Sunday, September 28, 2014

Link: How to find the father of an illegitimate child

I don't know how to find the father of an illegitimate child. I do know it's tough. 

This Dutch genealogy blog has a great article about finding the fathers of illegitimate children. The examples and links are specific to the Netherlands (which may or may not be relevant to you), but the research strategies should work for anyone.

Here's the link:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Uploading your FamilySearch Family Tree onto your FREE Ancestry, Find my Past, and My Heritage accounts

It's official. All members of the Church can have free personal accounts at,, and myheritage.comYou'll need a parent's permission if you are ages 13-17, but don't worry - I'm sure they'll say yes.


This is an amazing opportunity. Each of these sites are great resources for finding more about your family. They will even find the records for you. All you have to do is put your family tree onto their sites and they will start e-mailing you with links to records that might be about your ancestors. It's so easy.

But how do you get your tree onto these other sites? There's no button to just download your tree from FamilySearch. There is a way, though. BYU's free online family history class taught me how. Here's a quick summary:

1. Download RootsMagic Essentials (free). This software is like the family tree part of FamilySearch except it saves files to your computer instead of the cloud. It is specially designed to work with FamilySearch and it can access your online tree and turn it into a file you can save on your computer.

2. Open RootsMagic and create a new file. You must check the LDS support and FamilySearch Family Tree support buttons. It will not be able to access your online tree if you don't. What do you want to do after you create the file? Add names manually. (You won't really add them manually, but your import is from the internet, so it's different.)

3. Go to "File", then "FamilySearch Central", then "Import". It will prompt you to log in to FamilySearch.

4. Choose how many generations of ancestors and descendants you want to import. The more generations you choose to import, the longer it will take.

5. When it's done importing go to "File", then "Export", "Okay", and "Save".

6.  Go to one of the partner sites and mouse over Family Tree. Create a new tree by importing a Gedcom and then wait for records to come to you!

7. Let me know if this works for you. I'm eager to improve these instructions.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Which search results are about your ancestors?

Looking at search results can be daunting and exciting. It's easy to get overwhelmed. I sometimes forget who I'm even searching for! Whenever you look at a search results there are four things you can check to see if the record is about the right person.

Is the name similar to the information you have? The name doesn't have to be an exact match. Don't get hung up on spelling. Sometimes names are illegible and the index doesn't represent what the name really is. But there should be something recognizable about the name that can tell you if it really could be your ancestor.

Does the date match up with a time when your ancestor was actually alive? It's a good idea to figure out how old your ancestor would have been at the time to see if their age makes sense. They couldn't have had a child when they were three years old. Keep in mind that the birth year you have may be a little off and some records could have them listed after they died, so keep an open mind.

Is the record from a place where you think your ancestor lived? People didn't usually move without a very good reason. Some of your ancestors probably lived in the same town - maybe even the same house - all their lives. You can also use place and date to rule out records that couldn't both be right. For example, if you have Thomas Epplett in the 1871 census in England and in the 1871 census in Ireland, one of them is not the person you are looking for.

Do any of the family members on the record match the ones you know about? Are the spouse and children right? Maybe they are living with a sibling or one of their children on the census. Their neighbours on the census will probably include some family members too. Other records should have family members listed too. They might have their sibling as a witness for their marriage or maybe their daughter is the one who reported their death. Families usually stick together.

Simple, right? But easy to overlook. Don't forget to check the basics.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to get youth to STOP doing family history work in seven easy steps

Step 1. 

Tell them that genealogy is incredibly complicated and they will have to take classes before they can begin. Remember to drive in how hard it is and that only an elite few are really involved.

Step 2. 

Teach them how to do genealogy in a big group setting - lecture-style. Make sure your presentation is at least an hour and a half long. No computers for the youth allowed. No videos either. They must learn by listening to one person the whole time. No talking about how fun genealogy is or about any blessings they may receive by doing it.

Step 3.

Invite them to the family history center to do genealogy on a day when they would usually be having fun. Don't allow them to socialize with each other at all. This is work time.

Step 4.

Watch and correct everything they do once they are on the computer. Alternatively you could completely ignore them, but it is really much more effective to scrutinize their every move. Your goal is to make them feel like they cannot figure anything out on their own so that they will never be inclined to do genealogy when you are not there. Don't let them come up with any original ideas. Don't give them any sort of trust or let them make any mistakes.Take control of the computer often after becoming impatient.

Step 5.

Once they have linked themselves to an existing family tree, don't give them any time to explore it. They will want to click back to see how far it goes and will get excited if they find they are related to anyone famous or historical. Keep them from doing this because it will get them excited about genealogy. Don't allow them to look for names that are already available for temple ordinances. They really should become research experts before they request temple ordinances.

Step 6.

Make sure they don't find any exciting records about their family. If they do find out some new information, try convincing them that it may not be accurate. This is part of your larger goal which is to make sure that they don't connect with their ancestors in any wayThey should think of their tree as a list of names; not people. Don't let them refer to their ancestors by nicknames or think about their lives in a real way. They shouldn't read any stories or look at any pictures that might be available. Learning about their ancestor's lives will just keep them coming back for more. Make sure they go home with nothing exciting to share.

Step 7.

Tell everyone about how the youth don't have the research skills to participate in family history work. Talk about how uninterested they are in genealogy. Focus on their limitations. Even if you aren't saying these things directly to the youth, the youth will find out and start to believe it. Once you have convinced them that they are uninterested and that it is too hard for them, you have won.

Have you had any success (or failure) teaching youth about family history work? Share your ideas below!

Photocredit: Stockimages

Monday, September 8, 2014

One rule for teaching family history

There's really only one thing you have to do to teach someone how to do their genealogy online. Here it is:

Don't touch their computer.

This can be especially hard for young people who are trying to teach older people how to use family history websites. It is tedious to watch someone else type and figure out where to click. It would be so much easier to just do it for them. But if you have control of the computer the person you are trying to teach will not know what you did when they go home. They will be totally lost. They may give up because of it. Don't touch their computer!

Of course, that's not the only thing you'll want to take into account when you're teaching someone about family history. This Church-produced video shows a great example of a young woman teaching family history.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Exploring Family Tree

I've been exploring my family tree tonight. Highlights include:

Adam and Eve
King David
Joseph of Arimethea
Julius Caesar and several other Roman Emperors
William the Conqueror
Kings of France, Italy, Britain, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
Thor (like mythical Thor. It's not just a guy who happens to be named Thor.)

It was more fun than I thought it was going to be but it got me thinking - do you know where those names come from? 

I don't know for sure, but this is what I think (and I can say it with authority because I'm on the internet). They come from genealogists that added their personal trees to the Church's system and then all the trees were mashed together by the computer. There are some complications with mashing those names together. It shouldn't take you very long for you to find something on your tree that doesn't make sense; like an ancestor that has several sets of parents listed. When the trees were combined, some (a lot) of the information didn't match and the computer just had to make the best of it. That's why you can sometimes find discrepancies in your tree.

Even though there are some glitches to work out (and you can help with that as you research by fixing them and adding sources), it's pretty amazing that you can see all of those names! It's easy for young people to take those names for granted. We didn't have to really work for them. But someone (who probably didn't know much about computers) sat down and entered all of those names into the computer - one by one. When you explore your tree I invite you to take a moment to say a prayer of gratitude for all the people who found and entered those names to make your tree possible.

Are you wondering what I'm wondering, though?

Whose Grandma added Thor to Family Search?