google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: June 2016

Canada Day Discount for Family Historians!

This Friday is Canada Day and that means, well, besides, backyard and cottage parties, hot dogs and hamburgers and gathering with friends and family which is a great all unto itself, it also means some great access to some online databases as well as some nice discounts.

This weekend two of the leading online databases are offering some free research time in honour of the Canada Day holiday.

Free Acess to Ancestry is offering free access from now until July 2nd, 2016.

Free Access to FindMyPast

Findmypast also will be celebrating both Canada Day and July 4th with free access to their record collections. Their offer extends from June 29th until July 6th, 2016.

As a nice added bonus, a special webinar will be hosted by expert genealogist, Jen Baldwin, at 11:00 MDT, July 1st, in which she will be sharing essential tips and tricks for getting the most out of naturalization records. Over 2 million US Passport Applications & Indexes (1795-1925), and over 7 million US Naturalization Petitions have just been released in the initial phases of two brand new collections at FindMyPast. This will allow family historians to learn more about the first members of their family to become US citizens.

Great Canadian Genealogy Summit Discount

I was also informed of a Canada Day discount for the upcoming Great Canadian Genealogy Summit. Receive 10% off your weekend Registration. The code is CanGen 10.

Getting Ready to Write 1/2 Price Sale

And finally, The Family History Writing Studio is also offering a Canada Day weekend discount. If you're thinking about starting some family history writing and you just don't know where to begin, I encourage you to start with the workbook and webinar, Getting Ready to Write. Three hours of video along with a workbook to help get you, your research and your ancestor organized so you can start writing those stories. This weekend you get both downloads for 1/2 price, only $15.00 until Tuesday, July 5th.

Don't forget about the current promotion at The Family History Writing Studio, the 3 workbook set for $17.00.

Have a great weekend everyone, Happy Canada Day, and Happy 4th of July! 

Scrivener for the Family Historian

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of presenting two workshops at the Ontario Genealogy Conference in Toronto.  The topic of my workshops, Scrivener. In each workshop, I spent two and half hours showing students how to make the most use of Scrivener for writing their family history stories.

Scrivener is without a doubt the No. 1 writing software on the market. Created by Literature and Latte, it started out as a tool for fiction and screenplay writers. It has since been embraced by the nonfiction writing community and University students and now family historians looking to write their family histories and life stories. 

As a result of my preparation for those workshops, I also decided to assemble a guide for so many of you who have been following Scrivener and me these last five years but were unable to attend my workshop, Scrivener for the Family Historian

In this guide, I walk family historians from creating a project through to publishing.  I highlight some of the key features that I believe benefit family historians and the kind of writing that they are doing and how to use these features to maximize Scrivener to make you a more efficient and productive family history writer.

The contents of this 70-page guide include:

  •       creating new projects and importing from Word
  •     an overview of the Scrivener interface
  •      storyboarding your family history
  •     structuring your story in the binder
  •     organizing your research
  •     customizing the editor for writing
  •     comments, notes, and annotations
  •      handling pictures
  •     footnotes, bibliographies, and reference managers
  •     using targets to stay on track
  •     revision and editing inside and outside of Scrivener
  •     compiling your story for sharing

Also, as a part of this workbook, you will receive a link to download Scrivener templates designed specifically with the family historian in mind.

In the future, further how to videos will be produced and as an owner of the Scrivener for the Family Historian, you will have free access to these videos.

If you've been wanting to learn more about Scrivener but are not up to reading the 300-page manual, let me help you get started quickly and use Scrivener to write your family histories. 

The Scrivener for the Family Historian is available at the Family History Writing Studio in downloadable PDF format or on Amazon in paperback

*(I am an affiliate of Scrivener because I love it that much.) 

Summer Trips to Museums & Archives: 10 Things to Remember

The summer is here, and that means as family historians we will be planning those road trips to our ancestral hometowns. Road trips usually include stops at local archives to uncover new documents and local museums where we can learn about the social history and times when our ancestors lived.

If you have plans to visit a museum or archives this summer, then you should be aware of these 10 suggestions before you go.

  1. Don’t bring your lunch - Museum and archives don’t allow eating while you view the artifacts or do your research. Check in advance to see if the museum has a cafĂ© or restaurant. Eat before or after go to a local restaurant or pack a cooler and find a nearby park.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time - Don’t rush through the exhibits or your research. Plan your day well in advance when you can give your trip the time is deserves.
  3. Leave the luggage - Just got in from the airport but your room isn’t ready, and you're trying to tour a museum while you wait. Don’t show up with your luggage in tow. The hotel will be happy to store your luggage while you wait for your room. The museum doesn’t want you dragging your luggage through their artifacts. 
  4. Don’t touch - It’s surprising how many people go to a museum and don’t realize that the artifacts are delicate and touching them increases risk of damage and deterioration.
  5. Don’t climb, sit or lean on anything - Yes, this one often needs to be spelled out as well. The 16th-century chair is not for you to rest your tired feet. While in the archives you certainly can touch the books, but follow protocol for white gloves when handling original documents. Please don’t climb the shelves because you can’t reach a book on the top shelf. Ask for help.
  6. Read the wall text - The museum spends plenty of time writing and displaying information about their exhibits. Take the time to read the information and get the most out of your visit. Leave a little more informed than when you walked in.
  7. Turn off your flash - Check with the museum and archives on their photography policy. At the very least turn off your flash, they have been known to damage the artifacts over time. When in doubt ask.
  8. Use your inside voice - It’s amazing how many people have no concept of the people around them and how the sound level of their voices can be disruptive. Use your inside voice when in museum and archives and be aware that there are others around you that you may be disturbing.
  9. Check the hours of operation - Please don’t walk in 15 minutes before closing to tour a museum that will take 2 hours to view. Check the hours of operations before you leave home and be courtesy of the staff and volunteers who work long hours.
  10. Leave a donation - Many small museums and archives do not charge for admission and if they do then it is usually a very small fee. Consider leaving a donation on your way out the door. Small museums and archives face great struggles in keeping their doors open and housing the local history of a town. If you enjoyed your visit and were able to garner some new information about your ancestors then leave a donation and show your appreciation for local museums and archives. We take them for granted and often don’t realize their importance until they are gone.

Father's Day Gift Idea

Today, in our newsletter, Storylines, out of the Family History Writing Studio, I'm offering up readers a special Father's Day gift idea. I thought I would share it with my TAG Tribe in case they would like to take advantage of this idea. 

This Father’s Day, the best gift you could offer your father is the commitment to write his story.  

Ok, before I hear a big collective sigh out there because you thought you were going to get way with a golf shirt again this year, let me explain.

It doesn’t have to be big and take you the next five years. You don’t have to have it completed for Father’s Day. In fact, I’ve done a lot of the work for you. I designed a beautiful Father's Day Gift Certificate.  

You can download it today and give it to him on Sunday. The work comes after Sunday but I've made that easy for you as well. I’ve prepared 11 questions that will help you to get the information you need to start writing. These questions are built around the necessary elements you need to create a great story.

If your father is no longer with you, then pass this along to your children and grandchildren, help them write their father's story, or write a story for your husband or son in honour of being such a great father. 

Click over to the Family History Writing Studio and download your gift certificate and questions and skip the necktie this year. 


Who Do You Think You Are? Returns

This just in! 


TLC announced today that the network has ordered additional seasons of the fan favorite series WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? and freshman series LONG LOST FAMILY. The most recent seasons of both series averaged over 1.8M P2+ viewers.

Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, the two time Emmy-nominated WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? follows some of today's most beloved and iconic celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees. The most recent seasons have featured Bryan Cranston, who uncovered an ancestor’s heroic dedication during the Civil War, and Molly Ringwald, who learned about the dangerous conditions her coal-mining ancestors endured.
LONG LOST FAMILY features the highly emotional and touching stories of people who have suffered a lifetime of separation from their family members. The series reunites those separated by adoption, uncovers secrets behind unsolved mysteries, and helps individuals answer lifelong questions. This past season reunited several family members in emotional meetings, including a mother and a daughter who actually worked together and did not realize they were related. The series is hosted by Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner, who uniquely share their own stories of adoption while leading others in their own family discoveries.

Ancestry, the leading provider of online family history data and personal DNA testing, is teaming up with TLC again as a sponsor of the upcoming seasons for both series. As part of the sponsorship, Ancestry provides exhaustive family history research to help make discoveries possible on both series.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? is produced for TLC by Shed Media and Is or Isn’t Entertainment, and is based on an original format created by Wall to Wall Media and Alex Graham. LONG LOST FAMILY is produced for TLC by Shed Media, and is based on the format entitled Find My Family/Spoorloos devised by KRO-NCRV, distributed by Lineup Industries.

Researching and Writing Family History: It's Like Saving for Retirement

“I’m not there yet!”

This past weekend, at the OGS Conference in Toronto, Ontario, this was the number one response I received from people passing by my booth in the Expo Hall. The question I asked; have you started writing your family history stories? Over and again I heard the words, “I’m not there yet!”

Most of them meant they still had plenty of research to do before they were ready to start writing. I can understand that I still have a boat load of research myself to do.

What I tried to impress upon attendees at OGS this weekend was that they don’t need to have their research done before they begin to write. In fact, I would recommend dipping your toe in the writing water long before you think you’re ready. Look at it like a retirement plan. In life, you spend lots of effort making a plan for retirement while you are still working. Learning to write your stories is like that pension plan. You begin to build up those skills now, so that when you're ready to draw on them they will be waiting for you in abundance. 

We all know your research will never be complete. Many told me about their overflowing boxes of research and digital files and that if they didn’t start doing something soon, it would likely all be lost.  Their children weren’t interested in inheriting their boxes of genealogy stuff.  They realized they needed to bring their stories together into a story or book that they could leave as a lasting legacy for future generations.

Write and Research at the Same Time

If you’re not there yet, as I heard from so many this weekend, then let’s start by doing a little writing for the sole purpose of developing writing skills.  Just as we file a little away money every pay day into our savings, pension plan or retirement plan, you can also learn to write a little every day or week while you are still researching. They just need to be two separate tasks scheduled separately and given a small part of time in your busy day. You can continue to work on research while at the same time exploring the craft of writing. 

Start with a Journal

Grab yourself a small journal or start a binder in Evernote, or open a file in Word and every morning with your coffee in hand write for 15 minutes. A writing journal isn't a diary, but a place to expand your writing abilities, a place to build your skills, think of it like the bank account or the piggy bank or that stash you have growing under your mattress. A little bit at a time, growing your resources and knowledge. 

By starting small and spending some time now developing your skills, you’ll shorten the learning curve when you’re ready to write your stories later when you have more of the research.

Look at your surroundings and events from your day and write about them, recreate them as scenes on the page. A writing journal can help you to convey a setting to the page through detail and description or bring people to life through characterization. A writing journal will encourage you to find your writing voice and style.  You don’t need to wait for your research to be done to begin to learn these skills now.

Use a Writing Prompt

If you need a little help, consider using writing prompts to spark writing ideas. Writing prompts are like those monthly withdrawals, they inspire you every month to tuck that money aside. A writing prompt can do the same thing; it can motivate you to write a little each day growing your skills. If you’re a new family history writer writing prompts are excellent tools to inspire daily writing.  Here are some writing prompts to get you started.

Don’t let your need to do more research stop you from growing and acquiring the writing skills you’ll require. Start now, when you are ready to write you'll be rich in knowledge and practice.