28 February 2012

Forcing Fitting the Puzzle Pieces

Comments after the jump.

 Born 3 Jul 1838 in Hocking, Ohio
 Died 12 Dec 1929 in Lancaster, Ohio

 Married 14 Jan 1858 to Henry Jacob Springer (1819-1906)
 Edward James Henry Springer, B: 1859
 Ellen Catherine Henry J Springer, B: 1863
 Wesley Springer, B: 1865
 Elzada Springer, B: 1870
 Harvey Springer, B: 1872
 Benjamin Springer, B: 1878 
 Married 1 Dec 1859 to Joseph Delong (1839-1891)
 Lucinda A Delong, B: 1860
 Joseph Allen Delong, B: 1863
 Charles H Delong, B: 1868
 James Thomas Delong, B: 1868
 Ida J Delong, B: 1872
 Mary E Delong, B: 1875
 Effie Alice Delong, B: 1877

24 February 2012

Free Gen Websites

Post last updated on 12 Nov 2013

I wrote about researching for free and posted it on the discussion boards on the Ancestry.com Facebook page. Facebook discussion boards have since disappeared but I've copied and pasted it here. If you have more suggestions please add them in the comments. 


If you're just starting you may not want to spend $$ on a software program. You can create your family tree and keep it on Ancestry.com for free. Add names, events, photos, stories and invite your family to help you out. All of that is free. What Ancestry charges for is searching for records and making first contact with other members. If you're not a subscriber other members can contact you and once they do you will be able to answer them. The message boards are free and you can make contact with other researchers that way.
There is a way to search Ancestry's records for free. Go to your local library and ask if they have the Library Edition of Ancestry.com. You will need to access it from a library computer (not your laptop) and go to the Ancestry link on your library's homepage. Don't just go online and go to Ancestry.com. You'll see the same page you see on your own computer. There may be some databases not viewable in the Library Edition. Ask the librarian what other databases the library has access to that might be useful for genealogical research. Some may be accessible from home with your library card number.
Over 1000 databases on Ancestry are free to everyone and you can search them from home. In some cases the index or transcription is free but viewing the original record requires a subscription. You can limit your search to the free collections here or go to the card catalog and do a keyword search for the word FREE.


Another site owned by Ancestry.com is Fold3.com which focuses on military records. This is another subscription site but like Ancestry there are some free databases in their collection. You'll see a red "FREE" next to those collections.


FamilySearch is the most extensive collection of free genealogical records. It's run by the LDS church. Their goal is to make all the microfilmed records they have in the vault in Salt Lake City available online for free. Since there are millions (not millions of records but millions of microfilm rolls!) it's going to take some time. They have records from all over the world and are constantly adding new collections. If you'd like to see if they have anything for a part of the world you're interested in go to their homepage (link above) and scroll down. Click on the area you're interested in.
To see some of the images you'll need to create an account and sign in. Don't worry, unless you're ordering microfilm they never ask for a credit card number.
The entire collection is not indexed so it's also helpful to search the catalog to see what's available. There's a small fee for renting the microfilm and you'll have to search the old fashioned way, page by page.
FamilySearch also has libraries around the world. You can use Ancestry Library Edition, Fold3 and many other subscription sites free at any FamilySearch Center. For a list of those sites and more information about visiting a center click here. Each center will also have a permanent collection of microfilm that is free and, of course, books.
FamilySearch also has a Facebook page and a number of Facebook communities. Those communities focus on different states, countries and areas of research. I've used the Hispanic Genealogy Page and the volunteers have been extremely helpful.
If you find their site helpful you might consider volunteering with indexing new records. Click "Indexing" at the top of their homepage to learn more.

Cyndi's List

Cyndi has done an amazing job of categorizing and cataloging genealogy websites. She includes a $ icon for pages that require a subscription. Have ancestors from Cuba? Do a search for Cuba and see if there's any site online that caters to exactly what you need. Or maybe you'll find out about an online group of genealogists who have done research in Cuba and they can help point you in the right direction.
Like the Cyndi's List Facebook page to keep up with the latest site news.


Some counties/cities may have a page on RootsWeb. If you're lucky their page will have information about vital records for the area (what years are available and who to contact if they're not online) and they may even do newspaper look ups. You can also connect with others on the surname pages where you may find distant relatives.

Find A Grave

The volunteers at Find a Grave have created a huge database of graves, headstones and, in some cases, family lines and obituaries. Families are only connected IF someone has come along to connect them. So if you find a family member not connected to anyone use the handy search in the left hand column to search the surname in that cemetery or in that county. The search engine at F.A.G. is different than what you may encounter elsewhere so experiment with name variations (i.e. John Walker Smith, John W Smith, J Walker Smith, J W Smith, J Smith).
I've written more about the Find A Grave site here.
UPDATE: Find A Grave has been purchased by Ancestry.com but is still free.

Dead Fred

Dead Fred is a photo archive that covers over 17,600 surnames. There's also a mysteries section where you can search by photographer, state, time period, subject...

Google Books

Your ancestor didn't have to be famous to be in a book. Many towns/counties would publish a book on the anniversary of their founding. A book like that might have short bios of the oldest living or most prominent town/county residents. Or you may just want to find out more about the time or place your ancestors lived. If you find a book you're interested in, there are links to see if it's available for purchase or to find it in a library. If it's out of copyright you may be able to read it online or even download a PDF copy.

Other free sites

You may want to search a surname on Flickr.com or take a look at groups there like AncestorShare or Geneaolgy Documents. There are others, like me, who have started family group pages on Facebook so search for a surname and see if there are any "groups" in the results.

Your Local Library

With the surge in family history interest a lot of libraries have an introductory class or may even have lectures or genealogy help on certain days. Don't be afraid to ask. If they don't currently have something they will consider adding something if enough people ask. If you're looking for books about internet genealogy research be sure to check the copyright date. Since the internet and websites change so frequently a book written in 1999 is not going to be much help in 2012.

Learning is Fun

Ancestry.com has an online Learning Center as does FamilySearch. Legacy Family Tree (software) has webinars.
Podcasts are also a great way to learn. Family History: Genealogy Made Easy is a series I've listened to about 3 times all the way through. Do a search in iTunes for genealogy or family history to find more including tutorials from Ancestry.com.
I've created playlists of genealogy related videos available free on YouTube. The lists include videos from (links go to YouTube channels) Ancestry.com, the National Archives, the National Genealogical Society and many more.

There are sites where you can view other people's trees for free but I'm not going to link to them. Too many people copy error filled trees and think they're doing research. They're not. Once you get started you'll understand why anyone posting, "I did the 14-day free trial and traced my family back to Charlemagne" on any genealogy centered Facebook wall is subsequently mocked.

If you have other options for free research, tutorials or a favorite genealogy podcast or book to recommend please add it in the comments!

This is a time consuming but incredibly rewarding hobby.
Best of luck climbing your family tree!

PREVIOUS POST: What's the point?
NEXT POST: Force Fitting the Puzzle Pieces

RELATED POSTS: FamilySearch, Visiting a FamilySearch Center, Find A Grave, Ancestry for Free: Genealogy Research Sites That Don't Cost a Dime (On FamilyHistoryDaily.com)

21 February 2012

What's the point?

A short but puzzling post today ;-)

One tree I've run across was difficult to decipher in a way that is unlike any I've posted about before. Each person on this tree had been entered and then all relationships removed. No one on their tree had a mother or a father or a spouse or children. You could use the search box to look for a name but you couldn't tell how anyone was related. Doesn't that defeat the point of having a FAMILY tree?

If any of you have a theory as to why someone would do this please comment.

I'd love to hear it!

PREVIOUS POST: Asking For Help
NEXT POST: Free Gen Websites

17 February 2012

Asking For Help

There are plenty of people who are willing to help you get to the next step. It's good research karma ;-) There are message boards on Ancestry.com, FindAGrave.com, and RootsWeb.com, just to name a few. These are searchable for years and may have boards dedicated to surnames and/or places. There's also Facebook: Genealogy Tip of the Day, Ancestorville, and others that cater to specific ancestry like Swedish Heart Genealogy and AfriGeneas. You can download a list of the 4,000+ pages and groups on Facebook here.


 1) DON'T YELL. You may think that your post will catch someone's eye because it's all in caps but online that is considered yelling. Putting a surname in all caps would be appropriate or a word or two for emphasis but an entire post in caps is just rude.
 2) No cursing. On some pages your post will be deleted and you may be banned. If you read other posts you should be able to tell what is and isn't acceptable for that particular site.
 3) Say thank you. If someone takes the time to check the subscription site they're paying for to see if there's a record of your ancestor acknowledge that, even if they didn't find anything, e.g. "Bummer. Thanks for checking."
 4) Don't be greedy. When someone gives you information don't then ask, "What about...?" or "Can you look up...?" Say thank you and go research.
 5) Proofread your post! If you're going to post and then not be online for a few hours make sure you're not sending someone on a wild goose chase searching for your ancestor in 1720 when you meant 1920.
 6) Have messages enabled on your account. If the answer to your question is lengthy or if a helper has a question about your post that may be too personal for a public wall they may want to message you.
 7) Comment on your original post. If you forgot a detail or have a clarification do not post the information in a new post.
 8) For those who like to help... Tell how/where you got the information. Remember the Chinese proverb:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

After the jump: What to include in your post

14 February 2012


Comments after the jump.

 Born: 24 Aug 1701 in Germany
 Marriage: 16 Jun 1734 in Germany to Mary Eva Barbara Weigand
 Arrival: 1747, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
 Died: 1768 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 1870 US Federal Census; Clay, Wood, West Virginia
 1870 US Federal Census; Greenwich, Gloucester, New Jersey
 Ancestry Family Trees
 Ancestry Family Trees
 Connecticut Town Death Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection)
 Family Data Collection - Deaths
 Family Data Collection - Marriages
 New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920
 Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s
 1. Pennsylvania, 1747, p. 260
 2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1747, p.366
 Pennsylvania Census 1772 - 1890  
 Public Member Trees

10 February 2012

Stop and Look Around

Once you find an ancestor take a look at the people around them. This is especially helpful when looking at a census record or walking a cemetery. You may find the family of another ancestor. I had trouble finding my great-grandfather William Gillespie (age 15) in the 1900 census. I knew he was living with an unrelated family but didn't know their name. Before going through pages of records in the county I thought he was in I searched for my great-grandmother Agnes Sundberg (age 8 in 1900). She was living with her family just as I expected her to be but as I scrolled down the page looking for the Sundberg family I saw "Willie Gillespie" living with the Pearson family NEXT DOOR. My dad's generation was aware that he lived next door his future wife but none of them ever mentioned it. Turns out William even remembered seeing Agnes eating breakfast in the high chair one of the first times he stopped by.

William Gillespie and Agnes Sundberg on their wedding day. 

If your male ancestor married someone with an unusual first name look for that name a few pages before and after his in his last census as a single man. You may get lucky and finally find that elusive maiden name.
In a cemetery a family plot may not be marked as such so check the graves around your ancestor. If you can't get to the family cemetery five states away go to Find A Grave and see if someone else has documented the cemetery. Volunteers add memorials from obituaries, cemetery records and by "mowing the rows" (photographing a local cemetery row by row). If you find an ancestor there click the name of the cemetery and search for the surname. Some memorials may include an obituary and/or family photos, not just a photo of the grave.
Here's William Gillespie's memorial page. Don't rely on the family links on Find A Grave anymore than you would rely on an undocumented tree though! Look at all the evidence. If two people share a stone they are probably related: spouse, parent or child. If there is a row or block of matching stones they are probably related. Sometimes it will be obvious, i.e. matching stones or one stone with "mother" and "father" above the names.

Tip for a Find A Grave search: Start with as little information as possible (first and last name and maybe the year they died or the state they're buried in). If you get too many results to wade through add info piece by piece to narrow a search.

PREVIOUS POST: The Time Travelers

07 February 2012

The Time Travelers

Comments after the jump.


 Born 1903 in Mexico       
 Died ???? in Mexico

 Father     Salvador Vela                 Born 1719 in Bosnia   Died 1800 in Mexico
 Mother    Agueda Longoria Chapa   Born 1719 in Mexico  Died 1788 in Mexico

 1744  Married Joseph Miguel Alanis
 1767  Married Jose Miguel Alanis Sr
 1910  Living in Bexar, Texas
 1920  Living in Cambria, Pennsylvania
 1920  Living in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
 1930  Living in Hidalgo, Texas

 Children with Joseph Miguel Alanis (1720 - 1797)
 Tadeo Alanis Garza (???? - 1819)
 Esteban Alanis Vela (1750 - 1768)
 Jose Miguel Alanis (1750 - 1831)
 Jose Damian Alanis (1767 - 1819)
 Manuel Zapata (1923 - 2002)

 Children with Jose Miguel Alanis Sr (1892 - 1797)
 Tadeo Alanis (???? - 1819)
 Tadeo Alanis Garza (???? - 1819)
 Joseph Miguel Alanis (1720 - 1797)
 Jose Miguel Alanis (1747 - 1797)
 Esteban Alanis Vela (1750 - 1768)
 Jose Miguel Alanis (1750 - 1831)
 Jose Damian Alanis (1767 - 1819)
 Jose Joaquin Alanis (1769 - 1812)
 Ellis Alanis (1898 -     )
 Eddie Alanis (1902 -    )
 Jose Daniel Alanis (1905 -    )
 Josephine Alanis (1910 -     )
 Manuel Zapata (1923 - 2002)
 Plus 7 more children listed as living

03 February 2012

US Census 101

Happy Season 3 of Who Do You Think You Are?!!! 
Really looking forward to tonight's episode :-)
"Martin Sheen, a longtime activist, sets out on a journey to find out if his ancestors shared his greatest passion. His search leads him to Ireland where he investigates his uncle's ties to the Irish Civil War and his devotion to activism. He continues his journey in Spain, where he uncovers another relative who also fought for social justice and was wrongfully imprisoned during Franco's fascist regime. As he continues to trace his Spanish roots back to the 1700s, he unearths an unexpected family secret." (from NBC press release) 

 Census Tip #1

Be open to different spellings of names.

I was helping someone once and found a census entry I was 99% sure was the correct family. The person I was attempting to help said it couldn't be them because they didn't spell their last name that way. This was on a popular Facebook page and no matter how many people agreed with me the person refused to believe it was their family. AAAAHHHH!!! 
Census enumerators had a lot of ground to cover and did not usually ask how to spell every name. In some cruel cases they didn't even bother with first names and just used initials but we won't go into that because it makes me want to throw things.
How would your ancestor have pronounced their own name? Remember that they may have pronounced your surname much differently than you do. Did your ancestor have an accent? Now imagine you're from a completely different part of the world than your ancestor. What does the name sound like to you? Gillespie could end up as Galespy, Villagran as Viagran or Hochstetler as Hostetler. Even without an accent some names may be difficult to determine and an enumerator may have asked how to spell them but many people couldn't spell their own names. So be flexible and creative when spelling names. 

PREVIOUS POST: My Head Hurts: Part 2
NEXT POST: The Time Travelers