Try Goodreads for Genealogy Inspiration

Are you using Goodreads ? I will admit that I wasn’t until recently. It was one of those websites that I signed up for years ago and then almost as soon as I had, I forgot about it. Recently my nephew helped me to see the importance of Goodreads and how it can be helpful to family historians.

Goodreads website

First, let me explain what Goodreads is. The Goodreads About Us web page states, “Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love.” Wikipedia  explains that Goodreads is “a social cataloging website that allows individuals to freely search its database of books, annotations, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions, surveys, polls, blogs, and discussions.”

To be honest, even though I LOVE books, these website descriptions weren’t enough to interest me. What did finally interest me was the ability to create virtual  “bookshelves” of books I want to read or have read. Goodreads does more than this but I want to focus on this aspect of the app and how it can help family historians.

What really convinced me to give the Goodreads app a try were the experiences and enthusiasm of  those around me. My brother and nephew use it to find new books and track their reading. My brother even challenged himself to set a reading goal for 2018 which you can do via the Goodreads Reading Challenge (you can find this under the More link on the app). Legacy Webinar speaker and archivist Melissa LeMaster Barker (The Archive Lady) says, “I am an avid user of the Goodreads app. I love the fact that I can access my collection of genealogy and archives books that I own anytime and anywhere. This comes in real handy when I am at the bookstore and I am wondering if I have a particular book, I just check the Goodreads app. Also, if I come across a source citation for a particular book in a reference work at the archives, I can check to see if I have that book by checking the app. I can also add genealogy and archives related books to my “to-read list” by just accessing the app and adding the book to the list.”

So after talking to friends and family it became obvious to me that Goodreads would enhance my reading life by tracking genealogy books I read and finding new books  to read to learn about my ancestors' life.

Getting Started

How do you get started with Goodreads? You can sign up for a free account on the Goodreads website or through the mobile app. I suggest that you use the app since that will give you the tools you need away from home at libraries and bookstores. To use the app you will need to first download the free Goodreads app  from your mobile device’s app store. Although you could just use the desktop version of the service, the Scan  feature is only available using a mobile device with a camera (more on this later).

Searching for Books

The Goodreads app is fairly simple to use. Why I fell in love with it is its ability to add books to virtual bookshelves labeled, Want to Read, Currently Reading, and Read. Goodreads allows you to create additional bookshelves. I, of course, created a “genealogy” shelf but I could see this being useful for more specific genealogical topics (think DNA or Eastern European Genealogy). You can view your shelves and the books on them by clicking on My Books at the bottom toolbar of the app.


Two ways to add books to your bookshelves are by searching for a book (click Search at the bottom of the app and then enter a title or author) or  click on the books featured on the Goodreads  home page in  categories like  Trending and Popular or based on what you have read or what your “friends” have read/reading/ or want to read. Yes, Goodreads allows you to “friend” others (family, real life friends, those with similar reading interests) just as you do on other social media websites.

My books 2


Another way to add books is actually my favorite part of the mobile app,  the Scan feature. I don’t know about you but when I’m at a bookstore, the books I’m interested in far outweigh the amount of money I have to spend. So when that happens, you can scan the book’s barcode (look at the back cover) and Goodreads will identify that book and allow you to place it on a bookshelf. Easy! Now when I’m at a library,conference, a bookstore, or even a friend’s house, I can easily upload the books I want to read. And, I can even upload books in my own collection. What a great idea since I’ve bought the same book more than once on several occasions!

Scan book 2

There’s More

I’m just touching the surface of what you can do with Goodreads. Goodreads has other features that will enhance your genealogy as well including the ability to join groups, review what you’ve read,  and connect your Kindle with Goodreads (Goodreads is owned by Amazon) so that you can view your Kindle notes and highlights on the Goodreads app (to learn more about using Goodreads and Kindle together see the Goodreads Help subjects on this topic.)

Use Goodreads for your genealogy? Yes! Keep track of your 2019 genealogy reading goals by using Goodreads to track what you have read and what you want to read.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

Preservation vs Conservation: What's The Difference?

Preservation vs Conservation: What's The Difference?

The two words, "Preservation" and "Conservation" can be confusing. Many people use them interchangeably but truthfully they are not the same.

Let's Talk About It!

First, let's look at some definitions:

Preservation: n. ~ 1. The professional discipline of protecting materials by minimizing chemical and physical deterioration and damage to minimize the loss of information and to extend the life of cultural property. - 2. The act of keeping from harm, injury, decay, or destruction, especially through noninvasive treatment. - 3. Law · The obligation to protect records and other materials potentially relevant to litigation and subject to discovery.

Conservation: n. ~ 1. The repair or stabilization of materials through chemical or physical treatment to ensure that they survive in their original form as long as possible. - 2. The profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future through examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and education.

(Source: Society of American Archivists Glossary Terms

My easy definition and explanation that I like to give to genealogists for these two terms is:

"To preserve something is to protect it, to conserve something is to fix it".

Many genealogists have made commitments to organizing their genealogical records in 2019. This could mean filing piles of paper, putting photos in archival sleeves and putting everything in an archival box or filing cabinet. This is preservation at its best! You are "keeping from harm, injury, decay, or destruction" all those wonderful genealogical records that you have in your care. Preserving those records, photographs, memorabilia and family heirlooms for future generations should be part of every genealogist’s commitment to family history. I always encourage genealogists to actively play a part in preserving the family records in their care. It is also important to educate ourselves on the best practices for records preservation. Knowing how to take care of our precious family records will hopefully ensure that they will survive for generations to come.

Knowing what materials to purchase and how to store our records can make a lasting impact on the survival of these records. Obtaining archival materials such as acid free sleeves, archival boxes and archival tissue paper, just to name a few, can mean the difference in the preservation or destruction of our records. I highly recommend purchasing archival materials from reputable archival stores (see list below). It is important to purchase materials that are acid free, lignin free and that have passed the P.A.T. All three of these should be listed on the packaging or in the description of the product. “P.A.T.” is an acronym that stands for Photographic Activity Test. This is a standard procedure to check for potential chemical reactions between materials used to make enclosures and photographs stored in those enclosures. Any archival materials that lists all three of these standards or at least two of the three is an excellent choice to use for your family records.

Now, let's say you have a photograph that is damaged and you want to "repair or stabilize its original form", then you would need to conserve this photograph. Completing conservation work on your own is not recommended.  Most likely, you will want to seek out a professional conservator that specializes in repairing and fixing photographs. Many genealogists don't feel comfortable doing these types of repairs and if you don't have the knowledge of the materials and methods of conservation, then you need to leave it to the professionals. This is also true when it comes to conservation of paper records. You do not want to cause more damage by doing it yourself. Archivists also seek out professional conservators to help with conservation challenges at their facilities. I have had several items at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives sent out to a conservator for repairs with fantastic results. Knowing our limitations and seeking professional conservation help is the best decision when trying to repair a document or photograph.

Where to find a conservator?

I suggest contacting the state archive in the state where you live. In the United States, all 50 states have a state archives. Most of them have a professional conservator on staff that works with the records in their facility. Some of these conservators will also take on projects from the public. If they do not accept projects from the public, they should be able to give you a reference name and contact information for one they recommend.  There could be different conservators for different mediums such as one for only photographs, one for only documents, etc.

I would also suggest going to the website:

American Institute for Conservation ( They have a section entitled "Find a Conservator" where you can locate someone in your area to help with your conservation problem. You can search for a conservator by “Geographic Location” by entering your postal code and choosing a specific mile radius to search. The site will give you names of conservators in your area that can be of help. There is also an option to choose what type of medium you need help with such as books and paper, textiles, electronic media, etc. There is also a search feature where you can locate a conservator by a specific name. If you know the name of a conservator or were given a name by the state archives, you can search for them. There is even an option to locate a conservator that is willing to travel to where you are to perform the necessary conservation work.

Now you know the different between Preservation and Conservation. I encourage all genealogists to actively preserve your genealogy research, documents, photographs and family heirlooms.

Archival Stores

Gaylord Archival

Hollinger Metal Edge

University Products

Light Impressions


Archival Methods

Print File Archival Storage

To learn more about archives and genealogy visit the Archives section of the Legacy Family Tree Webinars site.

Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, is a Certified Archives Manager currently working as the Houston County, Tennessee Archivist. She is also a professional genealogist and lectures, teaches and writes about the genealogy research process, researching in archives and records preservation. She has been researching her own family history for the past 28 years.

Why You Should Be Using WorldCat Now!

Are you familiar with WorldCat? No? One of my favorite resources, WorldCat  is an important tool for genealogy researchers that can make the difference between finding information you need to document your ancestor and coming up short.


WorldCat describes itself as “the world's largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.”[1] What’s important for you to know is that WorldCat is the world’s library catalog with 2 billion items from 10,000 libraries.


Two billion items. Don’t assume that means two billion books because it doesn’t. No doubt that would be great but like other library catalogs, it includes periodicals, audio recordings, photographs, thesis/dissertations, archival materials, articles, newspapers, and more. So basically all the materials that we should be searching for when we research our ancestors.

What can you find on WorldCat?:

  • Local histories for the place your ancestor lived
  • Transcriptions of cemeteries
  • Maps
  • Indexes for vital records
  • Images of your ancestors hometown
  • Family history books
  • Dissertations detailing the historical era of your ancestor
  • Archival materials that document your ancestor’s membership group

Basically you can find anything having to do with the place, occupation, religion, or events that your ancestor was involved in.

Start using WorldCat by searching your ancestor’s hometown. Now, when I say search by a location that really involves more than one search. So for example, Independence, California is in Inyo County. So I would want to search for “Independence, California” and “Inyo County.” But then I also need to consider regional nicknames for that place which include “Eastern Sierra” and the “Owens Valley.” These searches will help me find records that detail the local history and genealogical records of that area.

Did you notice that I didn’t tell you to search by your ancestor’s name? Why? Because this is a library catalog and not a genealogy database. Genealogy databases are filled with records that are indexed by name, date, and place. Library catalogs are different. So unless your ancestor was famous, infamous or an author, stick to searching by using  keywords that describe a place, an occupation, religious affiliation, or an event.

Let me give you an example of why WorldCat is important.

If I do a search on “Snowflake, Arizona” I receive over 500 results. Snowflake is a small town in northern Arizona where my maternal family lived. These results include all kinds of histories including some religious histories that I’ve seen at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

WorldCat Snowflake all Results

One of the items found in this search is a genealogical report of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the time period my family, including my maternal grandmother, lived in Snowflake. Notice where this item is located.

Worldcat genelaogy report

Now, let me narrow my search so that I'm just looking at archival materials. This search results in  144 hits including interviews and diaries. One of the more interesting archival materials is bank records covering the years 1890-1909 found at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. None of those diaries or letters appear to be written by someone related to me but because this was a small town, it’s possible they knew my ancestors and mentioned them and would be worth checking into.

WorldCat Snowflake Results

So why should you use WorldCat for every research project? WorldCat is where you can identify histories and other materials important to your research. You already know that the FamilySearch Catalog is an essential part of your research. Guess what? FamilySearch’s Catalog is also available in WorldCat. Which for you means that if you find something in the FamilySearch Catalog that is only available onsite at the Family History Library, check WorldCat for the possibility of a closer repository with that same item.

Get Started with WorldCat!

Don’t take my word for it, start using WorldCat now. Conduct a search on the place where your ancestor lived. If too many results appear, narrow it by choosing a specific format (on the left-hand side of the page). See what it can help you identify that you didn’t know about before.


[1] “What is WorldCat,” WorldCat ( accessed 7 December 2018).


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


4 Places to Search for Clues for Maiden Names

4 Places to Search  for Clues for Maiden Names

Researching our female ancestors can be a challenge!

Early laws and traditions meant females did not generate many of their own records.

Names changed upon marriage and multiple marriages meant multiple surnames. Determining your ancestor's maiden name can be especially difficult. 

Often we need to take our focus off of our female ancestor and place that focus on the people around her. Shifting your focus can lead to clues about that elusive female ancestor and her maiden name.

4 Places to Search For Clues to the Maiden Name of Your Female Ancestors

1. Check the Marriage Record

Yes, checking the marriage record is an obvious first step, but did you glean all the clues important to your search? If a marriage is a second marriage, her married name may be the one listed on the document - not her maiden name. In this case, look closely at all of the names on the document. Identify each person and their relationship to the couple. Close family friends of both the bride and the groom often served as witnesses. Potentially, a male relative of the bride can be found providing the researcher with a new research path.

Holt Haley Marriage photoWedding Photo of Clara Holt and William Haley - 1883

2. Research a Female Ancestor's Death Certificate (or Death Record)

Death certificates in the U.S. are relatively "modern" genealogy record. Most states did not begin using a formal death certificate until the 1900's. Death certificates did (and still do) ask for the deceased's parents' names including the mother's maiden name.

If the maiden name is not listed, take a close look at the informant's name. The informant is often someone related to the deceased and could be a brother, uncle, etc. Determine the relationship of the informant to the deceased and research this person if warranted.

3. Explore a Female Ancestor's Children

A woman can be found in her children's records. Tip:  Thoroughly research ALL of a woman's children.

Check each child's death certificate or death record for the mother's maiden name. For example, a search for the maiden name of Harriet Richardson (wife of Daniel T. Richardson), can include analyzing the death certificate of the couple's daughter Esther Richardson Talbott. Harriet Richardson's maiden name is revealed as Elliott.

Example of Mother's Maiden Name State on Death Certificate (Source:

Explore the middle names of a woman's children. In the U.S., using a mother's maiden name for a child's middle name was (and still is) a common practice.  If you are researching outside the U.S. or within a specific ethnic group, learn the common naming patterns. You will then be able to pick out maiden name clues if they exist.

4. Analyze Your Ancestor's Census Record

Census records are not typically a place we search for a woman's maiden name. Clues to a maiden name do exist within these records, but can easily be overlooked.

Once you find your married female ancestor in a census record, look closely at the members of the household. Are one or both of her elderly parents living in the home? A brother and/or an unmarried sister perhaps? 

Alternatively, look at the neighbors. Do you find any potential candidates for her parents? Is anyone about the right age to be her parents living close?  Anyone with a surname that appears as one of her children's names? Research those individual's records for potential clues to your ancestor.

Finding a female ancestor's maiden name is frequently not an easy or quick task. Researchers can easily miss clues to her name in the records.  Shifting the focus of your research to those individuals surrounding your female ancestor can provide the researcher with clues to continue the search.


Learn more about Finding Females in these seven Legacy webinars.


Lisa Lisson is the writer, educator and genealogy researcher behind Are You My Cousin? and believes researching your genealogy does not have to be overwhelming. All you need is a solid plan, a genealogy toolbox and the knowledge to use those tools. Lisa can be found online at , Facebook and Pinterest


Bookmarking - Using the Facebook Save Feature

Are you using Facebook? There are many reasons to use Facebook for genealogy. First of all it’s a great place to get your Legacy Family Tree questions answered. But you probably knew that.

We all have our own reasons for using Facebook but one of mine is to keep up on genealogy resources. I also love to find recipes,  history, and even interesting books to read when I scroll through my Facebook News Feed. I like that Facebook provides me a place to read more about topics that are of interest to me. But let’s face it, we don’t always have time to read an entire article. In some cases I catch a glance at Facebook while I’m waiting at an appointment or when I’m inbetween other tasks. So how can we "bookmark" those Facebook posts that we want to refer to at a later time?

You can Save them.

Facebook has a feature called Saved that allows you to save posts. This feature works slightly different depending on whether you are using it via the website (as you might if you're at your computer) or on the Facebook mobile app. So let’s first  take a look at how it works via the website.

Saving Posts via a Computer

To save a Facebook post, click on the three horizontal dots at the top right of the post. This will reveal a drop-down menu and one of the choices in that menu is to "Save post" (or "Save link"). Click on "Save post." Please note that you can save more than posts. You can also save events, links, and videos.


Now, to see where that post went, go to your Facebook News Feed page, and on the left side under the Explore header, click on Saved (it has a purple bookmark icon next to it).


Your Saved Page on Facebook will show your "Collections" and  all of the posts you have saved.


“Collections” are just that. They are a collection of saved posts that you curate around a topic. They are a way for you to save items that are alike in one group. So you might have a Legacy collection or a Recipes collection or a Social Media Tips collection. You can also add your Saved items to more than one collection if you'd like. You can also delete items once you are done with them.

FB Legacy Collection

Saving Posts via a Mobile Device

If you are using the Facebook mobile app and want to save a post, link, video, or an event, save the items just as you would using Facebook on your computer by clicking the three dots.



When you save, a menu will appear prompting you to add your newly saved item to an existing collection or create a new collection. 



Once you save it to the collection of your choice, click Done.


I love this Facebook feature and most admit I use it frequently. Even if it’s something I want to save temporarily, it’s so much easier to save it to a collection and then later delete it then to try to find where I originally saw it. Consider making a few collections right now for your genealogy interests and see how saving on Facebook can help you make the most of your social media time.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


How to Write a Family History Narrative in 30 Days

Is writing a family history one of the items on your to-do list? Perhaps you have self-doubts and fears about how to get started, what to write, and how to put it all together in a compelling way? The only way to overcome the obstacle of facing the blank page is to make a commitment and start writing! Here are seven tips to help you write a family history narrative in 30 days.

  How to Write a Family History Narrative in 30 Days

1.   Give yourself a deadline. Since 1999, National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) has served as an online writing forum where registered participants begin working on November 1 towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. See I have participated in NANOWRIMO twice. If this sounds intimidating, you can create your own version of NANOWRIMO for your family history writing project. While you don’t have to write 50,000 words, you can commit to producing a draft of your narrative using the November 1-30 deadline as a guide. The pace you set is entirely up to you.

2. Find your focus. Many family historians mistakenly think they have to write one large manuscript in their first attempt. It is much easier to focus on a smaller project such as ancestor profiles, or on one event or time period of an ancestor’s life (immigration story, military service, work history, etc.). You will feel less overwhelmed working on a smaller project and more likely to finish what you've started.

3. Set SMART writing goals. One way to focus your project is to set SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym giving criteria to guide in the setting of objective. There are a number of interpretations of the acronym's meaning, the most common designations are: Specific, Measurable, Relevant (Realistic), Attainable (Actionable) and Time-Bound. Here is an example of a SMART writing goal for writing four ancestor profiles in 30 days.

  • Specific - I will write a profile for each of my grandparents (4 profiles). I will work on one profile per week.
  • Measurable – I will write a profile for each of my grandparents. I will write 1200-1500 words for each profile.
  • Attainable (Actionable) - I will write a 1200-1500-word profile for each of my grandparents. For each profile, I will write 250-300 words per day for 5 days.
  • Relevant (Realistic) – I will write a 1200-1500-word profile for each of my grandparents. I will work on one profile per week. I will do this by writing 250-300 words per day for five days.
  • Time-Bound – I will write a 1200-1500-word profile for each of my grandparents. I will work on one profile per week. I will do this by writing 250-300 words per day for five days. I will have all four profiles completed by 30 November 2018.

By breaking your writing tasks into smaller daily or weekly goals the process becomes less overwhelming and you are more likely to stick to your writing routine.

4. Craft a storyboard. A storyboard is a way to visually outline or map out your writing project. It helps to plot out your family history writing project using index cards or a project management tool like Scrivener.  (To learn more about Scrivener, watch my five-part Legacy Family Tree webinar series). The objective of the storyboard is to jot down the main events of the story you are telling, then arrange them in chronological order (first to last). If you need to, you can then move them around to create another structure that makes sense for the story, such as a flashback. Virtual index cards created with a program such as Scrivener make this task much easier. The index cards should be used to describe your scenes or write down key points you want to include, but should not contain long sections of text.  Try to stick to one scene, event, or major point per card. For storyboarding tips, watch the Legacy Family Tree Webinar “Storyboard Your Family History.”

5. Write daily. The premise of NANOWRIMO is to write every day. It is important that you schedule time to write. Block out writing time on your calendar and make every effort to adhere to that appointment just as you would any other commitment. To succeed at finishing your family history narrative you must be willing to put in the time and effort. If you need to block out distractions (social media, e-mail, etc.) choose a quiet place to write where you can shut the door and turn off all electronic devices, or if you need to leave the house, consider going to a library or coffee shop to write. If you are really serious about distraction-free writing, edit lock tools such as The Most Dangerous Writing App or WriteorDie force you to set parameters and stick to them otherwise your words will disappear!

6. Rest and revise. Once you have a draft, it is a good idea to let your writing rest. Put your draft aside, and have someone you trust read your prose and provide feedback. Then, go through your narrative and fix the punctuation, grammar, and any other problem areas. When you finish, you can decide whether to create a book (print or electronic) using a print-on-demand service such as Lulu, or share your stories on a blog. 

7. Remember: You Can’t Edit a Blank Page! You don’t have to write the perfect narrative the first time you sit down at your keyboard. Avoid the paralysis of perfectionism. Just write something. Once you start you will build up a momentum to finish the story.

While November is a great time to start that family history narrative (just in time for holiday gift-giving), you can follow these seven steps during any 30-day time period.

No more excuses! Stop procrastinating and start writing!


For over two decades, author and instructor Lisa A. Alzo has been educating and inspiring genealogists around the world to research and write about their ancestors. She has presented 44 webinars for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, include nine on Writing and Publishing. Lisa coaches aspiring family history writers through her online courses at Research, Write, Connect 


3 Underused Resources for Finding Eastern European Ancestors

3 Underused Resources for Finding Eastern European Ancestors

While church registers are the most popular and useful sources for tracing most Eastern European ancestors, and civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths provide even more details, there are other record groups to be searched that may prove useful. If you are coming up empty in the search for vital records in a particular locality, here are three of the most underused resources to put on your research list.

1. Census Records

As you probably learned from exploring U.S. or Canadian census records for your ancestors, the prime value of census records is for grouping families together. In Eastern Europe, censuses were usually taken for tax and military conscription purposes. Searching census records can be hit or miss depending on the country, the region, and whether or not registers have been preserved. Because of shifting borders and the destruction of records during wartime hostilities, only relatively small portions of certain record groups survived in many instances. Therefore, you should check registers of births, marriages, and deaths (not census records) first, opposite of what genealogists typically do when looking at North American records for their ancestors. Also look for census substitutes such as city or parish directories or confession lists.

As you search for census records, keep in mind the two keys to successful research in Eastern Europe:

1. You must learn the immigrant’s original name
2. You need to obtain the specific name of town or village of origin

These steps are typically accomplished by a reasonably exhaustive search in records where your immigrant ancestor settled (for example, US and Canadian records).

As shown in the example below, I was able to locate the Figlyar family in the Slovakia Census, 1869 Szepes Oszturnya (Osturňa). These returns are digitized and available through the FamilySearch website. Because the database is “browse only” it is essential to know the village name with its Hungarian spelling (Oszturnya) since at the time Slovakia was administratively under control of the Hungarian half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as the historical Hungarian country name (Szepes).

Slovakia Census, 1869," images, FamilySearch ( : 3 November 2015), Szepes > Oszturnya (Osturňa) > image 49 of 610; Bytča, Banská Bystrica, and Nitra Regional Archives.

A good first step to determining what might be available for the locality you are researching is to use the FamilySearch Wiki and click on the country (e.g. Slovakia). Then, click on the link for “Census” (where available) to get more information. You should also search the Family History Library Catalog by Place and then look for the Census category keeping in mind that not all records of the Family History Library have been digitized and some records are still only available on microfilm.

Websites by individuals and organizations may also contain indexes or images of census and other types of data sets. An online search query for the country name and the word “census” can often link you to these resources, or use the Online Records button on the FamilySearch Wiki page for the specific country and click the Blue Button that says Online Records to get to a chart with links to country wide collections. For example, Russia Online Records shows under the Census category a link to a FamilySearch collection Russia, Tatarstan Confession Lists, 1775-1932, which serves as a census substitute.

2. Occupational Records

While many of my ancestors were peasant farmers, I also discovered ancestors who worked in specific trades (My great-grandfather, Mihaly Fencsak was a bootmaker and my other great-grandfather, Andrej Straka worked as a tailor). You may be able to find guild records or occupational directories. Since guilds were associations of professionals with similar economic interests based on a certain craft or trade (such as tannery, metalworking, tailoring, and shoemaking, among others), some of these records are still in the possession of the guilds, others have been collected into local, city, regional, or state archives. Sometimes paperwork is found in home and family sources. For example, below is a scanned image of pages 2 and 3 of my grandfather’s 15-page worker pass book from Hungary. In order to learn the details, I hired someone to translate the pages from Hungarian into English. In addition, to listing his date of birth, and that he was Greek Catholic, the worker pass contained a physical description of my grandfather (low figure, a round face, gray eyes, regular nose, healthy teeth and brown/maroon hair) and he had an apprenticeship certificate and his occupation was listed as a cartwright assistant/helper.


Online sources such as the Czech Occupation Dictionary and the Industry and Trade Directory of Hungary in 1891 with an alphabetical list of occupations and industries can help you learn more about occupations. [NOTE: these are just two examples—you will likely find more].

3. Town or Village Genealogies or Histories

Town genealogies are known by various names, including “town lineage book,” “local heritage book,” “one-place-studies,” “Ortssippenbuch (OSB),” and “Ortsfamilienbuch (OFB). You can find a list of these on The Odessa Digital Library has a Village History Project and links to Village Records and Compilations.

One of my favorite research discoveries is a page from a local history book Dejiny Osturne that contains a copy of an 1855 summons for Jan Figler (one of my ancestors) to appear at the Mayor’s office. While the notice does not give any additional details, it does provide historical context for this particular family.

If you are a Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscriber, you can view a copy of this record in the syllabus for “10 Eastern European Genealogy Resources You Might Be Missing.”

Town or local history books may reside in the local mayor’s office, the town hall, library or museum, or if you are lucky they could be available online. A simple search of your ancestral town or village can lead you to its website where you may find historical images and information, and often contact information for the mayor. For example, the website for my grandmother’s village of Milpoš contains a section on its history. While the Milpoš site is in Slovak, I opted to have Google Chrome translate the page into English. Also, don't forget to search Facebook for town and village pages. 

Continuing Your Search

FamilySearch and other online resources such as Google Books, Internet Archive and personal, archival, or organizational websites are excellent places to start looking for miscellaneous records. However, keep in mind that many of these hard to get resources may only be available in printed format in books kept by the town or village offices, or documents housed in state, regional, or local archives. Remember, there is no easy button when it comes to tracking down overlooked records for your ancestors, but if you are lucky enough to do so they may provide additional clues for further research.

Learn more Eastern European research tips from Lisa's classes on Legacy Family Tree Webinars. 


For over two decades, author and instructor Lisa A. Alzo has been educating and inspiring genealogists around the world to research and write about their ancestors. She has presented 44 webinars for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, including nine on Eastern European research. Visit her website

Genealogy + Yelp = A Surprisingly Good Combination

Genealogy + Yelp = A Surprisingly Good Combination

Are you familiar with Yelp?

Yelp is a free local search program that helps the user find eateries, entertainment and home services in a specific area. When traveling or just looking for a new place to eat with my family, Yelp is the go-to app on my phone. 

But, can Yelp be used for genealogy research purposes? Absolutely!

Why You Want To Use Yelp for Genealogy Purposes

  • If you are planning a genealogy research trip, use Yelp to find unique repositories in your specified area.
  • If you find yourself unexpectedly in an area, use Yelp to see what genealogy repositories or research sites are close by and open.  
  • Use Yelp to find libraries, cemeteries, local museums, local archives and even genealogical societies.
  • Use Yelp to find local restaurants or coffee shops. After all, a researcher has to eat and researchers do not like to wander too far from a repository!

Yelp can be accessed either from your laptop or from the free app available for your smartphone. Tip: Install the Yelp app on your phone for on-the-go research.

Let's Take A Closer Look At Yelp 

1.Navigate to or open the Yelp app on your phone.  (Find directions to download the free app here.)

2.Type in your search terms.

For our example, we will be searching Portland, OR for genealogy resources. 


 Tip: Try searching  "genealogy" and "family history". The search term "genealogy" seems to consistently yield more results than "family history" for U.S based searches. In United Kingdom searches, "family history" yielded more results.

Our search results yielded 4 potential genealogy research repositories to explore. Notice results include libraries, cultural or community centers AND a genealogy society(!). 


3.To learn more about a repository or library, simply click the entry. Clicking the first result for The Genealogical Forum of Oregon brings the user to the Yelp entry for the group.


On the left side is the basic information of address, phone number, link for directions and the website for The Genealogical Forum of Oregon. Click the website link to learn even more about this entry.

GFO Genealogical Forum of Oregon

Ready to make a visit? Back on the Yelp results page, click "Get Directions" and you are ready to be off.

4. Find insider tips about a repository and genealogy research by finding User Reviews found underneath a repository's entry.  Be sure and leave your own review, too!


Now it's your turn. Explore Yelp with your own examples.

Search for  local "museums" or "historical sites" in your area of interest to learn more about the social context of the time and place your ancestor lived. 

(And when you get hungry....fine local eateries in the area.)



Lisa Lisson is the writer, educator and genealogy researcher behind Are You My Cousin? and believes researching your genealogy does not have to be overwhelming. All you need is a solid plan, a genealogy toolbox and the knowledge to use those tools. Lisa can be found online at , Facebook and Pinterest

3 Tips To Fine Tune Your Census Research

3 Tips To Fine Tune Your Census Research

Census  records are some of the first genealogy records  researchers use to begin tracing their ancestors. Tracking an ancestor through the years and generations is exciting and often yields quick results. Once we find an ancestor on one census record, we tend to proceed quickly to the next census record and the next.

Eventually, we can go no further in our census research and are left to wonder - "Now what?"

In our excitement of discovering our ancestors,  we miss vital clues in the census records leading to other helpful records.

3 Tips to Fine Tune Your Census Research

The examples in these tips are based on U. S. census research. However, the tips themselves are applicable to all census research regardless of the country.

Tip #1 - Read and make note of information under every column heading.

Each census recorded different information. Later census records can contain quite a bit of detail on our ancestors. Beyond an individual's name, age or birth date make note of things such as:

  • Is a land value listed?  If so, this indicates your ancestor owned land.  Pursue land records for your ancestor. 

    1870 Pennsylvania Census - Land Value
    1870 US Census (Source:
  • Is the indicated marriage a second marriage? If so, expand your research for previous marriages. Typically, a first or second marriage is not indicated, but I have found enough instances in my personal genealogy research to make sure I check.
  • Is an individual's occupation listed? Knowing an ancestor was a factory worker can differentiate him from someone of the same name who was a photographer in other records. 

Tip #2 - Study the individual household and determine if the information recorded in the census makes sense. 

  • Consider a family with a husband, wife and four children. Look carefully at the ages/birth dates and the marriage date (if provided). Are the ages of each child appropriate to be the children of the wife listed? Or do the ages of some of the children pre-date the couple's marriage date?  This could indicate the named wife is a second wife and a need for further research into the marriage records is warranted.
  • Do all of the individuals in the household have the same surname? If not, consider the question "Why not?." Research into each of the individuals to determine the relationship to the head of the household is warranted. Clearly defining the individuals in the household can potentially reveal collateral ancestors important to your future research.

Tip #3 - Use that census records to learn more about your ancestor's community.

To break down genealogy brick walls and progress our research, genealogy researchers must  understand the community where our ancestors lived. 

  • Once you find your ancestor in the census, read the census record 4-5 pages prior to the entry and 4-5 pages after the entry. Consider who was living close. Do you recognize the surnames of collateral ancestors or ancestors of the same surname? Take a look at the birth place column. do you see a common migration pattern from a certain state or country?  You could be looking at a group or chain migration of individuals. If so, look into the history of the town or county further to narrow down an area to research.
  • The occupation column mentioned above can hold clues to the lives of a community's residents. Is there a "popular" or common occupation among the community's residents? Determine if that occupation created records benefiting your research.  For example, did you ancestor work for the railroad? Check for railroad company records.  
    Railroad Record
    Example of a California Railroad Employment Record (Source:

Find an in-depth look of the 1910 U.S. census in What Is The 1910 Census Telling You About Your Ancestor?

Spend time in the census records this week.  Take your time. 

What might you have missed in your previous research?

Learn even more from the many census classes in the Legacy Library!


Lisa Lisson is the writer, educator and genealogy researcher behind Are You My Cousin? and believes researching your genealogy does not have to be overwhelming. All you need is a solid plan, a genealogy toolbox and the knowledge to use those tools. Lisa can be found online at , Facebook and Pinterest


4 Great Image Collections from the New York Public Library Digital Collections

4 Great Image Collections from New York Public Library Digital Collections

Let me just start off by admitting that I’m in love with the New York Public Library Digital Collections. Why? Because it’s in these web pages that you can find books, ephemera, maps, and images that would otherwise not be easily available. Like an online museum, I could get lost in studying these digitized items (don’t even get me started on Anna Atkin’s Photographs Of British Algae ) that help us better understand history and ultimately our ancestors.

The New York Public Library’s Digital Collections is a “living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more.” For the family historian it is a place to discover materials to research your ancestor as well as add social history context. In some cases these items are grouped into a “collection” and in others they are just solitarily digitized items just waiting to be discovered. This collection of over 746,000 items is huge in scope and depth but the following items from the collection give you an idea of its value.

New York City Directories

New York City Directories found in the Digital Collections span the years 1786 to 1934. These are digitized books and the Digital Collection's  viewer allows you to page through the book, zoom, rotate, and even print. Each book’s page includes card catalog information as well as links to other websites with the same digitized content (such as the website Digital Public Library of America).

Yizkor Book Collection 

The genealogically rich memorial books in the Yizkor Book Collection document communities destroyed in the Holocaust. “Most often privately published and compiled through the collective efforts of former community residents, they describe daily life through essays and photographs and memorialize murdered residents.” The Yizkor Book  Collection’s About information states that the New York Public Library's holdings include about 730 books but fewer that number can be found in this digitized collection. Please note that these books are in Hebrew or Yiddish.

Summer Excursions for 1874

 Ok, this book isn’t for everyone but I wanted to mention it because it is so unique and it’s a perfect example of what social history can be found in the Digital Collections. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s Summer Excursion Routes for 1874 appears to be incomplete (the introduction states that the book includes 300 routes)  on the website but this travel brochure  gives us a peek at what ephemera our ancestors may have had access to and, those with the funds, may have influenced them. We often think about our ancestor’s immigration or migration but don’t consider other travels that they could have taken including those to visit family or just for a holiday. As the introduction to this pamphlet concludes, "A glance through its pages cannot prove uninteresting, and may serve to guide summer travelers into pleasant, interesting, and profitable channels.”


Nypl.digitalcollections.510d47db-33ee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w (2)

Of course you knew I couldn’t write about a website without pointing out what food history is available! The Digital Collections actually has more than one menu collection but the largest is the Buttolph Collection of Menus which has almost 19,000 menus. “The menu collection originated through the energetic efforts of Miss Frank E. Buttolph (1850-1924), a somewhat mysterious and passionate figure, whose mission in life was to collect menus. In 1899, she offered to donate her existing collection to the Library -- and to keep collecting on the Library's behalf” which she did until her death in 1924, amassing over 25,000 menus (not all have been digitized).

So why is this collection important for family history? Menus provide us information about what foods were eaten during a specific place and time, prices, as well as  food availability. Food history is an important part of family history and menus can provide some valuable information in that pursuit.

747,888 and Counting

No blog post could list every collection from the New York Public Library Digital Collections that I love. My hope is to  just to give you a taste of what’s available. Don’t ignore this digital gallery because you don’t have New York ancestors. Yes, there are New York specific items but there’s so much more than that including North American maps, US postcards, and social history items that can help you better understand your ancestor’s life.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.