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!

Research helps

Public libraries and your genealogy search at home

The greatest innovation in genealogy is the internet and the ability to work at home on our own schedule.  Research has never been easier allowing us to fit it into our busy schedules (and our children’s).  Many public libraries make it even easier.  Most know libraries often have access to fee based sites at their locations.  However, many don’t realize you can sometimes access that same information at home through the library.  The Dallas Public Library allows its residents to access fee based sites such America’s Genealogy Bank, America’s Obituaries and Death Notices, Fold3 (Military Records), Dallas Morning News Archive and many others.  In Dallas, you must have a library card to access these services, but some libraries offer a great deal of information to all users.  So first check your local library, then check the library where you are focusing your family research.  You never know what you will find and free is always good!

Family history stories, Research helps

Unexpected places

I have family that came from Limoges, France.  I haven’t worked on that line in years and decided to try again.  It’s important to know the region of your family when looking outside the United States.  I searched the department (region) of Haute-Vienne, where Limoges is the capital.  They have made microfilm available online that one canDumont, Pierre Bernard 1836 view!   There I found my 2nd great grandfather’s birth and marriage record which listed his parents – giving me his father’s date of birth and his mother’s full name, which I didn’t previously know!  It was a good day!

Lessons: 1. Things are constantly being put online.  Come back to things occasionally to see what you can find now.  2. Google search the name of the region of your family (i.e. Haute-Vienne France genealogy) or search the regional governmental website which led me to  Use google which can translate the website for you if needed.

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.