Another great resource: free newsletters

weeklygenealogistI’m a big fan of the genealogy resources I pay for.,, Family Tree magazine and Family Tree University have all been worth the money I paid for them and I’m lucky that I have the resources to budget for them.

One reason I’m glad to pay for the subscription sites is that they provide one-stop shopping, in a sense. They’re chock full of information so I can search away at one site for hours.

But there are many free resources available that a genealogy researcher could certainly keep busy without every spending a dime.

For me, anyway, sometimes the challenge lies in finding (and remembering) these resources. One great source for them, I’ve found, are genealogy society newsletters and newsletters from luminaries in the genealogy field.

When the newsletters land in my inbox, I give them a quick scan. And then I move them into a family history research email folder, waiting to come up in a search if I need them. Since I have an inbox zero policy, I do at least glance at each newsletter before filing it.

Recently that paid off when I quickly looked over The Weekly Genealogist, the newsletter for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It had a spotlight on Washington State genealogical resources, including a link to the searchable website of the Masonic Memorial Park in Tumwater, Washington, where, it turns out, my great grandmother and great grandfather, Hattie and Elmer Adams, are buried. I love that I received Pacific Northwest resources via a New England Society!

Here are  some of the free newsletters I subscribe to.

What valuable free newsletters am I missing? I’d love to hear about your favorites.

Organizing little by little

calendarsnippetHere’s one thing I know: Getting or keeping your family history research organized doesn’t happen without a little effort. (Of course, that’s true of organizing most aspects of our lives!) There never seems to be enough time to do genealogy research, let alone time to organize it.

But if you snatch little pockets of time to catch up on your organizing, you can make great strides. For example, 15 minutes spent on filing unfiled genealogy documents (either electronic or paper) is time well spent. It allows you to familiarize yourself with your documents and the holes you have in your research. It makes you feel more in control. You can get rid of any duplicates you come across. And, of course, it helps you find what you need when you’re looking for something, because documents are where they’re supposed to be.

One thing that can help is keeping an organizing task list so you can jump right into it when you carve out some time for it. My new genealogy to-do list helps me know what to work on when I have some time for research. But I think it’s a good idea to spend some time at least once a week organizing the research. Toward that end, I think that in addition to having a genealogy to-do list for each branch of my family, I’ll make one for organizing tasks. That’ll make it easier for me to just do something. (I’ll be posting a Genealogy To-Do List printable very soon so you can use my form, if you’d like.)

So here’s my challenge for you today: Think about how often you want to do family history research. And then think about when you might work on organizing your research. In this last month of the year, maybe you can carve out a little time for organizing. Doing it little by little, you’ll make progress. If you wait for a free weekend when you feel like organizing, you may never get it done.

Like many people, I have a very busy December coming up. But I’ve found that I get more done when I’m really busy. So for this December, I’m going to commit to spending at least a half hour a week organizing my genealogy research. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up two hours over the course of the month (actually, two and a half, since December started on a Monday this year). And one can get a lot done in two focused hours. To set myself up for success, I’ve scheduled five half-hour sessions on my calendar.

I’ll try to keep track of what I accomplish in that time and at the end of the month, I’ll post my progress here. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by all I can get done in those little, focused pockets of time.


Figuring out how you’re related

How are you related?A lot of people, even some genealogy enthusiasts, can get confused about how they’re related to extended relatives. Last week, the popular website Lifehacker posted an article called “Second Cousins” “Once Removed”, and more Explained in Chart.

My husband, Barry, and I were discussing that article at dinner and he said he didn’t understand why such a complicated chart and long article was necessary. “It’s very simple to figure out,” he said.

“Show me,” I replied. (I live in Missouri, after all.)

So he did. And it was simple.

Herewith, Barry’s method for figuring out how you’re related to someone. There are four steps.

  1. Figure out the ancestor you have in common with the person in question.
  2. Count the number of times you say “great” and “grand” in describing that person. (For example, my great great great grandmother would be four, one for each great and grand.)
  3. Do the same with the person you’re trying to figure out your relationship to. (For example, if the common ancestor is that person’s great great grandmother, their number is three.)
  4. Look at the numbers. Whichever is lower, that’s the degree of cousins, and the difference between the the two numbers is the removal. So in this example, that relative is my third cousin, once removed.

Try it. It’s really easy! And I think it’s a lot simpler than trying to follow the chart on Lifehacker.


What’s your biggest organizing challenge?

questionmarkI polled readers last month to find out what you’d like to read here. The top vote getter was “Organizing tips and tricks.” I’m in my tenth year as a professional organizer, so, as you can imagine, I have a lot of organizing tricks up my sleeve. But in thinking about what to share with you, I realized it would be really helpful to know your biggest challenges with regard to organizing your family history research.

So can you please help me help you by letting me know what you struggle with?

Is it setting up a filing system? Keeping track of sources? Finding things on your hard drive? A cluttered genealogy workspace? No genealogy workspace? Finding time to do research? Not letting genealogy research take over your life? A backlog of stuff that needs to be organized?

Please don’t limit yourself to those suggestions. Just post a comment stating any and all genealogy-related organizing challenges so I can try to address them in future posts.

Thank you!