My Swedish Dilemma #1

An estate near Sjohester, Sweden

When my husband and I went to Sweden in April we visited the family home and church for ancestors who were on both his maternal and paternal sides.

Kris and Mangus, of MinnesotaSwede.com, mentioned they were intrigued by how early Samuel August Samuelson and his parents had emigrated to the US and settled in Chicago – 1851! I never thought much about that date but knew from a mug book account that the family only remained in Chicago for one year and then relocated to Porter County, Indiana.

I discovered in Sweden the reason they first went to Chicago. Sam’s older half-brother, Carl Gustaf Johnson, had left Sweden for Chicago in 1849. Why? Samuel Eriksson was a tenant farmer who had married Anna Elisabet “Lisa” Torstensdotter after she had birthed Carl. The family stayed together working for an estate for years but in 1849 the estate let the family go as it appears that the property was sold and the new owners had their own tenants that they wanted to hire.

Samuel, Lisa, and their four surviving children moved to work at a smaller estate as tenant farmers. Perhaps there wasn’t room for Carl or he decided to set off on an adventure in America. According to Kris and Mangus, this wasn’t the time that most Swedes left the country. Only those who believed there was nothing left for them in Sweden took the long and dangerous route to North America. This was the era of sailing ships.

By 1850, Samuel had to move on to another tenancy. From visiting it became apparent that the family was on a downward slide. Each home was smaller, the land surrounding it was tiny, and the estate where they worked was not as prosperous as the former ones. It is no surprise that the family decided in 1851 to join Carl in Chicago.

But where in Chicago? Carl does not appear in the 1850 federal census. Samuel and family arrived after the census. I searched city directories for the time period but they are not found. I stopped at the Swedish Museum hoping their archive might hold some clues. Unfortunately the archivist was not in so I had to follow up with an email. Got a response that she was busy with setting up a new exhibit and would get back to me when she had time.

I then asked at the Chicago History Museum if they knew of Swedish churches in Chicago during that time period. There weren’t any as there were too few to form a congregation.

So, this mystery remains – where did they live and what did they do for the short window when they lived in Chicago?

What I did finally understand was why Samuel’s son, Samuel August Samuelson, volunteered as a Union Soldier and became a lifelong Republican (not to be confused with the current party’s belief systems). Samuel had experienced life as a child of a tenant farmer. He likely empathized with the enslaved which resulted in his joining the Civil War. I would never have figured this out unless I had stood in his former homes and saw for myself what the family had experienced.

Next week, I’ll write about another Swedish mystery that I’m still working on.

Asking the Right Questions on a Cemetery Visit

Yes, it is the time of the year to visit cemeteries. Recently while researching in the Chicago area I decided to check out Mt. Carmel Cemetery located in Hillside, Cook, Illinois. Purportedly, my husband’s second great grandparents, John and Mary “Mollie” O’Brien Cook were interred there. No one had made a Findagrave memorial for them so I stopped at the office first to ask for the location of the graves. I was the first one there when the office opened so they weren’t busy. The clerk could not readily find them. I had their birth and death info and various spellings (Cook and Cooke) but she insisted there were too many Mary’s and didn’t find John by his death date. Then it hit me! John had originally been interred in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston when he died in 1894. Some of his children had him moved to Mt. Carmel in 1918. The clerk found him with that burial date that had been entered as his death date. The clerk said she found no one on the record besides John which I found odd as I would have thought his wife, Mary, was buried by him.

I was given the printout you see above. Interesting that there was a QR Code to use to find the stone. Except, it wasn’t. The QR supposedly took you to the cemetery section. I got confused following it on my phone as it wanted to take me out of the cemetery. This turned out to be correct as the cemetery is so large that it continues across a main street. I had entered a different way and did not see that initially.

After 10 minutes and discovering that GPS wanted me to drive across grave stones, I found an alternate route and arrived at the correct section. It was a large section and I wasn’t sure of the alignment because I couldn’t be sure I was facing south. I thought I was and decided to use the compass of my car to double check.

I started at the first row and went up and down and moved on to the next, and so on until I was midway through the section. Something wasn’t right. The Cook family was Scotts Irish. John had been born Protestant in Scotland before emigrating to the US. Mary was born Roman Catholic in Ireland. They met in New York City, eloped in New Jersey and took the train west to Chicago.

My father-in-law loved to say that all of his side were raised Protestant. Except, after his death, I discovered they weren’t.

Molly, according to one of my husband’s aunts, made a deal with her husband John. All boys would be raised Protestant and the girls, Roman Catholic. What no one in the family had discovered (but me!) was that Molly had gotten the boys baptized Roman Catholic, too.

What a gal! Takes a special kind of woman to do that back in the 1850s.

Part of what I was trying to discover in Chicago was which church John belonged to. I wanted to see if they had membership records that included the boys as the family tale states. Haven’t found that yet.

I know the church where Molly had her children baptized, Old St. Mary’s. Her sole daughter, Mary Ellen, married James Hanlon at Old St. Pat’s Church on 26 May 1880. But I digress! Remember the Hanlon name because I’m going back to the cemetery story.

I quickly realized that 95% of the section I was looking at contained Italian names. This could not be right. There was no stone for the Cooks anywhere. The grass hadn’t been cut and I was getting dehydrated and exhausted from bending over flat stones trying to remove dead grass to read the names.

After an hour of this I returned to the office. Quite an interesting experience when I returned. The clerk who had helped me was waiting on someone who was screaming at her that the customer’s mother had been buried in the wrong lot. This conversation was not going well.

Meanwhile, another clerk was helping an older woman and what was likely her daughter understand the cemetery rules. I had other places to go that day so I was impatient but it was nice and cool in the office so I chose to wait.

Eventually, I was called by the second clerk. I showed the paperwork and explained I had walked the section for an hour, knew I was oriented correctly but could not find the grave stone. I explained I had left at 4:45 AM to get to this cemetery, traveling for over 4 hours and I really needed help in locating the graves. I also mentioned that the first clerk insisted that there were too many Mary Cook’s and she couldn’t find the one I needed who had died in 1901.

I’m not sure what magic the second clerk used but he readily told me that Mary was indeed buried next to John, along with several members of the Hanlon family. This explains why John’s body was moved from Calvary. Mary Ellen Cook Hanlon must have wanted her parents buried with her and her husband so John the Protestant, long dead, had no way to object to being moved to a Roman Catholic Cemetery. I’d love to know if Molly ever confessed to him that she had baptized their sons. Something I’ll likely never discover.

Anyway, it turns out the reason I could not find their tombstones is because they don’t have any. Memo to self:  Next time ASK IF THERE IS A STONE! This would also explain why the memorials were never created on Findagrave. Whoever transcribed this section of the cemetery without records would not have known they were buried there.

Speaking of records, I also mentioned to the second clerk I would like to get the records corrected since the cemetery had John’s death date wrong. He told me there was no way to correct the records. He also informed me I could not see the original burial records as that was not allowed by the Diocese. Wonderful, not! They have wrong records they won’t correct and family members aren’t allowed to see the records. What a policy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

The second clerk, however, kindly told me who the family was buried next to the Cooks. I was able to find that stone quickly and took a pic of the lot to upload to Findagrave.

Here’s reminders for the future:  Sometimes you have to ask more than one person at the site to get the full story. Always ask if there is a stone. Allow for more time as the unexpected could throw off your schedule.

I notified family that there was no stone as that was news to me. None seemed interested. If I ever win the lottery I will be spending the winnings on purchasing stones and restoring those that are there. Next week, I’ll be writing about my Swedish dilemmas.

Verifying a Family Story in Pullman, Cook, Illinois

After returning from Sweden, I spent four days researching in the Chicagoland area. Both my maternal side and both of my husband’s sides lived in Chicago for a time and the Swedish trip unveiled some new mysteries that made me want to find answers there. Nothing online so boots-on-the-ground was needed. The next few weeks I’ll be writing about my discoveries and the steps I took to get the answers.

Today, I’ve shared the photo above that was taken in Chicago circa 1919. From left to right is an unnamed  neighbor of my family, Great Uncle Joseph Koss, Maternal Grandma Mary Koss, and my mother’s Godmother, known as Kuma. The little girl is my mom. The photo was undated but I know it is from the spring of 1919 for several reasons.

First, my mom is standing on her own. She was born on 14 April 1918 so she is likely about a year old. My grandmother was pregnant in the photo but barely showing; her second child was born in November 1919 in Gary, Lake, Indiana. The family moved shortly after the photo was taken. By the way they are dressed, it is spring – no heavy coats but long sleeves and my mom in a little jacket.

My grandmother had told me it was taken outside of their Pullman apartment building in Chicago. The family story was that both my great grandfather and his son-in-law, who was to become my grandfather, emigrated separately from Dubranec, Croatia with the intent of settling in Pennsylvania where they had heard there was work in the steel mills. When they arrived, however, the mills weren’t hiring so they became employed by the Pullman Company. (This is problem #1 – Pullman didn’t hire in Pennsylvania). They worked on the lines all the way to California and when the job ended, were shipped back to Chicago to work on the canal. (Problem #2-Pullman only hired for working on the cars, not on the lines). It was at that time when my great grandfather sent for his wife, Anna, and two children, Mary and Joseph, to come join him in America. The story goes on to say since he was employed by Pullman he was able to take the train to New York to meet his family and escort them back to Chicago. (Problem #3 – nothing shows that this was a perk of working for Pullman). Well, Gary, actually. He was afraid the big city would intimidate them so he moved them for six months to Glen Park, which eventually became part of Gary so that they could learn English. My grandmother finished 8th grade, the family reunited and lived in Pullman housing in Chicago until they relocated back to Gary because there was work at U.S. Steel in 1919.

I love verifying family stories and I thought this one would be a no brainer. Many of Pullman’s employment records exist at the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society in Hazel Crest. Newberry Library also has some ledgers and a box full. How hard could this be?

The librarians at South Suburban were absolutely wonderful! I had not completed a form for them that is required for lookups and I did not expect them to drop everything to help me out. There were several John and Joseph Koss’s but none were my relatives. One was Russian, the Austria-Hungarian became employed in 1925 long after my family had moved on, and another was Slovenian. Sigh.

I had shown the photo and that was when I learned that Pullman had once been its own town but over the years, became a part of Chicago. I also learned that Pullman did not hire laborers. Oh, dear, that was what my ancestors were considered. Another fallacy in the story is that Pullman was somehow involved with the canal building – the Illinois Michigan Canal – but that wasn’t the case.

Pullman did need working railroad tracks, however, and it was thought that perhaps my family had been hired by a company to maintain the rail lines. This makes sense as my immigrants would not likely have understood the concept of subcontractors.

These findings redirected my research question from Finding the Pullman Employment Records for Joseph and John Koss to Finding The Names of Company’s Who Maintained Railroad Tracks in the Pullman, Chicago Area between 1912-1919.

Apparently, no one has asked that question to the many archives where I looked – South Suburban, Chicago History Museum, Henry Washington Public Library, Newberry Library, and IRAD. So, this item remains on my to-do list!

I was also  interested in finding the location of the photo as my mother was said to have been born in that apartment house. My grandmother did not trust hospitals; she swore they stole babies. My cousins and I kidded her for years about that only to discover with DNA, that she had been correct. Too many babies had been switched at birth.

For locating the address, I turned to city directories that were not online. There is nothing like physically touching an ancient book that just might provide the answer to your burning question! Luckily, I discovered that there was a listing for Joseph Koss, laborer, who lived at 12311 South State Street in the 1917 edition. Better yet, he was the only Joseph Koss. I had been told that the whole family lived in the same apartment so by not finding John, the narrative was confirmed. In this particular city directory, only one name, typically a male, was listed per address.

Having an address was wonderful as by checking Google Maps and the Cook County Property Appraiser we quickly determined that the apartment building was still in existence and hadn’t changed much in the last 100+ years. I finally have the location of my mother’s birth! The location even ties in with the church, St. Salomea’s, where she was christened. The church wasn’t far and looking up the church history on flickr explained its need to be built in the Pullman area.

Distance from Apartment to Church, Google Earth

More work is needed to find the company that employed my ancestors. Newberry’s ledgers had Koss’ but they weren’t mine.

I have a request in with IRAD for contractors who worked in 1918-1919 on the Illinois Michigan Canal. I’d love to check out their perks, did they provide discounted train tickets? How did my great grandparent get an apartment in Pullman housing if he wasn’t employed with the company? Sometimes one find leads to more questions! Next week, I’ll tell you about what I learned at a cemetery.

Genealogy Gift Ideas

Photo by Lori Samuelson

I received the most unusual genealogy Mother’s Day gifts from one of my kids that I just have to share. The first is the game you see above – Guess Who? We had the game when my kids were young but my adult child bought a new game and switched out the faces to include the faces of ancestors. I’ve taken the cards that were made to replace the ones that come in the box and placed it on the box top so you can see the variety of family photos included.

This is an awesome idea if you are having a family reunion or want to get a head start now for a holiday gift in December. What a wonderful way to get the younger generation involved in identifying their ancestors!

The second gift I received was also unique. One of the parts of genealogy I love is uncovering mysteries. Who were these people? Why did they do what they did? How did the meet? Where are they buried? Well, the second gift is using old time snail mail to send a letter written in cursive to my home every two weeks for a year. The company, TheFlowerLetters, has several themes. The one I’m receiving is the Adelaide Magnolia Collection which takes place in England in 1817. Since I’ll be trekking to Great Britain later this summer it’s a perfect way to get me in the mood. For the genealogist in your life, the letters feature mystery, history, adventure, and romance – what more could a genealogist want?!

The National Genealogical Society conference continues today. Thank you, dear readers, for all of you who attended my presentation with six other genealogists last evening. If you missed Rapid Roots or would like to review it since it was rapid and had lots of helpful tips, please do so. Don’t forget to complete a review through Whova. You can still leave questions on Whova for the next three months or you can email me anytime at genealogyatheart@gmail.com.

A Little Spooky in Sweden

Bo Beckman and Jim Samuelson in Sjöhester, Sweden

Try as I might to have a simple vacation the universe seems to plan weird and wonderful for me!

I’ve blogged before about the odd happenings when I go boots on the ground and my recent Swedish heritage trip to explore my husband’s roots was no different.

Our tour guides, Kris and Mangus, had stopped at one of my husband’s ancestral churches in Sjöhester which was supposed to be open but unfortunately was not. Husband and I were fine with the missed stop as we are used to being flexible when traveling. The guides, however, were disappointed.

Since there was no contact info for the church we went onward to the next stop. As Mangus drove up to the property, Kris excitedly remarked that there was a car in the driveway.

Now for my U.S. readers, I know this is shocking to you but in Sweden no one shoots you when you knock on their door or turn around in their driveway. Instead, they invite you inside. Yes, I realize they are letting perfect strangers into their homes but they are fine with that. We can all learn a lesson here!

We could see two large dogs, a lab and German shepherd, through the window but there was a lag between the knock and someone coming to the door so we didn’t expect the door to open. Open it did and Bo, seen above, appeared. Kris explained why we were at his property, explaining that Jim’s ancestors, Amund Jonsson (1655-1741) and Anna Nilsdotter (1672-1743) lived and raised their family there. This was two generations back from where I had ended my research so I knew nothing about this couple and their children.

Unbelievably, Bo knew all about them. For forty years he rented the cottage as a summer residence. Interested to know about former residents he had painstakingly researched them. He had even written a biography that was on his website.

He kindly invited us in and we sat around his kitchen table as Kris translated the family story. But of course, that’s not all…

Bo asked if we had visited the family church. Kris mentioned that it had been locked. Bo just happened to have the key. We agreed to meet him at the church the following day at 3 for a tour.

That’s not all – Bo mentioned he was glad we came when we did as he had just returned two days before for the summer. Originally, we had scheduled our trip for two weeks earlier but had to change due to my lecture schedule. If we hadn’t, we would have missed him, the opportunity to see the inside of the home, and probably the church, too.

Bo wasn’t the only individual to allow us to photograph their homes. Earlier that day in Sonarp, the birthplace of Maja Olofsdotter (1736-1826) the family invited us in the see their lovely home. The current owner remarked that the dining room always feels happy and I agreed. It was a beautiful bucolic setting; the family has farmed the land for five generations since they first rented in 1900. Sadly, the farmer’s father had been buried just two days prior to our visit with services held in the church where Maja had been baptized and likely married. The couple shared an old photo of what the farm had looked like back in the day – not much different from the present.

The Johannesson family of Närvehult also shared a photo of their home from 1921. Birger Ingesson (1715-1795) and Maria Borjesdotter (1722-1776) raised their family there. Birger and his son, Inge (1763-1843), were both once members of Parliament representing the region on behalf of farmers.

Current owner Stephanie of Hamburg, Germany, kindly let us photograph her spacious yard. In Kjölamälen, Inge Börjesson (1763-1843) and his wife, Margareta Eriksdotter (1765-1839), lived there with their children. It remained in the family for three generations and was the birth location of my husband’s great grandfather Anders L. G. Johannesson Johnson (1839-1906) who emigrated to the U.S.

In Hammershult, current owners stopped their yard work to allow us into the grain mill that Gudmund Svensson (1767-1814) and his wife Judith (1779-?) once operated. Their daughter, Sophia (1807-?) was born in the home on the property. We had no idea that there was a miller in the family!

Was is plain luck that all of these folks just happened to be home when we showed up unannounced or not? You decide!

I’m thinking we should add another reason to last week’s blog about why you must take a heritage tour – you meet the nicest people who are living their lives in the same place that your ancestor’s did. Celebrating birthdays, graduations, and new offsprings; mourning job losses, injuries, and deaths. It is an amazing experience to visit where your forefather’s experienced the cycle of life and if they hadn’t – you wouldn’t be here hunting their stories! Do plan a heritage trip to explore your ancestry.

Next Friday, 7:15 PM Eastern time, I, along with 6 other genealogists, will be presenting at the online only National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference. I am part of Rapid Roots: 7 Share Their Secrets in 7 Minutes. Please attend as I’ll be live for the Q&A – let’s chat!

Why You Need to Plan a Heritage Trip

Mangus and Kris

Hubby and I are back from a world wind tour of Sweden, his ancestral homeland. The best way I can describe it was MAGICAL! Here’s why I think you need to plan a trip to your ancestral home:

Get to Know Your Ancestors – they are more than just names, dates, and places on a pedigree chart. In order to understand their lives you must follow in their footsteps. Considering their educational experiences, jobs, religion, home type, and climate will enhance your understanding of your family today. Have you stopped to think why your family eats a specific holiday meal? Visiting may unlock the mystery of your family’s customs.

Gain Historical Perspective – We didn’t learn the history of the countries our forefather’s left in school so we are lacking in understanding what made them tick. I had no idea that the Vikings roamed as far as Egypt and traded with the Greeks! Geez, my people were in Greece during that time period. I never considered that my people and my husband’s people could have possibly met 2000 years ago!

Unexpected Discoveries – It was news to me that in medieval times, brides in Sweden wore jeweled crowns maintained by the church. The custom has largely gone out of practice but in many churches, the crown remains. A kind church member allowed me to wear a crown that was likely worn by one of my husband’s several times great grandmothers. It is a tremendously memorable experience to bond with those from the past.

Connect With Others – I was able to meet up with an APG colleague I’ve only previously met virtually. We also met many homeowners and renters who were living in houses once inhabited by my husband’s family. So many wonderful ministers and parishioners took the time to provide us with the history of churches where family members had once attended. We greatly appreciated that they took the time to share their knowledge with us.

It Won’t Last Forever – It is amazing that structures have survived for centuries but that doesn’t mean they will always be there. Don’t let climate change steal your past from you! Taking photos will preserve the family story.

Make the Most of Your Trip – Although I am a professional genealogist I am not an expert in everything. Reaching out to other genealogists for help is vital. For our trip, we contracted with MinnesotaSwede.com. Kris and Mangus verified my research, extended it, and planned the day to day itinerary. They booked the hotels, arranged stops for food, picked us up and dropped us off at the airport, and drove us to 14 ancestral churches and over 20 ancestral sites in Östergötland and Småland. They also provided us historical background by visiting sites in Sigtuna and Stockholm, Sweden and in Copenhagen, Denmark. They are genealogy guides extraordinaire!

For my long time readers, you know wherever I roam the strange and unusual occurs. Sweden was no exception so next week I’ll be writing about those experiences.

Scan and Share

AI Generated

Recently I helped a community member scan old photos from the late 1800s to the 1950s, along with some school records, a marriage license, and an old typed family genealogy. Some of the photos were of historically important pictures from buildings that no longer exist in our town, like the first YMCA.

Check out your local library to see if they have a scanner you can use. Ours has a large flatbed which was wonderful for some of the oversize documents. Speak with the staff to get their tips and tricks so your results will be the best they can be. This is especially important if you want to share your items with a local historical society, museum, or library. I typically save in .jpg but that degrades quicker than .tiff, though it takes up less space. Ask before you begin what their preference is and if they are interested in the scans.

Bring a thumb drive to store the scans on. It’s easy to share through Google docs or Dropbox. To save time, you can just let the scanner assign a number to the photo but do go back and rename to what it was you scanned, such as 1892.Smith Family Picnic.Glen Park Indiana. If you don’t know the info, that’s okay, there are GPTs that I wrote about two weeks ago that will help you identify more information about the picture or you can use MyHeritage.com’s Photo aids.

Now share with family! Sure, some time is involved but the knowledge that you have preserved your family history is a big plus.

I will be taking the next two weeks off from blogging as I hit the road with family to go on an ancestral quest. I’m so excited to be traveling again and will be sure to share all the wonderful finds I anticipate will occur. Type with your soon!

Cemetery Weather

AI Generated

Spring has sprung in the Midwest and last Saturday was the first cemetery walk of the year. The old cemetery in a small northeastern Indiana town held a plaque dedication ceremony. That was followed by portrayal of 10 notable families that were buried there.

It just so happened that the woman I was talking about was having her 153 birthday that day. She had been such a powerhouse locally in the late 1800s; upon her last illness, which kept in her bed with a nurse for 8 months, her many friends bought her fresh flowers daily. In keeping with that tradition and because it was her birthday, I brought a bouquet in remembrance.

Now is the time to plan your cemetery excursions for the next few months.

First, make a list of what cemeteries you hope to visit this year. Then, group them using Google Maps to make the most out of your trip.

Next, get into your shed, garage, basement, and make sure your tool are ready to go. I usually take a shovel to right a leaning headstone, garden gloves, a hand rake, small broom, and clippers. I personally like to use Krud Kutter, available at the big box stores.

Also to include are rags, water, and a bucket. The bucket makes a nice transport for all the items. Don’t forget bug spray! A garbage bag is also helpful to cart away dead leaves and clippings.

Now, look at your calendar, speak with family and friends, and try to convince someone to go with you. Sure, you can do it alone but in some cemeteries it’s safer to have a buddy.

Dress appropriately – you’ll be getting dirty, wet, and either hot or cold.

Fill up your gas tank, put the address in your GPS and head off. I like to bring a snack but if you aren’t going to be too far out from civilization you can always stop for lunch.

After you’ve cleaned the stone, make sure to take a picture. I upload mine to Findagrave.com, even if there already is a picture because the difference in stones over time is truly remarkable. It will be helpful if you can add GPS coordinates, too, as many of those are lacking on that site.

I’m off to Noble County for to present at the society’s annual conference. Hope to see you there!

Favorite Genealogy GPTs

AI Generated

I’ve been blogging alot about AI and genealogy and today I’d like to introduce you to some tools that can help you get the most out of AI and your research.

Enter GPTs! GPT is the acronym for Generative Pre Trained Transformers. All that means is this is a tech way to communicate with artificial intelligence. Other terms that are sometimes used instead of GPT are bots, assistants, and agents.

You’ve been using bots for several years though you probably didn’t know it. When you are on a website for your bank or credit card company and can’t find the info you want, you may have clicked on the Chat box. You typed in your question and hopefully, got the information you requested. If not, it usually directs you to a human.

Enter chat boxes for genealogy! The recent class that I completed on AI through the National Genealogical Society tasked us with creating GPTs for genealogy. Here are my favorites through open.ai:

GenealogyAtHeart – Yes, I created this and I’m shamelessly listing this as my favorite because I have linked it to my website. This means that all the useful hints, heartwarming stories, and recommendations to get the most out of your genealogy can be quickly accessed by you on open.ai. Yes, I do have a search box on my website but the search box will only find the terms I’ve entered into it. Through ChatGPT’s Genealogy At Heart you can find EVERYTHING I’ve entered. Side note: If we share an ancestor you’ll be able to find everything I’ve written about the individual quickly and in a summary format. If we don’t share a relative, you can still find all the hints, helpful links, and recommendations I’ve made in the over 500 blogs I’ve posted in the last 9 plus years! Have a brick wall? Need help in planning a project? Thinking of planning a genealogy research trip and don’t know where to begin? This GPT is for you!

DeKalb County, Indiana Resources – Okay, I get it! Most of you don’t have any interest in DeKalb County, Indiana but I am the county genealogist so this is very important for those people who do need this resource. I created this GPT for those folks.

I’m working on a census GPT for U.S. federal census records. Hopefully, that will be available for you your use soon. This will help you access quickly the enumerator directions, dates of the census, compare quickly census results from decade to decade, and so on.

I am not the only person creating genealogy GPTs so here are my other favorites from colleagues:

Diagrams: Show Me – for creating mind maps or showing relationship commonalities with Venn Diagrams, this is the way to go! It is a little slow so be patient. Not so good for creating a family tree.

Genealogy Eyes: Designed by Steve Little, NGS AI Director, this is an awesome one for you to try if you have a picture of a tombstone you are having trouble deciphering or an older family pic you need more info about, such as time period or event. MyHeritage does offer something similar but I’ve found Genealogy Eyes to provide more info and be more accurate (I always try something with AI that I already know the answer for first, to test for accuracy).

GPTs aren’t just about genealogy. I’ve created one for native plants, Native Green Thumb, which is another passion I have. Remember that old commercial that repeated, “There’s an ap for that!” Well, GPTs are the new aps. Everyday more and more are being developed.

Have an idea for one that hasn’t been created? It’s simple to do as AI will help you formalize your thoughts. Just log onto ChatGPT. Click “ExploreGPTs and on the upper right side, click the green +Create box. It defaults to Create which is the simple way; it’s like computer coding in English. If you are a techie than by all means select Configure. Under Create, give the AI your thoughts in the Message GPT Builder and press enter. It will ask you questions and you provide your thoughtful responses. Don’t like what it created? No worries, you can delete it. Want only family and friends to see it? Just select the link option when saving. You can then share the link with them. Or, you can have the link publicly visible to everyone or just yourself.

Want to find more GPTs that can be useful for you? Click “Explore GPTs” and in the “Search public GPTs” type what you’re looking for. It will save your favorites on the bar on the left so you can refer to them quickly anytime. I’m working on one now to help analyze U.S. federal census records quickly.

Please let me know if you see a problem with Genealogy At Heart or DeKalb County, Indiana Resources. Email me at genealogyatheart@gmail.com.

Printing Your Family Tree – More Options

AI Generated

Last week I blogged about how to print your family tree from the three genealogy giant sites – Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and MyHeritage.com. If you don’t pay for a subscription or you don’t want to rely on FamilySearch’s free site because of other people changing the tree for the worse, there are more options for you. Many genealogy software companies that will allow you to purchase their package for under $50.00. Sometimes, you can even get it for as low as $20.00! Those specials are usually available for a limited time, especially during a major conference, like RootsTech. The next one coming up is the National Genealogical Society conference in May. This would be a great Mother’s Day gift or early Father’s Day one, as well! I recommend you check out the ones I’m mentioning below by visiting their website. They have cookies so will know you visited. These cookies don’t add pounds, they’ll just save you money as you’ll get offer discounts sent to you.

RootsMagic9 synchs with Ancestry.com. This means, if you decide someday to get a subscription to Ancestry, you can upload the tree you are building on RootsMagic9 quickly. If you have no intention of ever getting an Ancestry account, no worries! You still have a means to build a family tree, print it, save photos and records to individuals, create narratives, and share with family if they have the program.

FamilyTreeMaker (FTM) also synchs with Ancestry.com. This program does everything that RootsMagic9 does. So, which should you get?

I have both because they have slightly different options. What works for me might not be what works for you so my advice is to go to both websites and download a free version, though usually FTM doesn’t have a free version. They may be getting ready to put out a new edition so keep visiting as that’s usually the time for freebie or lost cost to purchase options. Play with it. If you like it and it meets your need, purchase it.

Legacy Family Tree does not synch with Ancestry.com. I can download a gedcom file from Ancestry and upload it to Legacy. That saves time in not having to type everything in my tree again but it DOES NOT SAVE MEDIA! This means, all photos will not be available to view on Legacy. If you think you might want to someday purchase a MyHeritage.com subscription, though, Legacy is for you because it does synch with MyHeritage. I really like some of the charts that Legacy has that the two others don’t have so yes, I have this software, too. Like with RootsMagic, try it for free.

There are other companies out there but these are the ones that are most used and which I am familiar with.

When you decide on a software program, PLEASE DO NOT save it only to your computer. If your computer crashes you have lost everything. That’s one of the perks of paying for a subscription – your tree info is saved in the cloud. So, save to a thumb drive if your tree is small, or a stand alone hard drive if your tree is large. Another option is to purchase your own cloud storage through Dropbox, Google, or Amazon. I personally recommend making a copy on a stand alone hard drive and giving it to a family member. In case something happens to your home, there is another copy somewhere safe. Periodically, you can get it back and update it.

Lots of options to think about! Whichever you decide you can always make another choice if it isn’t working out.