Announcing new Orderly Roots guides!

10 secrets to organizing your genealogy researchI’m very excited to announce the launch of a new series of downloadable pdfs that I’m offering for sale here on Organize Your Family History.  I’m calling the series Orderly Roots, and the first is now available for purchase.

The Orderly Roots guides give me a way to go a little more in-depth on genealogy organizing topics than I can on the blog. 10 Secrets to Organizing Your Genealogy Research, the first of a planned series of 10 such guides,  is available now!

Each guide is delivered as a downloadable pdf with ten pages of text. They sell for $8.99 each. Here’s the list of topics I’m planning so far:

I’d love your input on topics. Do any of these particularly float your boat? Are there any topics not on the list that you’d like to see me explore in an Orderly Roots Guide?

10 Secrets to Organizing Your Genealogy Research is hot off the (figurative) presses and I plan to make 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Doing Genealogy available this week. [Update: I just made it available for purchase!] The rest, I hope, will be completed by year’s end.

I’d love your input on topics and may create a poll to post on the blog. In the meantime, feel free to give me feedback in the comments!

Professional organizers talk family history

As a professional organizer who blogs (in addition writing here, I have a blog at my business’s Peace of Mind Organizing website), I occasionally  participate in the monthly Professional Organizers Blog Carnival. Each month organizing bloggers are asked to submit a single post that matches that month’s theme.

I was delighted to see that the theme for October is Family History. My biggest challenge was to decide which blog post to submit! I ended up submitting one from my organizing website, Tracing my roots: Why I love genealogy research.

The Blog Carnival was published today and it occurred to me that readers of Organize Your Family History might enjoy perusing the 14 family-history-related blog posts in the Carnival. My organizing colleagues write great stuff.

So here’s the link: Family History – Professional Organizers Blog Carnival.


Download NGS conference recordings

ngslogo200I was really blown away by the quality of the conference sessions I attended at the National Genealogical Society conference this past May. The sessions were in depth and quite scholarly and I really felt like it was a great value. Of course, that value was enhanced by the fact that the conference was held within easy driving distance of my home. But I liked it so much I’m giving serious consideration to attending the 2016 NGS conference in Ft. Lauderdale, May 4-7.

This weekend I was spending a little time on my backlog of papers picked up at the conference this year (I didn’t manage to properly process my NGS papers) and found the order form for conference session recordings. I was delighted to see that they are available as MP3s, rather than CDs, since my 2014 MacBook doesn’t have a CD drive. I downloaded three sessions, and so far have listened to one.

At $9 each, these downloadable sessions are a great deal, in my opinion. If you’re interested, just go to the 2015 NGS conference page of Jamb Inc’s website. (And while you’re there take notice of  the fact there are many past NGS conference recordings available, as well as other genealogy conferences).

I downloaded two sessions I wasn’t able to attend, about resources in states I’m researching, as well one I did attend (Julie Miller’s excellent Anatomy of a Pension File). I wanted to hear Julie’s talk again, as I proceed in processing my own ancestors’ Civil War pension files. And I’m glad I did; it’s already been very helpful.

Whether you attended the conference or didn’t, you might find these recordings really helpful.

Visiting the National Archives in St. Louis

Here in St. Louis, we are lucky to have a branch of the National Archives, the National  Personnel Records Center (NPRC). This massive building houses military personnel records, as well as federal civilian personnel records and Selective Service records.

When I attended the National Genealogical Society’s annual meeting in St. Charles, Missouri, in May, I attended a talk by the NPRC director, Bryan McGraw, who detailed which records were available in St. Louis versus in Washington, D.C. (See this page for details on which documents are in the St. Louis holdings.) Attending that talk made me anxious to visit the St. Louis facility, if I could figure out whether I had ancestors there to research.

Then I was contacted by a friend in another states whose grandfather’s World War II military personnel records were available at the NRPC in St. Louis. She was looking to save the $70 fee to have the records photocopied and mailed to her. I offered to visit the Archival Research Room at the center and look at the records, and photocopy or photograph them for her. It was my chance to see this place in person.

I thought I’d share the experience here, because I thought it was really interesting.

So here are my Things You Should Know About Researching at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis:

  • You need an appointment. A  fire at the Center in 1973 destroyed many records. Some were damaged but not destroyed and those may require examination and conservation treatment by preservation staff. Before I could see these records, they had to be treated. When that was completed, I was notified they were ready and given an appointment to view them.
  • You have to go through security. When entering the Center, there’s a TSA-style x-ray machine for bags and metal detector The big difference is that at the Archives, they seem a bit more strict and attentive than at the airport. And  security officer was much more polite and respectful.
  • You’ll go through orientation. It was probably a half hour before I actually got into the research room because first I had to fill out some paperwork, talk with a helpful staff member, and watch a PowerPoint orientation. Then I was issued a Researcher Identification Card and sent in.
  • You’re limited as to what you can bring into the Research Room. You’re not allowed to bring in your own blank paper for note taking. (Pencils and blank paper are provided.) If you have pre-written paper to which you want to refer, it must be reviewed and stamped “NARA APPROVED.”  No pens or laptop cases. No purses. But they do have locked lockers, so you can store that stuff securely. (I had to go back to my locker to get my reading glasses, and that wasn’t a problem.) You can bring in laptops, cameras, mobile devices and certain scanners. See this Policies and Procedures page for more information.
  • You can take great pictures with your phone. They provide what they call “camera table mounts,” which are clear acrylic stands, like little tables, that straddle the document. You place your phone on top of the stand to elevate the phone and hold it steady so that you can shoot a photo of the document from above (through the stand). The stand made it really easy to take good photos of many of the documents. I used the photocopier for bound documents, so they could lie flat.
  • Security going out is stronger than going in. As a precaution against stealing, once you have paid for your photocopies, they count the documents, put them in a folder, and place them in a locked canvas bag (that’s one in the photo above), along with any papers stamped NARA APPROVED. Once you’ve gathered your things from your locker, you take the locked bag back to security, where it’s unlocked and your documents given you. There’s no way to smuggle anything out.
  • It’s free! Except for the photocopying fee (I think I spent all of $10), there was no charge, not even for parking. There is a little concession area where you can purchase food if you’re there all day.

I enjoyed my experience at the NPRC and hope that I can go back to research my own ancestors!

For information about researching at the National Archives, in Washington, D.C., see this great blog post, 5 Tips for Your First Visit to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., by genealogist D. Joshua Taylor, which details that experience. They seem similar, with some key differences.