Saturday, July 31, 2010

Treasures At Your Local Family History Library

It is amazing what you can find at your local family history library. You may think your small library may not have much to offer, other than the free access to pay database sites.  However, in researching an article for the Phoenix Family History Center Library, I was amazed at what other items are available for our patrons - especially published family histories.  Here's a few treasures I'd like to share with you.

1.  A book published in 1876, "Henry Dunster and His Descendants," by Samuel Dunster of Attenborough, Massachusetts.  I did confirm that this book is scanned into Google Books, but to think we have a hard copy from 1876 in our library is amazing to me.

2.  "Our Ellsworth Ancestors" - this is a book I am very familiar with, as many of my ancestors are in this book.  I first found this book on Google Books a couple of years ago, but I had no idea our library had a copy.  (To think I've been working in this library for 5 years -- shame on me!).  It was so nice to preview it and find color images of the Ellsworth crest, which I photographed for my history.

In fact, I actually found six different books that contained information on several of my ancestral lines.  I now have more resources to review to supplement my family history.

3.  One of my favorite finds, though, was a handmade book called:  "Autobiographies of the Six Allen Sisters."  Unlike the previous treasures mentioned above, I could not find this "book" anywhere on the internet or at  It was a wonderful book of the biographies of six Allen sisters, complete with a photograph of the sisters.  I wonder how many Allen descendants would like a copy of this book?  Looks like I need to scan and post it on the world wide web.

Libraries receive donations daily of books and published family histories left behind by descendants who don't appreciate their value.  Several might be self-published books such as the book on the Six Allen Sisters.  I suggest you consider a trip to your local family history center to see what might be available on your family; you'll never know what you might find.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Free Online Videos to Help You With Your Genealogy Research has expanded its collection of research aides by adding many online classes (videos) to help you with researching your family history.  Best of all, these online classes are free!
There are classes in beginning research to classes on thinking creatively about your research problems.  There are classes on searching Indian genealogy, military records, courthouse records and census records.   There are even classes on how to read handwritten records in Dutch, French, Latin, Italian and other languages.

Their selection of videos on researching internationally is excellent, with classes for England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Mexico and other countries.  To access the classes, go to, Research Helps, Online Classes.  Videos average 30-45 minutes in length.  Even though I have been doing research for a while, I always learn something new!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Researching UK Births? Try FindMyPast's New Index recently updated their birth indexes and they are fully searchable (see image at right; click on image to enlarge).  They cover the time period 1837 to 2006, and for all of England and Wales.  Why use their index instead of FreeBMD or Ancestry?
  • FindMyPast claims to have the most comprehensive index available.
  • FindMyPast claims their images are crystal clear and easier to read, thus rendering better transcriptions.
  • You can include spelling variations.  This comes in handy to quickly see other variations of the surname you are researching.
  • Advanced Search tab adds a District, so you can narrow your search.  You have this same search available on FreeBMD.  FindMyPast claims that Ancestry's indexing doesn't properly allocate the districts to the correct counties.
Why I am writing about this?  To remind you that ALL websites make mistakes in transcribing records, so checking different websites for the same information may help you find your lost relatives.  And, all websites are constantly updating and improving their indexes to improve accuracy, so check back again at a later date.

TIP:  If you want to see the images from the FindMyPast site, you don't have to pay for them if you go to your local LDS Family History Center and utilize their FH Portal.  However, I've found that viewing the actual pages of the BMD indices are not very helpful (see image above).  You cannot rely entirely on when the births were recorded, so go to the source and order the actual birth record (see image below) from the General Register Office in England.  It is nice you can order these online too, and you receive your certificate within a couple of weeks.

Thank you for for first reporting on FindMyPast's new index.  I shall use it immediately!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

What I Do - or - What Are You "Packing?"

One of my favorite blogs ( has asked users to supply information on "What I Do," or in geek terms, what hardware and other geeky things are you "packing?" You might think this list may be of interest to only true computer genealogy geeks, but I've found that when this type of information is shared, I always find new programs or websites to help me with my genealogy research or help me improve my computing skills.  I like to look at these lists in the same light you would ever use the saying, "why reinvent the wheel?"

Here's my list (I've selected/combined those items I felt most important to me):

Hardware: Dell with Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive.  My computer is never "big and bad enough" for me, but unfortunately I do have a budget.  Nevertheless, if you are going to be editing videos and working with a lot of images, just make sure you have lots of RAM, a fast processor (CPU), and a large enough hard drive to store it all (500 GB is sufficient).

External Storage vs Online Storage (for backup):  My main solution for all is   It is relatively inexpensive and offers unlimited storage, and works in the background.  I do have a second internal hard drive and I use flash drives, but I rely on Carbonite for my main backup.  If my computer gets stolen or my house burns down, at least all of my information will be safely stored on Carbonite.

Firewall, Virus Protection, Spyware:  Norton 360.  It's a hog, but it works.  I might switch to McAfee some day, but for now, this works.  I also use Spybot (free) for routine cleaning of spyware.

File cleaner: CCleaner (free) and Spybot.  Norton 360 also offers a similar feature (plus it reminds you to do it!).

Scanner:  You need a decent scanner if you are scanning photos and documents.  My pick:  Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner.  It doesn't need time to warm up, and it does a great job.  It also comes with a sheet feeder (extra cost).  (I just wish it had a good 4 x 6 photo feeder too.)

Phone, Mobile Media:  iPhone 3G, 16GB. Although I am tortured by AT&T's coverage, I will never give up my iPhone. I love it!  It does it all - mobile media, plays my music, surfs the web, sends/retrieves emails, and everything syncs with my Outlook address book and calendar. 

Media Player:  I use both iTunes and Windows Media Player.  Depends on what type of output music CD I need (my car stereo doesn't play MP3 files).

eBook Reader:  I'm a retro girl:  hard copy with a night light.

Internet Browser:  Both Mozilla, Internet Explorer 8.  Hackers love IE8 and they can lock you out from the internet (I know from experience).  My solution:  ALWAYS keep Mozilla loaded on your computer.  If IE8 won't work, you can use Mozilla to get to the internet to start finding programs to fix your computer.

Blog and Blog Reader:  Mostly, but experimenting now with  I like Google Reader for reading my blogs.

FTP:  SendThisFile, but will now check out FileZilla (per posts on this subject).

Text editor (for blogging):  Notepad (comes with your computer) and TextPad (free).  Both are excellent for drafting blog posts for later copying/pasting into your blog.  (FYI - never use Word for drafting blog posts; it inserts pesky codes in your blog and your blog post may not save.)

Graphics:  Adobe Photoshop Elements, Publisher, Powerpoint, PicPick editor (see below).

Screen capture:  PicPick is free, and excellent!  You can export to its editor, Word, etc., or to the clipboard.  You can easily add markups such as arrows, circles, etc.

Social media: (for family and friends), (for career), and for genealogy and fun.  Facebook is wonderful for genealogy:  I am constantly sharing my genealogy finds (via posts from my blog to Facebook).

Social bookmarking:  This is another one of those websites I learned of via geneabloggers.  Very nice.

Social profile:   None yet, but I see that's Thomas MacEntee prefers  Looks like I'll be checking out to learn more!

URL shortener: - absolutely necessary if you are twittering.

Software for email, calendar:  Microsoft Office products, Google's -- all sync with my iPhone.

Accounting: My husband (thank Heaven!), Excel, plus I recommend QuickBooks for small businesses.

Web Conferencing: Microsoft SharedView (it's free!)

PDF generator:  Adobe Acrobat, but a good freebie is PrimoPDF.

Genealogy database:  RootsMagicPAF.

Genealogy tools:  GenSmarts (excellent for suggesting research on your ancestors, also available at RootsMagic), AniMap (good for viewing county and state changes over the years, available at I also use's app for transporting my database files on my iPhone.

Other tech stuff:   Don't forget the online sites I use to extract online videos, convert movie files, etc: and I also use Audacity (a free program) to convert old cassette recordings of my ancestor interviews to digital files (also need the proper audio input cord).   I use Premiere Elements for movie editing.

Also, when I am searching for a review, a suggestion for a software program, or a website to solve my current computer dilemma, I turn to She has already reviewed most sites and software and will never lead you astray.

That's my geek list!  I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful.


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