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June 30, 2005

Hearts Bound Together by Henry B. Eyring

For those family historians who are LDS, there was a superb talk titled Hearts Bound Together given by Elder Henry B. Eyring in the April General Conference. Elder Eyring's focus was specifically on the duty of LDS members to do their genealogy research. (Latter-Day Saints believe in doing sacred ordinances for their deceased ancestors who did not have the chance to perform them while they were alive. In order to do this, they need to know who their ancestors are...hence the need for genealogy work.)

Here is a portion of his talk...

"You begin by doing simple things. Write down what you already know about your family. You will need to write down the names of parents and their parents with the dates of birth or death or marriage. When you can, you will want to record the places. Some of that you will know from memory. But you can also ask relatives. They may even have some certificates of births, marriages, or deaths. Make copies and organize them. If you learn stories about their lives, write them down and keep them. You are not just gathering names. Those you never met in life will become friends you love. Your heart will be bound to theirs forever.

You can start searching in the first few generations going back in time. From that you will identify many of your ancestors who need your help. Someone in your own ward or branch of the Church has been called to help you prepare those names for the temple. There they can be offered the covenants which will free them from their spirit prisons and bind them in families—your family—forever.

...After you find the first few generations, the road will become more difficult. The price will become greater. As you go back in time, the records become less complete. As others of your family search out ancestors, you will discover that the ancestor you find has already been offered the full blessings of the temple. Then you will have a difficult and important choice to make. You will be tempted to stop and leave the hard work of finding to others who are more expert or to another time in your life. But you will also feel a tug on your heart to go on in the work, hard as it will be.

As you decide, remember that the names which will be so difficult to find are of real people to whom you owe your existence in this world and whom you will meet again in the spirit world. When you were baptized, your ancestors looked down on you with hope. Perhaps after centuries, they rejoiced to see one of their descendants make a covenant to find them and to offer them freedom. In your reunion, you will see in their eyes either gratitude or terrible disappointment. Their hearts are bound to you. Their hope is in your hands. You will have more than your own strength as you choose to labor on to find them."

I think Elder Eyring gave some great reasons and good encouragement for us to keep doing our genealogy, even if we aren't LDS.

June 29, 2005

Relationship Calculator in PAF

I have never quite figured out how to determine the relationship between myself and distant relatives. I understand uncles, aunts, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins...and that's about it. I've never understood who would be 3rd cousins, or who would be 4th cousins 3 times removed (as is Count Olaf to the Baudelaire children in A Series of Unfortunate Events). This is why I need the relationship calculator in PAF.

I was recently putting in a huge line of Ramsays, found at the World GenWeb website, into my Personal Ancestral File. I came upon a Barbara Ramsay married to a George Ramsay, a George who I'd already entered into my file. I realized they must be related and was a little weary to find out how. Then my mother reminded me of the relationship calculator. (She just used it yesterday to find out a married couple in her line were actually first cousins)

The relationship calculator is found under tools. You then select the RIN number or the name of the two individuals you would like to calculate. If they are married it first pops up that they are spouses, but then it will show you how else they are related. In my case, Barbara and George are 2nd cousins. The calculator will show you their line of descent to a common ancestor. 2nd cousins means that they had the same great-grandparents.

After finding this out, I decided to check out the relationship between my husband and myself. After it said that we were spouses, it then had another popup say that there was no documented blood relationship between us. Very good news.

June 28, 2005

Stephen P. Morse's One-Step Database

The Stephen P. Morse website was ranked #12 for most popular websites used by professional genealogists, so I decided to try it out. It is a one-step database that is supposed to search the Ellis Island records, Ancestry.com census records (with a subscription), Social Security Death Index, and many other websites all at once.

Every time I search for a name though, the only thing that pops up is the search for the name on Ancestry.com. I assume that the website is helpful for those people who have ancestors who immigrated to either New York, or Boston, or Baltimore, or any of the other ports listed on Morse's database. Apparently, none of the people I've searched for have had any information at the other sites Morse's One-Step Database searches. There isn't really a "how to" guide to his website, so I'm a bit confused. It seems like I can just keep using Ancestry.com and find the same information Stephen P. Morse's website would pull up for me.

June 27, 2005

Genealogy Interview Questions

Sometimes when I am trying to gather family stories and information from my husband's 94 year old grandmother I don't know exactly what to ask her. Ancestry.com released a list of great questions written by Juliana Smith back in February of 2001. Here is the list of questions.

* Where did you grow up?
* How long did your family live in the area(s)?
* Were there other family members in the area? Who?
* Did you live on a farm? What kind of crops did you grow?
* What kind of livestock or other animals did you keep?
* Did you have any pets?
* What was the house or apartment like? How many rooms?
* What kind of amenities did it have? (indoor plumbing, electricity or gas, phone, television, etc.)
* Were there any special items in the house that stand out in your mind (favorite possessions of yours, your parents, or siblings)?
* What kind of area/neighborhood was it?
* Did the town have a railroad? Post office? What kind of stores or shops?
* What was your family's religious affiliation?
* Where did you go to church?
* What religious ceremonies did you take part in?
* Did you have godparents or sponsors?
* Where did you go to school?
* What level education do you have?
* What was your favorite subject to study?
* Did you have any special interests when you were growing up (sports, hobbies, crafts, etc.)?
* What kind of games did you play?
* What was your favorite toy?
* What other things did you do for fun (go to beach, park, movies, zoo, etc.)?
* Did your family ever take trips or go on vacation?
* Do you speak any foreign languages?
* Did you have family reunions?
* Who were your friends when you were growing up?
* Who were the close friends of the family?
* Describe the personalities of your family members.
* Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?
* Were there any serious illnesses in your family?
* Do any illnesses run in the family?
* Were there any memorable traditions that your family practiced?
* Can you remember any stories that were told to you as a child (fictional, folklore, or real life)?
* What events stand out in the memory of your childhood (historical, personal, familial, storms or disasters, fire, etc.)?
* What inventions or developments changed your life, and how?
* What was your father's occupation? Where did he work?
* Did your mother work? Where?
* Did you work? Where?
* Did anyone in your family ever serve in the military?
* Did anyone in your family ever hold a public office?
* What was your favorite song?
* Did anyone in your family play a musical instrument?
* What were your family's favorite meals? Are there any special family recipes?
* Were certain foods eaten or avoided on certain occasions?
* Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
* What kind of organizations did your family belong to (fraternal, charitable, scouting, etc.)?
* What special skills do you have?
* How did you come into your profession?
* When did you move away from home?
* Have you ever been married? If so, to whom? When?
* Where did you meet your husband/wife?
* Did you exchange any special gifts?
* How long did you date before getting married?
* Where did you get married?
* Who participated in your wedding?
* Did you have a reception? Was there music? What songs were played?
* Do you have a copy of your wedding invitation?
* Was there an announcement in the newspaper? Which paper?

June 26, 2005

Paw Prints Cross Stitch

I recently purchased a Family Tree Cross Stitch kit from Paw Prints Cross Stitch and was very pleased with their service. My mother's hobbies include both genealogy and cross-stitching, so I thought this gift would be perfect for her.

I ordered this kit 2 weeks before her birthday online at their website. They then emailed me saying that they were waiting for another shipment to come in and that it would be sent out shortly. I was a bit surprised to hear this news, because the website had not said this item was out of stock and I replied saying that I needed this Family Tree Kit by June 24th. Their representative, Diana, was quick to respond and said they would get it out to me no later than June 21st and would send it Priority Mail. I was happily surprised with this unexpected upgrade on shipping and just as she said, they shipped it out on the 21st and I received it on Thursday, the 23rd.

I feel like customer service isn't as important to some companies anymore, and I am very pleased that Paw Prints Cross Stitch still wants to take care of their customers. This Family Tree Kit looks very nice and I recommend it to anyone who likes to cross-stitch as well as do their family history. It is called God Bless Our Family Tree, by Sunset, and costs $18.99 at Paw Prints Cross Stitch.

June 25, 2005

World GenWeb

After reading about the World GenWeb as one of the top websites used by professional genealogists, I decided to try it out. It was definitely worth the effort. I found loads of information on an ancestral line I've been stuck on for a year. I have had trouble finding information on my husband's Canadian relatives, but I hit the jackpot with this website.

The WorldGenWeb Project is a world-wide volunteer group of genealogists sharing their information. When I went to this site, I clicked on North America first, and then decided to try the Canada GenWeb just for kicks. Our ancestors come from Prince Edward Island (PEI), so I clicked on that location and then went to PEI Lineages.

My husband has 2 sets of great-great-great grandparents all raised in PEI. This lineage section then let me search for each surname and 3 out of the 4 of them were listed on this site. I found lists of Barlows and Ramsays who lived in PEI that were all related to our relatives. I then was able to email each of the genealogists who posted this information and have already received a few pictures from a nice lady named Carol.

I highly recommend the use of this website and I have these 2 pictures to prove it works.

Barlow.jpeg mansion.jpeg

The Barlow mansion in PEI belonging to John Barlow, born in England in 1808...moved to Prince Edward Island in 1832.

June 24, 2005

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System(CWSS) is a database containing very basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides during the Civil War. Their main focus is on the names of all the soldiers, where they served, and what their rank was. They now have 6.3 million soldiers in the database.

I wasn't sure of anyone in my family history who served in the Civil War (1861-1865), so I just typed in a few different last names to see who the database would pull up. I found 1 or 2 soldiers that I believe are my ancestors, based on their peculiar names and being of age to serve. The information you get is very basic, no birth dates to verify the person is your ancestor, but it's good information nonetheless.

The CWSS is still trying to obtain and enter in all the records of the Naval personnel (sailors); these records were not as organized as the Army records, so are taking longer. They are also looking into including information on thousands of Civil War monuments in the future.

They do have information on Union and Confederate regiments as well as information on over 1,200 Civil War soldiers who received medals of honor. There are also prisoner records, histories of the 364 most significant Civil War battles, and a few cemetery records as well.

The CWSS appears to be adding information regularly and seems to be a good place to search for some ancestors.

June 23, 2005

The Family History Store

The Family History Store is a great website if you're looking for something to give a genealogist. There are journals, frames, scrapbooking things, mugs, cross-stitching kits, puzzles, genealogy tools and charts, etc. There are also books, CDs, and computer software to give someone who is just getting started with their family history. This is a great website to generate some ideas.

And you can always buy a few things for yourself as well!

June 21, 2005

Professional genealogists choose the best genealogy websites to use

I was just reading through some articles on Ancestry.com and found a very interesting article titled, "14 Websites Preferred by Professionals," written by Kory L. Meyerink. In this article Meyerink reveals the results of the 2004 survey to professional genealogists asking which 5 genealogy websites they use the most. (Please link to the article to find out how she identified and questioned these professionals).

Meyerink then lists the top 14 websites. Given that 12 of these 14 sites were all in the 2003 survey as well, I would suggest starting your research with one of these sites.

(there was a tie for 13)
13. Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System
13. World GenWeb
12. Stephen P. Morse's One-Step Database Interfaces
11. National Archives and Records Administration
10. Ellis Island
 9. General Land Office Records (BLM)
 8. Google
 7. Genealogy.com
 6. Heritage Quest Online
 5. US GenWeb
 4. Cyndi's List
 3. RootsWeb
 2. FamilySearch
 1. Ancestry.com

Since I have only used about 4 or 5 of these websites, I plan on finding out more information about each one and posting it soon.

To find out more about Professional Genealogists go to ProGenealogist.com.

June 18, 2005

Tribal Pages

There is a great website that will let you upload your whole family tree for free. It's called TribalPages and it allows you to put all your family history research online for others to view. The website allows you to set up a password protected site, so that only those who know the password can see all the information.

I uploaded my gedcom file a few weeks ago and I think it has some great features. For one, it allows me to give out the website to my family members to view...instead of me having to email them a huge file and wait for them to download it. Plus, whenever I make updates I can just make it on the website for all to see, instead of again having to email the updates.

TribalPages also allows you to upload photographs and file them in a photo index. I also think the relationships tool is a great feature to let you know your exact relationship to someone in your file (PAF also has this feature). Your tribal page will also keep you up to date on all birthdays and anniversaries among the living people in your family, which could definitely help with a big family.

All in all, the best thing about this website is the fact that it's free. You can't lose, just make sure to use their security password feature.

June 17, 2005


I recently tried a free 14-day trial with the OneWorldTree feature on Ancestry.com. I have an annual subscription already to the US census records, the US immigration collection, the US records, and the family and local histories. I've been very pleased with all the information I've found on this website in the past year, and thought it would be nice to try one of their other features.

I discovered that the OneWorldTree feature is excellent for those people who are just starting out on their family history research. You can type in a few of your ancestors' names and hopefully hook in to someone else's tree and add all their names to your file. OneWorldTree is definitely something you can use at the beginning of your research.

The problem I discovered for myself is that in the past year, I've already discovered many of the names through the world tree feature I already have access to with my subscription. I've already typed in manually most of the people OneWorldTree found for me. Which leads me to another drawback. OneWorldTree does not have the ability to input a Gedcom file from my PAF program. I thought I would be able to upload my gedcom file of 8500 names and that I could then search for those names. But I had to input a few names one by one for OneWorldTree to search for them.

So if you're just getting started with your family history research, then OneWorldTree is a good option for you and worth the annual fee of $49.95 for new customers (If you already have an Ancestry.com subscription it would be $39.95). I wish I had used it when I started my research a year ago. It would have saved me a lot of time and typing.

June 13, 2005

Finding Family History Centers

The LDS church has many family history centers scattered throughout the world that are available for use. In order to find the closest one to you, you can look on Family Search and type in what country, state/province, county, and city you live in and it will find the closest family history center for you.

You do not need to be a member of the LDS church to use their facilities. They offer the use of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, as well as PAF, PAF Insight, and PRF Magnet. The centers also provide access to most of the microfilms and microfiche in the Salt Lake Family History Library to help patrons identify their ancestors.

June 9, 2005

Lots of genealogy software to choose from

I recently found this great site that lists practically every program available to use in recording your family history. It's called Louis Kessler's Genealogy Software Links and was just recently updated on 5/15/05.

Louis Kessler lists the top 4 genealogy programs available in his opinion and they are:

1. The Master Genealogist
2. RootsMagic
3. Reunion
4. Lifelines

The Master Genealogist is said to be the most powerful program out there for Windows. It costs $59.00 to download the gold version, and $79.95 if you would rather have it mailed to you with a printed manual. The Silver version with less features is $34.00 to download and $39.95 to have it shipped to you on a CD-rom.

RootsMagic is said to be the easiest and best-loved program, so I downloaded a trial version. The trial allows you to input 50 names and test out the software. I tried it and I don't think it's easier to use than Personal Ancestral File (PAF), which is my current program. Adding marriage information and LDS ordinances seem much more complicated in RootsMagic. Plus it does cost $29.95 to order the full version.

Reunion is supposedly the best program to use for a Macintosh computer. It is the most expensive program I've found so far though, costing $99.00 to order. Louis Kessler's website says that PAF offers a program for a Macintosh computer, so perhaps that is the cheaper way to go.

Lifelines is also a free program like PAF and it may be the most powerful one available. But it is made for Unix users and many people don't use Unix. My husband does use it, so hopefully I can do some research on it.

Kessler's site than lists the 3 most popular genealogy programs, which are:

1. Family Tree Maker
2. Brother's Keeper
3. Personal Ancestral File

Family Tree Maker seems to be the most popular program used and only costs $19.95. In looking at their website, it says that their program will search Ancestry.com to find your ancestors for you and then you can merge them into your file. Knowing the wealth of information that Ancestry.com has, I think I might try this program out.

Brother's Keeper is the most respected software and has been around for a long time. It costs $45 to order the product and also has a free sample.

PAF is the program I use and is downloaded free from FamilySearch.org. If you are LDS, this is the program to use since all temple records and cards get transmitted through this program. I also think it is very user friendly.

Louis Kessler's site
lists over a hundred other programs available, so please check it out for more information. Most of these programs do have free trial versions, so you can test them out and find one that works best for you.

June 6, 2005

Records to use

The following is a list of records to use when researching your family history. You'll have to find personal records on your own, but most of the other records can be found at sites like Genealogy.com or Ancestry.com.

Personal Records

* Diaries/Journals
* Personal Letters
* Oral Histories
* Photographs

Other Records

* Adoption records
* Baptism or christening records
* Birth records
* Cemetery records and tombstones
* Census records
* City directories and telephone directories
* Daughters of the American Revolution records
* Death records
* Emigration, immigration and naturalization records
* Land and homestead records
* Marriage and divorce records
* Medical records
* Military records
* Newspaper columns
* Obituaries
* Occupational records
* Passports
* School and alumni association records
* Ship passenger lists
* Social Security records
* Tax records
* Voter registration records
* Wills and probate records

June 5, 2005

How reliable are the facts you find?

Some genealogical facts you find can be unreliable. According to Answers.com, the top 5 unreliable sources are:

1. Place Names
2. Occupations
3. Surnames
4. First Names
5. Dates

(In order from most reliable to least reliable)

Answers.com gives the reasoning behind this list, and all the reasons make sense. This is why it's important to reference all your sources and be as thorough as possible.

June 3, 2005

Why do Genealogy?

For those of you who have not caught the spirit of genealogy work, let me give you a few reasons why you might want to try this as a new hobby.

1. Learning about your roots can help you understand yourself better.
2. To join some societies you need to know your lineage.
3. LDS belief of providing ordinance work for the dead.
4. The thrill of discovering an ancestor.

Genealogy is a very addicting hobby; it's like doing a puzzle and finding the piece/person who fits in each spot. Sometimes it's nice to stop searching for names though, and just read different stories about each person. A few years ago I typed up my paternal grandma's handwritten life story and I learned so many interesting things about her life and also about my father as a little boy. This record helped me catch a glimpse of where I come from.

Some societies focus on the descendants of ancestors who participated in an historical event. Daughters of the American Revolution, The Society of Mayflower Descendants, and United Daughters of the Confederacy are a few examples of these societies. Other societies focus on a geographical location instead, such as New England Historic Genealogical Society. In order to join one of these societies or others, you have to know where your ancestors came from and who they were.

Many Latter-Day Saints do genealogy research because they want to provide baptism and other ordinances to those who were not given the chance while they were alive. Mormons believe that the living may assist their deceased relatives to progress in the next life, if they accept work done for them in LDS temples. Elder Henry B. Eyring, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said this in a recent conference address, "The ordinances you so cherish are offered only in this world. Someone in this world must go to a holy temple and accept the covenants on behalf of the person in the spirit world. That is why we are under obligation to find the names of our ancestors and ensure that they are offered by use what they cannot receive there without our help." LDS members are under obligation to find their ancestors.

The last reason for doing genealogy work can't really be understood until you've actually found an ancestor's name. When you find a relative's name on your own for the first time, and even each subsequent time thereafter, it feels amazing. All the time and work that goes into the search all become worthwhile when you can add a name or many names to your pedigree chart.

Genealogy has been claimed by some to be one of the most popular hobbies in America, second only to stamp or coin collecting. Don't you think it's time you gave it a try too?

June 1, 2005

Searching Census Records

Ancestry.com's Newsletter had a great tip of the month for May 2005. The tip was to get started in family history by searching Census Records. I completely agree with this tip and have found probably about 50% of my 8000 names by searching the US Federal Census Records. You can access these records with either a subscription to Ancestry.com or Genealogy.com. I think these are the two main sites that carry the Censuses, but they do both cost money. You can go to any LDS Family History Center though and access Ancestry.com for free.

I tried a free 2-week trial with Ancestry.com and really liked it, so therefore signed up for a year subscription. I have not tried Genealogy.com yet, so I do not know which is better or offers more information for a better price. Genealogy.com has a 2-week trial as well though, so perhaps I will investigate it. I would love to hear others feedback on either site.

The U.S. Censuses offer great information such as a person's age, where they were born, where they currently live, their occupation, and their relationship to the others in their household. These records started in 1790, and continue for every 10 years until 1930...but most of the 1890 Census was burned and cannot be accessed. I don't like to use any Census earlier than 1850 though, because those earlier Censuses only list the head of the household's name and then tally marks stating how old the women and men are who live w/ them. In 1850 they start to name each individual person and their age and place of birth. Then later on the censuses add the relationship to head of household and then in 1900 they even mark the month and year each person was born and their age at first marriage.

If you are looking for people who lived during the 1800's or early 1900's, this is probably the easiest way to find them and lots of other information too.

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