Start Your Family History Journey

Researching your family history can have some very exciting moments.  Find your first census record and feel the thrill of seeing a snapshot of your family.  I became addicted to genealogy research after finding my grandfather’s passenger manifest and had difficulty waiting to find my next piece of my family’s history. Start your search, and you can also feel this thrill once you find that first document. Filling in more generations of your family tree and finding more family facts will start to haunt your waking thoughts. Get started and be prepared to make researching your family history a lifelong journey. Just like a great novel, it will be hard to put down.

Try to have a goal in your research. I intended to learn more about my family’s heritage and to preserve what I find for my children and grandchildren. Your goals can be similar to mine or yours can be as simple as doing an in-depth study of one of your famous ancestors. Start your journey at home. Collect documents, pictures, and letters that you and your immediate family have stored away in old shoe boxes in the closet or stuffed in desk drawers. Remember also that it is critical to interview your older relatives to save their memories and oral history.

Be organized in your research because this will save you time but will also point the way for more research. I use summaries to organize my facts and as a reference tool while doing my research. My summaries can make my research more efficient and helps me find more documents and facts. The summaries also help me focus my search efforts. Summaries are also a great way to share what I find with my family. Sharing gives me more opportunities for other family members to contribute more oral history, pictures, and old papers. Be prepared to uncover more areas to research after sharing your work. Remember to identify and label the family pictures. Asking relatives to determine who is in the pictures will help extend your family tree and also turn on the memories of the relatives who are trying to help.

Records you find may be confusing, misleading and wrong.  You will need to continually analyze and interpret your information and note where you got your information. As a beginner to genealogy, start now to note where you get every piece of information. Record your information as you find your facts. You may hear arguments that keeping up with sources are time-consuming and too much trouble. It isn’t fun, but without your source information, you can’t evaluate, analyze, and draw conclusions. And you can’t pass along your information because at least one family member will ask, “But how do you know?”

Companies and organizations are listing more and more genealogy records in online databases, and these are great sources to begin your research. However, there are many more genealogy records stored in libraries and historical archives that also may include your ancestors. Be sure to use all the sources in your research, both online and in person. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Use books, genealogy programs, genealogy conferences, genealogy societies, online educational offerings, and social media to sharpen your genealogy skills. Again, once you start your journey, it will probably be a lifelong passion.

My last thought that may help you develop the same passion for genealogy as I have is

“Remember to have fun.”

New Book – Find Your Czech and Slovak Ancestors

I’ve been busy this fall writing. I just published a new genealogy book for Czech and Slovak Genealogy Research.

This book is designed to give the researcher the tools needed to research their Czech and Slovak ancestors and find possible answers to the origins of your heritage. The book outlines a simple process that will identify where your ancestors were born and where to find their records. The book lists many up-to-date sources of information that will add to your family history; identify where your ancestors were born and where to find their Czech and Slovak records. Traditional sources are covered but it also discusses many new and exciting sources for records. The book includes many sample documents and tips that should prove useful for both the beginner and the veteran genealogist. The information in this book covers the most up-to-date collection of sources for Czech and Slovak genealogy and should prove to be invaluable when doing your research. This book is for people with roots in Bohemia (Czech), Slovakia, Moravia, or Silesia who feel the need to develop, preserve and share the genealogical, historical and cultural knowledge of their ancestors.

NEW BOOK – My Polish Grandmother: from Tragedy in Poland to her Rose Garden in America

This book is about my grandmother. When researching her life, I found she endured many challenges that made her the strong person that I admired as I grew up around her. In writing my grandmother’s story, I wanted to go beyond the names, dates, and pictures in the photo albums. She was more than that. It is very important to ask why she did what she did.

This book asks questions about her fears when growing up, immigrating to America, and making her new life. How did she face these fears? How did she overcome them? Although I found no answers, I still found new insights about my grandmother.

Our ancestors were part of the wave of emigration that left Europe with the hope of finding work and a better life. It was not easy to immigrate to America. Our ancestors saw immigration to America as their last chance. They had to overcome obstacles getting from their village to the ships and hardships crossing the Atlantic. Then they had to prove they were worthy to be admitted to the United States. Once here, they faced challenges and discrimination to find work and make the better life they were seeking. My grandmother’s story is different because I tried to show how immigration was different for women.

Remember our ancestors made many sacrifices for us and helped build the United States. They could not appreciate what they were doing because they were working hard and surviving each day. However, what they did each day was important. I believe that our role should be to leave something that will help our children remember them. We need to capture the memories by writing our family history. This story is my attempt to preserve my grandmother’s memory.

Future Problems with Publishing my Family Histories

For the past few years I have used Createspace.com to published family histories that have been well-received by my family. These are self-published, print-on-demand, economical and private. Amazon is changing and my perfect solution for sharing my family histories just got harder to do.

Amazon owns Createspace.com for their print-on-demand books. They also own Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which they used to publish eBooks. Today, they announced that Createspace.com production is being moved to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I also got a second email that informed me that all of my print books would have to be made available on Amazon. This second emailed makes it almost impossible to keep my family histories private and limited distribution to my family members. On Createspace.com I could deselect all channels of distribution which meant only I could order my family history books. This kept non-family members from order the books but now this option will disappear when all of my books are transferred to KDP.

I still recommend organizing our genealogy research into summaries and then into large Word documents. This allows me to be more efficient when doing research, makes it easier to share information with family members, and will probably be saved by family members. However, publishing in book form will increase the chances that it will be saved for future generations.

Amazon is just beginning to implement change and many details are not available. Hopefully, they will allow some way to allow for some books to be private.

Because publishing my family histories for family members is very important, I will continue to look for platforms to do this. Stay tuned for future developments.

Meaning of Genealogy

Genealogy is defined in the dictionary as the study of family histories. Genealogical researchers begin by collecting records and documents for their ancestors. This step is the easy part of genealogy. However, many researchers never get beyond this initial step.

As I began compiling the information for my ancestors, I realized that family histories are more than piles of documents and charts with names and dates. Our family histories are made up of the stories that can be found in the oral histories, the pictures and the documents. I found that I became more excited about my ancestors as I discovered that the pattern in the information. I also discovered that my initial view of my family changed quickly as the information and stories flowed from the documents. As more information was found, my family history gave me a greater closeness to my ancestors and their lives.

Identifying who, what and where that were represented in family photo albums will pass along the memories that my ancestors tried to capture in these photos. Interpreting the facts shown on the various documents and explaining their relationship in the lives of my ancestors brought my pages to life. This was important because only a few people enjoy doing the research but most family members enjoy reading the stories. Our task is to find a way to save our family history in a format that can be enjoyed by most family members.

You may find it hard to believe that your family history is important to save. You should consider that all of our immigrant ancestors contributed to America’s history and their stories should be saved for our grandchildren. The farmers and the factory workers contributed their efforts to the growth of America alongside all of the names listed in the history books. Our family histories should give clues of their roles and this will help us understand our roots.

Start now to write a family history. Do not procrastinate. I also find it difficult to write. However, I got past my fear of writing by compiling the information into summaries for each ancestor that I was researching.

Don’t be afraid to begin. Concentrate on finding one story and then another by doing the research. Finding the small pieces will make the task easier and will be fun. Eventually, the small pieces will begin to fit together like a jig-saw puzzle and as the pieces are added the overall story that is your family history will eventually appear.

A family history can be a great treasure to you, your family and future generations. It can help us understand our heritage both here in the U.S. and where our ancestors came from. It lets us gain knowledge and appreciation for our ancestors and their lives.

Do it now!

 

 

Naturalization of Our Ancestors: establishing our roots in America

The naturalization of our ancestors establishes our family roots in America. They were part of the wave of emigration that left Europe with the hope of finding work and a better life. They saw immigration to America as their last chance.

Our lives would be much different if they did not endure the challenges of immigration to America. Do not underestimate their contributions. They may have left us some material wealth, but the most important contribution they left is their family and their role in the factories and farms of the United States. Their lives were building blocks in the growth of their new country. Remember that they made many sacrifices for us and their daily work helped build the United States.

I believe that our role should be to leave something that will help our children remember them.

Research and record the details of their journey to arrival and naturalization. It is an important part of your heritage. Capture the memories by writing your family history. If not you, who will do it?

Deadline to order FHL Film Extended

Familysearch.org has extended the deadline, for the discontinuation of the distribution of microfilm has been extended one week to September 7. Click here for more details:

Helpful Books on Polish Genealogy

Books on Polish genealogy are another important element in developing your genealogy research skills. Polish Roots. Second Edition 2nd Edition by Rosemary Chorzempa and Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research by Jonathan Shea have proven to be reference volumes explaining many of the Polish documents that are available.  Sto Lat: A Modern Guide To Polish Genealogy by Cecile Wendt Jensen and my book Polish Genealogy: Four Steps to Success present plans to logically do Polish genealogically research.

The challenges of translating your Polish records can be reduced by using the glossaries found in Jonathan Shea’s book Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research and the series he wrote with William Hoffman In Their Words – Polish, Latin, and Russian. If you find Polish records in the narrative format, you will find A Translation Guide to 19th Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents by Judith R. Frazin is an excellent user-friendly and practical resource.

Go to my page Helpful Book on Polish Genealogy for more details and a list of more books.

Is Roots Magic winning the marketing battle with Family Tree Maker?

Roots Magic just released their version 7.5 which interfaces with Ancestry.com for the first time. Now RM users can see hints for Ancestry.com records along with the hints they are enjoying from Familysearch.org, MyHeritage, and Findmypast. The new interface also includes our family trees we have on Ancestry which RM is calling Treeshare.  RM’s Treeshare is not the same as FTM’s Tree-syncing but does allow users to connect to Ancestry family trees, compare differences and changes between Ancestry and RM trees, and then select what information to migrate between the two versions. FTM Treesync allows Ancestry and FTM trees to be the same. RM Teeshare allows you to have additional people in your RM tree and be different from your Ancestry tree. I like the additional control RM gives me, but it does take more time to make the comparison.

My experience with FTM14.1 which is currently available is satisfactory, but interfaces with only Ancestry.com.  Mackiev has promised their new version FTM2017 will improve the syncing function and add an interface with Familyserch.org. However, the release of FTM2017 has been delayed and is about six months overdue.

With the release of RM7.5, Roots Magic seems to have moved ahead of FTM, but what will happen when FTM2017 is finally released? How much market share will FTM lose as now that RM7.5 has been released and the release of FTM2017 continues to be delayed? How much better will FTM2017 need to be to win back the market share they lost since the announcement by Ancestry to discontinue FTM?

I have been a long-time FTM user but my loyalty is being tested, and I am on the edge of the fence with my decision. FTM14.1 does not interface with Ancestry as well as older versions, but I think this is due to Ancestry not owning FTM and not due to the software. Will the interface between Ancestry and FTM2017 remain the same, go back to the old level, or get better. Only the release of FTM2017 will give us the answer.

AncestryDNA launches Genetic Communities

On March 27, AncestryDNA introduced Genetic Communities. It is very new, but I believe it will prove to be a useful tool to unlock some of the mysteries that we encounter in our genealogical research.

Using the DNA results from the users in Ancestry’s database, DNA profiles were identified for over 300 geographical areas. (Note AncestryDNA used only results from users who agreed to participate in the test). Individual results were then compared to the DNA profiles to determine if results fit any of the profiles.

My results matched one profile although I expected at least two. The Genetic Communities feature is new and is still being refined, so I hope that the second area that I was expecting will show up in my results later.

This tool may confirm the geographical areas that we have identified as our origins, but it may also point to a new area especially if we have mysteries or brick walls.

The Genetic Communities is a tool that should be considered when deciding which DNA testing company to select. If I need to order another DNA test, I will probably order from AncestryDNA. Another factor in my decision is the ability to transfer the raw data from an AncestryDNA test to FamilytreeDNA. In the past, I have used the tools of both companies to resolve one of my brick walls, and the Genetic Communities should make this task easier.