Genealogy basics

Sharing with Family (Part 1)

Interested in sharing photos and collaborating with family members?  Over the next few posts I’ll share just some of the many ways you can bring your family closer together.

Many people are familiar with Dropbox.  Dropbox is frequently used to share files & photos, but the comments function can facilitate communication.  My daughter-in-law Megan showed me how her family has used Dropbox to share photos and the stories that accompany them.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 12.53.20 PM

First a folder is created and shared with family members.  Megan’s uncle offered to scan in old family photos and the stories began.  Perhaps you’ve never noticed when you open a file (or photo) in dropbox, there is a place on the right for comments.  In the above example, a photo taken during WWI points out ancestor Angelo Dilibert on the right.  The comments section on the left allows for ongoing conversations.  Here the green circle notes the family patriarch added, “He was in the hospital with malaria from the swamps around Rome.”

Sometimes someone posts a question like, “Does anyone know who the guy on the right is?”  Family members can then chime in.  It’s simple, easy and fun.

There are many great ways to collaborate, but I like this one because it uses a common program.  The downside, the information is not saved with the photo once it is removed from Dropbox, so keep that in mind.  But it is one way to spur family togetherness!  How does your family share photos and memories?

Genealogy basics

Do you have a family history mess?

Do you have piles of paper that you’ve collected over the years or that you’ve inherited?
MessI’ve had the opportunity this summer to help a few people organize decades of accumulated genealogy. It’s a big project and often overwhelming. Fortunately we’re moving from a paper society to a digital one. Does that sound enticing? So, where do you begin?

First, if you haven’t already, choose a platform to host your genealogy, whether it be on your computer or the web.  Click HERE for more suggestions. If you have a GEDCOM or even a PAF file, you can upload it to your chosen genealogy program.

Decide what type of organization for digital and remaining paper records would work for you. For organizational suggestions, click HERE. Once you’ve chosen, be consistent.

Upload your precious family photos and certificates to your genealogy program (click HERE for suggestions), saving the digital copy and filing the original according to your organizational plan. Many sources like census records are very easily found now. There is no need to keep the copies like we did in the past; besides they are easier to view online anyway. Be sure the source is attached to your individual and then discard it! (yes, I said it) While you’re discarding, go ahead and get rid of all those pedigree charts and family group sheets. Just be sure the information is in your genealogy file first.

It will take a while, but slowly chip away at it and you’ll be so pleased with the results. Don’t forget to backup your file (check your program for instructions). Save backups in various locations (not just one computer, it may crash).

The rewards… you’ve opened the door to easily sharing with others. You can distribute copies of precious family photos and such with a click, ensuring their survival. And most of all, you’ve simplified your life which leads to peace and happiness!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or suggestions. Good luck!

Family history stories, Genealogy basics, Writing family histories

Interviewing Family Members

Me & DadI’ve been trying to take advantage of my dad’s visits and spend a little time asking about his life.  I’ve loved learning more about him and my other family members.  One of my favorite stories was when my dad and some buddies decided to ride down the street on an old buckboard (unattached to horses).  They were having fun until they realized they couldn’t stop it…  Dad was driving & the other boys had to run ahead to the next intersection to stop traffic!  They finally were able to navigate into their school yard, drive in circles, and finally stop.

Be sure to take the opportunities you have as they arise and learn about your family.  Click HERE to visit my tutorial for more ideas and information.

Genealogy basics

Genealogy 101

So you want to give genealogy a try… but where to begin?

Here is a short list of things to get you started.  Visit my website for more ideas.

Butler Family Book 2

  1. Collect “perishable” things and preserve them. Ask questions of family members, recording conversations if you can.
    • Visit with your oldest living relative to learn more about their lives.  Ask for details but also ask open ended questions. (see article “Family Interview” for sample questions and other pointers – coming soon)
    • Organize photos and other memorabilia collected. (see article “Organization“)
    • Make digital copies and distribute to family members – thus ensuring their survival. (see article “Scanning Photos & Documents” – coming soon)
  2. Determine where you want to build your tree. (see article “Genealogy Programs“)
    • Computer programs
    • Online programs
    • World trees
  3. Begin by following “hints” available on most genealogy programs to become familiar with easily found sources.  But don’t accept all “hints” – they may not be correct.  Be sure to check information: location, spouse, children, birth date/place, etc. (see article “Genealogy 102” for searching helps – coming soon)
  4. Source and organize “finds” as you go, attaching them to your tree.
  5. Don’t get discouraged with inevitable brick walls. (see article “Overcoming Brick Walls” – coming soon)
  6. Use on-line resources to answer questions and find solutions.  Google can lead you to many great finds.
  7. One final word of advice… when looking at records, be sure to look at the image, there is a world of information in a census record or draft registration card. Be sure to take the time to view them.
Genealogy basics, Research helps

Find the Origin of Last Names

Have you ever tried to map your last name and the last name of your ancestors?  Visit the Geneanet website where you can map any last name.  Geneanet is based in France and is especially useful for those who have ancestors in Europe.  It is a free site where you can create a tree and search for records.

The last name origin feature is particularly interesting.  When I put in my family name of Kunzli (from Switzerland) I got this result:


In this image, it shows the origin of my name is unknown.  Note the timeline cursor on the bottom to see the evolution of the last name distribution.

en-origin-01To see this great tool for yourself, visit and click “More > Origin of Last Names” in the menu bar at the top of the site.

Try it out!
Genealogy basics, Research helps, Writing family histories

Generational Holiday Celebrations

Will you be spending the holidays with family? Don’t miss the opportunity to ask questions and share wonderful stories. It’s great fun listening to Grandma tell stories about her life. Need some suggestions?grandma-morgan-me


  1. How did you meet your spouse? Plus early dates and wedding memories.
  2. How did your parents meet?
  3. Describe your 1st job or favorite job?
  4. Who are some of your heroes?
  5. What events impacted your life growing up?
  6. What was your childhood like?

Informational questions:

  1. Get the basics of the people they remember – full names, nicknames, maiden names, birth & death dates. (Sometimes dates are difficult, but association can be the key – i.e. Grandpa died a few years before you were born.)
  2. Where family lived.  What country their family originally came from.
  3. This is a good one… “Who is the oldest relative you remember? What do you remember about them?”
  4. History of family surname.

Use your camera or cell phone to video or voice record your conversations.  If that’s not possible be sure to take notes – you’ll forget important details.  These are just a few starter questions, Google “family history interview questions” for other ideas.  Happy holidays!

Genealogy basics

Genealogy work – don’t loose it!

Workplace headache
Photo Credit: Designed by Pressfoto

A cautionary tale for users… I’ve known many who begin their genealogy adventures on, a great free site where searching is easy, hints are offered and anyone can collaberrate at no cost. But because it is a community tree it is open to changes by anyone. There is nothing more frustrating than working to create your tree and then having your work disappear in a move by another user. I’ve seen many beginning genealogists get discouraged because the work they’ve done is lost and they don’t remember the details. Be sure to create your own tree that is yours alone. If you want to collaberate with use a program that complements it such as Rootsmagic or Rootsmagic is software that you load to your computer. is a fee based website. With either program you can transfer information to or from, but your tree is secure. If you need help, feel free to post a question.

Family history stories, Genealogy basics, Research helps

The internet – an amazing tool

Last night I came across these photos.  The Rimes family are distant cousins, which is why I’d never focused on them.  These photos led to further search and I quickly confirmed their death dates and learned more about the terrible fire.  I felt drawn to find their fourth child, who was previously unknown to me.  The genealogist who posted the photos had information on his/her tree.  Fortunately, this genealogist was thorough and added many sources.  Upon further review of the sources, I agreed with the conclusions reached and added that child to my tree as well.

My point: what would have taken me months to do in days gone by was accomplished in 30 minutes thanks to the internet (and it’s powerful search engines) and a dedicated genealogist who was willing to post thorough research for others to see.

Lesson#1: be vigilant in your sourcing so others can benefit from your hard work!  Linking your sources to your ancestors is easier now than ever.

Lesson #2: check the sources of others and be sure their research is reliable.