Friday, June 3, 2011

When You Get Stuck

Every once in awhile it happens that you clear all the leaves on your tree. It's fulfilling, yet, anticlimactic for genealogists with a thirst to find more.

The thing is... there are SO many leaves waiting on your tree, if only you manage to open your family tree to that person. Here are a few tips I've found to help the hints show up (even if they are mostly just other people's trees).

1) Try viewing your family tree under the "family" view as opposed to the "Pedigree" view - this will show many more people and it does really help to bring up more leaves.

2) Download a genealogy computer program such as Mac Family Tree, Legacy or Family Tree Maker. You can export your tree out of and import it into the program and then begin to view your data in many different ways. My most recent project has been to try and find a related person from every county in the United States. A challenge, yes, but it's gotten me using tools that I hadn't used and has me going to people in my tree that I haven't gone to in awhile, and is causing literally hundreds of new leaves.

The key to doing this, though, is the computer programs. All the ones that I use have a "Places" view which allows you to see all the places that you have documented your ancestors and relatives in. If you want to get super nerdy, you can start to make all the places consistent - i.e. USA vs. United States, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania vs. Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, or St Louis vs. St. Louis.

Once you have your places consistent and you believe that every single place listed is actually distinct, you can start your checklist of the counties and cities and see how far you can get relatives to go across the state, country, world. In the process, if you have enough people in your tree (like the 6,000 I have in mine) - I PROMISE new leaves will come up!

Right now, I am using the "sources" view on Mac Family Tree to go through all the World War 1 Draft Cards (which only list county and state) to add in the city, which is listed when you open up the document itself. I'm finding lots of new towns to check off!

As far as finding all the cities and towns in counties, the best source I've found is - you can copy and paste into excel pretty easily if you are using internet explorer (does not work with firefox) - and you have to use the paste special option (anything other than html will work).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Google Shuts Down Newspaper Archive Project - The Atlantic

The Atlantic reported that Google has shut down its Newspaper Archive Project. In recent months, they had been adding thousands upon thousands of old newspapers - an unbelievably valuable tool for genealogists.

Google Shuts Down Newspaper Archive Project - The Atlantic

An Open Letter to Genealogy Software Makers.

So far, I’ve paid for and downloaded four different genealogy programs. I’ve found that there isn’t one in particular that I like, but that there are certain go-to features in each that I use to accomplish what I’m trying to do.

There are things that would really make my life easier -

1 – A consolidated/automated to-do list.

What I envision is a tool that you can customize for what information you’d like to have for everyone in your tree. Say, First, Middle, Last Name, Spouse, Mother, Father, Birth Date & Location, Death Date & Location, Marriage Date & Location. The tool would then create a list of to-do items wherever those key facts are missing.

2 – An automated source/research list based on a person’s birth and death dates and location.

I have started an excel sheet that shows the records that are available for different states and the date ranges that they apply to – so this information is very much out there. What I haven’t found is a tool that automatically lists what might be out there for a person as you gather more information about them.

3 – Hint Leave Categorization.

On – I really wish that the leaves would be broken down into “Historical Documents” and “Family Tree Links”. As more and more people join the site and create their trees, people are ever linking to your tree. It would be really nice to not end up with 900 hints in your tree without being able to sort out the ones that actually do have something new or different, when it comes to trees, and which hints are new historical documents.

4 – people list sorting options.

The master trees in my research are always on One thing that can be super annoying when using the site is that the list of people isn’t sortable. It’s only listed in order by last name. Granted, you can filter by first name or last name, but it would be nice to view the list of people by birth or death date, or by location. That would facilitate searching for certain records.

I’m sure there are more, but I’ve been wanting to put these ideas out there for the amazing people that have gotten genealogy research as far as it’s come. Kudos to you all!


I love genealogy. I blame this obsession entirely on my great grandfather who took off during the Great Depression and left my grandfather with a determined curiosity about his family’s past. This drive was then passed down to me, along with a pretty stacked family tree and a handful of family stories.

It’s amazing to think of the people who did genealogy before the internet came around. I only wish my grandfather could see how far technology has come. I have yet to make it to a real world place to do research, despite the fact that I work one metro stop from the National Archives. I consider that next step a deep rabbit hole that I should be ready to fall down.

I’m not sure what it is I have to contribute to the genealogy community, but I’ve spent thousands of hours of my life doing this, and I’m in need of a creative outlet.

If you are reading this, thank you, I love that there are other people out there as weirdly into stalking the dead people of our past as I am.