Cemetery Preserved, and Just In Time

You're not going to believe what happened at this cemetery yesterday, just one day after this Eagle Scout project photographed it....Here's the background.

Genealogists from around the world came together today to transcribe the headstones of one of our local cemeteries here in Idaho. In case you missed it, here was our call for your help. My son, Evan, is so thankful for everyone's support. His Eagle Scout project was a big success, and was completed just in time (keep reading to learn what happened yesterday).

The purpose of his project was to help preserve the Greenleaf Cemetery in Greenleaf, Idaho. He read stories and saw pictures of cemeteries being destroyed by vandalism and natural disasters. Even our town cemetery here in Middleton was vandalized a couple of years back.

This morning we visited with the head of the Greenleaf Cemetery District to give her Evan's report of the project. Evan explained that all the headstones had been photographed two nights before, published to the BillionGraves website, and that within the next week the cemetery's database would be created and be searchable. She said she's wanted to have something like this for years since people are always asking her for help in finding their loved ones there.

What she showed us next caused the hairs on my arms to stand.

She said that just yesterday, one of the gravesites collapsed. Not one of the headstones, but the entire gravesite. I had to see this and find out what caused it. Sure enough, there was a big hole in the ground. She explained that prior to the 1970s, caskets were made of pine. Pine disintegrates over time and when it does, it causes the ground above it to cave in. Nothing under the ground at this site was exposed and they'll have it fixed quickly. We asked if it was anything that our group of photographers had done to cause this, and she thankfully replied that no, the lawnmower goes over it all the time, and it was just time for this to happen to the 80-year-old site. When this happens, the headstone often breaks off as well and needs replaced.

So...thank goodness for Evan's Eagle Scout project. Every site in the cemetery was photographed the night before, including this site. And thus, due to the efforts of 20 of us here taking pictures, and hundreds of you from around the world transcribing those pictures here, the cemetery is preserved and even searchable.


You're Invited! Transcribe 1 headstone today to help with Evan's Eagle project

EvanscoutHi my name is Evan Rasmussen. Some of you might know my dad, Geoff. I am working on my Eagle project which is to help preserve a cemetery by photographing the gravestones and uploading the images to a website called billiongraves.com.

On Wednesday I and a group of people (20 of us) went to one of my local cemeteries and completed the photographing stage of the project. We took 687 pictures. The next thing I need to get done is to transcribe the images we took. This makes it so anyone who is looking for a relative in this cemetery can find them. If you want to help me out by transcribing ONE gravestone click here. Just zoom in,  click on one of the green pins and transcribe away. (You'll have to first create a free account if you haven't already.) Thanks!

Here's what the cemetery looked like before we started:


Here's what it looks like now:


Here's what it looks like when you click on one of the yellow bubbles:


And here's what it looks like when you click on one of the green bubbles:



A few hours later...

...and the entire cemetery has been indexed! Thanks everybody for helping. It went really quickly. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed your help! There's just a few pictures that I need to go back out and retake (some were blurry or cut off). 

Here's a link to the follow-up article, "Cemetery Preserved, and Just In Time".

What you can do now...

1) Take pictures. Using the free BillionGraves app on your smart phone, you can click on the Cemeteries button to see which cemeteries are nearby where you are. Some will have lots of pictures taken, others won't have any yet. Just click on the Take Picture button and have fun!

2) At BillionGraves.com, click on the Transcribe tab at the top. Looks like there are more than 700,000 pictures from other cemeteries that still need to be indexed.

Thanks again everyone for your help!

Here's what it looks like now:



Now I'd better go finish my project's paperwork.

Note from Geoff...

Not bad for Evan's first-ever blog post, eh? And not a bad choice for a worthwhile Eagle project. It's been really difficult for me, as a genealogist and as a father, to not step in and just do this whole project for him. :) Evan has done all the planning, obtained permission from the cemetery district (they're really excited about this), and organized the group's efforts the other night. The root beer floats afterwards were pretty good too! Another of our local cemeteries was vandalized a couple of years back. Had it been digitized previously they would have had a permanent record without the damage. This experience has helped Evan learn how to be a leader which is one of the purposes of the Eagle project.

I wrote about BillionGraves a few years back. You can read about it here. It is a worldwide project with the intent to digitize, geocode, and thus preserve cemeteries. It's come a long ways since I first wrote about it. Its index is also now searchable at FamilySearch.

Thanks for your help with Evan's project. And give BillionGraves a try too, maybe you'll find one of your ancestors today.

Got Irish Ancestors? Your genealogical gold mine is almost here


If you are researching an Irish ancestor, be sure to clear your appointments for July 8, 2015 (except for your 9pm eastern U.S. appointment with Thomas MacEntee's webinar). That is the anticipated date of the release of the digitization of the entire collection of Catholic parish registers held by the National Library of Ireland. More than 390,000 digital images of these records will be online and available for free. Read more about it in their recent press release below.

National Library of Ireland Announces Launch Date for New Online Genealogy Resource 

– Almost 400,000 images of Catholic parish register microfilms to be available online for free from 8th July 2015 – 

The entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) will be made available online – for free – from 8th July 2015 onwards. On that date, a dedicated website will go live, with over 390,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded.  

The NLI has been working to digitise the microfilms for over three years under its most ambitious digitisation programme to date.  

The parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census.  Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.  

Commenting today, the NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation of the parish registers, said: “We announced initial details of this project last December, and received a hugely enthusiastic response from people worldwide with an interest in Irish family history.  We are delighted to announce that the project has been progressing well, and we will be able to publish all the digitised records online from 8th July onwards.  

“This is the most significant ever genealogy project in the history of the NLI.  The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s.  However, their digitisation means that, for the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.” 

Typically, the parish registers include information such as the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses.  The digital images of the registers will be searchable by parish location only, and will not be transcribed or indexed by the NLI. 

“The images will be in black and white, and will be of the microfilms of the original registers,” explained Ms. Kerrigan.  “There will not be transcripts or indexes for the images.  However, the nationwide network of local family history centres holds indexes and transcripts of parish registers for their local areas.  So those who access our new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover, and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with the relevant local family history centre.” 

The NLI is planning an official launch event for the new online resource on 8th July. 

Judy Wight spoke about this in her recent webinar, "Irish Genealogical Records in the 17th-19th Centuries. Webinar subscribers can watch the recording here, or here's a 15-minute preview.

Did FamilySearch really "lose all their records"?

My 13-year-old son, sitting behind me in the office, and working on his own genealogy, just mentioned,

"Dad, I think FamilySearch lost all their records!"

Thinking that maybe his computer had lost its internet connection, I turned around to check it out. He then provided this further explanation:

"See, the 1970 U.S. census doesn't show up in their list of records."

Smiling, and thrilled that he's trying so hard, I had a great opportunity to teach him about the availability of our census records. And while we won't have access to the 1970 census for another 27 years, it's exciting to have someone else in the house with whom I can talk about genealogy! Even if it's when I'm trying to get my work done.

You're going to want an ancestor in this record!

If I could dream up what the perfect census record would include, it would include all the usual information (name, gender, age, occupation) plus it would include:

  • Full name of father
  • Father's birthplace
  • Father's age
  • Full name of mother, including maiden name
  • Mother's birthplace
  • Mother's age
  • Place of parents' marriage
  • Whether served in Civil War, Spanish-American War, or World War I
  • Church affiliation

You're thinking, "good luck Geoff", right?

This dream came true after what I learned in watching Ruby Coleman's recent webinar, Iowa Ancestors in History, Geography and Genealogy. Before showing the record, she stated, "you're going to want an ancestor in this record!" Then she showed a page from the 1925 Iowa state census. I've never before seen a census record provide all of this information. The full name and ages of both the father and the mother of every person in the census including her maiden name, birth place and marriage place was included! Talk about a genealogy gold mine!

In fact, there is so much information in this census that it took THREE PAGES for each person! Here's some examples (click on images to enlarge):

Page one shows the full name (given name, middle name, surname) of each person, their relation to the head of the household, gender, race, age, and marital status. Pretty good, although normal information for later census records.


Page two gets really good. Here it lists the birth place of the person, the name and birth place of the father, the name and birth place of the mother, how old each of the parents were on their last birthday, and the place of the parents' marriage. THANK YOU IOWA!


I now desperately wanted to have an Iowa ancestor who would be listed in this census.

Since this census provides the maiden name of the person's mother, I wondered if I had anyone in my family file who would 1) be alive in 1925, 2) be living in Iowa in 1925, and 3) not have their mother's maiden name recorded yet. Here's what I did:

Use Legacy's Census Search tool

1) On the Search tab, I clicked on the Census List button.


2) Then I filled in the following information, and clicked the "Create a Search List" button.


The resulting Search List contained 77 individuals who were 1) alive in 1925 and 2) calculated by Legacy to be living in Iowa at the time.


Rather than look at all 77 right then, I filtered this list a little more:

1) On the Search button at the bottom of this screen, I clicked on Find, and then clicked on the Detailed Search tab.

2) Here I told Legacy to search these 77 individuals for someone who did not have the mother's maiden name recorded.


The new Search List had four individuals, one of whom was Louis William KING. Looking at his record, it showed that he died in 1929 in Iowa and that his mother's name was just Catherine - no maiden name.


At this point, my heart started racing a little faster, thinking that I might finally find Catherine's maiden name.

This is where creative searching at Ancestry was needed. My initial search in the "Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925" for Louis William King gave 462 results. The results were a combination of possible individuals in six different census years.

I modified the search by adding Louis' birth location of Iowa, the "lived in" location of Muscatine County, and the "Residence Date" of 1925.


This narrowed down the search results to 453. Next, I changed the Search Filter for the "Lived In" category from Broad to Exact.


Now there were just 12 Results:


Guess which of these was my guy? If you guessed Wm King Lewis you are right. Now that took some creative searching, didn't it?

The record confirmed the names I had for Lewis and his wife:


It confirmed the name and birth place of Lewis' father, yet did not list his age, so I can infer that he was no longer living:


It then gave William's mother's full name and birth place. Eureka! This is the first time I have seen her maiden name!


And it listed where his parents were married, which, with his timeline and trying to learn when he emigrated, this was helpful:


Finally, I learned they were part of the Evangelical church which could lead to some church records.


My next step will be to add this new information to Legacy following the techniques I explained in the "Watch Geoff Live: Adding a Census Record" webinar or in the Legacy Family Tree - Unlocked! book.

I hope that you, too, have an ancestor in the 1925 Iowa state census. If you do, please write about your findings in the comments below. And remember, "Life is short, do genealogy first!"

A genealogy miracle - finding ancestors with Mom

by Geoff Rasmussen


I never thought this day would come. After what my mother just told me, my genealogy career just became completely worth it.

Mom has always supported me even when she wasn't that interested in what I was doing. She watched my sporting events, helped me through scouting, and patiently taught me the piano. She loved me even when she probably shouldn't have. She has even shown her love by sitting through one or two of my in-person genealogy classes. I think she has always been happy to let others (like myself, her mother and sisters) work on her genealogy.

Last week she surprised me by asking for help with navigating the FamilySearch.org site. I initially thought she was just being her loving self again and showing interest because it was something I enjoy. We searched census records, vital records, and even explored FindAGrave.com together. I was having the time of my life. AND we had genealogy success. We found and documented a new family together. We concluded, had dinner, and visited with my grandparents. A good day.

Fast forward two days when we got together for my 13-year-old son's birthday party. We while casually talked, she told me something I never thought would leave her lips. She mentioned that she found an ancestor, on her own, on purpose, without my help or coercion. She applied what I tried to teach her and she had success! If I were done recovering from this recent back surgery I would have got up and enjoyed a genealogy happy dance, and so I enjoyed it from the couch. My mother found an ancestor. Wow.

I don't know that my mother will continue this pursuit, but I sure enjoyed the time with her. I've even got a nice picture of the memory. And isn't that one of the good things in life - making memories with family.

A new crack in my brick wall!

HappydanceIt's time for another Genealogy Happy Dance! Thanks to one of our bonus members-only webinars last week, I was able to crack one of my personal brick walls.

Prior to this discovery, I had recorded that Nathan R. Brown was born in Pennsylvania, Missouri, or New York in either 1815, 1817, 1818, or 1822. See the Individual's Information screen from my Legacy file below:


In her webinar, "Women Homesteaders and Genealogy," Gail Blankenau mentioned that the complete Homestead Files for Nebraska, where Nathan later lived and died, were now available on the subscription site, Fold3.com. Boy am I glad I asked her to present this webinar! Fold3 did indeed have the complete files. Nathan's file included the 20 pages of original documents, including the letter of discharge from his service in the Civil War:


Zooming in on page 6 revealed an exact place of birth for Nathan:


According to this document, Nathan was born in Alleghany, Pennsylvania and was 44 years of age when the document was signed on July 11, 1865. If everything is accurate (wouldn't that be nice!), he would have been born about 1821 - another possible year of birth. Regardless, I now have more evidence that can be evaluated, and am closer to the truth of when and where he was born!

Honestly, I didn't really think a webinar about Women Homesteaders would be valuable for my personal research right now. My conclusion - never miss a Legacy Family Tree webinar! You never know what you will learn. 

Now to add the digital image, citation, new events and analysis to my Legacy family file....

Genealogy - "kind of creepy?"

IStock_000006874244SmallMy 14-year-old son, Evan, who once proclaimed, "But Dad, I thought genealogy was boring...this is so...much...fun!" (read about it here) reacted a little differently as we did genealogy together last night.

After finding one of his ancestors in a census record, some of the information did not match up with what he had previously found. The age was off a little bit for the mother of the family. Seeing his concern, I explained to him that sometimes we find conflicting information in our research and so we need to corroborate our findings with more research. We went on to find the family in two more censuses, and we found even more conflicting information, yet the picture was becoming more clear. After, I suggested we look in yet another record to which he responded,

"So in a way, genealogy is kind of creepy?"

I asked, "what do you mean - creepy?"

He said, "well, stalcker-ish!"

Laughing, I responded, "Right! We're trying to learn as much as we can about our ancestors, aren't we!"

As soon as this part of the conversation came to a close, I thought to write it down. Evan asked, "what are you doing?" I responded, "this is going in my next book."

My Four New Frontiers in 2015

by Marian Pierre-Louis

2015goalsAs the New Year rolls around many people start to think about resolutions. I don't bother with resolutions anymore. I'm more interested in setting goals that I can break down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This year my goals are taking me into four new frontiers. It makes me feel like I'm on a Stark Trek voyage headed into uncharted territory. It provides a sense of adventure, fear and excitement.

My four new frontiers are software programs which I am committed to learning in order to push myself ahead, get organized and achieve my goals. They include Adobe Photoshop Elements, Evernote, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Legacy Family Tree software.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

This is a bit sad to say but I bought Adobe Photoshop Elements way back in 2012 after Geoff's Rasmussen's "Organizing and Sharing Digital Images" webinar. I've been a user of Adobe Photoshop my entire adult life but I purchased Elements because the regular PhotoShop lacks an easy organizer section that is drag-and-drop-based like Elements.

I've had every intention of getting organized since then but it hasn't happened. I started a few times but never carried through. The problem is I wanted to organize all of my existing photos into the proper directories with the proper names and that's what held me back. It's a monumental task. This time I've decided to get started tagging my files so that I can find them and worry about organization later. The decision has been liberating and I've made great progress. I started my journey into this frontier just before Christmas. I knew if I was going to achieve this goal I would have to start right away. I got started by watching Geoff's webinar (link above). That webinar and my own software are Elements 10 which is a bit out of date. The current edition is Elements 13 which is now quite different. I may or may not upgrade later in the year. I'll decide that later.


Every time someone mentions Evernote I feel like I am letting Lisa Louise Cooke down. I know I should have an account by now. I know it will help me with my genealogy research and everything else I want to keep track of in my life. And how many times have I heard Lisa speak on this topic encouraging all of us to try Evernote? Even worse, my brother uses it constantly and always sends me links from his Evernote account. I am determined to start my Evernote account before January 7, 2015 when Lisa presents "Genealogy on the Go with iPads and Tablets." While the webinar is not specifically about Evernote I know she will mention that word and I don't want to have to feel that shame again! This time I will be ready. If I am lucky I will find some time and go back and watch her recent "Using Evernote for Genealogy" webinar to help me get started.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

I've had my eye on the dictation software Dragon NaturallySpeaking for awhile. It seems that it has come a long way in accuracy since it was first released many years ago. As a public speaker and podcaster it is natural that I would want to use a software program that will take my words and put them to text without typing. When I found out that Dragon NaturallySpeaking can transcribe from an audio file (available in the Premium version only) then I knew I had to try this. My 3rd cousin has recently leant me the original manuscript of our shared great-great grandfather's diary. Wouldn't it be great fun to transcribe the diary by speaking it rather than typing it?  Luana Darby's recent webinar "Can You Hear Me Now? Voice Recognition Software for Genealogists" got me so excited about the possibilities of this software that I bought it that same day.

During the webinar Luana showed that Dragon could also be used with the Legacy Family Tree software. And one of the regular webinar attendees shared that she has been using Dragon extensively with Legacy. I've already made contact with this Legacy user and plan to pick her brain further to learn how I can use Dragon to operate Legacy without typing!

Legacy Family Tree software

Many of you are probably surprised that I've included Legacy Family Tree software amongst my list. Yes, it's true that I've been using Legacy Family Tree for a few years now. But I don't really know how to use the program properly. I am only doing the simple tasks that I can easily figure out on my own. This year I am committed to digging deeper and really learning how to use the features that are available. I'll be writing about that journey here on this blog and I hope you'll join me for the ride and help me along the way.

The New Frontiers

The four new frontiers that I've chosen to explore - the software programs that I am committed to learn - will help me get organized and become a better genealogist in 2015. If I go boldly forth without fear I will be able to organize my photos so that I can find them, capture notes and photos on the go and make them available in the cloud, be able to more quickly transcribe using my voice and finally, organize my genealogy properly within my genealogy software program. Now it's time for me to watch some webinars and get started!