Valentine Gift Idea – a Family Tree Poster

Valentine’s is around the corner and here’s a quick gift idea for family – a poster of your family tree.  I discovered that Geneanet has some free templates that make awesome (inexpensive) gifts.  I did this last minute before Christmas and the results were beautiful.

If you have a Geneanet tree you can follow the instructions below.  If not, first you need to create an account a t  Although they have a premium service, which is a nice option, you don’t have to pay to become a member and upload a tree.

Download wherever you’ve saved your family tree and then upload to Geneanet on the ribbon under Family Tree – Import/Export a Family Tree.  Depending on the size of your tree, this may take a few minutes.

Once your tree is uploaded, open up the individual (or yourself) that you want to start as the base of your chart.  Then click on Charts & Lists – Ancestry – Printable Family Tree.  There are several templates from which you can select.  I chose a fan design and used a tree in the background on one and a lion on another.  You can also select up to 10 generations to include.  I saved it to a thumb drive and then took it to my closest big box office supply store.  They quickly printed it for me on poster paper and the cost was $3.17 ($1.08 a piece with tax).  Make sure you tell the sales person to leave a border around the poster if you intend to get it framed.  I didn’t which I should have.

The only downside is that GENEANET is printed in large letters at the bottom right but for the price, I believe it’s worth the advertising.

Now just think – you’re family will stop asking you how so and so is related and when great grandpa died.  Well, maybe if your family is like mine they’ll continue to ask but that’s okay, you can redirect them to the chart.  I call it baby steps in training them to be interested in genealogy.

Citation Dilemma – Attributing Parent Marriage Info on a Child’s Ancestry Page

Originally published on on 22 Sep 2016.

About a month ago I was contacted by an Ancestry user who inquired the following:  “How could George Mitchell Long marry Sarah Ford in 1807 in Tennessee when he wasn’t born until 1849?”

Excellent question!  I went to my tree and checked the birth and death dates for the couple and their child and didn’t see that I had an error so I suspected my tree was confused with another; that was my reply.

Yesterday, I received a more detailed response which brings up an excellent point.  Under sources, I had saved for George Mitchell Long (Jr.) his parents’ marriage record.  It does not show under Facts, of course, since the marriage took place before George Jr. was born. The record does not show Jr. or Sr. either since the Sr. hadn’t yet had a son so there was no Jr. at the time of the marriage. 

Why did I have the parents info on the son’s page?  I put the record there so when I write kinship determinations I can pull everything from one page.  I can understand how this would confuse someone looking at my tree and assuming I had the wrong information for that person’s page, though.  

I do this a lot, too!  I’m thinking about how the Social Security info provides kinship and I save to both the parents and their child.  That is clearer since it shows the relationship that a parents marriage alone does not do.  

I don’t know if there’s a better work around – if you know of one please let me know!  I’ve requested that Ancestry add a feature like the shoebox to the Facts page so extraneous information could be saved and retrieved easily but I’m not holding my breath on that.  

Originally, I put info that I just described under the Notes feature but I had to move it out because I was working on some lines with other family members and they couldn’t see the Notes section – it’s only visible to the owner.  For awhile, I then added  it as a Comment but  I wasn’t scrolling down and was missing my own comments.   I see that now a click on comments on the toolbar brings the comments to the right side for viewing so maybe I should go back to using that.  

I’d appreciate your thoughts and suggestion…

I Hate to Admit that an Unsourced Tree was Right!

Originally published on on 24 Jul 2016.

I do not want to start a genealogical war but I have to tell you about my recent experience with unsourced family trees and serendipity. I know it’s a touchy subject, the unsourced trees, I mean.

Years ago – perhaps 16-20 – not even sure the exact time period I trusted what I found on the internet without checking sources.  In my mind, why would anyone put out fraudulent information?  I knew mistakes could happen but I really believed that everyone else was more knowledgeable then me so whatever was posted had to be mostly correct.  That was until late one evening as I was happily clicking back on one of my husband’s lines and in the early morning hours, about 2 AM, I realized what  was on the screen couldn’t be correct.  There is no way that he was the grandson of Viking gods and goddesses.  That painful lesson – painful because it took me quite some time to delete all of it – woke me up to reality.

Unfortunately, there were other lines I had added information to prior to that realization and I had no way to verify accuracy of what I had recorded.  All of it was Swedish.  The data looked okay, meaning that the father’s first name became the child’s last name and the dates of birth and death looked correct so I just left it.  I wanted to check but I just didn’t know how as I don’t read Swedish. Verifying the accuracy of those lines went on my to-do list for someday.  I always could identify them because the PAF file I used had funny dates when I converted to gedcom – year-month-day instead of day-month-year.

I am happy to report that the day finally arrived and I can cross this off my to-do list!  In May I blogged about my purchase of a year subscription to Arkivdigital.  That organization has digitized church books throughout Sweden and they look real, compared to the white background on Ancestry’s digitized books.  The site works well, too!  You can bookmark records, play with the background shading if you like and there is lots of helpful information to point you in the direction you need to search. There are NO inaccurate tree leaves like on Ancestry to mislead you, either.  Although the leaves are helpful in most cases they are definitely not correct when it comes to Swedish records and they make me crazy!

I’ll be honest, I had my doubts I could use the Arkivdigital site since my Swedish language skills were limited to Ikea and Samuelson. Oh, and Huskqvarna.   I did  have a phone conference with the U.S. rep and watched her beginners video on Legacy Family Trees. I also went to Swedish Genealogy Center and poked around a bit.  Arkivdigital has English translations, too, so I was able to print out marriage records, for example, from the 1700’s so I knew common words to look for.  Although there was no standard way to record the records in the earliest church books the names seem to jump out in most cases.  Probably because they are so long – Kierstin Johannessdotter stands out among the short words like fodelse (birth) and dod (death).

I decided I would check those old lines and if they were wrong – Snip, Snap and Snur – they were getting cut!  I am pleased to report that EVERYONE of them was 100% correct.  That means that whoever put the info out there back in the early days of the internet really knew what they were doing.  I just wish I knew who the person was so I could thank and credit them!  I have entered citations for every record that I found – birth, death and marriage.  I added a snippet to the gallery of each individual and made the birth record, in most cases, the photo so I can easily see the line was completely researched.  I still have to go back and check out the household records and I want to add the sibling info, too, so I’ll be spending lots more time with Arkivdigital.

Which gets me to the real lesson here – there are very kind, smart people out there in the world who do share their findings, albeit, without sources.  Maybe, back in the day, their program didn’t allow them to enter a citation or maybe they just never thought to do it because they knew where they found it.  Whatever the reason, no one should discount looking at unsourced family trees.  I’m not recommending doing what I did – blindly copying – but getting ideas, contacting the owner and checking it out for yourself can really help you move forward.

And speaking of sharing…..

While I was updating my lines I discovered that my hubby’s dear 2 x’s great grandfather’s real name was not Anders August but Anders Ludvig Johannesson.  He changed his name to Gust Johnson after he arrived in Indiana.  I understand the Johnson part but the Gust?  Well, turns out he was born in August so he went by a shortened version of his birth month.  He died in the early 1900’s and we had no picture of him.  I have his marriage certificate to his second wife but some darling in the family removed the pictures before I found them in a suitcase in my in-law’s basement about 40 years ago.

When I updated my tree with the correct name it hit me that I also needed to update Find-A-Grave as I had created a memorial for him.  I was so surprised when I clicked on and discovered that a distant relative I had never heard of had uploaded a photo of him!  What a wonderful treat – was the best find I’ve had all summer!  Sent the gentleman a thank you and am hoping he has a pic of the second wife.  So here is the wonderful Anders “Gust” Johnson:

I love the faint “My Dad” on the left side right under the pic.  I suspect this is his 2nd wedding photo as he was 66 when he died and this looks like like a much younger man.  The resemblance to my husband is striking.

Notice that this appears to be in a photo book as the right edge looks like more pics.  How cool is that!  I so hope the gentleman responds and shares.  Keep those trees and photos coming!

So I found this just a few days before I left for my Pennsylvania-DC research trip.  I came home late Thursday evening (thanks, southwest airlines for the debacle!) and began the arduous task of downloading to my desktop all the photos I had taken while away.  Realizing I had hundreds, I decided to clean out my email first.

Ok, this is really really weird but here goes….

I decided to read the weekly newsletter I get from the New England Historic and Genealogy Society.  Why I picked that first I have no idea as I haven’t been doing anything with my New England lines this summer.  One of the articles was about Hoosier newspapers so I clicked the link since I have been doing alot with Indiana.  One click led to another and very soon I was on Porter County – Westchester Township pics and the first one that comes up…. was the Helen Chellberg handwritten above’s husband’s grandparents.  How strange is that?!  Porter County was a very rural area of Indiana back in the late 1800’s so there were several Chelllbergs who married into the Johnson and Samuelson families.  In fact, on Thursday, I had been at the National Archives and got the military records for Samuel August Samuelson who’s sister married the man who popped up on the Westchester Township site.  I thought that circle of connection was just incredible.

All I have to say is – universe – keep it coming!!!

Have a wonderful week –

Dumping Your Tree – A Radical Way To Correct Mistakes

Originally published on on 11 Feb 2016.

Have you heard about the movement to abandon your family tree and start over again?  I first read about this trend last month as some genealogists decided to make this their New Year’s resolution.

My first thought was, “Are you kidding me!?!  All these years of work abandoned to start over!  No, thanks.”

The reasoning behind the idea is that many of us, when newbies, were happy clickers and not really evidence investigators.  By happy clickers I mean whenever I found info on someone’s tree I would trust its accuracy and include it in my tree without ever analyzing it.  Thus, wrongly added info perpetuated errors as others copied it.

I know for fact this happened as recently I was investigating a collateral line for my Kinship Determination Project and uncovered an error that I’ve now found to have been copied by many others. Oops!  Although the error was innocent it really drives home the point that genealogists need to be careful and not rush.

I had found the name “Catherine” with a family in the 1860 census and assumed that was a child of the couple.  There were two genealogies written into book form from 1947 and 1959 but neither listed the child.  I figured they had just overlooked her as they had other children missing who had died in between census years that I had found via Find-A-Grave and Baptism records.

Little Miss Catharine grew up and I found her in the 1870 census not living with the family but attending a boarding school in the state the family had just relocated from.  That made sense to me, she was studying to become a teacher like her siblings.

In the 1880 census I found her married and living in the same town as “her parents.”  In fact, Miss Catharine had married the widower of her sister who had died in 1879.

I found that couple in the 1900 census living in the same county and included in the household was who I thought was Catharine’s father.  That was good enough for me.  Except, none of it was right!

Now that more records are available I found the marriage certificate for Miss Catharine and discovered her maiden name was not the family’s surname.  So I looked for another marriage certificate, in several states, to see if Miss Catharine was also a widow and was using her married name and not her maiden name on the document.  Couldn’t find one. The certificate did say it was her first marriage and the husband’s second.  I had the husband’s first marriage certificate so that confirmed his number of marriages.  I figured that recording it was her first marriage was an error but it was not.

The error was made in the 1860 census.  Upon closer examination I discovered that the enumerator had written Catharine but should have written Laura.  Catharine’s year of birth is off by 5 years from the family’s real child, Laura.  No, the names aren’t close at all.  The mother’s name was Catharine so I believe now that the record lists the mom twice and omits the daughter’s name.  The Catharine in 1870 was a cousin of the family but not their child.  The cousin remained in the other state and married there. Have the marriage certificate to prove that and she is listed in the two genealogy books. The Catharine that was married to the widower was just another woman who happened to have the same name; she was not related in anyway to the original couple.  Now the 1900 census is very interesting in that the father of Laura is living with his ex-son-in-law and the new wife, Catharine, next door to his daughter.  The son-in-law was quite prosperous for the area, the couple had only 2 children and a servant living with them so they had plenty of room for the elderly man that his own children, with their large families living near by, did not.  So, I’ve corrected my error; I removed Catharine as their child. Interestingly, one of Catharine’s children married into the kinship family so there is a connection, just not where I had it.

I do understand that as we improve our work that we will find errors, most likely many errors, that were made earlier in our career.  I’m still not sure that dumping your work is the solution.  I’m more apt to leave what I have and then go back and investigate closer line by line to make needed corrections.

As more direct evidence becomes available, past analysis may prove to be in error.  I’m okay with that!  I’d rather spend the time analyzing what I’ve already found then having to accumulate documents all over again. Now I’m working out a method to make sure I am able to go over my existing lines.  I wish I could color code or date stamp when I’ve touched a family so I know they’ve passed my review.  Since that doesn’t exist, I’ve created an Excel document that has the family name, for example, Joseph Kos, a column for the date I began to check and a column for the date I’ve finished reviewing his line to where they connect to a living relative as I know that with my more recent family members, the information I’ve recorded is correct.  I’ve also created a spreadsheet called, Interesting Folks, and I’m listing the ancestors’ name, year of birth and death, the fact that’s interesting, and the area that’s interesting.  For example, Joseph Kos’ fact would be that he died young due to the Spanish Influenza epidemic.  The area would be medical.  This way I can quickly find some of the interesting family stories that get lost in the tree.  This method is basically creating an index to the tree and I just wish I had thought of it when I first began!  Happy Hunting!

Your Tree Posthumously

Originally published on on 18 Oct 2015.

Being that it’s Geneanet’s A Cemetery for Posterity Weekend, I’ve been thinking about ways to have me tree live on after I do.  Geneanet had an interesting blog on the 5 October 1915 by Jean-Yves regarding your genealogical tree after you’ve died.  I don’t have a tree on Geneanet but I may want to investigate doing so.  You can read the blog here:  What Happens To Your Data…

And then there was this interesting post in Myrt’s blog about ancestry’s disappearing records.  It happened to me trying to retrieve my husband’s 3 times great grandfather’s obit info.  I recently blogged about John and Mary “Mollie” O’Brien Cooke (A New Genealogy Society – What Fun! 11 October 2015).  When I was checking my saved sources on for the couple I couldn’t retrieve the info for John’s obit.  On the bottom right hand corner on the old ancestry version I could see the link under Source Info but when I clicked nothing appeared.  I tried to do a search through the card catalog for Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 using John Cooke but there were no hits.  I had a hard copy so I dug through my records and found it.

I’m not sure if ancestry reactivated all the records they had blocked a few weeks ago because I tried it again yesterday and I was able to access it.  Very weird!  Having records here one day and gone the next is frustrating.  That makes me want to save what I find in multiple locations to insure that the data isn’t lost.

If you’re a member of the National Genealogical Society one of the new benefits is obtaining access to the United States and Canada records FREE on Find My Past.  I tried last week to upload my tree as a gedcom to the site but I kept receiving an error message.  Although my tree is large it’s well within the limits of the Find My Past site.  Going to try it again today. If you’re interested in getting Find My Past, the first crack at registering for the upcoming Family History Conference to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida the first week of May, 2016, and very useful periodicals, you can join here,

Another though I had was the idea of creating ebooks on my lines once I’ve obtained genealogical certification.  I could then download the ebook and print a hardcopy.  I would include snips of the pertinent records in the text so if the original disappears there would still be a picture available.

So many ideas – so little time!