Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shortcuts to finding maiden names on

A few tricks I've found helpful in identifying maiden names quickly on - please note - it helps to have an extra monitor. 

Using a tabbed browser, view the list of all people in your tree - all people without maiden names should show up first:

Starting from the top, right click on each name and click "Open in a new tab":

Do this for each person missing a maiden name - I use firefox since it keeps tabs the same size, but allows scrolling when there are too many tabs to fit. 
Next - click on each tab and select "view her family tree" - 
Once you have selected this for all tabs, start with one person - looking at the tree, see if the husband or children have hint leaves popping up. I prefer starting with children for more accurate results, but husband works as well. Then right click on the leaf, and select "Open hints in new window". If you are using a separate monitor, you may have to pull the new window to the second monitor the first time you do this, but the next time, it will automatically go there.
Check to see if there are any hints that show the mother's maiden name. Be sure to check in any ignored hints. If you aren't having any luck, click on the person's name at the top to open up their profile. 

Then click "search records" - "family trees". Once you identify a tree showing the maiden name, scroll your mouse over the person in the original window, click "Quick Edit" and simply add the name!

One of the benefits I've found to doing this every few days, is that the "view family tree" option triggers hint searches within the site, so if you have added people recently through hints, but haven't viewed the tree, the system may not have searched for hints yet. Opening the tree solves this, leading to more of those wonderful green leaves. 

When I'm still not able to find the maiden name through the above steps, I edit the last name with an asterisk (*) - so that I know I've done the search. Doing this moves the person to a second group of people after those without maiden names when you are looking in the "view all people" collection, but doesn't trigger the site to think it's a last name (like "Unknown" does). I think consider the asterisked last names to be a longer term to-do list for deep dive researching.

Happy searching!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Filter your hints by database ID

**4/18/16 Update - The URL to filter hints has changed - see updated link below in blue!

Do you have an excessively big tree? Do you have enough hints to keep you busy for the rest of your life, and possibly your descendant's lives? Curious to see if you've missed any of those key older census records, or maybe you are just looking to search for birth/marriage/death records among the thousands you have? Here's the answer:

Each record database in the ancestry card catalogue has an identification number. Once you know that number, you can plug it into the following link: 

You can find your tree number by clicking on "All Hints":

Your family tree number is the number that shows up in your browser (circled in black):

To find the record database ID number, go to the card catalogue:

Roll your mouse over the record database your are looking for - in this example, the 1860 census record - then, without moving your mouse, look at the bottom of your browser window:

7667 would be your record database identification number.

You can do this with every single record database in the catalogue:

Since it's not easy to remember the links - I recommend using bookmarks - one for just the standard record database link (without the record number) -

Then another bookmark folder for all the census (or type of record database search you are interested in):

This can also be a good way to clear out the hints that fill up your "All Hints" list that you aren't as interested in.

Happy genealogy hunting!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Wishlist deserves an award for their constant innovation and improvement process on the site - here is a list of suggestions that I have no doubt they are already working on. Keep up the good work!

- Complete roll out of the "search all records in this collection" feature beyond the 1930 and 1940 census records. (In case you didn't know about this function - it is available when you open up the 1930 or 1940 census in the card catalogue).


- Ability to filter hints by key word (i.e. by township, county or state)

- Photo cropping from site (right now, if you want to crop a photo, you have to save it to your computer, crop it, then reload the new version and delete the prior). 

- A warning "pop-up" if you are saving a record that has already been saved to someone else in your tree (helps avoid adding duplicate people). Right now - you can only tell if you click on the record link to look at the details before adding. 

- Faster tree downloading - I am too addicted to stop working on my tree for as long as it takes currently, and then usually it has to start over! boo. 

- Place name standardization across record hints (i.e. USA vs United States vs. not listing country)

- Removal of "abt" in front of birth year when adding people via a record hint.  

- Faster processing of hint ignoring (it's super fast to ignore hints when in the "view all hints" of one person, but takes longer to ignore hints when not in the person view mode). 

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.