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.

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!

Documenting the failures

Document your research failures as well as successesHave you ever been pursuing leads on a thorny research problem and found the time just slipping away, without much progress made? I just experienced that. I was trying to fill in some blanks on an ancestor and actually managed to stay pretty focused, but two hours later, those blanks are still empty. I wouldn’t mind keeping going on this challenge, but I need to stop, because I have other things I need to accomplish this morning. Plus, I’m getting kind of frustrated.

It’s easy to spend a lot of time pursuing leads in genealogy research and feel like you’ve wasted your time. But I think there’s a sure-fire way to make the time spent more valuable. And that’s by recording what you’ve done and the results–even if the results are nil.

That’s where a research log comes in. I’ve not been diligent in keeping a research log, though I know that it can be very valuable. But my frustrating time this morning has me appreciating the effort of keeping a log, because I don’t want to repeat the unsuccessful searches (or if I do, I want to do so knowing that the searches have failed in the past).

When Springpad was around, I created a research tracker template that was included in the Family History Organizer notebook on Springpad. That form works with the way I think, so I’ve been continuing to use the template, only now it’s in Evernote. (Feel free to email me if you want me to send you the template–that’s the corner of today’s entry in the photo.) It’s simple and allows me to record the pertinent data without turning it into a big chore. I need to use it more diligently, after every research session, rather than waiting until days like today when logging my research feels absolutely imperative.

My way of keeping a research log is far from perfect. There are much more complete ways to do it–Thomas MacEntee offers an amazing research log template, it just doesn’t feel right for me. (I find it a little intimidating.)

If you’ve been contemplating keeping a research log, but got bogged down in trying to select the best format or you just weren’t sure how to do it, I’d suggest you let go of making it perfect (or even great) and just get into the habit of writing something down. Any information about your research session that you document at the end of the session is better than none!

Making my Ancestry tree public

Making my Ancestry tree publicBack in July, I was pondering uploading my family tree from my Reunion software to Ancestry and trying to decide whether to make the tree public or private on Ancestry. I invited comments on that question and was really thrilled to see a robust discussion about it, with advocates on both sides.

So I uploaded my tree, making it private initially. I was disappointed to see that the sources didn’t update as hyperlinks, so while my facts are sourced, others don’t have easy access to the sources.

After careful consideration, I decided to make the tree public. For me, the good of helping others with their research and potentially attracting connections with distant relatives outweighed the risk of my data ending up in incorrect trees.

The decision was made, but then I stalled. The perfectionist in me didn’t want to make the tree public until the source problem was fixed. But I haven’t made fixing that problem a priority. (It kind of overwhelms me.) Today, I decided to not let perfectionism get in the way of progress and I pulled the trigger and made my tree public.

Having done this gives me the impetus to do several things:

  • Create a checklist and schedule for systematically going through my Ancestry tree and hyperlinking the online sources included in the tree (and simultaneously making sure I’ve saved them on my hard drive).
  • Add the information and sources I’ve found offline in recent my recent trips to my Ancestry tree.
  • Come up with some sort of schedule for updating the Ancestry tree. (I keep the Reunion software on my hard drive up to date–it’s my primary database.)
  • Check out Family Tree Maker for the Mac, which I’m told automatically updates to Ancestry, and consider switching to it from Reunion.

I’m hoping that making my tree public will help others and, potentially, lead to some fruitful interactions. I’m looking forward to seeing where this might lead!