19    Sep 20103 comments

Diaries: A family history source

keeping a journalTake it from a writer: The more you write, the easier it becomes. Why not keep a journal or diary?

Journals and diaries are excellent resources for family history research.

Don't you wish your ancestors had recorded their daily lives and thoughts in a format that has come down to you as a treasured keepsake through the centuries?

I know someone whose ancestor left a journal written several hundred years ago. The writer describes the family's everyday life in difficult new surroundings, how they celebrated holidays, the writer's wishes for her descendants far in the future and much more. It is as if the writer knew it would be treasured and passed down through the generations, as it has been. It is a priceless heirloom.

Put yourself in the shoes of a great-grandchild who finds your journal. What do you think will interest him or her? What is happening in your life now that you want future generations to know about? Do you want to include advice for future generations?

Continue reading "Diaries: A family history source" »

30    Dec 20082 comments

Google your way to family history

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Do you know how to use Google to search for your family? Do you really know how to use all Google features to do this?

A new book, "Google Your Family Tree: Unlock the Hidden Power of Google," by genealogy and technology expert Dan Lynch, will help you do just that.

The book is a comprehensive, expertly written manual of all things Google. Although written for genealogists, it covers researching for everyone about everything.

The clear step-by-step instructions help users learn how to use both the well-known and lesser-known Google tools. There are additional tips for genealogists.

I was surprised by what I didn't know! And judging from comments by other family historians and genealogists, I'm not alone. Even expert researchers are saying they've been learning new techniques also.

There are many variations in constructing a good Google search, and the author presents what could be somewhat confusing material into easily understood concepts by everyone, no matter their skill level.

He encourages readers to try things out as they go through the 352-page book. The wide page margins are great for making notes and there are worksheets for what he has planned as an interactive workbook.

What's most important, I think, is that it isn't only for genealogists and family history fans, but offers essential information for Internet researchers of all topics.

Each example uses Dan's own ancestor and related details to illustrate the results obtained. Using one person and one family's details means readers can more easily follow the techniques of creating good searches.

He's also asking readers to submit new tips and techniques not covered in the book, and he intends to create a blog that will update readers on new or improved Google features.

The book comes with two separate cards offering a quick reference guide to basic and advanced searching. This makes it easy to take along or use at home.

Most features I had known about and had used in simple searches (I learned a lot more!), while other tools were new to me, but explained concisely. Google Alerts is one feature I've used for some time. It helps me know what is happening in the international genealogy world almost as it happens.

This is an efficiently organized, easily understood volume that should be of great value to anyone - not only genealogists - who needs to find anything on the internet.

For more information, click Google Your Family Tree.

27    May 20080 comments

Books, books, books

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Wherever we look, there are increasing numbers of books somehow related to aspects of genealogy.

Whether they are family mysteries or historically-focused, there are many books already out that can provide insight into family history research. Readers can expect even more in the way of entertainment as well as reference books.

The younger generations are also getting into the act. North Carolina resident Amanda Burns, 17, started writing "Remember the Dance: The Story of Nora Shanahan" a few years ago when she researched her Irish ancestors on both sides who eventually settled in North Carolina.

The story centers around 15-year-old Nora Shanahan, an Irish girl living in the 1840s during the Irish Potato Famine, caused by a fungus that decimated much of the island country's potato crop.

The New York Times detailed a 2005 book by Carole Cadwalladr, "The Family Tree," about an English family over three generations. It covers DNA, multi-ethnicity, family secrets and much more, all tied together, as the main character says:

''I've been thinking about the trees again. You remember. The trees in the back garden. . . . It's like a family tree, of course. I don't know why I didn't think of that before.''

"Above the door frame is a long, narrow plaque of enameled metal. The black letters set against a white background say Central Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths," is the first line in"All the Names," (Harcourt, 2000) by Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago.

The book won the Weidenfeld Translation Prize for Margaret Jull Costa's translation from Portuguese. It is the story of a low-level clerk in a government office that records births and deaths. When he comes across the birth certificate for a mysterious woman, he becomes strangely obsessed with finding out more about her.

"The Family Tree," (Serpent's Tail, 1991) by Margo Glantz, was originally written in Spanish (1881) and covers her family's dual heritage from pre-revolutionary Russia, immigration to Mexico and intertwining memories of different ways of life.

Are you into murder mysteries? "Death on the Family Tree," by Patricia Sprinkle, hinges on family secrets. The details include priceless jewelry, a German diary, a previously unknown family branch, a burglary and two murders. Some characters have done family history research, another has checked a US census and even uses her own computer to find records.

For a great list of new books on aspects of family history, genealogy and local history, here's a website that lists books in print (back to 2004) as well as those to be published in the future. "What's New in Family History, Genealogy & Local History Books" can be accessed here.

Among reference works available next winter: "Place Names of Illinois" (University of Illinois Press, November 2008) by Edward Callary of Northern Illinois University will detail the origins of names of 3,000 Illinois communities."

"Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide," edited by Ann Durkin Keating of North Central College and coeditor, The Encyclopedia of Chicago. (University of Chicago Press, December 2008). This claims to be a comprehensive, cross-referenced compendium on all 77 community areas, suburbs and neighborhoods (past and present).

There is an entire site, compiled by the Librarians Serving Genealogists list of genealogy-oriented novels, including mysteries, science fiction, hystorical fiction, children/young adults and unclassified here

And if you'd like to try writing your own history, try GenWriters.com, by Phyllis Matthews Ziller, MLIS, which offers many guides, resourcesfor research and social history, writing resources, a page of handy books to investigate, a bibliography of genealogical reference books, a bibliography of family history writing guides, and even a section on genealogy resources for children.

Have you read a book with a genealogical twist to it? Why not tell us all about it? I always look forward to receiving your comments.

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