google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: January 2010

Genealogy News- A Contest, a Conference, and a Podcast

Genealogy News 

Genealogy Gems Podcast - New Free Episode

On January 22, 2010 Genealogy Gems Podcast recorded their first live show before a sold out audience at the Family History Expo in Mesa, Arizona. You can now enjoy the energy of this conference by listening to the first live edition of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.

Here’s the guest line-up that you will get to enjoy on this particular podcast!

• Gena Philibert Ortega, Editor of the World Vital Records newsletter

• Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers and his Top 10 List of Genealogy Blogging Myths

• Anastasia Tyler of

This special live episode is now available on Episode 79.
Learn more about Genealogy Gems Podcasts

Contest at

Win $500.00 of Products

Be a fan and email your Facebook username to and you will be entered to win Prize Pack.

Prize pack includes 1 year World Deluxe subscription to, Family Tree Maker 2010 and My Canvas Photo Book. CONTEST ENDS JANUARY 31st,2010 No purchase necessary.

Checkout the official rules

However, this is not open to their Canadian clients, and oh my there are a lot of them and their not very happy about this. Maybe, will offer a separate contest for its millions of Canadian clients.

Ontario Genealogical Conference 2010

If you plan on attending the OGS Conference, or haven’t decided then you need to check out the conference info. This will enable you to pinpoint the specific seminars that may interest you, narrow down your choices based on your genealogical needs.

If you haven’t already registered, go to the program pages! You’ll find details about lectures, tours, and the special Dutch and Italian streams. Check out the brand new “Lecture Streams at a Glance” page with printable schedules for each day.

Once you’ve made your choices, click on “How do I register?” and select the registration package that suits you best. Then let the secure online registration form guide you through the process.

George Stephanopoulos, Hillary Clinton Distant Relatives, Genealogists Say - ABC News

More Genealogy Television News

Check out this clip featuring Henry Louis Gates and his upcoming genealogy series
'Faces of America' which premiers on ABC Feb.10th.

George Stephanopoulos, Hillary Clinton Distant Relatives, Genealogists Say - ABC News

Follow Friday - Genealogy Television

Genealogy Television is not new to Canada!

This past week, with the excitement of the premier of the new NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are? slated to premier in March, I felt it important to spotlight another genealogy television program I already follow.

I wish to draw my reader’s attention to the Canadian version of this show. Unlike WDYTYA? This program does not trace the ancestors of famous people but instead it traces the life of regular Canadians and highlights their dramatic personal stories.

Ancestors in the Attic is Gemini-nominated documentary series hosted by Jeff Douglas. Toronto-based Primitive Entertainment produces this series, in its fourth season, for History Television. It takes Canadians across Canada and across the world to uncover the personal stories and family trees of Canadians.

This program airs on Thursday evenings on History television; the stories are often very dramatic family mysteries, uncovered through some excellent genealogy skills, often using the internet, family stories, and archives. The accounts are moving and captivating. Everyone loves a good mystery and this show captivates the attention of my entire family, including the teenagers.

If you wish to get your fix of genealogy television before March, then I encourage you to check out Ancestors in the Attic,  episode times are listed on the website, and you can view full past episodes of Ancestors in the Attic online.

Family Biography - A Lesson in Writing

Part 1- Preparing to Write a Family Biography

This week I have been crazy busy writing family biographies. Three years ago, I began researching and writing the Kowalsky Family History Book. (I may have mentioned it once or twice before) From this process, I have learned a great deal about writing a family biography.

A biography is a life story written by someone other than the subject. A family biography is a bit different. It features more people, all related in some way. It will tell about events that happened to the family. It will share details about the individuals in a family and about family life.

Sometime ago we had the brilliant idea that each one of my aunts and uncles would receive a couple of pages with various photos depicting their life along with a biography of their life to date. Since it has been 30 years since our last family book, we thought we should take each one of my cousins, who now have children and grandchildren of their own and give them each a page with a small biography.

By taking this approach, we felt we would create a family biography, linking the individuals that make up a family together, through their shared experiences, inherited traits, and details of their family life.

This was no small feat; I have nine aunts and uncles on this side of the family and 45 cousins. I was faced with the daunting task of writing 54 biographies. Of course, you do not need to take as large a project as I did. These simple steps can be applied to any size family biography. This is how we got it done.

The easiest method of communication with everyone was email. We started with a mass email letting everyone know of our intentions and asking for their cooperation. We acquired the information and prepared to write the biographies in three stages.

Step One
We sent out a family group sheet to each family, listing the family members names, birth dates, marriages, death etc. All the vital statistics we would require to update our information. We asked them to make any corrections, or additions to this sheet; this was our jumping off point, insuring what information we did or didn’t have was accurate. When this information was returned to us, we recorded it in our pedigree charts.

Step 2
We put out a request for photographs. We stipulated the kind of photographs we were looking for, from toddler years to a recent headshot and everything in between. We wanted to be sure we had plenty to choose from, not all the pictures would make it in but we wanted to have a choice. It was important to send this out early, because just this week, nearly one and half years later after the initial request was made the last family member has submitted her pictures. We used to joke that it was easier getting pictures and information from the deceased then from our living relatives. Pictures may not seem like an obvious request for writing a biography, they initially were intended to accompany the bio, but they did serve a purpose in  learning about our relatives and to connecting with family members.

Step 3
We sent each aunt or uncle (my Dad’s brother and sisters) and each one of their children (my cousins) a questionnaire. Since, there were so many cousins we did a standard questionnaire of approximately 25 questions. For my aunts and uncles, who we affectionately refer to as the elders, I wrote more individual questionnaires with specific questions to their life. The questions were directed towards major events in their lives: education, relationships and jobs, for example. We probe into the effects the world had on them and their impact on the world and their reflections of family life and their role in the family, here's a list of family history interview questions to help you with this part.

Once we had their family group sheets in hand, their pictures and their questionnaires, I sat down to the task of writing a biography for each one of them. At the time of this post, I have written over 40 family biographies and I would like to share with you what I learned in Part 2 of Writing a Family Biography on Monday Feb 1st.

Tombstone Tuesday - Cemeteries Online - A Look at Find A Grave

With winter well established here in Ontario, Canada, I have taken to cemeteries online for tombstone hunting. I have also committed myself to adding my tombstone pictures to some of these databases, a process I have never engaged in before. Online cemeteries offer us the opportunity to search for our ancestors, however, I will be honest I have yet to find one of my ancestor’s tombstone online. Then it occurred to me, maybe some distance cousins are also looking for my family. I realized if I want to draw out unknown family and new leads on my ancestors then I needed to do my part and start posting my family in these online cemeteries.

This week I went to Find A Grave and began the process. I would like to share my experience.
Founded in 1995 by Jim Tipton, Find A Grave is a virtual cemetery where contributors submit grave records, tombstone pictures and memorials for past ancestors for FREE. Find A Grave hosts 41 million grave records and boasts 500,000 contributors. One of the main attractions of virtual cemeteries is to expose your family records to the world in the hopes a distant relative will locate you and reveal clues to some of your unanswered questions. With over 50,000 visitors a day, Find A Grave is a great place to start posting your tombstone pictures.

This week I posted the tombstone of my Great-Grandfather Adam Kowalsky. I started with Adam because I dearly want to make a connection with relatives in Poland; my Great-Grandfather immigrated to Canada in 1905.

The process of posting to Find A Grave I found to be very simple and well laid out. Upon arriving at Find A Grave, Go to the New Member Page, here you submit an email address and a password. You are presented with a profile page to fill out and after that, you are ready to begin submitting.

Click on, Add Burial Records, this brings you to a biographical page, fill in information of the deceased and proceed to step two. Next, type in the first few letters of the cemetery and presto a list of cemeteries pops up, check the one you want, if not there you have the option to add it. Your page will then say Success! It is that simple.

Click to view, immediately my Great Grandfathers memorial appeared with a picture of the cemetery gates (if available this is automatically added to the page). You now can start uploading pictures of the headstones or pictures of the deceased. (There are restrictions to the kind and size of pictures you upload so please read the instructions) There are options on the page to add relationship links, marker transcriptions and notes. You can also place some flowers at the virtual grave marker.

You may wish to sponsor this memorial. For a one-time fee of $5.00 (payable by cheque, money order or credit card) you can have all advertisements removed (although I didn’t find them tacky or intrusive) from the page, the photo limit is increased from 5 pictures to 20 pictures and you are credited with a special link at the bottom of the memorial. This is an optional feature.

In all, Find A Grave was a user-friendly site; it's a professional and respectful website. I will continue to post my ancestors headstones to cemeteries online, not only as a memorial to them but also as an opportunity to extend my reach to make a possible family connection.

Related Reading
Tombstone Tuesday- Keeping Warm While Searching for Tombstones

Who Do You Think You Are? Sneak Peek Video

Create a Family Tree Online- The Pros and Cons

When you first begin your search for your family history online, you will undoubtedly have joined one or more online genealogy databases. One of the features that many of these databases offer is the ability to create a family tree with other members of that database's community. However, before you start culling information from other family trees, you need to be fully aware of some issues an online family tree can present.

Just because it exists does not make it so. Many people put their trees online. Do not take them a face value. They are walking land mines of inaccurate information, poorly sourced data, and are riddled with transcription errors. I do not mean to frighten you away from creating and online tree or evening from using them to acquire some new information for your own tree. However, you must be very careful about what information you obtain.

If a tree offers some new information, but no sources, or the source is somewhat sceptical, then file that information as a possible lead. Seek out other sources, such as documents, census, birth, death, and marriage certificates to corroborate this information.

Just because a person has the spelling of a name different or a tree opens up an entire line of new ancestors, never accept it verbatim. Often times other trees have copied inaccurate information from another tree, and trees before them. Before you know it, what may have started out, as a solid piece of information, has been transcribed a dozen trees over, now with errors. Just because a dozen trees all have the same information doesn’t make it truth.

Many family trees online are an individual's work in progress. They are not created online for the sole purpose to share but as a working copy of a pedigree chart. Their first priority is not who may be seeking their information. Therefore, they may be attaching information to their tree, until they can substantiate the facts, never with the intention that others would draw on this information.

Do not left me discourage you completely from creating an online family tree. Sharing your tree will provide you with the opportunity to connect with many distant cousins. Seriously give it time, they will be coming out of the woodwork, sometimes with more to offer then you could have imagined. Be appreciative for the information that distant family members have to offer, be gracious, but take the new information under advisement until you can find sources.

You can build your family tree in several databases to increase your odds of connecting with family. If this is the case, then you will want to consider the many free sites that are available to family historians to build a tree, and to connect it to the online genealogy world. So build your family tree online, just go in educated about the kind of information you are mostly likely to find.

Here are some websites where you can create a family tree for free – free to post a tree but no access to documents without membership free free – free, limited, limited Free Free
Related reading for Choosing an Online Genealogy Database

Internet Genealogy- More Online Learning

In our ongoing series, Online Genealogy Learning- Time to Smarten Up, we have looked at a web-based home study course, we’ve reviewed podcasts (both free and subscription based) and today we are looking at Webinars all in an effort to improve our family history research skills through Internet Genealogy.  

Webinars are web-based seminars transmitted over the Internet and take the form of a presentation, lecture or workshop. This means you can go to school in your pyjamas. Unlike podcasts, the primary feature of a webinar is its interactive capabilities between the instructor and the audience. Webinars usually charge a price; they tend to run about 1 hour at a pre –determined day and time. Pre-registration is usually required and all you need is computer and a broadband Internet connection to join.

Today’s spotlight is on the webinars at Family Tree Magazine

Family Tree Magazine offers webinars that guide the audience through specific research problems. Each workshop lasts about an hour; you will get a download PDF of the slides once the workshop ends. A Question and Answer segment follows the lecture and Family Tree offers technical help should you encounter any problems.

Family Tree also offers access to past webinars. Needless to say, they are not occurring in real time and you no longer have the function to be able to interact with the instructor. However, at a reduce cost this maybe a great budget option for you. If you were looking to have some interaction with an instructor, and deal with some specific issues, then it would be wise to register for the live webinar to advance your learning.

Once you have completed a particular webinar, you have the capability to view that recorded webinar as many times as you would like.

Upcoming Webinars at Family Tree Magazine

Organization Made Easy: 5 Simple Ways to Get Your Family History in Order

On Wednesday January 27th, at 7pm EST for the price of $39.99 for 1 hour you will have the opportunity to learn various methods for filing your records; reduce the computer clutter and tips to organizing your genealogy.

Search Engine Tips and Tricks: Google Techniques to Boost Your Research

On Tuesday Feb 23rd at 7pm EST for the price of $49.99, Lisa Louise Cooke will instruct you on how to maximize Google to its full potential to improve your genealogy research.

If you wish to access past webinars you can download any of the following sessions at for a reduce price of $29.99

Photo Retouching
Brick Wall StrategiesI
Vital Records
Online Immigration Records
Family Search Essentials
Finding Your Family in Old Newspapers
Heirloom Preservation Made Easy
Online Census Secrets
Googling Your Genealogy

Webinars offer armchair genealogists a great opportunity to take an internet genealogy class without a huge commitment. Webinars provide a boost of knowledge to help improve your research skills, that in turn result in new family history discoveries, all at reasonable price from the comfort of your couch.

Build a Family Tree - On the Go

 Now you can build a family tree from your iPhone or iPod touch. Your family history research just became increasingly easier and more portable. just released an app for your iPhone or iPod touch.

Whether you find yourself in a library, at a cemetery, or with relatives, you will now have your family tree, readily available. Perhaps you need to verify a date, a name, or a relationship; you no longer need to carry around, your binder of information or a pedigree chart, as I often find myself doing.

Many times family members, who know I am a genealogist, will ask me about a certain ancestor in our tree. Often I can pull that information from my head, how geeky is that. However, not always, now I can quickly pull up my family tree with the Tree to Go iPhone App and answer all their questions.

This is a great tool for all armchair genealogists. However, not only can you verify information, you can also edit and add information allowing you to build your family tree right from your iPhone very cool. You can take photos of relatives, documents, keepsakes, a building and then upload them directly to your tree.

I will be honest, I presently do not own an iPhone or iPod touch, but seriously will be now be shopping for one for this feature alone. The idea of having a portable family tree and the ability to build a family tree from my cell phone has me quite excited.

You simply need an ancestry account and the iphone application, which you can download, from iTunes App Store and you will be able to build a family tree from any armchair anywhere.

How to Unlock the Facts and Folklore through Interviews - Part 2

 Steps to a Successful Family Interview

As a family history researcher we spend much of our time at a computer screen, in archives or in cemeteries not deemed the most social of places.

However, if you want to be a genealogist, a keeper of the family’s stories, then you need to interview the living. In order to achieve this successfully, you need to address your social skills particularly your interviewing skills. I am not suggesting that genealogists are anti-social but when interviewing relatives we need to have an awareness of our relative, the conditions of the interview, and the skills to get the most out of our subject.

1. Put your subjects at ease from the top of the interview, keep things relaxed and informal. The less your meeting appears as an interview the more likely your conversation will flow freely and the information will be generous.

2. Ask opened ended questions. An interview filled with questions that require a yes or no answer will end very quickly, with very little being revealed.

3. Have a prepared list of questions, but be flexible, don’t stick to a script. Allow the subject to wander from your questions. Your relative may offer information that you haven’t considered in your list of questions.

4. Be a good listener, let them talk. However, if your relative gets too far off topic, interject with a new question.

5. Do not push too hard on a sensitive subject; you will not be invited back. If there is reluctance or some sensitivity to answering a question, back off. Some memories can be very painful to discuss. Respect their decision not to discuss them.

6. You may not get everything you want. Some relatives may feel if you are younger, they may not want to confide in you data that they believe to be too sensitive for tender ears. Sometimes having another relative with you, whom they are close to will  help bridge some trust.

7. Plan your timing and the atomsphere of the interview. Allow for plenty of time so you not rushed, and your relative is not rushed. In addition, keep in mind the time of day, your elderly relative may tire easily. Make sure the environment will be void of all distractions like telephones, the tv and visitors.

8. Don’t be afraid to schedule your interview in two sessions, especially if there is a lot of ground to cover. If your interview lasts too long answers may become brief. Allowing time in between interviews gives the relative an opportunity to draw up some old memories in time for the second interview.

9. Protect the privacy and rights of your relatives. If you choose to tape-record your interview, never tape record secretly. Always be open about the process. Be forthcoming about how you intend to use the information you acquire in the interview.

Finally, understand that great interviews come from behind the scenes preparation while the interview itself should feel comfortable and effortless. This can only come from practice.

Related Reading in this Series
How to Unlock the Facts and Folklore through Interviews- Part 1
Family History Interview Questions
Writing your Family History – Your How to Guide Starts Here
Step One in Creating Your Family History Book
How to Determine the Size and Scope of Your Family History Booking
Determining a Budget for Your Family History Book

How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Your Family History

People delay starting their family history for many reasons, if you have been procrastinating starting your family history then keep reading.  I hope I can help you overcome your objections and convince you to start your family history research today.

The Objection:
The idea of researching your family history seems too large and overwhelming,
The Fix:
When you think about starting your family history, break your project down into small
manageable pieces. If you think of your project in terms of whole project, you will be
overwhelmed. One-step at time.

The Objection:
You are intimidated and feel you need to be a professional genealogist or feel just too unfamiliar with the genealogy landscape and do not know where to begin.
The Fix:
You're here, reading this blog is a great first step in learning more about genealogy. Gone are the days of having a certificate or accreditation inorder to complete your family history. Armchair Genealogists are everywhere. There are many more genealogy blogs and databases that can help you navigate the landscape and learn more about how to get started. Check out other related reading in our beginner’s basics series, writing your family history or online learning. Pick-up a book from the Genealogist's Store and start your journey.

The Objection:
You think you will be unable to complete the perfect family tree. Perfectionism, is one of the main reasons people don’t start a project.
The Fix:
Accept from the beginning that your pedigree chart is doomed to have a few holes in it. Go in knowing all family trees have a few unanswered questions. The sooner you remove the expectation you are going to achieve a perfect family tree, in a neat tidy package, the better off you will be.

The Objection:
Creating your family tree is too much work.
The Fix:
You’re right, it is a lot of work but it is also a lot of fun. There is a great deal work involved in researching your family history, but it is also a labour of love and very rewarding. If you enjoy a good mystery, then unraveling the clues to the history of your family's story will get you hooked. You will also become part of a very generous community.

The Objection:
The fear of failure.
The Fix:
Do it Anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

5 Tips for Choosing an Online Genealogy Database

Now more than ever, I can appreciate how confusing it can be for a family historian trying to decide on which database they would like to join when beginning their family research. If you’re an armchair genealogist then certainly you want to belong to an online genealogy database. The question is which database to join?

I am here to tell you, only you can know the answer to that. How do you know?

1. Gather as much information about your ancestors prior to seeking out a database. Where your ancestors originated from, whether it was Ireland, Germany, Poland and where they arrived, the US or Canada could influence which database you wish to join. Not all databases are created equal. Investigate the resources a database offers you in terms of your specific needs.

2. Consider how much money you are willing to spend if any. I am personally a big fan of Ancestry. However, Ancestry is an investment in your genealogy. If you do not wish to make that kind of investment then you may want to consider Family Search, a free database.

3. There are also plenty of smaller databases, specializing in specific countries. Personally, researching my Irish Ancestry, I have had better luck with such databases such as Irish Family History Foundation or Irish Origins.

4. Take them for a trial run. Many databases offer free 7 days subscriptions, this provides you an opportunity to get into the documents and make sure they are the right fit for you.

5. However, you do not have to make a long-term commitment to any database. Depending on the database, you can subscribe for 48 hours, a week, a month, a year. Other databases such as the Irish Family History Foundation will charge you by the document.

There are many smaller databases, they offer you records that are more specific, such as newspaper databases, cemetery databases and passenger lists, and they are great as an add-on to a main database. However, in my opinion you should make yourself familiar with the major online genealogy databases if you are new to family research. Here are the bigger players to investigate to get you started. Keeping in mind, the above 5 tips to determine which database is the best fit for your genealogy research.

Family Search

World Vital Records

Related Reading in the Series Beginner's Basics
Genealogy Begins at Home

Image: Danilo Rizzuti /

Follow Friday- Who Do You Think You Are?

On March 5th Who Do You Think You Are? will premier on NBC. The genea-bloggers were a buzz yesterday getting the news out to everyone. So much so, that I contemplated whether I needed to even write this post today. As it is probably old news.

However, I am so excited, I needed to share. Why is this so important to the genealogy community? First, because it will shine a spotlight on genealogy and the world, finally North America will come to see why we love it (genealogy) so much.

Secondly, it will encourage more people to become engaged in the love of genealogy. The more the industry grows the more wonderful things happen, people join databases, which in turn brings more resources to these companies, to bring more records online and we all win. Why do I think that will happen? NBC has collaborated with to make this show happen. A very smart move for both companies.

Therefore, we will be counting down the days to March 5th, popcorn in hand, don’t call me because I won’t be answering the phone, and on March 6th, follow me here at The Armchair Genealogist for the reviews, and join the discussion on each episode. I know I can count on the genealogy community to make some noise and lead the way.

Here is the statement from NBC, I will keep you posted on new details as they are released.

Some of today's most-beloved and iconic celebrities including Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon are set to star in NBC's new alternative series "Who Do You Think You Are?"

From executive producer Kudrow ("Friends," "The Comeback") in conjunction with her production company Is or Isn't Entertainment and the U.K.'s Wall to Wall productions, the series - an adaptation of the award-winning hit British television documentary series - will lead celebrities on a journey of self-discovery as they unearth their family trees that reveal surprising, inspiring and even tragic stories that often are linked to crucial events in American history.

Additional celebrity names will be announced shortly.

The announcement was made today by Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming, NBC and Universal Media Studios.

"No other program gives this unique glimpse into the personal lives of celebrities or takes viewers on a quantum leap through history in such an entertaining way," said Telegdy. "We are thrilled to have Lisa, Susan and Sarah Jessica kick off this groundbreaking series."

"This show personalizes history and turns it into a gripping narrative," said Kudrow. The most striking thing about the show is the realization of how connected we all are."

Each episode will take viewers on an emotional, personal - and often mysterious - quest following one of America's best-known celebrities into his or her past, sharing the celebrity's surprise as they uncover stories of heroism and tragedy, love and betrayal, secrets and intrigue that lie at the heart of their family history.

At the same time, the series celebrates the twists and turns of a developing great nation and the people who made their way here in search of freedom and opportunity. As each one discovers their unknown relatives - most of whom overcame hard times - the show will take the audience back into world history to expose how the lives of everyone's collective ancestors' have shaped today's world.

Online Genealogy Learning - Podcast 101

Podcasts are picking up momentum in the world of blogging; however, they are also gaining ground in the genealogy world as a great online learning tool.

Podcasts are a series of digital computer files that take the form of either an audio or a video file. Periodically released to the public by their creators, you can listen to them online, or they may be downloaded to your computer, to an MP3 file or burned to a CD. Think of them like a pre-recorded radio show. They do not allow for interaction between the presenter and the audience, however, you are able to stop and start them as is convenient to you.

I think podcasts are becoming a great new way to learn online, and they are particularly attractive, to auditory learners, those who would prefer to learn by listening as opposed to reading.

Today the spotlight is on Genealogy Gems Podcasts, in our continuing series Online Genealogy Learning- Time to Smarten Up!

One of things I like most about Genealogy Gems is that founder Lisa Louise Cooke is “real people.” Lisa speaks to all armchair genealogists. Those of us who got online one day, found genealogy via the internet and are hooked. We are not professionals, do not have a list of letters behind our names and the majority of us will never reach accreditation status. As a voice for armchair genealogists, I believe we have found a great resource that we can relate to in Lisa Louise Cooke at Genealogy Gems.

Many of you may be acquainted with her weekly podcasts series Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. This was certainly my first exposure to her work. However, recently I had the opportunity to take a look at her Premium Podcasts and Premium Videos. Upon entering the sign-up site through , you are given the opportunity to download her dandy little toolbar. At first, I was a little sceptical; do I really need another toolbar? However, if you follow genealogy, as much as I do, it quite quickly became handy. I especially like that I can listen to the podcasts from the toolbar while continuing to search the internet. I also like that when Lisa has some hot off the press news, a pop-up window sends out an alert when something comes across her desk and is shared immediately with her members.

For a membership fee of $29.95 a year, (come on you cannot even take a family of 4 to the movies for that) you will get 2 podcasts a month for an entire year. That works out to about a $1.25 an episode!! The podcasts also come with show notes. You can download the episodes to your hard drive prior to the expiration date for permanent keeping. Yes, they do expire, but you have plenty of time to download or save them to an Mp3 player. If you own an iphone or ipod touch, Lisa has her very own iphone apps for Genealogy Gems Podcasts. This makes her show a streaming podcast; therefore, it will not take up space on your iphone or ipod.

The membership provides access to not only her podcasts but also her video series. Currently I am working my way through the Google Earth series. In the podcast series, I enjoyed her interview with Ewa Benson AG on Irish History. I learned some great tips and became acquainted with some new websites. To be quite honest, I enjoyed it so much it left me wanting more(that's a hint to Lisa).More recently, she did a two part series on Finding Newspapers. Therefore, in case you are concerned the Premium Podcasts are the same as her Family History series, they are not.

Lisa has plenty to offer the family historian and therefore she has multiple sites and links and many pans in the fire, so when I first discovered Genealogy Gems, I admit I was floundering trying to keep it all straight. The toolbar keeps her at my fingertips now.

I realize there is plenty of free online learning, even Lisa’s Family History; Genealogy Made Easy is free or can be downloaded through itunes. Certainly start there, if that is all you can afford. However, once you are ready to push the learning curve then I would suggest the Premium Podcasts. If you are allocating some money to expanding your genealogy learning this year, I encourage you consider the Premium Podcast. I think you need to put into context that $29.95 for the Premium membership is a good value for a year’s worth of learning. I believe her podcasts will especially benefit beginners, and intermediate level genealogy learners. That is not to say a professional genealogist couldn’t find some few new and fresh approaches in her podcasts.

Therefore, at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, (sorry but she does have it all going on) I hope you will try Genealogy Gems, Lisa is offering a 20% discount on an annual membership by using the coupon code SAVE20. I am not an affiliate of Genealogy Gems, this is a personal review.

Related Reading in Online Genealogy Learning - Smarten Up

A Call to Genealogists- Help Change History

As genealogists, we deal everyday in history. So for a brief moment today, I thought it was important to bring two current news stories to the forefront. These stories are about how others can effect change in the life of our fellow man. We love searching out the history of our families, I know most genealogists can appreciate history in general. That is why two events yesterday seemed very siginificant to me and somewhat related, that I felt the need to share.
Yesterday Miep Gies died at the age of 100. Many of you may not know who she is, however, you will certainly recognize the name Anne Frank. Miep was working as a secretary for Anne Frank's father. The families became friends and when the world turned upside down in 1942, Miep a newlywed, risked her own life to help hide the Frank family. They hid them for 2 years.
After the family was discovered, it was Miep Gies who saved Anne's diary, returning it to her father the only member of the family to survive. It is Miep Gies, we have to thank for the Diary of Anne Frank.

If you wish to learn more about Miep Gies, you can read about her story at The Daily Mail, the article  Painfully Shy, awesomely brave, the unknow heroine behind Anne Frank's Diary by Glennys Roberts, is a wonderful article about a truly brave women from history from whom we can all learn.

The story of  Miep Gies offers us a lesson; that by  helping the most vulnerable in this world, in turn even one individual has the potential to effect change in this world, and effect the history, and the life of an individual for the better.
With that being said, today we all have that opportunity, with the tradegy in Haiti to help and effect change.  Please turn to your local organizations such as the Red Cross or World Vision and donate,  help the millions who are lost and suffering today. Help change the course of the their history.

I send out a call to all genealogist, family historians, armchair genealogists, and bloggers to call the charity of your choice that is sending aid to Haiti and contribute, inorder that we may all help effect their lives for the better.

How to Unlock the Facts and Folklore through Interviews

In my past life, I was a manager and a trainer. Part of my job was interviewing potential employees and training other managers to do the same. It did not take me long to realize that I was using these same skills in my family history interviews that I had used as a manager. For sure, it was far less stressful interviewing complete strangers than it was interviewing family members, however, the same skills none the less.

In Part 1 of this series we will look at PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW and as promised, I will post a list of possible interview questions to get you started. Part 2 of this series, STEPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW will follow same time, same place next week.


1. Whom Should You Start With?

If you are new to interviewing then I would suggest starting with a relative, one you feel the most comfortable with such as a parent, sibling or grandparent. Good interviewing takes practice and does not come without being prepared. The more prepared you are the more relaxed you will be. As you become more comfortable with interviewing you can progress to more difficult family members, non-relatives such as best friends and long-time neighbours. Other possible subjects include employers, household boarders and nannies.

At some point, you may want to try a group interview. Group interviews can be successful because they can spark memories encouraging one story to lead to another. However, group interviews can be hard to control, so I would suggest an individual interview to start.

Regardless of whomever you start with, you should ultimately try to start with the eldest of your ancestors. I am not trying to be insensitive, but you want to capture their memories before they pass. It is the reality of genealogy.

2. Meeting with Objections

Some of your relatives will meet with objections to the interview process. Often ancestors do not feel like they have anything to offer, or cannot contribute to your goal. Put their mind at ease that you simply want to reminisce about their childhood, parents, and grandparents. If they provide resistance make the interview low key, distract from the fact that he or she is being interviewed.

3. Do Your Research

Research your subject in advance. Ensure you have a timeline of their life’s events laid out, with any missing information you are seeking. Attempt to get these facts first, then you can focus on stories, childhood memories etc. Bring items such as pictures and documents to the interview that will help stimulate memories.

4. Bring the Proper Tools

Come prepared with your questions laid out ahead of time, along with a method of recording the answers. You can take notes or you can use a tape recorder. I prefer a tape recorder, it allows you to be present at the interview, and the presence of a tape recorder seems less intimidating then you with pen and paper in hand waiting to bounce on the answers. Subjects often forget about the tape recorder very quickly. Test your tape recorder in advance, no how it works, you don’t want any surprises at the end of a two hour interview.

Regardless of whether you are creating a family history book or interviewing family members to fill in some blanks in your pedigree chart the same process applies. Just as organization is key to genealogy, preparation is key to interviewing.

Related Reading
Writing your Family History – Your How to Guide Starts Here
Step One in Creating Your Family History Book
How to Determine the Size and Scope of Your Family History Book
A Lesson in Writing a Narrative Family History
Determing a Budget for Your Family History Book
Preserving Your Family History- The Options
Family History Interview Questions

Genealogy Begins at Home

I know when we think genealogy we think of archives, libraries, cemeteries, churches and online databases. Without a doubt, these are very important places in your genealogy research. Many genealogy beginner's are quick to sign up with an online database or head to an archive before really knowing what it is they are looking for.

Genealogy begins at home. Before you even begin to think about heading to one of these repositories, or signing up online, your first step into the world of genealogy should begin within your four walls.

Your genealogy research needs to start by gathering all the information around your house. Sort through boxes, pictures, photo albums, bibles, funeral cards, letters, birth certificates, immigration papers, marriage certificates every piece of information you have lying around your home.

As you record the information from these sources, you will encounter many dates, names and places. Create a system to keep track of the information that has been verified against primary sources (birth certificates, marriage certificates for example) other information that you obtain through a note, scribbling on the back of a picture etc. will still require to be verified against actual records. At the end,you will have compiled a list of what you know, what needs to be verified (perhaps record this in pencil, or highlight it or different colour to indicate this) and you will have a list of what you do not know.

Either record this information, in a genealogy software program, in a file on your computer, or create a binder to organize your information. There are many genealogy software programs available. Some for free, such as Roots Magic(depending on the verison), or others such as Family Tree , you can purchase through My Genealogy Store. Organization is important in the early stages. Choose an organizational system, or several. For instance, I have created a tree in Ancestry; they also serve as my primary research vehicle. I also keep files in file folders on my computer and I keep a hard copy of everything in a binder. One of the biggest complaints genealogist have is keeping their research organized. Therefore, I cannot stress enough, how important it is to set time aside each week to keep your records in order.

Once you have recorded everything you have accumulated around your home, and have put it into an organized system, start a research to-do list; this is a list of the missing puzzle pieces. Having a research list that you can refer to will keep you on track and focused. You will begin to pick them off one at a time.

Now, you are ready to move outside of your home. However, we are still not ready to head to repositories or databases. Now you are going to move to the home of your parents, your grandparents, aunts and uncles. Any living relative older than yourself, which may have access to more information about your ancestors.

Ask to go through their boxes, pictures, bibles etc. Start the process all over again. Record everything you have accumulated, scan and return all pictures and documents to them. You may have already been able to verify some of your information by taking this next step; you may have filled in a few missing puzzle pieces. However, you also may have added more unverified information and accumulated more unanswered questions.

What is interesting thing about genealogy, the more we learn through research, the more we discover, the more questions we have, the more we want to learn and the cycle starts again. I guess this is why a genealogist never feels their work is never done.

Now you are ready to move on to Step 2. No, sorry still not heading to the archives and cemeteries, you are now ready to interview the living.
Check in on Wednesday for my post on interviewing the living along with a list of interview questions to get you started.

Happy 101 Award - The Award Goes To.....

Thank you to Joan at for including me on her Happy 101 Award list. It is nice to know that I am making a contribution to the online genealogy community.

In the spirit of this award here are the 10 things that make me happy.

1. My two daughters- watching them grow into beautiful, intelligent self-assured women.
2. My husband - enjoying quality time together
3. Writing- I love the journey and the opportunity it provides me to grow.
4. Genealogy- of course, the discovery, the order and the wonderful community.
5. Traveling- I love the adventure and change from everyday life it offers.
6. Cooking - I love to cook for family and friends, especially Italian.
7. Reading- I love to be able to escape to another world through words, fascinating.
8. Babies- I love babies, especially Jack and Jude.
9. A summer's day by the pool
10. A winter's night by the fire

Here are a few blogs I would like to pass along this award to, they keep me informed, inspired, and entertained on a regular basis. Hope everyone has a successful 2010 Genealogy Blogging year.

                 The Genealogue                        
                 Kick-Ass Genealogy
                 The Genealogy Insider

Follow Friday- Who is Cyndi?

From the very moment I began my genealogy research on the internet, I discovered Cyndi's List. Cyndi’s List (should you live in a cave, or have yet to start your genealogy journey) is a collection of internet genealogy websites arranged in convenient lists and provided to the public as a free research tool for family history researchers.

However, I have always wondered just who is Cyndi?

Cyndi Howell is the owner and creator of Cyndi’s List. She lives in Edgewood Washington where she manages Cyndi’s List. She is a real person who manages this site solo, with the assistance of her husband as proofreader and sounding board.

This job began for her as a project for her local genealogical society back in 1996, in an effort to help her members find online resources. In the last 14 years, she has spent her time compiling links to articles, website, databases, and blogs that assists her readers in their genealogy research. Cyndi’s List provides a great jumping off point if you are new to genealogy and need to be acquainted with the landscape. Cyndi sorts her resources into various lists or categories according to their topic.

This is a free resource. Maintenance and expenses for her website come from affiliate advertisement programs.

According to Cyndi’s own statistics, here is what she has to offer.

• On average, she adds 1,500 new links, update/correct 600 links, and delete 300 non-working links each month.

• The list began with 1,025 links all listed on one page. The list is now contained on more than 330 individual pages.

• Her current count stands at more than 270,000 links, over 180 categories, and over 10,000 new links waiting to be categorized.

I’m exhausted thinking about it.

Cyndi states, “I read somewhere that the Internet is like a library with its books strewn all over the floor. I guess I'd like my list to be the card catalog for the genealogy section of that library. And after all these years, I honestly believe that this is what I was meant to do.”

Who is Cyndi? She is the Internet Librarian for the world’s genealogy section.

Cyndi's List of Genealogy
 Sites on the Internet
Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the


Online Genealogy Learning - A Time to Smarten Up!

   This begins our first entry in a series of posts regarding online genealogy learning. If you are interested in expanding your genealogy knowledge, or if you are new to genealogy then a little online learning maybe in store for you. There are many avenues available to every family historian when it comes to learning more about their craft. This series of articles will explore the many paths a family historian can consider in an effort to gain knowledge about genealogy research. Expanding ones knowledge can do wonderful things; it allows you to look at problems in a new light, sharpen your focus and in turn helps you tear down those infamous brick walls.

We will be looking at all possible avenues of online learning, from webinars, tutorials and podcasts to longer weekly courses that offer opportunities towards accreditation. We will address free learning opportunities, budget friendly learning, and formal learning with larger price tags. New opportunities for learning are becoming available everyday and this series will keep you upto date on what's new and what's tried and true in online genealogy learning.

Recently, I published an article in Internet Genealogy about Online Learning. Pick up a copy of the Dec/Jan issue.  After researching the National Institude for Genealogical Studies, I felt this organization had a lot to offer and I needed to give them some more attention.

Therefore, our first online learning spotlight shines on The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in affiliation with the University of Toronto at

 This is a web based course for family historians and professional genealogists(meaning professional in terms of professionalism, you do not need to be an accredited genealogist for these courses)

 They offer a certificate in genealogical studies or specialized certificates for specific countries

 To obtain a certificate you must follow the recommended prerequisite courses

 If you only wish to enhance your knowledge the prerequisite courses are not required

 Courses are identified as basic, immediate and advanced

 Homework and assignments are mandatory if seeking a grade or credit

 Class discussions, interactive bulletin boards, online meetings and live chats along with study groups provide a well-rounded learning experience

 Courses vary in length from six to eight weeks at a cost of $89.00 US. You may purchase courses individually or in packages.

 Accreditation is not available; however, a family historian can acquire through these courses the tools necessary in the development towards this goal.

There are too many classes offered to mention here, check out their website, it is very user friendly. You can take a single course with a very specific focus in a very specific country, or you may wish to take a series of courses and obtain a country specific certification available for Canadian, American, Irish, English, Germany or Scottish research.

A small snippet of some of the courses offered include:
African-American Genealogy
Genetics and Genealogy
Irish: Immigration, Naturalization and Emigration Records
Methodology, a six-part series
There are over 100 classes to choose from starting Feb 1, 2010 with many more classes available each month, most are open now for registration. Some classes will be added to the calendar soon, one that looks interesting is called Brick Wall Research.

Do not be intimidated by the quality of the school offering these classes and do not feel you need to be an advanced genealogist to engage in these courses. There are classes available for every level of experience and for every area of interest in family history research. In addition, to being reasonably priced, you don’t have to leave your house to complete them. A great combination if you ask me.

Pick-up a copy of the December/January issue of Internet Genealogy for more great online genealogy learning opportunities and visit us every Thursday for Online Genealogy Learning - A Time to Smarten Up!

Have You Written A Family History Book- A Call For Guest Posts

If you have written a family history book then I would like to hear from you. As part of my weekly series on Creating Your Family History book I would like to add guest posts to my blogs from fellow bloggers and family historians who have created their own family history books and would like to relay their experience here at the Armchair Genealogist. This is an opportunity to tell readers about your process of creating a family history book. What problems did you encounter? What would you do differently? What specifically about your book are you most proud? Your choice of software programs and publishing options? Please share, we can all learn from each others experiences. If you would like to write a guest post, you can send me your ideas directly to

Determing a Budget for Your Family History Book

 Deciding to create a family history book can be a large undertaking and it can be an expensive undertaking. Often the process can take on a life of its own. Therefore, it is important to set parameters for your family history book. One of those parameters must include a budget. It is very important to decide on a budget for your book in conjunction with deciding on the size and scope of your book. A great way to determine your budget is to ask yourself some key questions.

Do I want to sell my book or give it away?

- Knowing which path you want to take will help determine the budget.
- If you wish to give the book away, then examine the various publishing methods available and the cost per book prior to writing your book.
- Size, quantity and the method of printing all reflex heavily in the cost of your family history book

Who is my market for this book and how many books do I need to print?

- This is a good time to poll your family and determine how many books you will require.
- Don’t assume everyone will want a book, while others may want several books to give to their children.
- Some will want one copy per family; others will want to purchase a copy for every member of the family.

How much are my family members willing to pay for this book?

- You need to determine what your family members are willing to pay for their family history.
- If you price your book to high you risk selling less and being stuck with extra copies at a cost to you.
- If you price your book to low, you may sell more copies but not cover all your costs, again you may be looking at an added expense to yourself.
- When you are closer to a print-date, you can ask for pre-orders and collect the price of the book in advance relieving the burden of the sole cost to you.

How much can you afford to invest in your own book?

- You may or may not be willing to invest your own money in your family history book.
- You can consider investing your own money to defray the costs and reduce the price of the book for family members.
- You can also ask for donations to help cover these costs.

Do you wish to cover other costs in the price of your book?

- You may want to consider building other costs into the price point of your book, things such as research costs, including travel to archives and hometowns.
- If you hired a professional researcher to handle research in a foreign country you can build these cost into the price of your book.
- Perhaps you would like to cover the costs of genealogy courses.
- The book price could possible cover a subscription to an online database and the purchase of documents.
- Costs can be defrayed, if you are smart about how you decide to print your family history book

Now that you know how many books you require, how much you are willing to invest, how much your family is willing to pay, and any other costs you wish to cover in the preparation of your family history book, you can determine which self-publishing method you wish to use. Most likely, you will be seeking out a good compromise between your dream book and what you and your family can afford.

Here is a list of parameters that you must consider in the printing of your book. Each one of these items can greatly affect the cost of your family history book.

• The number of books you need.
• The size of the book, both size of the page and number of pages will be reflected in the cost.
• Whether you choose full colour, black and white or a combination, will be reflected in the final price of    the book.
• The kind of binding and cover you wish your book to have makes a tremendous difference in the price.
• If you are able to have the book print ready, this will reduce the cost, but if you wish a printer to do all the layout and graphics of your book then your costs will escalate.
• The more you can do in advance of publishing the better your chances of reducing your printing costs.

In future posts, we will be examining the various self-publishing methods available along with the pros and cons of each, and their costs.
To learn more about writing your family history you can check out many great books available to help you through the process at The Genealogist's Store 

Related Articles

Writing your Family History – Your How to Guide Starts Here

Step One in Creating Your Family History Book

How to Determine the Size and Scope of Your Family History Book

A Lesson in Writing a Narrative Family History

Key Principles to Journaling Your Christmas Memories

Tips to Becoming a More Productive Genealogist

1. Determine Your Genealogy Goals- without a goal and a path you will wander aimlessly, accomplishing very little. Setting goals and creating an action plan for a achieving your goals are imperative to staying the course. Don’t hesitate to revisit these goals throughout the year.

2. Create a Daily, Weekly and Monthly Routine- set time aside each week to work on your genealogy project.

3. Create a Schedule or To-Do-List – break down your goals into actions, schedule your actions into a calendar or to-do-list. If you have Microsoft Outlook you can create multiple calendars. Create a genealogy calendar and schedule your research time and genealogy activities.

4. Too Many Distractions- email, cell phones, twitter, facebook, all can distract you from the task. Shut them down and commit to only checking them at designated times throughout the day or evening. This eliminates the continuous onslaught of communication constantly infiltrating on your space and time.

5. Write It Down - Often when we are working on one branch or individual in our genealogy, other branches or individuals come to mind, and we are easily sided track. Keep a note pad, tape recorder or post-it notes nearby. Record your thoughts and come back to them later rather than have them distract you from your current task.

6. Enlist The Help of Others- many of us are control freaks, eager to do all the work ourselves. As a wife, mother, daughter, genealogists, writer, I have many pans in the fire. I learned years ago to lean on others to help me. I also learned to prioritized, and let things go that are not important.

At the end of the day, we need to continually remind ourselves to stay focused and organized it is imperative to being a more productive genealogist.

Related Articles
First Step to Writing Your Family History
Katrina at Kick-Ass Genealogy has a great post on organizing your genealogy using colour coding.