Sunday, April 26, 2015

Link Hoarding

I must admit I'm a bit of a link hoarder. With anything else in life, I like to keep it simple. Put everything in its place and if I have no use for it, out it goes.

Links are too easy to collect, though, especially genealogy links. Heck, I even save links for sites I don't actually need... but could need in the future.

Fortunately, I went in and cleaned my favorites out last night. Good thing, too, because plenty were broken. It just goes to show that when you find a link that is potentially useful, you need to try to mine it for nuggets as quickly as possible.


I like to organize links for ease of finding what I want, so my favorites are broken down in a folder called "Genealogy" into subfolders:

Canada
Connecticut
England
France
General
Ireland
Italy
Maine
Massachusetts
New Brunswick
North Carolina
Nova Scotia
Quebec
Scotland
Virginia

Last night before I cleaned out links, I had more folders - folders I ultimately realized I never used. So this is a very basic way of organizing links. I can find what I need quite easily. If I am working on my Mayflower ancestors, I know the Massachusetts folder will be my first stop to see what links I have available.

There are probably plenty of folks who don't see the need to have these various subfolders for organizing links/favorites. Alas, if I didn't do this, the Genealogy folder would be one, long, disorganized list of links that I would have to scroll up and down through.


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Organizing All That Paper

So I'm not entirely down with going all digital. YET. I'd really love to scan every single bit of paper I have and save it to disk, so I have that back-up available to me for emergencies, or just to be able to carry it with me on research trips (useful when I finally get a laptop again).

Fortunately, I'm not drowning in paper, so to speak. I keep it very organized with binders.

I use a color-coding system for binders and scrapbooks. Plain black binders are for genealogy. Some are dedicated to pedigree charts, some are dedicated to general family records and pages copied out of reference books, and some are dedicated to vital records.

Organizing paper from the get-go makes it easier to stay that way. Everything I have that is not a pedigree chart is organized by surname. My vital records, for example, are all alphabetized. And for those ancestors for whom I have multiple vitals, those are then placed in chronological order.

So for a man, I have his records in order of birth, marriage, and death. The wife's birth and death are filed under her maiden name, and her marriage is cross-referenced to the husband.

I use an index to make the system easy for someone to understand. If someone picks up one of my vital records binders, they can see at a glance whose names are in there, the order in which they are arranged, and the cross-referenced marriages as well.

Furthermore, I keep a spreadsheet to track the records I request and receive. Admittedly, though, I do the same with my Nancy Drew book collection. ;)

Other paper documents I have include copies obtained from manuscript collections at NEHGS, Civil War pensions, family-created documents written by great-aunts or great-uncles, and more. While I don't index these, I do alphabetize them. Perhaps it's high time I also indexed them by name, document, and - if applicable - title of book or collection from which it came...

Being organized is a boon when it comes to genealogy, particularly if you would like someone else to easily interpret and utilize what you have collected.



Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Research Plans 2015

It looks like I will be homebound for most of 2015, and focused on work, work, kids, work... So there won't be any on-site research for me this year.

The places I still really want and need to visit are Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. However, other things take precedence this year, like remodeling our home (with our own hands, mind you!) and my husband continuing his college education (and our last surviving laptop doesn't get wireless internet, so traveling is out of the question).

That means my research efforts must take place from home.

As always, March meant it was time to renew my NEHGS membership. I don't use NEHGS as much as I used to, since most of my New England ancestors are "done" - of course, family history is never done, and there is always something new to learn about an ancestor's life. However, I would hate to miss out on anything they offer, so I will remain a member until the very end.

I still like to gather records by writing to town and city clerks, and I really need to check to make sure my spreadsheet of birth, marriage, and death records I currently have is up to date.

Another thing I'd like to do this year is expand my library a little more. There are a few recently released Mayflower silver volumes I would like to have.

There remain brick walls, of course, and over the next several weeks I plan to revisit them, review my previous efforts, and see if I can make any breakthroughs.

I think I need to take a broader picture approach, and work my way through each of my lines, as I do a few times a year. That is, I "begin" at my children, and then work up through each line of ancestry, checking for "holes" and inconsistencies, and seeing who needs my focus.

This is when I like to work off paper - to use printed pedigree charts to give me a visual. So my husband will just have to put up with the pile of binders on my desk as I sit down and try to answer questions such as, "Who was Emma Anna Murphy's first husband?" and "So, what happened to Joseph St. Onge?" (not my ancestor, but still a person of interest).

So watch for posts revisiting brick walls and dead-end immigrant ancestors as I endeavor to learn more about my family!


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Social Media in Genealogy

As the internet offers us more and more places to connect, it can be very tricky to determine who you "ought" to follow on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and more. There are many recommendations out there - some that are considered staples of social media/the online community in genealogy.

It is well worth checking out the suggestions on "Top 100" lists and the like, but sometimes finding the right folks to follow on social media is as simple as a few search terms.

What do you want to get out of making these connections online? Do you want to find potential distant cousins and other people with similar research interests? Do you want to keep up to date on more general genealogical news or the latest scientific advances with DNA? Would you like to find people local to you or communicate with genealogists in other countries?

And, once you find these people, what next? What should you do with these connections? What is the point of a widespread network if you don't make use of it, or participate in it?

Sometimes, it is nice to sit back and watch news, ideas, and more scroll by in your Twitter feed. But it won't necessarily help break through that brick wall or bring you closer to uncovering what happened to an ancestor who apparently dropped off the face of the earth.

Take time to reach out to the people with shared research interests, or even who live in the area where your family resided decades or centuries ago. Before the internet, we sent each other letters - even long-distance relatives! Email makes it even easier to say, "Dear John Smith, I noticed your post on the Genealogy.com Smith forum, and I do believe we may have an ancestral connection via Robert Smith."

We tend to be a friendly lot, so most of us will respond courteously - probably even excited to hear from you.

So use that social media to be social. That's the whole point of it.



Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Basic Genealogy Forms

Paper genealogy is still where I feel most comfortable when it comes to collecting and organizing information. It makes life simpler to pull out a binder of charts or vital records for an "at a glance" look at things.

Never underestimate the power of the basics. Most of us start out with these. I don't know if any genealogists ever really phase them out of their work, even with all that family history software can do for us!

The Pedigree Chart is the place most family historians begin. Using yourself as a starting point, these charts allow you to go back a few generations, recording names and dates, and places of birth, marriage, and death. It doesn't go in depth. Instead, it gives an overview of yourself (or the ancestor listed on the first line), parents, grandparents, and so on.

Some people make extensive use of Family Group Sheets to focus on a specific set of parents and their children. This isn't a form I use much, but it can be handy if I need to utilize lateral/sideways research techniques.

A Correspondence Log can be handy for tracking emails and letters you write in your search for information.

Various other forms that are useful as you delve deeper into researching your family history include the Research Worksheet, Research Calendar, Research Journal, and Research Checklist.

Most of these forms are available at Family Tree Magazine's website or via a Google search.

What forms do you find indispensable in organizing your research?


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Where does 2015 bring me?

I've been far busier than I would like. Far too busy to work on genealogy. However, things are cycling around and settling down. I've decided to step back from editing work and focus specifically on my writing and my research.

My goodness, I haven't even sat down to take a look at my goals for the year! As it is, 2015 may be an ebb-and-flow sort of year, and Type A me is okay with that. As much as I thrive on plotting out what I plan to do from year to year, month to month, even day to day, there are times I need to just let things happen.

So it's already the end of March and I am still at the point where I need to "just do it."

Fortunately, I spent time with a genealogy friend today and I think that's the kick in the pants I needed to get going. Sometimes, that's what you need - someone else's enthusiasm to refuel your own.


Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Genealogy for all of us!

Today I was flipping through some photos of my great and great-great grandparents, and my son said it saddens him that he never got to know them.

So many people think of genealogy as an avocation for retirees. For a while, I felt a little lonely, but more and more Gen X genealogists are connecting and showing up at conventions.

Now one of my challenges as a parent is also trying to interest my children in genealogy, without making it feel like a chore. I respect my children's unique interests and if they aren't keen on family history, that's alright. But it was nice to see that my son responded to the photographs.

I think if we want to involve our children, we have to find the approach that touches them most. Maybe my daughter will enjoy tromping through cemeteries with me, while my son will be more interested in the faces of the people he never knew. Maybe my son will be fascinated with the places they lived, while my daughter will be more intrigued by the stories of their adventures. Who knows?

The internet makes family history more and more accessible to all of us. One of The NextGen Genealogy Network's goals is to encourage young people explore this interest, and let them know they aren't alone. Genealogy isn't a "senior citizen's" hobby.

It's for anyone who wants to explore it, and the communities around it are open to everyone.

Do you involve your children in genealogy and, if so, how?



Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan