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July 31, 2010

Climbing Your Family Tree With A Little Help

Recently someone sent me an email asking about online family trees. She had found several for her ancestor but they didn't agree with each other. Some assigned him to a specific family but others declared that placement incorrect. Her bewilderment was obvious. She is new to online research and finding the going tough. What to believe?

Her cry for help got me thinking that it bears repeating that an online family tree is only as good as the person researching it and the sources used. We should never accept information without a source. My personal rule is to verify everything for myself.

If you do that you should be able to clear up confusion and not get into too much of a mess in your genealogy. Remember that genealogy without sources is nothing more than mythology

July 30, 2010

Too Many Ancestors!

There are as many ways to organize your genealogy files and documents as there are surname variations. When I first started acquiring more information and photocopies of documents (many years ago) I used file folders - one for my father's side and one for my mother's.

I quickly realized that method wasn't working. My files were becoming too cumbersome and it was too hard to figure out what I had or what I needed.

Still believing that file folders were the method for me, I created one file folder for each surname - McGinnis, King, Dawson, Downey, Peer, Vollick etc for my dad's side and Fuller, Simpson, Page, Stead etc for my mom's. I colour coded the folders - pink for maternal lines, and blue for paternal. It worked well. For a short time. Soon I was lost - I had done so much research that I could no longer remember my lines easily. That meant I couldn't remember where Emily Sutton fit. What file folder was she in? Her husband's? Who was her husband? I had too many names and ancestors to remember.

So I switched to binders. One binder for each surname. In the front of each binder was a page with a cross-referencing system for every ancestor. I could at least look at the first page of every binder to see where Emily Sutton or another barely-remembered ancestor fit.

Soon my binder collection outgrew my bookshelves. And I grew weary of taking down each of the 30 plus binders one at a time to check for a name.

Yes you guessed it, I went back to file folders. I bought more filing cabinets. I filled one wall of my computer room. But for some lines I was searching all branches, that is, all siblings of my direct ancestors on every generation. That meant that soon I had to give one entire filing cabinet drawer to just one family name. So my PEER and VOLLICK and McGINNIS files soon had one drawer each. Inside I labelled file folders with titles PEER-Census, PEER-Land, PEER-B/M/D. All documents and notes for that specific family of PEER went into their respective folders. That worked well for many years.

But recently I realized it was not working for me anymore. It was too difficult to easily check such things as what census records I was missing for each person. I know I could keep a research log or a list by ancestor of what I have and what I need. But that proved to be just way too much extra work for me and didn't seem to answer my requirements either.

My next brief attempt at reorganization involved buying hanging file folder cases. Inside each I put 6 file folders. They were labelled by individual name - Peer, Jacob - DOCUMENTS; Peer, Jacob - NOTES and Peer, Jacob - SCANNED. That allowed me to sort by person by documents, notes and whether or not I had scanned the documents. I love this method. But there's a huge problem! I have too many ancestors. I seriously do.

I've been researching for over 30 years. I've done a lot of work on my lines. I've found ancestors back to the early 1600s on several of my Dad's side. And let's not even get into my Mother's ENGLISH side! English records go back a long long way. With diligent research you can find a lot of ancestors going back a very long way.

Since I haven't got a room big enough to put all those hanging file folders (think 40 ft x 40 ft might be big enough), this method isn't going to work for all my lines. Especially since I'm very keen on searching all siblings on all generations. Phew. Why do I search siblings? Because you never know what details you might find about your direct by looking for a sibling's marriage or death or obituary etc.

So I'm in a bit of a mess. I have my research partially in hanging file folders. I have some in my filing cabinets. I have a few in binders. My next step is to sit down and think long and hard about how to organize thousands and thousands of pieces of paper in a way that suits me and my work habits.

That's a challenge.

I also need a good cross-referencing system so I can find a specific ancestor easily.

I need to decide where a female ancestor goes - with her father and mother? With her husband? With both, that is, with her parents until she marries, then with her husband?

I'm leaning towards going back to binders so that I can toss documents (photocopies) into plastic sleeves (perhaps one per individual) and put a list of what's in each sleeve on the top. That would allow me to quickly see what documents I have for each person and what I'm missing.

I'll tackle that after Christmas I think! If you're in the same boat as I am, just remember that whatever method of genealogy organization you choose has to suit you and no one else. Wish me luck!

July 28, 2010

Review of The Journey Takers

I started reading Leslie Albrecht Huber's book The Journey Takers last week. It's compelling reading. Leslie has created a story that allows her ancestors (the Journey Takers) to come alive.

Through her own experiences as she follows their footsteps, Leslie weaves a narrative which takes us to Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and Utah. She creates fictional scenes of historical accuracy in which she describes her ancestors and their emotions.

It's an unusual and intriguing method of writing a family history and one I'm enjoying very much.

July 27, 2010

I've Got a Home in Glory Land

Recently I was contacted by Karolyn Smardz Frost, the author of
 I've Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad .

Karolyn was very kindly writing to correct some errors I have on my Blacks in Ontario section of Olive Tree Genealogy. Her expertise and knowledge of this time period is without question and I appreciated her input greatly. I've not made the corrections yet to the Underground Railroad portion but will be doing so.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart due to my husband's black ancestry which we discovered a few years ago. Up to that time his family had no idea they had black heritage. My husband's black ancestor and 4th great grandfather Jonathan Butler is first found in 1834 in the tax and assessment records in the Queen's Bush, a small area populated by approximately 1,500 Black settlers by 1840. He is noted as "Negro Butler". In the 1837 Assessment records his first name is recorded.

We don't know much about Jonathan's early years but we have evidence that he was in Toronto as early as 1824 when his son Allen (my husband's next direct ancestor) was born there. We know Jonathan was born in the United States. We know the name of his wife (Elizabeth Jinkins/Jenkins) but her origins are unknown. What state Jonathan lived in before arriving in Ontario is unknown to us.

His children married mostly into white German families who settled nearby (near Waterloo Ontario) and over the years many branches lost the knowledge of their black heritage. One of his sons married a black woman and their descendants retained the knowledge of their heritage.

After our exchange of emails and a visit to Karolyn's website, I rushed off to Amazon to buy a copy of Karolyn's book. I'm sure it is going to be an excellent read as it won the 2007 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction.

July 26, 2010

Pet Peeve #3: Is Your Answer Relevant?

Okay I know some readers will disagree with me. But I have to talk about it! We can find many tutorials on writing good genealogy queries but what about ANSWERING a genealogy query? Some people need help with this one.

Call me a nit-picker (I've been called worse) but why oh why do people answer a query with information that has absolutely nothing to do with the original question!

Example - a woman writes to a mailing list and asks specifically for help finding a ships passenger list for ships arriving in Canada between 1851 and 1854. That's pretty specific - dates (1851-1854) and locations (Canada) are stated.

Subscribers answer. One says "Try Ellis Island"

Huh? Ellis Island was the processing station for ships arriving in NEW YORK between 1892 and 1924. Hmm... that doesn't seem very helpful! The questioner wants ships to CANADA 1851-1854!

Another subscriber eagerly offers advice. "Try Pier 21 for Halifax Nova Scotia"

Oh, that's sounding better - but wait! A quick check reveals that Pier 21 is for ships arriving after 1928. That is far too late for what the questioner wants and needes.

"Castle Garden ships lists are free" says another subscriber.

Well, yes that's correct, but that website is for ships arriving in New York (and other states), not Canada.

In reality before 1865 Canadian ships passenger lists did not have to be archived. That means that few lists have survived for the time period the questioner wants. But the good news is that there are some lists and alternate methods of finding a passenger in that challenging time period and place. A helpful and relevant answer would have given the questioner at least one link or some information about ships passenger lists arriving in Canada 1851-1854!

There are some steamship lists, and some shipping company records and a few immigration agent records that have survived. They are scattered and it is time consuming to find them but Olive Tree Genealogy has a list of all the available projects and passenger lists to Canada before 1865. Some are online, some are offline, some are free, some are pay-to-view.

The few that fit the questioner's location and timeframe (1851-1854) are available at Filling in the Gaps: Canadian Ships Passenger Lists They include

* The Hawke Papers, letterbooks of Chief Emigrant Agent Anthony B. Hawke are available at the Archives of Ontario from 1831 to 1892 (only 1865-1883 is available online so the questioner would have to search microfilm for her years of interest)

* Passenger Books of J & J Cooke, Shipping Agents with sailings from Londonderry Ireland to Quebec and St. John New Brunswick from 1847 to 1871

* People from the Fitzwilliam estate in Ireland who settled in Ontario, 1847-1855 Settlement in East half of Ontario

* Filling in the Gaps: Partial Ships Passenger Lists 1850-1855 Names of Individuals in the New York Almshouse who arrived in Canada before going on to New York (includes name of ship, date of arrival and more)

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not peeved because my site wasn't mentioned as a resource! My peeve is that people gave answers that had nothing to do with the original question. I hate wasting time. I hate to see others wasting time. So I scratch my head and wonder why on earth did someone give a response that didn't even answer the question?

Maybe it's just me. I'm too much of a nit-picker. But there it is, Pet Peeve #3.

July 24, 2010

Genealogy Treasure Hunt

I've been racking my brains for more genealogy ideas to entertain (and brainwash in a genealogical way) my grandchildren this summer. My two oldest, ages 12 and 10, come every year for a week's stay with Gramma and Grandpa. And every year I like to have a genealogy activity for them.

Readers of my blog might remember my Making a Genealogy Time Capsule part 1 , Genealogy Remembrance Garden , Ancestor Cards for Children, Genealogy Cemetery Hunt and other ideas I put together for summer genealogy fun.

Sure the grandkids enjoy doing the same activities, especially the Cemetery Hunt and playing games with their Ancestor Cards, but I want something new this year.

Given their ages, I thought this year we'd have a Genealogy Scavenger Hunt. I've been telling the grandchildren stories about their ancestors for years. I've pointed out ancestor pictures on our walls, and told them who each ancestor was.

I've shown them the genealogical treasures my own grandmother left me - their great grandfather's gold pocket watch, their great-grandmother's tea cup, great-great grandma's family bible, toast rack, silverware, etc and great-great-grandma's pot lids from Ramsgate England. I've also shown them jewellery that belonged to my grandmother and great grandmother, and a French marble clock belonging to my deceased husband.

My idea is that I'll type out a list of items they have to "find" for the scavenger hunt. They don't have to physically bring the item to me, they just have to find it and tick it off their list. They can't fudge the results because they may be called on to prove the find, that is, take me to it. Not that my grandchildren would ever think of ticking off an item they hadn't really found....

They'll have to find the photo of their great-great-great grandmother Sarah (Page) Simpson,  the photo of their grandfather (my deceased father) in his WW2 uniform as well as physical objects in my china cabinets or in my Genealogy Treasure Box.

I'm going to call this a Genealogy Treasure Hunt. The winner will get a prize (not sure what) and so will the runner-up. Since only two are playing at one time, everyone should be happy.

Now to come up with an idea for two prizes that have something to do with Genealogy but that kids will love.

July 23, 2010

Online Volunteers Index a Whopping 100 Million Records Already This Year

PRESS RELEASE 22 July 2010

Online Volunteers Index a Whopping 100 Million Records Already This Year

FamilySearch Indexing is excited to announce that our dedicated volunteers have completed 100 million records in the first half of 2010, and is on track to complete a targeted 200 million by the end of the year. Patrons can search the completed indexes and images at

More volunteers are always needed—particularly on international, non-English projects. New projects were added for Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, and Russia.

Interested volunteers can start helping any time by registering at and selecting a project.

New Projects in the Past Month

· Brasil, Florianópolis—Registros da Igreja, 1751–1954 [Parte A]
· Brasil, Minas Gerais—Church Records, 1706-1952
(In partnership with Universidada Federal de Minas Gerais)
· Canada—Passenger Lists, 1881–1922
· Jamaica—Civil Births, 1900–1930 [Part B]
· Mexico, San Luis Potosi—1930 Federal Censo
· New Zealand—Passenger Lists, 1871–1915 [Part 2A]
· U.K., Bristol—Parish Registers, 1837–1900 [Part D]
· U.S., Alaska—1910 Federal Census
· U.S., Louisiana—WWII Draft Registration, 1942
· U.S., Military and Naval—1910 Federal Census
· U.S., South Dakota—1945 State Census [Part C]
· U.S., Texas—1910 Federal Census [Part 2]
· U.S., Texas—Birth Records, 1903–1934
· U.S., Wisconsin—1910 Federal Census
· Россия, Самара—Метрические книги церкви, 1869–1917 (часть 1)

Recently Completed Projects

(Note: Recently completed projects have been removed from the available online indexing batches and will now go through a final completion check process. They will be published at in the near future.)

· Chile, Concepción—Registros Civiles, 1885–1903 [Parte 2A]
· Jamaica—Civil Births, 1878–1899 [Part C]
· Jamaica—Civil Births, 1900–1930 [Part A]
· U.K., Bristol—Parish Registers, 1837–1900 [Part C]
· U.S., Military—1920 Federal Census
· U.S., New York—1910 Federal Census
· U.S., South Dakota—1910 Federal Census
· U.S., Utah—1910 Federal Census
· U.S., Utah—County Marriages, 1887–1966 [Part A]
· U.S., West Virginia—1910 Federal Census
· U.S., Wyoming—1910 Federal Census

July 22, 2010

How To Create a Photo Collage in Picasa

Step 1: Open Picasa and scroll to the folder that contains your scanned photos. Here's mine with some Hallowe'en pictures of my kids.

Step 2: Highlight (select) the photos you want in your collage. Don't pick too many or they will be rather small on your page. Click the little green button in your tray (bottom of the Picasa screen) to hold each photo you choose.
I've placed my cursor over that icon so you can see the little bubble "HOLD SELECTED ITEMS" that pops up.

You can also see the 5 photos I've chosen sitting in my tray. Click on COLLAGE (Orange icon at bottom)

Step 3: My collage was created. It is a Picture Pile (see top left under SETTINGS. It's a pile of scattered pictures but I have the ability to enlarge, move and tilt each photo.

I've selected one photo so you can see the little wheel that pops up on it. This wheel lets you drag on the hand to enlarge the photo, or rotate the wheel to tip it

Step 4: Under SETTINGS, I now chose MOSAIC. It automatically fits the chosen photos into the page. There are other choices too, you can have some fun playing with this. Your collage is not "set" until you click the CREATE COLLAGE button.

Step 5: Here I slid the GRID SPACING level along to the right to create nice big wide white spaces between those photos in the MOSAIC setting. This will allow me to add text once I create my collage

Step 5: Once I was happy with Step 4, I clicked on CREATE COLLAGE and this was the result. Now I can add text anywhere I wish on the collage. I can choose fonts, sizes and colours. There is more you can do, once again you can have fun playing. Your text isn't set until you click on APPLY.

Have fun and enjoy creating your Photo Collages!

July 21, 2010

Creating Photo Collages with Picasa - another step to organizing and preserving Family Photos

Organization of my family photos (post 1970) is done! Thanks to my wonderful readers I had many suggestions on how best to accomplish this seemingly overwhelming task. See Genealogy Organization for the previous blog posts about this subject and the helpful responses.

Now I've moved on to what I considered the worst (aka boring and tedious) part of the project - scanning the thousands of photos and slides I have.

Since I discovered that my scanner (an HP Scanjet 8300) has a one button speedy scan setting, I'm thrilled. I can lay in from 5-8 photos at once, hit a button and bingo, they are all scanned. I set the default to 300ppi and scanned as .tif so that the images would be decent but not huge.

I'm using Picasa to organize the photos once I scan them. I like being able to highlight multiple photos and rename them all at once with something like "Florida 1981" or "Tyler First Birthday". Picasa automatically assigns a number as a pre-pend so you end up with Florida 1981, Florida 1981-1, Florida 1981-2 etc

That works well for me because my next step was to arrange the photos in my Picasa folder by name (alphabetical) Then I highlighted and held in my tray the ones I wanted to make into a collage (4-6 depending on size and quality of picture) Since the pictures are named by event and sorted alphabetically, they are all together and I can easily highlight as many as I want in one go.

Next step in Picasa was to create collages. Some i allowed Picasa to organize and place, others I manipulated myself to get the arrangement I wanted. Even in the automatic creation by Picasa you can still move the photos around within the "boxes" it creates. Then you can add text or borders or put white spaces between the photos - the choice is yours!

Create the collage, add the text etc and then print on my my colour Laser Printer (HP Color LaserJet Cp3525dn) and I have some pretty awesome collages of photos printed and ready to be bound into a booklet for my kids and grandchildren

Here's a few I created over this past week

First, a manual collage where I manipulated the photos (yes the pigtailed lass in yellow life jacket is me, many years ago!):
 Second, I let Picasa arrange the photos I chose for this collage (I created the wide white spaces between the photos):
I've scanned almost 500 photos now over the past week and am pretty happy with my progress. I plan to finish the booklets for Christmas gifts.

Then I can move on to working on the SLIDES (I haven't touched those yet but my scanner scans several slides at once thank goodness) and then pre-1970 (gulp)

2011 should be a fun year!

July 19, 2010

Thank you Hendrick!

346 years ago my 9th great grandfather, Hendrick Meesen Vrooman, set sail from Amsterdam Netherlands to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the New Netherland Colony. He was 47 years old and with him were his five children including his daughter, my 8th great grandmother Eva Hendrickse Vroomn. Eva was 14 years old.

Hendrick was a widower, his youngest child was only 5 years old. Their ship, De Eendracht, arrived in the harbour 19 July 1664.

Six months after his arrival, Hendrik wrote a letter to his family in Leiden: his brother Jacob, his sister Maartje and his mother Ariaantje. In it he describes the new land he has come to, and asks for items from home such as silk thread.

The year in which Hendrick arrived in New Netherland (1664) is the year in which New Netherland was taken by the English. Hendrik writes of this in his letter:

Furthermore I let you know that there have arrived three English ships at the Manhattans with soldiers and they have claimed the land and they say that it belongs to their king. And Stuyvesant has given it to them without one shot, with an agreement.

In 1690 Hendrick, his son Bartholmew aged 30, his son Adam with his wife Engeltie and their six childre (Barent 11, Wouter 9, Peter 5, Christina 4, Hendrick 3 and a male infant) were living in Schenectady. Then came the Indian and French attack on Schenectady on the cold snowy evening of Saturday February 9, 1690.

On 9 February 1690, in the total of 60 people killed at the Schenectady Massacre, were Hendrick, his son Bartholomew aka Bartol, and two black slaves who were killed and burned by Indians. His two remaining sons, Adam and Jan, were left to inherit his estate. Hendrick's grandsons Barent and Wouter were taken captive to Canada but later recovered. Hendrick's son Adam escaped with his three children Peter, Christina and Hendrick.

The report of the investigating party sent out from Albany states:

"Hend. Meese Vrooman and Bartholomeus Vrooman kild & burnt....Item 2 Negroes of Hend Meese ye same death....Engel the wife of Adam Vrooman shot & burnt, her childe the brains dashed out against ye wall...."

It was a hard life but I am grateful to Hendrick for making the journey with his family and helping to settle a new country.

July 17, 2010

REVIEW: GedView for the Ipad

GedView is one of several genealogy programs available for the Ipad. I'm going to be reviewing most, if not all, of these programs.

I'm starting with GedView. GedView is designed to allow you easy access to your genealogy files when you're away from your computer. You can consult your files in a library, a cemetery, a friend's house, a coffee shop - you get the idea!

The layout of GedView is very nice. A User's Manual is included when you download the App, and it's very easy to follow.

When you open GedView the first time you'll see the ABOUT screen and a clickable button labelled SELECT/IMPORT GEDCOM FILE. A simple tap of the button takes you to the screen for selecting and importing a GEDCOM.

You can either Download a GEDCOM from a website or choose the Upload to Device option.

Each option is very clearly explained and easy to follow. I chose to Upload to Device because it allowed me to turn ON the switch for the Server and transfer my GEDCOM directly to my Ipad over my WiFi network.

As soon as I turned the Server ON, I saw two new lines of text below the switch. These were the two addresses for me to upload my GEDCOM. The first was the name of my Ipad (Administrator's Ipad). The second was a numbered URL in the form

Next step was to open my browser on my computer (not my Ipad) and go to the second URL given in my Ipad.

Once there I chose the UPLOAD FILE button and selected my GEDCOM from my computer's FTW directory. Bingo, it was done. When I reopened GedView my entire genealogy file was there at my fingertips.

There is a third option and that is to use the File-Sharing capability for Ipad using Itunes. This option is also fully explained in the Help File on GedView. You can even email yourself a GEDCOM as an attachment, then open it in your Ipad email you've set up and it will view in GedView.

So far I like it. I'll play around with it some more over the next few days and give an overview of its functions here in this blog.

July 15, 2010

Finding Doris - another bracelet needs to be returned to family

Freda wrote to ask for my help in tracking down the owner or descendants of the woman whose Identity bracelet Freda has. In her email Freda said

I have a bracelet (like an identification bracelet), that I believe may have come from the stuff I inherited from an ancestor who was in WWII. It has a polish sounding name on the one side and a number on the other. I would like to not only identify this object (like IS it an ID bracelet, what is the number on the reverse, that type thing) AND if possible return it to its owners descendants.

It is heavy sterling. Small for a woman. My wrists are very tiny and it's too small for me. The links are thick--more like a man's bracelet, but the name is female.

The name on the top side is: Doris Swierczenski

The number (maybe telephone number?)--WA 8203272

Well readers this is another puzzle for us! What kind of bracelet is this? Who is Doris and can we find her or her family so the bracelet can be returned? We've had great success so far with our Lost & Found searches for family of MIA servicemen and servicemen who served and returned home but without their dog tags. Can we find Doris?

July 14, 2010

We did it! Reuniting a MIA American soldier's dog tags with family

Recently I was asked for help finding an American MIA from WW2 whose dog tags were found in Germany.

Alex in Germany wrote to tell me about his find for the serviceman Thomas J. Lillard of San Antonio Texas

With the help of my readers on AskOliveTree we were able to find out quite a bit about Thomas James Lillard. He was a 1st Lieutenant with the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (RHG) and reported as MIA in November 1945 [should be 1944?] and declared offially dead in 1946.

"Mr. & Mrs. F. T. Irwin, of 1710 West Craig Place, have been notified by the War Dept that their son First Lt Thomas James Lillard, missing since Nov. 1945 has been declared officially dead" [San Antonio Light Newspaper]  
I found that there was a funeral memorial service for Thomas James Lillard in 1950. His official date of death was noted as in Deudard, Holland November 20, 1944 [San Antonio Light Newspaper] His death certificate is available on website.

All of our findings were helpful, and the newspaper stories provided the married names of his sisters. Through that, we were able to track down two living relatives - a nephew Walter and a niece.

Soon I connected Walter in USA and Alex in Germany and the emails began to fly.

Walter told me that he remembers his Uncle James (as he was called by the family) and that he specifically recalls the last time he saw him before he shipped overseas in WW2.

" ... He [James], his two older sisters, mother (my grandmother), and stepfather (Uncle James' father was a painter and died of lead poisoning when Uncle James was very young) lived about 50 miles from where I lived on a farm near Comfort, Texas with my mother (Uncle James' sister), my father, two younger brothers, and a younger sister....  Before he shipped out to fight in Europe during WWII, about 1942 or 1943 I would say, Uncle James visited our family at the farm for several days. He was driving a two-door Ford coupe, which vehicle had only two seats and a trunk. Uncle James married a young woman named Pauline Higdon before he left for Europe..."
Walter is overjoyed at connecting with Alex and expressed a desire to speak to Alex on the phone. Alex's English, while good, is not good enough for a phone conversation and he declined, saying that to write and read the emails he needs a book of translations and it takes him quite awhile. So although they will not be able to speak personally, they are communicating quite well and frequently via email

I asked Alex how he came into possession of James' dog tags. Alex bought them at a flea market which sellers of military paraphanalia often frequented. Alex is passionate about military and the men who served and helps take care of WW1 and WW2 graves in a local cemetery. He phoned the man who sold him James' dog tag to try to find out where the seller obtained them. I'm hoping we get some answers!

James' niece also contacted me. She is in possession of all of James letters to his mother during his time overseas, including the ones she wrote him which were returned, unopened, after his death. The family still feels the pain today of their loss with James' death.

Putting the family in contact with the man who holds James' dog tags and knowing that the tags will be returned to them has been a moving and profound experience for me personally. When Alex revealed that he takes a special interest in military men, especially James because he too has a MIA loved one from WW2, I thought of how this was meant to be.

Although Alex' relative and Walter's uncle James fought on opposite sides during WW2, the men have a common bond with their lost loved ones. I pray that Alex will experience some joy in his future and gain knowledge of his MIA relative.

It seems a true case of serendipity and I'm humbled to have been a small part in reuniting James' tags with his family. Without my wonderful readers jumping in to hunt for James' descendants, this would not have happened.  Thank you to all who contributed their time!

July 13, 2010

Where There's a Will....

No this blog post isn't about death records or wills. It's about not giving up.

My photo organization (or lack of!) has been uppermost on my mind lately. I've been stuck - bogged down in what seemed like a daunting overwhelming task. Organizing 40 plus years of my life? Phew! I have thousands of photos and slides to go through, to sort, to organize, to scan and to preserve for my children and grandchildren.

Don't get me wrong, I've started organizing my photos many times! I've always bogged down partway through. Then when I'd go back to it, I'd forget what I had been doing, what my plan was. Had I scanned this pile of photos? Had I printed off these? I had no idea!

Thanks to my readers, I was given some great ideas to help me over my personal hurdle. I felt motivated to start the process. I knew that one way to help me not give up partway through was to first create a space in my house where I could leave things partially completed.

I can get side-tracked very easily. Work and life gets in the way sometimes. So, I tried to be realistic. I can't change my personality or work methods or the fact that I know I'm going to get bored and want to work on something else before I'm done. So -- first step: choose a work area and make sure I can leave it for months if need be!

Up came the portable work table. Next step: Have hubby climb a ladder and drag down all the tubs full of photos. All of them. Gather all the photo albums that still have pictures in. All of them. Put every single tub and album out near or on the work table so I can see it. Take a big breath. Calm down and remember that I only have to sort ONE TUB AT A TIME.

Here's a photo of my sorting when I was part-way done. Many of the tubs are almost empty now. The piles of photos that I sorted are diminished (you can't see them in this picture but you will in the next!)

Next step as the photograph piles became taller, was to drag out a couple of accordion type containers and label the compartments with my sorting categories (Xmas, birthdays, Hallowe'en, T-baby, T-toddler, S-baby, S-toddler, Vacations, boating, camping, cottage, school pictures, and so on) There's no right or wrong for categories, it's whatever works for you. All the sorted photos went into the accordion container.

So now my task is to finish sorting (I'm almost done!) and storing the pictures in my accordion containers, then I will be ready to begin scanning. I already have a plan in my head for that part of the process and will talk about that as soon as I am ready to begin.

Meantime, I feel so great about my photos and I can see that there IS an end in sight! And if by chance I stumble on another tub or album of forgotten photos, I can easily sort and add them to the containers or to my soon-to-be scans.

So thank you to all my readers who took the time to share ideas with me and to help me leap the hurdle of my own apathy! Where there's a will, there's a way.

July 12, 2010

Taking A Trip Down Memory Lane

Readers may recall that last week I asked for help organizing and preserving my family photos. Not the 19th Century ones or the pics of my mom and dad and their lives. I've got that covered. Where I needed help was with my own life photos - my children and their special family times.

As usual my wonderful readers had tons of great ideas. Following up on the idea of a feeder for my scanner I discovered that I have the power! The power of one touch buttons on my amazing scanner. It's fast and easy to scan six pictures at once. So I started sorting

Hubby brought up a long portable worktable and I began. I had him pull out tubs and albums. I then started sorting by events, years and people. I resisted the urge to take a pile as it began to grow and scan the pics. I forced myself to ignore thar lovely stack of first birthday party pics which I hadn't seen for many years. How I longed to scan them and print them off!

But I plodded on. The piles grew larger and I realized I needed somewhere to put them so I could stop then pick up where I left off. It was obvious this isn't going to be a one day job. More like weeks!!!

That's where my accordion file containers are proving useful. I've labelled the compartments with the events and years I'm using to sort - Xmas, birthdays, vacations and so on. As a pile of photos builds I toss them into the compartment.

Already I see real progress being made in those tubs of unsorted disorganized photos. It feels good. And I'm really excited to think that maybe next week I can start scanning and printing the photos. I plan to make booklets for each child.

Hopefully hubby won't mind the work table in the living room for several more weeks. As for me I'm taking a very long trip down memory lane as I sort. That might be what's slowing me down. After all with having had three husbands, three children, two step-children, nine grandchildren, four step-grandchildren it's no wonder I have so many photographs. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

July 9, 2010

What I Do - Sometimes Right, Sometimes Not So Right

Thomas, on the Geneabloggers blog, posted an interesting Meme. I've been enjoying reading the contributions of other bloggers who are joining in on this and decided to add my own information.

Thomas explains his Meme as "I feel the knowledge that it can impart and share with the community is important. The meme: called What I Do and you basically list what you use in terms of technology to either run your genealogy business or pursue your family history as a hobby."

I found this out a few days ago, in asking for suggestions for a good program to create family albums. My readers had tons of ideas, some were for programs I didn't even know existed!

Thomas has categories to fill out (you can see them on his blog) but I'm going to describe my setup. It's somewhat chaotic, cluttered and oddly put together but it suits us. I say us because both my husband and I work from home. I am quite sure that there is a more streamlined, efficient and technologically savy way for us to run our small businesses and work on our genealogy hobbies but this is how we manage:

My workstation consists of a computer with a 22" flat screen monitor. I need the big monitor for my vision problems and it's also great for having two browsers open side by side while I'm working. I'm a Windows XP Professional user and my computer is an Intel Pentium 4CPU 3.00GHz 3.00GHz 1.00GB of RAM (I have no idea what that means but that is what it says in the General Tab of my System Properties)

I use an HP Color Laser Jet CP3525 printer (extremely fast, prints double sided) and an HP Scanjet 8300 as my scanner. I'm also networked to my laptop which is set up as a static workstation in our upstairs TV room. That laptop station has an external flat screen monitor and keyboard as well as wireless mouse. I don't like the wireless mouse and switched back to cabled mouse on my main computer.

Because we live in the country (surrounded by forest) and cannot get cable, I could not get wireless internet, or cable internet, satellite or anything other than dialup until last year. Then I found something called a Portable Modem. It's amazing, it provides us with wireless high speed internet with a consistent speed of 54Mbps. I think it works well for us because we're on a hill with a fairly direct line of sight to one of the cell phone towers that the signal uses. As long as the little plug in modem is in our front window, it gets 4 out of the 5 bars (lights) indicating strength and good signal. Apparently it doesn't work well for most people, so for once we got lucky. Our home sits in some kind of dead zone where generally nothing works well!

In fact our address doesn't even exist, applying for a credit card or signing up for Internet services is a time-consuming frustrating process. We are always told "Hmm that address is not showing on my system as valid". Yeah. We know. GPS systems and Google Earth can't find us either. But that's what our little green emergency sign says, and that's what we were given as our mailing address by the township and that's where our mail gets delivered.

I have another computer workstation in our basement. It consists of a rather old computer that has all my files and programs that I need for writing and compiling my smaller books. It's connected to a smaller Color LaserJet printer for use when I want to run off a few copies. For bigger projects I use my main workstation printer and computer. In that room we also have my bookbinding machine and my microfiche reader.

For working on the go, I have an Ipad with 3G capablity. I'm never far from my 3GS Iphone although I'd dearly love the new 4G. I installed the 4G OS on my Iphone and love it. All of our computers have network cards so we can connect to the Internet via our Wireless Router and Portable Modem anywhere in the house.

For backups I have an external hard drive which I can quickly plug into a USB port. That brings me to one of my favourite pieces of equipment that I just discovered this year! It's a silly little Logitech USB port attached to a cable which plugs into any USB port on my computer. That means I can plug it into the BACK port (which is almost impossible for me to access) and leave the available docking end (at the end of the cable) on my desk, front and center. Then when I want to connect my Iphone, Ipad, Ipod or camera cables, bingo, the connection is right in front of me.

I also have a thumb drive for transferring files between my hubby's computer, or the basement workstation computer and my main computer.

My eBook Reader of choice is the Ipad - where I installed both the free Kindle reader and the Ibooks reader. My music player is an Ipod and I have an attachment for the car which allows the Ipod to be heard externally. It's a rather tinny for my ears though.

I use three browsers - Internet Explorer 8, Firefox and Chrome. IE8 is my favourite but it often glitches. So I use each version for different sites. Firefox is for accessing Facebook, as IE always crashes for me!

My social media sites are Twitter and Facebook. You can find me on Facebook as and on Twitter as LorineMS. Tweetdeck is my choice for keeping up with Facebook and Twitter posts, and for updating my own. I read all my news sites(CNN, National Post, BBC News, Mashable, All Things Digital) on my Ipad using Pulse (a news reader)

My blogging platform is Blogger and I use Twitterfeed to automatically tweet my blog post titles to Twitter and then on to Facebook. It all sounds high tech but in reality I'm very low tech!

Hmmm okay Thomas also asked about our software - I use WS_FTP to upload files to my websites but I also use ACE FTP3 to upload. I've tried Coffee Cup but don't like it.

WORD for Windows is still my editor of choice for writing my articles and books. I love Picasa for photo organization and I am learning to use Scribus for a DeskTop Publishing Program. Another program I love but which is very very old and actually discontinued, is Picture It! for creating photo albums.

Almost forgot, I use Skype for chat and video phone calls (although I prefer the video to be one-way, that is not showing ME in my housecoat or lazing-around-the-house clothes!), and I use AOL Instant Messenger as well as Windows Live Messenger for chats. I use Facebook Chat if forced to but I detest it.

Emails - oh boy I have dozens! Most are set up on Gmail which I like except for the automatic threading of messages and lumping those with the same title into one big pile. I also use Pegasus Mail which is my absolute favourite. I can't imagine organizing the sheer volume of my genealogy mail without it. I'm administrator of dozens of mailing lists and message boards, also host of several GenWeb sites and I have to have a powerful email program that allows me to do pretty much anything I want!

Phew! It's a long list, and I'm sure I've forgotten something. But it gives an idea of the chaotic setup I use to function daily online in my personal and my business lives.

Thanks to Thomas for thinking of this Meme as reading what others are using is very helpful to me! I often feel like I'm sitting in a vacuum with no one to talk to about what the latest piece of technology is, or what program works best or....

So this is kind of like virtual brainstorming and that's something I love doing

July 8, 2010

Jewish Family History Research Expands


Popular Database for Jewish Family History Research Expands
Free Resource Now Includes Records of 115,000 People

For Immediate Release
July 7, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY–A valuable resource for Jewish genealogical research has expanded to include records from all over the world. The popular Knowles Collection from FamilySearch is a free database connecting Jewish records of 115,000 people in 30 countries. The combining of those records into one collection makes it easier for researches to find family sources.

“One of the biggest problems with Jewish records is that they are held all over the place and one person can have records in multiple locations,” FamilySearch research consultant and the collection’s manager, Todd Knowles, said. “That means someone just starting to research their Jewish ancestry will have to drive from archive to archive and from synagogue to synagogue to find what they are looking for. What this collection does is put all the records in one location, which is an incredible time and cost savings for patrons.”

Knowles started the database in 2007 to help him find his own Jewish ancestry. The collection began with 6,500 records from the British Isles, but has now rapidly expanded into five geographically-based databases with over 115,000 names:
· The Jews of the British Isles (82,000 names)
· The Jews of the Americas (10,300 names)
· The Jews of Europe (18,697 names)
· The Jews of the Caribbean (2,200 names)
· The Jews of Africa and the Orient (367 names)

The Knowles Collection is compiled from over 200 different sources that have been transcribed and combined by volunteers. There is also a complete list of where the original records can be found. The entire collection is now linked electronically as families and fully searchable on FamilySearch’s Community Trees project, found at Researchers can also download GEDCOM versions of each collection from

According to Knowles, much of the growth of the collection is due to the continued donations of family records by people throughout the world.

“We have received donations from families in the British Isles, Germany, Russia, Jamaica, and many places in the United States,” Knowles said. “We also have a great collection of synagogue records from Mattersdorf, Hungary, as well as burial records from Charleston, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana. It seems as word spreads, more and more custodians of these types of records want to be involved by donating copies of their related work to help expand the collection. ”

Those interested in donating their Jewish family records to the Knowles Collection can contact Todd Knowles at

July 6, 2010

Creating Family Photo & Document Books

My latest project is to create Family Photo & Document Books for my children. With that in mind, I've been trying out various programs to help me organize and display my photos and documents.

So far I've not had much luck and am not really happy with anything I've used.

I detest WORD for anything other than word processing (writing stories). Trying to insert dozens of scanned images, whether they are photographs or documents, is tedious and fraught with problems. Images jump. They overlap, they won't stay where I put them.

I do have a program I really like called PICTURE IT! But it's very old. It's limited in its capabilities and there are no upgrades. In fact it's been discontinued for many years. And it tends to crash. I can only create 25 pages at a time and I can only print one page at a time. If I create the max (50) and choose PRINT ALL, it's guaranteed to crash. It's also very tedious to insert photos. But I like how I can easily crop and shuffle photos or documents around and how fast it is to add text. If I could find something similar I'd be thrilled!

Next thing I tried was a PDF converter/creator called Professional PDF Converter 6. I paid $129.00 plus 13% tax for it. What a waste of money! The two things I must have is the ability to create headers and footers and add page numbers. Converter 6 is supposed to do this. The help file shows two nice little icons for just that. But my program does not have those 2 icons! A search of the website revealed that this is a flaw in every Converter 6 program and that it was reported and acknowledged in 2009. They still have not fixed it and there is no way to insert headers, footers or page numbers. I might as well have had a bonfire with my money.

Reluctantly I turned to Picasa 3. Don't get me wrong, I like Picasa (although I prefer the ealier versions). But for what I want, it's pretty useless. I was forced to choose the pics I wanted for a page, then create a collage, then add text. It looked good printed, but I have hundreds of photos and documents to add and I can only create one collage page at a time. I can't add pages and keep inserting scanned images. I've spent the morning creating nice collages but it's taking forever and I can't get consistent font sizes since it's all eye-balling it and adjusting the little text box to the size you want.

Even though I've chosen a specific font size, adjusting the text box makes the font bigger or smaller, depending on your adjustment. So it's not what I need either.

Any ideas for me? My wants are:

Consistent font sizes.
Page numbering
Ease of adding images and text (captions)

Am I asking too much?

July 3, 2010

Not Floundering Quite as Much in my Sea of Photographs Now

I had many great responses to my story Floundering in a Sea of Photographs where I asked for ideas on how to organize and preserve (pass on) of my family photos.

After reading the ideas, I was struck by how many different avenues of organizing/storing/preserving there are. Geniaus suggested I get a feeder for my scanner to save time and I started thinking about that.

A few years back i bought a super-duper business scanner. It has so many buttons and gadgets I hardly know what it does! So I started wondering if it might do some magical things that I never checked out - and if it had a document feeder!

After digging out the manual and starting to read, I got pretty excited because I found that those nifty buttons on the front actually DO something - and something pretty cool. One of them is a button to scan photos. You place your photos on the bed (mine is extra large so I can get 6 photos on at once) and hit the button. Bingo! Up pops a window where you can choose your settings (you only have to do this the first time then save it as your default). Then you hit SCAN. I choose to scan at 300 dpi and save as .tif

All the pictures scanned on their own, meaning I didn't have to move the outside borders, fiddle with settings, or hit accept. They just scanned, and quickly! Then up came another window asking if I wanted to scan more. I replaced the first photos with another batch and hit YES.

Zip. Scanning done. I only did a little test run but I scanned 8 photos in 3 minutes. To me that's magic and I can live with that!

I had rather quickly gone through my boxes of photos (well one box) and pulled out Hallowe'en pictures of my sons and I. That is what I quickly scanned. Then I imported those 8 pictures into Picasa and created a collage, just so I could show readers here what I ended up with.

I'm happy with the results and now feel motivated to sort my photos as suggested, then start scanning in groups. Events, dates, special trips, years, etc. I'll then print off pages (not collages) for each of my children. I've got a really nice laser colour printer that does a super job, and a speedy one at that.

So thank you everyone for your words of encouragement and your ideas!

July 2, 2010

New Book Looks at Western European Immigration Experience

Press Release. I will be reviewing this book at a later date and posting my review here on the blog. For now, here is the official press release for what looks like a very exciting book!

New Book Looks at Western European Immigration Experience

Freelance writer and genealogist, Leslie Albrecht Huber, delves into the past to recreate the immigration story in her new book, The Journey Takers. Centered on the story of one family, the book widens its focus to tell the story of one of the most influential groups of people in US history—the nineteenth-century European immigrants.

Pre-orders are now open through or through Family Chronicle Magazine directly at

Huber’s ancestors were journey takers, leaving their homes in Germany,Sweden, and England behind to sail to the US and start new lives here.Huber sets out to trace these journeys and to understand her family—who they were and what mattered to them. As she follows in their footsteps, walking the paths they walked and looking over the land they farmed, she finds herself on a journey she hadn’t expected. Based on thousands of hours of research, Huber recreates the immigration experience in a way that captures both its sweeping historical breadth and its intimately personal consequences.

Holly Hansen, Family History Expos President, says, "Leslie Albrecht Huber has the ability to pull us back in history, allowing us to view it through her eyes. She is able to capture the essence of life as it may have been. The reader will find it impossible to lay the book aside as Huber shares her experience in a way that envelops, inspires,
and motivates." Cyndi Ingle Howells, creator and owner of Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet, says, “With The Journey Takers,Leslie Albrecht Huber brings her ancestors to life. She adds flesh to the bones of a genealogical study by weaving historical context,family stories, and her personal feelings into the fabric of the story. The hardships and heartaches of those who came before her are tightly bound to the journey that took them from the old world and into a new life."

Huber has written over one hundred articles, mostly on family history and history topics. Her work has appeared in publications such as The History Channel Magazine, Ancestry, American Spirit, Family Chronicle,Family Tree Magazine, History Magazine, Internet Genealogy and others.Huber has spoken to local, regional, and national audiences on genealogy and history topics in New England and across the country. She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and four children.

Visit her website at for more information.

The Journey Takers (coming June 1)
By Leslie Albrecht Huber
Foundation Books
332 pages, 6 x 9, b/w appendix, bibliography
ISBN: 2010924144 (paperback), LCCN (PCN): 2010924144
Price: $19.95 paperback
Original pub. date: pre-orders June 2010 through
Available Sept through and at local bookstores