google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: June 2015

The Family History Blog Writing Workshop

Back in 2012, I wrote a series of blog posts to help family historians use the platform of blogging to manage and write their family history book, The Blog to Book Project, you can catch up on all family history blogging posts here.

Three years later, blogging still remains a very powerful tool for family historians in the endeavour to write and print family history stories. Blogging not only provides a vehicle to share stories for today’s generation but also curate them into a family history book that you can leave in a printed format as a legacy for your descendants.

In the Family History Writing Studio and through our newsletter Storylines, I shared a post this week, 20 Reasons You Should BlogYour Family History Book. Yes, there are many great reasons blogging can be your secret weapon in achieving your goals of writing your family history book.

Now, I’ve created an online course so that you can have an intimate, hands-on workshop with me to get your blog started and use it to write your family history.

This course is perfect for someone new to blogging, for anyone struggling to write their family history book and those who are overwhelmed with the concept of blogging or writing their family history stories.

What you’ll learn

 In this 5 week course,  we help you:

  • Identify the focus of your blog and book, understand the various pages you should have on your blog and identify your target audience. 
  • Outline the content for your blog so that we can create an editorial calendar to keep you on track with your project. 
  • Learn the various elements of a great blog post and write your first post. 
  • Learn the value of promoting your blog on social media, developing an email list and using your blog to grow a community of supporters. 
  •  Learn the variety of options available to curate your blog posts into a book.

Each week you’ll receive a small assignment to help you practice what you’ve learned. There will be a private forum where we will share our assignments and give feedback, and each student will also receive personal feedback from me, Lynn, your coach.

You do not need to be present at specific times for the classes. Instructions, the reading material, worksheets and assignments are dripped to your classroom area on the website each week for you to access. You can check into the forum at your leisure.  Assignments, however, will have a deadline if you wish to receive feedback. 
There are limited number of spots, we want to keep the classes small so you can get personalized feedback and walk away with content that you can begin posting on your blog.

Family History Blog Writing begins January 3 rd at The Family History Writing Studio.

Spaces are limited, don’t delay, register today! 

Choosing A Genealogy Travel Guide

We’ve come full circle. Once upon a time we had no choice but to hit the roads to uncover our family history. Then the Internet came along and we seemed content to search for our ancestors from behind our laptops.

Now, we have been re-inspired with shows like Who Do You Think You Are? to move away from our desks and once again look to travel to walk in our ancestor’s footsteps. It’s become very apparent you just can’t replace that experience with viewing a document online.

Because of our interest in combining genealogy with travel, there are a growing number of agencies who are now willing to help travellers plan that perfect heritage or genealogical vacation.

A genealogy adventure can be expensive. For many it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. All the more reason to do it right and invest a little time in deciding how you plan to tour your ancestral homeland.

First, let’s understand the difference between genealogical vacations and  heritage vacations. Many people who seek a heritage vacation want to visit the country or hometown of their ancestors,  get a sense of the history, enjoy the culture and food. However, a genealogical trip goes a little deeper.
While all the fair and flavour are still important, this traveller also wants to include visits to archives, churches, and cemeteries, maybe locating a house and property and perhaps even finding distant relatives. They are looking for the full Who Do You Think You Are? experience. Travel companies and guides can help you achieve this experience. Identify which type family history vacation you are looking for and seek out the travel agency that can help you plan your trip.

Genealogical or heritage vacations are not cheap, that’s why we did an entire post on money-saving tips and creating a vacation budget. While you are perfectly entitled to plan your own trip and be your own tour guide, it can be difficult if you've never visited the area before and it may not be the best use of your time. Enlisting the help of a travel or tour agency is a crucial investment in your genealogy dream vacation.  

There are essentially three options available to you when it comes to choosing a travel agency or guide.
  •       Hire a travel company that offers heritage or genealogical vacations.
  •     Hire a genealogy travel company, they specialize only in genealogy tours.
  •     Hire a genealogist very familar with your destination, or local to the area, one who offers      travel and tour services and who can plan a very specific experience for you.

With the first two options, you may wish to be part of a larger group reducing your costs, however, your trip will be more general in nature. A larger group doesn't want to visit your families homestead. If you book a private tour geared specifically to your needs, you'll get more flexibility but keep in mind the smaller the group, the more precise the tour, the higher the price tag.

The third option is to hire a local genealogist or a genealogist familar with your ancestral homeland. You can create a very unique and personal trip by taking this route. Consider hiring a driver, along with a genealogist, together you get the all conveniences and stress-free travelling of a larger tour but a more personal and customized vacation.  

How do you find a genealogist tour guide?

The Association of Professional Genealogists lists a number of genealogists who offer travel and tour services. For instance, Christine Woodcock offers genealogy tours of Scotland, Mary Tedesco offers tours of Italy, and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak  author of Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing and Who Do You Think You Are? fame offers travel and tour services as well.

If you prefer to go with a travel agency, then there are a number companies who can help you plan your genealogy or heritage vacation.  We've listed a few below to help you get your genealogy travel plans underway.

Roots to Routes - is an internationally-known firm with offices in Ukraine and Poland. They specialize in Jewish research in the archives of Eastern Europe. They will visit ancestral towns on your behalf or can arrange a customized visit for you and your family. At present, they specialize in trips to the UK, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Other countries are available on request.

Rootsbound Travel - helps make that dream come true by providing ancestral travel services that are personal, unique and focused. Using the information that you provide about your ancestor they will create a personalized unique trip of 7 to 10 days with an emphasis on the cultural and historical points of interest to be visited. They will also book your travel and lodging and provide maps and historical background for the area being visited. 

Family Tree Tours  -provides group heritage tours, private genealogy tours, or independent heritage trips. They specialize in German tours but can provide trips to European destinations.

Ancestral Attic – offers escorted custom private Poland genealogy tours along with private escorted Eastern European holiday and heritage tours.

Clans and Castles – is a specialist tour operator, arranging self-drive tours for clients. Specialties are Scottish castles holidays, vacations focusing on clan lands.  They will arrange a tour guide for your trip if you prefer not to drive yourself.

Norwegian Adventures - offers a very special service of genealogy research and heritage travel in Norway. For those who are not only interested in exploring the beauty of Norway, but also are of Scandinavian ancestry, they offer to find your roots and take you there.

Time Travel Tours – leads in-depth, focused tours of Ireland for the purpose of research, family history and genealogy.  

My Irish Connections- can arrange to transport and accompany an individual, a family or a small group on a genealogical tour.  They can prepare an individual itinerary which can be specially tailored to allow visits to appropriate record offices to undertake research and visit places of family interest, such as homes, churches, schools, and graveyards.

Ancestors in Europe- will help you get up-close and personal with your European heritage by visiting the towns and villages of your family's ancestry. Using your genealogy research, they will create and organize an unforgettable privately guided itinerary for you and your loved ones. In addition to visiting places particular to your family tree, they will consult with you to incorporate a variety of other destinations, activities and points of interest. 

Take some time up front to identify just what you are looking for in a genealogy dream vacation and then find a travel agency or genealogist that will best match your needs and budget. 

Have you taken a genealogy dream vacation? What advice do you have for our readers?  

Genealogy Travel: 12 Money-Saving Tips

It’s all good and well to dream of traveling to your ancestor’s hometown but it’s another thing to make it a reality. In our last post, we discussed the many obstacles that stand in the way of making your genealogy travel a reality.

However, one of the biggest obstacles is money, and it holds many back from achieving their dreams of walking in their ancestor’s footsteps. Therefore, it’s worth it to take a closer look at how we can save for that dream vacation.

Nowhere on this list are you going to find advice to skip your favourite latte to save for your dream vacation. Firstly, genealogists need their coffee about as much as we need our cemeteries. Secondly, if you need a coffee, you need a coffee, the caffeine rush is worth $3.50.

Before we look at some great money saving tips for that dream genealogy vacation, think about setting up some constant reminders in your environment that keep you focused on your goals. Put a picture of your chosen destination next to your home computer to keep from spending money online or make it your screen saver on your cell phone. Set up daily calendar or email reminders to keep you focused and on track.

Next understand how much money you realistically need to make that genealogy vacation a reality. There’s a great budget calculator template at the Independent Traveler that will help you figure out just how much you need to save.

Now, what can we do to make that money pile up?

1. Create a Budget - First and foremost, build a spreadsheet in Excel or another program and start tracking every single purchase or payment. Do this for about a month or two to get an idea of where your money is spent. This is a huge eye opener for some people and from here you can consciously decide how you need to change your spending habits.

2. Earn More – Easier said than done, but many people pick up a second part-time job and designate those funds for travel. Or if you have the opportunity to work overtime, those funds can be earmarked for your genealogy travel fund.

3. Selling Items - Go to your closet, garage, and stored boxes to find items you are no longer using. Then you can either have a garage sale or sell them online at Amazon, Ebay, Craigslist or Kijiji. Selling your unwanted things can boost your savings dramatically. I know genealogists who have lots of books, did you know you can resell used books on Amazon. Sell your old and unused clothes in consignment stores. If you treat your clothes well, you can get a small percentage of their value back through consignment shops. My niece divides the plants in her garden and sells them from her front yard. She makes $150 every spring.

4. Stop Buying - Again, it sounds simple but it takes a great deal of self-discipline; especially if you are accustomed to buying the newest gadgets or clothes. The next time you want to purchase something, ask yourself if you really need it. Most likely the answer is no. When you do need to buy items, try to buy them used, and when something breaks try fixing it first. Every time you buy something ask yourself one question: Is this a want or a need?

5.Limit Entertainment - Invite friends over instead of going out, go to places on days they are offering free admission, and look for other free things to do for entertainment. There are definitely plenty of things to do that don’t cost much money. If you like to read, borrow books from the library rather than purchasing. You can also borrow movies from the library as well instead of going to the theatre.

6. Use a Travel Credit Card - Do some research to find a good credit card that offers travel points and that fits your lifestyle. Use the card for everyday purchases, so you can earn points fast. Just remember you have to have the money in the bank to pay it off immediately. I’ve paid for 3 airline flights in the last year using my travel credit card. I pay for all my gas and groceries using my card because those items give me three times the points for these type of purchases. Look for companies that give you a large sum of points to get just for signing up. I’ve seen some people even get two cards to get the points twice.

7. Automatic Transfer to Savings - Once you figure out your budget and the realistic amount that you are able to save, have your bank automatically transfer that amount to your savings every month or every two weeks and do not touch it. It hurts a lot less when you don’t see it. Another way to top up that automatic transfer is with a top plan. My bank offers a plan that rounds up my debit purchases and banks the difference in my savings account. For instance, if I buy something and the purchase is $29.50. My bank rounds up my purchase to $30.00, and the difference goes into my savings account. If your bank doesn’t offer this option, then the good old piggy bank or jar will do the job. Empty your change into the jar every night and deposit it once a month. Every little bit counts.

8. Save on Cellphone Bill - Cut down on your cell phone bill. Analyze your bill and find a new plan. Limit your data and use wi-fi when possible. Find a family plan. Consider finding a new family, did you know you don’t have to be related to take advantage of family plans. Cell phone companies are very competitive, don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal before you leave one for another. Once the cell phone bill is looked after, get rid of the cable bill and watch Tv online.

9. Cut Back on Groceries - Write a list when you go shopping and stick to it! Start eating healthier. Choose unprocessed foods, they are cheaper, and you will notice a benefit to your health too! Plan your meals around your grocery store’s sales, most grocery stores have their specials in an app you can download to your phone. Make enough for leftovers to bring to work for lunches and reduce those expensive dining out lunches. You can bring down your grocery expenses with a little planning.

10. Gifts - Give a gift of service or a homemade gift instead of buying an item.

11. Subscriptions and Memberships - Get rid of subscriptions to magazines and any memberships you can do without or get an online subscription, they are usually cheaper. Consider using Ancestry at your local library instead of purchasing your own subscription. Cut down on the gym subscription, go for a run, walk, surf, or ride a bike instead of going to the gym. It’s much more fun too!

12. Transportation – Reduce you vehicle expenses by walking or biking to work. Great for the environment, your health and your pocketbook. Consider carpooling to contribute to reducing your transportation costs.

Put these money-saving tips into practice immediately and watch your savings grow, your genealogy dream vacation might happen sooner than you think. 

Next Post, Choosing a Genealogy Tour Group.

How to Make Your Genealogy Travel a Reality

Many family historians have a dream list of genealogy travel destinations. An inventory of trips they desire to check off their bucket list during their lifetime. Many of those trips include far off destinations of homelands and hometowns of their ancestors.

Unfortunately, most family historians find themselves taking more conventional vacations than those on their bucket list, like trips to nearby archives and towns where their ancestors settled, generally those that are within a day’s drive.The ability to jump back a 100 years or more and cross the pond and walk the streets of your ancestral hometowns may just seem more that your pocketbook and schedule can manage. These days, it seems it’s the stuff reserved for celebrities on your favourite TV show.

If you have a wish list that includes checking off those genealogy travel destinations, here are some tips to get you there.

Decide Now Is the Time

The biggest and most often cited roadblock to tackling that dream genealogy trip is time. The time never seems right with work, children, grandchildren and a variety of projects and responsibilities. Maybe next year...

Of course, time is a valid concern, but you also must realize time will always be an issue. Many genealogists are really looking for the perfect time, and of course, that will never come. It really becomes about re-organizing your priorities. You may have to move things around so you can give your genealogy trips more precedence and scheduling it on the calendaar. Instead of waiting for the right time, or trying to find the perfect time, look for a possible time when you can make your genealogy trips happen.

Write It Down

Writing down your bucket list is a good and an often recommended way to make it just real enough that you can actually start doing something about it. Once it is written down, you can use it as a guide for 
for when you are poking around the Internet, reading or goofing off. During TV commercials, you can call up articles on your dream destinations. Start a Pinterest board for your genealogy destinations and use it as a vision board. Keep it front and centre so you can’t forget about those goals.

Share Your Bucket List

Sharing your bucket list with friends, family or even a dedicated site like can help you to achieve your goals.

As with many things, telling someone else you are going to do something often provides motivation to actually to do it. Humans are funny that way.

 A bucket list is often reflective of our idealization of a place or trip, and not necessarily what it is like to go there. When you share your list with others who may already have been there you can get a sense of what a place is really like and whether it should be as high on your list. We often romanitize our ancestor’s hometowns, however, by connecting with others who have been there you may get a reality check.

Putting your network of friends and family on the task of making your trip a reality offers you a supportive team who can bring any number of ideas to the table when planning your trip.

Narrow It Down

Once you get a sense of where you might go and more or less when you might pull it off, you will want to narrow down your choices to the trips you most want to take. Unless one destination rates well above and beyond the others, I recommend starting to research two or three of your top choices. Trying  to plan for 10 very different potential bucket list options is unreasonable, and picking only one could set you up for disappointment if the logistics turn out to be forbidding.

Making a list of your genealogy destinations also helps you to rank them in order of importance. Some items on the list might not seem as interesting after you have looked at them several times, and could fall off the list in favor of other ideas.

While you're at it, you might also write down the reasons you want to go to each destination. This exercise might help you to weigh your destinations against each other. Are you looking to do local genealogy research? Is it to get upclose and personal and have that time-travel experience? Are you writing a book? Do you want to meet with distant relatives? There may be some pressing issues and deadlines that might help you to narrow down your list.

Once you narrow it down to your top 2 or 3, focus first on practical things like what time of year you can get off work versus the best time of year to go there. How much time it takes really to do the destination justice and how much money you will need to pull it off.

Save for It

This is easier said then done and it is probably the most personal of issues, as everyone's financial means and demands are different and complex. But putting a few plans in place to start saving is a key element to making your plans a reality. The money isn’t going to magically appear and often there is little left at the end of the week to set aside for trips. However, there are a number of great tips to help you save for those highly-sought after genealogy trips if you are motivated.

Join us next Tuesday when we give you a list of money saving tips for that next genealogy dream vacation. Here’s a hint, it won’t include the overly-advised advice of skipping your favourite takeout coffee because I know that's just not practical advice for this genealogy crowd. 

What's on your dream list? 

(This is the first in a series of posts on How to Make Your Genealogy Travel a Reality)

Want to be a sponsor of our summertime post series, How to Make Your Genealogy Travel a Reality, email