3 Ways to Ease into Social Media to Connect with Other Genealogists

3 Ways to Ease into Social Media to Connect with Other Genealogists

Have you wanted to find other genealogists who share your enthusiasm for genealogy? Social media is a great way to connect with other genealogists whether they are close to home or live half way across the country or the world. If you're new to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it can be a little overwhelming to dive right in. Don't let that stop you from joining the online genealogy conversation.

Here are three ways you can ease into social media and connect with others. These three methods all involve interacting with content that other people have posted. The first step in getting involved is to show other people that you've connected with what they've shared.

3 Ways to Ease into Social Media to Connect with Other Genealogists

#1 Liking

Liking is the easiest way to engage with a social media post. Depending on the platform, liking consists of clicking on an icon showing a thumbs-up, heart, or another image. This indicates that you agree with the post's message. Liking only takes a second. The drawback is that if someone wants to see the names of everyone who liked the message, they need to hover their mouse over the icon to see the names of those who engaged with the post. 


The other drawback of liking is that you don't know why the person "liked" or engaged with the post. It could have been in support of the poster. It may have nothing to do with whether they agree or know the information is accurate. However, it is a good, fast way to show support.

#2 Commenting

Commenting on a post is one way to engage with the poster and its audience. As genealogists, we read social media posts that include news, methodology questions, and events. Commenting can lend support to the person posting or sharing information. So, for example, a comment can show our support to people when they are celebrating an accomplishment. 

Commenting allows us to crowdsource problems. Some genealogy groups are precisely for that purpose. For example, if you're a member of the Legacy Family Tree group, you can learn the latest and ask questions about using Legacy Family Tree. A staff member or another Legacy user will answer your question.

Replying to a comment on social media provides the opportunity to type or like a previous comment, as in this example from Facebook.


My one caution about commenting is to remember that an online conversation differs from one done face-to-face. In person, I can get clues from your body language, facial expressions, and tone that you are joking or being sarcastic. It's more difficult to judge that from a typed message. Remember that commenting doesn't allow for nuances, so keeping remarks straight and to the point is best. Keep in mind that some Facebook groups have community guidelines that must be adhered to.

#3 Reposting

On Twitter, reposting is called Retweeting. On Facebook, it's called Sharing. Simply, reposting is when you share what someone else has posted. Reposting shows the original post, and you can add information at the top. In this example from Facebook, I shared a post from Legacy to my News Feed and added some info.


Reposting is perfect for adding to the conversation by providing more information, agreeing to the post, sharing to benefit others, or supporting the poster.


Social Media is a Conversation

Stop using social media as a passive news source and start engaging. Its time for you to interact with other genealogists. I use social media to share information that will benefit others, promote my presentations and blog posts, and support the genealogy community. Social media is where we can gather, so don't scroll by, add your expertise.


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.

What Are Your Hidden Sources?

What Are Your Hidden Sources?

In 2000 the book, Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places by Laura Szucs Pfeiffer was published. The premise was simple. The book was essentially a list of sources that genealogists rarely used. Each article included information about that record, why it was helpful, where to find it, and additional readings. While this book is focused on American research, some of the record sets can be found outside of the United States and may help the reader consider what records they are missing in their research. 

When this book was published, I devoured it. I wanted to know how to do good genealogical research. That quest required me to know records that held genealogical context, including records that genealogists didn't typically use. Now, mind you, this was when many of these records had to be found by doing in-person research at a government office, library, or archive. While there were a few items online, there wasn't anywhere the number of digitized records we enjoy today.

Some of the records discussed in the book are today considered familiar online records, such as city directories, newspapers, obituaries, military records, court records, and deeds. The main reason they are familiar to today's researchers is the benefit of digitized documents. As more records are made available, we as researchers become more familiar with records that were once difficult to obtain and may have been ignored because of the difficulty. That's why even if an older relative researched your ancestors, you need to see what you can find. Access to records changes over time.

But even today, some of the records written about in Hidden Sources are still what I would consider "hidden" or unusual. They include:

  • Admiralty Papers
  • American State Papers
  • Bankruptcies
  • Fraternal Organization Records
  • Homestead Records
  • Necrologies
  • US Government Documents and Publications
  • Works Progress Administration records

As I peruse the book today, I realize I use most of the records listed and benefit from the digitization of many. But there are some I have never used and don't think about when researching.

One of the records mentioned in the book is midwife records. I have seen some of these records, but overall I haven't used them in research. And although I do know where some are located, I need to do a better job of looking at what might exist where my ancestors lived. I plan to work on this gap in my record knowledge.

So my question for you is, what are unusual or hidden record sources that you haven't used? What records do you want to know more about?


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.


Three Resource Wikis for Genealogy

Remember when you were young and needed to know more about a subject? You might go to the library (or your front room if you were lucky) and consult an encyclopedia. The encyclopedia had articles on just about everything. 

Today, encyclopedias exist online, but they are not the only works to consult. Wikis are like crowdsourced encyclopedias that can help you with answers to your questions. They introduce a subject, define key terms, and help you learn about a subject. All kinds of wikis exist, with the most familiar being Wikipedia. For genealogists, there are some genealogy-specific wikis that can help us learn more and conduct better research. The following are three examples.

FamilySearch Research Wiki 

FS Wiki


Any discussion of wikis has to begin with the wiki that is synonymous with the phrase "genealogy wiki." The FamilySearch Research Wiki has over 105,000 articles (and growing) about everything from locations to methodology to individual records. Use it to better understand the location you're researching and what records exist. Also, check the wiki for record sets found on FamilySearch.

Remember that this is not a place to search for your ancestor. The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a place to learn about genealogy, record types, methodology, and research in your ancestor's location.



The ISOGG Wiki (International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki) is the place to learn about genetic genealogy. According to the homepage, "The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) was founded in 2005 by DNA project administrators who shared a common vision: the promotion and education of genetic genealogy. Our mission is to advocate for and educate about genetics as a genealogical research tool and promote a supportive network for genetic genealogists. This wiki was established for the benefit and education of the genetic genealogy community."

With 734 articles currently, you can learn more about DNA tests, DNA testing companies, methodology, and topics of interest to those searching for birth parents. Take some time to scroll down the homepage to learn more about how to search the wiki.



A German wiki, this website explains: "The aim of the GenWiki is to collect information from all areas that are important for genealogical research and to make it freely accessible. Above all, GenWiki wants to help people to help themselves. The aim is not to present finished research results or theories, but to provide instruments and show ways and means that every genealogist needs or must know to achieve their research results." Use the menu on the left or the center to find pages of interest.

What Wiki Are You Reading?

Wiki's can be helpful to refer to when you are researching. They can enhance what you know about research, a location, or a methodology. If you're not using a wiki already, try some searches today and see how you can enhance your research. 


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 Analyze a Letter for Genealogical Clues

How to Analyze a Letter for Genealogical Clues

Last week we discussed analyzing envelopes, so this week, let's look at what lies within the envelope, a letter.

Like an envelope, there's more than meets the eye when looking at a letter. The letter may not seem to hold genealogical value because it does not include vital record events, but it can provide insight into both the writer and the receiver's lives.

Analyze and Transcribe

As you begin your analysis, take a look at the letter and note:

  • Who is the letter addressed?
  • Who is the letter from?
  • What are the dates listed?
  • What is the return address?

Most of us know there is a standard format to letter writing, but that format may or may not be present in a letter written to a family member. The information listed above provides some foundation information about the letter that should be noted as you transcribe and analyze.

Now, transcribe the letter. You may be asking, why? In my opinion, not only does transcribing the letter make it easier to read (in the case of handwritten letters), it helps to preserve the letter, and it also allows you to annotate and make a note of important aspects of the letter, such as:

  • Names
  • Places
  • Events
  • Descriptions
  • Stories

As you transcribe, you can use square brackets [ ] to add information, add clarification, or correct misspellings. You could even use tools in your word document program to highlight and add comments.

Once you have transcribed the letter, you might want to add a page to summarize what you have learned from the letter. What are the key points? What information should be followed up on in records or newspapers? What questions do you have? What are your research plan and research questions?

I also like to create a timeline in a table. In the first column, I add the date the letter was written (or postmarked) and list them chronologically in the first column). Subsequent columns include the place, the name of the writer/recipient, a few points of the letter, and a source citation. You can also add a column to include next steps or records to look for.

Letters as Genealogy Sources

Letters are an excellent genealogical source, regardless of who wrote or received them in your family. Analyzing them can lead to clues and records that will enhance your genealogy. Take some time to take a second look at the letters in your files to enhance your family history story.


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 Analyze an Envelope for Genealogical Clues

How to Analyze an Envelope for Genealogical Clues

I love antique stores. When I go to an antique store, there are a few items I can't resist. Yes, vintage cookbooks are a weakness, but another is one that many genealogists have. I can't resist the allure of vintage postcards and letters.

I am naturally curious about history and people who lived generations ago. Their writings can help us understand them, their lives, and their era. So I buy other people's correspondence, take them home, and then get to transcribing, researching, and analyzing. Researching those letter writers and receivers is a natural step. That requires transcribing names, dates, and places and then seeking out those names in "name lists," such as the census or city directories. But how do we analyze correspondence before we even start the research?

We must consider all parts of the correspondence as essential, not just what the letter tells us. One often overlooked item is the envelope. 

The Envelope.

Letter 3 annotated

1. Recipient's name and address. 2. Sender's name and address 3. Postmark 4. Stamp 5. Cancellation


What can an envelope tell us? Consider the following:

  1. Type of envelope. What is the size and color? Is it part of a letterhead set?
  2. The front of the envelope. Notice the envelope in general. Is the envelope hand addressed or typewritten? What language are the words in?
    • Who is the letter from? Is there a name and return address? Is it from a different person or the person receiving the letter?
    • Who is the letter addressed to? Is there a formal title (for example, Mrs./Miss/Dr) if it is addressed to a "Mrs"? Is the name that follows her husband's? Is the name a "proper" name, a nickname, or incorrect?
    • What address is the letter addressed to? Is it a street address, "general delivery," a P.O. Box, APO, or a non-residence?
    • If this letter is part of a letter collection, timeline the addresses to determine the recipient's movements.
    • Is a postage stamp used? If so, what kind? You can look online or in a stamp catalog to learn more about it. If there is no postage stamp, why?
    • What does the postmark indicate? What place, date, and time (if applicable) was the letter postmarked? Is it far from the return address? Was it postmarked several times in different places? How did the envelope travel? (by air, for example?)
    • What about the stamp's cancellation mark? Does the cancelation mark have words or just lines? Does it appear to have been done by a machine, a stamp, or a hand? Does it provide any clues?
    • Are there other marks on the envelope, such as a black line outlining the shape, that may indicate a death?
  3. The back of the envelope
    • Is there any writing on the back? Perhaps a return address or a note?

Studying the envelope might explain how a person was addressed at a particular time, whether they were married or not, and possible immigrant origins.

Philatelic + Genealogy

Haven't considered the envelopes of your ancestral letters before? It's an excellent time to take a second look. The website PhilGen has several articles that include an analysis of envelopes that you might find helpful. The website's author, James R. Miller, has written a book that further delves into the topic. "Philatelic Genealogy, Old Envelopes, Letters, and Postcards as Genealogical Sources presents 100 old envelopes and postcards to show how they serve as sources of genealogical information." Websites such as Linn's Stamp News provides information about the history of stamps worldwide. Postal museums may include online articles and exhibits that can shed light on our ancestor's use of the postal system of their country. Wikipedia has a list of postal museums by country.

As we analyze sources left behind by our ancestors, we need to consider the whole source and, in the case of correspondence, including the envelope. Taking a second look might provide you with additional clues to follow up.

Next read: How to Analyze a Letter for Genealogical Clues


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.


Finding and Using Digital Collections for Genealogy

Finding and Using Digital Collections for Genealogy

Are you using digital collections in your genealogical research? They are an essential resource that can easily be accessed from your home or in the repository you are researching. 

What are Digital Collections?

Digital collections are one of the benefits of an online repository that can scan and host all types of records, images, periodicals, and books. Anderson Archival defines a digital collection or a digital library as:

 …any collection of files that has been digitally preserved and is accessible on the Internet or through software. A digital library may contain manuscripts, newspapers, books, journals, images, audio, and video.[1]

For family historians, digital collections provide ease of access to documents, images, books, periodicals, and other materials that would typically require us to travel to a repository.

Where to Find Digital Collections

Digital collections can be hosted by libraries, archives, museums, businesses, or even individuals. While some are housed at a repository in a specific location (for example, the New York Public Library), that doesn't mean they only have materials for their city, state, or country. Exploring large repository digital collections may provide opportunities to discover items pertinent to the family or location you are researching.

Digital collections exist because of the dedication or mission of the entity that wants to take items they house and make them available either for free or by an online subscription. It makes sense that a university might scan and make available its yearbooks and then make available subscription digital collections for their students and faculty. In addition, there are examples of individuals making digitized materials available from their own collection or because of their passion for that record (consider Thomas Tryniski's Fulton History).

As you contemplate your research, consider what repositories exist in your research location and the state/province. Then look at their websites and notice any digital collections pertinent to your research. In addition, consider more extensive national and international collections to add to your research plan.

Examples of Digital Collections

The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list of digital collections, they are instead some that you might want to look into or will inspire you to search for those that would benefit your research:


Because it's online doesn't mean you can use a digitized item for publishing projects. Digital collections provide copyright statements. Consult these before using the digitized item in any publication online or off.

What Digital Collections are you Using?

Are you using a digital collection for your research? Is it a collection not mentioned above? Please share with us your favorites. Together we may discover digital collections that can break down a research brick wall.

[1] "What Is a Digital Collection or a Digital Library?" Anderson Archival (https://andersonarchival.com/learn/what-is-a-digital-collection-or-digital-library/: accessed 8 February 2023).


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.


Finding Online Records

Finding Online Records

Most likely, you have heard of and/or used the FamilySearch Research Wiki. There's a lot to love about the wiki, with its over 105,000 articles about locations, records, and genealogy methodology. But there's one wiki page you should be looking at each and every time you start researching a specific location.

That Blue Button

When you search the FamilySearch Research Wiki by location, such as a country or a state/province, you will have access to information that can help you further your knowledge of that area and the existing records. But there's a shortcut to help you understand what records are online to help you start your research.

FS Canada Wiki homepage

This blue button is labeled [Location] Online Genealogy Records. Click on it to find a list of links for online genealogy records. These links are for records found within FamilySearch and other websites, including subscription websites.

FS Wiki

These online records links are grouped according to category. These subject categories will be familiar to those who use the FamilySearch Catalog. These categories include the following, as well as additional categories that are specific to that country or region:

  • Vital Records (subcategories: Birth, Marriage, Death, and Divorce)
  • Adoption
  • Bible Records
  • Biographies
  • Business Records
  • Cemetery Records
  • Census
  • Church Records
  • Compiled Genealogies
  • Court and Criminal Records
  • Cultural Groups
  • Directories
  • Histories
  • Immigration Records
  • Land Records
  • Military
  • Naturalization
  • Newspapers
  • Obituaries
  • Occupations
  • Periodicals
  • Probate Records
  • Religious Records
  • School Records
  • Taxation
  • Voter Lists

The list will indicate the title of the collection, the entity that hosts the collection (such as FamilySearch), if the collection includes indexes and/or images, and if there is a cost (indicated by a "$"). You should start with the country, then go to the state/province page, and then you can search a county page, but those pages will only contain links for a larger region (depending on what is available).

FS Alberta wiki

Keep in mind that for a country or state/province page it will not show links for records "lower jurisdictions." A country list will not include links for a state or province, and a state/province page won't show links to a county or parish.

Why Click the Blue Button?

There's no doubt that exhausting what's online is an excellent first step to researching an ancestor. Once you exhaust online sources, you can move on to identifying what you need from a library, archive, or government office. These lists of online records are incredibly helpful as you scan them but keep in mind that they might not include everything. The FamilySearch Wiki is a wiki, and because it relies on a community to update it, it may not include everything it should. However, the blue button is a great first step to understanding what is available online.


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.


Two Tips for Using Google Chrome

Do you use Google's Chrome as your browser? If you do, there are two tips you should know to make using it easier. Before we look at these two tips, let's take a look at a website and get to know some of the features that we will be using.

Chrome Window

In this screenshot, I'm looking at the Legacy Webinars website. The website is in my browser window. In this case, I only have one website open but I could have multiple tabs in one window. At the top right are three horizontal dots that when clicked, reveal a drop-down menu. At the top left is the tab with the title of the website, and next to it is the button to click to open a new tab "+".  At the bottom is a toolbar with the Google Chome logo.

#1 Opening the Closed Browser Tab

The first tip is one that I use quite a bit. I'm one of those people who opens way too many browser tabs as I research. And then, I get so caught up in researching and stop paying attention to what I'm doing that I accidentally close a  tab with a website I'm using.  What can you do if you close a tab before you want to?

There are three ways you can reopen that closed browser tab. First, you can simply use a keyboard shortcut, in this case, CTRL + Shift + T.

Or you can hover your mouse and click the right-click button where the "+" sign appears in the browser.

Google chrome reopen closed

Finally, you can click on the three dots to the upper right of the browser, and then in the drop-down menu, hover your mouse over the word History and you will see a history of the websites you've looked at. Choose "Recently Closed."

Three dots google chrome

Now that dread of losing the web page you were using is gone.

#2 Focusing your Search with More than One Window

Let's go back to this problem of having too many open browser tabs. When I'm on the computer I typically am multitasking which means I'm working on genealogy but I'm also taking a look at other websites. Perhaps you multitask. Maybe you're checking social media, researching that new refrigerator you need, or mapping out your research trip. All of those open browser tabs make it challenging to focus on just one project, and you may have so many browser tabs open that you lose sight of which one is for which website.

One way to focus is by opening another window. You can have more than one window open and keep your genealogy research in one  and all your  other tasks in another. Thus lessening how many browser tabs you have open.

Google chrome move to another window

To do this, click on the New Tab button "+" at the top to open a new browser tab. Enter the URL or conduct a search. Now that the website is open right-click on the browser tab. This will open a drop-down menu. One of the choices is "Move tab to another window." By clicking on that, your website will go to another window.

Now, to access that other window, go to your toolbar (most likely at the bottom of your screen), where it shows the Chrome icon, and hover your mouse. Your windows will appear, and you can click on the one you want to use.

Browsers Do More than Search

Browsers have all kinds of options to make searching and finding websites easier. If you need more help with Google Chrome, see Google Chrome Help.


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.



Are you Googling Your Ancestors?

Are you Googling Your Ancestors?

When we think about researching our ancestors, genealogical-focused websites come to mind. That makes sense. They are the websites that have the records, indexes, and databases we need. But research requires more than entering search terms in a genealogy website's search engine. It requires us to expand our search and try other resources and search techniques.

Whenever I research, I always try a search on Google. Why? Using the Google search engine, it's possible that I can find mention of an ancestor in resources posted by groups or individuals. I can also focus my search to websites, images or books.

Take, for example, my latest search based on some letters I bought at an antique store. I entered the name of a woman who wrote a few letters, Inez Overell, and received several hits. The most promising was one for the website Heirlooms Reunited by genealogist Pam Beveridge. In a blog post dated May 13, 2013, "1880s Autograph Album of Minnie Kennedy with signers from New York, New Orleans, and Ontario," she mentioned several Overell family member appearing in the autograph book, including Inez. Pam, like many genealogists, tries to reunite orphan heirlooms with family. In doing so, she scans and writes about them for her blog. This 10-year-old post provided me with more clues about a family whose letters I bought at an antique store. I was able to connect with Pam and get more information (thanks, Pam!).

Heirlooms Reunited by Pam Beveridge

As I Googled Inez's name, I tried searching for an exact phrase by placing quotation marks around the search phrase (for example, "Inez Overell"). I also tried searching just the surname (Overell), and I focused my search results on books to see if I could find her mentioned in older books (including city directories) or magazines.

This type of search isn't always successful. Not everyone is mentioned in an old book or a website. I have had many times where I come up empty checking Google. But in some cases, you may find information that is not available anywhere else, including the names of researchers or families who are researching that person or have valuable family heirlooms.

As you consider your genealogy Google search, go beyond just entering a name in the Search engine.

Try different search techniques like an exact phrase search, an advanced search (available once you conduct an initial search by clicking on the gear icon in the top left corner), or even a wild card (substitute an asterisk for a missing word like a middle name, for example). If you aren't sure how to use Google to find what you need, check out the webinars about Google in the Legacy Webinars Library.

Advanced Google Search Options from Gear icon

Researching the names I found on these letters has given me a lot of genealogical information about the families involved, but going beyond genealogy websites and generalizing my search to Google has helped to uncover a family heirloom and a researcher I would have ordinarily missed. Take your search to Google and see what you can find.

Let us know your Google search success stories in the comments.


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.


Start the New Year with Genealogy Kindness

Start the New Year with Genealogy Kindness

Happy New Year! It's that time of the year when many people consider how they want this year to be different than the last. That contemplation usually involves making some goals to improve oneself. One professional genealogist has suggested an idea about what you can do differently this year.

Genealogy Kindness

The genealogy community has a history of kindness, both as organized groups and as individuals. I know I have benefitted from those whose kindness to me has extended to conducting a lookup at a library, taking a photo at a cemetery, or teaching me something about a record. We all have benefited from the help of others, whether an individual or a group. The work of groups of volunteers, such as Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness and the US GenWeb has benefitted those of us who have sought help. Even if we don't have a lot of time to volunteer, we can support the work of individuals helping others like Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi's List or Tami Mize of Conference Keeper. Melanie McComb's idea of daily genealogical kindness is something to consider.

So how can you start passing along genealogical kindness? Even if a daily act is too much, you can do one thing this year that will help another family historian. It doesn't have to be a significant undertaking; it can be something simple. Melanie provides some ideas for ways to help in her Facebook post. Other possibilities include the following:

  • Joining a Facebook group for the place you live or a genealogical topic and adding your expertise
  • Volunteering for a genealogy or historical society
  • Posting information you have gathered in your research
  • Transcribing or indexing records
  • Offering to do lookups at a library or archive
  • Taking part in a genealogically related project
  • Conducting oral history interviews
  • Passing on copies of photos or records to other family members

It comes down to doing something that you see is needed. Many of you probably are doing something, but maybe it's time to do something new to help the genealogical community or, at the very least, a friend or fellow society member. Remember that your passion or interest in a genealogical subject will help someone.

If you are currently spreading #GenealogyKindness, thank you. Your work may not get a lot of accolades, but it does make a difference. Thank you, Melanie for reminding us to start the year by considering kindness.

Have you benefitted from the kindness of others? Tell me about it in the comments below, and let's acknowledge those whose kindness extends beyond their genealogical research.


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.