Wednesday, December 31, 2008


re flec tion
A fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration.
A thought occurring in consideration or meditation. [1]

Every December when I send out our family Christmas newsletter, I review the highlights of the previous year. Sometimes I list them by family member, but lately I've been ticking them off by month as I look over our calendar pages. I thought as a prelude to my Resolutions post, which will be my submission to the 63rd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, that I would review the highlights of my year in genealogy and in blogging:

A conversation with my children's paternal grandfather and a post by Terry Thornton about walksheds prompted my post, "Every Eleven Miles." It was the most-read article of my blog in January and was published the following month in print form by the Memphis Buff, the newsletter of the Memphis Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Association.

Google Book Search sent a local film crew to my home to interview me as a part of their video series on different hobbyists and professionals who use Google Book Search for a variety of purposes. The video was released on YouTube in June and can be viewed here.

At the request of several of my Beginning class students, and with the recommendation from a couple of them who were also employees of the Community Colleges of Spokane, I taught my first Intermediate Online Genealogy class, a six-week course, at CCS's Institute for Extended Learning. (Next session here.) I also did a presentation on Footnote for the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society's monthly computer class.

In response to some questions from one of the students in my Intermediate Online Genealogy class, I compiled the Confederate Pensions Databases post, which was the number-one read for the month. However, my favorite was a series on Random Acts of Kindness Week. I also posted my first Wordless Wednesday after being inspired by George Geder.

"Vital Records and Obituary Websites" was my presentation for the EWGS's February computer class.

I started the monthly Calendar of Events post, where genea-bloggers and their readers can find the dates for holidays, history, and heritage events as well as deadlines for the carnivals.

At long last, the marriage date and place of my great-great-grandparents, James L. YORK and Mary "Mae" E. McARTHUR was found!

AnceStories won the 2008 Artistry of Genealogy Award.

In the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors series, I posted a brief biographical sketch, with photos if I had any, of the direct ancestors (or their brothers) of my children who served in the American Civil War. I timed it so the last post would be the day before Memorial Day, originally set aside to honor those who had fallen during that conflict.

A cousin of my children's father found a Bible that had once belonged to their mutual ancestor, Ann (WILSON) WESTABY, of the immigrant Westaby couple that came to the United States in 1850. This relative generously scanned the Bible and sent me copies via CD.

I taught my sixth Beginning Online Genealogy class, a four-week course, for the Community Colleges of Spokane. Also, the Colville, Washington LDS Church asked me to speak on military records for their annual Family History Conference.

My mother agreed to write her school years memories for the 48th Carnival of Genealogy and her posts were a big hit! A bonus result was connecting with her best childhood friend after the friend Googled her name and found it in Mom's posts. A trip back to Michigan this summer provided Mom and Beth to reunite.

The Spokane County Library District asked me to present my Beginning Online Genealogy course to its patrons.

I was honored to be a guest blogger on Shades of the Departed's "Friday from the Collectors" column.

After Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's Unclaimed Persons project bought genealogists and genea-bloggers to Facebook in droves, Thomas MacEntee formed the Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook (inviting me to be one of the original administrators) and then started Facebook Bootcamp for Genea-bloggers, a team effort by several bloggers, including myself.

The Northeast Washington Genealogical Society kindly invited me to give my "Frugal Genealogy" presentation.

Tom Sowa, the technology columnist of our local newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, saw my Google Book Search video and came to interview me. The article was published in print on July 27th in the business section of the paper (my second interview by the S-R in less than a year!) and was also reproduced on his blog here.

Let the Games begin; the Genea-Blogging Games, that is! Wasn't it fun?

I presented a tutorial on WorldVitalRecords at the EWGS monthly computer class.

AnceStories made it into the list of AllTop's top genealogy blogs.

As Ways and Means Chairperson for EWGS, I coordinated the Rest Stop Fundraiser.

The Whitman County Genealogical Society kindly invited me to give my "Frugal Genealogy" presentation.

Lisa Louise Cooke interviewed me about my best research tips and what motivates me to do genealogy for her new Personal Life Media Family History podcast. The podcast aired in November and can be heard here.

I taught my seventh Beginning Online Genealogy class for the Community Colleges of Spokane.

I discovered how much fun Ancestry's MyCanvas program was and used it to create family calendars for Christmas gifts (look for a post in the next week summarizing my experience and the reactions of family members).

I began my Tuesday's Tip column, which is a bit hit. My posts on organizing digital genealogy files (documents, photos, and miscellaneous files) bring lots of traffic to the site.

In addition, we had ten successful Scanfests and a Spring Break Scan-a-thon. There were dozens of memes and challenges, and two new genealogy carnivals to submit posts to. I may not have broken down any great brick walls, but my research went deeper and wider on individuals and families I already had. I look forward to what 2009 will bring us!

Source: 1. reflection. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: December 31, 2008).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Digital Research Notes, Emails, and Reports

The last two Tuesdays, I wrote tips on how to organize your digital files (i.e. genealogy documents) and digital photos. The next task is to tackle all those miscellaneous files; you know, the copies of emails from distant relatives and other researchers, the notes or logs you've kept (either in a digital document or those written notes you've scanned), and reports such as ahnentafels or timelines. As you can see in the image below, I have five such folders for my CROTHERS surname which are named "Crothers Genealogy," "Crothers Genealogy 2004," etc. It's definitely not an efficient system:

Click on any image for an enlarged view.

Looking inside one of these folders gives a view of files named just as randomly:

Opening and reading through these files revealed that some of them were no longer (or had never been) pertinent to my research, so I deleted them, leaving only five files in that particular folder:

The file titles give me a small idea of what each is about, but I don't know which are emails, which are reports, and which are research notes. I also don't know--if they are emails--who the authors are. And I don't have a clue when they were written, unless I use the Details view:

The Details view gave me the following perspective, but the dates are out of order:

Clicking on Date Modified brings the dates into chronological order:

Still, these file names are lacking what I need to really analyze them at a glance. I have decided to name emails in the following format: Date; "Email from [first and last name of author]"; and Topic. For the topic, I look inside the email and pinpoint exactly which individual or family group this message is really focused on, and then use it. I also use the "SURNAME first name MAIDEN NAME" format in the topic to be consistent with my Document files. In the list above, you can see that I have a file named "Jane Sweers" and another one named "Jane Sweers & Willard Crothers". They become:

2003 01 28 - Email from Ruby Foust - CROTHERS Willard marriage to SWEERS Jane FORD

2003 01 29 - Email from Ruby Foust - CROTHERS Willard and SWEERS Jane FORD family information

I noticed when I attempted to rename a couple of files, I got a message asking me if I wanted to change the name of the Read-only file. In some cases, it wouldn't let me change the name, because it was a Read-only file. So I right-clicked on the file and under the General tab, unchecked the Read-only box.

I used the following formats for research notes, and reports:

2003 08 07 - Research Notes - War of 1812 Muster Rolls - CROTHERS John in New York and Pennsylvania

2005 09 15 - Ahnentafel Report - Ancestors of SWEERS Rhoda YORK

Now that I've cleaned up all those files and folders, I made a new folder named CROTHERS Research. Here's what it now looks like inside:

I can easily see at a glance which Crothers family members I have information on and what type of information it is. I can find my reports and research notes. It's easy to find all the emails from one researcher. And everything is in date order.

My Genealogy folder is looking a little neater, too. Now there are only three CROTHERS folders: one for documents, one for photos, and one for all other research files:

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can organize, manage, and analyze those odds and ends of digital genealogy files and folders. This system is very adaptable and easy to personalize. Happy Organizing!

In this series:
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files
Update on Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Photographs

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tuesday's Tip Slightly Delayed

Due to one thing or another, I haven't quite finished my Tuesday's Tip post in time too be published at 5 AM, EST. I had considered staying up late Monday night to finish it, but my shoulder is rather inflamed and I think I had better just take some pain medication and go to bed.

Tuesday I have my next physical therapy session and we will have a break in the weather (so the weatherman has promised), which means we need to get errands done before the snow storms of Wednesday and Thursday/Friday arrive. I feel I am living Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter. We have had four feet of snow in a week and a half; a thaw, producing collapsing roofs all over town; a freeze, creating sheets of ice; and another foot of snow within six hours' time.

Once errands are done (supplies restocked, Christmas packages mailed out to family with which we unfortunately never connected due to the weather), I can finish and publish the post. Thank you for your patience.

The Proximidade Award

Janet Iles of Janet the Researcher and Amir Dekel of I Dream of Genea(logy) awarded me with the Proximidade Award:
These blogs invest and believe in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers, who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

I love how many of the recipients are forwarding this award on to newer genea-bloggers! It's that kind of spirit which includes the newbies as well as us "oldies" that makes the genea-blogging community such a welcoming one! I decided to gift some of my fellow "oldies" before they got "taken". They are all pioneers in the genea-blogging movement, and their blogs are all on my must-read list:

The footnoteMaven
Jasia of Creative Gene
Craig Manson of GeneaBlogie
Terry Thornton of Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi
Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings
Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society and Library Blog
Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems News
Denise Olsen of Moultrie Creek

And thank you, Janet and Amir! I'm honored!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Week Forty-Three: The New Year" Posted at AnceStories2

This morning I posted "Week Forty-Three: The New Year" over at my journaling prompts blog, AnceStories2: Stories of Me for My Descendants. How did you celebrate the New Year growing up? How do you celebrate now?

Do you wish your ancestors had left some sort of written record of the events in their lives for you? The next best thing is for you to record your memories for future generations!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Findings: VALK, LEWIS, McCLELLAN, Markham Twp Ancestry

I haven't done a Friday Findings post in a while, and as I'm slowly returning to posting more of my regular "columns", I thought I'd start here. Friday Findings is a feature I started last summer to record my weekly research finds and cousin connections. I hope to do a better job of keeping up with this. This post covers the past two weeks.

Last week, I had two cousins leave comments on the guestbook at my family history website, also named AnceStories. I'm delighted to hear from them, and need to take the time to compose thoughtful, comprehensive e-mails as responses.

I have spent a lot of my online research time during the past two weeks trying to find as much as possible about one of my brick wall ancestors, Levi E. McCLELLAN (or McLELLAN). The Michigan vital records at FamilySearch Record Search helped me to determine that he was indeed married twice, and not just once. Confusion came about because both wives had similar names. His first wife, my ancestor Clarissa Mary (or Mary Clarissa) CLEVELAND, was born c. 1832 in New York state. She last appears on the 1870 Federal Census with him and the children, William, Cornelia (my 3rd-great-grandmother), and Edwin in New Haven Village, Macomb Co., Michigan. In 1880, Levi is living with wife Mary C. FORD, along with a 10-year-old son Ira, and two step-children in Detroit. Finding son Ira's marriage record, also at FamilySearch Record Search proved that he was Clarissa's son and not Mary's. Mary appears in the 1890 Veteran's Census as a widow of two veterans, Levi being one of them. So Levi died sometime between 1880 (when he appears in both the Federal Census in Detroit and the 1880 Detroit City Directory) and 1890. The 1850 Federal Census gives me a possible mother, brother, and niece for Levi. I've decided to spend my Christmas money on obtaining Levi's Civil War Veteran's pension record from the National Archives to see what genealogical gems I can glean from it.

Markham Twp., York Co., Ontario Ancestry
Janet Iles was kind enough to let me consult her regarding what Markham Township records are available so that I can try to knock down some other brick wall lines, my WILKINSON and either TERRY or LAMONEAUX lines. I'm hoping to find the marriage record of Richard WILKINSON and his wife Mary, who seems to have two surnames (TERRY and LAMONEAUX).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Quiet Day

It's been a very unusual Christmas Day. We are on Plan C, or maybe it's D; I've lost track.

Originally, our plan was for everyone (my parents from Northeast Washington, my brother from Western Washington, and our household) to meet at my sister's home in neighboring Spokane Valley. Unfortunately, severe winter weather, with 30 of 39 counties receiving record amounts of snow, has once again played havoc with our plans.

Because the City of Spokane Valley decided not to plow past noon yesterday and because my sister has a truck in comparison to my parents' and our cars (which get around pretty well but still can get high-centered on unplowed roads), we changed to plan B and decided to meet at my house. I live half a block off the main street in town which becomes the highway heading north to the community where my parents live, two hours away. My folks were going to bring the turkey and mashed potatoes, Sis was going to bring stuffing and gravy, and we have green bean casserole, pies and beverages here.

My brother was unable to make it cross-state. Thankfully, he did not venture off Whidbey Island and end up stranded. My parents are snowed in up on the mountain because the county did not plow the road that goes to within a mile of their home. Dad was able to snowblow his driveway, but the private road from the driveway to the county road is unplowed since the neighbor with the truck plow has not headed into town as she had planned. Half of the gifts we ordered for our kids did not arrice. One, for my son has been here in Spokane at the Fed Ex warehouse since Saturday, according to the tracking system I'm using online. UPS delivered the other half (part of a video game) late last night; it's useless without its counterpart. My daughter asked us to pay some of her bills for Christmas, since she's currently unemployed. We did so, but ordered a gift for her to open Christmas Day. The best I can figure, it's sitting in a post office on the west side of the state. Fortunately, my children's father and I yesterday picked up a couple of small things for the kids to open today "just in case." Turns out, we needed them. My children's father and I don't normally exchange gifts on Christmas Day. We enjoy going out together after Christmas and treating each other to the sales and specials. So for the first time in memory, neither he nor I are opening individual gifts on Christmas Day.

Phone calls to my children's paternal grandparents and paternal aunt's family in Southwest Washington informed us that they have received 14 and 18 inches of snow (and counting!) respectively, and will be quietly celebrating apart instead of together.

We're hoping to get together with my family sometime this weekend, and also with my children's paernal uncle's family here in town (who are celebrating with his parents-in-law today). Tonight, in lieu of a big turkey dinner, we'll have my children''s father's favorite one of meatloaf and some of that pie. UPS also delivered a box of Hickory Farms from my children's paternal grandparents last night, which we've been enjoying this afternoon.

It's quiet, it's small. But the four of us are warm, safe, together, and have power. Our loved ones are all home and safe (and my three little nephews have plenty of new Christmas toys to keep them entertained, my sister assured me over the phone). I've been playing on the computer (digital scrapbooking, searching online databases in hope of a "Christmas find", and having a private Scanfest). My children's father spent several hours shoveling snow (which has become a daily occurrence over the last week) and is enjoying a well-deserved nap. My daughter is also enjoying the teenaged luxury of sleeping, while my son tries to bargain me into letting him be on the desktop (our wireless service is crud, and our laptop doesn't connect well to it--not a chance, Bud!). I'm perfectly content to wait a few days until the family gatherings and gift-opening begin. :-)

Merry Christmas!

Quick Page by CuddleBeez Scraps

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Hot Head Will Not Melt the Snow, But it Can Get You Booked

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with genealogy, but I had to post it for the laugh. It came tonight in an e-mail update that we receive from the Spokane Police Department. Obviously, Officer Eckersley has a great sense of humor! Kudos to our city police and fire departments and road crews, along with the mail carriers and everyone else that has to be out in the awful three feet (and still falling) snow.

A hot head will not melt the snow, but it can get you booked

On 122308, at about 3:30 P.M., an armed man confronted snowplow drivers in the 400 block of west Providence. The incident started when the man's elderly mother went outside to confront two plow-truck drivers who were clearing the residential street she lives on. The woman began yelling at the drivers and her 53-year-old son, Clay Moon, came out of the house as well. Clay expressed his opinions about the downfalls of snow banks while holding a handgun as he yelled at the plow drivers. No shots were fired. A short time later, the City Streets Dept received an anonymous phone call from a male. The male threatened that the next plow drivers would be shot. The phone call was traced back to Moon's residence. Spokane Police Officers responded and investigated both incidents. They determined that Moon was the suspect in both cases. A loaded handgun was located at his residence and he was booked into the Spokane County Jail for Felony Harassment. The truck drivers were not injured in the incident.

Everyone in the city has been affected by the heavy snow fall. Several days of dealing with it have caused tensions to rise and police calls for service are increasing. Most people are digging in and helping out their friends, neighbors, and perfect strangers. I ask those people to continue with the Holiday spirit as there is more snow to come and we will all suffer through it. Remember, when July comes, we will all be laughing about those crazy days in December. Try not to reflect on those days from your shared cell at the Spokane County Jail.

Officer B. Eckersley #649

FREE Beginning Online Genealogy Class Offered

Click image for an enlarged view.

Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Photographs

When I started to revamp my digital files using Barbara Nuehring's fantastic system, I decided to see if I could adapt it in some way to organize my digital photographs, specifically the photos of ancestors, relatives, and tombstones I've either scanned from printed photos or uploaded from my digital camera. I experimented with some photos that my dad recently e-mailed me of his mother taken when she was a young woman. I really liked the system I developed and so have decided to use it for all my genealogy photographs. I'll demonstrate on my CONCIDINE photo folder--my great-grandmother's family. Here is the way my CONCIDINE folders currently are named in my Genealogy folder in My Documents:

Click any image for an enlarged view.

You can see that I have not really organized anything in these folders. The first thing I'll do is rename the photo folder, so that the surname in capital letters really stands out. I right-click on the folder icon and choose Rename:

Then I retype the surname in all caps:
Taking a look inside this folder shows eight photos, one of which is a duplicate. Here's the Thumbnail view:

The List view currently doesn't do anything to help me analyze or organize these photos:

The first thing I'm going to do is eliminate one of the photos of my great-grandparents because it's a duplicate, and also because it's a scanned image of a color photocopy. It used to be the only copy I had. Then my dad sent me a .jpg file, which is what you see here. This year, I actually got an original print of my own from my grandparents' estate, and I need to scan the original into a .tif file (writing this on my To Scan list for Scanfest right now).

Right now, that photo is named "Holst, Alfred Henry & Nellie Concidine". I am going to make a folder in which to put every photo of Nellie that I have. There are two here in CONCIDINE Photos, this one and the Higby Family Reunion photo. I know I have a couple more, but they are not digitized yet (making more notes in my To Scan list). From the toolbar menu, I choose File, then New, then Folder:

A new folder is created, and I right-click on it and chose Rename. Here it is:

To move the photo of Alfred and Nellie, I left-click on it, then hold the mouse button down while I drag the photo to the folder and then lift the button. You can see that the photo is now in the folder:

I open the folder to rename the photo file using a system I came up with adapting Ms. Nuehring's system for digital files. I have decided to use the date, then the first and last names of each person as they appear in the photo from left to right, using the woman's maiden name and her current married surname. I debated whether to put surnames in capitals in photo file names, and decided against it. It makes it too difficult to read, especially when there are several people in a photo. I am limiting naming individuals in photo files to about five or six people. If there are more than six people in a photograph, I'll give it a group name and then identify the individuals in the Properties section of the file, or in a Notepad file of the same name (more on that later):

I know this photo was taken for Alfred and Nellie's 40th anniversary, and they were married in 1905. I don't have further information on the date, however, so I've added two sets of double zeros. If this photograph's date could only be identified by a vague date, say "circa 1940," I would list it as "1940 circa - Alfred Holst, Nellie Concidine Holst". That way, the files will still line up in date order when I view them in List view. Naming it as "Circa 1940" or "c. 1940" would put this at the end of the list of photos, because Windows Explorer orders numbers first, and then letters. If I had any other photos of Nellie taken after this date, then the photos would be out of date order; so again, I would put the word "circa" after the date.

Now that I've relabeled the photo, I'll add Properties information. This is something that will be used more for my photo files than my document files. In my document files, I only used Properties to identify the date and website in which I viewed and downloaded the document. First I right-click on the photo and choose Properties:

Next, choose the Summary tab (you won't have a Carbonite tab unless you have this great backup system downloaded to your computer):

If you get this window instead of the one shown above, chose Simple:

Here's where I fill in the details:

Title: 1945 00 00 - Alfred Holst, Nellie Concidine Holst
I just copy the name I've already given this photo.

Subject: HOLST Alfred Henry, CONCIDINE Nellie May, anniversary portrait
I write out their full names, as they appear in the photo from left to right, and add a descriptive phrase.

Author: unknown - possibly Versluis Photography - Michigan, Ottawa, Coopersville
Photographer's name and location photo was taken come next.

Keywords: formal, anniversary, Alfred, Holst, Nellie, Concidine
I list whether the photo is formal or casual, then repeat any descriptive words I've used in the Subject line. I also enter first and last names only of those in the photo. I only do this with photos that don't have a lot of people in them.

Comments: Original in the possession of Bryan Robbins, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] 2008.
Here's where I put the contact information for the owner of the photo. I actually put the address in, instead of the "address for private use" phrase.

This photo will get copied into Alfred's own photo folder in the HOLST Photos folder.


Things are a little different for large group photos. I can't put that much description in any of the Properties fields, because I'm limited on the amount of text I can use. Here's what I did for the Higby family reunion photo. I named it "1906 00 00 Higby Brothers Reunion." Then I put in the following information in the Properties fields:

Title: 1906 00 00 - Higby Brothers Reunion
Subject: HIGBY, family reunion
Author: unknown - probably Michigan, Kent County
Keywords: casual, family reunion, Higby, Holst, Concidine, Hefner, Keeney, Dupree
Comments: See notepad file of the same name for identifying information. Original in the possession of Donna Metcalfe [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] 2005.

Note that I only used surnames in the Keywords field (no first names). Next, I created a Notepad (.txt) file and identified everyone in the photo with information I gleaned from an e-mail sent to me from the owner of the photo:

HIGBY Brothers Family Reunion
Probably taken in Kent County, Michigan

Back row, left to right:
HIGBY Lafayette C
[--?--] Anna Marie HIGBY - 2nd wife of HIGBY Lafayette C
CONCIDINE John - widower of HIGBY Anna M
HIGBY Albert
[--?--] Esther - wife of HIGBY Albert
HOLST Alfred Henry - son-in-law of CONCIDINE John
CONCIDINE Nellie May HOLST - daughter of CONCIDINE John
HEFNER Orpha HIGBY - wife of HIGBY Frank M
DUPREE Mary L HIGBY - 2nd wife of HIGBY Carey Willis
HIGBY Dorothy - daugher of HIGBY Carey Willis
HIGBY Carey Willis

Etc., etc.

Because Nellie's father and three of her brothers appear in this family reunion photo, I make a folder for each of them and copy the photo and notepad files into each of their folders.


For gravestone photo files, I name them with the date they were photographed, which always places them at the end of the list of photos for that individual. Here are the Properties for a photo taken of the gravestone of Nellie's father, John Dennis CONCIDINE:

Title: 2005 00 00 - Gravestone of John Dennis Concidine
Subject: CONCIDINE John Dennis, gravestone
Author: Donna Metcalfe - Michigan, Kent, Byron Twp, Winchester Cemetery
Keywords: John, Concidine, gravestone, Winchester Cemetery
Comments: Original in the possession of Donna Metcalfe, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] 2005.

Is this a perfect system? I don't know, but it is working well for me. Here is what the inside of the CONCIDINE Photos folder now looks like:

And here is Nellie's photo folder in Thumbnail and List views:

Everything is neat and tidy and easy to find. The keywords allow me to do a search over all my computer files and find the photographs I'm looking for. The file names ensure that I can find all the photographs for that person in one location, listed in date order. The folder names help me find all the photographs for all individuals with that surname in one location, listed in alpha order. Yes, it will take me time to rename and tag all these photos, but I can tell you that it's making it very easy to know how to name, file, and organize the new photographs that have recently been sent my way.

I hope this inspires you to do something similar with your ancestral photographs!

In this series:
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files
Update on Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Digital Research Notes, Emails, and Reports

Revisiting Advent Memories 23: Christmas Sweetheart Memories

Advent Memories 23: Christmas Sweetheart Memories

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Find-A-Grave: Family Linking Feature

I read on the Genealogy Guys Podcast blog that Find-A-Grave has just added a family linking feature, and being one of my favorite user-contributed websites, I had to check it out. I wonder if Jim Tipton ever envisioned the popularity and diverse uses of Find-A-Grave when he created it: from celebrity grave hunters to support groups for mothers whose children have passed away to military re-enactors to those memorializing loved pets to genealogy enthusiasts! The first thing I noticed when I visited the site today is that there are now 28 million non-famous graves entered in this database (I remember just a few years ago when there were just 7 million). I think it is the attraction to so many individuals that has allowed Find-A-Grave to explode in growth!

When I presented a hands-on tutorial presentation to my local genealogical society in November 2006, I gave some basic instruction on how to create HTML links from one family member's memorial page to another in the Biography section of each page. (If you have not had the pleasure of searching--and contributing to--Find-A-Grave, you can e-mail me here for a copy of my syllabus for that class.) Here is the page for my great-granduncle, Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Jr. with links to his parents' and siblings' memorial pages, which I created with the above method. This view is slightly different from the view everyone else will see when visiting his memorial page, because this is my behind-the-scenes perspective as "owner" (creator) of the page, with the ability to edit the information.

Click on any image in this post for an enlarged view.

As you can imagine, creating these links was rather tedious and time-consuming, requiring a lot of copying and pasting of links and careful typing in of HTML code. Naturally, I did not create links like this on many memorial pages, although I wanted to. The new feature is so much easier! First of all, in order to link individuals, you must be the creator of the child's or spouse's page. Click on the Add Relationship Links at the bottom of the Biography section:

An edit page will load:

I opened new tabs in my browser and found the memorial pages for Angelo's parents, Angelo ROBBINS, Sr. and Mary May KIMBALL. At the very bottom of each memorial page there is now a memorial number:

I highlighted and copied the number. To do so, take your mouse and move your cursor directly in front of the first digit. Left click your mouse and hold the button down while you drag the cursor across all the digits. The number will be highlighted:

Let go of the mouse button. Now hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and then press the C key. You have just copied the number. Go to the Edit page and using your mouse, put the cursor in the box where you wish to paste the number you have just copied. Hold down the CTRL key and then press the V key. When you enter the number, the Edit page will load the person's name and birth and death dates so that you can verify you have entered the correct memorial numbers:

You can see that you can add more than one spouse (up to five, actually). Adding the Year Married apparently orders the spouses by marriage date on the memorial page (the marriage year does not appear on the memorial page, however). Here's the page with the new feature added:

And here is Angelo's mother's page (Mary May KIMBALL) after I had added her as a parent to all her children, as well as added her father and second husband:

The neat thing is, once you start adding family members, Find-A-Grave's Reverse Relationship feature starts connecting all these individuals automatically, eliminating some of the repetitiveness of adding family members to each other's pages.

I have to admit, there are a few things that I feel could use some improvement. You can see on Angelo, Jr.'s page that his mother is listed before his father. I'm not sure why that is, and I would prefer the father's name first as that is how it would appear in most family tree documents and reports. Secondly, the children of Mary are not listed in birth order, or death order for that matter. They're not listed in alphabetical order, either, nor in order (or reverse order) of the way I added Mary as their mother. It just doesn't make sense! Thirdly, I would like to be able to add children to an individual, and not just add parents to a child. And lastly, I think other relationships should be made available, possibly user-defined: siblings, step-family members, in-laws, domestic partners, etc. I realize that these can be added to a biography using HTML, just as I originally added these family members before the new Family Linking Feature was available. Overall, I am pleased with this feature and see it as being extremely useful.

A few other changes I noticed at the site; women's maiden names are now italicized:

And you can transfer ownership:

Here's the transfer page:

I may request ownership from the creators of a couple of memorial pages of my ancestors that were probably made when someone transcribed a cemetery or obituary. When that happens, there's obviously a lot of missing information a non-family member wouldn't have. I hate to create duplicate memorial pages, so this is a good option.

Kudos to the Find-A-Grave team for continuing to develop features to enhance their site and encourage users to participate more! Now go out and play with the new toys!

Revisiting Advent Memories No. 21: Christmas Music

Advent Memories No. 21: Christmas Music (link has been corrected)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Update on Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files

I had a wonderful response to my post on Tuesday, and I'd like to publicly thank all who dropped by, especially those who left comments. Isn't this system terrific? I only wish I could take credit for it, but I can't. :-) I think what makes Barbara Nuehring's organization technique so great is that it really is very simple, plus it adapts well to people's needs and personal styles. That's what's great about any good filing plan: if you can't make it work for you, then it just won't work at all, no matter how many people rave about it!

In this post, I'd like to address a couple of comments I received, as well as some other clarifications I felt the original post needed. First of all, as with any filing system, you need to determine what it is you will keep and file--or not. For some people, they are only interested in keeping information on their direct ancestral lines. I personally keep information on many collateral lines (siblings, cousins), because I know that in order to break down brick walls, I must research "sideways" in my family tree. I haven't kept all collateral information, however; on those lines that have been easy to research and lots of documentation has been found, I stick fairly closely to the direct ancestral information. For those brick wall lines I've worked hard on, I'll keep every little tidbit of documentation wherever I can find it, since I never know which clue will break me through my obstacles.

Also, in order to streamline my physical files and folders, I'm trying to become as paperless as possible. My eventual plan is to go through all the physical files, scan what is necessary, toss what isn't (I have lots of duplicate and irrelevant printed documents and e-mails), and place in my safety deposit box all original or difficult-to-replace papers and photographs. What all this means is that I'm going to have to really get my digital files in order, and I believe this plan will really work well for me. Of course, going digital means having an efficient and dependable backup plan, and that's where Carbonite is my hero!

Again, the how of your naming system should fit your personal needs and taste. Some people will want punctuation of some sort (dashes, underscores, commas, periods, etc.) within the file name; others will prefer none at all. These named files will be most useful for analyzing if you have them in the List view in Windows Explorer. See the images below:

Click on the image above for a better view.

Apple brought up the very important issue of double cousins. Double cousins are children born as a result of two individuals in one family (siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews) marrying two individuals from another family. The adults who marry can be in the same generation as your ancestors or off by a generation or two (which is the case for the double cousins in both my own and my husband's family trees). These double cousins are related to you in two family lines. Where do you file the children's records--with their mother's family, their father's family, or both? My answer is to file the children with the father's family records, because that is the surname they were born with. It's the same premise as filing a woman's records under her maiden last name. Again, that is what makes sense and works for me; do what works for you. I also file what records I keep for sons-, daughters-, sisters- and brothers-in-law of ancestors in the folder of the family that they marry into.

All right, now to start writing next week's tip!

In this series:
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Photographs
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Digital Research Notes, Emails, and Reports

New Issue (Vol. 4, No. 4) of the Michigan Genealogist Available

The latest issue of the Michigan Genealogist is available. You can find the .pdf document, along with past issues here.

FamilySearch Record Search Update: 15 Million New Records Added

FamilySearch added over 15 million new indexed records to its Record Search pilot—all from the 1850 and 1870 U.S. Censuses. The records are linked to the digital images of the originals. The new records can be searched for free at (Click Search Records, then Record Search pilot).

Collection Name: 1870 United States Census
Indexed Records: 12,137,756
Comments: Added 7 new indexed states (KY, MN, MO, NY, TN, VA, and WV)

Collection Name: 1850 United States Census (Population)
Indexed Records: 2,027,454
Comments: Added 3 new indexed states (AL, IN, and MO)

Collection Name: 1850 United States Census (Slavery)
Indexed Records: 869,076
Comments: Added 3 new indexed states (AL, MO, and SC)

Collection Name: 1850 United States Census (Mortality)
Indexed Records: 37,990
Comments: Added 3 new indexed states (AL, IN, and LA)

Revisiting Advent Memories No. 19: Christmas Shopping

Advent Memories No. 19: Christmas Shopping

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This and That

Carnivals Galore!
I feel bad that I haven't highlighted any of the wonderful holiday carnivals this month, especially since I know that a) the hosts work extremely hard to come up with relevant, interesting themes and put together quality editions once or twice a month; and b) the participants craft fascinating and delightful submissions that are a pleasure to read. I've updated the December Calendar of Events post with links to all of this month's published carnivals and events. Don't forget that the 14th Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy - "Christmas Traditions of Central and Eastern Europe" will be due this Sunday, the 21st. You don't have to have ancestry from this part of Europe to participate. See Jessica's Genejournal for more info.

Speaking of writing, the Southern California Genealogical Society's 9th Annual Writer's Contest is ongoing through December 31st. Go here for more details.

Holiday Specials
Dick Eastman is offering this week's Plus Edition newsletter for free.

Ruth tells about great deals for getting a year's subscription to Ancestry, dirt cheap.

From Tim, we hear that RootsTelevision videos are commercial-free this holiday season.

New Databases
Ancestry now has Florida State Census records. Some of these (1885, 1935 and 1945) are also available at FamilySearch Record Search, but not indexed there. Frugal tip: If you don't have an Ancestry subscription, you can use their Florida State Census search engine for free to see if your ancestor is listed (if found, results will give you the year and the county), then spend some time browsing at FamilySearch to find the image.

The Minnesota Official Marriage Systems (MOMS) has marriage records for 87 Minnesota counties (not all available years are represented in their database). MOMS does not have a Soundex feature, so get creative in your spelling and research strategies. Hat tip to John from Transylvanian Dutch.

Bill West e-mailed me to let me know we are cousins--9th cousins, twice removed--to be exact, through the Willard line. Let's see now, that makes the third genea-blogger I know I'm related to, besides Randy and T.K.

"Granny Pam" Warren has been publishing some great ancestral postcards from Belle's Box. I like these because besides being interesting and historical, they are mailed to and from lots of places that were my ancestral locations, like Newaygo and Wexford Counties, in Michigan. One of them was written from someone that lived in a house one block away from where my mother grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Pam came to my attention a while ago, when she recognized the name of one of my cousins as an owner of a photo I was featuring on Wordless Wednesday...he was a former neighbor!

The other day I was over at Facebook, writing on my sister's wall. I clicked on a profile photo of one her friends from Northeast Washington, thinking he was one of our brother's school mates (he wasn't). When his profile page loaded, I saw that besides having my sister as a mutual Facebook friend with me, he has also Travis LeMaster, a genea-blogger who lives in Indiana. Since they share the same surname, it's likely their related. I'll have to ask Travis about the connection!

New Blogs
Michael John Neill has started Famous Census, which is a lot of fun to browse. He must have gotten these images through NARA microfilms, as Ancestry (for whom he writes) threatened him with legal action early in 2007.

Becky Jamison's dad, Ernie, has his own genealogy and personal history blog. I've so enjoyed's like sitting and listening to your granddad talk about the good old days!

Andrea, formerly of Exploring My Ancestors, has combined her blogs and is now at Mom's Many Projects. I think I can relate to having many irons in the fire!

Cherie and David are two of the newest genea-bloggers I've discovered. Please welcome them to our corner of the Internet!

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Yesterday, I planned to do some shopping, then come home and do a follow-up on my Tuesday's Tip post. All my plans got shot down by...snow.

We've been experiencing an arctic air mass for about four days, with daytime temps in the single digits (this is not counting the wind chill factor which brought it into the negative double-digits). Yesterday, it started to snow at about 11*. I went out to do pick up a battery for my husband's car (this just after getting my car's battery replaced last week...oh, yes, and when we were generously given a car by a friend for our daughter to use this summer, we ended up buying one for that, too!). Most of my Christmas shopping has been done online this year, but Wal-mart was my one-stop choice yesterday for a car battery, picking up prints of my daughter's senior portraits, and a few Christmas gifts for my three young nephews. From there, I needed to drive four miles south on the main street in the city to pick up my son from his school, then swing northwest another two miles to pick up my daughter from her school, with another mile and a half to return home. On a clear dry day with normal traffic and waiting on the kids this trip would have taken 40 minutes, tops.

THREE HOURS LATER we returned, safe and sound with no injuries to ourselves or damage to our vehicle, for which I'm extremely grateful. I knew we were in trouble when I came down the main street hill and saw that traffic in the three lanes on the other side was backed up due to semi's not being able to get up the hill, their drivers attempting to put chains on. After I picked up my son, I had to go up that north hill to get to my daughter, so I took the next best route. We could have made it in my front-wheel drive, except halfway up, three cars in front of me started spinning out. There was no where to go; traffic was backed up behind us. I sat there, praying no one would do anything stupid (like the little sports car in front of me that kept insisting on making attempts up the steep face of the hill, then sliding back dangerously close to me...ugh!). Fifteen minutes later, police officers arrived on the scene, rerouting the traffic backed up behind us and then coaching the half-dozen of us stranded on the hill's face backwards down the hill until we reached the nearest intersection.

We backtracked and arrived back at my son's high school 50 minutes after leaving (from what would have been a normal 10-minute round trip) and proceeded to go the route up the main street's hill, hoping traffic had not been closed. It hadn't, but it was still blocked in some lanes. It took us nearly another hour just to get to the bottom of the hill from my son's high school (again, normally a 3-minute drive, with traffic and lights). The hill was a mess, but the center lane was slowly moving. I was worried about the "slowly" part. Those of you who have front wheel drive know that you get a good run up a slippery hill and just drive fast, ignoring the fish-tailing as long as you have front traction. There would be no good run or start up this hill. We just crept along, foot by foot until about half-way up the hill, when the vehicles who weren't going to make it spun off in the side lanes and those of us who could started gunning it and made it to the top! Success! Once we were up on the flat plains at the top of the hill, traffic moved slowly but steadily. I made it to my daughter's boyfriend's house, where she had walked through heavily-falling snow after hearing we were stranded on the first hill. We picked her up and brought her home. I was never so grateful to get there!

My husband was at work and I called him to let him know we arrived safely. He was confident the roads would be cleared by the time he got off at 11 PM (it was 5 PM at this time). I wasn't so sure. The city had officially closed all roads and was on red alert (snow plows going 24/7 until all 967 miles of street have been cleared...right now, they are focusing on two main roads on both the north and south hills, keeping the routes to the hospitals open, and maintaining the freeway). At 8:30, he called again, saying 40% of the work crew had left, and what was my opinion. I told him I thought he'd better come home because it might take a few hours. He had better luck than I did and it only took him about an hour to get home from what normally would have been a half-hour trip (however, most of his route was on the freeway, which crews were doing a valiant effort to keep plowed).

Today, the city is shut flights, no bus service, no schools open, businesses urged to remain closed unless absolutely necessary. One thing I love about Spokane, it's a very neighborly city. Right now, it's 8:30 and our neighbors have already come out and shoveled our front sidewalks. Yesterday, during my harrowing three-hour journey, I witnessed numerous acts of kindness--stalled vehicles being pushed, allowing cars waiting at intersections into the already congested lanes of traffic, people talking calmly and compassionately to each other after getting into fender benders ("are you OK?"). For the next few days, neighbors will help each other dig out cars; shovel and snow-blow snow of walks, driveways, and alleys; rake snow off roofs; check to see if power and water and food supplies are OK; and offer to run errands for each other. There will be verbal thanks and goodies exchanged "for all your help." I can't think of a better way to enter into the Spirit of the Season.

This photo was taken Sunday morning, and is identical to what it looked like yesterday morning.

This morning, about 2 feet of snow, compacted.

Revisiting Advent Memories No. 18: Christmas Stockings

Advent Memories No. 18: Christmas Stockings

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files

Speaker Barbara Nuehring at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society’s annual October Seminar inspired me, as she did so many others. She amazed her audience with fresh ideas for using timelines and basic principles of design for dressing up our family histories, then moved on to discuss various ways to use technology to enhance our research and organize and preserve our digital files.

I have since adopted her digital filing system, with some slight personal adaptations, and thought I would share it with my readers (hopefully not violating any of her terms of use—gosh! if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, jump at it!). Randy Seaver brought up the discussion of organizing digital information a couple of months ago, but I was unable to add my two cents’ worth until now. However, I consider this Tuesday Tip to be an overdue response to Randy’s query.

First of all, I have Windows XP as my operating system. In My Documents section of My Computer, I have created a Genealogy folder, in which resides many files containing research notes, copies of emails, digital photos, downloaded images of digitized records, uploaded images from microfilmed records, and the like. Originally, for each family surname I was researching, I had a folder for every year that I had research information, with labels such as “Ton Genealogy 2004” or “Hainline Genealogy 2000”. This was an inefficient way to file, as it made it more difficult to find what was needed. Even before I attended the October Seminar, I decided to re-organize my folders by adding a Documents and a Photo folder for each surname and planned to combine e-mails and research notes for each family into a Research folder. Today’s Tuesday Tip will focus on the Documents folders for each surname and how to label the files so that information is easy to find—and even analyze!

Ms. Nuehring suggested that each document be labeled thus (minus the semicolons):
Surname; First Name; Middle Name; Married Surname at that time, if a woman; Date of Document in year, month day order; Type of document; Location Document was Created listed in largest to smallest location

This automatically will place all your documents first in alpha order by individual and secondly in date order as they were created. Let’s look at an example of some documents of major life events of my maternal grandmother:

HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian – 1919 01 16 – Birth Record – Michigan, Kent, East Grand Rapids
HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian – 1920 – Census – Washington, Pierce, Tacoma – daughter
HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian – 1930 – Census – Michigan, Kent, Grand Rapids - daughter
HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian VALK – 1943 09 11 – Marriage Certificate – Kansas, Geary, Junction City
HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian VALK – 1946 04 26 – Divorce Record – Michigan, Kent, Grand Rapids
HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian VALK DeVRIES – 1947 10 03 – Marriage License and Certificate – Michigan, Kent, Wyoming Twp
HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian VALK DeVRIES – 2001 08 25 – Death Certificate – Michigan, Kent, Grand Rapids

By glancing through this list, I can see that everything is in date order. Both times when my grandmother was married, I added her new married surname to her current name, allowing the documents to remain in order. I can immediately see what surname she was going under for the different events in her life. At a glance, I can tell whether or not I am missing any of the records of major life events, and where she was living—or visiting--during those times. For the census records that occurred during her lifetime and are publicly available, I can tell at once that she was not the head of the household, but was a daughter in the households then. If there were some changes of residences or many major events happening during census years, I may wish to use the official Census Day date to label the census documents.

My system differs from Ms. Nuehring’s in the following ways: I use uppercase letters for surnames, I used dashes between sections of information, and I wrote out state names and used commas between location places (Ms. Nuehring uses no punctuation in her file names). I also used more descriptive terms for the documents, rather than Birth or Marriage, because in some cases, I have both birth records (from county libers) and birth certificates, or marriage licenses, certificates, and parental permissions for those getting married underage. If a document has more than one page, you may wish to end the file name with “pg 1 of 8”, etc.

For some family surnames, I have very few documents. For others, I may have hundreds for dozens of individuals. In the latter case, I’ve opted to further divide my surname Documents folder into folders by individual name. This is true for the Hoekstra family, so I have created a folder labeled “HOEKSTRA Ruth Lillian” as well as others with my grandmother’s sisters’ and father’s names. Ruth’s mother, Lillian Fern Strong, has her documents and photos filed in the appropriate STRONG Documents and Photos folders. All information is filed by maiden name for the ladies. Cousins with different surnames that connect with me through our common Hoekstra ancestry also have their files stored in the HOEKSTRA folders. Also, records where a document is “shared,” such as the marriage certificates and divorce record for my grandmother are copied and re-labeled in her corresponding husbands’ folders (I’m researching both my Valk biological line and my DeVries step-family line). They would appear in their respective folders as:

VALK William - 1943 09 11 – Marriage Certificate – Kansas, Geary, Junction City
VALK William - 1946 04 26 – Divorce Record – Michigan, Kent, Grand Rapids


DeVRIES Adrian - 1947 10 03 – Marriage License and Certificate – Michigan, Kent, Wyoming Twp

These are the only kind of document files that are copied and refiled. For instance, I don’t have to file copies of every record that occurred when my grandmother was going by her Valk married name. They stay in the HOEKSTRA folder and are only copied to the VALK folder if my grandfather’s name appears on them as well. This will save hard drive room.

One other note: by right-clicking on each file I can access the Properties feature of each file image and list where and when I found the document (Ancestry or other online database; e-mailed from a cousin—listing their mailing address; copied from microfilm at the Family History Center—listing the microfilm and item number; or ordered from a repository, etc.). This then lends itself to being able to know what citation to use (and for more on this, I recommend footnoteMaven’s handy "Working with Citations" post, which I also plan on implementing).

The point of all this is that using this type of system, adapting it to fit your needs, is a very efficient way of labeling your digital files, making them easy to find when doing a Search in Windows Explorer, helping you to see what records you have or which are missing. Another thing I’ve noticed: say a distant cousin contacts you, new to genealogy, and would like copies of any records that you may have of her direct ancestors. It would be very easy to find these and either attach them singularly or place them in a zip folder and e-mail them, or copy them to CD and mail them via the postal service.

Next time, we’ll talk about labeling ancestral photos, using a similar labeling technique, followed by organizing your research notes and e-mails.

UPDATE: I've added some clarifications at an updated post here.

In this series:
Update on Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Files
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Your Digital Photographs
Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Digital Research Notes, Emails, and Reports