How will you pass down your memories?

How will you pass down your memories?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my descendants lately. It got me thinking that the way we pass memories down to our children is changing. For the last 100 years it’s pretty safe to say that parents could pass along a baby book or photo albums at the minimum. Sometimes a scrapbook might have been handed down as well. Now that we are in the age of digital photography what is the best method to preserve our memories?

While it is still possible to pass down a baby book and printed photo albums it is less likely to happen. In the past year or two a major newspaper featured an article with the headline "Aging Parents with Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don't Want It." The article focused on how to dispose of a lifetime of memories and keepsakes. It makes me wonder, what is the most practical way to share with our kids and nieces and nephews and feel confident that they will keep it and pass it down again?

But there's more at stake here than just flowery china teacups that your children don't want to inherit. The memories you created with your children during their childhood are shared memories. It's not just your memories that your passing on. It's their childhood, their life, as well. With fewer and fewer people printing photographs regularly or creating scrapbooks, how will those memories get shared?

And in addition to their memories, what about the practical stuff as well? I remember my parents kept a file for each of us three kids with things like school report cards and college transcripts. Folders like these can also hold records of immunization and other practical information. When I became an adult my parents gave me the folder - a record of my life.

Regrettably in this article I don't necessarily have the answers for you (but maybe a few suggestions).

Here's what I'm doing and considering for the future:

Photo Books

Photo albums have been replaced by photo books. In this digital age there is no longer any need for printing photos and pasting them into albums. I can go online to any number of websites from my local pharmacy to a dedicated photo site like Shutterfly. I created a book with the best photos from one of our international vacations. It took a bit of work to put together but I could do it all from my desk and computer. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the book to arrive. These kinds of books can be pricey but if you wait for coupons the cost gets better. The best thing is you can create the book once and print as many copies as you like.

Baby Books

I'm not sure if this is still a thing or not but I do have baby books for my kids. The last one I bought 14 years ago. I admit that I have not been very good about filling them in. Perhaps by the time my boys are all in college I will have time to complete them. I still think this is a good idea but I wonder how practical it will be for the future.


I really like the idea of passing on to my children an archive of sound and video recordings where they can hear the voices of the past and laugh at the silly antics of distant relatives in home videos. I have amassed quite a large archive already. But what I worry about is the constant need to update the file formats of the media so that it can still be viewed by the programs of the ever changing present. If I create this collection will my great grandchildren some day be able to access it?

A Digital Vault

The thought that I'm leaning toward the most is to create a digital vault for my children. I have already created electronic versions of the folders that my parents had created for me.  I can envision that when I pass these on to my children they will have several components. They'll contain important family photos both from their own childhoods and from the lives of their ancestors. They'll also contain the multimedia archive that I mentioned above. And finally it will be a trove of documents that will act both as a reminder of past work and success but also necessary documents that they will need to continue accessing in the future. I can see myself already handing my boys a thumb drive or portable solid-state drive that acts as a metaphorical "Good luck in the world, son!"

Have you given any thought to how you will pass down your memories to those you love? What are some of the ideas that you have in mind?



Marian Pierre-Louis is a genealogy professional who specializes in educational outreach through webinars, internet broadcasts and video. Her areas of expertise include house history research, southern New England research and solving brick walls. Since the rise in interest of genetic genealogy Marian has become addicted to using dna to help solve genealogy mysteries. Marian is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars where she produces online genealogy education classes. Once a month you'll find her as the evening host of Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.


DNA Spotlight: The Shared cM Project

When you get your DNA results, the DNA company tries to give you a sense of how you are connected to your matches. They will identify each relationship as parent, close family, sibling, second cousin, third cousin, fourth cousin, distant cousin, etc.

On MyHeritage it looks like this:

MyHeritage DNA Match


On Ancestry it looks like this:

Ancestry DNA Match

It's important to understand that the relationship provided is just an estimate. There are actually a number of possible ways you could be related to any given DNA match.

Now take a look at those same images and notice that next to or underneath the relationship you see a number and the initials cM. cM stands for centiMorgans which is the unit of measurement for DNA. The more cM you share with a DNA match the more closely related you are. The less cM you share, the more distant your relationship.

The Shared cM Project

In order to understand better all the possible relationships you have with a DNA match, genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger came up with a data driven tool called the Shared cM Project. Blaine asked DNA test takers to provide the amount of cM they shared with known relationships. From this he was able to create charts that showed the various possible relationships through the range and averages of centiMorgans.

From the data, Blaine produced the Shared cM Project chart below. In each box the first line is the relationship, the second line is the average cM for that relationship and the third line is the range he has determined based on the data.

So if we take the example above - 2nd-3rd cousin, 276 cM - we would look for the box where the average is closest to 276 cM. You'll notice that there are three boxes that are pretty close: Half 1C1R (226 cM), 1C2R (229 cM) and 2C (233 cM). If you look beyond the averages to the ranges you'll notice that there are even more possibilities. This is just to show that your actual relationship to your DNA match could be any of a number of possibilities besides what the DNA company estimates for you. In this particular case, I know the cousin personally and I am accurately able to identify her as my second cousin and not a third cousin or any of the other choices.

Blaine Bettinger, The Shared cM Project,
Blaine Bettinger, The Shared cM Project,
(Click to enlarge), Creative Commons attribution

Interactive Shared cM Project on DNA Painter

Recently Jonny Perl, the creator of DNA Painter presented a webinar about DNA Painter on Legacy Family Tree Webinars (which is free to watch). Jonny has transformed Blaine's chart into an interactive tool on DNA Painter.

Let's see how it works with two new DNA matches I received just today.

From the main DNA Painter home page choose the Tools menu option.


On the next page choose the Shared CM Tool option:

CM-DNAPainter2Next put the amount of cM your share with your DNA in the Filter box.

CM-DNAPainter3For this exercise I will use my two brand new dna matches.



For the first new cousin I get this result:

CM-DNAPainter4You can see there are a lot of possibilities for this relationship! In fact, this cousin I know personally. She and I are Half first cousins once removed (Half 1C1R). That result was in the second tier of options. It's important not to make assumptions when working with unknown matches.

The second new match of the day was also described as a 3rd-4th cousin.

CM-DNAPainter5It's interesting to see how much the results change just by changing the cM a bit. The results are quite different even though they were both presented in the same 3rd-4th cousin range. This person is unknown to me. I will have to compare our shared matches and do some research to determine which of the above relationships is accurate. It's intriguing and I can't wait to uncover this new cousin.

Both the Shared cM Project chart and DNA Painter are free to use.  These tools will greatly help you in your genetic genealogy research. Give them a try.

You can learn more about understanding your DNA results from classes in the Legacy library. If you are just starting out with DNA take a look at Blaine Bettinger's Foundations of DNA series. If you're already pretty comfortable with DNA then choose from among the 74 DNA classes in the library.


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. She hosts the monthly evening webinar on the second Tuesday of each month.  Her areas of expertise include house history research and southern New England research. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.


Website available for descendants of WWII Kitchener Camp refugees

After the death of her mother, Clare Weissenberg inherited her father's suitcase of German letters, documents and photographs. As she was going through the materials she came across a mention of a place called the Kitchener Camp. Not being familiar with it, she dove into further research which started her on a journey to what ultimately became the Kitchener Camp project.

With the rise of the Nazis in Germany, European Jews founds themselves spread across the world. Some were relocated to concentration camps. Others escaped out of Germany, resettling in other countries. One place that Jewish refugees fled was the Kitchener Camp in England. The camp was created in early 1939 near Sandwich, Kent by influential Jews in England to house German, Austrian and Czech male refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. In all approximately 4,000 people passed through the camp between February 1939 and May 1940 when it closed. 

Through her research Clare Weissenberg discovered that her father had been a refugee at Kitchener Camp.  Clare started to connect with other descendants of Kitchener Camp refugees. In the summer of 2017 a gathering of Kitchener Camp descendants was held near the site of the camp in Sandwich. From that day came the idea of a website for descendants.

Kitchener Camp
Kitchener Camp. Photo courtesy of Peter Heilbrunn.

The unique thing about the camp was that inmates could only be accepted if they could show they were in transit to somewher else. Many left England for North and South America, but most went predominately to the United States. While the website has records listing all the inmates in September 1939, there are no records showing who left England and where they ended up. 

The Kitchener Camp website has been created to provide details of the men who passed through the camp. On the website you'll find a list of names, photographs, documents, letters, memories and much more. The website, originally created by Clare Weissenberg, will soon be run by the Weiner Library in London.

In addition to finding details about your ancestor -  you can help! If your ancestor passed through the camp, the Kitchener Camp project would like to hear from you. You can share photos, letters, memories and what happened to your ancestor after he left the Kitchener Camp. Read a detailed announcement with a call for documents.

What you'll find on the website

In order to be selected for the camp, men were required to provide (these requirements were set by the German Jewish authorities, not the camp management):

  • Details of their past including entire educational and employment history
  • Details of their future Plans
  • A one page CV, testimonials about their career,
  • Photocopies of degrees and medical certificates
  • and Lots of passport photos

When entering the camp, registration cards were filled out providing:

  • name
  • number of children
  • home address
  • nationality
  • birthplace
  • date of birth
  • profession
  • and whether married


Kitchener Camp Registration Card for Hugo Heilbrunn
Kitchener Camp Registration Card for Hugo Heilbrunn.
Photo courtesy of Peter Heilbrunn.

On the website you'll also find group photos of the men while staying at the camp.

Photo courtesy of Peter Heilbrunn.
Photo courtesy of Peter Heilbrunn.

To learn more about the Kitchener Camp project and its resources visit You can read the book Four Thousand Lives: The Rescue of German Jewish Men to Britain, 1939 by Clare Ungerson.

To start tracing your own Jewish ancestry watch these classes from the Legacy Family Tree library.

Many thanks to Clare Weissenberg and Peter Heilbrunn for their resources and thoughtful assistance in the creation of this article.


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. She hosts the monthly evening webinar on the second Tuesday of each month.  Her areas of expertise include house history research and southern New England research. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.


Where did the children go?


There are some U.S. states that give researchers more problems than other states. Lately I've been researching my Pennsylvania ancestors. Before 1900, Pennsylvania gives me a lot of trouble. Here's an example of one of my problems.

In 1857 my 3rd great grandfather, Simon George, died Indiana County, Pennsylvania. At least we can say that he disappears from census and other records by 1860. But Simon is not my problem, at least not for today. What bothers me is that Simon left behind a 33 year old wife, Lydia, and four small children: Jacob, age 10; Sarah, age 8; Ann, age 6, and Susan Jane, age 5. I can't find any trace of Lydia or her children in the 1860 US Federal Census. My mind doesn't seem to want to let go of missing children so here's f I'm doing to find them.

Start with what you know

I started with what I do know for sure - that the family lived together (Simon, Lydia and the first two children born by 1850, Jacob and Sarah) in Brush Valley, Pennsylvania in 1850. It would make most sense to start by searching the 1860 census for the family in Brush Valley also, but 10 years is long time for a mother with four young children. I carefully looked for every Lydia without a surname (in case she got remarried) and with four children matching the names, Jacob, Sarah, Ann and Susan. No results. Strike one.

I also know that Jacob, my 2nd great grandfather, lived in Burrell, Indiana, Pennsylvania in 1870 with his new wife. Perhaps the family had moved to that town which is the next town over? I searched for every Jacob George in Burrell and all of Indiana County in the 1860 US Federal Census. Strike two.

Get on to a different website

Next, in an attempt to find different information, I decided to use a different database site. In an unusual move I chose My thought was, if I could locate one of the family members in a cemetery maybe by searching the same cemetery I could find the rest. FindaGrave has a handy feature that lets you search the same surname in the same cemetery making searching very easy. You can also then switch over to searching any name in the cemetery.

Jacob George, the son, died in 1909 and is buried in Greenwood cemetery in Indiana, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. There are many Georges buried in Greenwood cemetery. Unfortunately, none of them are his siblings or parents. A general search of for the father, Simon George, in Indiana County, Pennsylvania came up empty. Strike three.

Broadening Out the Search

I was beginning to think that the whole family was hiding behind a new husband's surname not just potentially Lydia. Sometimes census enumerators wrote all the children down with the surname of the head of the household. They weren't helping descendants and future genealogists!

I focused in on Jacob, the only son, and my direct ancestor. I constructed searches with varying information such as a last name and a birth year. And then simply Jacob with a birth year (plus or minus a few years). I had to carefully scan every entry looking to find the other members of the family - mother, Lydia and sisters Sarah, Ann and Susan.


There in the 1860 US Federal Census I found Jacob Murphy born about 1847 listed in the household of Jacob Murphy, head, in Brush Valley. Ironically you might think they were father and son because of their sharing the same name. The rest of the household had wife Lidia (lesson to me to be more careful to look for misspellings!), Sarah, Ann, Susanna and one year old (what looks like) Bullian Murphy. I would imagine the name were really William Murphy but the enumerators Bs and Ws are clearly different on the page. So it appears that Lydia George got remarried to Jacob Murphy sometime between 1857 and 1860.

Post Script

I was relieved to finally solve the mystery of Lydia and her family in the 1860 census. But one mystery leads to the next. As quickly as they are found, they disappear. Jacob Murphy, Lydia and 1 year old son disappear and are no where to be found in the United States in the 1870 US Federal Census. That's another mystery for another day. Some day I will discover when and where Lydia died.

Lessons to Learn

Today's genealogy databases and search engines are very good but they can't make up for errors written into the census. If you are having difficulty finding your ancestors get creative with the spellings of their names (or "loosen" up the search parameters so that you don't search for "exact") or consider that, like in my case, they were hiding under a different surname. Any time there are mixed families in one household this can happen. Not just with second families but also with households that contain grandparents and grandchildren with different surnames. In this case, stop focusing on the surname and search instead for the first name and a birth date.

How would you have solved my dilemma? What tricks do you have up your sleeve for finding missing ancestors in a census record?


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. She hosts the monthly evening webinar on the second Tuesday of each month. She is also the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Her areas of expertise include house history research and southern New England research. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.

Trying out the new MyHeritage Theory of Family Relativity tool

At last week’s RootsTech conference MyHeritage announced a new dna tool called the Theory of Family Relativity. According to their announcement “Through this new feature, we provide you with leads explaining the relationship between your matches based on our entire collection of family trees and historical records, removing the guesswork, and saving you hours of research time." I thought I’d take a moment to put the new feature to the test with my dna results.

I found the Theory of Family Relativity Tool by clicking on the DNA link at MyHeritage and then selecting DNA Matches. Next click on the pink View theories button.


I have five dna matches that have a Theory of Relativity. My first three matches are distant cousins that I have previously messaged and we have been able to determine how we are connected. The MyHeritage Theory of Relativity matches up exactly for those matches.

The third, though known to me already, is of great interest because we are both from a brick wall line. MyHeritage shows us preview information about the theory (see image below). Interestingly enough the shared surnames shown, Johnson and Shaw are not how we are connected. In fact, his descent from our common ancestral couple is not included on his tree at all. That branch of the family is left off. And yet MyHeritage was able to piece our relationship together anyway. The image below shows that the Theory of Relativity predicts that we are 3rd cousins once removed, which is accurate.


In order to view the actual Theory I needed to click the View Theory link which is pink and admittedly very small. I would like it they could make that just a little bit bigger.

So how did MyHeritage figure out our connection?

It compared my tree to a tree found on FamilySearch.  I believe what the algorithym did in this case was to combine information from a FamilySearch tree, the tree of someone who also shared ancestors with my dna match and finally with the very limited tree of my dna match. I can only imagine how that gets processed behind the scenes. Given that there was no  direct online link between us other than our shared dna I'm impressed that the Theory of Relativity figured it out.

Theory of Relativity showing tree explanantion of how I am connected to my match. (only top level shown for privacy)

I have two more Theory of Relativity matches to check out. I don't know yet how we are connected so I'll likely start with the suggestions from MyHeritage and see if I can prove or disprove the connections. So far, with three Theories proven as correct and two left to be determined I'm off to a pretty good start.

Check our your Theory of Family Relativeity results at MyHeritage by checking the DNA matches section of your account.


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Her areas of expertise include house history research and southern New England research. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.

Your Migration Secret Weapon - the New York State Census


Those of us with westward migrating ancestors know how difficult it can be to trace people from their destination to their point of origin and vice versa. Even harder is finding the short stops along the way.

Many genealogists have learned to use the United States Federal Census as a clue to migration. By looking at the birth location of children in a migrating family, we can often determine some of the stops a family made on their journey westward. The only challenge is that the Federal Census is only enumerated every 10 years. That's a big gap!

New York's Role in Migration

New York played a big role in the lives of migrating families. Families who originated in New England often passed through New York, often stopping there for a few years before moving on. New York residents as well joined the migration west heading to Ohio and beyond.

The Trouble with New York

The challenge for many researchers is that the trail goes cold in New York. Vital records for most towns in New York state didn't start until the 1870s or later. If you have New England ancestors traveling west this come as a cold shock when you're used to vital records going back to the 1600s. Researching in New York is frustrating to say the least.

Your New Secret Weapon

All is not lost! You were on the right track when you used the U.S. Federal Census. While we may not have the advantage of New York vital records we do have the New York State Census.

The New York State Census was taken for the years 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915 and 1925. Not all counties in New York have extant records for all years but for 1855-1905 the coverage is very good
with the exception of a few counties.

Each of the census years asks for different information, of varying value to genealogists. It's the 1855, 1865 and 1875 censuses that I want to bring your attention to. These three censuses asked for the county of birth. If
your ancestors are making stops within New York before moving on, this information is invaluable in tracing their steps.

In addition, the three censuses indicate if a person owned land and the 1855 census mentions the “years resident in the town or city”.

An Example in Action

One of my "challenging" families is David Allen, his wife Mariah and their five kids. Between a common surname, transcription errors and migration I was fit to be tied tracking down this family.

Then I found them in the 1855 New York State Census. The family was living in Volney, Fulton City, Oswego County, New York. David was listed as being born Jefferson County, New York according to the 1855 census. His wife Mariah (no maiden name yet discovered) was also born in Jefferson County about 1823. Their first child Henry was born about 1844 also in Jefferson County.

The 1855 New York State Census showing the David Allen family. Please note the image has been altered to show the headers directly above the family listing.
The 1855 New York State Census showing the David Allen family. Please note the image has been altered to show the headers directly above the family listing.

The next child, Elizabeth, only one year younger that Henry, was born in Lewis County. A second daughter, Eleanor, was also born in Lewis County about 1849. The last child, Charles, only 11 months old was born in Oswego County.

This tells me I can place the family in Jefferson County, New York at least up until 1844. They are in Lewis County from about 1845 to no later than 1854. They arrive in Oswego County in time for Charles’ birth around 1854.

But there’s another clue. Column 13 – “Years resident in this city or town” – shows that the Allens have been in Volney, Fulton City for 2 years thus changing their likely arrival date in Oswego County to 1853. Column 20 – “Owners of land” – indicates that the Allen family did not own any land.

This one census helped to clear up where the family started and where they stopped along the way in New York on the travel west. It gave me new locations to search for new records. By 1860 the family had moved on the Manlius, LaSalle County, Illinois.

If your family traveled west during the mid-nineteenth century be sure to check the 1855, 1865 and 1875 New York State censuses (available on to find the clues to solving their migration mysteries.

Unfortunately the Allen family remains a bit of a mystery for me. In the 1880 US Federal Census I find a David Allen, Maria Allen and son Charles Allen of appropriate ages in Faribault, Rice County, Minnesota. But I also find in a different 1880 census a John Slocumb, Elizabeth Slocumb and a widowed Maria Allen living in Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan. A Michigan marriage record indicates that a Libbie Maria Allen born in Lewis County, New York married John Slocumb in 1877. It will take a bit more digging to determine which is my Allen family!

For help researching your New York ancestors see our New York series by expert Jane Wilcox in the Legacy library!


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also a speaker, writer and the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.



A Simple Tip to Bust Genealogy Brick Walls

A Simple Tip to Bust Genealogy Brick Walls

I was recently reminded of a simple yet effective tip for bringing down brick walls.

Yesterday one of my DNA matches contacted me suggesting that we might be connected through the Bair family. That got my attention because the Bairs are one of my brick walls.

Before I go any further, let me tell you that I am an ancestral DNA addict! Not because I think that there is a magic DNA bullet that is going to bring down my brick walls, rather because it might provide the simplest hint that I hadn't seen before. That hint, combined with good old fashioned genealogy research is what solves mysteries.

My new cousin shared her online Ancestry tree with me so that I could see where we might connect. She had already taken a look at my tree. She pointed out that "My Bair's were in Tuscarawas Co., OH, for a time, and Anna Bonfield that you have in your tree died in Tuscarawas Co." She continued, "I would think based on shared DNA our match would be a good ways back, so we just mightn't find it, but it still would be interesting to see if your Bair's relate to the Tuscarawas Bair's."

Anna Bonfield is not a Bair so at first I discounted that. Too hasty, of course! Anna is married to a Bair - my third great grandfather, Jesse Bair.

I decided to look at the information I had on Jesse Bair. Jesse Bair was born 11 Nov 1814 in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Further scanning of his life showed locations such as Stark County, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; and St. Clair, Illinois. Jesse's adult life is pretty clear to me but his parents and roots in Pennsylvania are a mystery.

His wife's death in Tuscarawas, Ohio was nagging at me.

So I went to my Legacy database and did a search for all individuals whose death place or birth place contained Tuscarawas. I didn't bother with listing towns or a state because Tuscarawas is such a unique name. I then selected Create List. 

Searching Legacy Family Tree for individuals in Tuscarawas County

The results brought up, as expected, Anna Bonfield, but also her son James K.P. Bair. A quick peek at his profile showed that he was born in Dover, Tuscarawas, Ohio. I was so focused on my ancestors that I forgot to look at collateral relatives! James is the brother of my second great grandmother, Anna Elizabeth Bair (1850-1881). James' birth places my ancestors right in the same location as the ancestors  of my new distant cousin. Her Jonas Bair married and raised children in Tuscarawas, Ohio for twenty years before heading further west. It places him in the town of Dover exactly at the time my Jesse Bair was there.

James K.P. Bair was born in Tuscarawas County Ohio.
Surprise! James K.P. Bair was born in Tuscarawas County Ohio.

What was my big mistake when researching my Bair brick wall? Not checking each location for other families of the same name!

A quick search in the 1850 census for Tuscarawas County, Ohio revealed over 150 Bairs! I'm only concerned with the oldest generation from Pennsylvania so I narrowed down my search to those born in Pennsylvania.  That brought 26 Bairs to my attention ranging in birth dates from 1791 to 1828. That date range means there's potential that Jesse's father could be hiding in plain sight in Tuscarawas County!

I haven't brought down my brick wall yet. My next task is good old fashioned genealogy research. I need to recreate the Bair families in Tuscarawas County. Yes, it will be a lot of work but if it helps me find parents or siblings for Jesse Bair then it will be worth it!

For more brick wall tips check out "Ten Brick Wall Tips for Beginners" in the Legacy library.


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also a speaker, writer and the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.


Where is my ancestor hiding in that big database?

Often times the large database providers like FamilySearch, Ancestry and FindMyPast will release a really big database that encompasses an entire state or maybe even a whole country. The dates of the database look promising - perhaps you'll see 1610-1950.  You think "Perfect, my ancestor should be in there!"  

But then you search and you don't find them.  What on earth is going on?

There are two issues at play.

First the date range of the database. Let's take a look at the Ancestry database "Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932" as an example. You think to yourself, and rightly so, "But Rhode Island didn't exist in 1582!"

From what I understand (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that it is a standard practice of archivists to title or name a date range so that it encompasses the entire date range found in a record set rather than the logical and expected date range of the jurisdiction (in this case Rhode Island). So for instance, if a record from London, England from 1582 gets recorded in the Rhode Island probate records in 1685 then it is included as part of the date range of the database record set.

Don't worry about the date range of the database. That's actually the smaller of the two issues.

The second issue, and this is the really important one, is that big databases are really made up of a bunch of smaller databases. You will encounter this in most state databases especially when the individual counties have started recording at different times.

Let's take a look at the "Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932" database again. If you go straight to the Search box and type in your ancestor's name you may be frustrated when they don't turn up in the results.

A better approach is to "browse" the database information before using the search feature. 

You'll find the browse feature on the main page of the database on the right hand side. It says "Browse this collection."

Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932

Click on the arrow to the right of the word "Choose" and you will  find a county list. Select the county that your ancestor lived in.

What you'll soon discover is that there are different date ranges for each county. See these examples for Bristol County, Rhode Island and Providence County, Rhode Island.

Bristol County Rhode Island Probate records on
Bristol County Rhode Island Probate records on
Providence County Rhode Island Probate records on
Providence County Rhode Island Probate records on

By determining the date range for your target county through the browse feature you'll be able to figure out in advance whether your ancestor is likely to be included in the database. Knowing that your ancestor's 1685 will is not included in the Bristol County database will save you the frustration of many futile searches.

It's important to keep in mind that there are at least two considerations impacting the date range of any given county.

When you search databases in any of the original colonies you have to consider that counties were formed, divided and re-formed over time. One county may have been formed in the 1600s and another in the 1800s. You really need to understand when counties were formed to know where to find the records you were looking for.

For instance, Norfolk County, Massachusetts was founded in 1793. Records from 1793 to the present will be found in Norfolk County. Records before 1793 will be found in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

The other consideration is that regardless of when a county was formed they may have started recording records at different times from other counties in the same state. What's even worse is it may vary from town to town. 

You can use a tool such as the Research Guidance feature in Legacy Family Tree software as well as research guides such as the FamilySearch Wiki to find out what records were created when for the place where your ancestor lived.

The next time you use a large online database don't get frustrated when your ancestor goes missing! Take charge by understanding specifically what records are included in the database for your specific county. 

For more research strategies from Marian Pierre-Louis see her classes in the Legacy Webinar Library.

Good luck with your research!



For Your Genealogy Toolbox: Social Searcher

Need a time-saver for chasing distant relatives? Here's a social media tool that making tracking folks down a little quicker!

This week on Webinar Wednesday, Lisa Louise Cooke presented "Tap Into Your Inner Private Eye - 9 Strategies for Finding Living Relatives."  (Catch the free replay while you can!) This webinar discussed the many ways you can track down living people, particularly distant cousins who may have information about your ancestors. Lisa discussed many online tools one of which was called Social Searcher.

According to their website, Social Searcher "allows [people] to search for content in social networks in real-time and provides deep analytics data. Users can search without logging in for publicly posted information on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit, Flickr, Dailymotion and Vimeo. Free users can also save their searches and set up email alerts."Social Searcher

In essence this is a time-saver tool. Instead of searching a number of social media sites individually you can use Social Searcher to search all of them at one time.

I gave it a try to see what it could do. In order to protect the privacy of others, I'll use myself as an example.  I started by first typing in my name - Marian Pierre-Louis. To be honest, that didn't work out very well. None of the results returned related to me in any way. You can see in the image below the kind of poor results I got. (Click image to enlarge.)

Social Searcher


However, when I put my name in quotations - "Marian Pierre-Louis" - the results improve greatly. The phrase now appears in the exact phrase box on the left rather than the keywords box.  All of the results related to me. When scrolling down the results you see social media posts that I've shared or interacted with on Google+, YouTube and Twitter.

Social Searcher


Not everyone is going to have as unique a name as I have.  What do you do if distant cousin is named John Smith?  Try searching for the name in quotations plus additional word(s) such as a location, occupation or school.  I tried searching for my name plus the word genealogy. 

This time, instead of typing into the white search box I typed directly into the yellow search parameters boxes on the left side of the screen. I typed genealogy into the keywords box and Marian Pierre-Louis into exact phrase box beneath it.  Then I used the orange search box at the bottom.  The white search box was then updated with genealogy OR "Marian Pierre-Louis." That's not exactly what I was hoping for.

I manually changed the white search box to genealogy AND "Marian Pierre-Louis."  I tried variations on the search terms. Social Search seems to return the best results when you put the most important term first. So changing my search to "Marian Pierre-Louis" AND genealogy  gave better results. You'll have to do some experimenting to get the best results for your searches.

Social searcher


Click on the Advanced options header midway down the screen on the left. This will provide new options such as post types (links, photo, status or video), language and social media sites.

Social Searcher


Social Searcher may take a little experimenting to get your searches right but it is definitely a time saver if you want to search for distant cousins online across multiple social platforms.  Keep in mind that the results only return publicly accessible social media posts and interactions. You'll have to return to more traditional methods if it appears that your distant cousin doesn't have an online presence.

Give Social Searcher a try and have fun!


Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.



The Top 10 Genealogy Classes for November 2015

We've tallied the numbers and made a list of the Top 10 Legacy Family Tree Webinar classes for November 2015! Are your favorite topics or instructors among the list?  Need something new to learn? Use the list to get inspired!

The Top 10 Legacy Classes for November 2015

Each month thousands of Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscribers head for the library to learn new skills and techniques to help improve their genealogy research. Among the now-283 genealogy classes in the library, these were the most frequently played during the month of November 2015.  They aren't necessarily the newest classes but rather the topics that were sought out by our members.

Have you seen any of these classes? Are these among your favorites too? Some of these classes (and topics) might be new to you! Get inspired to learn more and make your genealogy journey more fun!

The Top 10 for November 2015

  1. Complex Evidence - What is It? How Does it Work? And Why Does it Matter? by Warren Bittner

  2. Organizing Your Genetic Genealogy by Diahan Southard

  3. Colonial Immigration - The English Pioneers of Early America by Beth Foulk

  4. Researching with Karen 3! by Karen Clifford

  5. Grand Records of the Grand Army of the Republic (BONUS webinar for subscribers) by Ruby Coleman

  6. Genealogy 101, a 3-Session Course in Beginning Genealogy - Part 1 by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen

  7. Spreadsheets 201 - Excel-lent Examples (BONUS webinar for subscribers) by Mary Kircher Roddy

  8. Using Evernote for Genealogy by Lisa Louise Cooke

  9. I Had My DNA Tested - Now What? by Ugo Perego

  10. Get Organized Using the FamilyRoots Organizer Color-Coding System by Mary Hill

The classes in the Legacy Family Tree Webinar library are a members-only benefit. Not a member? Become one! Or watch the recording of the latest live class which is always available for free for a limited time!