Tag Archives: Genealogy Education

Legacy Family Tree Webinar 2023 Schedule Announced!

An inexpensive way to further your genealogy education is by attending the quality webinar presentations by Legacy Family Tree Webinars and the 2023 schedule has just been announced.

Registration is now open and there are 177 (yes, 177) classes on the 2023 calendar covering a huge variety of topics.

If you haven’t ever attended one of their webinars, FYI – you can register for most classes (some are membership-only access) and attend the live webinar.

However, if you aren’t a member, you can’t access the handouts or return after more than a few days to again view the class.

A one-year membership costs only $49.95, which gives immediate access to the entire webinar library (thousands of recorded classes)  plus access to all the handouts, too.

If you are a fan of Elizabeth Shown Mills, she is presenting a special series “Best of Elizabeth Shown Mills,” which is ONLY offered to  members. Her series alone is worth the $49.95 subscription!

There is a 12-page brochure that can be downloaded that describes all the classes.

Check out the new schedule – there is something for everybody!



It’s Not Online? Maybe It is! Accessing Unindexed Records

“I can’t find it!” is a sentence I hear from readers who contact me, hoping to find records that link his/her ancestor firmly to the family tree.

Many, but not all, of these potential distant cousins are relatively inexperienced researchers.

Most of them do realize that not everything is online, but they also don’t understand that THE RECORD THEY ARE SEEKING MIGHT WELL BE DIGITALLY AVAILABLE.

I am always willing to make a quick search to help out a fellow genealogist and there have been many times where it has taken me less than ten minutes to find exactly the record that “couldn’t” be found.

There is a reason for that and it’s not that I’m a magician.

It’s because the person asking for assistance doesn’t have much research experience and doesn’t realize that MANY records have been digitized BUT HAVE NOT BEEN INDEXED or HAVE INCOMPLETE INDEXES.

FamilySearch is the first website that comes to mind and is usually where I find someone’s “impossible to find” record.

Once a person logs in to FamilySearch and chooses the SEARCH tab, a drop down menu opens:

It’s natural to choose RECORDS at the top of the menu and, if the record you want is available and has been indexed on FamilySearch, you will find it in your list of hits.

However, if you are fishing, hoping to find any and all records about an ancestor, or even looking for that one specific record, if it hasn’t been indexed, a RECORDS search with the person’s name will not be successful.

For example, let’s say I was looking for a death or burial record for John Scerbak, my 2X great grandfather who died in Udol, Slovakia in 1916.

John Scerbak was baptized in November 1836 in Udol, Slovakia, married Maria Patorai there in 1861 and lived in Udol until he died and was buried in the Udol village cemetery.

First, I entered his details in the FamilySearch records search box – name, year of birth, wife’s name and year of death.

I got three matches, although #3 is clearly a different person. Two matches are for my John Scerbak, but both matches are for baptismal records of two of their children, sons Michael and Stephen.

No death or burial record is in the match list, nor are matches for his baptism OR marriage to Maria Patorai.

Here is the baptismal record for Stephen Scserbak/Scerbak:

It is evident from both the title of this record collection and the image of the page containing Stephen’s baptism that these are original records.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that maybe my Nana was wrong – that John Scerbak wasn’t born in Udol and maybe he didn’t marry there either. Maybe he married in the next village over.

However, Nana was correct. The answer is that ONLY SOME of the baptisms in this record set have been indexed.

If I didn’t know what year John Scerbak was born, I’d have to estimate and begin reading page by page through this church book.

Also, unless some deaths/burials have been recently indexed, to my knowledge, those records haven’t been indexed AT ALL.

Again, I’d have to be reading burial records page by page, beginning with the date of the last record in which John appeared. In this case, it was in the 1884 baptismal record of son Stephen, whose baptismal record I’ve shared in the above image.

That means I’d be paging through 32 YEARS of burial records. That’s exactly what I did:

John was buried on 22 February 1916 and probably died one or two days before.

One more tip – I “cheated” and used the baptismal record image of Stephen Scerbak to “enter” the Udol church book collection and knew from past experience that I could navigate through baptisms, marriages and burials using that method.

If I was unfamiliar with the record set OR if I got no matches to my search at all, I would instead have gone to the CATALOG selection in the drop down menu box (See purple arrow in the first image, above.)

My search terms would have been SLOVAKIA, UDOL, which FamilySearch expanded to SLOVAKIA, STARA LUBOVNA, UDOL, which brought up one match – the Udol church registers.

I clicked and the link to the Udol church registers opened:

I could then open the church book and begin my page-by-page search.

Before I end, I’d like to share one other quick tip. I’ve read hundreds of pages of court records from many different counties.

Court minutes and court orders often have an index at the front or the back of the book.

HOWEVER, I’ve found MANY MANY times that those indexes can be VERY VERY incomplete.

To summarize – If a record search by person’s name doesn’t yield the result you hoped for, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the record isn’t available online.

It may well mean that the record has been digitized, but NOT indexed.

Although reading a record set page by page is time consuming, that might be the only way you will access a record you really want! It’s well worth the time.





25 Essentials for Genealogy Research

It’s been years since I wrote about Essential Websites for Genealogists, so it is time for an update. However, instead of limiting my suggestions to websites, this list will be a bit more inclusive.

In order to keep the length of this post somewhat in hand, many items will be links to explore with little or no commentary.

All the Essentials in this list are free, aside from #1 and 25 (if you purchase). I have purposely omitted the big subscription websites.

My “rant” will be limited to the first item in this 2022 list:

1. Genealogy Software Program – I cringe when I still hear people bragging that their one and only family tree is found on a paid subscription site or on a one-universal-family tree site.

Sharing is wonderful – we never know where the next big clue will appear or when chinks in the brick wall will start falling out. However, it is imperative to keep control over your own research. They only way to do that, and not lose access to your work, is through the use of a genealogy software program housed on your own computer.

There are a number of programs available (In ABC order – Ancestral Quest, Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, Gramps, Heredis, Legacy Family Tree, Reunion for Mac and  RootsMagic are the most popular, but there are others, so check out GenSoftReviews.

However, CHOOSE ONE OF THEM! Okay, rant done. Now that you have a software program on your home computer, we can continue.

2. Web Clipping Tool – Many, but not all items found online can be downloaded and saved to your computer.  A web clipping tool is a genealogist’s best friend. Some browsers, like Chrome, have built-in free clipping tools. IrfanView is a free program and is the one used at the Family History Library. It’s easy to use and is a good choice for beginners to add to their genealogy toolbox arsenal. I use Snagit, which is getting expensive (over $60 now), because I can use the tools to manipulate and mark images.

3. Research Log – Keeping a research log, which is a list of all the sources viewed or research contacts made plus search results, is essential for two reasons. First, it documents records and repositories searched. Second, it documents people you’ve contacted, either by email or snail mail and allows you to follow up with those who haven’t replied.

The simplest research log is simply the use of paper and pencil. There are downloadable free forms that can be printed, designed especially for genealogists.  For those who want to decrease the paper pile on their desks, Excel is an obvious choice. Most genealogy software programs also have places for research notes.

4. Source Citation HelpsZotero, EasyBib and templates in stand-alone software to document where you find information.

Now, you have the basics to gather and record information about people in your family tree. What next? After recording basic information about yourself, immediate family, parents and grandparents, it’s time to look online.

Not everything is online, nor will it ever be! That is because of governmental laws to access, copyright issues and accessibility to records in private hands. However, there are MANY resources available.

5. FamilySearch Research Wiki

6. Digitized BooksInternet Archive, World Cat, Google Books, HathiTrust, FamilySearch Books and links to my U.S. County Histories project.

7. Maps, etc.David Rumsey Collection, Sanborn Maps, Atlas of Historic (U.S.) County Boundaries and Meyers Gazetteer (Germany). Many others online. Search your place of interest.

8. U.S. Library of Congress

9. NARA Access to Archival Databases (including SSDI)

10. CemeteriesFind A Grave, Nationwide Gravesite Locator, BillionGraves

11. DNA InfoISOGG Wiki, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy, DNA Painter, Leeds’ Method

12. Church RecordsAmerican Baptist Historical Society – why the Baptist church is NOT helpful for genealogists, Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois Catholic Cemeteries, Digital Quaker Collection, , Friends Historical Library, Quaker Information Center, The Archives of the Episcopal Church,  Congregational Library and Archives, Mennonite Church

13. U.S. Military ServiceNARA, DAR Library

14. Thousands of Categorized LinksCyndi’s List, Linkpendium

15. U.S. State Digital Collections – Search “state of interest” digital collections

16. Historic NewspapersChronicling America, The Ancestor Hunt

17. Photography History and Vintage PhotosDeadFred, Ancient Faces, Tin-Eye Reverse Image Search, Google Images, Photo Tree

18. Local Genealogy & Historical Societies – Search your places of interest. Many societies have some free online databases and resources

19. Immigration & Passenger ListsOlive Tree Genealogy, Ellis Island

20. International Resources – There are a number of foreign repositories that are accessible for free by everyone, but are PAID databases on the big genealogy sites. Check out Library and Archives Canada & the Provincial Archives where your ancestors lived. Others:  Danish National Archives, the National Archives of Norway and the Swedish National Archives, British National Archives, plus many others.

21. feedly – Add blog urls (up to 100 free, I believe) and follow your favorite genealogy bloggers. Feedly will note any new posts in your list so you don’t have to visit 100 sites to find 65 have new posts.

22. Genealogy on Facebook by Katherine Willson – PDF list of genealogy and history FB groups

23. Conference Keeper – Calendar of upcoming genealogy webinars and conferences. Many webinars are free to attend live. Fees required to register are noted.

24. Reference Library – Build a home library and expand as needed. Three excellent books to start are The Source, Evidence Explained and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.

25. EBay – There are books, photos and mementos waiting to be found that tie into our ancestors’ families.

There are many more other terrific free resources available online, but this list will certainly get you started.