Genealogy and cemeteries

I get asked reasonably often how I feel about cemeteries. Do I like them? Do I find them intriguing?  Do they scare me?

Cemeteries are libraries of people to me. I’m okay spending a bit of time in them when I have a mystery to solve, but as technology changes, it’s becoming more and more common for the information I need to be found online.

There are a number of cemeteries in New Zealand online, thanks to their local councils – but not all are.  Those that are online don’t always have headstone images for each entry – something essential for most genealogists.  A headstone often contains a birthdate or year, confirmation of a spouse (living or passed), and sometimes the names of children.  All fantastic proof of information you may be unsure of in your research.

I like spending a bit of time searching for a particular ancestor in a cemetery, especially when it’s sunny and warm.  Finding the correct headstone (whether marked or not – an older headstone with unreadable lettering can break a genealogist’s heart!) feels fantastic – which is why I also assist with FindAGrave - why should a family member or genealogist not find a headstone they are after just because they can’t travel to the cemetery?

But you won’t see me anywhere close to one if it’s late afternoon or a dreary day. As much as they are the original genealogical resource, they do kinda creep me out!

 

Google Alerts – refining your search

When I’m particularly stumped with a person in my family tree, I set up a Google Alert for their name.  This will then notify me when new blog posts, articles, websites, etc include this person’s name (or similar) – so I can check if it’s relevant to my research.

If you set up the Google Alert incorrectly, you can be bombarded with completely irrelevant “findings”.  There are lots of Google tips that can make your search more relevant, and the web company I work for has put together a great infographic with a few of these “cheats”.  There are some tips that I had never seen before, and a few that I had – hopefully some of these will be useful to you.

To view the infographic, please go to http://www.xplore.net/web_smart/index.htm?articleId=549.

 

 

Using Google Maps for Genealogy

I’ve recently started piecing together where my family members/ancestors lived and where they moved to.  Using the Google Maps Engine Lite has made that easy, as I can create each ancestor as a layer of my map, give all markers for each ancestor a different colour or style, and write notes on each marker.Google Maps ScreenshotFor instance, if you clicked on any of the markers in my map, you would see the year he lived there, and his occupation.  This information is easy to find in the New Zealand Electoral Rolls – you can find out full name, address (or road), and their occupation.

Google Maps Screenshot - marker closerup

I haven’t yet added in this particular ancestor’s map where they were in World War II – but the best things about Google Maps, is I can add that in at any time.  And change things if I’m wrong!

I’m adding this to my template Trello card for each ancestor from now on – this may take me a while!

Using Trello for Genealogy

I discovered Trello about 6 months ago and use it for everything now.
I use it for brainstorming blog subjects, I use it for brainstorming things I need to do for my business, and most importantly I use it for my genealogy.

Trello is used for project management – a “card” gets dragged and dropped between “lists”, representing where a task is in project stages. It’s basically a to do list!

For my genealogy research, I have a “board” per project, and each project is broke up into the following lists:
- To Do
- Researching
- Complete (if you can ever class genealogical research as complete)

I set up a card per person as I go through the family tree. I have a ever-evolving research checklist that I use for all cards – an example of this is in the screenshot. I can then tick off everything I need to look for as I go.
This is especially useful for my personal research as I am going through 1,800+ family members that I’ve researched and checking for missing information.

All you need is to set up a free account and/or hook it up to your Google Account. It even has an app!

Give it a go for your family research – it might be the online tool to replace your notepads of “Things to Research”.

Screenshot of Trello

Funerals – appropriate time for family research?

I’m going to a funeral this afternoon for my mother’s uncle. Funerals are one of the main times families all get together, but what is acceptable genealogical research to do on this occasion?

Okay:
- ask family members for email addresses so you can send the information to check

Not okay:
- taking photos of family members to add to your family tree

Okay:
- taking notes if you find out of a recent marriage or birth

Not okay:
- bombarding grieving family members with questions. It’s a funeral!

Everyone in my family knows about my genealogical research so I find they will approach me with information. However I won’t ask them information today unless it comes up in conversation. Instead we will spend this time reminiscing about our departed family member and remembering the good times :-)