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  • Uncover Stories About Your Ancestors

    When you research your ancestry, you will find more than just a family tree. Besides finding the names, dates, and records of your ancestry, you'll find the stories of your family - the real lives of people that will give you perspective on your own place in history. Many people find a great deal of emotional satisfaction in tracing their ancestry. They also discover that genealogy is a great way to bring together all the generations of the family.

    Everyone can help as you begin to document your family history. The oldest family members can share memories of the good old days; these stories become fascinating when younger people realize the link between their grandparents and more distant ancestry. Younger children can help do the research by asking questions. Older children can discover the connections between the genealogical research and their history and geography lessons.

    Your family will find additional benefits as you trace your lineage. Your shared heritage will come alive when family members understand how customs from the old country influenced their present-day lives. Additionally, you can revive old customs to discover how your relatives lived. Stories from your family history can add more meaning and joy to family holidays.

    A unique feature of OneGreatFamily is that you can share your results with others who are tracing the same ancestry. Collaboration with other genealogists is one way to discover in depth information about your ancestors and uncover fascinating stories that make your ancestors more meaningful to you.

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  • Using a Research Log

    Good family history researchers know that there is no habit more valuable than keeping a good research log. A research log helps you keep track of what sources you have searched, which individuals you searched for, the results of your searches, and when you conducted the said searches.

    If you're like most of us, you squeeze genealogy in around all the other demands on your time. You may fit in a half hour of research here and there; sometimes you may put down a project not to take it up again until six months later. Six months from now, or even a week from now, you won't remember exactly which sources and which years you've searched. That is why a research log is so invaluable. Nothing is worse than wasting your time duplicating searches that you've already done just because you can't quite remember what you've searched already and what you haven't. But if you keep a good research log, you can take up a project after not working on it for months and pick up right where you left off.

    How do you keep a good research log? It doesn't matter if you make an Excel spreadsheet or write it out with pen and paper. There are, however, a few elements that all good research logs have in common:

    • The source you searched. Don't just put "1820 census"; it's too vague. Record the specifics of the source you searched, and what years you searched. For example: "Hardy County, West Virginia, Personal Property Tax Records, Years 1807 to 1819, on Family History Library US/Canada Microfilm 250005."
    • What information you searched for. Did you search Orange County marriage records just looking for your grandmother's name? Or did you also look for the marriage record of her sister while you were searching? Did you search for your grandmother under her given name, Sarah? Or did you also search for Sally, which is a common nickname for Sarah? Keep track of these kinds of details so that in the future you'll know if you need to go back and search records again.
    • Results. If you found what you were looking for, record it. If you didn't find what you were looking for, record that. Recording "nil" searches is just as important as recording the documents you did find, because doing so will save you from unnecessarily searching the same records again looking for ancestors that aren't there. If you do find what you're looking for, the best thing to do is to photocopy or print the document, label what it is and where it came from, and also label it with a document number. Then record that document number in your research log. Your research log can then serve as a table of contents for your documents.
    • Date. It's important to keep track of when you performed searches. That way, if you make a momentous discovery about an ancestor - that he was married to a different woman than you originally thought, for instance-you can go back through your research logs and see which searches need to be re-done to take this new information into account.

    Making a detailed research log may seem like a lot of work - and it is. But keeping a good log will save you a lot of hassle, and it will actually save you a lot of time in the end.

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  • How To Date Old Family Photographs

    Basic Techniques Of Dating Pictures

    Great-Grandma's family collection of antique pictures can be a treasure trove for you, the genealogy researcher, especially if you can establish when an antique picture was taken.

    Dating a photograph can help you identify the subject(s) (in early photography the subjects were referred to as sitters) and can provide additional information as you piece together your family tree.

    There are some basic techniques to begin the process of dating an antique picture:

    What is the print made of? Is the image printed on metal, glass, card stock, or paper? Daguerreotype (early tintypes) and ambrotypes (printed on glass) were often mounted in double wooden frames that opened like a book. These were the most common types of early photographs and date back to around 1839. By 1870, almost all antique pictures were printed on heavy paper or card stock. The heavier stock was much more common in early photographs; by the 1930s even studio portraits were printed on thin paper.

    Is the antique picture printed in black and white or color? Some images were being hand-tinted as early as the 1850s. Although color still photography was introduced in 1906, it was an expensive process that only professionals could afford to use. Color antique pictures did not become common for home use until the late 1950's and early 1960's.

    How are the people in the photograph posed? Very early antique pictures showed people in rigid poses and usually without smiles, partly because exposure times could be as long as twenty seconds. Many portrait photographers even used braces to help sitters stay in position during the process. Candid pictures and then snapshots became more common in the 1920s.

    How are the sitters dressed? The straight tunic dresses and bobbed hair of the 1920's are easy to distinguish from the cinched waists and luxuriant chignons of the late 1890's.

    What other objects are visible in the antique picture? A Model T car is absolute proof that the picture was not taken before 1908. Furniture, toys, brands names, logos - all these things can provide clues, and thus, invaluable assistance in identifying previously unidentified photographs.

    Additional information on dating family antique pictures is available from this list of links.
    Tracing a family resemblance through the generations with antique pictures can give you a warm sense of connection to your family's past.

    Store your pictures and other media in OneGreatFamily - it's a safe place to keep your treasures (see next article for instructions on how to add photos to your OneGreatFamily tree).

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  • Get Your Family Excited About Their Ancestors

    Doing genealogy work together as a family is a great way to involve everybody in a shared hobby. Researching your ancestors draws on the family knowledge and stories of the older generation, while younger family members can contribute useful computer and Internet skills to the ancestor research project. 

    Working together is a great way to schedule family time. Here are some ways that genealogy research can bring your family together:

    1. Ancestor research starts at home. Even small children can ask Grandma and Grandpa for stories about their families, though they may need your help recording information. "What was it like when you were my age?" can elicit some memorable answers.
    2. Make visits to local libraries, museums, and archives. Family adventures are an exciting way to pursue your ancestor research. Take family members of all ages to visit a local history museum so older relatives can explain the common objects of yesteryear to younger folk.
    3. When you know a little more about your family tree, plan vacations around important places on your ancestors' lives. Compile a list of houses, cemeteries, and places of historical interest connected with your family history. A trip to Ellis Island has much more meaning and interest when you know the names and stories of some of your family members.

    Whether you're a genealogy expert or just starting out, offers the chance to add entire branches to your family tree. You may find a lost ancestor or an entire forest of new connections. Share the fruits of your ancestor research with other members of your family. Our families, even those members who lived generations before us, are the stuff we are made of. They are our roots, our beginnings, and they influence our lives in ways we may not even understand.

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  • A Time To Be Thankful

    As Thanksgiving approaches, we are all counting our blessings, especially in the field of genealogy. Technological advances have made genealogy work faster and easier than it has ever been before. It's great to be a twenty-first century genealogist. In honor of the season, here are a few things to be grateful for:

    • Digitization of records. From Ancestry to GoogleBooks, more and more genealogical sources are being scanned and even indexed to be viewed online.

    • Digital photography. You can take a photo of a gravestone and post it on your blog or e-mail the .jpg to your cousins and they'll receive it in only a few seconds. High-resolution cameras mean that you can also photograph documents and share high-quality copies with family members. If you want to, you can even stand right at your microfilm reader and take a photo of an image instead of carrying your microfilm over to the copy machine. 

    • Social networking. Even if Facebook isn't your thing, there are sites like, FamilyLink, and where you can have family discussion boards, swap photos, share genealogical information, and even keep track of birthdays. 

    • Free online tutorials. Who needs to take a genealogy class when there are so many great, professional resources out there to help you learn the tricks of the trade? From to, you can find all the instruction you need online.

    •  Online storage. Who hasn't experienced the agony of a computer crash or the panic of losing one's flash drive? OneGreatFamily stores all your genealogy information so you will never lose your family tree data.

    It's an exciting time to be doing genealogy. As technology marches forward, the work gets easier, more convenient, and more fun.

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