google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist

Want to Build a Family History Legacy Book

How to Research on for Free

We all know that is one of the leading and largest databases for researching your ancestors. It can save you a lot of time in obtaining information about your ancestors and the documents you require. But it comes at a cost. No matter how you shake it out, there is a cost to researching whether it's time or money. I realise not everyone can afford an ongoing yearly subscription to Ancestry.  If funds are tight, here are 4 ways you can access Ancestry without spending a dime. 

Visit Your Local Library

Many local libraries offer free access to Ancestry. While not convenient as sitting in your pyjamas at home it certainly can help you save some money. Give your library a call and make sure they have available for patrons. You might find they also have access to other genealogy databases in addition to Make sure you download any information you find to a jump-stick to take home with you.

Watch for Free Weekends often has free research weekends. You can research for free all weekend without having to pay a dime. Best to be organised and have a research list ready so you can make the most of your weekend. Most times these free weekends fall on holiday weekends, Thanksgiving, July 4th, etc. Keep your eyes open for them.

Take Advantage of the 14 Days Free Trial Period

When you sign up for an ancestry account, you get a free 14-day free trial period. You will have to offer up your credit card information to get the free 14 days. However, if you can’t afford the subscription fee you can cancel the account on say day 12 or 13 you won’t be charged and you will have researched for 12 days for free. Again, I recommend having a research list ready so that you can make the most of your time. Perhaps, after using Ancestry for that length of time, you’ll see its value and scrape a few dollars together. By the way, I’m not an affiliate of Ancestry, so I get nothing out of singing their praises.

Free Index Collection

One of Ancestry’s best kept secrets is their Free Index Collection. In the Free Index Collection, you can search for your ancestors for free, and you don’t need to hand over your credit card information.  I haven’t been able to come up with an accurate count of how many indexes are in the collection, I’ve seen anywhere from 1400 to 2000 individual indexes and collections. That is quite a bit to get you started.

 Their Free Index Collections page offers you the ability to search for free.  The page provides a section to put in your search criteria followed by a long list of indexes it will search. Note that some indexes have beside them “free index” while others say “free.” The difference being, the “free index” will only allow you to access to the index to see whether your guy or gal is listed. To view the image you will have to subscribe. You will not have access to the original image. However, those listed with ‘free’ beside them will provide access to scanned copies of the documents.

There you have it, 4 options for researching for free. Happy Researching.

3 Options for Organizing Your Genealogy with Shopping Lists

(This post contains affiliate links)

Ask anyone who has spent years researching their ancestors and they’ll tell you one of the best things you can do for yourself as a beginner is to start with a good organisational system for all the records you’re about to acquire.

It’s easy to get excited about the research and your finds and not take the time to file and organise your research properly. Trust me I know. I’m still digging out from not investing in a good system. So don't end up like me, organising 15 years in. 

And yes, investing is the right word. You need to spend a little money to have the right tools available to you to file and organise your paper as you acquire them. If the supplies aren’t easily available to you, and you don't have a  system in place you simply won’t do it.  You'll have one of those I’ll get to it moments. Twenty years later, you're drowning in an unorganised mess. Trust me, it happens in a blink of an eye.

So make an investment in some supplies up front.

How do you know what you need? That will depend on the method you choose to organize your research. 

There are basically three ways you can organise and store your genealogy, with binders, a hanging file folder system or archival boxes. I worked in an archive with a curator for a few years, and I fell in love with archival boxes so that is my go to, but the choice is yours. 

There are essentially two systems you can look at to organise your genealogy files, one is by surname, and one is by accession.

What is Accession Organization?

Let’s suppose you have a 1900 Census record that lists your great-grandfather, his wife and children. With an accession system, the document becomes the focus as opposed to the people in a surname based filing system.  You give the census record a number. For example, CR1900-123, then you create an index, and you link all your ancestors in that census record with that ID number.

This is a great system if you have a number-based brain. Not me. I’ll opt for the surname system. Let’s take a look at it.

Surname Organization
For most people organisation of their genealogy happens by surname, it seems the most logical. Start with the surname and then you can organise within the surname file by the individual. Another option is to organize by the couple. 

The Tools You Need
There are three options for organizing your files. The tools you need may vary slightly depending on the one your choose.

Option #1 - Hanging Files

What You Need for This System
Hanging file tote

Option #2 - Binders 

What You Need for this System
This is probably the cheapest method to get started


Option #3 - Archival Boxes

What You Need for this System
Archival boxes (they come in a variety of sizes start with a couple) 
Acid-Free Paper    Pick up a couple of sizes like 8 1/2 x 11 and 11 x 17. 

Tip: Regardless of which system you use an inventory sheet is a great tool to put on the front of your file folder, binder or archival box so that you can give a quick look and know exactly what is inside. Saves a lot of time searching.

What is the Best Genealogy Software?

I get asked this question all the time. My answer is always the same…it depends. It depends on you, your skills, and what you are looking for in a genealogy software program.

But how do you know what you are looking for in a software program if you’ve never used one before? It’s like buying any major purchase in your life, your first home, your first car, you don’t know what works for you until ten years into your first home, and you realise some things just don’t jive with your lifestyle. You find yourself shopping for a new home. It’s a learning curve.

We often purchase software early on in our research journey generally for organising and preserving our research. It’s usually not until we are further into our research that we begin to look for more from our program and realise the software we purchased isn’t capable, and we start to consider other options. Now replacing your genealogy software isn’t as expensive as replacing your house but it still can be an inconvenience.

Let’s look at some of the important features we should contemplate before choosing our first genealogy software program. Determine which of these items on the list are important to you and start by comparing those items between the various programs.

Charting - Look for software that can chart your family tree. Charts and forms can vary widely between programs from 4 charts to 25 charts. If charts and forms are important to you, then you’ll want to compare this feature.

Audio – What are the audio capabilities? Can the program save an oral interview or audio notes?

Video - Can your software store a video recording of say perhaps an interview or family event?

Share with others – Is it important to be able to sync your information with your online tree or share with another genealogist? A feature not all programs are capable of performing.

Connect to the web – Can you log in to the web from within the program?

Import online sources-  Do you want to import online sources to your program?

Web hints – Some programs will offer you hints from the internet. Is this important to you?

Same-Sex Marriages - While all the programs can handle multiple marriages they cannot all handle same-sex marriages. Is this important for you?

DNA results – A growing aspect of our genealogy research you may want a program that allows you to record DNA markers allowing you to map and hone in on where your ancestors came from.

Automatic Age Display – This is a convenient feature. Not all programs offer it in which case you’ll have to do the math.

World Map – Some programs allow you to plot family events on a world map. This can be a nice visual feature you may want in your software.

Privacy options – Genealogy software programs can offer a variety of privacy options.  It is important to you spend some time comparing the privacy options in each program.

Citation and Organization – One thing they all got right is offering proper citation and organisation, they should, since this is at the heart of genealogy software programs. You generally shouldn’t have to worry about this feature.

Video Tutorials – I love software that offers video tutorials. I hate reading a manual. If I can view a video that is a couple of minutes long and shows me how to use a feature, then that is an asset in my book.

Identifies Problems – I appreciate a program that is smarter than me and points out inconsistent information, date errors or duplications.

Must-Haves and Deal Breakers
My program isn’t necessarily the right software program for you.  We all have different needs, and you want to identify your needs. There are some features I don’t care about while others are deal breakers for me. Consider the list above, which features on the list are must-haves for you, which ones are deal breakers. This should help you narrow in on the program that’s right for you.

Ask a Fellow Genealogist
Finally, ask a fellow genealogist what they are using. What do they like about the program and what do they dislike. You’ll find some genealogists who have been researching for awhile have tried several different programs.

I don’t recommend you inquiry because what your friend uses is the best, but because you can ask them specific questions about the program. What they like and dislike about the program.  Do there likes and dislikes align with yours or perhaps their dislikes don’t bother you. It pays to inquire around.

Keep in mind genealogy software companies offer upgrades on a regular basis, they are always improving and adding new features.  What may not be included as a feature today could be provided in the next update.

The more knowledge you have before making your genealogy software purchase, the more likely you’ll be happy with your choice and less likely to have to go shopping for a new program further into your research journey.

Cooking Up Content: 50 Writing Ideas to Feed Your Genealogy Blog

It’s hard keeping a blog engaging and entertaining on a regular basis. It’s like trying to think about what’s for dinner tonight. I don’t mind cooking, but sometimes you just want someone to give you an idea of what to make. After years of cooking for the family, you're just plain tired of coming up with the ideas.

Today’s post is here to help you with blog post ideas to help you flesh out your editorial calendar for your family history blog. I hope it helps you to keep the creative juices going.  We all need a little inspiration from time to time. Psst. If you don’t have a blog start a family history journal. A private journal where you can capture your thoughts about your research and your ancestors even if you're not ready to serve them up to the general public just yet. 

  1. Write about a genealogy travel experience, a trip to ancestral hometown, archives, or a cemetery. Make it descriptive and take us on the journey with you.
  2. Write about a genealogy mistake you made. We’ve all have them. Share your mistake.
  3. Write about a strong female you’ve discovered in your genealogy research. What makes her strong and why does she appeal to you.
  4. Write about a family secret. Even if you can’t share the secret, see if you can write about it without actually revealing the secret but instead express your opinion on family secrets and how it affects your genealogy research.
  5. Write about your organisational system or lack there of, ask for advice from others.
  6. Write profiles of your ancestors. (Check out our profile writing course in September)
  7. Share the story of an ancestor who served in a war. Is there one ancestor that stands out. Or perhaps you can do a round up of them all.
  8. Tell the tale of two siblings, how did their lives move in different directions.
  9. Share a story of an ancestor who chose religious life.
  10. Did an ancestor live through a natural disaster? Share their story?
  11. Share a recipe that has been handed down through your family.
  12. Do you have an ancestor who won any sports awards? Tell their tale.
  13. Share the story of an ancestor who was involved in politics.
  14. Who are the entrepreneurs in your family history? Share their stories.
  15. Take your reader back in time to the dinner table of your ancestor.  Make sure you use all five senses to bring that table to life for the reader.
  16. Invite your reader to attend your ancestor’s wedding. Bring it to life on the page for them with rich detail.
  17. Which ancestor confuses you the most and why?
  18. Who among your ancestor’s was the first to attend high school? University?
  19. Share your most recent conference trip.
  20. Interview a fellow genealogist.
  21. Review your favourite genealogy tool
  22. Write a post on how genealogy has changed since you began your research.
  23. Which ancestor is your biggest brick wall? Ask readers for their advice.
  24. Write a post about your favourite genealogy resources.
  25. Write a post about your favourite genealogy blogs.
  26. Share how your ancestor celebrated the holidays. Christmas. New Years. Easter. Etc.
  27. Share a presentation you attended with your local genealogy group. Highlight what you learned.
  28. Which ancestor do you feel most like? Why?
  29. Share your genealogy goals for the upcoming year.
  30. Interview your oldest living relative, change it up, maybe make it a podcast!
  31. Share the story of a couple in your research who you feel represent marriage well. Or did it badly. 
  32. Recruit a family member or fellow genealogist to write a blog post for you.
  33. Share your recent family reunion and advice you have for others who are planning one.
  34. Recreate the experience of one of your immigrant ancestors’ travel to the new world.
  35. Do you have an ancestor who died young? Speculate on what their life might have been like.
  36. Recreate the birth of an ancestor? What would the birthing experience had been like?
  37. Identify an accomplishment in your ancestor’s life. Share how they overcame obstacles to achieve that goal. Tell the story over a series of posts to create suspense for the reader.
  38. Recreate a family recipe, blog about your experience, how it turned out and if the family enjoyed it.
  39. Did any of your ancestors have an unusual occupation? Share what you know about it.
  40. Review a favourite book, either a genealogy reference book or story.
  41. Do you have a scoundrel in the family? Share his or her story?
  42. Is there an ancestor who went from rags to riches or riches to rags? Tell their story.
  43. Share your own memories of an ancestor. How did you spend time with them? Use a description to bring that time to the page and make them real again for the reader.
  44. Share a folklore story that you haven’t been able to prove with research.
  45. Write about the one thing you want your family to know or understand about their ancestors.
  46. What is the one event in your family history that makes you the proudest?
  47. What one event in your family history disappoints you the most?
  48. Share the most romantic story you have come across in your research.
  49. Who is your ancestor hero? The one ancestor you are most proud to be related to. Why?
  50. If you could go back in time and sit down to speak with one ancestor who would it be? Why? What would you ask them?

Do you have a favourite blogging topic you think should be added to this list?  

NYG&B and the Ontario Genealogical Society Announce Partnership

Do your New York families have connections in Ontario? 

The following is a press release from The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. 


July 28, 2017

NYG&B and the Ontario Genealogical Society Announce Partnership

Today the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B) and the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) announced a new partnership offering reciprocal membership at a discount to all members.  The two societies hope that this will allow their respective members to gain access to even more records and resources. 

NYG&B President, D. Joshua Taylor noted “The NYG&B is delighted to partner with OGS. Numerous New York families had connections with Ontario and we look forward to working together to provide resources that help share and tell their stories.”

OGS President Patti Mordasewicz said: “We are excited to announce this expansion in our advantages of OGS membership for our members and to partner with the NYG&B. Our respective members should benefit greatly from enhanced access to resources for researching their Ontario and New York family histories. This is of particular importance when traditional migration and settlement patterns are considered.

To get more information on this partnership and how to sign up for membership in either organization, please visit or

About the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS)
The OGS, the largest such organization in Canada, was founded in 1961 with the vision of being recognized as the authority and leader in all aspects of Ontario related family history research, preservation and communication. The mission of the OGS is to encourage, bring together and assist those interested in the pursuit of family history and to preserve Ontario’s genealogical heritage.  OGS has 30 geographically based branches throughout Ontario together with 4 special interest groups (British Home Children, Scottish, Ireland and Irish-Palatine).  The OGS has published numerous books and pamphlets to assist Ontario researchers, provides its respected journal, Families, to its members, and publishes a weekly online newsletter highlighting events of interest to Ontario researchers. OGS Branches have transcribed the majority of Ontario cemeteries and published numerous indices which are the foundation of family history and genealogical research in Ontario.

About the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B)
The NYG&B has been helping people find their New York family and tell their stories since 1869. As the largest genealogical society in New York, the NYG&B operates, which includes digital collections, articles, research aides, and other essential tools for those researching New York State. The NYG&B has thousands of members across the globe, and publishes the Record each quarter, a scholarly journal devoted to New York genealogy and biography as well as the award-winning New York Researcher, which provides the latest news and updates for those tracing their New York ancestors. The NYG&B is also the publisher of the award-winning New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer, offering more than 800 pages of detailed resources related to New York and New York City Municipal Archives: An Authorized Guide for Family Historians. Each day the NYG&B engages with the dynamic, fast growing, rapidly changing field of family history through accurate, thorough research and the highest standards of scholarship.