Genealogy: A Little Help

I love doing genealogy. I love my ancestors. But, from time to time, we can all use a little help. Today, I thought I’d share with you a few ways that help me find the inspiration to keep going when I’m feeling a little stuck.

Geneabloggers You might notice that down the right-hand column of my blog is the Geneablogger badge. This means that my blog is listed on Thomas MacEntee’s blog roll of genealogy and family research bloggers. In addition to being the home of Thomas’ own excellent blog, there are over 3,000 blogs included on the site. Search through them and I promise that you can find a blog or two that focus on your interests, whether they concern specific surnames, places of origin, research techniques, or help with narrative writing. It is amazing how reading about the good work someone else is doing can motivate you to persevere or how one little piece of advice can inspire you to search in a completely new direction.

DNA Here is a blog that I recently discovered for those of you that are thinking about going the DNA route. Kitty Cooper’s website has some great resources on it, including daily advice on DNA research, a free Tools page with all kinds of spread sheets, to help you organize and understand your research, and downloadable mapping and comparison tools. It is GREAT!

Books Online I’ve recently become aware of three different ways to search for digitized family and local history books available on the web. As you know, most libraries do not allow these kinds of books to be checked out because many are out of print or were published in a very limited edition. Try one of these:
1. – Click on Search/Books to search public and academic libraries’ online holdings.
2. Hathi Trust – Over 100 libraries and research institutions combine their digitized material (not just books, but maps, photographs, etc.) in one searchable place. If you aren’t a member of one of the institutions, your access is slightly limited, but it is worth a try. I am currently re-reading (translation=obsessing) a book about the history of Caroline Co. VA via the site. Here’s a blog that tells about it, but Hathi Trust’s own Help page is excellent!
3. Genealogy Gophers This new site allows the user to search through 80,000 family history newsletters, books, and magazines for free. Why use one of these online databases instead of WorldCat or your library’s own online catalog? Because the books you are searching through on these sites are limited to the books that would interest genealogists and they only list the items that have been digitized.

Pinterest Search on “Genealogy” or “Family History” or by a locality and find a board or two to follow. You never know when a pin might shine a little light your way. Two boards I follow are Gini Webb’s “Family History” and Nova Scotia Archives’ “Cape Breton.” (Man, I love that one!) These pins can lead you to sites and blogs and tools and photographs and all kinds of useful things. Just stay away from the recipe boards. They are part of a black hole conspiracy.

Wikipedia I am not suggesting you quote Wikipedia. However, a well-documented article, like this one on Caroline County, VA, usually has clickable links in the footnotes that just might lead you to some good resources for your research. I found this, for instance!

Photograph Scanning I know I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating, especially since I attended a Family Papers Preservation workshop this week by TSLA’s Carol Roberts who also offered this same advice. Even if an ancestral photo you own is in excellent condition and you don’t think you need to create a digital back up. Even if you are the only one interested in genealogy in your family and you will never need to e-mail a copy of the photo . . . scan it anyway. Scanning it allows you to ‘blow it up’ and see details in the image you would never have noticed otherwise. Carol told us the story of an ancestral photograph with all of her family members posed in the front lawn of the farmhouse. A wash tub was placed in the foreground of the picture. Carol digitized the image, magnified it, and realized the washtub was filled with old bones. A few pointed questions to relatives, later, and she found out the bones belonged to the family’s former pet cow Bessie. What a story!

Below is an image I scanned this week at the Kingsport Archives from the Anderson Family Collection (KCMC 237). This is the Rotherwood Silk Mill, which was once located on the west bank of the North Fork Holston River. When I stumbled upon it, I knew I had found something important. Not only is the mill no longer standing but all of the archival photographs we have are taken from a great distance in terrible lighting.


In this case the photographer was standing so close and in such good light, I could see what the building was made of. When I enlarged the image, I could see it was no longer being used as a mill but as a barn. In fact, there are two cows in the yard and one is being milked by somebody in a broad-rimmed hat! And that, my friends, is why you should scan your photographs.

So, there are a few tips and gems to see you through the dry spells. Speaking of dry spells, thanks for hanging in with me during mine. I have been recovering from the carpel tunnel surgery I had earlier this month. Things are definitely improving. Thank you for reading.

Feature image: Never underestimate the usefulness of Google Maps to increase your understanding of your ancestral homeland.

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