As some of you have noticed, I have not updated this blog in the last few weeks. This is all due to an out of state adventure. I am currently visiting relatives in a small town in Wyoming. Although I feel completely cut off from the world because available internet is so scarce, I’ve found a plethora of historical connections during my trip.

You see, my husband and I spent one very long week helping his mother go through an old storage unit. We went through every box, sorting things into piles, one to sell, and one to keep. Needless to say, it was a long and tedious process with small treasure discoveries along the way. By the time we were done we had a total of 8 Boxes containing pictures, documents, and personal histories. I never realized we’d find so much valuable information during this process. As I flipped through some of the folders and documents, I learned that my husband is a descendant of a man who helped translate Navajo for the early Utah pioneers. I also learned that his great great great grandmother was the famous pioneer midwife Patty Bartlett Sessions. Seeing as I have only begun to look through these documents, I can’t imagine what other discoveries I’ll find.

 That being said, I give you the same challenge.

The Goal: Search for Treasures in Old Boxes

If you need help justifying the time spent away from other things, you can consider it spring cleaning. That way you get to accomplish two things at once!

Tips for Box Digging:

  1. Wear a Mask: This serves 2 purposes. It will protect you from years of dust and hide your face when someone finds an embarrassing photo of you.

  2. Avoid the Urge to Look at Every Picture: This will save you hours! Takes some of the fun out it, but will be worth it in the long run.

  3. Recruit Help: Having a proper task force is vital. If you have trouble convincing your kids, you can always make your box digging part of a Family Home Evening Activity.

  4. Sort!!!: Every time you find a birth certificate, life history, or old picture, put them all together so that you can access them easily when it’s time to enter these sources.

Best of luck to you! If you are feeling extra enthusiasm, you can also hold a garage sale to get ride of the extra junk you find.

May 25, 2009

Over the last week I have been working on entering sources. I can’t tell you how helpful it has been to have my “genealogy buddy” there to push me along. Last night, he made sure we met and set goals for this week. I hadn’t made time for genealogy last week, but with a little nudge from him I was off and running again.

One phenomena I have noticed is the desire to keep going when you begin to find information. For this reason I understand the importance of SMALL goals.

Today’s Tip: Set goals that are small and can be accomplished in 15-25 minutes. For example, my goal this week was to find and enter one source into my file using Records Search. This will help you break up the work so that it is easy to say, “I’ll just sit down for a couple minutes so I can finish my goal.” If you have the time, you may decide to continue your work. If not, you have still met your goal and made progress.

Have you ever started an exercise program just to see it fizzle in a matter of weeks or sometimes days? When you get started your blood is pumping, you’re proud of your accomplishments, and you feel like life couldn’t get any better. Then the novelty wears off, and you have to mentally force yourself to get on that treadmill…ick. I have found that the best cure for this fizzle is to have an exercise buddy. So, I am implementing the same tactic to smooth my transition into Genealogy.

The Plan: Get a Genealogy Buddy!

Step 1: Find someone who is interested in starting or continuing their genealogy.

Step 2: Set up a regular day to talk about genealogy (I recommend once a week).

Step 3: Set up weekly goals for genealogy. For example, “Find and enter 3 sources into my file” or “Call Mom and write down her answers to 3 personal history questions”.

Step 4: Meet again and again to celebrate your success, excitement, or accomplishments. Use you buddy as an idea source or as a coach. Set a new goals each meeting.

Step 5: Do something fun and exciting once a month to recommit yourselves to the work. You can go out to eat, visit the Family History Center, or visit a family member you haven’t seen for a while.

I have just begun this process and I am already starting to feel the fizzle fade away. I’ll keep you posted.

Best of Luck!

Today I was testing out a new feature we are getting ready to release, and it hit me how important it is to truly know your ancestors and do the research for yourself. It is soo tempting as a family history beginner to use FamilyInsight to log onto FamilySearch and import the information that seems to match what is in the file you received from a relative. Be careful! It is important to be accurate on FamilySearch and your file. For those of you who, like myself, don’t know all that much about the people in your file, I offer this alternative:

Today’s Goal: Use FamilySearch family tree as a guide for your search for sources.

Step 1: Identify an ancestor to focus on.
Step 2: Login to using FamilyInsight. You may also searches by hand, but it will take MUCH longer. If you do not have access to the new FamilySearch system you can follow the same steps with a FamilyInsight IGI search.
Step 3: Perform a search for the ancestor: See Video
Step 4: Compare results to you ancestor. All matches will have “% match” rating.
Step 5: If you are confident in the match, import the information into your file. Note: Double check information that looks suspicions. If you’re not sure, look for sources BEFORE you synchronize.
Step 6: Begin searching based on that new information.
Step 7: When you verify the information add your source. You do not need to verify all the new information, just enough to ensure basic information and dates are correct. You can return and fill in extra sources over time.

Why is it important to be careful?
You will find often multiple matches on FamilySearch. Importing erroneous information can derail your research. Months down the road you will find that the information you imported, did not in fact belong to your ancestor, even though you may have followed the dates and places for research already. A couple of errors can mean hours of wasted research. I think you’ll agree that time is a precious commodity.

It is Hard to Stop
As I experience genealogy I am realizing more and more why genealogy can take up so much time. It’s not because it’s tedious work, but rather because it’s addicting. I imagine many of you have watched television shows such as “Lost” or “24” where they build up the story but still leave you will a bunch of unanswered questions once the episode is over. This leaves you thinking and wondering in excitement, “what will happen next!” I can feel myself getting sucked into genealogy in much the same way. So much so, that it is hard to stop after just 20 minutes. At the end of that time I feel like I have just begun to understand my ancestors and I have to rip myself away from the research in order to get on with my day.

All of this I confess is coming from one who never though she would get into genealogy, always thinking, ”what is so fun about dates and names?” But genealogy is so much more than dates and names. It is about the stories and unanswered questions of the past. Tell me, who can pass up a good mystery?

Why a Research Log? If you hadn’t already noticed, I love finding source information. It gives me that great feeling of accomplishment and who doesn’t like that? Although I would like to search for sources all day (if I had the time). I should really leave a trail so that I don’t go around in circles in my research. That is what a Research Log is all about.

Today’s Goal: Find Another Source and Begin a Research Log

How to do it: I’m not very fancy so I have chosen to begin my research log in a simple word document. Feel free to use any method to record what you have done and where you have looked, I find it helpful to list projects for the future as well as where I have already looked.


Completed: To Do:
Found and entered the 1870 US Census as a birth source for Wilson White Reed. This census also included his parents and siblings.

Enter sources for these parents siblings and attach an electronic image of the census page.

Check for Wilson in 1890 US Census.

Found Wilson’s father Orin in 1880 &1900 census. Add Sources &Notes: Emily F died between 1880 and 1900, census shows Orin Married then Widowed.

Stay on Target.
As I find more and more people it is exciting but hard to resist the urge to follow the tracks without taking the time to record the information. That is why over the next week I have set a goal to enter at least one source or note daily with the 20 minutes I have allotted for genealogy work. That should put me right where I need to be to enjoy some more exciting record searching next week.

For those of you who are more experienced than myself, which is probably most of you, feel free to leave suggestions or comments about what is important when doing genealogy research.


Today I decided to find a source record to fill in the virtually sourceless PAF file I received form my husbands family. Although I should have done more research to see what his family already knew, I decided to jump right in and find a record. I need the experience. Perhaps next time I will gather info from relatives.

After fiddling around on the Internet for 20 minutes I decided I better ask for help. So I called my mom so she could point me in the right direction. After the call I found myself on the pilot record search engine on FamilySearch Labs: There isn’t a whole lot there yet, but there are multiple US Census records that are very useful.

Day 2: Get my feet wet with a simple record search.

First:Find an ancestor who has lived anywhere from 1850-1900

Second: Go to FamilySearch Labs Record Search

Third: Type in the individual’s name, place, and date range.

Fourth: Compare the records that come up with the information you already have.

Fourth: If it is the right person, add it as a source(see example).

It took me a couple of tries (15min) before I found someone I was looking for because I didn’t know what years to look in. Hopefully you’ll go straight to results with the steps above. Let me know how it goes!

Growing up I didn’t understand the thrill my mom got from genealogy. It always seemed so boring, but I have to admit how exciting it was to find mention of an ancestor in a census. There is a certain reverence you feel when you realize who they are and what they did in their lives. They become actual people when you see their name and their family members together on that record.

As promised, today’s goal with keep you well within the 20 minutes you have to work on Genealogy.

Today’s Goal: Get in touch with your family genealogists.

Get to it: Call or e-mail a few relatives for their genealogy files. If there are no genealogist in the family, gather information about your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents etc. This will help you start your research from the beginning.

I think you will find it a nice change from everyday life to take a little time to talk to extended family. You never know how it might brighten their day! As I fulfilled my goal today I got to speak with my great aunt who I haven’t talked to in over a year. I hope our conversation will the first of many more to come. I was also able to get in touch with my husband’s uncle, who does quite a bit of genealogy. He will be sending his PAF file to me in the next day or so.

Since today’s task didn’t take much time at all, I’d like to share the odd story of how my genealogy journey began:

The actual precipitating event was a Relief Society “Service Auction” that was held 2 weeks ago. Half way through the auction I found myself holding all the fake money I had started with. Soon thereafter, they started auctioning off “Personal Genealogy Lessons”. As the auctioneer held up the envelope he jokingly commented that it was just what I wanted. Ironically, I had just thought to myself, “Hey, it might be nice to learn from someone other than my mom.” My mom is an awesome genealogist, but her genealogy tends to throw me in deep end before I’ve learned to swim. To make a long story short, I bid 40 fake dollars and I won some genealogy lessons. Then I had a really good laugh when I found out the lessons were donated by our very own support employee Noelani, who also works in the local family history center.

What motivated you started your genealogy?