Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 4

Sometimes, you just have to pick up the phone and call! That is what I learned this week as I worked on a certification portfolio report.

It seems that every genealogy road eventually leads to somewhere far away. Eventually, you are going to have to start researching in another state or even another country.

Online research brings those far away places within reach. The internet is a miracle really. It is amazing what information you can find by typing in a few keywords to Google. This week, I was reminded that not everything is on the internet.

I already knew I couldn't find all the sources I needed online. There are probably thousands of records still hidden in dusty old basements that haven't been viewed by human eyes in decades. Because of this, it is possible the records you are looking for have not even been microfilmed.

Yesterday, I picked up the phone and started calling places in my targeted area of research. I called the local library. I called the historical society. I called the genealogical society. I called the courthouse. I kept asking the same questions about all the types of records I needed. Finally, one woman says, "Just a minute," and then Jennifer answers with, "Hello, how can I help you?" Jennifer is a worker at the county courthouse. When I told her who I was researching she said, "Are you familiar with John [last name withheld] who is the family historian of that family? They have a large farm here in the county." WHAT!? She pointed out where I might find his contact information, as she was not able to give it to me.

Friends, this is the type of information you may only find if you start making phone calls (or visit the area). Some people call these "cold calls." When I phoned John, he thought I might be a solicitor. Remember to talk slow, but get right to the point. I said something like, "John, my name is Amie Tennant. I am a genealogy researcher in Ohio and am researching the [name withheld] family. I heard you were their family historian in the county."

And, there you have it. This phone call led to new information, new sources, and it didn't take long at all. I think this might be part of the exhaustive research we talk about in the GPS.

I would also add, I often learn about unique holdings when I call the history department of a local library or archive. There have been many times when I say, "I would really like to find ______. Do you have any idea where I might find that kind of information in your county?" Local historians have pointed me to unknown newspapers on microfilm, family books, and more. Talk to knowledgeable people in your targeted location. Someone somewhere knows something you don't!

Here's to more weeks of exhaustive research and a few more cold calls.

Read Entry 3 of "My Journey of the Certification Process" here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 3

If you have been following along, you may have noticed that more than a week has passed and I have not written a blog post. This part of my certification process happens from time to's life getting in the way!

For two weeks, my children and I have been fighting off colds and strep throat, and it has been awful. There was still homework and housework, and just to make things interesting, wrestling season started. Even with the help of my husband, there were just not enough hours in the day. Time dedicated to certification had to be put aside for a bit.
The Family that keeps me busy!

When this happens, I try not to lose my momentum. I know that I can't dedicate the hours I want to research on the "big" projects when I am feeling lousy. Instead, I watch BCG videos and read about genealogy. I might not remember all that I hear or read, but it makes me feel better to know that I have done "something" that will benefit my portfolio.

When I have been especially busy and have only small bursts of time or energy, I work on transcription and abstraction.

Transcription and abstraction of a provided document is part of the portfolio. BCG sends you one handwritten document that could be found in the region and time period you mentioned on your initial paperwork. You also will do a transcription and abstraction of a document that you provide.

Practicing the techniques for transcription and abstraction is important. Because abstraction had not often come up in my past research experience, I have had to study that more so than transcription.

One of the best resources for learning the ins and outs of transcription and abstraction is chapter 16 in Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. 

I was still a bit confused as I read the chapter and compared it to other transcription and abstraction examples found in the document samples on the BCG website. I mentioned my confusion on the Google Group for those "on the clock." Judy Russell said it best when she said (and I quote), "There is No One Right Way. All together now. Repeat after me: There is No One Right Way." End quote.

I think the most important thing to learn during the certification process is this: There are standard operating procedures. As you learn and apply these standards, the finished product may look different than others. That's your style and that's okay. When it comes to transcriptions, the guidelines and essentials are pretty straight forward and Ms. Mills lists them in chapter 16 of the book I mentioned above.

As for abstracts, I found them...well, more abstract! Abstract examples can have different styles. Some may be written more like a list and another may be written similar to narrative format. I decided to not choose one style over another, but let my gut direct me. I ask myself, "Who is my audience? Will this be logical to my reader?" If a numbered or list abstract would help my reader to understand the document best, I use that style. If I think the narrative format might be best for the reader, I use a narrative format.

As I have said before, these are just my impressions as I go along. Please don't use these words as advice for your portfolio, I may be doing it all wrong! We shall wait and see.

In the meantime, when my life gets busy,  I do something. Read, watch a video, or practice a paragraph or two of transcription/abstraction. The important thing is to not lose your momentum! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

Read "My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 2" here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: What's the Cost?

So many of you have written your best wishes to me in my endeavor. Thank you for reading My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 1.

I have had several comments regarding cost of preparation and cost of the certification process itself. I want to share with you today some ideas on preliminary preparation and the overall costs involved.

Suggested Preparation Ideas

The very first society (other than my local county society) I joined was the National Genealogical Society. The cost of a membership is $65.00 (as Nov 2015). This membership was my first step to preparing for certification.

Once you have become a member of the NGS, you will begin to receive the NGS Quarterly and the NGS Magazine. The NGS Quarterly is a great example of scholarly works. If you are unable to purchase a membership right now, you can enjoy these publications at many local libraries and Family History Centers. In fact, ask around at your next county genealogical society meeting to see if anyone is getting rid of their old ones. That is how I stumbled across the first NGS Quarterly I ever read.

This NGS publication was vital to my learning how to properly compose proof arguments and summaries. It also gave me more experience with proper source citation techniques.

Source citations are really important in putting together a portfolio and for me, the most difficult. I use Elizabeth Shown Mills Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace as my reference volume on how to write a source citation. [PS...this book is now in its third edition.] As I read the articles in the NGS Quarterly, I make notes all over them. On the front cover, I put important things that can be found in that volume. For example, if I find a fact that required TWO source citations, I look to see how that was done. If I find an article in which someone sourced a fact where they found nothing (called negative evidence,) I look to see how they cited a negative source. I mark the page, then write on the front of the volume "Negative Source Citation" or "Two Source Citations Together."

If I find a great Kinship Determination Project, I write so on the front cover. This makes for easy reference later.

If I find a well thought out case study that is clear and easy to follow that reminds me of something I have researched myself, I mark it. Then, I go back and write my own article taking cues from their train-of-thought as practice. I find I am not very organized in my actual thinking, but one thing I learned from my mentors is that it does not really matter in what order you researched, but it does matter in what order you WRITE about that research. In other words, you might be all over the place, but when it comes time to write your case studies, you need to be organized. That organization can be learned by reading these NGS articles.

As of 2016, the requirements for certification have changed slightly to include a resume of your enrichment activities and education. In other words, they are looking for what workshops and course work you are taking. I mentioned that I took the NGS American Genealogy: Home Study Course. At that time, it was a CD course and cost $500 USD. Today, this course has been revised, updated, and moved to the Cloud. The course is now in a series of three. The classes are American Genealogical Studies: The Basics; American Genealogical Studies: Guide to Documentation and Source Citation; and American Genealogical Studies: Beyond the Basics. To take this last course, you must complete the "Basics" and "Documentation" courses. A course syllabus for the "Basics" course can be seen here.

You do not need to be a member of the NGS to take these courses, however the price for members is discounted.

The breakdown in USD as of Nov 2015:
"Basics" course is $45.00 for members, $65.00 for non-members
"Source Citation and Documentation" same as above
"Beyond Basics" is $175.00 for members, $200.00 for non-members
"Basics" and "Source Citation and Documentation" bundled together are $75.00 for members, $100.00 for non-members

Want to take the courses for free? NGS offers the John T. Humphrey, CG Memorial Scholarship Award each year. The scholarship covers the cost of all three American Genealogical Studies courses. You can read more about the requirements by clicking here.

There are many other great preparation courses out there, so take a look.

Certification Fees

Once you have decided to start the certification process, you will need to send in a $75.00 application fee. This puts you "on the clock" for one year. If you do not complete the portfolio in a year's time, you can file for an extension for another $75.00 fee.

After you complete your portfolio, you will send it in with a $300.00 fee.

My Week in Review

This week I worked more on my "Report for another person" portion of the portfolio. I read over all of the examples suggested in the rubric and the BCG Action list. The rubric and BCG Action lists are very helpful and give you a breakdown of what each report should include. 

I found myself second guessing as I realized the example reports were more lengthy than mine. However, I noticed that one example report included that the research had been commissioned for 30 hours. My client hired me for less than half of that! Less hours of research will likely equal a shorter report, so I think I'm okay. I used the hours the client gave me and did some great research with that time using a variety of sources. Best of all, we found the answer to her question.

Well friends, this week I hope to finish up the "Report for another person" entirely and maybe have time to put some hours into the Kinship Determination Project. I have just received some key evidence in that case and I am anxious to dig into it more!

Follow along on my journey of certification by reading:
Entry 3 of the Certification Process: Keeping Motivated
Entry 4 of the Certification Process: Power of the Cold Call
Entry 5 of the Certification Process: Absolute Must-haves

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 1

I have debated back and forth as to whether it would be helpful for me to blog about the certification process I am going through. I am currently "on the clock" for the Board for Certified Genealogists certification program. I might be putting myself on-the-line here by sharing the fact that I am attempting to become certified. Let's face it...I might not "pass." But, I do not want to let this time pass by and not keep a record of it.

Many years ago in college, I let several teachers convince me I would never pass the certification process to become a licensed interpreter for the Deaf. It was expensive and difficult, they said, you'll never pass the first time. So, I simply decided I would not try.

Ten years later, I was older, wiser, and had nothing to lose. I studied and practiced for five months and took the test. I passed with no problem at all. Why had I waited ten years and allowed other people to convince me I would fail?

The process of genealogy certification has been completely opposite. I kept hearing things like, "You can do it," "You are ready," and "You'll do great!" I still have fear of failing, but those voices are in my own mind.

To begin the process, I started with a five year plan. Not absolutely necessary, but I always like a well thought out plan. I watched an interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills about her genealogy journey. She suggested (this was in 2010) anyone wishing to certify should take the NGS American Genealogy Home Study Course. It was a $500 graded course, a little too expensive at the time. But...NGS offers a yearly scholarship! I applied and was granted the scholarship in 2011. The course was wonderful. I was graded by certified genealogists for each assignment. I did not always pass the first time I sent in an assignment. Sometimes, they would send me suggestions and say "do it over."

I was so busy. A stay-at-home mom with three children, active in my church responsibilities, and babysitting children before school and after, left me precious little time to work on the course work. Looking back, I do not know how I did it, but I finished the course in just under 3 years. That was a loooong time! It certainly would not take most people that long by a long shot. The point is, it did not matter how long it took. I was learning.

The next step the BCG (Board for Certified Genealogists) suggested was to find a mentor who had already gone through the certification process. At the time, I was living near Chicago. I searched the BCG website for a certified genealogist in my area. I found Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. I sent her over an email. I peppered her with all sorts of questions, which she quickly answered.

From Teresa, I learned that it is a good idea to do some client work and report writing before attempting your certification. Boy, was she right! I started calling around to some friends and asking if I could do their family history for them. There was no shortage of willing people!

I worked and eventually people started hiring me for more difficult research. BCG and Teresa reminded me to look at every "client case" as a potential piece of my portfolio. For your certification, you turn in a portfolio of several reports. A kinship determination paper, a transcription and abstraction of a supplied document (as well as one that you provide,) a research report for another person, and a case study involving conflicting, indirect, or negative evidence. If I found that my client work would make a great report or had some interesting conflicting or indirect evidence, I would ask the client's written permission to include it in a future portfolio.

Over the last four years, I have started speaking to groups about genealogy, writing blog articles for, and have written A LOT of client reports. Last spring while attending the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference, I finally met Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. It was so good to meet her in person. She gave me that final push to "go for it" and turn in the paperwork to get "on the clock."

"On the clock" means that you have sent in an application to the BCG. They send you further information and helps to start the portfolio and you have one year to complete it and send it in.

It has been five months "on the clock" for me. I have finished the applicant supplied document portion, the resume, and have only a few tweaks left on the report for another person. I have a good start on the kinship determination project and the case study. I think I am right on track.

My learning has not stopped just because I am in the certification process. I think I am learning more now than I ever did! I have purchased all sorts of books and read the NGS Quarterly and other scholarly works every chance I get. I highlight, I scribble notes, I attend seminars and watch webinars.

Will I pass, I do not know. I do know that if I don't pass the first time, my friends and mentors will work with me and help me try again. If you want to become certified, YOU CAN DO IT! Create a plan and start today!

Follow along on my journey of certification by reading:
Entry 2 of the Certification Process: What's the cost?
Entry 3 of the Certification Process: Keeping Motivated
Entry 4 of the Certification Process: Power of the Cold Call
Entry 5 of the Certification Process: Absolute Must-haves

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Finished" Family Line Is Questioned

I was very excited to make a cousin connection a few months ago on Ancestry. She found me because our DNA matched.

We quickly began to email each other back and forth. Everything was going along nicely, until she was contacted by Our Families USA saying that our Bowser family line was incorrect. What? I couldn't believe that. My aunt and scores of other people recorded our great grandfather as John Bowser. John was the son of Henry Bowser and Catherine Long of Montgomery County, Ohio. Henry Bowser, born about 1810 in Ohio, was the son of George Bowser and Elizabeth Moyer. At least that is what we all thought. After all, this family line was "finished" a long, long time ago.

The message my cousin received called into question the validity of the relationship between Henry and his parents George and Elizabeth (Moyer) Bowser. Their evidence suggested that Henry's parents were not George and Elizabeth, but rather Henry Bowser Sr. and Mary Bowman, also of Montgomery county.

My cousin was worried. Not only because of their information, but she found something of her own.

"John Bowser, Retired Farmer, Tells Story of Vital Interest," read the newspaper headline. The Newark Advocate had interviewed our great grandfather and published his story in the March 15th, 1920 paper. It stated:

"It is told by John Bowser, 77 years of age this coming birthday, a retired Dunkard farmer, who is now living at the home of his son Arthur K. Bowser, at 1109 West Pleasant street, Springfield, O. In reciting his experiences he says: "I was born on a farm in Montgomery county, located between Salem pike and Wolfe Creek pike, which was owned by my father who was known as "Young Henry," and before that my grandfather, "Old Henry." This takes us back over a hundred years ago. This farm of one hundred acres cost $1,400, but is now part of the city of Dayton and is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars."

John Bowser 1841-1923. Picture courtesy of the Barnhart family collection.
Oh no! I had never seen this. In all honestly, I had never questioned this family line because like I said, this line was "finished."

Was it true? Was John's father Henry the son of a Henry Sr. described in this newspaper article as "Old Henry?" I am going to need to investigate...thoroughly!

It may be a while until you read the final proof summary of this investigation. The lesson learned today is never assume because a family line is "finished" that it is correct!

Update: More information in this "finished family line" has been discovered in the most unusual place! Read more of the unfolding story here: "Finished" Family Line Questioned, Part II.

More family mysteries uncovered. Read more here:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Well That's Weird

I love it when I come across something unusual or strange while doing my family history work. A week or so ago, I had just that experience.

While researching my ancestors Samuel West and Mary Ann Prugh of Madison County, Ohio, I found I needed a source for their marriage date.

Fortunately, FamilySearch has Ohio County Marriages online, indexed, and digital images attached. I quickly found them. Here is a screenshot of that marriage record.

Notice anything weird about that date? It is 29 Feb 1839. Twenty-nine February? That meant they were married on a leap cool! That is when I realized the problem. The year 1839 wasn't a leap year!

I wonder if they were actually married on the 28th? Or maybe it was March 1st?

Here's my theory. I noticed that the rest of the marriage book is not exactly in chronological order. It is close, but there are a few marriages recorded out of sequence. Next, I see that this marriage was not recorded until April, so several weeks had passed. Perhaps the justice of peace had just written down the 29th of February by mistake in his notes or he was trying to recall the date from memory. After all, I am always getting the dates wrong when writing a check! (As a genealogist, I probably shouldn't admit to always getting dates wrong...but you know what I mean!)

Another possible theory is the clerk that was recording the marriages transcribed the date wrong when writing it into this marriage book.

Whatever the reason for the inaccurate date, I think it is fair to say they were likely married in February and it couldn't have been on the 29th.

Several months ago, while working on Ancestry, I had another weird experience while looking at a census. I couldn't quite make out the name, so I had to zoom in on the image. When I did, the strangest thing happened! A picture of an old man with a little girl sitting on his lap just popped up right there on the page. I shrunk the image down and poof, they disappeared. I again zoomed in and there the picture was again. I knew no one would ever believe me, so I took a screenshot of the image.

See! I told you! Isn't that the strangest thing!?

Like I said, I just love running across these weird little things. Have you found an unusual or strange record lately or in the past? What has been your craziest find?

Want to read other spooky and strange genealogy readings? Try this!
Haunting Illnesses of the Past

Friday, September 4, 2015

My First Blog Book Has Arrived!

creating a blog bookMy very first blog book has arrived and I am thrilled! There are a few things about printing the blog book that I wish I'd known sooner.

In my last post, I wrote about creating my first blog book. (You can read that here.) I used a blog-to-print, online service called blog2print. For about $17.00, blog2print "slurped" my blog posts and formatted them into book form.

The bottom line? I was very happy with the results, but I will do some things differently next time.

What I Did and What I'd Do Different

I ordered a soft cover book with a total number of 24 pages. I felt a soft cover book fit the number of pages better than a hard cover book. I was happy with this choice. I would likely choose to do a soft cover book for anything under 50 pages.

I set my book to "compact" for the page layout, but should have chosen "snapshot." By choosing "compact," I allowed the system to move my photos around to make the best use of space. Unfortunately, many of my captions were printed in unusual places and even on different pages altogether. Next time, I will choose the "snapshot" layout.

I did NOT add a page break in between posts. I did this to save space and unneeded pages. This was a good choice and I was happy with the look. I will definitely do that again.

I chose to print in color. The majority of my photos were color to begin with. For this reason, I had my book printed in color. The additional cost was very minimal and I am happy with the choice. I would base this decision on whether the majority of the images you are printing are color or black and white.

I added my name as author. At the last minute, a fellow blogger mentioned they had forgotten to add their name as author of their book. I wanted to make sure my name appeared on the front cover. There was no field on the set-up page to add an author's name. Instead, I used the "side text" on the front cover to add "By Amie Bowser Tennant."

The Results

The cover was perfect! The image looked great and my name appeared on the side as author.

All the images were clear and just what I had hoped.

My first page looked like this:

Notice, the posts were formatted to come one after the other; I like that. However, by choosing the "compact" page format, the captions of my photos were added to the text in some unexpected places, as I mentioned before.

If you notice in the image above, the screenshot of a FamilySearch page has the caption a paragraph away. Now look at the bottom image. I had created a caption prior to uploading the image to my blog post. In that way, the caption is "stuck" to the image and you avoid this problem of captions not being with their appropriate images.

Was that a bit confusing? Don't worry, there is an easier way. If I had chosen the "snapshot" page layout, then the page would be formatted with my captions closer to the actual image. See image below as an example.

The BEST thing to do when using blog2print service is to add your captions to your photos before adding them to the post. The next best thing would be to choose the "snapshot" page layout option. If you are not pleased with either of these options, I would suggest using another service all together. allows you to edit each page and by so doing, you will not have the caption-picture problem. It is more editing work on your part, but you may be happier with the results.


Before you place your order, ask relatives if they would like a copy! Whoops, I didn't do that. I was so excited to make my first book that I didn't even think about offering the option to the family. Several family members are now interested in purchasing a copy as well. It is not difficult to order more, but some forward thinking would have avoided having to order again.

Overall, this was a wonderful, easy, and pretty successful venture. I am anxious to continue printing my blogs into book format in the future. Maybe you should try it too!

If you enjoyed this article about blog books, read my earlier post:
"Creating Your First Blog Book: Here's How"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My First Blog Book...Coming Soon

As my readers know, last February I participated in the Family History Writing Challenge hosted by The Armchair Genealogist. I reflect on that month with fondness. I have also decided to blog my family history stories during the challenge for 2016.

Blogging was the perfect way to share the stories I had collected of my ancestors. The cousins loved it and stories initiated several fun cousin "talks."

This past week, I decided to try out blog2print, an online service that will print your blog posts into book form. I loved how easy it was!

After adding a title and my name as author (thanks to a fellow blogger that reminded me to add my own name!), I just fixed the little calendar to slurp up blog posts only written in February 2015. In this way, I was able to only print the blog posts that had to do with the family's history and not the "how to genealogy" posts I had written.

It was just luck that all the posts I wanted printed were in order chronologically. If I had thrown in a how-to blog within that month, I don't think blog2print would have allowed me to edit it out.

In this way, blog2print is super easy for the beginner and requires no editing. However, if you would like or need to edit, this is likely not the service for you.

Because I have added several pictures to my blog posts, I wanted the full color interior pages. You can request black and white only which is a bit cheaper. The pictures are placed on the page for you, but I felt the site did a great job in placement.

You can also write a dedication page for the front of your book. My favorite item was the Table of Contents. It made the book seem more "professional."

I ordered a soft cover book with 24 pages for about $17.00. I could have ordered a hard cover for $23.00.

Customers can order as many copies as they wish for the same amount, but it seems you need to order them all at once. I had not mentioned anything to my family members about publishing, so if they want a copy in the future I will have to upload to the site again. Some forward thinking would have allowed me to contact relatives that might have wanted to place an order before I hit "create my book."

Though I have yet to try, I have heard great things about their service too. Blurb allows editing options that blog2print does not. I believe their prices are a bit lower as well. I will likely choose Blurb to print my next book, just to see the difference in print quality.

Screenshot of a page created by blog2print

My book should arrive sometime around the 17th of September and I am super excited to see it! In the meantime, I have taken a screenshot of one of the pages. I will also be writing more on how to use this service and other blog to book services in an upcoming article for the RootsBid blog, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Attention Genealogists: You Might be Missing Out

Image from; Photo by Emin Ozkan

If you haven't heard of genealogy webinars, you are missing out! Getting to go to genealogy workshops, conferences, and lectures are fun and certainly educational, but they can also be expensive and require you to travel long distances. However, online webinars are the next best thing and many are free.

What is a webinar, you ask? It is an online meeting. Imagine listening to a live genealogy lecture without ever having to leave the house. Participants can view PowerPoint slides, download handouts, and even ask questions. A typical webinar lasts about 45 minutes to an hour with some time left over for questions. With a variety of topics, you will soon turn into a webinar junkie.

You don't need special computer software to participate. Webinars are browser based. All you need is a good internet connection and an internet browser such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Google Chrome.

Most webinars require pre-registration. You will register using your email address. Then, you will receive an email with instructions for logging into the webinar on the day of the event. It is really easy and the instructions are clear and straight forward.

When participating in a webinar, it's a good idea to log on early as some of the webinars are first come, first serve. If you log in late, you may not be able to "attend." However, if you do miss the webinar, many societies offer a recorded version to their members. If you are not a member of their society, you will sometimes pay a small fee to download the past webinar or have limited access.

I started attending webinars regularly over the past year. I love the freedom of going to genealogy lectures without having to actually "go" anywhere!

Some of my favorite places to go for webinars are:

This is just a small list of what's available. Genealogy webinars are becoming more and more popular, so don't miss out! Check your local state genealogical society for webinar opportunities and take advantage of this new tool for your genealogy and family history education.

If you have some go-to webinar sites for genealogy that you enjoy, I would love to hear about them!

Find out if you have these top three genealogy books in your library. Click here.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Multiple Family Trees Online...It's a GOOD THING!

A few weeks ago in a Facebook group I follow, a very upset woman shared her feelings about having lost access to her online family tree. Even though she had taken some small precautions to protect her data, it got me thinking.

I have a family tree on no less than five websites: FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and Findmypast. This does not include the family tree I keep on my personal computer using genealogy software. I feel like my family tree has turned into an orchard of trees! How on earth do I keep them all maintained? Read the rest of this article at here.

Monday, July 6, 2015

DNA May Have Revealed the Family Secret

I was born and raised a blonde, blue-eyed, "White" child. I look like my  mother, also blonde and blue eyed. So you can imagine the surprise while researching her family, I found that her great grandfather, his siblings, and parents were recorded as "Black" in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. Surely, there was some mistake. Wasn't there?

Read the full article here at and learn how DNA may have finally revealed the family secret.

Thursday, July 2, 2015 Leads the Way in Michigan Records

Can you imagine how exciting it must have been to your ancestors to first hear about Henry Ford's "Tin Lizzy?" If your genealogy research is in the state of Michigan, you might feel as excited as they did that day. I just found a website full of genealogical records for the state of Michigan and it's free! is a website dedicated to helping you with your Michigan family history. You will be amazed at the digital images of records they have there. Learn more about SeekingMichgian in the article at the blog here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

7 Family History Things To Do on a Rainy Day

It seems like it has been raining non stop for days and it is raining again today. It's cold, wet, and gloomy outside.

I have a million things to do, but can't do any of them due to the bad weather. Then, I thought of my favorite genealogy and family history things to do when I have some down time.

Here are seven family history things I do on a rainy days.

1. Upload all my pictures from my phone to the computer and then to the Cloud. Sometimes, I go a step further and organize them by year.
2. Write in my personal journal about all the latest happenings in the family. I have kept a personal journal since I was 8 years old. I believe I am on journal number 17. I have NOT been as good at my journal writing since the kids have gotten older. I am lucky to write once a month. Since time passes so quickly and I don't write daily like I used to, I have started using a new format for journal writing. I use an outline format. It may not be as detailed or "interesting" but it will work for key events and at least jog my memory someday.

3. Clean up my pedigree chart by checking that no sources are missing.
4. Catch up on reading my favorite blogs, magazines, or newsletters.
5. Write letters or emails to all those on my "old ladies" list. Now before I have everyone jumping all over me, let me explain! Years ago, I had several older ladies that allowed me to interview them for our family history. I realized that many were widows and enjoyed getting a phone call or letter from time to time. I decided to create a list I loving referred to as the "old lady list." Over time, I added other people to the list, even older couples or widowed men. I try to write them as often as I can. I let them know I am thinking of them, how the family history research is going, and update them on my latest happenings.
6. Dust the shelves. I have a lot of shelves in my office. They get pretty dusty. :)
7. Clean the desk and file away notes. I love to make notes. They are everywhere. On occasion, it is necessary to go through the notes and either file in drawer 13 (the trash can) or file in the appropriate hanging folder. When the note is important to the family tree, I not only file it, but I add the information to my family history database with a source citation.

Guess what? While I sat here writing this post, it stopped raining! Figures. Maybe I will do a few of my rainy day items anyway. What family history things do you do on a rainy day?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Researching Your Dutch Ancestry

I had the great opportunity to do some research for records in the Netherlands and wanted to share with you what I learned. If you don't think you can do international research from the comfort of your home, you can! I found birth records, marriage records, and more. Don't speak Dutch? NO PROBLEM!

I have written a blog post for about my success doing Dutch research from home. You can safely view the entire article here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

New Blog at

If you hadn't already heard, I was hired this past spring as a content specialist for This is a wonderful new website for family history and genealogy researchers everywhere...and I mean EVERYWHERE.

A worldwide company, RootsBid helps to find others like yourself that are willing to do look-ups, pictures, and more for a small fee. Don't let the fee scare you. Imagine yourself being willing to drive 100 miles or so to a courthouse to help out a friend, but you can't afford the gas money. You tell this friend what it will cost for the gas and they are willing to pay it because they can't make the drive themselves.

Post a request or bid to help someone else in need. It's really easy.

Be sure to check out the site and don't forget to read the great articles on RootsBid blog. Happy hunting!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How'd She Do That?! Using Facebook to Break Through Brick Walls

I continue to be AMAZED how social media can QUICKLY give you the answers to break through your family history brick walls.

In just the last 2 weeks, I have turned to Facebook for help and was not disappointed. Here's how I did it! has created new Facebook groups. I joined them all. In the U.S., the groups are entitled "U.S. Northeast Genealogy Research Community," "U.S. South Genealogy Research Community," "U.S. Midwest Genealogy Research Community," and "U.S. West Genealogy Research Community." 

Other places in the world are not left out. "Europe Genealogy Research Community" and "Northern Europe Genealogy Research Community" are just the tip of the iceberg.

These Facebook pages, or groups, are being viewed by people like yourself. People who love genealogy and family history and are ready to help if they can.

My first experience was with the "U.S. Northeast Genealogy Research Community." After joining, I put a little message that read:
     "Hello! I am a professional genealogist, speaker, and writer of a family history blog at One of my biggest brick walls is locating where in New York my Louis Lockwood and Sabrina Robinson came from! Can't wait to ask some questions here!"

That's it. That is all I wrote. In less than 24 hours, I had the answer (and more!) that had eluded me for more than 10 years. Patricia Morrow, the town historian for Windham, New York, saw my post and quickly found Lewis [yes, there was a spelling change] Lockwood and Sabrina in the 1855 New York State census. Then, she uploaded biographical sketches of Lewis, documentation of Lewis' previous wives and tombstone pictures. I was shaking my head in amazement. That was a genealogy miracle if I ever heard one! [Note: Typically, you will want to put more information in your request for help than I did.]

In the weeks to follow, I have been able to find Lewis' parents and the parents of his wives which have been added to my family tree. Help from Patricia gave me the answer to break through that brick wall and I was able to then continue my own further research.

Yesterday, I had another wonderful experience, this time with "Europe Genealogy Research Community." While researching some Scottish records, I found a birth record that included the marriage date and location for the child's parents. Unfortunately, I could not make out the name of the town they were married in. I could read that the village was located in Ireland, but I am not familiar with that country's towns. I searched all village and town names in Ireland trying to find one that "looked similar," but to no avail.

I knew I needed help. Facebook to the rescue! I posted the image of the birth record to "Europe Genealogy Research Community" and Becky Pate took a look. "Banagher," she said. Yes! I could see it now. And wouldn't you know it was in County Offaly right next to County Tipperary where the couple's older children were born.


If you are not Facebook savvy you will need some instructions. First, go to and create your account. You will need an email address. They will also ask you for your birth date. Don't worry, your birth date will not show on your page if you don't want it to. You can fix that later.

After you create a Facebook account, you will need to confirm it. An email will be sent to you and you will click "Confirm Account."

You will be directed back to your Facebook page. You may skip the steps of adding friends and adding a profile picture if you wish. Now, you will search for the FamilySearch groups I mentioned above. [If you do not see the search field I have indicated in the picture below, just refresh your page.]

When you have clicked on the group you are interested in, you will be directed to their page where you will need to click "Join Group."

These FamilySearch Facebook groups are being monitored and managed, so you will need to wait until you are "approved." I was approved within a few hours. Once you are approved, when you return to this page, you will see that you can "write something" on their page. Others will see your post and hopefully you will get the answers you are looking for.

So join the social media movement and break through your family history brick walls using Facebook!

Learn to do courthouse research from home for FREE. Read more here:

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Best 3 Books for Genealogists and Why I Have Them

When my aunt turned over the family history to me, I inherited a lot of books. Loads and loads of marriage record books, tax roll books, and more. Surprisingly, I don't really need them. With,, and adding new digital images every day, I find the internet my go-to source for records.

But there are 3 books in my collection that I can't do without. Let me share them with you and tell you why I love them.

Red Book

Red Book: American State, County, and Town Resources is a big red book. It was edited by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D. and Certified Genealogist. The most recent edition is the third edition published in 2004.

The "chapters" are listed alphabetically by state. Each state chapter has a brief history and a section on where to find the following records: vital, census, land, probate, court, tax, cemetery, church, and military. The information will also tell you whether there are any loss of records you should know about. There are additional resources if applicable to the state.

But, the reason I love this book is because of the maps. Each state has a county map. These maps are so helpful when determining where your ancestors lived in relation to other counties and states. No longer do you have to find a map for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana and glue them all together. This book gives you ALL surrounding counties of each state it touches!

Ohio map page from Red Book
Lastly, each state has a table that lists the date formed and parent county or counties that each were formed from. A good example is Ashland County, Ohio which was formed in 1846. Maybe you knew that. But did you know it was formed from parts of Huron, Lorain, Richmond, AND Wayne counties? Depending on where in Ashland County your ancestor was from, there could be hidden records in any of the other four counties!

Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace

Evidence Explained is a source citation Bible to the professional genealogist or anyone wanting to do the very best work. This book, authored by Elizabeth Shown-Mills, gives the methodology of citing genealogical sources and why it is important. She not only gives loads of practical examples of nearly anything you can imagine, but explains in detail why you source it "that way."

My favorite part of this book is the "QuickCheck Models." These QuickCheck Models are examples of how to cite your sources in an easy to use format. The pages are colored a dark gray and are quickly found by thumbing through the pages. 

I have given my book a little adjustment for even quicker access to the QuickCheck Models by adding labeled tabs to the items I use most often.

This book is a must-have for anyone who wants to be a professional in the field.

Genealogical Proof Standard

Genealogical Proof Standard is a small paperback book published by the Board of Certified Genealogists. It is dedicated to giving you all the key points to following a professional standard in genealogy research.

I have used it especially when learning the more advanced techniques of transcribing and abstracting wills, learning an effective research strategy, and writing reports and summaries for publications and clients.


Yes, I still have many other books on my shelves, but I have found these 3 books to be the ones I go to far more often than any others. 

What books are your favorite must-haves?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest Blogger - Lisa Lisson

How to Begin Your North Carolina Genealogy Research
Were your ancestors from North Carolina? Have you ever wondered how to begin looking for your North Carolina roots?

There are many resources for searching out your North Carolina ancestors – far too many to list here.  However, knowing a few basic tips before starting your North Carolina research will help you progress further and quicker.

Location, Location, Location
Know the history of the location where your ancestors lived.

North Carolina is bordered by Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and even a small portion of Georgia. The boundaries of North Carolina changed over the course of history. State boundaries and county lines evolved through the years. At times, the boundaries, including the state line, were hotly contested. If your North Carolina ancestor lived close to the Virginia or South Carolina state line, be sure to check the neighboring state’s records for your ancestor.

Today, North Carolina is subdivided into 100 counties, but that has not always been the case. As the state’s population grew and migrated further south and west, new counties were formed and old county lines changed. Western North Carolina counties originally in North Carolina eventually became part of Tennessee. For more information refer to Tennessee Counties Originally in North Carolina.

As a genealogy and family history researcher, you must know your ancestors’ location within their time period. Your ancestor did not necessarily move, but their records may be in a different county due to a change in the county line or the creation of a new county. Knowing the history of the county (counties) where your ancestors lived is crucial for locating their records. For more information on the formation of North Carolina counties refer to North Carolina County Formation.

Location of North Carolina Records
Original Records

The North Carolina genealogy researcher will find the centralization of the state’s records helpful. The State Archives of North Carolina is located in Raleigh and contains records from all 100 counties including former North Carolina counties now in Tennessee. This means you can research an ancestor in multiple North Carolina locations without needing to leave the building. The archives also have a search service or can refer you to a local genealogist if more extensive work is needed.

What if you are not able to get to the State Archives of North Carolina?

Check with the individual counties to see what records (or copies of records) they retained. Remember that many of these records may be available online at FamilySearch.

Online Records

Fortunately for the genealogist, more and more genealogical records and resources are being made available online.  

Know What Records Exist for Your Ancestor’s Location

Birth and death records were not required in North Carolina until 1913. Initially, compliance with this requirement was not met. Delayed certificates filed months or even years after the event can be found.

A loss of county records due to fire or other disaster can hinder your research.  Unfortunately, North Carolina has a number of burned counties in which many county records were lost.  If your ancestor was from a “burned county”, first determine which (if any) records survived the fire. Next, check for possible church records, newspapers or federal records (such as census records and land grant records) for the area. The individual counties’ genealogical or historical societies’ websites can assist you in knowing what records exist.

Best of luck hunting ancestors in the Tarheel state!

Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research, and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. In researching her own family history, Lisa discovered a passion for oral history and its role in genealogy research.

When not tracking ancestors through the records, Lisa enjoys spending time with her husband and two “almost” grown children.
You can find Lisa online at , Twitter, Pinterest, and her Etsy store Esther’s Place – Heritage Inspired Gifts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How'd She Do That?! : Sharing on Pinterest is a website to create virtual bulletin boards. Imagine having a bulletin board for all your favorite things at the touch of your fingers; one dedicated to things you want for your home, one for the stylish wardrobe you hope to have, and one for your family history. WAIT! Did you read that right? Yep, I use Pinterest for my family history and genealogy. Let me show you the steps to become a genealogy pinner!

First, you will need to create a Pinterest account. It is free and doesn't send you spam mail! Go to and create an account using an email address or Facebook.  I chose to use my email address.

Once you have created your account, you will be taken to your home page. Follow the instructions in the captions below to create bulletin boards.

On the picture above, you see I have three boards. One entitled "For my house", another called "Genealogy Goodies", and yet another called "My Family History."

Two ways I "pin" things to the boards

When I come across a great blog post or an article online that I want to remember or share, I "pin it" to my "Genealogy Goodies" board.

Sometimes, a favorite blog post will have a "Pin it" button already embedded on the blog and you just hit the button and wa-la!

Let's say you are LOVING this post. You want to "pin it". You would click here:

A box of several images will pop up and you may choose any one of them.

Once you have chosen an image, you will see another pop-up window and you can then choose which board to pin to.

Now you have pinned this article to your virtual bulletin board and for future reference or to share with your friends!

You can even "pin it" from FamilySearch. FamilySearch's Family Tree now has a "Pin it" icon on pictures that have been uploaded there. If you find a picture that you would like to save on a board, you can click "Pin it" and save it accordingly.

Step 1: You found an ancestor

Step 2:

Step 3: Click "Pin it" at the bottom of the image.

Again, you will be brought to a pop-up window and asked which board you wish to pin to.  You choose the board you want and click "Save".

What do I do when there is no "Pin it" button?

You might wonder how people pin an item when there is no "Pin it" button.  Well, they installed a "Pin it" button to their browser. Here's how to do that.  

First, go to your Pinterest page, then click on the little arrow to the left of your name.

When you click "About", you will be directed to a new screen and you will choose "Browser Button" and follow the instructions. 

When you have finished, you will see the Pinterest icon appear in your toolbar at google chrome.

Now you have the opportunity to pin any and everything!

So, if you are at and see a picture you want to save, you can do so even though they don't have a "Pin it" button embedded in the site.

Like in the example below, I want to save the middle picture of Thomas Foster to my board.

By clicking on that photo, I am taken to another window.  Here I will be able to "Pin it" by pushing the little Pinterest icon in my toolbar like so:

You will then choose the picture by clicking on it and saving it to the appropriate board just like we did in the other examples.

I know this post was a bit long and there were quite a few steps, but I hope that some of you will take the opportunity to start using Pinterest in your family history and genealogy work.

PS...there is so much more to learn on Pinterest. Creating tags and descriptions, following other pinners, and finding pins that might relate to your research are just a few. But, that is for another post!

Want to learn how Facebook is breaking down brick walls in genealogy? Read about it here:

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