Monday, February 24, 2014

Get that eulogy - Adding a funeral eulogy to your genealogy

At a funeral recently for my uncle, a niece of his that I was not that close to because of age and distance gave a wonderful eulogy about my uncle including christmas memories, trips to the ocean, and his famous distinct dark blue suit that he apparently wore to every formal function he had been to in the last decade (He had worn it to her wedding 7 years prior, just like he had worn it to mine more recently).  

Some of these stories were familiar to me, other I was just hearing for the first time.  So at the reception after the burial I commented to my cousin.  “Jane, that was a great eulogy, I would love to have a copy for the family genealogy.”  She said sure and I gave her my email address.  She was true to her word and three days later, a word document with the entire eulogy arrived in my inbox.  Had I not asked for it, those memories would have stayed in the church.  But now all the family can have a better understanding of who he was for generations to come.  

While I have my own memories that I could include, having an “official” eulogy that was given in public to a church full of people has more weight behind it.  While a video or audio recording would be inappropriate, the text of a eulogy is excellent for those who were not there or for those who were there to read and remember.    

I recommend asking for a eulogy if you feel comfortable so that others can understand the person more, as it was given by someone who knew them.

Notes on getting the eulogy:

- Be careful and sensitive to who you ask, you may have to wait a few weeks to ask for it if the person giving it was close to the deceased.  

- Along the same lines use discretion on when you ask.  Ask in a relaxed setting perhaps at a reception instead of at the funeral service.  

- Family eulogies are preferred to those of religious officials(ministers, priest, rabbi, etc) unless they knew the person, otherwise they are probably just wrote something based off the meeting with the family or the obituary.  

- A text might not exist.  Some people are excellent speakers and don’t use notes and speak from the cuff.  

- Make it easy.  Give them your email address on something other than a cocktail napkin that might get laundered or tossed.

- Try and get a soft copy so it will be easier to transfer on to the computer.  Copy and paste is much better than transcribing 5 pages of text, but transcribing is better than nothing at all.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Genealogy books for kids

When I was about eight years old my grandfather bought me the book My Family Tree Workbook (Dover Children's Activity Books), before he gave it to me he filled out the pages about himself and my grandmother (including pictures of him and her much younger).  Twenty plus years later I still credit this book with the beginning of my love for genealogy.  This book is for small children and is more about gathering information about people in the family.  It does not go into the nuances of research or how to research.  It is about getting a data about your own family (where they grew up, hobbies, etc.) with a big box to put a picture.  If you are trying to start a budding genealogist, this is your book.  This would be a great resource for giving to a child before a family reunion or function.  This would give them a reason to go up to and talk to relatives they otherwise would not know.  

Being a simple book it ask questions and puts lines so that the child can start with himself or herself and work their way back.  If also covers some introductory information about pedigree charts and family crests.  The book sprinkles in information on how to get more information and how to correspond with others.  

The limitations of this book is that it was published in 1982.  This limits the about it could tell about Internet or computers.  But that is not the purpose of this book.  This book is designed to be and self encompassing workbook for climbing an individual family tree.   That aspect is timeless and does not require technology.  Being that the designated age is between 9-12, it would hardly be expected that the child will be upset that this book do not have a database program with it.  This book is more of another activity book where the child can take notes about the questions and begin their quest to know the connections to the past and where they came from.       

Another highly recommended book for kids is Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People. 2nd Edition this book is geared towards school aged kids and talks much more about research and searching.  I don’t have much exposure to this book other than recommendations for others.  From the review it looks to be more advanced than the other book, which could make it a good step up from other book..  This book has more details about research and types of research and charts.  Both books are highly recommend though for different ages and different purposes.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Facebook Genealogy

Since its creation in 2004 Facebook has amassed over a billion users, chances are that many of them are related to you and you may not even know it.  Doing a google search of “facebook genealogy” will yield many results.  From facebook genealogy apps to networking with other researchers.  But many article miss a basic fact about facebook, is that there are real people there who are related to you and have memories of genealogical significant stories and events that you do not have and that are not written down.  

Start with your "friends"

Go through your friends list

Login to facebook and look at your friend list.  How many of them are related to you?  How many of them are outside of your immediate family?  Of those people how many of them to do have a complete genealogy profile(with pictures) in your genealogy records?  If you said no to the last question, those people have information that you want and they are right there in front of you.  They may also have friends in their friend list that are related to you that you are not friends with.

These are excellent resources that can be turned into valuable genealogical information.  

It's all in the approach

The best way to get information that you need to is to ask for it by sending a message to the person who has some information.  

An example message to a cousin you know.

Hey Bill,
  As you may (or may not) know.  I have been doing genealogy in my spare time and wanted to know if you could give me some information about your family.  I am particularly interested in your parents (my Mother's sister) and what you could tell me about them and if you yourself may have any stories you remember about our grandmother than you would want to share.  I would like to continue to be in touch with you for specific dates, people and places for people in our family tree.

Linda (your first cousin)

Worst case: Bill deletes your message or Bill never logs in in anymore to read messages and you get no reply and you have wasted two minutes on facebook (like you have never done that before).

Best case: Bill is intrigued by you request, had information he wants to share.  And guess what his mother just got on to Facebook last year so she could see pics of the grandchildren and is happily accepting friend requests of people she knows.

Attempting to friend a more distant cousin.  

1. Note a common relative
2. Start slow and be precises (to avoid looking like a scam)
3. Don’t worry if you do not get a response
4 Don’t nag or you will be blocked :)

Dear Meg,
  My name is Linda Jones and I am your second cousin.  I got your name through your brother Joel.  You grandmother (Betsy Smith) and my grandmother (Grace Johnson) were sisters.  I have been doing research on the family tree and I was trying to get new information.  I am hoping to friend you so that you could share any family stories that would be interesting for the rest of the family about you, your parents or your grandparents.  I look forward to talking to you.


Worst case: Meg doesn’t friend you and you never hear from her again.  

Best case: Meg friends you and has stories to share with you about your relatives.


Facebook is a powerful tool that is making the world smaller and many of the people on the largest social network in the world are related to you.  Facebook has many genealogy apps that can range from interesting to useless, we hope to review them in the future to differentiate some of them in the future. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Christmas newsletters … Love ‘em or hate ‘em but keep them

Two Schools of thought on Christmas Newsletters...
There are two schools of thought when it comes to Christmas newsletters.  The first is those that loathe them.  These people think the letter is a narcissistic exercise by people that they barely know to further selectively gloat about about the past year.  This is a valid argument, you rarely read “after Jimmy got home from prison he announced that he and Jaxsee were going to get married.”  They think the letter is a chore to read especially if they are from someone they barely know  If they do know the people then they would hopefully know all these events already.

The other school of thought (especially by the people who send these them)  is that they are a way to keep people up to date with what has happened to their family especially if they don’t get to see each other as often.  They think that this gives a collective “update” without having to go through the whole process of getting together.  

From a genealogy perspective no matter what camp you fall into you should find a means to keep these for prosperity.   The Christmas newsletter is historically a reversion to the old school letter as opposed to the traditional Christmas card.  But it also contains valuable genealogy information.  They contain vital information (“Judy got married in September”, “we lost Great Uncle Ed in the Spring”) as well as other “meta data” which doesn’t fit the Birth Marriage Death(BMD) vital date information but still contributes to the overall genealogy “story”.  This type of info contributes to understanding the person for future generations (“Jill graduated with honors from Ohio State”, “Justin started his law internship in Toledo”).  This provided valuable information about knowing the person.

From a historical perspective can you imagine if you had a Christmas newsletter from your great- great- grandmother about how the family was doing during the civil war.  The letter probably wouldn’t mention the war unless someone was deployed but it would tell about everyday life at the time with births and milestones.  So just think you are saving these things for your great great grandchildren to read in the year 2174.  No one thinks that far ahead but if you get rid of the newsletters nobody will have access to them in 2020 let alone 2174.  

So how do you save these things... 
The old adage “you can’t save everything” applies to this.  You could go out and get a file cabinet and put these newsletters in folders for each family.  My grandfather actually does this with his genealogy.  The question that he and everyone else realize is what is going to happens to all those files when he goes.  Most people don’t have the room for another file cabinet(or four) of inherited stuff that only quasi relates to your immediate family.  My grandfather is acutely aware of this because he inherited two file cabinets from his father.  There has to be a better way.

Christmas newsletter are not “official documents” so if you don’t have the room, I would suggest getting a good electronic legible copy and putting it on your hard drive (which you back up frequently locally and to “the cloud”) and linked in your genealogy software of choice.  Whether you do this via scanner or high quality picture matters not.  But having it so it can be accessed and read by future generations can provide a glimpse into a particular year of a particular family in time.  This may seem mundane to you living at this time in history but two or three generations hearing that we all sat around the television watching an event might be the equivalent of “we all sat around the Victrola and sang”  to give a historic perspective to the times and give more story to the people.    

This also might give you perspective if you write a Christmas newsletter, that you are night writing to your family and the neighbor down the street, you are writing for generations to come to see how a year in your life in the early 2000’s happened. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Smartphone - The Ultimate Genealogy Tool

Camera, Audio Recorder, Video Recorder, Apps and More

Used to be the that the best genealogy tool was a pencil and paper.  But the pencil and paper are being replaced by a tool many people already have: their phone, a smartphone to be exact.  The smartphone has changed many everyday activities and genealogy is one of them.  Having a smartphone as a great tool to your genealogy utility belt and I want to go though some features(many standard) that can help you with tracing your family tree.

Camera- Used to be that you had to take picture then get the film developed then put in an album or scan into the computer.  Then came digital cameras that where you could take pictures then upload the pictures to a computer.  The smartphone improves on all of this.  You can take a picture of anything (a document, a person or a tombstone)  then email it to yourself or share it on a social network.  This photo can be inserted directly from your email into a genealogy program.  This takes out the middleman and puts the picture in two locations(the phone and email) so that even if one is lost, it can still be retrieved.  This is great for family reunions, cemetery hopping or trips to the archives(policy dependent).  What used to take many steps to get from camera to record is now only one step and much easier.

Video camera - Similar to the camera video is also good to to record moments of for prosperity.  Imagine being able to not only see great-grandma but see everyone singing to her at her 85th birthday, even though you may never have met her.  Or better yet see yourself as a baby being held by a grandparent who had since passed on.  The video can be done on the phone and attached to the record of both people in it in the software.  Not as functional if you plan to print out a book like copy for relatives but still has use for family private website and other activities.

Audio recorder - Get the story straight from those who lived it.  I have been proponent of this since cassette tapes.  But they had the problem of getting that onto the computer(computer geeks could do that but not the rest of us).  Then came the .WAV file, you could record into a microphone and it would save as a file on the computer. This was great but you had to bring the story teller to your computer to be able to get this accomplished.  But the smartphone also allow you to record audio notes and store them on the phone or send them to email.  The files can then be easily transferred into your genealogy software.

Notepad/calendar - Smartphones also help us to remember to do things and what to do with them.  Question used to be “Does anyone have a pen so I can get Uncle Larry’s address and send him a family group sheet in the mail?”  Now you have a calendar you can put in a reminder when you know you will be home on a certain date and time with Uncle Larry’s address in the reminder and you can send it to him.  Even better if Uncle Larry has email you can email him your auto fillable pdf family group form and he can fill it out at the computer and email it right back to you.  

Apps, apps and more apps - The greatest feature of the smartphone may not be the hardware which we have just gone through but more importantly the software.  There are millions of apps available hundreds of them could be used in genealogy.  Some are good, some are junk.  The only real way to find out is to try them or read reviews about them.  I am going to put them into two categories: genealogy specific and the rest.

Genealogy specific: There are hundreds of “genealogy apps” with varying degrees to functions and   purpose.  Some are free, some are not.  Some will be useful to one person and the next person finds the app worthless.  Read the description and reviews and see if you think it will help you.  If the price point it good (cheaper the better) try it out then put your own review as a genealogist if you thought it was worth it.  

The rest:  there are many other types of apps that can be used in your research.  Maps are a good example especially when looking for something (a cemetery) you can find it on the map.  It may help you find it to go there or it may show you the place where someone is buried in another country.  

Internet in the field:  Having a smartphone in a cemetery has tremendous benefits if you have internet access.  You could verify dates and look for additional information or just Google the place of birth so see where in the world that place is.  

The smartphone is an invaluable tool for the genealogist and many of us already have one in our possession already that we use everyday. But this tool can be used in a genealogy setting and make data more accurate and get us deeper into our family story.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Beyond the Date - Introduction

Welcome to in initial blog post of beyond the date.  This blog is aimed at the elusive younger generation of genealogist (but all ages are welcome).  We will focus on fitting genealogy in with your busy life of working and kids and doing genealogy the best and more technologically efficient way to get the more bang for your time.  Whether you have been doing this since you were a kid or if you just recently got interesting in finding out more about your roots.  We hope to help you find out more and get more than just the BMD (birth, marriage and death) dates but to actually make connections with family and get the story “beyond the date”.  

Come back for articles about genealogy technology, getting the whole family involved in hunting down your roots and doing it all while juggling your current hectic life. :)