Genealogy Education & Training

Genealogy Training – Volunteering, Attending, Reading, Conferences, & Videos — oh my.

I was recently asked about what I do for Genealogical Training.  How do I keep up with things genealogical?  Of course, learning is an ongoing process, but the key to learning, in my opinion, it to provide an environment for learning.  I do that in several ways.

First of all, I volunteer at my local historical society and museum. There, I regularly answer questions from individuals who have questions regarding their genealogical searches. I have only been in Maine about a year and a half, so my volunteer work helps me really learn about the place where I am living and the ancestors of this place. I am also learning about the genealogical records available here. Not only does it help me help others but it also helps me understand what types of records are available at a historical society in general.  I am amazed at the kinds and types of materials that are possible. There are resources that I would never have thought of. By volunteering, I have the knowledge to ask other societies for specific types of materials or searches and hone in on specific possibilities.

Next, I attend my local chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society.  Every month they host a speaker who talks about various genealogical topics and I attend.  Not only does it give an hour of education it has the side benefit of meeting and conversing with individuals who actually care about my genealogical successes and brick walls as I care about theirs. Just those conversations can be motivating and inspiring.  I even gave one of the talks last summer regarding “Social Media and Genealogy.”  There is nothing that teaches you more than preparing to give a talk.

Next, I am particularly interested in genetic genealogy. There is a new Genealogical DIG (DNA Interest Group) here in Maine,  which I am now attending.  I also volunteered to help with a website for them. Not only do I learn about genetic genealogy through the meetings, I learn even more as I help with the content of the website.  And again, being able to chat with individuals with a similar interest in genetic genealogy can sometimes be inspiring. 
Next, I read. I subscribe to several magazines and the other societies I belong to send magazines focused upon their society. I also subscribe to several blogs of individuals that I know their writings will usually be interesting. Another thing I did was create a daily magazine at I am still using the free version and have the system create a Genealogical Daily.  I check it every day.  You can modify your paper to ignore some types of content and I’ve adjusted mine to eliminate some of the more flagrant sales pitches. Sure, it sometimes duplicates items I’ve already seen through my few blog subscriptions but I can quickly bypass the.  I think it is a great resource. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve done, see it at Feel free to subscribe or favorite it. If I see enough users I might try to curate the postings.

Next, I plan to attend three, day-long genealogical focused seminars or conferences this year. All are sponsored by my state Genealogical Society.  

1.   2016 Maine Genealogical Society Spring Workshop – April 23, 2016. The keynote speaker is well-known genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger

2.   2016 Southern Maine Genealogy Conference – May 21, 2016. The keynote Speaker is D. Joshua Taylor of “Genealogy Roadshow” fame.

3.   2016 Maine Genealogical Society and Annual Meeting – September 17, 2016. The keynote Speaker is Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL

I think between the workshop, conference and meeting, I’ll pick up many new things.

Finally, I watch a one hour video every week.  I tend to miss watching a video on weeks that I’m attending a conference but I watch one most every week.  My favorites are usually RootsTech videos.  They never have a bad video. 

My plans include about ninety hours of semi-formal training, (50 hours of videos, at least 15 hours at conferences, and 24 hours of presentation at society chapter and DIG meetings. Add another 100+ hours of volunteer service at the Historical Society and Museum supporting genealogical activities and I figure I’ll be learning all year.

How many can you check off?

þ Volunteer at local historical or genealogical society.
þ Attend your local genealogical society’s chapter meetings.
þ Attend your local genealogical DIG meetings.
þ Attend local genealogical conferences.
þ Subscribe to and read genealogical magazines.
þ Subscribe and read genealogical blogs.
þ Watch genealogical educational videos.

Important Links:

Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society (Facebook)
   2016 Spring Workshop –  23 April 2016
GeneaBloggers has over 3000 genealogical blogs listed on their website. (Facebook)
Paper li and Don Taylor’s Genealogy Daily
RootsTech 2015 Video Archive (Note: RootsTech 2016 is in just a few weeks. Typically, these videos are unavailable when the new RootsTech takes place. There may be a couple weeks between when the video archive for 2015 is not available and the 2016 archive becomes available.
———- DISCLAIMER ———-

Newspaper Searching

I attended the Bangor Family History Fair at the Bangor Family History Center last weekend. Overall, it was a good experience and worth the two-hour drive, each way. Probably, the talk I enjoyed most was by Penobscot County GenealogicalSociety president, Dale Mower who spoke about “The How and Why of Online Newspaper Research.” His talk got me to thinking more and more about my research using newspapers and my process for searching. I generally use Family Search and Ancestry to determine the who, when, and where of my ancestor’s lives, but it is newspapers that provide the what and why – the texture of their lives.

After returning, I was corresponding with someone regarding my “Angley Project.” He asked what on-line resources he could be checking, particularly newspapers. Being a process type of person, I thought about the process I use and how to explain it to others. Here are the steps I use.

· Know subject
· Know what is available
· Search my paid sites
· Search general sites
· Search for specific online site
· Search those specific online sites
· Search for Microfilm availability
· Add further research to trip list.

Know Subject

Brown Family
I take what I do know about an individual, birth, marriage, death, and where they were during each of the censuses and any other key information I can find. I may print out Family Group Sheets for the individual I’m going to research in order to have it immediately available for comparison. I do so, particularly, if the individual has a dozen children or several wives.I use that information to help focus my newspaper research. I know it is tempting to start searching right away, but I’ve found developing an understanding of what may be available first is more productive.

Know what is available
There are two broad categories and several subcategories of newspaper record availability.

Available on-line
Through $ Service
Not Available on-line.
Not available anywhere

In order to be thorough, I think it is imperative to know what is potentially available, so I start with determining that.

First, I begin with with the Chronicling America – Library of Congress (LoC)

On upper right-hand part of the site is: [US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present]

I select where and when a newspaper was published. For example: Pennsylvania | Luzerne. I often add English for the Language (because I don’t read any other languages adequately) and a year range beginning with the decade of birth and the decade after death. That search provides a list of newspapers that are known to have existed. If there are more than a handful of newspapers, I will export what I find into a spreadsheet so I can keep track of them as I research with each of the potential sources.

Search the paid sites.

newspapers.comI currently have subscriptions with Genealogy Bank and Newspapers.Com, so I search them next. At this point, I keep my searches focused on the state and date range I’m looking for. I search using alternate spellings, initials, known addresses, the spouse’s name, and even siblings or children. Any papers I am able to search there I mark off from my “What’s Available” list, being sure to identify the site and years the site provides for that paper.

I also have a subscription with I search the card catalog there for “Newspaper” and the state I’m researching.

Search the free sites.

I use Elephind (
as my initial free site to search. It not only searches the LoC, but also
searches several other systems including California Digital Library. At this point,
I still keep my searches focused on the state and date range I’m looking for. I
search using alternate spellings, initials, known addresses, the spouse’s name,
and even siblings or children. Sometime even the community and surname along.
For example, surname Angley and community Pringle, which is where Michael
Angley, of my Angley Project lived.
Next, I check Google News Archives (
I compare what they have with the titles I found in my LoC search of newspapers with what Google News has. Google News often have gaps in their coverage,
but if you find something, it is awesome.

Search for specific online sites
Searching for other online records is more time consuming. I use Wikipedia’s List of Online Newspaper Archives and see what is available and through whom.
I also go to The Ancestor Hunt (, use the search box on the right site to search for the state that I’m looking for newspapers for, and note them. By the way, Kenneth Marks does an awesome job with his site, providing links to newspapers and photograph collections as well as blog lessons on how to better use newspaper resources. I highly recommend subscribing to his blog if you are interested in newspaper research.

It is also well worth it to see what Cyndi’s List ( has available. From the home page, the best thing is to select the state you are searching for under the United States then select Newspapers. Not only does Cyndi’s List provide links to many free collections but it also provides links to the paid sites list of newspapers that will then show what newspapers they have. For example, the Newspaper Archives link for Minnesota, and a drill down, shows me that Newspaper Archives have two Brainerd newspapers.

o Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1901-1977)
o Brainerd Dispatch (1883-1932)

If they cover my search area, I’ll consider a membership or see if my library, or a society that I am a member of, has access to that service.

Sometimes I do a Google search for “newspaper name” AND “city,” but I haven’t had much success with doing so if I’ve followed my search methodology up to this point. Again, every newspaper I find I mark off in my research spreadsheet.

Search those specific online sites
Going hand-in-hand with searching for those sites is
searching those sites. As I find them, I search for my ancestor, using the
multiple techniques to search that I’ve learned over the years. (Name, initials
and surname, address, misspelled name, spouse, children, etc.)

By this time, I’ve pretty well exhausted the available
on-line resources.

Searching for availability off-line

Although, I may have completed my on-line searches, there are still many more things I can do to learn more about my ancestor’s life.

Image of Microfilm Reels - Photo by C.E. Crane, From the Music and Performing Arts Library's Special Collections, University of Illinois, via Flickr

Going back to my LoC listing of newspapers, I select the newspapers that I haven’t found online and see what libraries have it. I’ve been amazed to find a microfilm copies near me. If there is microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I have ordered a copy that to view at my local Family History Center. In addition, many libraries with both master and service copies will allow the service copy out on interlibrary loan; I’ve ordered microfilm that way, too.

Finally, I add newspaper information to my “Research Travel” wish list, which I keep in Evernote, to visit the library with that holding of that newspaper so I can peruse it when I travel or, possibly hire someone local to the archive to look for me.

As I do my on-line searches, I bookmark those sites with my browser. That helps provide a repeatable set of websites I can use to search if I need to search for other family members or otherwise extend my search parameters. I once found an article about the spinster daughter of an ancestor where she spoke about her childhood and described several things about her parents.

There are issues of newspapers that the Library of Congress doesn’t know exists. For example, I know that the Smyrna (GA) Historical and Genealogical Society has original copies of the Smyrna newspaper that don’t show up on a LoC search. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t done so yet, but I know I should also check with local historical societies and see if they might be holding old newspapers. Often times their holdings haven’t been cataloged and reported to the LoC.

My Key Newspaper Websites

A Note about Vaudeville Guides

Snapshot of the 1913-1914 Cahn-Lighton Theatrical Guide entry for Minneapolis, Minnesota's newspapers.
As a final note, another resource I’ve found to be very
useful are old Vaudeville guides. During the vaudeville days, traveling shows
needed to advertise at each location they played at. The vaudeville guides
provided information regarding newspapers for the various vaudeville promoters
for their advertising. For example, The
1913-1914 Cahn-Lighton Theatrical Guide
(available on Google Books) tells
me that there were three major newspapers in Minneapolis at the time, the “Journal,” the “News,” and the “Tribune.” The Guide also provides each
paper’s circulation. That knowledge helps me focus on the larger papers that
are more likely to have general interest stories about my ancestors.


Roots Tech 2012 video – “Future of FamilySearch Family Tree”

More on the Roots Tech videos:
The Roots Tech 2012 video presentations are, for the most part, wonderful and the presentation by Ron Tanner was among the best.  It was very informative and Ron is extremely entertaining and engaging.  He says he’s “crazy” but from what I saw his really isn’t “crazy” but rather, his is excited about his work and what FamilySearch is doing in the future.  FamilySearch Family Tree have some amazing things planned, ways in which collaboration in family tree can be much easier and still maintain accountability if/when someone changes something in a tree.  The changes planned really have the potential to revolutionize collaboration. Some changes may not be implemented until the end of the year but the new family tree capabilities appear to be very desirable.  I’m looking forward to the new features.

Family Search is one of my top sites and their improvements might move it to the top.

See: Videos Schedule |
Then select: “Saturday, 11:00 AM
Future of FamilySearch Family Tree
By Ron Tanner”

Roots Tech Videos – Great!

I ran into a really great site, Roots Tech.  It has videos from their
latest convention, which is apparently the largest genealogy Tech
convention in the country.  It is held yearly in Salt Lake City.  I wish it was a lot closer so I could attend.  Anyway, the videos seem to run about an hour each. I watched one from a guy from Google and using Google for genealogical research.  It had lots of really great tips.  Probably the best one was using the tilde parameter.  For example, searching for “Arthur Brown ~genealogy” will yield  results that only relate to genealogical research, vital records,
etc.  Really cool.  Also you can use the double dot parameter in dates.
 Such as  “Arthur Brown 1868..1928 will return results for the date
range and will ignore an Arthur Brown born in 1929.   Really helpful.  So often Google searches are like drinking water from a fire hose.  These two parameters can really reduce the flow to a manageable level. 

The video I watched also talked about Google Image Search wherein you can
upload a picture and have Google look for similar pictures.   Subsequently, I have not had a lot of success with it, but I think it could lead to a breakthrough on that rare photo that you know is of someone that is related but you don’t have a name for them and I have a bunch of them. (I have about 20 photos from 1890 plus/minus 20 years which are “Hubers from Switzerland”.)

There was a bit about searching Google News but only searching the archives and leaving out the current events, which we don’t typically care about in genealogical research.  The same thing about using Google Books.  They also mentioned using Google + to link with others doing research.

Just the Google presentation will revolutionize my research methods.  I can’t wait to see the other videos.

As you can tell, I was really impressed and will use their google tips a lot. .