If you have old letters, diaries, and family papers that have been stored for years but not transcribed, Historic Journals from RootsTech might be the site for you. And even if you aren’t the one who inherited the family papers, maybe the one who did has shared it online and you’ll find it here.
Document uploaded to Historic Journals
Historic Journals is an online family history website with both free and fee offerings for finding and sharing your ancestor’s journals, wills, letters, photos, and more. Historic Journals pulls data from the free family tree site, FamilySearch.org. You can upload documents and allow others the privilege of helping transcribe them. “The privilege” haha. We all know there’s a reason they’ve been sitting in boxes for years. It’s work. It takes time. And it can be tedious. The problem is, yours might be the last generation that will be able to read them and these documents often contain important leads and clarify relationships and once they’re lost, those helps are gone.
Screenshot of Historic Journals page where you view and transcribe documents and tag ancestors
When you upload an image and give rights to others to transcribe the document, you or anyone you’ve given rights to, can choose to add a transcription (there are options to zoom in and out), edit the transcription, etc. You can also tag individuals named in that document and once they’ve been tagged, if you’ve chosen to make the document public, they’ll go into a database where Historic Journals will allow other descendants to view the document and transcription.
How am I related? feature on Historic Journals
Historic Journals has a “How am I related?” feature that detects any tagged person in a document who is your direct ancestor using the free trees on FamilySearch.org. Historic Journals will highlight your ancestor’s name and prompt you with “How am I related?” and if you select this question it will pull up the inserted fan chart with your descendancy from the tagged individual. So in my case, Joseph Pomeroy Cass-Hannah Cass-Polly Lamb Wells-Eudora Adelia Stone-Martha Eudora Randall-Randall Webber Tayler-me
Shared letters, biographies I can access because my ancestors are tagged
This is a screenshot of the library on Historic Journals where I can see:
- what I’ve contributed
- what others have contributed and shared that pertains to my ancestors
- what others have tagged my ancestors in
- other public items
In each of these groups I’m given the “How am I related?” prompt with a descendancy chart if my direct ancestor is tagged.
Free Genealogy Fan Chart from Historic Journals
My husband thinks my fan chart is embarrassing because I haven’t completed all my 6th generations, but if you can overlook my struggles, here’s a view of Historic Journals feature where they give you an expandable fan chart for your ancestors. You can search the fan chart for some common genealogy problems:
- birth after child’s birth
- birth after death
- birth after marriage
- marriage after death
Historic Journals highlights these potential problems in orange. Yikes! I have a marriage recorded after the person died, so I’ll have to check into that one.
Historic Journals also has a pioneer feature and if you have ancestors who were Mormon pioneers they’ll all be listed on this page, with “How am I related?” prompts.
They also have a Mormon Migration feature where they’ll list any ancestors who are part of the Mormon Migration database (1840 and 1932).
Even if you don’t need to transcribe and share letters and documents, if you have a free tree on FamilySearch.org, you’ll want to check out Historic Journals for free features to see if anyone’s shared documents that might help you with your family history research.
April 22, 2016 | Alyson Mansfield
Relative Finder is a fun, free genealogy program that’s jokingly referred to as the “gateway drug to family history.” Check it out and you’ll see why: RelativeFinder.org. Relative Finder is a genealogy program that was developed by Tom Sederberg at BYU. It’s been around a while but has a new look and some new features and kids and adults alike love it! And did you miss the “free” part? It’s free genealogy!!!
Relative Finder from RootsTech 2016
I’ve created a short video if you’d like to see the program in action.
Relative Finder shows relationships between users and other people, living or deceased. To use Relative Finder you’ll need to have a FamilySearch account and tree and you’ll login with your FamilySearch account. FamilySearch is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you can create free trees on their site (a word to the wise, your FamilySearch tree shouldn’t be your only family tree or gedcom file–I’ll blog about another time.)
When I login, Relative Finder will show my relationships and the closest relationships will be displayed first. FamilySearch doesn’t let Relative Finder store information on living people so Relative Finder will see my deceased parent has a grandchild and tell me that grandchild is my son or nephew-it can’t discern between the two.
Relative Finder will return relationship results for any relationship you have with someone in a public group. Public groups include:
- Business Leaders
- Catholic-Saints and Popes
- Classical Composers
- Constitution Signers
- Declaration Signers
- European Royalty
- Famous Americans
- Famous Europeans
- LDS groups including LDS prophets, apostles, pioneers, seventies, and more
- Military Explorers
- Movie Stars
- Salem Witch Trials
- Science and Technology
- US Presidents
- US Presidents’ Wives
Relative Finder works best for people with European descent but but they keep adding interesting ancestral lines and it’s becoming more and more diverse.
You can create groups, join groups, or try to connect with someone by starting a Connect session and inviting them to join. (Again, they’ll need a FamilySearch account and tree-but it’s free!)
I created a group for my family and invited my siblings and their spouses and in-laws. My brother and his wife are 6th cousins! I’ve joined a group my neighbors created and we have fun seeing how closely we’re related (my closest is a 9th cousin but a few of my neighbors are 4th cousins).
My children love the public groups. I have a son who loves science and he likes to see his relationship to famous scientists. I’m 12th cousins with President Obama! After my husband learned my brother was named after a Mayflower ancestor he had the audacity to disprove that lineage. But I got the last laugh, Relative Finder shows that I’m still a Mayflower descendant (although from a different line). I’m a 12th great granddaughter of Richard Warren from the Mayflower. I’m not going to apply to the Society of Mayflower descendants without researching this but it’s fun to see and it’s a great place to start my research.
So if you’re an average person who’s not going to be chosen for Finding Your Roots or Who Do You Think You Are, but you’d like a peek at the possibilities, Relative Finder is for you. That’s why it’s called the gateway drug to family history. You know you wanna try it!
If you’d like more tips on Genealogy please subscribe to my YouTube channel.
February 26, 2016 | Alyson Mansfield
After scouring the RootsTech Expo booths for three days, meeting with representatives from each booth, the exhibitor that will make the most difference in my research and genealogy needs is ResearchTies. I’m betting a lot of people missed them because they were back by the crowded computer lab area, but they offered 20 minute lab tutorials which were worth every minute (wish I could have signed up for an hour). Check out a short video highlighting How to use Research Ties at my OnGenealogy YouTube channel.
ResearchTies at RootsTech 2016
ResearchTies is an online research log where users record genealogy objectives, sources, searches, record results and more. You can add digital images, url links, and import gedcoms*. And the creator and president of ResearchTies, Jill Crandell, MA in history, accredited genealogist, or her staff provides quick customer support.
I’m religious about using research logs when I work offline, especially at a library. But most of my research is done in quick snippets online, when I have 15 free minutes. I don’t record “nil” searches because let’s face it, in 15 minutes I haven’t exhausted the results and there’s nothing “thorough” about my research effort. (You’d better believe I record nil searches if I’ve gone through a microfilm three times–don’t wanna be looking at that puppy again.) But, like I said, ResearchTies is changing how I do all my research.
Organization is a huge key to genealogy research success. I’ve found that when I’m in a hurry and quickly google search a person I’m hoping to find (usually in a new online book offering) I’ve often searched the wrong name (the child v the parent) or left out some vital information in my boolean search. Using an online research log helps me organize my thoughts and get the details of my search right so I use the best queries possible. Then I add the sources I’m searching, record the search and record the results.
Not gonna lie, sometimes I do the search first, then when I strike gold I go back, create an objective, add the source, add the search, add the result. I would never do this offline, honestly! But at least now, after I’ve done the search, I’m not just taking a screenshot and then hitting print. Or worse, grabbing the nearest spiral notebook (maybe even one belonging to my child), taking notes on what I’ve found, because of course, I assure myself, I will file this paper in my non-existent surname files and always remember all the details of this search and url that I’m not bothering to write down. Why do any of us do that?
If there’s a scarlet letter for bad research habits I should wear it. But. Not. Anymore. I am going to be a research log rockstar. Seriously. This program was designed by a genealogist for genealogists and inspires best practices in research. Reminds me of a genealogy meme: “There’s no Genealogists Anonymous because no one wants to quit.” Well there should be a “Poor Research Loggers anonymous” and this is where we should all go: ResearchTies.com.
If you’re interested in trying it out, they offer two-week free trials then to continue you’ll need to sign up for a $30/year subscription which covers the cost of the program/hosting/support. They have a Learning Center for tutorials and email support for anything you don’t understand. You know it has to be good if “research logs” is someone’s favorite take-away from RootsTech. Thank you Jill Crandell and thank you ResearchTies!
*Be judicious about your gedcom import-are you honestly going to research 10,000 names? The answer is No. Email ResearchTies with their recommendations. You’ll be glad you did.
P.S. I’m not being paid for any endorsements. I just happen to be blogging/vlogging about genealogy. 👍 Good luck with your research!
February 23, 2016 | Alyson Mansfield