Top 10 Genealogy Mistakes to Avoid

I’m always telling folks that once you get the “genealogy bug” it is ADDICTIVE.  As a hobby, it can be fascinating as well as frustrating but very addictive.  Each step you take in researching your family can lead you to new ancestors. Sometimes you may even find stories about your ancestors and sometimes you may find things you might rather not know. If you are new to genealogy research or even if you are an old timer, there are ten key mistakes you might want to avoid to make your search successful.

Kimberly Powell advises:

Don’t Forget Your Living Relatives – YOUR family members are  YOUR most important source, and often the only source for the stories which bring our family history to life. Make sure you talk to them BEFORE they are gone.

Don’t Trust Everything You See in Print –  In your searching, you may have come across a written genealogy on your family or a family tree on the Internet.  Just because it has been  written down or published does not necessarily mean that it is correct. Everyone from professional genealogists to your own family members can make mistakes! Transcriptions of various records – censuses, cemetery records, wills, etc can also contain errors. How many times have you seen a census record that was transcribed and then looked at the actual records and found something totally different? The Internet is a valuable genealogy research tool, but Internet data, like other published sources, should be approached with skepticism.It too can contain errors and in some cases is totally wrong.

[Read more…]

Online newspaper archives

Wikipedia has  a list of free and subscription digital online newspaper archives. Most are scanned from microfilm into pdf, gif or similar graphic formats and many of the graphic archives have been indexed into searchable text databases utilizing optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Some newspapers do not allow access to the OCR-converted text until it is proofread. Older newspapers are still in image format, and newer newspapers are available as full text that can be cut and pasted. Most text is in ASCII, some are using Unicode for diacritical marks not available in ASCII. Google now indexes many newspaper archives.

Historical Newspapers Online is a collection of newspapers listed by states and is part of the Penn Libraries collections.

Chonicling America is a collection of over 600 newspapers from 30 states published between the 1830s and 1922, and it continues to grow rapidly.  Backed by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, these newspapers are all freely available.   Although each state on the newspapers by state listing indicates if Chronicling America includes newspapers from it, this site also allows you to search all Chronicling America newspapers simultaneously.

Roots and Branches Mobile Friendly Site Template

Roots and Branches is the newest template offered on our sister site Expression Web Tutorials & Templates. It is a fixed width equal height columns layout that is mobile friendly.  This template uses some CSS3 for the rounded corners.  The rounded corners will display as intended in newer modern browsers. They will degrade gracefully in older browsers and default to rectangular corners. Currently the template is available only as a personal web package that can be used with Expression Web. Don’t have Expression Web? You can download Expression Web (free version)  that is fully functional and has no time out date. I will be making the template available in a package that will work with any web editing program ASAP. Download Roots and Branches site template package.


The Roots and Branches template package is also available in shades of blue. As well as the DWT, the package includes a blank template that can be used with any web editor and a template that makes use of server side includes.


Download the Roots and Branches site template package.

Additional Templates are available:

Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is Discontinued

According to the FamilySearch Blog, Personal Ancestral File – PAF for short – is being discontinued. Beginning July 15, 2013, PAF will be retired and will no longer be available for download or support. PAF users should consider alternative products to meet their ongoing personal genealogy management needs. I have been using PAF for my genealogy database for many years now. It has served my needs over the years BUT perhaps now it is time to look at another program. BUT which one?

FamilySearch recommends that you choose one of the following free, third-party products that have each been certified to work with FamilySearch and the Family Tree. The three they recommend are:

Each of the above programs offers a free basic version as well as a more robust paid version. You may want to try each of them before you make a final decision.  I already have Ancestral Quest (Paid version) installed on my computer so will give it a try.

Can I continue using PAF? Yes. PAF will continue to work on all versions of Windows as of 2013, including Windows 8. Just be aware that it will no longer be supported or improved. FamilySearch strongly recommends choosing an alternative product.

Snagit and Genealogy

Snagit by TechSmith  is a screen capture program that I use on a daily basis.  If I am writing tutorials, I use it to grab screenshots to illustrate what you need to do. If I’m busy working on genealogy, I use it to save and edit vital records, photographs and census records, to name a few. Imagine my surprise when a post on Facebook addressed this use of Snagit.

Snagit helps genealogists like you wear multiple hats, whether you’re acting the part of historian, detective, or linguist. Quickly grab search results and old photos, then save and share without disrupting your workflow. Snagit makes it easy.

Snagit is available for both Windows and Mac users.You can download a free trial of Snagit as well as a manual, Snagit Genealogy Research Guide. The research guide is also available for both Windows and Mac.

  1. You can easily grab images of your search results, including long webpages using the scrolling feature. You can also grab individual images.
  2. Snagit can help you categorize your images and archive them in one place or save to specific folders as part of your website. Images can be saved in file formats like GIF, JPG, and PNG. 
  3. You can easily add captions, arrows, URLs, highlights, and more to your images. 
  4. You can share your images with others, add them to Word documents, Facebook, or PowerPoint presentation.

Snagit is a commercial product and available for sale. Buy Snagit.

Download a 30 day free trial of Snagit.

Download the Snagit Genealogy Research Guide.