Saturday, November 28, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over ~ Cycle 4, Week 9

This week we are talking about conducting cluster research and organizing research materials with documents and photos. There is a difference between collateral research and cluster research. With collateral research you are searching everyone in one family. For instance, my grandfather George Kenneth Rueff was one of seven children and in researching my grandfather I also researched each of his siblings, adding their spouses and children. With cluster research you are going to research the friends, associates and neighbors of your ancestor. This type of research is also known as the F.A.N. Principle.

Conducting Cluster Research

Up until January and the original cycle I had been doing a "lite" version of F.A.N. Principle, never realizing that there was an actual genealogical term for this type of research. My version of the F.A.N. Principle consisted of looking for those elusive first or maiden names of a wife and/or the wife's family, trying to figure out if a person who appeared on a census record was actually related to the ancestor I was researching or trying to determine what happened to a family member who seems to have dropped off the radar. I have had some success but I realized during my preparation for writing this post in the original class that I should have gone further, asked better questions and/or added some extra steps to my process. 

I see now that I need to go back and re-do some of my cluster research. To help keep me on track with this project I have created "The Friends+Associates+Neighbors = F. A. N. Principle Worksheet". When printing the sheet it is all on 1 piece of paper (front/back). I hope you find it useful, please click here to see. I hope I haven't forgotten anything or made my list too long. I am sure that as I research each individual, adjustments will need to be made based on the information I have or need. I am also sure that other questions and/or record groups will come into play as well but I believe that this is a good place to start.

Organizing Research Materials 

I will admit here and now that keeping organized is not my strong point. I try, I really do but I seem to gravitate toward organized chaos rather than organized order. I know where everything is on my desk even if it is a stack two feet high! 

How to organize our files, documents and photos was one of the biggest topics discussed in the original cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over. I am not nearly as tech savvy as I thought I was in the original cycle and have decided working with paper is much better for me and the way that I process information.

Our leader, Thomas MacEntee is always saying, "think preservation as well as access" which is actually very good advice. For me, this is building binders for each family with tabs for each member of the family that include of my research from scanned copies of research notebooks to copies of original documents and copies of logs and worksheets. I am not comfortable going paperless right now.

Some of you may remember, that back in July I threw away 65% of my previous research. You can read that post here. It was a very liberating experience to say the least. It was also easy to do because I had not touched any of those files since the early 2000's. What I did keep was all documents that were certified and in my personal possession, if any of the documents had source citations I kept them and I kept all research notebooks from 2009 to present.  My file cabinets are gone and I have moved to pretty, functioning baskets since my genealogy room does double duty as guest room too.

I now have every thing down to 7 baskets. The first basket contains blank forms for pedigree charts (various kinds), family group sheets, cemetery logs, source summary/ online tracker logs, document logs, research planning logs, repository research tracker logs, evidence evaluation sheets and others that I find useful . The second basket is for my family (ie: parents, siblings, grandparents etc.), my third basket is for my husband's family, my fourth basket is for my ex-husband's family (my children's paternal lines), my fifth basket is for my daughter in law's family (which are Easton's maternal lines), the sixth basket is for biological family research and the last one is for correspondence with family members, other researchers I have exchanged information with and research repository quests and their replies.

Finally all of my original documents are placed in a clear archival quality extension file after being scanned into my computer. Once scanned I then save it to several online storage places (ie: i-drive, Dropbox, OneNote). For now original documents are filed by surname in archival quality files and are in safe place where they can be grabbed up quickly in the event of an emergency.

To read my original post for week 9 you can click here.


Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : [1 March 2015]).


Friday, November 27, 2015

Family Photo Friday ~ Dawn at age 9

This is my 4th grade picture taken in January 1972. I was at St. Bartholomew Catholic School in Miramar, Florida. I went to school there from kindergarten thru the end of 5th grade. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have a lot to be thankful for this year! 2015, has been a busy year for me! I am very grateful to have had some great experiences and even some scary ones this year. Here are the things I am very blessed and grateful for this year, in no particular order:

  • For having a great family starting with my husband, Tommy, my son, David & his family, my parents, my siblings & their families, all of my aunts & uncles and my cousins, the very first friends we make! We have had so many new additions across my family as a whole this year with births and marriages. I welcome you all to our family with open arms!
  • To my husband, Tommy, who gave us a big scare this year with his health in July. To his team of doctors who took immediate action and made sure that I continue to have Tommy in my life! I love more than I can say and I am looking forward to many more years with you, Tommy!
  • For being David's Mom, Cassie's mother in law and Easton's grandma, he calls us Jaja & Dede! I am also very blessed & grateful for all of the time I get to spend with my Doodlebug too.
  • For my best friend, Banna! This year marked our 50th year of friendship and to celebrate we went to Savannah! We had a blast and added many new memories! I love you, Banna, thank you for always being there!
  • To all of our friends both near and far! Each of you are blessings and I am glad you are part of our life!
  • Just two months ago, we experienced massive flooding here in South Carolina. While I am grateful that we do not live in the areas where such devastating destruction occurred, our thoughts and prayers this Thanksgiving are with those who were and who continue to be affected by the flood and to their recovery.
  • For my wonderful genea-community and genea-friends for their continued support and encouragement in all things genealogy! For sharing your knowledge, resources and time with a generosity that I have never seen in any other community. 
  • To my fellow genea-bloggers thank you for inspiring, encouraging and challenging me to write about things I never imagined! This year you gave me overwhelming and unconditional support when I wrote about my son's death. It was a difficult series of posts to write and took me a couple of months to do because of all of my tears but it also brought me some peace and a little closure, something I didn't think was ever possible. 
  • To the men and women who serve and have served  in our military forces, thank you for your service!  I am grateful to live in country where you and I are able to enjoy and celebrate so many freedoms. 
I give thanks for all of this and so much more!

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to your family! 

Take care,


Monday, November 23, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over ~ Cycle 4 ~ Week 8 ~

We are going to discuss and focus this week on Collateral Research and Reviewing Offline Education Options. This is my second round in the Genealogy Do-Over. I learned so much from Thomas MacEntee, from the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group and others during this time that some days, I felt like I was on information load. Since March, when the original group ended I started putting into practice the things I have learned and I can see major changes in how I approach my research now. 

Conducting Collateral Research 

When I began my genealogical research quest into my children's paternal line I was pregnant with my first child. We lived in Montgomery, Alabama back then and it was one of the hottest summers I have ever seen. I began going to the Alabama State Archives and trying to find records for the Kitts family of Grainger County, Tennessee. I had no clue to what I was doing but I gave it my best shot. I wrote down everything I found for anyone with the surname of Kitts (did I write down source info, ummm no!). I had a few generations written down courtesy of my children's 2nd great grandaunt, Betty, who had written down everything she had been told and remembered. Over time I learned by trial and error that (1) what I thought were good research practices and (2) what I thought were the right records but I didn't have a clue as to whether what I was doing was the right or wrong way of doing research. However, the one thing I did with every single family and continue to do so now is collateral research. 

When I began researching I started by doing collateral research. For me collateral research is paramount to my research of any family. How can you research a family and not research everyone in that family? I can't and it is my own personal bright shiny object (BSO) because I have this overwhelming need to know what happened to each member of the family. I believe this need comes from not only nosiness but also because I am adoptee. It is a powerful need in me to find out as much as possible for every member in the family I am researching. 

Of course, my parents come from small families. My Mom has two siblings while my Dad only has one. Researching their siblings and their respective spouses was an easy choice to make. I have included all of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as well. I have also researched my three brother in laws and my sister in law's families as well. For me this is a labor of love for my family. My plan is continue doing collateral research within the main families of our tree and to scale  back on the extended family unless there is a story that peaks my interest and then I will follow it right down the rabbit hole and to see where it will take me.

After finishing the original cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over, I wanted some type of  a collateral research sheet to help me with my research. I call it, Who? What? When? Why? Where? and How? of Collateral Research, click here,  It is a really easy way to write out the information I have on ancestor and a way to track him through the available records. I have also found that it keeps on track when I am researching at libraries or archives 
because I can see what I have and don't have for this person.

Reviewing Offline Education Options

After the original cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over, I tried to see if the local community/technical college offered any type of computer course in hopes of finding a beginning Excel program, no luck. As a matter of fact they don't offer much for adults in the way of non-credit courses such as computer skills, cooking, crafts or genealogy. My only option is to continue with online webinars. I have tried contacting the local chapter of the South Carolina Genealogical Society but I am not getting a response back. 

For now I will continue with as many webinar classes as I can that are more advanced in nature. I am also going to see what is available online as far as improving my computer skills. I am looking at states where I do the bulk of my research who offer conferences to see if attending events next year might be a possibility. Next year isn't even here yet and already my calendar is looking very full! I am also going to begin the National Genealogical Society Home Study course working toward the goal of becoming a certified genealogist.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Happy Anniversay, Sweetpea! ~ Tommy and I c.2005

Tommy and I in 2005

Twenty-three years ago we stumbled into each others lives when you began working on my car at Pep Boys. Thank you Sweetpea, for being you and loving me as you do! I love you very much!

Surname Saturday # 9 ~ My Husband's Maternal Surnames

Please note that the names are listed with the maiden name of woman first followed by the husband's surname.

My husband's mother is Ruth Butler Kogutkiewicz and these surnames make up her paternal and maternal lines. Many of these fine families are from Guilford County, North Carolina. Are you researching any of these families? If so, we might be RELATED!! Please leave me a comment below. You can also leave a comment at my blog page on Facebook. 


Friday, November 20, 2015

Family Photo Friday ~ 23 Years Ago This Week We Started Dating!

Twenty-three years ago this week we started dating. We met in August 1992 when Tommy was working at Pep Boys. He worked on my car, a lot! I love you Sweetpea! Thank you for being my everything!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over ~ Cycle 4 ~ Week 7

This week in our Genealogy Do-Over are topics are (1) reviewing genealogy database software and (2) digitizing photos and documents. When I first signed up for the original Genealogy Do-Over almost immediately after our fearless leader, Thomas MacEntee announced his plan, I started reviewing and sampling other genealogy software because I have used nothing but Family Tree Maker (aka FTM) since 1998. However, I did purchase Legacy 8 in 2013 when I got so frustrated with FTM, I am still not very proficient with it but I am learning. 

I am not, nor have ever been a technology wizard, in fact if my computer could talk it would run screaming off my desk, just kidding! I do better when I can have one on one training and a manual that offers step by step instructions. These days, YouTube has instruction videos for nearly everything and they definitely help but sometimes they just confuse me more.

Genealogy Software Review

Family Tree Maker (FTM) - 

Considering I have been using FTM software since 1998 and I felt that I experience with FTM put me some where between intermediate and advanced in my understanding and use of FTM. Then I upgraded to FTM 2012 and my nightmares began! From the beginning I had major problems. It took me 2 days and I don't know how many attempts to just get the software loaded onto my computer. Then there were the long and extreme hangups in "la-la land" and I had a made a list of the other issues I had as well. 

When I attempted to get help from Ancestry and FTM Help Desk, I was repeatedly told in polite yet condescending tones that the issue was "operator error", I took that to mean that I was the one with issues and not the company. Calling the help desk was even worse! All they wanted to do was send me "help sheets" which was of no help because it was an abbreviated version of the information given to me over the phone. I can't begin to explain how frustrating that was especially for someone like me who spent my entire adult life in the customer service industry.

Fast forward two years to 2014. Once again, I upgraded to the newest and latest version of FTM 2014. I got so frustrated with constant freezing and hung up in "la-la land" that I decided I wanted purchase Legacy 8. Of course my impatience at learning something new got the better of me and I I went back to FTM. I had hoped that it would not be a repeat of FTM 2012. There were indeed some improvements and the synch factor between and FTM was definitely an improvement. 

Recently, I had an issue with family members not showing up in the new "family view" format. I called the help desk and immediately told the help desk person, "please look at my family view for this family?" After giving her the information required she looked at what I was seeing and seeing exactly what I saw. That is the first time I have very good service from the help desk in a very long time. 

Here are my pros and cons for Family Tree Maker:

  • Pros
    • Importing/Exporting of documents, photos & videos in multiple formats
    • Love the sync feature between & FTM
    • Fairly easy to use
    • Love being able merge duplicate people
    • Smart Story feature 
    • Import/Export of Gedcoms
    • Import/Export of Reports in PDF 
  • Cons
    • Technical support for FTM is not great but they are improving!
    • No color coding availability
    • No mobile app for FTM per se but app is available but not great - constantly freezes on my new Android phone & tablet
    • There are still databases on Ancestry that you cannot add to profiles but have to manually enter all of the information.
Legacy 8 - Legacy Family Tree

After a frustrating day with FTM in 2013 I decided to purchase Legacy 8 Deluxe rather than go for the standard free version. I am a bells and whistles kind of gal even if it takes me a while to figure them all out! The reviews were great and I thought it would be a welcome change. I am still struggling with Legacy 8 but I am definitely improving and I consider it a huge improvement. I still don't really have a "con", just one or two items and I am not entirely sure that it is actually their problem but simply me.

  • Pros
    • Importing/Exporting of documents, photos
    • Color coding features
    • Standard version is Free
    • Import/Export of Gedcoms
    • You can now add/save records directly from into Legacy 8
    • View different families simultaneously in multiple windows (up to 6 I believe)
    • Additional programs that can be purchased as add on's such as Legacy Charting Companion and Genelines
    • Calendar features
    • Record DNA test results
    • Import/Export of Reports in PDF format
    • Mobile version available for Android, i-Phone, i-Pad, i-Touch & Windows
  • Cons
    • Like with Ancestry, the Legacy 8 mobile version for Android does not work well with my tablet or cell phone. It could be the number of people in my tree or just operator error. 
    • I can't work in the program and still have access to Ancestry's database.
    • So how come I am still opening FTM first?
 Genealogy Database Programs - Are You Being Served?

I have tried My Heritage, Find Your Past and of course, FamilySearch and Ancestry. I am not professional genealogist (yet!) so I have to find the best value to suit my needs. I choose to use Ancestry with what is now called an All Access subscription and is the subscription I use.

Then earlier this year, Ancestry comes out with a new and improved website, new databases every day but they are also removing old databases as well. 

The All Access subscription gives me access to the following:,, Ancestry Academy and Here is the breakdown for Ancestry subscriptions and their current price as of 14 November 2015.

  • Ancestry, offers you several plans to choose from. 
    • If you only want to be able to access U.S. records ONLY, on Ancestry, then their U.S. Discovery plan is the one for you. The rates for this package are $19.99 per month or $99.00 every six (6) months.
    • If you want to be able to access U.S. records AND Internal records available on Ancestry, then their World Explorer plan is the one for you. The rates for this package are $34.99 per month or $149.00 for every six (6) months.
    • If you want to be able to access U.S. & International records, historic newspapers, military records and instructional videos then the All Access plan is the one for you. The rates for this package are $44.95 per month or $199.00 every six (6) months.
  •, you can choose to pay for a subscription to the yearly subscription rate is $79.95 per year or $7.95 per month if you are not a member of However, if you are an Ancestry subscriber, you can get a one year subscription for $39.95 per year.
  • Ancestry Academy,  you can purchase a subscription for $11.99 per month or $99.00 per year. 
  • Fold 3, If you want a subscription to you can purchase a monthly subscription of $7.95 per month or $79.95 per year if you do not have the Ancestry All Access subscription. However, if you are an Ancestry subscriber, you can get a one year subscription for $39.95 per year.
Find My, is one of my favorite sites for the accessing records for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I can access B/M/D, military, census, parish, immigration and newspapers. However, you can also find U.S. records here too. You don't have to have a subscription to their site if you choose their "Pay As You Go" plan which offers three (3) options. I like this plan!
  • Option # 1: you can purchase 60 credits for $10.95 and it is valid for 90 days
  • Option # 2: you can purchase 90 credits for $37.95 and it is valid for 90 days.
  • Option # 3: you can purchase 900 credits for $82.95 and it is valid for 90 days. 
The catch here is that if you don't use all of your credits after 90 days you lose them. I always start with the first option, then if I need to continue after that 90 day period, I will by another round credits. I have found some really great records recently. You can use the credits to purchase a copy of the transcript (usually just one or two credits) and you can choose to view the actual document (usually five credits or more) with the ability to download the document.

My, when I began adding my information to online communities in 2009, I also included my tree to My Heritage. However, at that time I did not have a subscription to the site I was just using their Family Tree Builder program. I don't like that I can not find a listing of the records held by My Heritage which is frustrating! Their only billing option is a yearly subscription. Currently, My Heritage is running a subscription special of 25% off of their annual rate. The current special is $9.95 per month, billed annually.

FamilySearch, is one of the first places I go to check for records for all of my ancestors, especially for my ancestor, Charles Coulson Rich (1809-1883) and his family. I have found numerous pictures of him and descendants at FamilySearch. I am also anxious to see how FamilySearch works now with Ancestry.
 What I Have Been Doing Since the Original Cycle

I have learned that it is much easier to use smaller trees in my genealogy software. In 2009 when I first started adding my tree to I made one working tree for my entire family which includes paternal/maternal lines for my parents, siblings & their spouses, my aunts/uncles including their children, grandchildren & great grandchildren, my children's paternal lines and my daughter in law's paternal/maternal lines. Oh and let's not forget all the extended families and multiple marriages that are in there too!

As of today, this is how my working tree in FTM/Ancestry stacks up: I have 96,472 people; I have 15,118 photos (note: there are many duplicate photos and I currently spend 2-3 hours a week weeding out these duplicates), I have 4, 275 stories (note: I currently spend 1-2 hours a week adding my blog posts to everyone I have written about thus far)  . I estimate that about 90% have source citations that need to be corrected but at least I documented the source! Currently there are 102,550 records attached to my tree. 

Now is my tree 100% perfect? Absolutely not and I know there are mistakes which is why I jumped at the chance to do the Genealogy Do-Over! Do I read, inspect and make notes for each record before I decide yest or no this is my ancestor? Absolutely! I will tell you that about 65% of my stories are either records located at or are obituaries I have typed up for as many individuals as I can find them for. I estimate that 96% of my duplicate persons/families has been either merged or deleted by me.

All of this is very time consuming but it is my passion and a labor of love for me to record my family's history. Will it ever be perfect? No, because by the time my descendants have decided they want to follow in my footsteps things will have changed yet again! Now as I clean up my working tree in FTM/Ancestry, I am building new ones in both FTM and Legacy. Eventually I will pull my massive tree off of altogether and replace it with the smaller trees I am building. Hopefully, by the time my descendants choose to follow in my foot steps I will have hopefully left them a wonderful, accurate, beautiful and wonderful documentation of our family history with "flawless" source citations!

Digitizing Photographs and Documents

In the original cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over I learned that I was saving my photos and documents in the proper format. The points that Thomas made about the digitizing are spot on so I am going to just list his steps.

  • Thomas MacEntee's Photo Digitization Best Practice's  
    • Set your scanner to a high resolution, such as 300 or 600 dpi.
    • Use the TIFF format and then copy TIFF files to create JPG or PNG files. 
    • Clean the scanner with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Remove dust, lint and fingerprints so you can achieve the clearest possible scans.
    • Make sure the photo is in contact with the scanning surface or as close as possible to the surface; however, often you can get a good scan right through a plastic sleeve, matt, or glass. Don't remove the photo while scanning. 
    • Keep the photo lined up with the edges of the scanner to reduce editing later on.
    • When transferring digital images to your computer, always save an original scan of the photo and then make copies of the file to be used for editing. Also export to multiple file types.
    • Use Photoshop Elements or your favorite graphic editing software to resize digital images for use with your favorite project.
    • Remember to periodically backup your scans of photos and documents.
In an effort to scan all of my numerous photos I decided to add a weekly column photo to my blog, Family Photo Friday. Every three months I sit down and look at the calendar to see if there are any holidays or special occasions for the next 90 days. Then I start pulling the photos that apply and scan them into my computer. As they are scanned, I use photo editing software to "brand" the photo, crop it if necessary and put it in a frame. Then I upload the finished product to my blog, write a brief description, I schedule the post in Blogger and in my calendar. As a matter of fact all of my Family Photo Friday posts through the end of the year are done and I have started on January where we have birthdays!

Photos DIY or Use A Professional Service?

Other than having film developed I have never had used a professional service. However, I do know that I have a few audio and video recordings that I need to get transferred over to something more adaptable and in a format that can be handed down. I have been asking friends if they can recommend anyone but none of them have really needed the service either. So I am going to look in my hometown and have my sisters check to see if they can find someone for me.

That concludes this week's post for me. If you would like to read my post from the original cycle you will find it here.
Next week we will be discuss conducting collateral research (my favorite) and reviewing online education options.

Sources:, database and images, Ancestry ( : 14 November 2015).
Ancestry Academy, database with images and videos, Ancestry ( : 14 November 2015)
Find My, database with images, FIndMyPast ( : 14 November 2015).
Fold, database and images, Fold3 ( : 14 November 2015). 
MacEntee, Thomas, group pdf file, "Genealogy DO-Over, Week 7, Original Cycle", ( : 13 November 2015)
My, database and images, My Heritage ( : 14 November 2015)., database and images, Newspapers ( : 14 November 2015).