Another great resource: free newsletters

weeklygenealogistI’m a big fan of the genealogy resources I pay for. Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, 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.

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.

 

Ancestry offering free access to military records for Veteran’s Day

1918 WWI Draft Registration Card-James Jeffries-Bates Missouri croppedIn honor of the upcoming observance of Veteran’s Day on November 11, Ancestry.com is offering free access to its military records for the weekend. If you aren’t a subscriber to Ancestry, this is a great opportunity to delve into their extensive database. I never cease to be astounded at the digitized documents that we have access to without leaving our chairs.

Featured collections in this promotion include:

  • World War I Draft Registration Cards
  • U.S. World War I Mother’s Pilgramage
  • World War I, World War II and Korean War Casualty Listings

They’re also offer a free downloadable guide to World War I Draft Cards.

Just go this Veteran’s Day promotion page to get started (and download the guide). The page promises free access to “military collections from around the world, including all U.S. war records.”

Happy hunting!

Creating a genealogy to-do list

gentodolistsampleI know I have two big impediments when it comes to making progress with my genealogy research. One is that I often don’t know where to start in a particular session. The other is that I think I need a huge block of time and that huge block rarely comes.

But I know better. I am a big believer in grabbing snippets of time to complete discrete tasks. For me, this is true in life and in genealogy research. But my reluctance to start a short session still rears its head.

Yesterday, as I was pondering this situation, I came up with a strategy that might be helpful. I created a form for myself where I can separate tasks by the amount of time I think they’ll take. That way, when I find myself with 30 minutes to spend on family history research, I can scan the “30 minutes” section (or the “15 minutes or less” section) and hop right into a task. The form I created has seven sections: 15 minutes (or less), 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, half day, full day, and weekend.

Since I’m trying to focus on one branch of my family per quarter, I decided to make a separate list for each branch. That way, if I come across some leads for families I’m not working on this quarter, I can put them on the appropriate list, and when that quarter rolls around I’ll already have a task list to get me started.

If I manage to use this form consistently, it should serve a few purposes:

  • I’ll be able to jump right into my research without feeling overwhelmed
  • My sessions should be more focused and productive
  • I’ll research more frequently, because I won’t be waiting for large blocks of time to emerge
  • If I hit a dead end, I can go right back to my list to refocus

I can’t wait to give this a try. I’ve started with a short list for a couple of family branches. I’m going to figure out a way to include routine tasks on the list (like updating my progress tracker and making sure that all paper documents are also properly stored on my hard drive) so that they get done relatively painlessly. I think this will definitely be a work in progress.

In the next week or two, I’ll create a template for you to use in your research and include it in the Printables section of this site. I’m going to wait a little while to do so, so that I can refine it a bit, based on my use. (An excerpt of my one-day-old version of the form is what’s pictured with this post.) I’m thinking that I may drop the final two sections, since I want to include smaller tasks, not large projects, on the list. But I’ll use it awhile before deciding.

I’m curious: Do you find it hard to figure out where to start when you have time to do genealogy research? Or is that something peculiar to me?