Saturday, December 31, 2011

Creating a New File and Folder Structure

Source: openclipart
My 2012 New Year's genealogy resolution is to better organize my family history files. Having learned about numerous organizational systems over many workshops from the past five years, it is time to choose one I think will work best for me, and use it consistently.

Currently I am using three different computers for my research. I originally bought an ASUS Netbook for dedicated family history work, but my eyes got tired of the small screen so I upgraded to a larger laptop. For my graduate work, I purchased a Mac Book Pro but decided to use it for my family history writing as well. What spurred my interest to organize is the silliness of using the desktop to store all my folders; there is just not enough room. So I weaned myself off of using my desktop to organize my files. Since I live by the adage, "out of sight, out of mind", to let go of this habit was quite an undertaking. But what I lose in sight I gain in structure.

The first step involved the management of files on the hard drive which meant moving all of my files to alphabetical folders in my Windows 7 Library (see image to the right). What I will try to do is use the same folder names in the alpha folders on my two other computers. If I had different structures on each computer, it would be silliness again.

What is great about using an alphabetical system is any file you store away is limited to the 26 lettered folders.  If you happen to not be able to find a file or folder by thinking how it was intially categorized, you can use the computer's key word search (called Spotlight on the Mac) to locate it quickly. Or you could always print a list of all the alphabetized files and folders.  You cannot go wrong if you file things logically and use the search feature as a backup.

There are many articles on the web for help with organizing files and folders. The information shared on CHNL initially got me interested in creating the alphabetized folders.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Passenger Lists as a Research Tool

The Dutch Flute-an early 17th century ship
       Last May, I attended a webinar hosted by John Colletta, PhD on the topic of passenger lists. An authority on the subject, Mr. Coletta has written a book called "They Came in Ships" (see the image below). One suggestion he offers when searching for passenger lists on the Ellis Island website is to start out searching broad such as by using a first name or a village name. He also suggests to think like a transcriber as to how names could have been misspelled. Ellis Island processed arrivals from 1892 to 1924. For the dates between 1855 and 1890, Steve Morse has a search page set up for searching Castle Garden lists.

Other resources provided by this webinar include:

  • Use as a starting point. They have a comprehensive document with associated links called "How Can Ship Passenger Lists Help Me in My Research?" to get you pointed in the right direction.
  • ...another comprehensive website is Immigrant Ships. These folks are looking for volunteer transcribers.
  •  ...and yet more links to keep you up past midnight: The Ships List, and Genealogy Branches
  • For paying sites, check out Ancestry and World Vital Records.

Lastly, Lisa Alzo is conducting a webinar entitled "Tracing Immigrant Ancestors" on December 7, 2011 sponsored by Legacy Family Tree. She will cover tips and tricks for locating and searching passenger lists.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Value of Insurance Maps

Access to maps is one of the delights of a genealogist. 
A workshop called Heating Up Your Research with Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps was presented at CGS by Melinda Kashuba on December 11, 2010.  The information provided in this post comes from my notes taken in attendance at the workshop, and some statements have been quoted from the handout provided by Melinda. 
Genealogists can use maps to recreate past landscapes. Access to Sanborn maps can be an expensive option if viewed in the comfort of your own home. Some libraries though have limited access to the collection including San Francisco Public Library if you have a library card

Sample Map accessed at
Sanborn Maps began around the time of the Civil War and were popular from 1860 to 1940. During the Industrial Revolution, people started moving to the cities. Denser populations meant more possibilities of fires. Thus the industry of fire insurance mapping was started. Fire insurance companies could not afford to send their underwriters to view distant properties, so they relied on the maps developed by engineers and published by companies such as Sanborn. These maps provided detailed plans of the cities including physical characteristics of buildings and the type of material used in construction. An image which shows more detail on a 1904 street in Wilmington, NC is shown here:

Image provided by the University of North Carolina Library website.

Many Sanborn maps are in the process of being digitized but if you are lucky enough to live in Missouri, Florida or Utah, the universities in these states have online collections. Fun for anyone to peruse, a webpage has been set up for viewing the Sanborn images from San Francisco in 1899-1900 available at: SFgenealogy.  My next blog post will offer a review of more general mapping resources. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Jamboree Experience 2010

Genealogy Jamboree is a premier event of the year for many genealogists. One reason why it is so well attended is because it is so well run. I offer the analogy of how well taught a class is that I am currently taking on Historical Geography. Professor Larson has been teaching the course for 20 years so his presentation is well organized and refined. When somebody has a passion for something and knows it well, they make it a great experience for others. This is true of the folks at Southern California Genealogy Society who managed effectively 1700 participants including 500 first timers, and their passion for the event and for genealogy shows by their excellent communication with attendees and through their extentive program offerings throughout the year.

Some of the workshops I attended at the Jamboree were:
-Strategies for Finding Living Relatives
             -Using the Internet to find French-Canadian Ancestors
                          -Social Networking including the use of Twitter.

I also attended a Blogger Summit which featured polished bloggers sharing their ideas in a panel discussion format. Once I used the geography analogy above, I realized how closedly related the two topics are: genealogy and geography. One informs the other.

Historical geography covers the culture and the landscape of the area(s) being studied and offers clues to the genealogist about what factors our ancestors had to face in the environments they lived in. The whole experience of attending a major genealogy event like this one was exciting for the educational and sharing aspects but also just be a part of the energy of like-minded people.