FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Leave a Legacy

When you think of your parents, grandparents and other ancestors, do you have anything that they owned or created? My wife has been a quilter all of her life and has created wonderful quilts for our family, children and grandchildren. She has made all of them quilted wall hangings that reflect their personalities, show the season of the year and even calendar special family dates.

When our daughters were youngsters, she made most of their clothing including special quilted vests that they loved to wear. The clothing wore out as it passed through the family, but our granddaughters still wear the vests that their mothers wore at the same age. Now, grandma has made each of our granddaughters quilted vests and our grandsons vests and hats to wear and pass on to their children…. All are legacies created by their grandma Drew.

Connie’s love for quilting has passed on to our daughters and daughter-in-laws. Connie and the girls make an annual ‘sisters’ quilt for each other. Each of them creates quilt squares of their own design and then forwards them to the next oldest person in the group. That person adds more original squares that complement the theme and sends the quilt on its way again.. At the end of the full rotation, each of them has a beautiful unique quilt, created with the love of their talented ‘sisters’.

Are you creating ‘Legacy’ items for your family? They will love your work and as time goes on, the value of your Legacy creations will exceed that of gold in the minds of your descendants.

Enjoy the story below about another grandmother’s quilts…

28 June 2007 Posted by | Histories | , | Leave a comment

What a Project!

Over the past ten years, I’ve often been asked how young men working to get their scouting ‘Eagle’ award could use a family history topic for their Eagle project. My universal answer has been to go to a local cemetery and inventory all of the burials in it. They should then give a copy of their data to the city and also post it on free websites such as Find-a-grave or the U.S. GenWeb Tombstone Inscription Project Hopefully on Both!

This morning, I happened across a video of a young man named Brad Jencks from Salt Lake Valley who not only used this idea for his Eagle project, but went far beyond posting the data on the web. Take 5 minutes out of your day and watch the video he created that chronicles his project at the Bingham Cemetery. Brad is A+ in my book.

28 June 2007 Posted by | Research Tips | , | Leave a comment


It seems that no matter how many times I ‘carefully’ review the documents, notes, photos and other family history memorabilia that I’ve collected over the years, I aways find additional ‘Treasure’ when I look at them again. Why?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that some of the information didn’t have meaning in earlier reviews. Since that time, I’ve found additional information about my family and that knowledge has unlocked the previously ‘valueless’ data. In other cases, I simply hadn’t thought to look for information elsewhere on the document that I was holding.

Case in point. Recently, I opened my mothers old ‘Book of Remembrance’ to see if she had written any notes in the margin about of the families in my current research project. I’ve had her Book of Remembrance for many years and long ago ‘carefully’ went through it page by page to make sure that I’d captured all of her data and research. However, for some reason, my eyes were only drawn to the typewritten fronts of the pages and her handwritten notes in the margins. I was totally blind to the documents she had glued to the back of many of those old family group sheet pages.

When I found the first document on the back of a page this week, I stared at it as though it was a ghostly apparition. How could I have missed it earlier? As I continued to thumb through the pages, more documents ‘appeared’.


I don’t know why she glued birth, marriage and other certificates to the pages, but there
they were and will always stay. I’m now busily scanning them and printing copies on acid-free paper for my files. The originals are starting to decay with time and the effects of the glue and in a few short years will turn into crumbled dust. But for now, I’ve found treasure and it had been quietly sitting on a shelf in my office for years waiting to be discovered again.

The principles of this story can be repeated in any of our family history collections. They are full of treasures that we just need to find. Glean these treasures from your own files and then wait a while and do it again. Just as rocks always seem to regrow in fields, family history treasures always turn up when we carefully review our family history documents and files

26 June 2007 Posted by | Research Tips | Leave a comment

FamilySearch Indexing – We Need You

FamilySearch Indexing has the promise of becoming the premier tool for family history enthusiasts. We’ve read the announcements about the partnerships between the Family History Society / FamilySearch and many large historical resource companies.

If you haven’t read about the scope of FamilySearch Indexing, start here with the church article about the Scanstone project.

The wonderful news is that the church is scanning every document and book in the family history vaults and creating digital images of the lot. Those that can be posted under copyrights, contract, etc. will be posted on the web for free access by anyone.


They need our help in the Indexing. I’ve been indexing census records for the project for a while now. It is easy and only takes a few minutes a day. You download a batch to your computer, do the indexing at your convenience and then upload the file and get another one. No pressure, no quotas. The average batch takes 1/2 hour to 1 hour…. Your time will be faster after you get used to doing a batch. There are 2.4 million rolls of microfilm that need to be indexed, so there is plenty of work for all of us (and the need for all of us to participate).

This project is an excellent way to for us to participate in the indexing and ‘Pay It Forward‘ … meaning our repayment for free access to all of the records held at the Family History Library and branch FHL’s worldwide.

If you want to sign up, go to the page below… If you have family and friends who can help, (you don’t have to belong to the LDS Church), tell them about it too.

Here’s a list of the current indexing projects. As soon as one project is completed another is added.. We’ll see records from all over the world on this list as time goes on… Click on the link at the top of the page to see the projects that are in the cue waiting for us (meaning you and I) to get to them…

And lastly… a few links you’ll enjoy …

  • Linkpendium – over 5 million genealogy related web pages indexed by surname
  • Linkpendium – genealogy related U.S. locations indexed by alphabet…
  • Pedigree Viewer — Here’s a sneak peak of a new product under development by the Church… Don’t know if it will ever go live, but you’ll enjoy scrolling in and out around and around seeing how a pedigree can be presented on the web.
  • PAF Tutorial – BYU has an excellent PAF tutorial on line. If you have questions beyond the training files on your computer or more detailed assistance, see this site
  • Census Tutorial – I’ve sent this link before, but after our discussion on census records last Sunday, you may want to review the BYU census tutorial again…
  • Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War – burials Find the graves of your ancestors who’s father fought in the civil war.

23 June 2007 Posted by | Research Tips | Leave a comment

Archaic Medical Terms

When researching our ancestors, we often encounter causes of death that have ‘funny’ names and are meaningless to us today. In one family, a child died of complications from ‘Quincy’. Did that mean that her cousin, “Quincy” tripped her and she hit her head? No, she died from infection due to tonsillitis.

Almost all of us will find records of ancestors who died of ‘Dropsy’. The term shows up so often that it must be a common ailment. But what ailment? As it turns out, it was most often used to describe congestive heart failure but the term was used in many other applications as well; renal dropsy or disease of the kidney; dropsy of the head or hydrocephalus, etc.

We also see the term ‘Consumption’ used frequently. Was that cancer? No, it usually meant tuberculosis although there were some other diseases that were also called ‘consumption’.

How do you find the meaning of all of these old medical terms? Fortunately, a website has been created that explains them. See Rudy’s List of Archaic Medical Terms and you’ll probably find the meaning for those ‘archaic’ death causes listed on your ancestors death certificates.

23 June 2007 Posted by | Research Tips | Leave a comment

FamilySearch Indexing – Document Preview

The LDS church is letting a limited number of folks preview the new FamilySearch Indexing images …. If you decide to sign up, go to this page and click on the ‘Register to use Records Search’ below the login box…

Be sure to watch the video that shows how the program works and how the actual images of indexed records will be presented.

All the talk and effort is starting to bear fruit. Try it…. You’ll like it… And if you haven’t volunteered to index…. do that too…

21 June 2007 Posted by | Research Tips | Leave a comment

Historical Newspapers

Dennis Allen frequently speaks about all of the genealogical information he finds in old newspapers housed in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. These wonderful resources are often overlooked by family history researchers because they aren’t necessarily stored adjacent to the family history section in libraries. The next time you visit a library to do research, be sure to take a list of birth, marriage and death dates with you. See if you can find mention of your family in old newspapers in the weeks that correspond with the dates on your list. Obituaries are especially full of family data that would typically take many hours to find otherwise.

Recently, I found a photo of my great grandaunt in an old newspaper article that was written when she was a school teacher in Bingham Canyon, Utah. I have almost all of the letters that her father wrote to her during that two year period as a single school ‘marm’ living in Bingham, so seeing her photo was especially interesting.

I’ve written about the Utah Digital Newspapers site in earlier notes. Similar websites are being created for many states across the union. Here’s my favorite index of digital newspapers called ... Historical Newspapers Online

The site certainly isn’t all inclusive, but the links listed on it will get you started in your digital newspaper search. You’ll also want to add these sites to your list.. California Newspaper Project and Ohio Digital Newspapers.

Search the web for more digital newspaper sites and share their site addresses with the rest of us.

Some of us have ancestors and family buried in Australia. I recently found a site called Australian Cemetery Geolocations that gives the latitude and longitude of most of the cemeteries in Australia along with a link to a map that shows the cemetery. The site has been especially useful to me. Hopefully, you’ll benefit from the data too.

Lastly, I created a genealogy related Links page on one of my sites. There may be a link on it that is useful to you in your own research efforts.

19 June 2007 Posted by | Digital Newspapers | Leave a comment

One Page Genealogy

During the past month, I have worked on the lineages of several of our sons-in-law, distant cousins and other interested parties. So many research resources are now on the web, that my research from home was amazingly more fruitful than just a few months aga. Follow the links and tips from my earlier posts and learn how to use Google and other search engines to improve your own web-search results.

After gathering the data and sourcing the various events for all of the ‘found’ people, I created ancestral book reports for our sons-in-law and friends. The books were wonderfully long, full of names, places and dates. Good stuff – Right? Yes, it is ‘good stuff’ but after reading the third or fourth page of these reports, we are soon flipping pages back and forth trying to remember which parents belong to which child and visa-versa. It is obviously time for a graphical chart.

That isn’t a problem. All of our genealogy software can produce a pedigree chart. Most applications let you produce 4, 5 and 6 generation charts and when the lineage extends farther than that, the charts are all numbered and referenced to each other so you can follow the lineages.

But what if you want a BIG pedigree chart?

In days gone by, we would go to the local genealogy supplies store and buy one of the big blank pedigree charts and then spend days writing the names of all of our ancestors in the appropriate places —- in pencil at first because we all goof up sometimes — or at least I do.

Fortunately, we can now produce these huge pedigree charts using our computer. Go to the BYU OnePage Genealogy Printing site and download the free OnePage Genealogy Software application and install it on your computer. Now you can easily create one of those ‘monster’ charts in just a few minutes.

To create the chart, launch your genealogy program, highlight the starting person, (probably yourself right now) and then create an ‘ancestors’ gedcom file. I recommend you keep the export no larger than 20 generations. More than that won’t fit on one of the big charts.

Next, open your OnePage Genealogy software and find the gedcom file that you just created (file > open). Find yourself or the starting person by clicking on the down arrow in the ‘Root’ field, then remove the check mark in the ‘spouse’ box. If you have a large number of folks in your gedcom, go to the font size settings and set the largest font size to 10. Now choose the size of the paper that will eventually be used by the printer. In my case, I chose 3.5 ft X 6 ft – the largest size offered.

The software doesn’t offer a preview of the report, but it will give you good advice by clicking on the ‘Suggest’ button. If the suggestion is to print fewer generations, accept the suggestion. Click on ‘Create’ and in a few seconds you’ll have a beautiful large scale pedigree chart in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format. If you want it printed, just send the file to the OnePage Printing location on the website. If you want to share your masterpiece with others, save the file and e-mail it to them as an attachment and then listen to the ‘ooohhhs’ and ‘aaahhh’s’….

Since the chart is in .pdf format, everyone will see the same chart. You can enlarge it on screen to read the individual details or zoom out to see the graphical picture. Because you created a chart without the spouse box checked, your ancestors are colored using the Mary Hill format, so you can follow your lineage easily.

Now that our sons-in-law, cousins and others have their large pedigree charts, they can easily follow their ancestral book reports. I’m sure you’ll enjoy having large pedigree charts too.

While you have OnePage Genealogy running, create a time line chart using the same steps. If you create an ancestors gedcom starting with your child, you can also create a report starting with them that shows all of their lineage. While you are in ‘in the mood’, select the spouse box and see how the resulting chart looks, then change the starting person and try it again.

Wow…. magic on your computer. Oh, by the way, the charts make great Christmas presents for those of you who like to pick up ‘interesting’ gifts along the way.

16 June 2007 Posted by | Research Tips | 1 Comment

Search by Subject

I’ve been contacted many times over the last few weeks by folks asking where they can find websites to help in their research. FamilySearch has a fairly good index to useful sites by topic. Most of us haven’t thought to look for it there but rather focus on the IGI, Pedigree Resource File and Ancestral File data.

Here’s the link to the ‘Browse Web Sites‘. From here you can drill down by subject.

As an example, you want to know where the boundaries between the 48 states were at a given point in time. Look at Land and Property. Choose the United States. Click on ‘Boundaries of the Contiguous United States’ and watch the animated map show the boundary lines appear starting with 1650 and continuing on to today. Now you can see why your great grandparents are found in Alabama, but they actually lived in what we now know as Mississippi.

Two more webpages arranged by topic are found on the Family Genealogy and History Internet Education Directory and the Regional Genealogy and Local History Research pages.

Hopefully, you will find some information from these links to help in your own family history research

12 June 2007 Posted by | FamilySearch | Leave a comment

You – The Author

As our collection of family history data, photos, histories and documents expands, we come to the realization that we are ‘sitting’ on real treasure. Other family members, both immediate and more distant, have interest in our ‘fabulous’ collection of family history records. The collection really is ‘fabulous’. We know how much time, effort and money we have invested in collecting the records and don’t want those efforts lost if we are gone.

How can we save and share this precious treasure? There are several methods such as burning CD’s and DVD’s, sharing the data as a gedcom file, digital photo files, electronic documents, etc. Another option is to publish the data in book form.

Write a book? Me? Yes, you can create a book. Many genealogy software programs will ‘write’ a book as a report option. Some programs create better text output than others. I personally use Legacy version 6.x which has a ‘publishing center’ tool. The tool allows you to insert pages, introductions, bibliographies, indexes, etc. along with narrative reports of your data. However, you’ll probably want to export your ‘book’ as a text or .rdf file so you can massage the verbiage with your writing style.

Another method of creating your book is to collect the histories, photos, etc. and take them to Kinko’s or a similar business. Tell them to copy the pages, put covers on it and bind it with a spiral binding. The key is that you have actually put the information in a format that has a chance of surviving beyond your lifetime.

Books can be passed on to family members, donated to libraries, etc. Even if your book isn’t perfect, any of your research, notes, etc. will be welcomed by family members and other researchers.

One publishing option is to use online publishing sites. One of my favorites is Lulu.com. To publish, you create a file, upload it, create a cover using their tools and hit the publish button. You choose who can see the book on their site. You can even sell your masterpiece to the whole world on the Lulu website. Each book is printed ‘on-demand’, so there are no out of pocket printing expense like those involved in going to a local printer. The author sets the selling price of their publication, Lulu collects a 20% commission from each sale and the difference between the sale price and publishing cost is given to the author.

Visit the Lulu website and watch the video tour of the process. I think you’ll see how easy it is to publish your work. Also note that Lulu allows you to publish calendars, DVD’s, CD’s etc. You may even want to publish the bedtime stories that you tell your children as keepsakes from their youth.

There are other similar tools and websites for publishing. Search the web and talk to local printers, including the BYU printers before you decide which option is best for you. The bottom line is that any of us can publish our work and by using a method like the one offered on Lulu, the cost is minimal.

6 June 2007 Posted by | Research Tips | Leave a comment