OnGenealogy will be getting a new look!


OnGenealogy website old look

Big News! We’ve decided to update the OnGenealogy website to improve site speed and let people register and add listings to the site. There will still be a map but it won’t be on the front page. Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up in case you want to take one last look at the site before we update.

We’ll test the new site (live) for a month or so and then we’ll invite everyone (with a genealogy resource, not a Gucci handbag or favorite drug) to register and create listings or review genealogy websites.

Thanks for the emails and requests to join! We appreciate your support and will keep trying to improve site speed and features that make it useful for researchers and business owners. Best in your Genealogy Research!

P.S. We’ll even be opening the comments! Thanks for your patience.


January 17, 2018 |

To Do List for BEFORE you Scan

To Do List for before you scan

If you’re planning to digitize photos or family history items anytime soon, there are plenty of things you can do now to get ready for your scanning project. Here’s a Scanning To Do List you can start plugging away at now to make your digital family history goals achievable. Each of these steps takes time and will simplify the final scanning phase.

To Do List for before you scan

To Do List Before You Scan


    • Gather items

      Think about every place you may have stored photos, letters, trinkets, etc. Set aside one place where you can pile all these items.

      If you’re going to have to clean up this area daily, you should tackle the project in smaller doses, i.e., scrapbooks only; loose photos only; trinkets only; letters only, etc.


    • Decide your final goal for the items

      Friends introduced me to Clayton Christensen’s Jobs-To-Be-Done Theory which I try to apply to my family history work. What job are you trying to accomplish? What product or service should you “hire” for the job?

      Genealogists tend to be like archivists, they save everything. Is this your plan? (It’s not mine.) Are you going to digitize everything? Are you only digitizing part of the collection? Do you want archival quality scans for posterity or low-quality scans for something more disposable?

      My plan is to digitize the materials I care about and then give the physical memorabilia to family members, so I want high-quality scans. I’m still weighing whether I’ll digitize everything, but I’m moving towards not.


    • Sort, Sort, Sort the items

      This is where you’ll spend most of your time. You’ll sort multiple times, in multiple ways, to organize physical items the way you want the digital files to come out.


    • Prep the items

      You’ll prep the materials by cleaning them and you’ll prep them by placing them in whatever order a scanning device dictates. And if you’re not going to immediately digitize what you’re prepping, be sure to come up with a plan to secure the items in their proper order so items don’t shift around (keep envelopes with the correct letter, etc). Decide what filename you’ll use for each stack of ordered items.


    • Research scanning devices

      Try to find the proper tool for the job. (A flatbed scanner is NOT the right tool for every job.) Call every local library, nearby school library, historical society, etc and find out what equipment they have and what it costs to use the equipment. Is it free? Is it free to society members? Can you rent the equipment and use it at your own home? You may prefer to spend $30 to join a society and use their equipment for a year versus paying $10 an hour for a lengthy project. Is it worth purchasing some scanning equipment? I’ve definitely weighed that option.




Gather everything in one place. In popular decluttering literature, this is the Konmari method of decluttering. If you’re planning to tackle photos, you bring all the photos to one area/pile. I want to digitize ancestral scrapbooks, letters, photos, you name it, so I devoted one room in my home to be a temporary staging area and brought every item of family history, for my side of the family, into that room.


Gather memorabilia to digitize


You’ll probably need to sort items multiple times, to bring order to the chaos. Here are the sorts I used.

1. Sort the pile by Surname or Family member. I now have stacks for each parent, grandparent, and then some great-grandparents and other relatives.

If you’re not extremely familiar with what your ancestor looked like at different ages, it’s essential to keep all their photos and belongings together, separated from other ancestors’ memorabilia.

Later, you may decide to scan all photos of a certain size at the same time, but they need to be sorted by person or surname so they’ll always be identifiable.

2. Sort by Item Type

Separating objects by type protects more delicate objects from damage and helps you assess the jobs to be done. I had six types:


Scrapbooks & Diaries




Family History Notes, Pedigrees, etc.

3. Sort by Item Size or Content

You may need different scanner settings based on the size of a photo or whether a paper is single-sided or double-sided. Your scanning process will be faster if you’re able to set the scanner settings for one size/type and scan everything for that scanner setting first, then change scanner settings for the next job. You don’t want to switch between single-sided and double-sided mid-batch. Or do double-sided scans when you know the back side of a photo or document is blank.

You also may find the scanner does a better job feeding the photos through if you have the same size photos going through in one batch. Sort smaller 2″x 3″ photos and 5″ x 7″ photos into different piles.

I found a great website,, by a professional photographer, and it includes free ebook downloads. He has very specific scanning advice for photos and slides and it’s worth downloading his book for details. He’s sent me follow up emails with links for more ebooks that are free to download, and while I’ve only looked at one of them, his is a mailing list I’m happy to be a part of.

 4. Sort by Digitizing Device

Autofeed Paper Scanner – The letters and envelopes I can run through a paper scanner. Most of the random handwritten notes and pedigrees can also be fed through this type of scanner. This job is fast and efficient.

Slide Scanner – This is a very job-specific scanner, intended for 35mm, 75mm, etc slides.

Camera/Scanning machine – The scrapbooks, diaries, and some objects will need a specialized camera/scanning machine so I can take pictures of each page/item. I may use a flatbed scanner for the diaries if it’s not destructive, but the scrapbooks have three-dimensional objects in them and can’t be squashed against a screen. This job is slow and tedious.

Flatbed Scanner – The flatbed scanner is for larger photos/papers or mounted photos. This job is slow and tedious.

Auto-feed Photo Scanner – The auto-feed scanner is for smaller photos and postcards. This job is fast and efficient.


Prep the Material for Scanning. Think “Garbage in, Garbage out.”

You need to think about the digitizing device you’ll be using and possibly spend more time preparing the material to be digitized vs. the time spent actually digitizing.

With letters, take the extra time to stack the letters (and their associated envelope) in the order you want the digital files to be created. Group all of one family member’s letters together, or group them as letter & response letter, or whatever your preference.

With photos that go through a feed scanner, you need to know how the machine works.put photos in proper order for Autofeed Photo scanner

For the auto-feed photo machines I’ve used, the machine pulls photos from the back of the stack, in other words, the first photo that will be scanned is the one laying flat against the machine. I can stack a number of photos at one time but they need to be stacked first to last, from back to front, with the photo facing outward (towards you) and upside down. That’s the order and direction the machine will pull the photos through.

Flatbed scanners and Camera/Book scanners are slower processes. Flatbed scanners will usually scan right to left, top to bottom. So if you’re planning to lay multiple photos on the bed at one time (scanners will recognize the separate photos), stack your photos in the order you intend to lay them down on the flatbed.

If you’re scanning a scrapbook with multiple items on each page, plan to scan the entire scrapbook in addition to each page & its parts. In the photo below, I’m planning to use a camera/book scanner to digitize this scrapbook and I’ll take scans of the entire album as it’s laid out as a book, then I’ll take scans of individual pages & scans of individual items on each page (see the second photo of the songbook that is on this scrapbook page).  Scrapbook page with multiple items to scan

Pamphlet on scrapbook page

Be prepared to clean the materials and machines before you scan. I highly recommend buying a can of compressed air you’ll have on-hand to clean the scanner before, during, and after your scans. It’s amazing how dirty the scanners get. By the end of a big scanning job, you may start seeing dust on your digitized scans. And of course, you’ll want to leave the scanner clean for the next person.

As far as cleaning photos, I’m following the advice of Konrad at If you sign up for his free ebook he’ll also send you “How to Double Your Productivity and Finish Your Scanning Twice as Fast.” In this second e-book he shares these tips:

  • Get an air-puffer (not compressed air because it can spray some moisture that will help debris stick to the photo);

  • lint-free cloth, and

  • Isopropyl Alcohol (at least 98% alcohol)

If there is dust/debris on your photo you’ll blow it off with the air-puffer and if necessary, add some Isopropyl Alcohol to the lint-free cloth (not the photo) and gently dab/wipe the photo to remove debris.

He also recommends buying lint-free gloves from a photography store. I’d use those gloves for all memorabilia types, if not to protect the materials, to protect your hands from the moisture they’ll pull from your hands.

Finally, have your digital filenames planned in advance and include them with each sorted stack you’ve prepped for scanning.


Woohoo! You’re finally ready to scan! If you haven’t sorted by Name, Type, Size, Device, and Prepped your material, you shouldn’t be here. Seriously, Garbage in, Garbage out. A digital mess is just as ugly as a physical mess and may be harder to clean up. Unless there’s an urgent deadline for a digital end-product, don’t scan till you’ve gone through the steps to successful scanning.

What type of scanner to use and where do I find one? Amazon is a great place to search for scanning equipment and read reviews/compare specs. Before you “Add to Your Cart” and marry yourself to a machine, be sure to visit a library or society that has scanners you can use and then try each one. I’m constantly weighing the cost and inconvenience of travel against the cost and convenience of owning my own equipment. So far, traveling and lugging my boxes to a library where I can use high-quality machines has won out.

I’ll share my specific, step-by-step scanning tips in future blogs but congrats if you’re at this point and even heartier congratulations if you’re NOT at this point, but you ARE taking the time to organize your digital solution.

In my experience, the bulk of your time should be spent on the first five steps, so there’s definitely something you can be doing now to prepare for a scanning project, that does not involve any sort of electronic device.

Good luck in all your family history projects. And if you’re not tackling a scanning project over the holidays, remember at family gatherings to pass the photos and record the memories. My very best wishes as you ring out 2017 and ring in the New Year!

December 20, 2017 |

How to Record Family Stories this Holiday Season


As we get together with family and friends, the holidays are a great time to record family stories and share them online with extended family.

On Thanksgiving Day, we got together with my husband’s mother and started talking about her ancestors from Norway. She’s the oldest living relative on her side of the family and she was telling stories from her childhood no other living family would know or remember. We panicked and asked for a Thanksgiving Day redo. Would she please go home and come back with her family albums?

Instead of playing Canasta on Thanksgiving Day, we went through my mother-in-law’s old magnetic photo album, scanned photos, and uploaded them to FamilySearch with her memories of her ancestors.

How to record and store photos and stories for free FamilySearch OnGenealogy

A great place to record and store family stories is FamilySearch. It’s completely free and there’s never a charge for storing photos, audio files, or stories. Even better, anyone who creates a free FamilySearch account can search the entire body of tagged photos/stories/documents, so it’s an easy way to share with extended family (rather than using Dropbox, etc).

FamilySearch Memories can be accessed with a phone app or your personal computer. If you opt to use the phone app you can download it for iOS devices at the Apple Store or Android devices at Google Play. I use both the phone app and my personal computer. There are more available features if you use your computer but the phone app offers easy portability as well as an immediately available photo and/or audio recording device.

First I’ll share how I to use FamilySearch Memories on a personal computer and then I’ll share some information about the phone app.


If you have an account at FamilySearch, in the upper right-hand corner you’re prompted to Sign In, otherwise, you’re prompted to create a Free Account before you can add photos or stories or visit the Gallery.

Create a free account at FamilySearch


With a free account at FamilySearch, you’ll select Memories from the top menu bar.

FamilySearch Photos and Memories


Below is a screenshot of the Memories menu at FamilySearch with the top menu bar expanded so you can see your options which include:

  • Overview, is a page for beginners to learn what’s available and be linked to other menu options

  • Gallery, is where you’ll go to Add a Memory (photo, story, or audio)

  • People, if you have a free family tree at FamilySearch, People displays every deceased person you are related to who has a memory (photo, story, or audio) uploaded and tagged to a person at FamilySearch Memories

  • Find, is where you’ll search the entire tagged FamilySearch Memories database, by an individual’s name, for any photos, stories, or audio clips about that individual

Menu options at FamilySearch Memories OnGenealogy blog


Visit the Overview page if you have any questions about FamilySearch Memories and what it offers. You can use this page to Add a Memory by following this path:

Select Memories, then select Overview, then select Add a Memory, or Go the Gallery, or See the List View



The Gallery is where you’ll add all your memories.

On the top menu, first select Memories, then select Gallery

You will be taken to a page that looks like this. Yours will be pretty empty if you haven’t added memories before.

Add a Memory at FamilySearch OnGenealogy blog


First, you’ll move your cursor to the type of media you want to add, and you’ll select that media option.

Your options are:

  • ALL

  • a photo (camera icon)

  • a story (book icon)

  • a document (paper icon)

  • an audio file (microphone icon)

Then, after you’ve selected a media type, you’ll hit the green + button.

Steps to follow to add a memory at FamilySearch Memories OnGenealogy blog


How to Add a Photo in the Gallery

So to add a photo to FamilySearch Memories, Gallery:

First, you’ll move your cursor to the camera icon

Then, you’ll select the green + button

Now that you’ve selected add a photo, you’ll be prompted to Drag and drop files to upload or Choose Files (from your computer)


FamilySearch Memories file requirements

In our case, we needed to quickly scan a few old photos before we could upload them.

Don’t have a scanner?

There are phone apps you can use to create scans of documents or photos (PhotoScan by Google for iOS or Android is one option). You can also check with your local library or a nearby Family History Center to see if they have scanners you can use. (Any service at an LDS Family History Center will be free. I’m going with my mother-in-law to a local Family History Center to scan the rest of the photos in her magnetic album because they have a high speed, automatic-feed scanner which will save us hours of work.)

We have an old scanner, nothing exciting, and we quickly scanned some photos and saved them on our computer as .tif files at 600 dpi so we’d have high-quality scans for our personal library. Then we saved a second copy of each photo as a .jpg file to get the file size below the 15 MB maximum permitted for photos being uploaded to FamilySearch Memories.

You can also attach photos from connected accounts at Facebook, Instagram, or Google Photos. FamilySearch supports these file types: .jpg, .tif, .bmp, .png, .pdf, .mp3, .m4a, and .wav, up to 15MB.

After you upload a photo you have lots of options for things you can do with the photo. The effort I put into this on Thanksgiving Day was pretty minimal, but I’ll show you what I did.

  1. I tagged Minnie in this photo to add this memory to her page in the Family Tree. Now this memory can be seen by others.

  2. I gave a brief description of the photo, especially helpful because the filename I used was pathetic.

  3. I used this option to add a story about Minnie.

  4. I didn’t do anything here, but anyone who views this photo on FamilySearch can comment and connect with you. Sometimes family members will comment on a photo I’ve uploaded or add their own story in the comments.*

FamilySearch Memories options


*If someone adds a comment to your photo/story/audio file, it will show up in your Gallery with a comment icon on the far right side.

Comment alert in FamilySearch Memories Gallery

How to Add a Story to your Photo

Back to adding a story to a photo. I opted to add a story to this photo using the Add button (by the Green Arrow 3 above).

When I added the story, I quickly typed what my mother-in-law said. These were just off the cuff remarks and can be edited later for a more polished family history. I love hearing not only the memories but the actual speech patterns of the storyteller. If you read the story below, you’ll see it’s in desperate need of editing for clarification and accuracy.

Below is a picture of the story I added to the photo.


Uploading photos and stories to FamilySearch Memories

How to Add a Story with no Photo

Back to FamilySearch Memories, if you have a story to tell, but no photo, move your cursor to the book icon and then select the green + button.

Add a Story at FamilySearch Memories

I was on the phone with an aunt who is the oldest living relative on my mother’s side of the family and she started to tell me a family story from her father’s side of the family. I’d never heard the story and I knew it would die with her if I didn’t write it down so I quickly logged into FamilySearch and added the story to “Memories” and then attached it to our deceased ancestor, Laura Ella Vernon, on a shared family tree. When I’m adding stories told by someone else, I preface the story with that person’s name and either “recollections” or “memories” to let people know who is actually telling the story. FamilySearch records me as the contributor and I don’t want people to be confused and think these are my personal recollections.

Adding a story to FamilySearch memories


You use the Find menu to search the ENTIRE database of tagged Memories at FamilySearch and find photos, stories, or documents uploaded by anyone. These memories need to have been tagged (attached to a person’s page at the Family Tree at FamilySearch) in order for them to show up in your search results. So be sure to tag any of your memories you want to share.

Go to Memories, then Find, and type in a name. You can limit your search returns by photos, stories, or documents.


How to find photos stories documents at FamilySearch Memories OnGenealogy blog


If you’ve created a free family tree at FamilySearch, there’s a menu option, Memories, then People, which will automatically pull up all tagged photos, stories, documents, etc for any person in your family tree.

In the People image below, I didn’t add all these photos and I don’t know who some of these people are, but I can select View My Relationship beneath any photo and FamilySearch will show me how I’m related to them.

(This is one of the benefits and drawbacks of a FamilySearch family tree, it’s a shared family tree you don’t solely control, but you benefit from all the work distant relatives do, extending your family tree. Somewhere, you need to have a family tree you alone control.)

Finding ancestors photos and stories on FamilySearch


Long Story Short

So, long story short, you’re gathering with family for the holidays, either in person, online, or by phone. Do yourself and your posterity a favor and take a few extra minutes to record the family memories. You can use the camera on your phone (remember to have the volume on) or type stories into your computer as they dictate, but don’t let the opportunity to record family memories slip away.

One of my regrets is not leaving a recording device going as we gathered for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party when her six sons told stories about their childhoods. It was like sitting in a confessional hearing “what really happened.” How the fire really started, what really happened when Mom and Dad went on a dream vacation and left the oldest son in charge, etc. As they were telling stories and we were all laughing, I thought to myself, “I’ll never forget that story!” Wrong. Two years later I can’t remember what had us laughing so hard.

If you don’t want to stifle the family fun by pausing to type up a story, ask everyone’s permission to turn on your video camera and record them telling their stories (remember you can’t upload video files to FamilySearch Memories, but you can type up the story from the video) OR ask if they’ll let you record their voices as they tell their story, using the FamilySearch Memories app to record/create this audio file. But absolutely ask permission before you record someone.

  • DO ask permission before you record a story

  • DO record the story, with permission, in some format, be it video, audio, or text

  • DON’T record a story without permission (I’ve been told some family secrets that I was specifically asked not to share. These will die with me.)

  • DON’T miss an opportunity to save memories of your ancestors and make them accessible to your family and posterity

If you opt to use the phone app instead of your personal computer, you’ll still need to create a free account at FamilySearch but you’ll have the added benefit of being able to instantly record a story on your phone (audio only) you can then upload to your FamilySearch Memories. There’s never a charge for storing these memories at FamilySearch and once you’ve synced your memories they will be removed from your phone, clearing up space on your device. With the app, you’ll also have access to all your memories at FamilySearch and you can pass your phone around and let others see the stories and photos you’ve uploaded.

And last of all, once you’ve created an account at FamilySearch, you can search the Memories/Gallery for any stories or photos about your relatives others may have uploaded. This is a feature you can only do from a personal computer. The phone app does not let you search the entire Gallery at FamilySearch; it only lets you search your personal gallery.


Happy Holidays and remember to record and share those memories!


November 24, 2017 |

Swedish ArkivDigital Free Access November 11-12, 2017


The Swedish subscription site, ArkivDigital, is offering free access this weekend, Saturday, November 11th and Sunday, November 12th, 2017.

“Whether you’ve been researching for a long time or are just beginning, ArkivDigital has what you need: church books, estate inventories, tax registers, military rolls, spy documents, passenger ship manifests, Swedish American church books in Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska, aerial photos and many other historical documents. In addition, there are many name searchable indexes that can make it easier for you to find your Swedish ancestors.”

To use the free access, you’ll need to follow the instructions on their site and register an account with ArkivDigital, but no credit card information will be taken.

ArkivDigital Free Access 2017 free Swedish church records

ArkivDigital has useful tutorials for getting the most of out of your searches.

If you’re specifically interested in Swedish-American church books, here is a blog about their collection and here “is a list of blogs with links for more information about the Swedish American church books:

Best in your research!

November 10, 2017 |

MyHeritage DNA Thanksgiving Sale Going on Now


MyHeritage DNA Thanksgiving sale



Now through November 23rd, MyHeritage DNA is having a Thanksgiving Sale on their DNA kits.

Kits are 40% off–$59 instead of $99–and if you buy 3 or more kits, shipping is free!

These would be a great gift for family members. We wish we’d thought to test our older family members before they died.

I’ve taken a MyHeritage DNA test and included with the test is:

  • two swabs vs. spit, you swab inside your mouth and place the swabs in vials to be tested vs. spitting into a container (my apologies if this is TMI but filling up a vial with spit might set off your gag reflex)

  • an ethnicity estimate, broken down into as many as 42 ethnicity groups, with links to share to social media or print for your records (I was surprised to have an estimate that included Finnish ethnicity)

  • DNA Matches from MyHeritage – these show the percentage of shared DNA, shared segments, largest segment, and estimated relationship to that person (I have 189 to review, but haven’t done that yet. Because I have a tree at MyHeritage some matches also show common surnames with my matches.)

  • the ability to transfer your kit results to MyHeritage partner, Family Tree DNA, for further analysis and matching with their database (it takes 24 hours for your results to be uploaded-I just did this so I’ll update with any exciting results)

  • if you transfer to Family Tree DNA you can download a free ebook (51 pages by the geneticist, Blaine Bettinger) called, Intrepret Your Results

Disclosure: I am not a MyHeritage affiliate but my husband works for MyHeritage. I’m blogging about the DNA tests because this is a GREAT price,  I was happy with mine, and I wish I’d had the foresight to test some family members before it was “too late.” My mother-in-law now gives these as birthday gifts to her children. We’re all hooked!





November 3, 2017 |

Free Fold3 Native American Records Access till Nov 15th


In celebration of Native American Month in the United States, Fold3, owned by, is offering two weeks of free access to Native American Records.

Some of the Native American Records at Fold3 include:

  • Ratified Indian Treaties, 1722-1869

  • Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940

  • Dawes Packets

  • Dawes Enrollment Cards, 1898-1914

  • Eastern Cherokee Applications, 1906-1909

  • Guion Miller Roll, 1908-1910

  • Cherokee Indian Agency TN, 1801-1835

  • Native American Photos, 1898


Fold3 Free Access Native American Month



They have more than 1.5 million images newly available online including:

  • Treaty ending the Creek War

  • Photo of Sioux chiefs

  • Wounded Knee article-Chicago Tribune

  • Crazy Horse surrenders

  • Presidential Ratification with the Five Nations

  • Cherokees serving in the Civil War

  • Native American, Ely Parker, a Union Brigadier General

  • Relating to Indian Affairs, 1765-1789

  • American Indian Tribes in WWI

  • President Truman with Nebraska Indian tribes

  • Native American Memorial Pages

free Fold3 access for Native American Records

They also have Tribe pages with timelines and maps for these tribes:

  • Apache

  • Blackfeet

  • Cherokee

  • Chickasaw

  • Chippewa

  • Choctaw

  • Creek

  • Iroquois

  • Lumbee

  • Mohawk

  • Mohican

  • Navajo

  • Pueblo

  • Seminole

  • Sioux

  • Ute

Native American Tribes at Fold3

November 2, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 31 – Use Elephind for Genealogy


On Day 31 of Family History Month, use Elephind for genealogy research. Elephind is a free, historical newspaper site that is able to search across more than 3,000 newspaper titles at 25 institutions. The website has a very clean design and is easy to use.

Elephind OnGenealogy Family History Month


Elephind includes titles from Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States. They have a specific list of titles from each country on their site. As well as institutions they are able to search (in the image below).

Elephind sources


Elephind has some standard search features you’ll want to use including:

  • using the OR search operator if multiple words don’t need to be in the same search result

  • using the – search operator to exclude a word

    • Madison -James

    • would return mentions of “Madison” but not mentions of “James Madison”

    • this is helpful if you’re searching for an ancestor, James Wells, and see tons of articles with someone of the same name involved in oil drilling, so you  search for

      • “James Wells” -oil

      • and those articles won’t be in your search returns

  • using quotation marks to search for an exact phrase (example in image below)

  • using the ~ search operator with a number to say how far apart two words in your search can be

    • “Sarah Webber” ~3

    • allows you to search for Sarah Webber when Webber is no more than 3 words apart from Sarah; this will return instances where her middle names are included in an article, such as “Sarah Jane Webber” or “Webber, Sarah”

  • Elephind doesn’t distinguish between capital and lowercase text in searches

    • If I’m searching for “James Wells” I can’t exclude water wells by searching for

      • “James Wells” -wells

      • this search yields no results because Elephind doesn’t distinguish letter case

In the example below I searched for an ancestor, Harry Webber, who performed in a traveling play, Nip and Tuck. I wanted to find articles about his performances so I put his name in quotation marks, “Harry Webber” and the play name in quotation marks “Nip and Tuck”. Elephind returned only newspapers that contained both “Harry Webber” and “Nip and Tuck”. Technically, you don’t need the AND operator, but I like to use it for consistency to show what I was searching for. If you don’t use an operator between the phrases, Elephind assumes there is an AND search operator.

Elephind AND search operator


You’re also able to refine your search results using the options in the left column of your search results page. These options include:

  • Country/State of Publication

  • Decade

  • Source

  • Publication Title

  • Language of Publication

Elephind search options



These are extremely helpful search tools. In the case of my ancestor, Harry Webber, if I know Harry Webber never traveled to Australia, I can refine my search results to include only publications in the United States. If I know he was traveling in the 1880s, I can also refine my results by decade. If I don’t know how widely he traveled, I let Elephind search every source and publication in the United States, published in the 1880s.

Elephind refined search results


Best in your searches at Elephind!


October 30, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 30 – Use DPLA for Genealogy


On Day 30 of Family History Month, use the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) for genealogy searches. It’s free, regardless of where you live, and has more than 13 million items coming from over 2,000 institutions. DPLA doesn’t host the original collections but it helps you find collections and then points you to the hosting institution.

 DPLA OnGenealogy




At DPLA, you type a query in the “Search the Library” window, then look through the results page and select which item you wish to view and you’ll be taken to the hosting institution.

It’s an easy way to search multiple institutions at once and have the best chance of returning a “hit.”


DPLA for genealogy searches



You can filter your searches in many ways. Here I searched for “City Directories” and I’ll have the option to refine my search.


DPLA search city directories

DPLA found more than 120,000 City Directories (a pretty broad search) and on the left column some ways to refine this search include:

  • Subject

  • Location (City Directories from New York for example)

  • Language

  • Contributing Institution

  • Partner (this filter searches by which partner accessed and shared the collection)

  • Type (text, image, etc)

  • Date (helpful to specify the date range that interests you)






Here I’ve refined my search by location (Brooklyn, New York, NY) and date (1750-1800) and now DPLA shows 313 results (and the results all came from one partnering institution, The New York Public Libary, in case I suspect other institutions should have these directories and I want to go to their websites and do a thorough review).

DPLA Refined search


You might also enjoy the free digital exhibitions created by DPLA staff using collections from institutions across the United States.


DPLA exhibitions


Visit their App Library to learn about apps currently available using DPLA or how to become an app developer. And be sure to follow the Digital Public Library of America on Facebook and Twitter. Happy Family History Month and best in your searches!




October 30, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 29 – StackExchange for Genealogy



On Day 29 of Family History Month, use the Genealogy and Family History StackExchange for your genealogy questions.

StackExchange OnGenealogy Family History Month

StackExchange is a Q&A network for computer programmers that has expanded into Q&A for other topics, including genealogy and family history.

Stack Exchange for Genealogy and Family History


Anyone can read questions and answers on StackExchange, but in order to post questions or answers you’ll need to be a registered user.

You don’t have to be that heavily invested to benefit from StackExchange. I often go to StackExchange when I’m digitizing photos to remember the recommended file type and size. It’s a great site for a quick refresher on various genealogy topics and is worth checking out.

If you become a registered user and want to post questions and answers you should understand more about the community. Registered users gain or lose Reputation or trust within the community based on how other StackExchange users rate their questions and answers. A higher reputation earns you Privileges. StackExchange has an information page about gaining and losing Reputation and the Benefits of participating. Basically, voting/ranking helps direct other users to more trusted responses and benefits the community.

StackExchange is still primarily used by programmers, with over 40 million participating each month, but whatever your profession or hobby, it’s worth checking to see if it’s on StackExchange. (Genealogy falls under the Life/Arts heading.) Best in your research!

Stack Exchange topics

October 29, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 28 – HathiTrust Digital Library for Genealogy


HathiTrust Family History Month

The HathiTrust Digital Library is an online archive of content in and out of copyright. They receive content from Google, Internet Archive, Microsoft, and other partnering institutions. This is one of several digitized book sites that’s useful for genealogy research.


Hathi Trust Digital Library for Genealogy

You can search for an ancestor by surname or by collections. Searches can be made by Material type (book, periodical, etc.) or Language (many languages) or year range. Search for family names, genealogies, city histories, or family interests, like “Loyalists”, for leads on those hard to find ancestors. After your initial search results, be sure to start a further digital search within the book.

A few helpful search tips:

  • Use quotes to search for an exact phrase “James Webber” or “Webber, James”.

  • Use the wildcards * or ? to search for alternate spellings “James W?bb*”.

  • Use Boolean searches AND or OR (capitalized) to include or restrict search returns.

  • Use a minus sign – to restrict search results Levi -jeans -company -strauss to search for the surname Levi and remove any search results for Levi Strauss Jeans/Company.

    For more search tips: HathiTrust Digital Library Search Tips.

Happy Family History Month and best in your research!


October 27, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 27 – TinEye Reverse Image Search for Genealogy


TinEye Reverse Image Lookup





On Day 27 of Family History Month try out TinEye for Reverse Image Lookup. If you have an image in your digital files and you don’t know the source of the image, you can upload it to TinEye and let them search for a match online. The searches and image returns are free.

“Using TinEye, you can search by image or perform what we call a reverse image search. You can do that by uploading an image, or searching by URL. You can also simply drag and drop your images to start your search.”

“TinEye constantly crawls the web and adds images to its index. Today, the TinEye index is over 23.2 billion images.”

TinEye for Reverse Image Search




I had a map in my digital files but didn’t label the image with the website where I found the map. I uploaded the image to TinEye and let them search for matches. In the picture below, TinEye found two matches on the internet and the second match,, was where I’d found the map. Now I have the source I need.

TinEye matches


I personally haven’t had any success using TinEye to find family photos I need to identify, but I’ve had great luck with maps and images from websites.

You can also upload any stock image and see where it’s been used, in case you don’t want an image that’s been used too many times. And you can upload your own social media photos or copyrighted images and see if they’re being used on any other sites. (TinEye doesn’t save the photos you upload for searches.)

Best in your searches!


October 26, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 26 – Try a Country-Specific Google Search


Revisiting an old blog post today, on Day 26 of Family History Month, try a country-specific Google Search for your genealogy searches. Searching as if you were actually in a certain country can result in different search returns.

Country specific Google search engines OnGenealogy




By default, Google searches are localized and you’ll get different results based on where you’re located. But you can tell Google to perform searches as if you were in a different locale.

If you live in the United States but are searching for an ancestor in Ireland, select the Ireland Google Search Engine from the table below for your research.

When I searched for my ancestor “Edward M. Morphy” at, I had 155 search results (image below). search results




When I search for my ancestor, “Edward M. Morphy” at (Google Ireland), I receive 2,250 search results (image below). (I also get a privacy warning. If you search in another country it appears that Google is required to post a privacy warning letting you know they’re gathering search information from you.) results




Also, when you search Google as if you were in a different country, Google will offer to let you search in the native language. For, Google offers to let me see the results in Gaelic. And if you input your search in Gaelic, by default your results will be in Gaelic.

Gaelic option


Best in your searches!

List of Google Domains. (2017, March 14). Retrieved March 21, 2017, from

October 25, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 25 – Google Books




On Day 25 of Family History Month, visit Google Books and create your own online library with books that mention your ancestors.

Google Books Family History Month OnGenealogy




Google Books works just like a search on except it searches an online book collection instead of websites. The books come from their Library Project and Partner Program.

The Library project search can result in four possible views:

  • Full View

  • Limited View

  • Snippet View

  • No Preview Available

Google Books Library Project possible results




I’m primarily interested in the “Full View” where I can see the entire book so I go to Google Books and do an initial search:

Initial search at Google books




This is what the search results look like:

Enhanced Search results on Google Books - only full view books




If your first interest is in seeing books that offer a “Full View”,
go to “Search Tools” in the center, top menu that appears after your initial search, and select “Free Google eBooks”. This focused search will return only full-text books that are downloadable.

Google Books enhanced search results




Now you’ll select a book from these filtered results.

Google Books initial search results




After you’ve selected a book from the “Full View” search results, you’ll have the option to search within this book. This is where you’ll type in a surname or other fact you’re searching for.

On the left column, you’ll see a search window with our initial search for “Prescott Ontario History”. You’ll type a new inquiry into this search window.

Selecting a book from initial Google Books results




I’ll try searching within this book for my ancestor, Joseph Cass.

Searching within a specific book on Google Books




These are the pages in this book on which I can find some reference to a “Joseph Cass”. I can select each page and read what it says and verify if this is my ancestor. Above the search results, you’ll see “Add to my library” and “Write a review” buttons. If you want to save this book you can select the “Add to my Library” option . . .

Specific pages where I find an ancestor in a Google Book




and select to save it to “My Books on GooglePlay”.

Opting to save this book to My Books on Google Play




Now you have your own library of research books online at Google!

My Books on Google Play




Try searching by:

  • name: (try the full name; surname only; last name, first name; or first initial and last name)

  • location: (try the county or town with state or province and add “history,”  “historical society,” or “genealogical society”; try searching by parish)

  • keyword (location and “cemetery” or “cemeteries” or  surname and “genealogy” or “genealogies”)

Last but not least, download the Google Play app to your phone and have your library of research books available at your fingertips!  #FamilyHistoryMonth

Best in your research, whether it’s by fee or free!

October 24, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 24 – Set Google Alerts




On Day 24 of Family History Month, let Google do your research and email you the results. You just need to set up some Google Alerts.


Google Alerts for Genealogy Family History Month



I set up a Google Alert for “Family History Month” and here’s an example of an email I received (image below).


Google Alert




To set up your own alerts, go to The image below is what you will see when you’re on the Google Alerts page. They offer “Alert suggestions” you may want to look through.

Google Alerts opening page




Some things you may want to create Google Alerts for include: a family name you’re researching, surnames, a surname and “DNA”, genealogy, family history, genealogy apps, or even your own name.

I’ve created an alert for an ancestor and put his name in quotation marks so Google will only alert me if the entire name appears as I’ve typed it in the quotation marks. You can see in the image below, Google immediately returned any appearances and the only one they could find was from an OnGenealogy blog I wrote.


Google Alerts Query




You’ll be prompted to enter an email address where they should send your alerts. Before entering an address, you’ll probably want to select “Show options” and filter your request. (See the image below.)

Show Options for your Google Alerts



The first filter is “How often would you like to receive alerts?” Your options are:

  • As it happens

  • At most once a day

  • At most once a week

I use once a day but I only look at my Google Alert emails once a week. I just like having the option to look at them more frequently.


How often to receive Google Alerts




The next filter is “From what sources?” I leave it on “Automatic” and let them come from any source, but depending on the type of alert you choose, you may want to filter by source.


Sources to search for your Google Alerts




The next filter is “Language”


What languages do you want Google Alerts to search




Then you can filter by region of the world. In the case of “Abel Waters Wells” I would select the United States and Canada because I’m trying to obtain information about Abel Waters Wells while he lived in those two countries.

What region do you want Google Alerts to search




Finally, you can ask Google to apply a qualitative filter on your search results with:

  • Only the best results

  • All results

How Many Results Google Alerts




Now you can enter an email address where you’d like to receive these Google Alerts. It doesn’t need to be a Gmail address.

Enter any email where Google Alerts should be sent



I prefer to use a Gmail account because they sort my mail for me. The image below is an example of what my email looks like. I have five folders where Google sends my email: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, & Forums. There’s also a + tab if I want to create another folder for another type of email.

Google makes pretty good guesses as to what type of mail each item is, so my most important mail goes into my “Primary” folder and Promotions, etc, go into other folders. If Google guesses wrong, I drag the email to the appropriate folder and Google asks me if it wants me to always put future emails from that sender in that folder.

Gmail folders




Here’s an example of an email I received from Google Alerts for an alert I created for Genealogy.

Google Alert for Genealogy



Google Alerts is a fun way to put the internet to work for you. Happy Family History Month and best in your research!


October 23, 2017 |

Family History Month Day 23 – Archives Portal Europe


 Archives Portal Europe for Genealogy

Archives Portal Europe allows users to search across archival collections throughout Europe or to specifically locate an archive within a European country. It’s a helpful site for genealogists and family historians looking to find archival records or an archive’s website.

Archives Portal Europe for Genealogy OnGenealogy

Archives Portal Europe is part of a cooperative effort with Europeana to make archival material searchable. “We are an important strategic partner of Europeana and are working with them to develop a common digital infrastructure for cultural heritage across Europe.”

Archives Portal Europe is “working to create a one-stop web service to make European archives as accessible as possible. …Archives Portal Europe enables them [users] to find information more efficiently from millions of archival materials stored in hundreds of archival institutions. This is the first time European archives have collaborated on this scale, and the potential that these connections provide is enormous for both archival professionals and the users.”

There are many ways to search at Archives Portal Europe.

  • You can select the Search tab and use the filters to limit your query.

  • You can select the Directory tab and search by a geographical map or directory listing (this is the search method I use the most).


Directory map at Archives Portal Europe


  • When you select the Directory tab, you’ll see the European countries listed beneath the map and you can select a country and the menu will expand and show you locations within the country which you can further expand until you find a listing of archives at that location.

Directory of Countries at Archives Portal Europe

  • In the image below I used the map to select Austria, then I’ll use the directory listing to find an archive within Austria (because I’m less familiar with the geography of Austria, so an alphabetical listing is more helpful to me at this point).


Select an Archive in Austria with the map feature

  • Here, I’ve selected the archive I’m looking for and Archives Portal Europe gives me contact information for that particular archive, including a link to the archive’s website. This is the feature I use the most at Archives Portal Europe.

Find an archives contact info or website


  • You can look at Featured Documents from each country at Archives Portal Europe, to get an idea what some favorite holdings include.

Archives Portal Europe Featured Documents


  • You can Search Archives Portal Europe by Topics, such as Church records and registers or Genealogy. Currently, Archives Portal Europe primarily has church and genealogy records from France, Latvia, and Poland.

Archives Portal Europe by Topic


Archives Portal Europe will continue to expand its collections and is a site worth checking regularly. Best in your searches, whether they’re by fee or free!

October 22, 2017 |
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