Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Filing Source Documents

You have collected a stack of birth, marriage, death and other primary source documents. What do you do with them once you have transcribed the data into your database?

I suggest that you:

Gather all the birth, marriage and death certificates for your family together and put them in acid-free sheet protectors this week. Temporarily (a few weeks at most), use a post-it note or slip of paper to number them with a
numbering system of your choice...(post-it on the outside of the plastic).... This requires that you to decide on a numbering system you are going to use for referencing your documents, photos, etc.

I use the numbering system below and it works for me.... I also record all of the documents and information by number using the program Clooz and print reports from it for filing. However, a $4.00 journal with acid-free paper can fill this role too.

The secret about numbering is to be consistent in whatever system you choose. If my system doesn't work for you, sit down and design a numbering system that feels best in your
situation. You'll be glad you thought it through early in the process... If you find that system doesn't work, change it before you get so many records that it becomes very difficult to find the courage to change everything you've done....

Here is an example of how I have assigned numbers in my system:

  • Birth 0001 - Birth 9999 (when I get my 10,000th birth certificate / record, I'll just add a digit until I get to 99,999+)
  • Blessing 0001-9999 (Usually LDS blessing certificates. See Baptisms below)
  • Marriage 0001 - 9999, etc...
  • Death 0001 - 9999 etc...
  • Will 0001 - 9999 etc...
  • Baptism 0001 -9999 etc... (we may all run out of numbers in this category and have to go to a 5 digit number here eventually. Church birth records are almost always the baptism / christening date, so as you start finding a lot of info on your ancestral families, you'll collect a lot of photocopied pages of baptism / christening records).
  • Deeds 0001 - 9999 etc.
  • Photos 0001 - 9999 etc. You may end up with so many photos that you want to start with a 5 digit number here. It just depends on how you decide to file your family and family history related photos. You may want several titles for this category... i.e. Silva Photos 0001-9999 or Hornback Photos 0001-9999 for the folks associated with those surnames and then use the family name of the other branch (typically your spouse) for another set of photos.. It just depends on how many photos you file in relation to family history. I take photos of family headstones, homesteads, hospitals (where born / died), churches and tabernacles (where baptized) as well as panoramic views of the towns to document our lineage. If you decide that you are going to do something similar, consider that fact when you create your photo numbering system.
  • Any other categories you want to use.
When you record the source in your genealogy database, just add your personal filing number with it. Put the number on the acid-free sheet protector that holds the related document. In my case, I use a Dymo label writer (inexpensive one that prints on vinyl tape from Wal-Mart, etc.,) to create document number labels. Now, when I want to find the original document that is referenced in my sources, I just open my source books and flip to .. Death 0239 .. or whatever document number that is referenced.

Since I've used this system, I can always find my primary, important secondary source documents and family history photos in a few seconds. They are literally at my fingertips, safely stored in one place in consecutive order by document type. Gone are the days of documents being in various file cabinets, folders, binders, etc.

You'll want to seriously consider ordering very good 3-ring binder(s) for these records. I use the very sturdy Wilson-Jones #367-49 binders. They come in black, blue and red and are $25+ each, are really strong and won't fail over time.

In an emergency, after determining that our family members are ok, the binders will be the first thing we grab on the way out the door as we grab our 360-hr emergency kits (yes, we are involved in CERT).... I also keep a set of backup DVD's of all of our scanned photos, genealogy databases, etc. in one of the binders as well as in our emergency kits.

Keep your binders filed standing upright, in a cool place, out of the sun and reach of children. You should also consider including a copy of either your genealogy software on one of the DVD's or the original program CD's. You'll want the software so you can recreate your databases, photos and documents when the 'dust' settles if an emergency occurs....

Monday, April 30, 2007

Maps for research and documentation.

Several folks asked about finding cemetery locations, old homesteads, etc. this week. There are a number of very good mapping websites available at no cost. Here are some of my favorites:

Topozone -- If you are familiar with USGS or topographic maps, you'll love this site

ACME Mapper -- You can easily find the longitude and latitude of a location using ACME ... also note that you can view aerial photos of the area with both a Google maps overlay or with DOQ and NEXTRAD which are aerial photos used by many other mapping sites. ACME also has topo maps available with one click. Unfortunately, you can't search by cemetery name or feature name, but rather by town / city names, but once in the area, you can switch to a topo or street map and usually find the cemetery. Take a few minutes and search for a home or location that you know out of the area. You'll soon be an expert user of ACME.

USGS -- This site is more difficult to use for mapping (surprise - it is 'The' government mapping site)... but you can search for Lat /Long values by Feature Name.... So, if you want to know where the 'Dolittle' cemetery is in Kentucky, search for it as a feature...

National Geographic-- You expect a lot from National Geographic and you get it on this site. Not only can you find the location in question, but if it is in the U.S., you can chose various other themes by pushing a button and see congressional districts, earthquake faults, vegetation types, etc. You need to be patient when you first go to the site... It takes quite a while to load, but it is worth it..

Google Maps -- You are probably a user of this site already, but just in case.... Enjoy!

Multimap -- This site is especially useful for Europe and locations outside the U.S., although it also displays U.S. maps..

Tiger Maps -- This site is owned by the U. S. Census Bureau. It is also a little slow loading, but if you spend a little time working on it and learn the rich feature set, you'll be very happy that it is in your research quiver.

UK Street Map-- If you have ancestral ties in England and Scotland, look at this site first. When you search, push the radio button called "GB Place" and then type in a place name. As an example, if I want to find my ancestral Featherstone Castle, the search is that simple.... Just type in its name...

Terra Server -- more aerial photos

Yahoo Maps and MapQuest ... the old standby's

ZABA- here's a bonus link not related to Maps... This site is spooky in its ability to find living folks... Use the free search features unless you really want to find out about someone and are willing to pay for the results...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Libraries on the web

As we explore the vast family history resources now available on the Internet, let's look at state and federal government and public library websites. These websites are often full of links to digitized records both in their own facility and in other public libraries.

The list below is just a sampling of family history library sites you can find on the Internet. They are not in any special order but all contain family history resources. Make sure you look through the section headings on the web pages to find the genealogy sections. Many of not all of the state library sites will cross-link to each other, so you can go from library to library with the click of your mouse. Don't forget to drop bread crumbs along the way or you many never find that 'great' site again... i.e. Bookmark a 'great' site in your browser when you find it... you may never pass that way again otherwise...

1. Family Genealogy and History Internet Education Directory --- this is a long page of links -- click on the categories listed at the top of the page to save time, but be sure to scan through the entire page to get a flavor of the offerings..

2. Utah - Historical -- This site is full of records that will help you if you are researching ancestors in Utah.

3. Utah Digital Libraries -- A collection of digitized Utah Newspapers spanning 100 years in some cases.

4. U.S. Veteran Grave site Locator

5. State Family History Archives - Google

Do a Google Search with these words on the search line.... 'state family history archives ' (just the words)

While on Google ... also search for library family history archives I just found the burial record of a family member in Australia while writing this.... Try various combinations of words in your Google searches to narrow down the results, but be a little creative in your searches too... A year ago, I knocked down one of my 'brick walls' when I found a little library in Missouri that had the exact obituaries I needed ... on their web site.. Don't give up too early in reviewing the results of a Google or Altavista search... Remember to search by state or university name too.. i.e. USC family history genealogy..

6. BLM Land Patents -- I've found a lot of info about my homesteading ancestors here...

7. Google Books

I consider Google to be a big library. Thousands of books that are out of copyright have been scanned and are shown on Google. The books are often a gold mine for us family history researchers... Search for vital records by town, state... i.e. ' vital records of Salt Lake City, Utah ' also search for your ancestral name(s).. i.e. Campbell genealogy ... Print the pages that pertain to your family...

8. BRB Publications - Free links ...

This is a commercial documents company, but they have a very good links page that lists all state government websites related to public records.