County, New York.  I often use this webpage when researching my Downer line.  It is full of useful details, hints, and helpful resources.  The team that works on this webpage (and yes, it truly is a team) has done an incredibly job.

To the left is the top of the webpage.  It has a map of the entire state of New York that points out where Cattaraugus County is.  It also has a clickable map of the towns in Cattaraugus.  When you click on a town name, you will be taken to a new webpage devoted to that specific town.

To the left is a screen view of an incredibly useful feature for genealogists: The search feature.  This search box is made of search the entire county webpage.  You can enter surnames, key words, occupations, etc and see a list of results that apply to the search terms - it is just like a regular search engine, except that it only searches the Cattaraugus County webpage.

The webpage also features a section of helpful starting points.  This is a must read for any new genealogist or anyone who is unfamiliar with the county website.

The webpage also highlights the very helpful mailing list and query boards.

The webpage also lists resources that are helpful when doing research in this county.

The webpage also features two biography books that are fully searchable.

Anyone with ancestors from Cattaraugus County should be using this webpage.  This is one awesome county webpage made possibly by a team of dedicated genealogists with interests of providing helpful resources for free.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm Going For The Gold!

Are you excited?  The Winter 2010 GeneaBloggers Games are back!  I am so happy to compete and get some real genealogy work done.  These games are a lot of fun, brings the GeneaBlogger community closer, and makes all of us a bit more efficient for the month of February.

I will be competing in all of the competition categories:
  • Go Back and Cite Your Sources
  • Back Up Your Data
  • Organize Your Research
  • Expand Your Knowledge
  • Write, Write, Write
  • Reach Out & Perform Genealogical Acts of Kindness
My goal is to get a minimum of gold in each of the above categories.  As long as my excitement stays up, it won't be too difficult to get a gold in each category.

My flag that I will be carrying for these games is a representation of my heritage.  On the bottom, a small German flag and a small United Kingdom flag represents the heritage that I've inherited from my ancestors.  The top half of the flag is the American flag because above it all, I am a proud American.

Will you be participating in the games?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Featuring a County From USGenWeb: Carter County, Tennessee

As part of a new series, every week I will be featuring a county website from the USGenWeb Project.  I feel that it is important to spread the word about this helpful and free resource (free is my favorite price).  I will not feature every county, but instead feature the counties that I find to be the most useful.

What is The USGenWeb Project?

The USGenWeb Project is a collection of free webpages that are created and updated by volunteers who are willing to post helpful genealogy information.  The website is divided up by state and then by county.  Each county and state has different amounts of information and the quality of information really varies.  The more involved the genealogy community is to share information on the county and state webpages, the better the webpages will be.  To read more about the USGenWeb Project, click here.

Featuring... Carter County, Tennessee.

This week's county website is Carter County, Tennessee.

The webpage may look plain but don't be fooled.  It is so full of useful and helpful information.

Possibly one of my favorite resources is the "Carter County Pensioners - 1835".  It is a list of the men that were recieving this pension and living in Carter County.

The webpage also has the free census indexes for the 1830, 1840, 1850, and 1860 Federal Census for Carter County.

Another feature of the Carter County, Tennessee USGenWeb Project webpage is the Query section.  You can either view Queries or you can submit a Query.  It is a very good idea to submit a query because it gets your genealogy research out there.  It also gives prospective cousins and other researchers a chance to find you and send you some information.

While this is not all of the great features that the Carter County, Tennessee USGenWeb Project webpage offers, it is a great start.  I highly suggest that you check out the this website if you have ancestors that lived in Carter County.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Big Step: I've Written My First E-Book

When I started this blog in July of 2008, I had no idea where it would take me.  My main goal was to share my family history knowledge and hope that someone would read it.  I never expected to be surrounded by so many wonderful people, learn so much, and have so much fun.  I want to thank all of you for the support, your honest comments, and the love that you've shown me that has enabled me to grow as a genealogist, a blogger, and a person.

All of that love and support is what gave me the courage to dream big and reach for the stars.  With the success of my Organizing the Paper Mountain series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I realized that this was a topic I wanted to talk more about.  So I dreamed big: an e-book on the topic of organization.  I decided right then and there that I would have to sit down and focus only on writing to avoid the doubting side of me from talking me out of it.  So I did just that.  I immediately sat down and wrote.  Whenever I felt my doubting side taking over, I meditated and pictured the book doing well.

The journey took a total of three days to complete.  I knew that if I stopped working that I would second-guess myself.  At the end of the three days I did nothing but editing and formating.  Then I popped it up on the internet in hopes that someone would like it (sounds kind of like how I started my blog...).

In the end, I have created an e-book that I am very proud of on a topic that I am very passionate about.

The e-book is in two parts: Part one is about organizing your paper files and is similar in style to the Organizing The Paper Mountain series that I did on this blog but more in-depth.  Part two is about organizing and protecting your paper pictures.

Here's all the information you need about the book:

Title: Conquering The Paper Monster Once And For All
Format: Adobe Acrobat Document (.pdf)
Price: 3.99 plus 40% off when the coupon code is entered during check out.  The discount is good until February 12th.
Coupon Code2Y6933W2
Refund Policy:  I will not refund any money unless you did not receive the book.  The reason for this is to keep things simple and easy on my end so that I can focus on creating more interesting articles on this blog and videos on my Youtube channel.

Note: I don't want to pressure anyone into buying anything.  This blog will always remain free.  However, if you do decide the purchase the e-book just know that I am forever grateful for your support.

If you would like to purchase the e-book, please click the "Buy Now" button below to be taken to check out.  Remember to enter the coupon code to get your savings.

Buy Now

If you have any comments, suggestions, critiques, or anything else to tell me about the e-book, please email me.

Update: There have been some problems with the coupon code.  To make everyone's life easier, I have applied the 40% discount to the purchase price so instead of the price being $3.99, it is now $2.39.  There is no longer the need for the coupon code.  Once again, I just want to thank everyone for their continued support and patience as I try to make things as smooth as possible.

Update (Again): Is anyone having trouble buying the book?  Everyone getting the download link?  Any problems whatsoever?  I want to make sure everyone is getting what they paid for in a timely manner.  Please let me know if there are any troubles.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Showing Same-Sex Marriages in RootsMagic 4

After reading George Geder's blog post, Legacy 7.4; Same Sex Marriage Workarounds on his blog, Geder Genealogy, I became curious as to whether or not my program of choice, RootsMagic 4 would be able to show same sex marriages.

So I checked.  To be honest it took me a while to make it work.  But for the most part, I got it to work.

As you can tell, I made it so that Mark and Miles are married.  However, on the Family View of the screen, Mark is still listed as "Mother".

When I look at the details box for Miles, you can tell that I can change the labels from "Father" and "Mother" to "Partner" and "Partner".  The new labels show up when I create reports.

But I haven't been able to figure out how to change it on the family view.  Maybe this is a question for Bruce Buzbee?

I'm really curious to hear how other genealogy programs handle this situation.

Update: I have received an email from Bruce Buzbee, informing me that the labels will be fixed in an upcoming update of the program.  Every program has bugs and needs updates and I know RootsMagic is a company that will fix what they say they will.  Don't expect the update out tomorrow because it might take some time to fix, but it will be fixed

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Mystery Lady

This is my mystery woman.  The name on the photo says "J.A Rogers" on the bottom left side and "Bedford, Ind." on the bottom right side.  However, in my database I don't have any Rogers' living in Indiana in m database.

On the back of the picture, my grandma Nancy Rogers wrote "My beautiful Grandmother who died too soon and too young from cerebral hemorage.  This about 1900."

But this doesn't lead me any closer to figuring out who this mystery woman is because I don't know the names of  Nancy Rogers' paternal grandparents.  I don't even know where they lived.

However, I do have in my database a line from Nancy Rogers' maternal line that lived in Bedford, Indiana.  But that line has the last name of Frank and Morris.

My theory is that the name was added much later to the photograph and that there was a mix-up about the last name, especially because there is a woman named Josephine Frank who did live in Bedford, Indiana and is Nancy Rogers' grandmother on her maternal side.  I don't know Josephine's middle name, but I feel like this could be her.

But until I am sure, this picture will remain the picture of a Mystery Lady.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Finally! The "Who Do You Think You Are" is Coming On March 5

Note: This article is not very grammatically correct.  There are a lot of run-on sentences and such.  But the reason is because this article is full of emotion and I don't believe that the message I am trying to send will come across if I write the way my English professor would like me to.  So please forgive me and I hope it makes sense to you.  Well...enough explaining - you'll see what I mean when you read it!

Genealogists have been desperately waiting for the release of the U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are.  NBC, the television network that the show will be on, has been toying with our emotions over the last year and a half or so. But the wait is finally over and the show will air on March 5th on NBC.

The website is officially up that have information and clips from the show.  Each clip is so wonderful and always moves me to tears.  Watching the emotional roller coaster that each of the seven celebrities goes through is so moving and it is exactly what I feel every time I search for the stories of my ancestors.  The joy and the pain and the surprise is all something that we can relate to.  It is exactly the same rush that I feel every time I make a discovery.

And to be honest, I'm not exactly sure why it moves me to tears.  Maybe it is because it is something that every person can relate to - genealogist or not.  Every person on this planet tries to find the definition of how their fit into this world and watching these celebrities (who really look more like everyday people on this show) reshape their definition of themselves is an incredibly exhilarating experience.

Maybe it is because those images are the definition of why I research my family history.  I've always struggled trying to put to words why I love to research my family history.  Watching the previews that are on the website, I've come to realize that it isn't something you can put into words.  Watching the excitement of Susan Sarandon finding a clue on a roll of microfilm, watching the nervousness of Lisa Kudrow as she makes a call to a possible cousin, watching the pain of Emmitt Smith as he walks where his slave ancestors probably walked, and watching the awe in Mathew Broderick's face as he discovers the story of an ancestor who fought at Gettysburg - that is why I do genealogy.  It isn't something you can put into words.  It's something that only images and feelings can express.  It's emotional and spiritual all at the same time.  Discovering the stories of your ancestors and learning about their accomplishments and troubles and the struggle and the pain and the joy and the happiness and the adventure that our ancestors went through.  And all the while, knowing that all of those journeys went in to make us and that those journeys effect who we are on a much deeper level than can be defined with words.

(Wow - I hope that last paragraph made sense...)

And now comes the hard part: If we want this show to continue on for a second season, then we need to prove to NBC that it is a show worth keeping.  So that means spreading the word to everyone you know (I literally mean everyone - from your friends to the checkout lady at the grocery store) to watch the show.  That means telling people on Facebook, Twitter, email - by every way possible.  We have to market this show if we want it to last.

And of course it means that we have to watch the show.  But then again - I don't need to tell you all that because as genealogists I know you'll all be watching it without me having to tell you.

Also, this is a great opportunity for the genealogy societies to throw a viewing party for the show.  Genealogy societies could make this into an opportunity to raise some money by selling popcorn and candy at the viewing party.  Come on genealogy societies - it is time to go all out and party.

So what do you all think about the show?  Are you excited?

MyHeritage is a Rising Star in the Genealogy Community[Press Release]

Note: This is a press release that I received by email from MyHeritage.  The company is expanding, having acquired multiple international genealogy websites.  Plus, the company is improving it's family tree viewer program and more projects are in the works.  Read below for more information. Acquires Major Family Network OSN ( to Accelerate Building the World’s Family Graph

With 13 million family trees, 47 million members and 530 million profiles, becomes the largest international site dedicated to families on the web

Hamburg, Germany, London, UK and Tel Aviv, Israel – February 3, 2010 – MyHeritage.comthe company that connects families to their past and to one another, today announced a significant expansion of its global family network through the acquisition of the Hamburg-based OSN Group, which operates a network of 10 market-leading family sites, including (Germany), (Poland) and (USA). has established itself as the trusted home for families on the web. By integrating these market-leading services into a single international platform, we are taking a great step towards realizing our vision of connecting families around the world,” said Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of and the father of three children. “We’re thrilled to welcome millions of new families from some of the Internet’s most important markets to our platform. We look forward to offering our new members an effortless migration which preserves their privacy, and we will deliver the best that our combined network and technologies can offer to support them in exploring their family history, sharing important memories and staying connected”. now holds a formidable international registered member base of 47 million, and offers its services in 35 languages. The acquisition helps build on its existing strength in the USA, UK, Canada, France and Australia while making significant inroads into key European markets such as Germany, Poland and the Netherlands as well as many major Latin American markets.

Combining these services into a single international platform expands the size of’s unique user-generated family graph to 13 million family trees including 530 million genealogical profiles. The increased scale of this privacy-enforced family graph provides instant value to families, making it even easier for them to find long-lost relatives and discover more about their unique family histories. This will help, for example more North American members connect with their European relatives and ancestors. As part of the acquisition, will be establishing an office in Hamburg where experienced OSN team members will be based.

“Facebook has built an amazingly useful graph of our social connections and LinkedIn of our professional connections, and is building a uniquely valuable graph of our family life, both past and present”, said Saul Klein, board member at, partner at Index Ventures and the father of two children. “By extending the scale and geographic reach of its family graph and offering a private place online for families across the world to securely share photos, important events and explore our family history,'s service has the potential to become part of the fabric of our online lives.” offers a powerful suite of tools and technologies for managing family connections online, including:
·        Award-winning free downloadable genealogy software,
·        Powerful Smart Matching™ technology that connects family trees across different languages, pronunciations and spellings, and
·        Advanced facial recognition technology that auto-magically tags family photos

New technologies from OSN will be integrated into, starting with the Family Crest Builder, which will go live on this week.

"We’re really excited to be able to combine the best of OSN and’s services to bring even more value to our members” said Daniel Grözinger, co-founder of OSN Online Social Networking GmbH. "Since 2007, we have built our services into market leaders in key European and Latin American markets and we’re excited to work with Gilad and his team to make it easier for families to keep in touch and bridge gaps of geography, language and time. Our members' family trees are now safely and securely migrated to where they can continue to enjoy the service for free and benefit from many additional features of the combined platform, such as Smart Matching and photo tagging technologies".

About was founded by a team of people who combine their passion for family history with the development of innovative technology. Since launching in November 2005 has become the world’s leading international online network for families and the second largest family history website. The fastest growth rates in the industry combined with the acquisitions of Pearl Street Software (2007), (2008) and OSN (2009) have made the home for 47 million family members and 530 million profiles. The company has offices in London, UK; Hamburg, Germany; Boulder, Colorado, USA and Tel Aviv, Israel. has received funding by Accel Partners and Index Ventures. For more information, visit

About OSN Online Social Networking GmbH
OSN’s website group --,, and,, and,,,, and -- has been among the fastest growing family social networks worldwide in the last two years. OSN was founded by the experienced Internet entrepreneurs Daniel Grözinger and Sven Schmidt. The two have cooperated successfully in the past on, an online ticketing site; the FIFA Soccer World Cup Ticketing Center and, a portal for yellow pages. Recently, they have been involved in Farbflut Entertainment GmbH that runs Germany’s most successful web game, OSN is funded by Germany-based VCs Hasso Plattner (co-founder of SAP) Ventures and Neuhaus Partners. For more information, see

For more information, contact:

Julie Blane, Sparkpr for (UK)
+44 207 253 9897
Twitter: julieblane

Rebecca Fuller, Sparkpr for (US)
Twitter: becca_1k

Mario F. Ruckh, Director of Marketing,
+44 7726 454833
Twitter: mario_knd

Eran Davidson, Managing Partner, Hasso Plattner Ventures

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Backing Up Your Genealogy Data

If tomorrow you lost all of your genealogy files - would you cry?  Or would you say, "no big deal" and then download your back up files?

If your answer to the above question was "cry", then it is time you change your ways.  It is time to make a plan to insure that your genealogy files are safe no matter what happens.  Adopting "better safe than sorry" as your motto is a must!

But how should you go about doing this?  Good news is that there are lots of options for all of your needs.

1.) Remote Backup Services:
A remote backup service is a great way to backup your files.  In this type of backup service, you select the files on your computer that you want to be backed up and how often you would like your files to be backed up.  The files that you selected are then backed up to a remote server.  If you need to use your back up, you can easily download your files from the remote server.
There are two popular companies that do remote backup services: Mozy and Carbonite.  I am a user of Mozy and I really love it.  I started off with a free account that gave me 2GB of space and I fell in love.  Once my needs increased, I upgraded to Mozy's $4.95 a month unlimited plan.  I love that Mozy provides me with peace of mind for very little money (which is important to a broke college student like me!).  I've also heard really great things about Carbonite, but I've never used the service so I can't personally recommend it.

2.) Flash drives/CDs
Using a flash drive or CD to backup your files is another popular approach.  I use a flash drive to backup my files once a month.  This is also really useful if I want to take my genealogy files with me without lugging around my laptop.  Since I use RootsMagic4 and have the RootsMagic To-Go program also on my flash drive, it is really easy to show my ancestors to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.
CDs are also a very popular way to backup your genealogy files.  It is extremely easy to do and the CDs are pretty cheap to buy.  Plus, the CDs are portable and can be sent to a friend or family member so that you have an offsite backup.
However, the downside with this method is that you have to manually back up your files - this can take time to do and can cause inconsistent back ups if you aren't careful.

3.) External Hard Drive
Using an external hard drive is another easy option to back up your files.  An external hard drive is an easy place to back up your genealogy files.  You can schedule to have your files automatically backed up to your external hard drive.  Another plus is that the costs of external hard drives has dropped over the last few years.  For example, you can get a 1 TB external hard drive for under $100 bucks.
However, the downside here is that the external hard drive is not away from your house.  If a tornado strikes your home and your external hard drive is destroyed, then you no longer have a backup.  Or if your house is robbed and your external hard drive is stolen, then you once again no longer have a backup.

But What Should You Back Up?  Everything that relates to your genealogy.  Therefore, that includes your database files, pictures, documents, bookmarks of your favorite genealogy websites, your blog and blog template, your notes - everything that relates to your genealogy.

Data Back Up Day is on the first of every month.  It is so easy to back up your files these days - so there is no excuse.  Back up your files!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Organizing The Paper Mountain (Part 3)

This third and final part of this series is dedicated to some specific suggestions, tips, and special circumstances that weren't covered in the other two posts.

What If The Paper Mountain Takes Up An Entire Room?
If your paper mountain looks like Randy Seaver's Genea-Cave, then this section is just for you.  In this case, it is all about breaking the mountain up into smaller, more manageable chunks.  For example, conquer one corner of the room or one bookcase or even just one shelf.  It will take a big dose of patience and some time, but no matter how large the paper mountain is you can tackle it!

Think of it this way:  When one of my professors assigns a long research paper of about fifteen pages, the first thing I do is break it down into manageable chunks.  For example, I'll make a deadline for myself to have the notes done by one date and then to write a certain number of pages every week.  By doing this, the huge research paper seems manageable.  I am no longer overwhelmed by trying to write a fifteen page paper.

How Do I Take Care Of My Original Documents?
The original documents that we collect in the course of our research needs to be preserved and protected.  Often times, placing these documents into our regular filing system is not a good idea because our filing systems are not made with all archival quality materials.  So what is a researcher to do?

Denise over at the Family Curator blog discusses a great way to keep our original documents safe while also having the information in our filing system.

How Do I Go Paperless?
The new trend these days is to go paperless.  People now pay their bills online, shop online, and even order pizza online.  This trend is not only environmentally friendly, but it also saves a lot of space and is really easy to back up.  It also has the added benefit of being uploaded onto the internet and therefore can be accessed from anywhere with internet access.

Here are some tips to make your move to paperless as easy as possible:

  • An excellent back up plan is absolutely necessary.  I highly suggestion a remote back up program like Mozy or Carbonite to ensure that your information is safe, even if your computer dies.  To be extra careful, you might also want to back up to an external hard drive.
  • The way you organize on your computer is very similar to the way you would organize your paper files.  The big difference is that everything will be in virtual folders.  There are other options to organize your computer files that should be explored before you decide to make the switch.
  • You will still have to take care of your original paper documents in an archival safe way.
What Should I Do With All The Paper Newsletters, Magazines, and Periodicals?
The answer to this question will vary from situation to situation.  But here are some questions to ask yourself to help you consider what to do with all of them:
  • Is there a website or database where you can access the information?  For example, Family Tree Magazine offers the past issues of the magazine on a CD.  Each CD has a year's worth of magazine issues.  An added benefit about this is that they are searchable.
  • When was the last time you actually looked through these newsletters, magazines, and periodicals?  If it was more than 6 months, then you probably won't be looking at them again.  Therefore, it might be worth considering donating these items to a genealogy society, library, or archive.  You can even donate them to a friend or sell them on Ebay
  • If there is an article that you couldn't imagine letting go of, then by all means make a scanned copy of it and keep it on your computer for reference.  Then donate the paper item.
For the magazines, newsletters, and periodicals that you are planning on keeping, you'll need to make a plan.  But what should you include in your plan?
  • How long will you keep each item?  Six months is a good rule of thumb.
  • Store these items in labeled magazine boxes.  That way you can quickly find the issue that you are looking for.
  • Stick to your plan.  If you say that you will get rid of that document in six months, then actually do it!  Your plan is useless if you choose not to stick with it.

The Number One Organizing Tip That Isn't Stressed Enough...

Organization is a P-R-O-C-E-S-S.  You must continually work at staying organized if you actually want to stay organized.  Just because you made your research space look all nice and pretty, doesn't mean that you are organized.

So instead of feeling depressed after that last paragraph, feel accomplished at the hard work that you've put into becoming organized.  Then get determined to make it stick by scheduling time every week, every month - maybe even every day, to keep you organized and feeling great.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Organizing The Paper Mountain (Part 2)

So how is the organizing going so far?  Are you feeling like your moving in the right direction?  In this post I will continue to give you step-by-step directions to conquering the overwhelming paper mountain.  If you want a refresher, read part 1 of this series here.

Step Four
Now that you have your divided piles, you need to consider how you will further sub-divide those files.  To assist you in figuring out how to do this, I have given you more questions to answer that are similar to the questions I asked you in step two.

  • Think of how you divided up your papers.  In your mind, picture how you think about the details of your ancestors.  Do you think about them by the types of records you have?   Do you think about them by individuals or couples?  Your answer to this question will determine how you will further subdivide your piles.
Step Five
It is time to sub-divide all of those piles you have.  I know - it is a huge pain.  I bet you're completely tired of this boring, mundane task of sorting all of your papers.  Trust me, this is the least fun part of the process.  But it is the most important and is the backbone of your organizational system.

Keep your eyes on the prize: A clean, organized space with every piece of paper in it's place.  You can find any piece of paper in a matter of seconds.  No matter how big or how small your space is, you enjoy researching in it.

Step Six
The next step is to assess what organizational supplies you will need to store your papers.  Remember the decision you made about using a filing cabinet and file folders or binders and dividers? 

But there are some very important things to consider before you go shopping:
  • Do you want to color code?  This is by far not a requirement, but some people really find it beneficial.  For the most part, I've only ever heard of people using color coding when they divide their papers by surname.  Most people will divide their surnames into four or eight categories; these categories correspond with your four grandparents or eight great grandparents.  The four or eight colors that you choose are really up to you - just be sure that these are colors that you can always find at a store.  You don't want to try to expand your organizational system someday only to find out that the colored supplies you need are no longer being made.
  • Do you want your organizational system to be archival?  This is not a cheap option but rather an investment  in your papers so that they will last into the future.  The archival safe organizational supplies that you use will keep your papers from yellowing and fading over the years (although, eventually the papers will yellow and fade - the point is to extend your paper's lifetime).
Step Seven
With your list of needed organizational supplies in hand, it is time to get shopping.  Go to your favorite store, online or in person, and buy the supplies on your list.

Here are some of my personal suggestions of supplies you will want to consider.  I am currently using or have used each of these products:
  • My aunt used to have this three drawer black filing cabinet.  The two bottom drawers are made for holding your files, while the smaller top drawer can be used to store the box of extra file folders.  The only reason she got rid of this cabinet is because she needed a bigger one.
  • If you don't have too many files yet, then I would recommend getting this stackable filing drawer.  I like these because they are lightweight and easy to store out of the way.  
  • Archival file folders are the way to go if you want to try and prolong the life of your files.
  • If color coding is your thing, then these colorful file folders are for you.
  • I love binders and I use them for just about everything from school, calendars, bills, and organizing my paper files.  I really like this heavy duty one inch binder, although you could always get a two inch or three inch binder.  However, if you use a binder that is more than three inches wide then it will be bee too heavy and the pages will be hard to turn.
  • If you get binders, you'll also need dividers.  I highly recommend getting over sized dividers so that you can see the divider even if you are using sheet protectors.  You also might want to consider getting archival quality sheet protectors to prolong the life of your files.

Note: I want to apologize for the delay in releasing this post.  I was planning on having all three released by today. However, life got in the way and my mom is in the hospital again.  But don't worry, I'll get part three released by Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Organizing The Paper Mountain (Part 1)

As genealogists, we collect a lot of data and with all of that data comes lots of paper.  At first the paper flow is manageable, but the paper monster quickly takes control.  So how do you tame the paper monster and get back in control?

Over the next week or so, I will be doing a series of posts that will help you gain control of the paper.  If you follow my advice then at the end of this series, you will have gained control of the paper monster.  Each post will have an easy to follow step-by-step approach to solving the paper chaos.  

Step One
The first step to solving any problem is to admit that you have a problem.  The excuse that you have "organized chaos" is not going to work here.  Don't feel bad either - this is an incredibly common problem that  every genealogist eventually faces.

Step Two
Before you can begin the process of organization, you have to establish a plan.  So to help you define what your plan is, here are some questions to consider:

  • How do you think of your ancestors?  Do you think about them in terms of surname, couples, or record types?  Your answer to this question will determine how you will divide your paperwork.
  • Do you like file folders and a filing cabinet or do you prefer binders and dividers?  Each method has benefits and disadvantages, so it is really a matter of preference.
Step Three
With your plan now in place, it is time to start separating all of your papers into piles.  This will probably take some time and lots of space - so get comfy on the floor or at the kitchen table and get busy.  The way the piles are organized is based upon how you think about your ancestors.  So organize your papers by surname, record type, or couple.

Today you're closer to your goal of conquering the paper beast.  In the next post, I will discuss buying your organizational supplies and go into more detail about the various options in organizing the paper work.

If you have any specific questions, thoughts, or comments then please leave me a comment or send me an email.  I am always open to any suggestions, comments, or questions.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Surname Saturday: Harney (Part 2)

I promised you that I would continue my search for Fredrick Harney.  This is Part 2, where I am continuing trying to break down this brick wall.  You can refresh your memory of what I've already found by reading Part 1.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census:
Thanks to a comment left by Cynthia on part 1, I was able to find Fredrick Harney in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. His household is as follows:

*Fred Horni - male, white, age 64, widowed, born in Germany, parents born Germany/Germany, immigrated to U.S. 1872, naturalized, black smith in own shop
*M. Foster - servant, female, white, age 54, widowed, born Germany, parents born Germany/Germany, immigrated to U.S. in 1884, housekeeper for private family

I knew Fredrick was hiding somewhere in the 1910 census. He is indexed as "Fred Horm", but when I look at the document, I see "Fred Horni", which is easy to confuse.

Based on the 1900 and 1910 federal census, Fredrick immigrated to America in 1872.  So I began my search on, but I've been unsuccessful thus far.  I'm noticing that my difficulty is that I only have a possible year of arrival.  I don't have any idea as to what port he came into, what port he left from, who he was traveling with, or a date.  I am lucky in the sense that I have a possible year, but I also know that Fredrick is an ancestor who is good at hiding.

Did He Marry Again?
I find it to be unlikely that Fredrick married again since he was not married in the 1910 federal census and he died in 1911.  However, it is possible that he married again but I have not found a marriage record to prove that.

The Final Resting Place
Over the last week or so, I began asking my mom some questions about what she knew of the Harneys.  I knew that in the 1980s she had taken a trip to Indiana.  She told me that she has seen the actual stone with Fredrick Harney's name on it.  I got so excited that I immediately grabbed the closest pen and paper.

Then I hit a brick wall again.  When my mom had visited the cemetery, it was in the middle of a snow storm.  As a native Californian, she considered the weather too extreme.  When she went to see the stone, she stepped out of the warm car and snapped a quick photo.  She wasn't concerned with getting a good picture - she was concerned with getting back in the warm car!

I've found the pictures my mom has taken.  While a stone can definitely be seen, the picture is taken from too much of a distance to read the words on the stone.  So close, yet so far away.

Still Stuck...
While I moved a few bricks, this is ancestor is still a brick wall.  If you have any further suggestions or comments, I would be greatly appreciative of any help you can bring me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Youtube Video: Big Annoucement

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have a brand new Youtube video out.  I'm hoping to make another one tomorrow, but with editing and all, it probably won't be up until Saturday or Sunday.

Here is the video:

To subscribe to my Youtube channel, please click here.

If you have any suggestions, comments, or video requests please email me.  I love hearing from people and talking with them!

Monday, January 11, 2010

5 Organization Mistakes To Avoid

At the start of a new year, everyone is making resolutions. One of the most common resolutions in the genealogy community is to finally get organized. While we may start off energetic, excited, and with the best intentions, things don't always continue that way. Before long, you're overwhelmed, bored, and frustrated with trying to get organized. Then the piles return, you can't find that birth certificate of Great Aunt Martha, and you feel like pulling your hair out or hitting your head against a wall.

In order to avoid this unpleasant situation, here are 5 organization mistakes to avoid:
  1. One size does not fit all. What works for one person may not work for you and what works for you may not work for someone else. You have to find a system that seems natural and makes sense to you. You might even need to tweak some systems to make them work for you.
  2. Look at the pros and cons of each organizational system you find. This one is very similar to #1. It is important to analyze the pros and cons of each system and pick the one that fits you best. Some things will matter more to you than it does to someone else. Some things will be deal breakers that aren't to someone else. Pick the one that fits your needs and your organizational priorities.
  3. It takes time and work to stay organized. But the time that you put in will be small in comparison to the time that you save. Being organized means that you can find what you need to find when you need to find it. You'll be more efficient and get more research done.
  4. Buy organizational supplies after you have assessed what you have and what your needs are. Too often people get all excited to get organized that they head straight toward the stores to buy supplies when they don't even know what they need. Until you've assessed what your needs are and figured out a plan, you can't go buying supplies.
  5. Reassess your needs every so often. Needs can change as your research progresses or as time passes. Therefore, every once in a while, you'll need to assess whether or not your organizational system is still working.
Happy Organizing and Happy Researching!

Further reading:

Disclosure: Some of the links in this blog post are to my Amazon store. When someone buys something from my store, I make an incredibly small percentage of the sale for referring a customer to Amazon.