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!

Grab Your Genealogy by the Horns: Five Ways to Take Control of Your Research in 2015

Thanks to guest blogger, Lisa Alzo, for this great article!

IStock_000002185419SmallCan you believe that it is almost 2015? It is now time to evaluate what we accomplished during the previous 12 months, and set new goals for the coming year. “Out with the old and in with the new.” In the Chinese New Year, 2015 is designated as the year of the Goat (also translated as "Sheep" or "Ram").

Perhaps, like me, you have a list of genealogy-related tasks you plan to work on. If you want to grab your genealogy by the horns, here are five ways to take control of your research in 2015.

1. Define your goals. List all the tasks you hope to accomplish with your genealogy research in 2015 (find elusive ancestors, break down brick walls, start writing your family history, scan your photographs, organize your digital and paper files, etc.). Next, take your list a step further and break those items you've listed down—into weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual goals—to help set benchmarks for completing them. When you track your success, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Once you declare your goals, don’t let them stay buried in a journal, or become part of your digital clutter. Print out your list and hang it in your office where you can see the goals and focus on them each day.

2. Let go of old habits. Genealogists are often creatures of habit. We often search the same databases in the same way or get distracted by the latest technology tools or apps. Some of our habits may also be hurting our research progress (for example, not keeping a research log, letting our filing get backlogged, or neglecting to copy down a source citation for records or documents we find. This year, identify your problem areas and make a point to do better.

3. Get organized. To do your best research, you need to set yourself up for success. Perhaps you need to clean up your genealogy database, create a template for your research log, file that stack of papers, scan those photographs, or locate the materials you need to write about your ancestors. Shop for supplies (archival safe filing products—check Hollinger Metal Edge, or your local office supply store) purchase or download software or apps you need (e.g. Legacy Family Tree software, Evernote, Dropbox, etc.). For help with organizing your materials, pick up a copy of the book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise May Levenick (aka The Family Curator). If scanning photographs is on your list, then another “must have” is Geoff Rasmussen’s book Digital Imaging Essentials.

4. Don’t go it alone. No genealogist is an island. As genealogists we are accustomed to working solo. Find a research partner who understands the challenges of chasing down ancestors, someone who can help you stay focused on your goals, and keep you motivated to make 2015 a great year for your genealogy. There are groups you can join too on Facebook or Google Plus. Check out the “Genealogy on Facebook” List compiled by Katherine R. Willson, to find a group that fits your interests. You don’t have to solve your brick wall problems alone when you have genea-friends who share the same passion, frustrations, and successes as you.

5. Hit the reset button. When you began your genealogy were you just a name collector? Do you question the validity of some of your data? Have you been inconsistent with source documentation? Do you practice start and stop genealogy and forget where you left off? If you find that your genealogy documentation is completely out of control, or discover major holes in your research, perhaps you need to step back, regroup and start again. If so, join professional genealogist Thomas MacEntee for the Genealogy Do-Over. There is a Facebook group (search for Genealogy Do-Over) you can join if you are planning to be a part of the Genealogy Do-Over, or if you just want to watch and track participant progress and learn new research tricks - this is the place for you to ask questions and also share advice about the Genealogy Do-Over. This is a 13-week program, broken down into specific tasks each week. The schedule of topics is posted at Geneabloggers. The list is representative and your mileage may differ . . . meaning that your research habits and specific research projects may warrant different areas of concentration in terms of skill building. Participants (and viewers) may agree or disagree with the topics or the order of the topics, so you can add or remove topics that you feel are not relevant to your specific genealogy research project. Each week, a post will appear at GeneaBloggers covering the Genealogy Do-Over topics. Posts will include tips, advice and resources. There will also be a special Legacy webinar “My Genealogy Do-Over - A Year of Learning from Research Mistakes” presented by Thomas MacEntee on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. Register for this webinar at FamilyTreeWebinars.com.

I am ready to make 2015 my best genealogy year ever. How about you?

New 4th Edition of Christine Rose's Genealogical Proof Standard book now available

ProofOne of genealogy's finest has announced the availability of the 4th Edition of her popular book, Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case. While I have not yet personally reviewed the new revised edition, if it is anything like the previous editions, this is a must-have book for your genealogy library. Here's what it's about:

The Genealogical Proof Standard is the standard set by the genealogical field to build a solid case, especially when there is no direct evidence providing an answer, or when there are conflicts in the evidence. This easy-to-read guide clearly sets forth the elements of this standard, and how to apply it to resolve genealogical problems. It leaves the reader with a good understanding of the five points of the GPS as distinguished from the three step classification process for evidence analysis. Many examples included.

Paperback: 72 pages, 8.5" x 5.5", illustrated, published 2014.



About the author:

Christine Rose, board-certified genealogist and board-certified lecturer of The Board for Certification of Genealogists, is a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. Her lecturing experience includes national conferences (National Genealogical Society, Federation of Genealogical Societies, and GenTech), and many regional seminars and local county seminars including New York Genealogical and Biographical Society in New York City; seminars in Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco, California; Long Island, New York, MENSA, and many others.

In addition, she served on the faculty of the Institute of Genealogical Research in Washington, D.C., and since 1992 has been on the faculty as an instructor and a course coordinator of Samford University's Institute of Historical and Genealogical Research. Christine was elected Fellow, American Society of Genealogists in 1988. This honor is bestowed by peers based on the quantity and quality of publications, and is limited to only fifty at any one time. She has also been awarded the prestigious Donald Lines Jacobus award for two genealogy books, and received top reviews for the book she co-authored, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy.

Christine has served in the past as VP for the Federation of Genealogical Societies VP for the Association of Genealogical Societies, and Trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists. She has been interviewed on CBS evening news (San Francisco, California), W.H.O. (Des Moines, Iowa), PBS in Jackson, Mississippi, Joe Gallagher (New York), Dick Eastman, and others. She has also been subject of extensive news articles in the Des Moines Register, and the San Jose [California] Mercury-News.

Researching Your War of 1812 Ancestors - Pension Files

This week we will hear from Thomas MacEntee about the War of 1812 and how it applies to our genealogy research. Below is an example of what you can find in the very valuable pension records.


Cyrus Bailey of Vermont enlisted in 1814 in the "late war with Great Britain" today known as the War of 1812. He was part of  Captain Smead's Company, in the 11th US Infantry. In August of that year Cyrus suffered several injuries during his service.

Testimony from Samuel Dutton, his tent-mate in 1838, describes that while "pulling up and mooveing a tent pin or hook did receive a wound" and subsequently in the state of New York he received an additional injury "in the same place by carrying a pole for wood by stepping and slipping on the ice." Dutton said Bailey was taken to the hospital and remained there until discharged.

A Cephus Bailey further testified in 1855 that "from the time he returned from the service of the United States, to the day of his death, that said Cyrus Bailey never enjoyed good health after his return, that he always said it was in consequence of disease contracted while in said service."

Cyrus' initial pension application in March 1839 was denied a month later because it "afford not evidence of his having sustained any injury while in the service."

After Cyrus' death in 1840 his widow Chloe persevered in attempting to collect the pension. Depositions were given by Widow Bailey herself, Jacob Abbott of Merrimack, NH, Jesey [sic] Adams of Weston, Vermont and Jacob Bailey.

While it is unclear whether Widow Bailey was successful in her efforts what is clear is that the pension file of Cyrus Bailey contains valuable genealogical information about Cyrus Bailey, his family, friends and associates.

From the documents we learn:

  • that he married Chloe on 2 August 1805
  • the exact date and location of Cyrus' death
  • that Jesey and Cyrus were acquainted for 35 years
  • that Jacob Bailey knew him since the time of his marriage in 1805
  • Cephus Bailey also declares that Cyrus Bailey is his father
  • perhaps most fascinating is Widow Bailey's detailed description of where and when Cyrus served.

Even if your ancestor didn't serve in the War of 1812, he or she may be mentioned in the War of 1812 pensions files. You can learn more about how to research your War of 1812 ancestor during the Wednesday, 15 October webinar presented by Thomas MacEntee. There's still time to register.

Five Genealogy Things You Can Do in October

Thanks to guest blogger, Lisa Alzo, for this great article.

October is National Family History Month* making it the perfect time to focus on your genealogy research. If you are looking for some fun things to do, below are five suggestions.

1. Plan Activities for Family Gatherings. Before you know it October will be over and the holiday season will be upon us. During Family History Month, you can start to plan activities for your family gatherings. This could be scheduling time to interview your relatives, or deciding on some genealogy games and activities—in particular, those that will get the younger generation involved. Find ideas to help start the conversations or encourage participation in the book Zap The Grandma Gap: Connect to your family by connecting them with their family history ($16.95) by Janet Hovorka. There is also an accompanying Zap The Grandma Gap: Power Up Workbook ($14.95). In addition, check out the Zap The Grandma Gap website for free book excerpts, charts, and other goodies.


2. Start a Family History Writing Project. There is no better time to begin documenting the lives of your ancestors than Family History Month. But remember, you don't have to write it all at once. Break your writing tasks into small, manageable pieces. Start with one ancestor, or one family story, then move on to the next one. Keep writing until you have a series of profiles or stories that you can then edit into a book or eBook to share with your relatives. For family history writing tips, you can view several Legacy webinars, including “Ready, Set, Write: Share Your Family’s Story,” and “Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Family History Narrative,” or pick up a copy of the Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide on Writing Your Family History. In addition, consider using a writing and project management tool like Scrivener ($40 and $45 30-day non-continuous trial available) to help with the writing process. You can learn how to get started by watching this video, or getting a copy of my “Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet” ($8.95 + s/h). Click here to order a copy of the Mac version, or click here to order a copy of the Windows version.

3. Catch up on Genealogy TV. During October you can watch new episodes of the third season of Finding Your Roots (check PBS to find your local station or to watch previous episodes). You can also “binge watch” Season 1 of Genealogy Roadshow (also PBS), or back seasons of “Who Do You Think You Are?” (on TLC). Schedule a family night and watch the shows with your children or grandchildren or invite over other relatives.

4. Dig Deeper with Immersion Genealogy. Genealogy is so much more than collecting names, dates, and places. So why not use family history month to practice some “immersion genealogy”? Immersion Genealogy is a term I coined to define the process of discovering where and how our ancestors lived, worked, and worshipped, and experiencing first-hand those customs and traditions they passed down through the generations. You can visit a place your ancestor lived, take a tour of a military battlefield or Ellis Island, attend an ethnic festival, or cook a special food from a favorite family recipe.


5. Learn Something New. Why not use the month of October to expand your genealogy knowledge, or learn about a new record group or research technique? There are some great webinars coming up during October with Legacy Family Tree Webinars, including:

  • October 1 - The Fair Court: Records of Chancery Courts (Judy Russell)
  • October 3 - Overcoming Destroyed or Missing Records (Karen Clifford)
  • October 8 - Welcome to FamilySearch Indexing! (Devin Ashby)
  • October 15 - Researching Your War of 1812 Ancestor (Thomas MacEntee)
  • October 22 - Tracking Migration Using the Draper Manuscripts (Mary Hill)

Remember, the live webinars are free. Click this link to register for multiple webinars at once:
And, with a FamilyTreeWebinars membership ($49.95 annually), you can access more than 275 Hours of previously recorded webinar content, and 760 pages Of instructor handouts.

These are just a few suggestions for easy activities you can do during National Family History Month. Do one, or all of them, or be creative and find your own ways to celebrate your family and pay tribute to your ancestors.

[*In 2003 the United States Senate officially recognized October as National Family History Month, a time “to encourage family history research, education, and the sharing of knowledge.” The bill, [S.RES.175] was sponsored by Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah. To read more, click here].

Lisa A. Alzo is a freelance writer, instructor, and lecturer, and has been tracking her ancestors for 23 years. She is a frequent presenter for the Legacy Family Tree Webinars series and can be contacted via http://www.lisaalzo.com.

Stuck in a Genealogy Rut? Three Ways to Bounce Back

Thanks to guest blogger, Lisa Alzo, for this great article.

Alzo_GenealogyRut_01Have you hit an impasse in your genealogy research? Do you keep searching the same databases only to get the same negative results? Has the paper trail back to your ancestors gone cold? At one time or another even the best researchers get stuck in a genealogy rut. Here are three ways you can bounce back and find new inspiration.

1. Review Your Research.

Many times our biggest research roadblocks result from missing important details or clues the first time around. Perhaps you did not listen carefully when you interviewed Aunt Betty, or somehow misunderstood the name of the ancestral village she mentioned. Or, maybe you were in a hurry when you photocopied a page from a book at the library or from the microfilm reel at your Family History Center, or when you rapidly downloaded records from an online database. A second look can give you insights into a missed maiden name, a questionable connection in a family line, or an incorrect source citation.

2. Read, Understand and Evaluate.

Be honest, how many times do you go to Google, or open an online database and just randomly type in the names you are researching? I do it too. In reality, your first step should be to read the directions! Look at the About section, the Help section, or the Frequently Asked Questions section so you know exactly what a collection contains and what is not included. Two of the biggest online content providers, FamilySearch (free) and subscription site, Ancestry.com both have detailed notes explaining their collections and tips for how to search them. Both sites also have free learning centers with videos and tutorials. Successful database searches depend upon creativity. Try different ways of searching and notice how the changes you’ve made are being interpreted by the search engine and then adapt your search criteria accordingly. Every search engine works a little differently. The search criteria that you use on one site may return entirely different results when used on a different site. Remember: Broad searching is NOT always the best approach. Look carefully at the search fields before you enter your terms. Understand what you are viewing (an index or abstract versus an actual scan of the original image). Evaluate each result and scroll down to the bottom to check the source citation for what you are viewing. Then, write down or save/print the instructions of where you will need to go next for more information. For example, if you see just an index of a marriage record, is there a notation stating where you can obtain the actual record through online ordering, mail request, or in person?

Alzo_GenealogyRut_023. Banish “Brick Wall” from your vocabulary. Genealogists like to use the metaphor “brick wall” to describe that seemingly unsolvable research problem, or a roadblock or impasse encountered when trying to get back further in time with one or more family lines. More often than not, we have just run out of resources, can’t easily locate information, haven’t looked beyond the obvious, or have unrealistic expectations. Make sure you have conducted a “reasonably exhaustive search” (Check out the webinar “What is a Reasonably Exhaustive Search” by Michael Hait from September 2012 to learn more about this process). Finally, consider the steps you need to take to look at additional resources and how to use new media solutions to connect with cousins, discover fresh leads, and crowd source your research problems.

Want even more tips on how to rescue your research? Sign up for the free Legacy Family Tree webinar I will be presenting on August 8, 2014: “Research Recharge Turning Old Clues into New Leads.” In this webinar you will learn fresh ways of looking at data you've already collected, strategies for smarter searching your favorite databases (and new ones) for clues, and tips for identifying what you may have missed the first time around.

Lisa A. Alzo is a freelance writer, instructor, and lecturer, and has been tracking her ancestors for 25 years. She is a frequent presenter for the Legacy Family Tree Webinars series and can be contacted via http://www.lisaalzo.com.