Thursday, January 19, 2012

Got Records and Good Notes? Try these ideas to help.

A mark of a good genealogist is their attention to detail while researching records of the past. This means keeping good notes and being organized with your information.  Some techniques I have honed over the last 30+ years is to adapt different technologies to genealogy.

For example, if you are on a research trip, it helps to have several good maps, such as a: USGS topo map or BLM map, contemporary map from last 10 years and a period map for the era you are researching.    You can get most of these online or at the library for free. 

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Family Roots - We all have them

We all originate from some place and its great to also discover these locations when talking with friends and relatives.    What is even better is finding out where someone has visited and what they liked about those locations.  Today, we can usually produce several pictures of locations visited, in a snap... but back in the 19th century, travel was a challenge and everyone had to have a vivid imagination to accompany the stories that were told over and again.   Images and details were left to specialists.

When it comes to our family roots, we must also tap into that imagination and explore the world that was before us.  You can start with doing the research yourself.   But like travel, that takes time, money, and frankly skill.   Some commercials may imply that you can sign up, log in and with a few clicks, you can find your family tree right away, but again some things are left to specialists.

Finding details on a paid subscription website can be great, but if not careful, you may end up chasing false leads, that eventually tell the wrong story.    What's worse is it get compounded by others if you publish those details.   That is why hiring a specialist with years of experience in genealogy can help save you time AND money.

If you are interested in finding out more about your family roots, I would suggest checking out Ancestral Family Roots.   They offer full service genealogy research and include many other services, such as your own family website, photo restoration, and more. 

All for now... your cousin with some imagination.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tracking your 19th Century Ancestors using 21st Century Technology

MyMaps - GoogleMaps
Finding your ancestors is like finding a needle in a haystack - and decades ago, it was even harder.

Today we have geosynchronous satellites using GPS, 24x7 access to knowledge across the globe, databases with index's to help us find the elusive document, and Googlemaps.

In all genealogy or family history trips, I use googlemaps (among other features, tools) to help preplan the trips.   One important element is in locating hotels, families, cemeteries, historical societies, court houses, and more.  The benefit of googlemaps is that you are able to also create your own personal map, showing details that are important to your research and it also helps you to really connect the past with the present.

One powerful feature lets you overlay an image, like an old map and this can be useful for locating forgotten places or helping paint the landscape of what it looked like so many years ago.   In one case, I was able to use the overlay feature to help me to locate an old cemetery from the 1800's that was no longer on any present day maps. The local families remembered a cemetery but it seems it was moved 75+ years ago. Of course, this happens occasionally, but when and where are sometimes harder to determine if records are sparse.

Another unique feature of googlemaps is that it allows you to use terrain to help visualize what you can see today and what your ancestors might have seen. Using google's Sketchup, I was able to render a 3d image of my great grandparents home, based on homestead records and old pictures. I actually integrate the 3d home into googlemaps and was able to get a 360 degree view of what it looked like, including time of day and time of year.

These powerful features help us truly visualize the places our ancestors lived to make a life for themselves and for their future generations. Future posts will tell more details about how to use these tools. If you have questions, feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Isolating a Common Surname

Wiley & Martha (Maloney) Johnson
Some families get all the luck - THEY have ancestors with unique surnames that sound and spell like they are supposed to, which means finding them is a census search can be a little bit easier.   With a common surname like Johnson, Smith, or others, doing searches for quality data nuggets is always a challenge.   But there are a few simple tricks to help isolate, identify, and confirm your genealogical ancestors, cousins, inlaws and outlaws.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Family Heirlooms Everywhere

Ever wonder what happened to all your ancestors' family treasures?  Your great-great grandmothers picture, the family bible, the old wooden spinner or even all the original marriage, birth records?   Don't be surprised if they are still around.   It's happened to me.   Some distant relative usually has them tucked away, and someday plans to give them to a close family member who will admire them for their sentimental value as much as they did.    

Grandpa Hamar
I have been fortunate and lucky to have located many of my family heirlooms, through near and distant relatives.   How did I find them?