You use WHAT for genealogy?


I recently attended a great webinar given by Thomas MacEntee through Legacy Family Tree Webinars. For those of you who haven’t heard of Thomas MacEntee, he is a tech wizard and “genealogy ninja” who keeps abreast of the newest technologies and explores their possible uses for genealogists. As part of his “you use what…” webinar he asks that participants spread the word about these new technologies so that genealogists will get on board and start using them. Many of these sites are social networking sites that MacEntee refers to as “cousin bait” meaning that other genealogists trawling the ‘net may stumble on your site or profile.
I have used Facebook for this but certainly other social networking sites will work as well. While I personally don’t get Twitter, I do see that it might be useful for just this kind of “bait”. Another great way to get your information out there and possibly lure cousins is to write a family blog. There are a number of great blogging sites out there, including Blogger and WordPress. They are so easy to use, anyone can have a blog. These blogs are searchable, so that when people google their names (c’mon – we all do it), anything relevant in your blog will come up.
Other techy resources for genealogists are things like Evernote, which is a note-taking app that allows you to access your data from any device. There are add-on apps such as the web-clipper that allows you to capture and keep interesting web pages – kind of like that shoebox you keep all of those interesting bits and pieces you find on your travels. It is free to download but you do have to make an account.
A similar sort of thing is Dropbox. This site allows you to store your data in the cloud so you can access it anywhere you have internet access and on any device. I use this a lot for collaborating with colleagues (and because I often forget the USB drive that contains the presentation I’m supposed to be giving in 5 minutes.) It is an excellent way to back up your data, as well. Because it is stored in the cloud and not on your device, a computer crash won’t affect it.
This is just a taste of the great information that I was able to glean from this webinar. If you’d like to keep on top of all the newest tech stuff for genealogists, I suggest you check out Thomas MacEntee’s website, High- Definition Genealogy
If you have a fave site or app that you’d like to share with us all, please post it as a comment to the blog and share the wealth!

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Legacy 8

I have been a user of the Legacy Family Tree program for several years, and was intrigued to hear that a new major release is forthcoming. The folks at Legacy began giving previews of the improvements on the Legacy blog in June. Though they haven’t announced a firm release date, they do believe it will be out before 2014 arrives.

There is certainly no shortage of software available to help genealogists to track their facts and source their finds, and I’m not actually certain that Legacy is the single-best among them. It has served me well, albeit intermittently, for several years, and I’ll be looking forward to upgrading to their new version when it is released.

The basic version remains free to download and use. For those who purchase the premium version now, you will also get a free upgrade to Legacy 8 when it is released to the public.

** Note: It must be mentioned that this post is not a paid or otherwise remunerated endorsement of Legacy Family Tree. We all have our own preferences for methods and tools, and this software simply happens to live in my toolbox.

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The 1921 Census: Help, there’s no index!

 1921 Census of CanadaI was very excited when the 1921 census was released but I am not one to wait for the indexing so I have been digging around and managed to find my grandmother in an orphanage in Saskatoon with her siblings.  I found this entirely by accident.  While working on a question for another researcher, I found listings under the name “Sister” in a Saskatoon directory.  Thinking this might be the nuns who raised my grandma (I knew she’d been in a Catholic orphanage) I found the address of the orphanage in the directory and then used that to narrow my search of the Saskatoon pages of the census.  This was pure luck, I realize, but there are some tools we can all use to help us find our ancestors without the indexing – and I know you are all just dying to get at it so I thought I’d pass along a few tools that I have discovered as well as some information that was forwarded to my from my friends at the Ontario SIG.

(Just as an aside, Alberta Family Histories Society has a number of SIGs, or Special Interest Groups.  You can see a complete listing on our website.   Contact information is also included so if you are interested in joining a group or just dropping in on one of their meetings, I cannot recommend these groups highly enough.)

Anyhow, back to the census.  I’ve already mentioned directories.  They are an invaluable resource for finding your ancestors between censuses, but they are also great in narrowing down your search field for the 1921 census.  Directories were usually only done for cities, but there are some rural directories as well.  You can find a listing of digitized directories at this site.

Directories can also be found at the Internet Archive  by typing in the name of the place and the word ‘directory’.

You can also use Vital Events records to find locations for your people.  Search for an event such as a birth, marriage or death to pinpoint a location.  AncestryLE (available at the AFHS Library, the Family History Centre and the Calgary Public Library) has indexes to many vital events registers as does FamilySearch.  You can also check with the genealogical society or archives in the area you are researching to see what indexes are available through their sites.

Ancestry also has passenger lists and border crossing records that may indicate the destination to which your ancestor was travelling.  Naturalization records can be searched at Library and Archives Canada.  These often include a place of residence.

If you had ancestors who were First Nations and living on a reserve, or ancestors who were confined to an institution such as a hospital or prison you may have an edge as  these institutions were often enumerated separately.  Again, you need to have a general idea of where they were, but as you go through the list of sub-divisions under each division you will see the reservations, penitentiaries and other institutions listed in the descriptions.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search you can use maps of the census divisions to help you pinpoint the exact part of the census you need to scan.  You can find maps of the census divisions at the Canada Century Research Infrastructure site.

It is also possible that your relatives didn’t move between 1911 and 1921 so it can pay off to search the 1911 (or in the case of the Prairie Provinces, the 1916) census.  You can search the censuses at the Library and Archives Canada site.  This might help you find a land description or an electoral district or an address.

You can access the images from the 1921 census through the Ancestry site without having an account. Just click on this link.  You can use the Browse function on the right hand side of the page to navigate to your province and district.

When the indexing is completed you will need to sign in to Ancestry, either through your personal account or at one of the above mentioned libraries.

I hope this helps you get revved up to dig into the newest census.  I want to thank Colleen Casey of the Ontario SIG for all of her wonderful tips.  If you have any resources that you would like to share, please post them in the comments and I’ll pass them along.


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Get your genealogy discussion fix online

I am just beginning to realize just how many online genealogy resources there are, extending far beyond just databases and cemetery indices. For those of you who would like more frequent contact with the genealogy world than the monthly AFHS meeting and the various SIGs you belong to, going online to learn, discuss, and share may be one of the single best ways at your disposal.

GeneaWebinarsThe author of the award-winning genealogy blog DearMYRTLE has set up a website, GeneaWebinars, to help readers to keep track of the many upcoming events. For example, in the next couple of weeks, you’ll find scheduled the weekly genealogy DearMYRTLE “Hangout” that happens Mondays on Google+, a genealogy chat that happens on the social network Twitter, and an online seminar with the fascinating title, “Up in Smoke! What to do when the courthouse burns”.

If you’re reading this post on the AFHS blog, then I can be reasonably assured that you’re using a computer to access the Internet. However, it’s no secret that the hobby of genealogy is primarily the pastime of elder generations, and you may well wonder just how you would even begin to use Twitter, let alone how you “hang out” on Google. Given the depth of resources available on so many different platforms, all of that is probably a longer discussion, and better suited for another day. In the meantime, do visit the GeneaWebinars site and perhaps you’ll find something that piques your interest.

Legacy Family Tree WebinarsOne of the best quality productions on the Web appears to be the webinars that are produced by the makers of Legacy Family Tree genealogy software, called, aptly, Legacy Family Tree Webinars. These webinars usually occur weekly, and are available for free at the time that each is live and for one week after the webinar was live. After that, a subscription is required to watch and listen to the webinar, although AFHS has a Special Interest Group dedicated to Legacy, and frequently shows a replay of one of the webinars with discussion to follow. While the SIG meeting is cancelled for September, it’s anticipated to return in October. You can learn more about this SIG by visiting the AFHS calendar or contacting the SIG coordinator, Charlie Aubin.

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New blogger introduction: John Smiley

John Smiley joins AFHS blog as a regular contributor.

John Smiley joins AFHS blog as a regular contributor.

Visiting the Alberta Family History Society website last week, I saw the plea for help with the AFHS blog. As I am an experienced blogger, am interested in genealogy, love digging up and sharing information and, most importantly, am looking for an anchor that will help me to gain more focus on developing this passion and pastime, it seemed like an opportunity I should take. And so here I am.

For 2 1/2 years, I wrote a now-defunct Calgary-focused events blog, sharing with Calgarians all of the amazing things that can occupy one’s time in this city. Earlier this year, I had to wrap it up since my day job workload was becoming overwhelming and I knew I didn’t want to just continue on with the blog in a half-hearted manner. After some soul-searching, I have decided that I’ll not be reviving that particular blog, as my interest has waned and there are other projects I would like to take on. Throughout the summer, I did find myself missing a writing outlet, so this seems like an outstanding place to feed that need.

I am not new to either genealogy or to the AFHS. Well, that’s not entirely true; I just bought my first membership a few months ago. However, I attended my first meeting some four or five years ago, but simply didn’t make the time to develop this particular interest. I have been examining family records that my mother has in her possession for about 20 years, put my first post on the GenForum site a decade back, and am pretty comfortable with the basics of endeavours genealogical.

With that said, I’m best classified as a beginner genealogist, and you can expect that you’ll see information from me that tends to occupy more that level of expertise. I am adept with technology, and love how it can make our lives easier (and often more challenging at the same time), so you will see technology-driven topics from me with some frequency as well. As I make and take the time to further develop my knowledge and proficiency, I’ll also be happy to share what it is that I find. Many of you will find what I share to be old news, I’m sure, but I’d imagine that I’m not the only beginner coming up the ranks who can benefit from links to and descriptions of resources beyond those that advertise incessantly on the History Channel.

If you have any topic ideas, or information that you think is worth sharing, or just want to ask me how I manage to stay so youthful, please do e-mail me at I’d love to hear from you. I plan to post to this blog every Monday, so I hope that you’ll pop back frequently.

Oh, one more thing… you see that link right below that says, “Leave a comment”? Use that, and use it with great gusto and tremendous frequency. A blog is a place where people should feel welcome to talk back. Whether it’s a question, an opinion, or a pertinent brag, I ask you to please use that link at every possible opportunity.

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