Friday, January 29, 2021

Timely Tips for Today


Tips for Today: 

(These come from Joe Grandinetti’s article in the Dec/Jan 2021 issue of InternetGENEAOGY.)

Of course, all your ancestors were law-abiding sorts. But what if they were not?  If you’ve not fully documented your roguish relatives, then you might want to look at Ancestry’s worldwide collection of court, governmental and criminal records.  Or click to Cyndi’s List and then the category of Prisons, Prisoners & Outlaws (501 links as of Oct 2020).

“We’re no longer on our own deserted islands of research; the internet has become a connective landmass for us. As I suspect many of your do, I use social media (Facebook) for genealogical purposes via liking/following groups dealing with my specific areas of interest. It’s a convenient platform for education and information exchange. Expand on this by viewing or joining roots-themed blogs.”

Then Joe posts these blogs as some of  his favorites:

·        Eastman’s Online Genealogical Newsletter,

·        FamilySearch blog, www.familysearch.orgblog/en

·        Megan Smolenyak’s blog,

·        American Ancestors blog (New England Historic Genealogical Society),

·        Blaine Bettinger’s DNA-focused blog,

·        Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog,

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

"Wurst" Case Scenario

 Let's lighten up a bit today, especially since it's rather dreary outside.

Statistically we're told that 1/4 of our collective American ancestry is from Germany or German-speaking countries. Do you eat "wurst?"

Friday, January 22, 2021

2021 Genealogy Volunteer Opportunities


2021 Genealogy Volunteer Opportunities

Anybody remember the 2000 movie Pay It Forward? The story was about a young boy’s goodwill movement known as “pay it forward.” That’s where we genealogists learned about the great necessity of stepping up, paying it forward, to help index or transcribe any number of genealogical records.  Remember?

The simplest way to define “pay it forward” is that when somebody does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person instead.  The idea in genealogy is that we all use websites like FamilySearch and Find-A-Grave.  We can use those website, we can and do find information and answers on those (and other) websites because somebody thought to give their time to “paying it forward,” to helping with indexing.

In this coming year, especially this first six months when we will all still likely be under voluntary-mandatory-quarantine, beside learning new techniques and about new resources for ourselves, how about we give back a bit? Help with one of these needful projects? Pay it forward?

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

1.      Here in Washington, our digital archives offers SCRIBE. This is a template-based program to index digitized state records. I worked some on early 20th century school records and now am working on Spokane County marriage records. It just feels good to “fix” these records so that other genealogists can find and use them. I have no Washington State genealogy myself but I know others who do.


2.      Other state archives have similar projects; I know the Georgia Genealogy Society offers a parallel project. What is your state of research interest? Might you be willing to offer time to index records in “your” state? Check with your state’s archives to see what might be available.


3.      Find-A-Grave is a wonderful website that everybody uses. But here’s the behind the scenes truth of the matter: way more people take and upload their tombstone photos than there are people who index the information on those stones so that the image might be found. What you as a volunteer would do is offer your help, then tombstone images would come up and you would enter whatever is carved on that stone into a template. Super extra points if you could read a language other than English.


4.      My good friend, Cynthia Turk, who lives in Ohio, volunteers for Unclaimed Persons. This project was begun a decade ago by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak who came to realize that many deceased persons (their ashes in urns) rested on the dusty shelves of funeral homes and coroner’s offices. Why? Because no family could be found to claim the ashes. Their motto is “Every Life IS Worth Remembering” and I believe that is so true. If you wish to try your hand at helping here, Google “Unclaimed Persons” and check out the FAQ link to learn about volunteering.


5.      FamilySearch is always in need of indexing assistance. Quoting from Cynthia Turk’s handout, "There are some interesting projects (waiting here) where you might learn some history, about types of records or enhance your transcribing skills on early documents.” Click to to learn more and take the virtual tour.


6.      Our National Archives offers a Citizen Archivist project that involves transcribing, tagging and/or adding comments to digitized documents. Check it out at


7.      How about Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, ? This is a really wonderful opportunity! You sign up for where you live if you are willing to visit a local cemetery and photo a tombstone or go to a local library or courthouse for somebody who cannot come in person for whatever reason.


I could probably go on with a list counting up to ten pages but you get the idea. IF you want to give some time to “paying it forward,” here are some opportunities for you. Remember that 2021 will come to December once again and what will you have to show for your twelve months’ of time?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

January Brain Teasers

 It is my opinion that my brain has smoldered and maybe moldered a bit during these last months of social inactivity. Perhaps you too? We need our fully-functioning brain to utilize genealogy tools and to solve our research problems, right?  In my effort to help us all (smile), here are some brain teasers to get you going again:

1. Five NFL teams are named after real and made-up birds. What are they?

2.  What word can you come up with that has the most vowels?

3. Why did King Charles II (1660-1685)  want ravens kept at the Tower of London?

4.  Do you, or does your family, today, really have a heraldic crest?

5.  What years were the U.S. Mortality Censuses taken?

6.  Which is over-all the most nutritious, an apple or an orange?

7.  Would you vote thumbs up or down for the new state of Columbia? (Eastern WA and Northern ID)  Why or why not?

8.  After about how many years are graves in Germany recycled?

9.  When was EWGS founded?  How long have you been a member?

10. Stating and then sharing a goal usually aids towards its implementation and ultimate completion. What is your goal for 2021?

LOVE to have your answers. Copy/paste/retype/whatever, if you wish, to me, Donna, at

Friday, January 15, 2021

James Tanner's Rules for Genealogy


James Tanner’s Genealogy’s Star blog, 11 July 2020:


A New Rule of Genealogy Discovered: Number Thirteen

 Here are the previous 12 Rules.

·                     Rule One: When the baby was born, the mother was there.

·                     Rule Two: Absence of an obituary or death record does not mean the person is still alive.

·                     Rule Three: Every person who ever lived has a unique birth order and a unique set of biological parents.

·                     Rule Four: There are always more records.

·                     Rule Five: You cannot get blood out of a turnip. 

·                     Rule Six: Records move. 

·                     Rule Seven: Water and genealogical information flow downhill

·                     Rule Eight: Everything in genealogy is connected (butterfly)

·                     Rule Nine: There are patterns everywhere

·                     Rule Ten: Read the fine print

·                     Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong

·                     Rule Twelve: The end is always there

As I said back in November of 2019, you never know, there might be another rule somewhere out there in the genealogical universe waiting to be discovered. Well, here it is:


Rule Thirteen: Genealogists abhor a blank field

 Other than my obvious borrowing from the old scientific saying from physics known as, horror vacui, or plenism, commonly stated as "nature abhors a vacuum," attributed to Aristotle, this came to me as I was correcting entries in the Family Tree. It seems like some genealogists are compelled to fill in a blank even if they have no idea what should go there. Hmm. I might say that some people are compelled to fill in a blank even if they have no idea what should go there and not attribute all that extra stuff to genealogists but in my experience, it is genealogists that obsess over empty fields such as birthdates before there could possibly have been any birth records. 

 Genealogy should be source-based. This means that when we add information (an event) to our family tree, it should be based on a valid historical source not just our speculation about the event. You might want to look at Rule Two (above) and think about the fact that empty fields may simply reflect the last of a record and not a failing on the part of the researcher. 

 Take some time to think about what you are adding to your own family tree and take some more time to think about what you add to an online public family tree. 


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Graves In Germany Are Recycled


Bet you didn't know that graves in Germany are recycled??  

I read about this in an article in Der Ahnenforscher, the monthly newsletter of the German Genealogy Group (based in Long Island, NY; Google it). James Derheim wrote that if you're planning a research trip to Germany and you want to visit your ancestors' graves, you will most likely be very disappointed. "With 83 million people living above ground in Germany, a country the size of Wisconsin, there isn't much room leftover for new burial plots. The outlines and dimensions of a cemetery are usually constant, kept the same as they have been for hundreds of years." 

So what do Germans (and other Europeans) do? After a period of about 15-20 years, if the family no longer pays for the upkeep and "rental" of the burial plot, the remains of the person buried there are removed, the headstone taken away and a new person buried in that spot. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Genealogy Pit Stop: Research in 15-Minute Increments


You know what a pit stop is right? It can be a much-needed break on I-90 driving to Seattle or perhaps a Daytona car race type. Bottom line, though, a pit stop, means a very short space of time to do something.  

Thomas MacEntee offers a free presentation on YouTube about how you can really accomplish something with your genealogy research in just 15 minutes. Sounds impossible, doesn't it?

Thomas explains that to have a successful Genealogy Pit Stop you must (1) have a sense of focus;  (2) have the ability to ignore BSOs (bright shiny objects); (3) have the tools at hand to track where you started last and where you left off; and (4) have helpers such as pre-formatted source citation templates or evaluation cheat sheets.

Do you have 15 minutes in your busy day to have a Genealogy Pit Stop? Spend that first 15 minutes watching Thomas' YouTube video. You'll be hooked, I guarantee. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

New Website To Me:


Ever heard of, or maybe used, this website, a "free online encyclopedia of Washington state history?" Below is a snip from that website following a search for "new years day." Sorry it's Seattle but the quotes from the paper for that day are delightful to read. 

Go take a looksee for an article/topic of interest to you...... as it pertains to the Evergreen State's history. 

"The first day, of the first month, in the first year, in the twentieth century, is here" (The Seattle Times, January 1, 1901, p. 6).

"Those who watched the 'new year in' did something which they will never do again. They witnessed the 'birth of a century'" (The Seattle Times, January 1, 1901, p. 6).

Every whistle, bell, and gun in Seattle greeted the New Year to the full strength of its noisy power. The hour of midnight was clear, the night air still and cold. The result was that the entire city heard what it already knew, that a new Year was born" (The Seattle Times, January 1, 1901, p. 6).

Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year's Advice from Thomas MacEntee


Thomas MacEntee used this image in a recent blog post and I quite loved it. "Shift" does happen, and it did happen big time in 2020. But Thomas' advice to us in that post was "okay, 2020 is done with, it's time to have an attitude shift towards what good things 2021 will bring!" I really think he's quite right.

     Let's all have an attitude shift and start today looking forward to   all the opportunities, adventures and blessings sure to come in 2021.   Start by calendaring the three EWGS meetings per month onto your calendar (EWGS, TAG, GRF) in order to take advantage of all the learning offered to you via EWGS.

Happy New Year of 2021!