Verify, Verify, Verify, Verify – always verify information given to you especially if you see no sources

When I was a small boy – and that’s quite a while ago! – I remember begin scared by movies about genies . . .   – not the funny ones we later had on TV – but nasty dangerous genies that always seemed to be doing bad things!  I also remember my parents teaching me the saying “the genie is out of the bottle.”

With the Internet there are many many potentially nasty FH gifts from “genies” running around!  These are family trees and individual information that people generously share but give no sources and no evidence where it came from.  Let me be kind and say this happens because people start doing research and post their early ideas and findings as if they have evidence to support them.

Generally I would suggest that you don’t share information on the Internet until you have done reasonable research and are fairly confident of the accuracy.  Once the genie is out of the bottle  . . .   you can’t get it back – but Peter I can go to that tree I created on the Internet and change/correct my information!  But who knows who has copied and re-posted the original less accurate information? and how many times?  Once it is on the internet you don’t know where it has gone!

We should make a reasonable effort to find where and when our ancestors lived, and have seen evidence that they did live – real people! 

So . . . .  be cautious with information you obtain from online collections of family trees.  Some information is excellent – well documented, good sources – some of it …. well we just don’t know where it came from.

Nine years ago when we were training to be volunteers at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City we spent days in a training lab with a sign on the wall at the front – Family History Without Sources is a Myth.

This is not to say that we should not use online trees to gather information and to share our information – far from it – what I find in trees online can be invaluable guideposts in my research, sharing my research has put me in contact with some wonderful researchers who have helped me.

Verify your information – share your sources – make information on online trees better

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New Features in Record Search at

The map in the Browse collections has had new features added – helpful new features!  Go to Search – Records and on the right of the screen that has Search Historical Records on the left there is Research by Location on the right.

You can click on the map of a country or area, select a province, or state or country and be taken to a search screens for that selection.

So  . . .  click on Canada on the map, select British Columbia – (Alberta is the only province in Canada with no record collections!) – then click on Start Researching British Columbia

From that search screen on the left is a link to see all the historical record collections for British Columbia – under Filter by Collection – Click on View all 13 collections – this will show you all the indexed collections and let you select which one(s) you want to search.

In the lower left is an area displaying any collections for British Columbia that have not been indexed which you can browse by images

On the right they have now added a link to the FH Catalog and the Research Wiki for British Columbia

These are helpful tools.  Try these steps for areas where you have research interests!

Here are some screen shots for British Columbia:

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Getting Started Again? – Take Down a Brick Wall!

Fall is in the air . . .  time to get back to family history!

How to get started or re-started?  If you are keeping ToDo lists then that is a good place to go for inspiration – or look through your Research Logs – remember to keep a research log for each couple. If you use software like RootsMagic then Research Logs are created for you in the program or you can just use a word processor or just a blank sheet of paper.

If you are brave – and you have to face them sooner or later – you could take on one of your brick walls also known as road blocks – you know, those research problems that bring finding your ancestors on that line to a complete stop!   We all have them.  Overcoming them feels great!  Running into them doesn’t feel so good!  We recommend that after you bash your head against the brick wall a few times, you put the problem aside for a while.  Perhaps you need to approach the problem from a different angle. Maybe I can find information on great Grandmother by researching her brother?  Maybe new information has become available?  FamilySearch usually adds millions of new records almost weekly.

Or you could read an article with suggestions on solving brick walls.  We just came across a new article which contained several good suggestions.  As you know we are regular readers of GenealogyInTime Magazine – a good online Canadian resource which sends us one email a week on Friday!

This article, entitled “More Great Genealogy Brick Wall Solutions”  - this is the second time they have published an article on overcoming brickwalls – suggests 21 solutions!  Several of them we found particularly interesting:

#2.  Names of women remarrying – this begins “Most marriage certificates list a woman’s family name before she was married. Do not assume this is your ancestor’s maiden name.  The marriage certificate you are looking at could be a woman’s second marriage and she may be listed by the family name of her first husband. This was incredibly common back it the days when people often died young and had to remarry quickly for economic reasons.

Always look for corroborating evidence that you are, in fact, looking at your ancestor’s maiden name. Otherwise, you may end up tracing the family tree of your ancestor’s first husband.”

#3 Maiden Names – suggests some ways to locate maiden names

#6 & 7.  Anglicized Family Names – this solution merits 2 sections in the article!  Did you know that the Quebec GenWeb project maintains a list of English surnames and their North American French equivalents? Just how does LaLiberte become Bow?

#10 Finding people missing on the census – who doesn’t love researching a census when one is available?  What a frustration when we know our ancestor should be there and we can’t find them.  Maybe these suggestions will help

#11 City Directories – these might be help if  you can’t find your ancestor on the census?  Think of directories like phone books – wait a minute, when did I last use a paper phone book?  Directories can help with locations and occupations.

#21 Searching historic small town newpapers – has a link to an article on searching historic small town newspapers put out by GenealogyInTime. 

Bonus tip from us: did you know that several historic Alberta newspapers have been digitized and are available – see Early Alberta Newspapers at  - the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project and also


“Contrary to popular belief, your ancestor’s family name was not changed by an immigration official. Official immigration records were derived from ship passenger lists. It was the responsibility of the ship’s officers to maintain the passenger list. Unlike immigration officials, many ship officers had limited understanding of foreign languages. They often wrote down the wrong family name.”  (from caption under photo on page2 of  Genealogy In Time article on more solutions on breaking down brick walls)

This article is 6 pages long, but well worth the effort to read it.  We hope you enjoy it!

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Finding Your British Roots

Notes from presentation at Grande Prairie, 13 Sept 2014:

Some Key Dates and Events:

  • 1536 Henry VIII separates from the Catholic Church and forms Church of England
  • 1536 to 1541 First English conquest of Ireland
  • 1538 Churches told to keep records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths (BMD) – early records may be on scraps of paper!
  • 1598  Churches told to make copies of parish records and send to Bishop – Bishop’s Transcripts – very valuable back up of parish records
  • 1603 – King of Scotland became king of England
  • 1643 – 1647 Civil War – some records damaged or destroyed
  • 1752 calendar changed in England – moved start of New Year to Jan 1 from March 25 (Lady’s Day) – 11 days omitted from calendar in 1752 (2 Sep followed by 14 Sep)
  • 1754 Marriages to be kept in separate register
  • 1812 – new forms issued for parish records
  • 1834 Poor Law Unions created – groups of parishes care for poor – prior to that check each parish for poor law records

(1837/1841 is a pivotal period of change!)

  • 1 Jul 1837 – state registration of BMD begins – beware of first few months and years! – no penalty for not registering a birth until 1875 – quarterly indexes
  • 1841 – first national census that gives names and more – but use with caution – ages may be rounded off to nearest five – and doesn’t give same information as 1851 and subsequent census
  • 1858The Principal Probate Registry, a civil government system, replaced church courts
  • 19thC – need to start to watch for non conformist records
  • 1911 – latest census available for research
  • 1922 -Republic of Ireland gains independence – leaving 6 counties in Northern Ireland still in United Kingdom

Basic vocabulary about places

1. Government Jurisdictions:

Country – A nation or state – England is a country, so is Scotland – so is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

County – some are called Shire – land division within the country – 40 counties in England

District – a unit of area created for civil registration, may be a number of parishes – or even cross county boundaries

Parish – smallest unit of civil administration also known as a township; it may include part or one or several ecclesiastical parishes

Village, Town or Hamlet – A small locality within a parish

2. Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions:

Province – A large area over which an archbishop has authority and consists of a number of dioceses – there are 2 in England

Diocese – An area or district over which a bishop has authority and consists of one or more archdeaconries (with their rural deaneries and parishes); the seat of power or authority of a bishop

Archdeaconry – An area consisting of a number of rural deaneries (with their parishes), headed by an archdeacon

Rural Deanery – An area consisting of a number of ecclesiastical parishes, headed by a rural dean (usually one of the parish ministers within the deanery)

Parish – A district served by a clergyman (a Vicar or Rector) of the Church of England – at least one church  - often the center of community life.

Chapelry – A congregation with its own church within a parish and supervised by the parish – usually created from a rise in population or convenience in distance.

Follow the Research Process – five main steps:

1. Begin by identifying what you know and also what you do not know. Do this by gathering records, photographs, and artifacts from your home and other places. And then make a list.

2. Decide what you want to learn, write down all your thoughts, and then formulate a specific research goal.

3. Learn what sources are available to help you accomplish your goal.

4. Explore these resources to gather more family information.

5. Evaluate the information you have gleaned, and add it to your records. And finally, make sure that you share your findings with others.

Organize what you know

Useful tools for this are:

  1. Pedigree Chart – with space for four or five generations (parents, grandparents and great grandparents).
  2. Family Group Record – space to record information about parents and children in one family.
  3. Computer program – we strongly recommend everyone select one – lots of great programs available – many of them have free versions so you can try before you buy!  Try RootsMagic, or Legacy Family Tree or Ancestral Quest or FamilyTree Maker or Mac Family Tree or  . . .  many others.  You select the “car” you drive.

Keys:  know the place – know the jurisdiction names – know the record type availability – know where to look and how to search!

1.  Know the major record types, dates when they are available and where you can access them

Four major record types:

Civil Registration – started  1 July 1837 – official index at – BMD 1837-1920 at – another source.

Order BMD certificates online – use government website – except Scotland use  For Ireland read the wiki article on Ireland – look for the section on Civil Registration.

Census – findmypast or or – get to the images – 1841 and then every 10 years – this is the easiest to access (unless you are working in Ireland!) and should be searched exhaustively – make sure you see the images – and save them to attach to Sources.

Church Records – search by parish – so need to know your parish – look for Parish records or Bishop’s Transcripts

Wills and Probate – can provide very helpful information – date of death and location determine where you look

Hint: Learn to use the wiki at!!!! Learn to use the wiki at!!!!

Country ____________

Type of Record

Years Available

Location for Access

BMD (govt) aka Civil Registration aka Vital Records



Church Records

aka Parish  Records or Bishop’s Transcripts

Wills and Probate

Use FamilySearch Wiki to find information.  If not found on wiki then use learning centre at or a gateway site (listing of sites by topics) such as Mary’s Treasures or Cyndi’s List

2. Know the Location – is the place a parish?  if not what parish is it in?  is it a chapelry within a parish?  what other jurisdictions is the place in?

Use Gazetteers such as (usually get Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer) or – go to Church Database or use the FamilySearch wiki

Use the FH Catalog at

For England use – also gives dates for records in a parish and other jurisdiction names

Both maps.familysearch and the GENUKI church database allow you to see adjoining and nearby parishes

Phillimore’s “Great Britain, Atlas and Index to Parish Registers” now digitized on – covers England, Scotland and Wales – lacking grid codes on margin of pages

Jurisdiction names – where else might you look?  - find the county, civil registration district, poor law union, diocese, province – see for England.

Try – ignore sign in and prices – click on Get Maps and then fill in Search box

Ireland has unique jurisdiction names like townlands

3. Know how to search – understand how to access extracted records as a help

At you can now search in Historical Records (click on Search and select Records) by just:

  • place name – if you are not sure of the spelling look it up in the Catalog
  • surname – resist exact searches
  • film number – look this up in the Catalog
  • batch number – see below for how to find

Very powerful when you search first by place or film and then add Surname

Approximately 80% of English parishes have been filmed and records extracted that are available in Records at FamilySearch.  What years were extracted for your parish (if any!)?  What types of records?  Christening/baptism?  or Marriage? or both?

Do a google search for: wallis igi   (use long url including word rootsweb) – has index by country in British Isles, then county then parish – gives dates of extractions – can copy batch numbers to paste in FamilySearch.  Alternatively check – newer and refers to Wallis

Only 5% of the archives have been digitized, but that number is increasing . . .  so try the National Archives and (both available for free at your FH Centre) have British records including some parish information – but limited Scottish.  Both have extensive census images and indexes.

For Scotland you will also want to use – for which you will have to pay – so get all you can from the other sites.

For Ireland – there are several good websites including – there is a good list in the article on Ireland at the FamilySearch wiki

Google searches may show sites to access transcriptions and occasionally images from  church records – worth a search.  Look for the online parish clerk project (OPC) – done by volunteers – usefulness varies.  Consider using specialized search sites like which has a free genealogy search engine.

4. Why you might still use a microfilm?

Even if the record has been extracted you only seeing someone’s opinion of what the record said.  If possible it is best to see the original yourself.

Also the original record may give you some additional information such as occupation of the father or place where they lived in the parish. 

Burials are rarely extracted on FamilySearch and may give you the age at death or simply Infant and sometimes a parent’s name.

How to access the microfilm?  Use the catalog at to find if the film is available for your parish. Then go to to order – the cost covers shipping and handling.  You will need to go to a FH Centre to view the film.

5.  Summary on resources for British Research:

  • Historical records at – remember records are being added almost each week – keep checking back
  • Research wiki – go to search link at – England page includes how to do research- similar pages for Wales, Scotland and Ireland
  • – learning centre free from home without subscription
  • – available for free at your local FH Centre – official BMD indexes, national burial index, parish records, military records – and Irish records
  • Online courses at – go to Get Help and then Learning Center – e.g. England Beginning Research parts 1,2, 3 – our blog

Posted in England, Research, Wiki at | Leave a comment

Getting Started – or Re-started – With Your Family History – Sept 2014 Version

How do you get started? – 5 steps

  1. Identify known family information – write what you know – fill in as much of a pedigree chart as you can – check with relatives – has anyone done research on your family?  (see Types of Websites in Section 2 below)
  2. Decide what you want to learn – look at your pedigree chart – set a research objective.
  3. Select records to search – what types of records are available for your locality in the time period you are searching? (check on the research wiki to find out about records that are available) – where can you access them?
  4. Obtain and search the records – keep a record of your findings in a research log
  5. Evaluate and use the information – is this my ancestor? Record the information. Share what you have found.
  6. Do more research or set a new goal.

Go to a Family History Centre and get a copy of “How Do I Start My Family History” (includes a blank pedigree chart) – and get personal help! – you can also look in the Research Wiki at (from the main page click on Search and then click on Wiki) – the same website has 100s of free research courses (from main page click on Get Help in upper right and then Learning Center).

Tip #1 Is this my ancestor?  Consider the following:

  1. Is the possible match person living in the right place to be my ancestor?
  2. Is this event in the right time period to be within the lifetime of my ancestor?
  3. Is the possible match person too young or too old to have been my ancestor?
  4. Are names of children associated with the possible match consistent with what I already know about the children of my ancestor?
  5. Do the ages of the children seem logical, or are they too young or too old to be my ancestor’s children?
  6. Is this the right spouse?
  7. Are the economic conditions of this person consistent with the known family history?
  8. Do the relatives and associates of your ancestor appear in records with the possible match?
  9. Is the possible match person affiliated with the church you know your ancestor belonged to?
  10. Could the possible match person, living in a neighboring county, be my ancestor?  County and electoral district boundaries changed over the years.
  11. Why is the name of the possible match person spelled differently from my ancestor’s name? The name of a person was commonly spelled differently in different documents.

Tip #2 Make a decision about your possible match – choices:

  1. Confirm the person as your ancestor.
  2. Suspect that the person may be a relative with the same name.
  3. Eliminate that person as your possible ancestor.
  4. Decide that there is not enough information yet to confirm or eliminate this person as your ancestor.

(From “How to Recognize your Canadian Ancestor” in  the research wiki at

Tip #3 Select a genealogy software program to record, and organize your research – & print reports. There are even several very good free programs available – Rootsmagic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy FamilyTree have free versions – there are many many choices – FamilyTreeMaker, Reunion and so on.  Take a test drive before deciding – matter of personal choice!  Do not select your software based on the number of “free” names given to you, and don’t use price as a criterion!  Think: is the person giving me the advice also the person selling the software?

Using the Internet for Family History – tips and strategies:

  • The Internet is a wonderful tool with which to do family history.
  • There are some very good sites and some not as good, so be selective
  • Just like printed materials, being on the Internet does NOT mean it is true!  VERIFY any information you obtain from the Internet unless it is from a scanned copy of an original record.
  • Remember that indexes, and typed copies of originals are secondary sources
  • Unless it is a scanned copy of an original document it is not a primary source
  • You always need to look at the original whenever possible
  • You can’t do all your research on the Internet (yet!), so recognize that you will need to use a library and archives at some point
  • Use “Find on this page” (Ctrl + F), found under the “Edit” to search for a specific word, such as a surname or place, on a web page
  • Keep a list of the addresses of web sites you have visited, along with what you found there – the Internet is very changeable, what is there today may not be there tomorrow – consider how you can save the information you find (Hint: take a screen shot)
  • Be aware of spelling variations and nicknames – e.g’s James may be Jas, William may be Bill or Will or Wm.  Just because you know how the name is correctly spelled does not mean the person who wrote or transcribed the record will have it right!  Try to work out how it was written in the record.  Could a birth in Middlesex be transcribed Mexico?  Could Bethnal Green become Green Bethnal?  Be careful in the use of Mc or Mac.
  • When was the website last updated?  This could be a problem if you are looking for the latest information and the web site was last updated in 1999.

Types of web sites:

  1. How to site – help with doing your research – – great tool for finding how to do research – for many countries
  2. Research done by others and sharing your research
  1. Databases – original images and transcripts – some are free, some are pay to use
  1. Cemeteries and Obituaries
  1. Search engines – learn how to be good at searching
  1. Maps
  1. Directory/Gateway sites – finding FH websites
  1. Archives and Libraries
  1. Surname and locality interest lists
  1. Blogs and Newsletters
  1. Family History or Genealogy Societies – publications and surname interest lists
  1. Scandinavia


For a “click and go” version of this handout go to – you can also subscribe to get our new articles automatically by email.

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Are You Missing Most of the Available Genealogy Information?

As you know I am a regular reader of Dick Eastman’s daily Family History blog .

I don’t usually simply re-post someone else’s article but I feel so strongly about this article that I don’t want to mess with Dick’s words (posted 27 July 2014):

“I recently received a message from a newsletter reader that disturbed me a bit. He wrote, “I have been doing genealogy research for 10-15 years but only through the Internet.” He then went on to describe some of the frustrations he has encountered trying to find information. In short, he was disappointed at how little information he has found online.

I read the entire message, but my eyes kept jumping back to the words in his first sentence: “… but only through the Internet.”

Doesn’t he realize that 95% of the information of interest to genealogists is not yet available on the Internet?

To be sure, many of the biggest and most valuable resources are now available online, including national census records, the Social Security Death Index, many military pension applications, draft cards, many passenger lists, land patent databases, and more.

The national databases were the “low hanging fruit” a few years ago as the providers of online information rushed to place large genealogy databases online. These huge collections benefited a lot of genealogists; these databases were the first to become indexed, digitized, and placed online. We all should be thankful that these databases are available today and are in common use.

As the national databases became available to all, the online providers moved on to digitize regional and statewide information. State censuses, birth records, marriage records, death records, naturalization records (which originally were recorded in many local and state courts), county histories, and much, much more are still being placed online.

Of course, this is great news for genealogists who cannot easily travel to the locations where the original records are kept. For many of us, this is even better than having information on microfilm. Most of us don’t have microfilm readers at home, but we do have computers.

Yet, I am guessing that 95% of the information of interest to genealogists has not yet been digitized. Why would anyone want to look for genealogy information “… only through the Internet?”

State censuses, birth records, marriage records, death records, naturalization records, county histories, and more are all “work in progress” projects. That is, they are not yet complete. In fact, I doubt if all of them will be available online for at least another decade or two! If you only look online, you are missing a lot.

In many cases, church parish records, local tax lists, school records, land records (other than Federal land grants), and many more records are not yet available online and probably won’t be available for years. If you are limiting yourself to “… only through the Internet,” you are missing 95% of the available information.

If you have the luxury of living near the places where your ancestors lived, I’d suggest you jump in an automobile and drive to the repositories where those records are kept. There is nothing that matches the feeling of holding original records in your hand. Make photocopies or scan them or take pictures of them or do whatever is possible to collect images of the original records.

If you do not enjoy the luxury of short distances, use microfilm. Luckily, that is easy to do although you will have to leave your home. Many (but not all) of these records have been microfilmed, and those films may be viewed at various libraries, archives, or at a local Family History Center near you. There are more than 4,600 of those local centers, so you probably can find one within a short distance of your home. The Family History Centers are free to use although you do have to pay a modest fee for postage when you rent a microfilm by mail. See for details. You can also find your nearest Family History Center by starting at:

If you do not know where to start, I would suggest reading “Begin your genealogy quest” at for some great “getting started” information.

Which option would you prefer: accessing 5% of the available records or 100% of the available records?”

You can see the full article at

Subscribing to his blog is a great thing to do.

Thank you Dick!

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More Family History Help for World War One

This week we have seen many articles about World War One as the 100th anniversary of the start of the war is remembered.

When visiting France it is very moving to visit any of the many war cemeteries.  Several articles have involved Canadians.  Mons was liberated by Canadian troops and is the only place where German and British Empire troops share a cemetery.

Trivia question:  who was the last British Empire soldier to be killed in the war?  Answer: George Price, a Canadian, who was born in Nova Scotia, and conscripted while living in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  He was shot by a sniper just 2 minutes before the armistice ceasefire took effect at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918.

Our last article published on 27 July was also about World War One – – and included reference to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Our ancestors, however, may have fought on either side in the Great War.  Can you find information about German war graves?  Go to the wiki at (under the menu Search) – search for Germany – then select Military.  You will find interesting information!  This includes  .  If you are using Google Chrome you should be given the option to get the German translated!   There is also a British flag in the upper right that translates the front page.  In the upper right is a link “Grabersuche Online”  that will take you to a page to search for tombs of your German Ancestors.  This database includes both World Wars One and Two.  We hope this helps you find information about your German ancestors.

This Great War was a tragedy for so many families.

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