Genealogy tip of the day: July 16, 2015

Genealogists generally write dates in this fashion: 16 Jul 2015. This separates the day of the month from the year, and using the four-digit year eliminates confusion as to which century you mean. Each month is (usually) abbreviated to the first three letters.

If you are working in a genealogy program or online tree, you might not have to abbreviate the months. It does help when filling out forms by hand, though.

Part of the reason for using this format is because that is how dates are written in Europe. So using this format lets you get used to how the dates are used there (helpful when you are looking at records from Europe). It also avoids confusion that is possible if you write a date in just numbers, as 11/01/01. Is that November 1, 2001 (or 1901 or 1801), or January 11 in some year that ends in 01? Looking at 11 Jan 2001, it’s easy to tell the correct date.

Genealogy tip of the day: July 15, 2015

Today’s tip is about collateral lines.

Many people only research their direct ancestors: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. If they find information on the children in these families, they might not keep it because those people aren’t their ancestors, just relatives of ancestors.

Finding out about collateral ancestors — the children in those family groups, or your direct ancestors’ siblings and cousins — can be valuable to your research.

Not sure if you have found the correct family in the 1880 census? If you know who the children are, you can pinpoint whether John and Mary Smith you see are the right ones. You can also check the neighbors in the census to see if there are any known relatives living nearby.

Is this Thomas Jones the father or son? If the age isn’t listed, you can look at who else is in the household.

Sometimes a parent goes to live with a child when they are older. If the child isn’t your direct ancestor and you don’t look for the other close relatives, you could miss finding that person.

Happy hunting!

Genealogy tip of the day: July 13, 2015

Today’s tip links to a blog post about genealogy travel.

The advice is good, but I’d like to add one more tip. Try to find out before you go, what places are available to help your search and when are they open.

Find out phone numbers, addresses and what hours each place is available. If it’s a genealogy or historical society, see if you can arrange for a special visit if you are there when they normally aren’t open.

Recently, we had a volunteer who was ill on the day she was going to work at the Webster County Genealogical Society. She contacted another volunteer, who had made plans to go out of town with friends. So I stepped in, but could only work until 1:30 p.m. because I go to work at 2. That day, we had three visitors: a regular researcher and two women who were from out of state. It was the only day those two women were in town. They were lucky that I was able to be there when they needed access.

At our July monthly meeting, we had a couple from California stop by. One of our volunteers stayed after the meeting to let them research more. Again, it was a day when we normally aren’t open, but we were there for the meeting.

And just to be clear, we are thrilled when we are able to help people, especially when they travel long distances for family history. We are just worried that we might miss someone.

The Webster County Genealogical Society is trying to make our presence known. We have this website, email address (, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Pinterest and even a phone number (515-302-9854).

~Carol Foltz

Genealogy tip of the day: July 12, 2015

Today’s tip is: Don’t wait.

Don’t wait to talk to your older relatives. Don’t wait to tell your own story. Don’t wait to compare notes with siblings and cousins about events and family tales.

You don’t know how much time you have to hear the family stories from the people who are closer to when the events happened.

There is an African proverb that says when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. This is true in family history, as well. When the older generation dies, we lose the stories we haven’t heard yet.

So, don’t wait.

Genealogy tip of the day: July 10, 2015

Today’s tip is a slightly hidden gem. If you are familiar with Family Search, you may have used it for searching for records. But the site also has a Learning Center.

The Learning Center has a collection of videos ranging from a few minutes to over an hour. Topics include countries, skill levels, subjects like birth, marriage and death records, family trees, military and so on, and even include some in a few different languages. Selected videos from the latest RootsTech conference are also available.

The videos are all free and you don’t have to have a Family Search account to view them.

Genealogy tip of the day: July 7, 2015


Today’s tip is about using Pinterest for genealogy.

First, you should know that the Webster County Genealogical Society does have a Pinterest page.There are 22 boards with categories like Genie humor, Technology, History, Church records, Organization, Charts and Printables, Civil War and more.

The boards are in alphabetical order, except that Military and wars are at the end, together.

If you are experienced with Pinterest, you can create boards for genealogy and research. Some people label their genealogy-related board like this: Genealogy Books, Genealogy Civil War Records, Genealogy Courthouse Research, Genealogy German, Genealogy Pennsylvania, Genealogy Tips and so on.

You can set up a board for a specific surname and invite other family members to add to your board. You can have a board about a specific place your ancestors lived.

When you create a new board, you can add a description (or edit it in later). You can also choose which image from all the pins in that board should be the cover for the board. That is what people see when they are looking at your boards.

There are more good tips here, here and here.

This blog tells you how to get started on Pinterest. If you need personal assistance, our society president, Carol Foltz, is usually at the society on Wednesdays.