Hey all! Just a short post for right now. An article about this awesome new tool that our good friends at Google have released popped up on my Facebook feed the other day. They say that it could be the perfect companion for Genealogists. It’s called Google Keep and it is supposed to rival programs like Evernote, OneNote, and Trello. I have heard amazing things about using Evernote and OneNote for organizing Family Tree research, but I have never attempted to use any of them.
My question for you all is this: Have any of you ever used any of these programs for Genealogy? If you have, would you mind commenting and letting me know what your experiences have been? I would LOVE to try out one (or all) of these this summer.
Thanks so much! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Until the early 1900s vital records and marriage unions were not regularly kept on the state level. Prior to the implementation of local health departments and official court records, Churches and the local clergy were often times the record keepers. Births, Deaths, Baptisms, and Marriages were among the most commonly recorded events. To this day churches still keep amazing records. FamilySearch.org is completely maintained by the LDS church. And most of the major Christian denominations have archives that you can visit and/or request information from.
In the early years of our country, attending church on Sunday mornings was a regular part of most people’s life. Not only can these early records help pinpoint life events, they also can give some insight into the personal lives of your ancestors and the religious beliefs that they held.
While researching marriage records for my ancestors, I have been able to see the places where they said their marriage vows and may have even attended Sunday Worship (or Mass, since this particular branch of my family tree was very much Catholic).
In 1897 my maternal great-grandparents were married at Saint Vincent de Paul in Silver City, New Mexico.
And prior to their marriage, my great-great-grandparents were married at St. Genevieve’s in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1872. Here is a drawing (1859) of St. Genevieve’s as it would have looked when my ancestors were married there and a photo (2007) of what St. Genevieve’s looks like today.
It is pretty incredible the transformation that has taken place in this single Parish over the last 150 years.
Following the family line further is the church in which my great-great-great grandparents were married way back in 1848. Catedral de Nuestra Sonora de Guadalupe in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. I am curious as to how much this cathedral has changed since my ancestors said their vows within its walls almost 170 years ago.
Sometimes you come across at item and you can’t help but want to know its history and who it belonged to in the past. Most of the time when you pick up an item at a second-hand store you will never know its story, but once in a while you get lucky and a clue or two may be left behind. A while back my good friend, knowing how much I love antique anything, bought me a few very old books. Inside one particularly old and tattered book there was a newspaper clipping from March 17, 1973. It was an article celebrating the life of a “Mrs.Christine Christian” who turned 92 years old that day. The author speaks of Christine’s nursing career, her involvement in church, how she likes to drink hot water instead of coffee, and about her family. I didn’t even have to look this dear woman up to know who she was in life. But just for giggles, I decided to type her name into the search box on Ancestry.com to see what I would come up with. Sadly, all I found was a census record from 1930 showing her address in Escanaba, Michigan and that she was born in Denmark. (The article title sort of gives the Danish part away.) What I was hoping to find – her death certificate – was not included in the documents on Ancestry. And so… I worked my way on over to Findagrave.com to see what I could uncover. And there it was, her headstone, complete with the date she left this world. Mrs. Christine Christian passed away on April 22, 1977. She was 96. I found it sad to know that this lovely lady, who lived such an interesting life, only lived another four years after the article I was gifted was written. At the same time, a sort of peace came over me as I reflected on the long and fulfilling life that this woman led and the legacy that she left behind with her family. I feel as if I was able to get to know Christine because of this article and I never would have been able to had it not been for this little book from the second-hand store. So, the next time you buy a used book, knick-knack, or piece of furniture – take a look and see if the previous owners left anything behind. You may find a treasure of information and a new friend along the way.
Relatives – the living ones – can be some of your best resources for getting started in researching your family tree. One of the reasons I first became interested in my family history was by listening to the stories my grandparents used to share with us kids. Every time I visit with my maternal grandmother we get to talking and I hear more and more about my long lost relatives and the struggles they faced as well as their unique accomplishments. She grew up during the depression in a mixed race household (her mother was Mexican and her father was Scots-Irish) and she has so many interesting stories about that alone that she is happy to share. She tells a particularly interesting story of murder within our family that I have yet to find solid documentation for. My grandmother’s grandmother was orphaned when she was only 4 years old and according to the story she witnessed her father bludgeon her mother to death with a rock in their front yard. I have searched all of the newspapers I can find for New Mexico around the time I think that this happened but have had no luck.
And then there is the story on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family that we are somehow related to John Hart, the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Because my grandma’s family has been in the United States since the original 13 colonies were formed I have searched really far back and have not found this particular John Hart to be one of my direct relatives. I do have a John Hart in my tree – my 8th great grandfather to be exact – but the dates do not line up for him to be the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Could I still be related to THE John Hart? Sure, he could easily be a distant cousin or uncle or something of that nature – I do have a slew of ‘Harts’ in my tree, but I haven’t found the direct connection as of yet.
Grandparents are one of our greatest resources and a direct connection to the past. In 2001 my cousin Molly – who was in college at the time – conducted an interview with my paternal Grandfather for the Veterans History Project. She recorded the entire thing and gave each of us a cassette tape copy. I cherish this tape. Grandpa died unexpectedly in 2002, so whenever I hear his voice on this tape it brings back so many memories along with a wave of emotions. In addition, it has preserved his story and his memories in his very own words for all eternity. (I should probably have the tape converted to a digital file now that I think about it.) It is highly recommended by historians, archivists, and genealogy professionals that you take the time to interview your parents and grandparents to get their oral histories. There are many online resources that provide you with the questions needed to get started. Here is an example. It is important to get these stories transcribed before they are gone forever. On a side note, if you ever want to get your kids excited about genealogy or history, have them interview their grandparents. They might not want to at first, but once they start listening to all of the neat stories, they will love it!
For me, part of choosing to become a Family Historian was because I wanted to know my ancestors on a personal level. I don’t just want to know their names – I want to know WHO they were. One of the most valuable research tools I have found is www.findagrave.com. On this site you can, of course, find the grave marker for whichever relative you seek (assuming someone has photographed it and uploaded it to the site – they take volunteers for this) and the cemetery they are buried in, but you can also find out quite a bit more. Often times, immediate relatives are listed for them as well as obituaries or transcribed eulogies. These short written pieces can give you information that more ‘official’ documents might not disclose – professions, hobbies, where they went to school, military service, etc. A personal discovery of mine is that my great-great-great-grandfather was not only a farmer, but also a medical doctor, a judge, AND a gospel minister. Apparently, you weren’t restricted to a single profession in early 1800’s Texas.These are intimate details that I never found searching the popular census and vital records that you often find on Ancestry.com and similar genealogy sites.
Cemetery research is becoming more and more popular. There are books that you can buy such as this one which is part of my personal collection, that allow you to interpret common symbols and carvings on headstones. The artwork contained within a cemetery and its markers can give you additional clues as to the organizations your ancestors belonged to or to the religious affiliations they may have had. I recently read an article (you can read it here) that talked about how important it is for cemeteries to begin to digitize their archives. The cemetery at the center of this article is 177 years old and has only just begun to digitize their records that were once thought to be strictly for business purposes. It has become apparent with the recent popularity boom in family history research that these records are worth so much more.
The next time that you pass a cemetery and have some spare time, don’t just drive by or be afraid to go inside. Stop by and visit those who rest here. Get to know them. Maybe take a ‘genealogy road trip’ and visit the resting places of your own ancestors. The dead can still tell their stories.
My very first stab at family tree research began years after Ancestry.com began advertising on TV. I had seen the commercials, had thought “that would be so cool to look into,” and that was about it. Then one summer I was sitting at home with my new baby and my preschooler, it was over 100 degrees outside and I had the internet at my disposal. I went to Ancestry.com and created a free account. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wouldn’t get very far without a paid subscription. Since I didn’t have that kind of extra money lying around I decided to look for other sites where I could find the records that I needed.
It was during this quest that I stumbled upon FamilySearch.org. It is an amazing resource compiled by volunteers and funded by the LDS church that is completely free to use. I typed in the name of my Grandfather and found multiple records right away. I spent hours, days, and weeks pouring through records looking for any and all connections I could make between the names of relatives that I knew in order to discover the names of my ancestors who I had never known. My original notes were just scribbles on paper. At the time (5 years ago) Family Search only had the ability to search records. After finding my information I would switch over to Ancestry.com and input it all to the online family tree software. (This is included when you sign up for a free account.) I have maintained my tree on their site ever since. Family Search now has a feature much like Ancestry in that you can build a tree online. I intend to one day get all of my family tree switched over to their site as well. Itis a work in progress as you can see.Currently, I am in the process of creating handwritten trees to put in a binder. (I think I need to add a little color or something…) I love the power of the internet and computer software, but nothing can replace handwritten documentation.
There are many different resources out there that you can use to research your ancestors. The point of this post is to show you how just how easy it is to find the information that you need to begin, and it doesn’t have to cost money. All you need is a name.
I realize that many of you reading this blog are probably well versed in what ‘genealogy’ is, but for those of you who don’t here you go. By definition, genealogy is “the study and tracing of lines of descent or development.” (Thank you dictionary.com) In layman’s terms – researching your family tree. I like to think of it as my own personal treasure hunt. It is a mystery that I must solve, a puzzle that has to be completed. I want to know – correction – I NEED to know who these people were and how they lived their lives.
I have come across several people (my husband included) who do not see the point or the appeal in uncovering the intimate details of dead relatives who lived hundreds of years ago. Why can’t we just leave them in the past? Answer: because their lives mattered! Without my ancestors I wouldn’t even exist, I owe it to them to tell their story and not to allow them to be forgotten.
Studying family history can bridge generations – it can help grandchildren connect with their grandparents. It can bring peace and understanding to a family when they discover the real reason why Great-Aunt Susan was so distant or why Grandpa would never talk about the war. Some families have even used genealogy to spur family road-trips and vacations; taking their children to visit the cemeteries, churches, homes, and other places that have ties to their lineage.
There are many reasons for pursuing a hobby in genealogical research. With all of the resources available to us via the internet these days, I find it hard to find a good reason not to partake in this pastime.