The Genealogy Journey

The newbie genealogist's resource for books, mags, databases, and -- of course -- any free research stuff to be found on the Internet.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Genealogy Isn't Just "Back Then" ... It's Right Now

Cyndi Lee, on her OM Yoga in a Box DVD, says our thoughts are always focused on what happened in the past or what could happen in the future -- rarely in the present. Someone else -- I can't remember who -- called our state of constant thinking "the monkey brain." Yet the times I’m truly enjoying life are when I’m completely immersed in what's happening now.

If you feel your enthusiasm for tracing your family tree is waning, shift your perspective. Think about genealogy as happening right now. Imagine your great-great-grandchildren sifting through your mementos, heirlooms, and yes, even your e-mail, trying to get an idea of the person you once were.

I’m not saying you have to save every scrap of paper or every e-mail (unless you have a Google gmail account!), but before it goes in the trash, decide if this item will help future generations understand you better. The garbage bill? Definitely not. But your Macy’s credit card bill? Maybe … if shopping is your passion. And that sincere thank you note from a business associate? Definitely. Our descendants aren’t as interested in the special events in our life as they are the day-to-day moments; how we lived, what we were like, and who we loved.

It’s ironic that usually it’s only the certificates recording those special events in our ancestor’s lives (marriages, births, etc.) that are left behind, when what we really care about are those little things that define the shape of a life. A diary. Love letters. Delicate baby clothes. An old watch.

Every day, do something to record your day-to-day life. Start a blog or write in a journal. Videotape your family eating breakfast. Send a letter. Help the world remember that you were here.

~Mary Kaye

Friday, January 27, 2006

Try eBay for Your Genealogy Search

When you first start your genealogy search, it’s tempting to blast into the nearest bookstore and buy as many books as possible on the subject. Personally, I don’t feel “safe” trying something new unless I’ve read extensively on it. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who loves to stroll the bookshelves while sipping a piping hot café mocha (“Of course I want the whipped cream!”). So I’m not going to ruin your fun by suggesting you avoid your favorite bookstore altogether. But try to limit your purchases, because you might just hit the mother lode on eBay. Here are some interesting items I discovered:

· Princess Diana’s family tree
· Native American genealogy
· Genealogical book collection from the estate of a professional genealogist

Just one search for “genealogy” (all categories) on eBay resulted in 3,020 items. You can play around with this to narrow down your search. Here are some examples:

· Irish Genealogy – 43 Items (books on family names, passenger lists to America, and a book on tracing your Irish ancestors)
· Genealogy Software – 421 Items (searchable CDs, discounted Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree, and Roots Magic software)

As part of my search results on genealogy, eBay suggested I also try the following categories. Listed in parenthesis are items that I found interesting:

· Everything Else > Genealogy > Other (New Pennsylvania Dutch style family tree chart to fill in and frame)
· Everything Else > Genealogy > Births, Marriages, Deaths (a copy of “Where They’re Buried (Notable Persons”)
· Everything Else > Genealogy > Census Records

Keep in mind that not all of these items are a bargain. Some are even quite expensive, but then again, what is that particular, special piece of information worth to you? Let me know if you find anything useful on eBay!

~Mary Kaye

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Dive Into Genealogy Books and Magazines Reveals a Basic Plan

Last Friday I bought “Genealogy Online for Dummies” and two genealogy magazines: Family Tree and Family Chronicles. (I haven’t read enough of the magazines to decide which one I like better – I’ll let you know later.) I thought the book was a good deal for $24.99 because it includes a CD with genealogy software (like a basic version of Family Tree Maker), but I was annoyed when I saw that Amazon had it for $16.49. Geesh. If I weren't so lazy and hadn’t already underlined the good parts in pencil, I’d be tempted to bring it back and buy the Amazon book.

Enough of the whining. What I got out of the book so far is a basic “plan of attack:”

(This first step is my own suggestion.)
1. Before you begin, think about how much time you can devote to your genealogy search and how far back you want to go. For instance, my dad has over 1,000 names in Family Tree Maker, but hasn’t traced our ancestors back over the pond to Ireland. That’s a time commitment he’s not ready to make yet. I think if you clarify the number of hours per week you will devote to this and set some boundaries (“No ancestors before the Medieval Period!”), you’ll keep yourself from burn out.

2. Write down as much of your own history as you can. Birth, schools, homes, marriages, children, and so forth.

3. Interview relatives. (No séances necessary – just the living ones.)

4. Gather together any paper records you or your relatives may have.

5. Look for censuses for additional information.

6. Start out with one relative. You can visit a site like to search for the best genealogy Web site to start with.

7. As you work, add information to a genealogy database (besides Family Tree Maker, some other genealogy software is: Legacy Family Tree and RootsMagic).

8. Occasionally stop to print out your family tree and locate “holes” of missing information. Keep plugging away at it using steps 6 and 7.

That’s it!

Of course, each of these steps has sub-steps of their own, but that’s the basic plan. Looking at it that way, it doesn’t seem so intimidating, does it?

~Mary Kaye