Win a RootsTech Pass as We Celebrate Our YouTube Anniversary

Last year, I told my husband that I wanted to expand my dream of inspiring and educating others about genealogy and family history by cre...

31 January 2017

How do you write about In-Laws Antics?

Family History Writing Tips : When Relatives are Naughty

Family historians can really dig up a lot of interesting items. Newspapers find many of them. I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or shake my head and my distant uncle and his chase through the creek with his brother-in-law over a woman. But the real question is how should we record this tale when writing is family history?

30 January 2017

New Look for FamilySearch Change Update Emails

FamilySearch Watch List email

On you can sign up to watch your ancestors and the changes that take place to them. This is a crucial feature for your direct line ancestors so you can keep up with the collaborative nature of FamilySearch. As part of the watch feature, you receive weekly emails about the changes to your family tree.

I really like this feature but be warned, you should really keep your watch list small. Stick to direct line ancestors or those who are currently screaming for your attention. Otherwise, you will be bombarded with changes for too many ancestors. You're head just might explode.

Watch Feature on FamilySearch
Click on the Watch feature to start receiving notices on updates to your family members.

Because I love you enough to want your head to stay attached, you must heed the advice to keep the watch list fairly small. Just because you have 10,000 ancestors that you're interested in doesn't mean all of them need to be on your list.

Now that your list is a reasonable size, check your inbox for weekly updates to the FamilySearch Family Tree. These are not possible hint emails but notices that someone has worked on the family tree and made changes (including merging duplicate individuals, attaching sources, adding photos, and more). I love how FamilySearch stands on guard while you can do things like cooking, cleaning, working, or napping.

In the past, these emails were simply a text list of the people who were changed. My only critique was that the lists would tell me about the changes I've made.

Updates to Watch List FamilySearch
Sample weekly email of the persons I'm watching on FamilySearch
Since my 2015 post Will FamilySearch please stop telling me about my changes? I haven't seen my changes appear in the weekly emails. Additionally, I rarely see "FamilySearch" as a person making changes to the tree. Hooray! That's progress people. Take time to celebrate.

Did you do a happy dance?

Now, FamilySearch is constantly striving to improve their content delivery. This week, I noticed that the weekly email for people I'm watching has a new look.

New Updates to Watch List FamilySearch
New sample weekly email of the persons I'm watching on FamilySearch.
(FYI: It's much longer than this)

My first reactions were this:

  • I like knowing how many people were changed
  • I like seeing how many changes took place
  • I like the color in my email

I thought it was interesting to see the brackets of relationships for changes. Now, this particular set of changes was upsetting as these are my direct line ancestors (Alonzo is my 2nd Great Grandfather) of whom I've added photos, documents, and stories to his profile and those of his children. I have to remember that FamilySearch Family Tree is open source and the merging that eliminated my 'old ID numbers" (which upsets my sync feature with and RootsMagic) is a product of the Open Source nature of the tree. So, I did my best to Keep Calm and Start a Conversation

So, the revised email list did catch my eyes initially. So, hooray for changes.

However, I'm not too thrilled with this visual representation of data. With 22 people having changes (and 300+ changes), the email because a cluttered visual mess. There is bracket after bracket of changes representations and they become very confusing, especially since this week numerous family members were merged and changed as several decades of duplicate individuals were found in the tree.
(Which is odd, since this wasn't a GEDCOM upload and I had no idea they were there. Where it came from is a mystery as the source for such work was my hubby and he didn't work on this line. Weird! But that's a different headache for another day). 

So, although I have a reluctant acceptance to change, I'm not sure the current rendition of the Weekly Changes to Your Watch List email has my full acceptance. There is such a thing as less is more. But, I do like having the colors and the quick glimpse of how many people were changed and how many changes affected them.

What do you think of these changes? Leave a comment below.

28 January 2017

4 Things I Learned About Loyalists on #GenChat

#genchat Loyalists

The American Revolution is a one-sided conversation when you grow up in the United States of America. Yep. The Redcoats are bad and the folks who supported them are traitors. You wait for the "Whites of Their Eyes" and then eventually you have a new country separate from the King of England. But, there's another side to the story and I didn't appreciate it until my Grandma Helen Zumstein Geiszler indicate that her lineage has folks who supported the crown and went to Ontario after the Revolution because they supported the crown. Oh dear! I'm in trouble.

Thankfully much of that learning took place 20+ years ago. In that time, I discovered that the Loyalist ancestor is John Comfort who was born in 1741 in Newton, Ulster, New York. His family was divided on the American Revolution as some of his brothers qualify descendants for the Daughters of the American Revolution, while his documentary trail has been established and accepted by the United Empire Loyalists. But before the war, they were all in Ulster, New York. What's awesome about this discovery, is I can just ride on the coattails of other relatives research. Yeah!

But, there might be more Canadian relatives on my tree who were Loyalists. How would I go about proving their connection? Well, that's where #Genchat comes in. Grab your favorite drink and join the conversation every other Friday at 9 CST. Look below for the next one on February 10th.

27 January 2017

Class Selections for RootsTech 2017

Selecting Classes for RootsTech 2017

RootsTech is fast approaching.  Now that you can access the class options via the website or the mobile app, it's time to seriously review the class schedule and make some decisions. If you're like me, you're traveling a long way and/or sacrificing time and money to attend. Planning your class schedule ahead is crucial for having a successful conference.

No matter your genealogy or technology skills set, you'll want to evaluate classes based on some basic guidelines.

  1. Seek Classes Where You Can Learn Something New
  2. Select a Class Based on Content, Rather than Big Name (unless you just want to be entertained)
  3. Select a Class Where the Syllabus Matches the Class Title and Description. 

24 January 2017

When Grave Site Websites Aren't Enough

When Cemetery Records Aren't Enough

Cemetery Records can lead to many discoveries. With FindAGrave and Billion Graves providing such an invaluable service, we sometimes forget that there might be a few more details in the layout of the family plot than can truly be shown on these websites. I was surprised that my mother left me a terrific clue from her research back in the 'old days.'

19 January 2017

5 Tips to Survive RootsTech 2017

RootsTech Survival Tips

The RootsTech Conference held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah is considered the Super Bowl of Genealogy. With 200+ Break Out Sessions, an Expo Hall packed with genealogy and technology companies, and over 20,000 of your fellow family history loving friends, RootsTech is a place to learn new skills and feel inspired to help your ancestors live on in the hearts and minds of their descendants everywhere.

Last year, Andy and I attended the conference because he was selected to present a class entitled "Audacity: The Power of Audio Editing." This year, we're team teaching a lab entitled "Start Writing Your Family History Today!" We love teaching and hope to see you in one of the Friday sessions.

But, RootsTech can be overwhelming! From what we learned last year, there are a few things beyond winter coats and tickets to the event that you'll need to bring with you. Some items are common sense, but I'd rather state the obvious rather than you slapping your forehead because you forgot one of these five essential things for surviving and thriving at this mega conference.

17 January 2017

Brick Wall Busting is not for Beginners

Brick Wall Busting is Advanced Genealogy

Brick Wall Busting is not an easy task. It should be something that beginners do not set out to do on their first attempt in genealogy sleuthing. It's critical that you learn how to research with basic records that are readily available and the foundation of solid research before attempting to bust down the barriers. If you don't learn the foundational research skills, you'll give up on genealogy and fail to use your talents to solve mysteries.

12 January 2017

Starting Simply in Genealogy

Set Simple Genealogy Goals

Are you ready to begin finding your ancestors? Great! Welcome to the club. But I have a feeling that your new journey will stop short if you bite off more than you can chew.

 Each New Year, people make resolutions to change their ways and get fit. They'll purchase a gym membership and a new workout outfit. Within two months, the gyms are less crowded because the New Year's Resolutions were too big fo the person who set the goals.

10 January 2017

How to Copy a Book in an Archive

How to photograph a Book in an Archive

When you visit libraries and archives, you often face a dilemma when you discover information about your ancestors. How do you make a copy of the books you find from the shelves.

Many libraries won't let you bring a scanner or a even use a copy machine. Some will let you photograph a book, only if you use a camera with no flash. In these libraries, these limitations can be overcome with a dSLR camera.

05 January 2017

Be Organized in 2017 - Photo Collection Tips

Organize Your Photo Collection

What is the number one task to do in genealogy? It's not tracing your family tree back to Adam & Eve. It's not proving your lineage to a Revolutionary War ancestor. It involves your photos and whether they'll be tossed into to the trash.

04 January 2017

Learn to Write at RootsTech 2017 with Devon and Andy

Join us at RootsTech 2017. Register today.

Roots Tech is like a ComicCon-style convention for family history. Celebrities who are not necessarily genealogists will keynote the event and may be available to meet. Over 200 classes are offered to educate and inspire you to take your family history one step further. And the exhibit hall is packed with live demos, new products, and resources from around the world. The only thing missing is CosPlay costumes!

RootsTech 2017 selected me to present alongside my amazing husband who rocked RootsTech last year with his class "Audacity: The Power of Audio Editing." This year, we'll deliver another top notch presentation over in the computer lab. If you're ready to start writing your family histories, you need to come to our class. It will be fun and informative. You'll also walk away having written your first story!

Our class is Session number: LAB8892 entitled "Start Writing Your Family History Today!" It's offered Friday at 1:30 pm and again at 4:30 pm.

You'll need to bring a birth record for one ancestor and their associated pedigree charts and group sheets. We'll use the computers to write your story in Google Docs or Microsoft Office. And, we'll access a few fun facts on the internet!

The class is filling up. Don't wait to add this lab to your registration!

To select this class, you'll find it on the schedule link ( Then select Friday and then click the circle for "Add Ons to Your Pass." You can get a One-Day Pass for Friday (or any day Thursday-Saturday) for $99 or a Full RootsTech Pass with access to the classes and Expo Hall from Wednesday to Saturday for $189. Please note, computer labs carry an additional $19 fee.

I hope to see you in Salt Lake City, Utah. We'll be there February 9th and 10th. If you're planning on attending, leave a comment here or shoot me an email so we can meet up! My second favorite thing about RootsTech is interacting with my genea-buddies!

Further RootsTech Conference Reading:
Family History Fanatics Videos from RootsTech 2017