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Pursuing Our Roots

When to say when

I enjoy receiving e-mails from my readers, especially if they give me an idea for a column! Someone recently asked me whether it was worth their time and effort to extract everyone with the same surname in a town. They’re all related, right? Probably. Should I spend the time? Depends on the scope of your research and other factors. Let’s start by discussing the scope of a very simple genealogy. If you are lucky enough to find all your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents etc. going back six generations, you have to find 127 people starting with yourself. To go all the ...

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Using your cellphone to scan photos

Over many years of meeting with relatives, I will admit that there are occasions of apprehension. After I am invited to their home, I sit, make conversation, have a cup of coffee, and silently wait for the right moment to segue into how to ask them to break out the old family photo albums. When I started this odyssey, I had to bring a laptop and scanner that weighed more than I did! Later on, I could bring a flatbed scanner that only weighed a couple of pounds. Today, new phone cameras and apps are making this task even easier. ...

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Avoiding a critical record-keeping error

  I have spent most of the winter going back over my Italian records from towns that are close to my main ancestral “comune.” A lot of people from neighboring towns married into our families. (Or maybe they say that we married into theirs!) I had to order a lot of different films and visit Salt Lake City on multiple occasions in order to find the birth records for these people. When I first looked for many of them, I made a mistake that I don’t want you to make. I rented the microfilm (or viewed it in Salt Lake ...

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Embracing Facebook as a genealogy tool

  Back when I started my genealogy research in the late 1980s, there was no social media to speak of. Heck, there was barely internet access! So during the formative phase of my research, when I was attending classes and genealogy groups and conferences, there were no presentations on techniques for using social media for genealogy. When it comes to Facebook and its use for genealogy, I am “a completely self-taught idiot,” to borrow a phrase from Monty Python. I never attended any presentations on “Facebook For Genealogy,” so the ideas I have are based purely on my own experience. ...

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Familysearch.org doe it again!

    I am glad this is a free site, because if it weren’t, people would presume I am getting a “fee” for promoting their updates all the time! It is the countless volunteer hours that allow them to add millions of new records every month, and they have added one data file of particular importance to Chicagoans. In many columns, I have lamented the fact that the Chicago Archdiocesan cemetery data can only be used at the cemetery computer kiosk. The kiosk has some limitations. For example, there is no space bar, apostrophe, or dash on the screen keyboard, ...

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Making sure all systems are go

  In the course of your research, it’s easy to get involved in too many families at once. For example, if you’re using birth and marriage records to trace your ancestry, you have to find documents for two parents, then four grandparents, then eight great-grandparents, then 16 great-greats, then 32 greats-to-the-third. Only five generations in and you’re now dealing with 62 individuals in 31 families. It’s at this point that some folks decide that genealogy is beyond them. If you start tracing the descendants of these ancestors as well as their siblings and THEIR descendants, you’ve easily expanded your search to ...

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A visit to the Familysearch Learning Center

    Last month I described a multitude of features in familysearch.org, and hopefully I helped beginners, intermediate level and advanced genealogists. One area I have not spent a lot of time in is the Learning Center, most likely because I have been at this for so long, that I don’t look at beginner material. However, for those of you who are just starting out with your Italian research, the Learning Center is a great place to find out how to begin (besides this column, of course!) If you happen to have other ethnicities to research besides Italian, it can ...

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A familysearch.com primer

  I have received quite a few e-mails about familysearch.org, thanks in large part to the number of columns I have written that tell you all to use it. Although the site is relatively simple, there is a lot going on in it, and the most frequent question I am asked is “How do I get started?” Step one is to set up an account. If you’re LDS, set up your account by clicking “Are You LDS?” “Yes” and using your LDS membership number from your ward clerk. If you’re not LDS, just create an account on the site by ...

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Of ‘grave’ concern to genealogists

  What did we do without the internet? For those of us who began our genealogical journey before Ancestry.com, familysearch, fold3, and even Google (they refer to this era as B.G.!), we remember the days of having to find information by checking one location at a time. If we needed to find where someone was buried, and we did not know which cemetery, we had to visit many different cemeteries one at a time. We could call them too. If we didn’t know what town in Italy someone was born in, we had to order film one town at a ...

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More data available at familysearch.org!

    It’s a good thing when I get to start yet another column with the above headline. I have some new tips for those of you who may be frustrated a little with how it works. First of all, familysearch has released a lot of new Cook County births in the past few weeks. They have most of the births indexed from 1878-1933 so far, and they plan to extend that to 1940. There are some suburban Cook County births already indexed up to 1938 (Evanston, Oak Park, Melrose Park etc.) but almost no Chicago from 1933-1940 as of ...

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