Category Archives: Organizing Genealogy

Using Your Smartphone Camera for Genealogy

Vicki’s note – very helpful article from Family Tree Magazine:


Using Your Smartphone Camera for Genealogy

Caught on Camera: Smartphone Camera Tips
Learn to use your smartphone to capture high-quality photos of genealogy records, relatives, gravestones and family homes.

When was the last time you used an actual, dedicated digital camera to take photos? If you’re like most of us, your smartphone has replaced your old point-and-shoot digital camera. If you got your phone within the past few years, it likely offers a high-resolution camera with sophisticated algorithms to compensate for the small sensor and lens size. That small size makes your smartphone easy to keep in a pocket or purse and capture friends, family and genealogy resources at any time. And if you have a data plan, it’s also easy to instantly sync these photos to the cloud.

Your smartphone is the ideal tool to “photocopy” microfilm records and library books, preserve images of ancestors’ gravestones, take snapshots of all 45 people at your next family reunion, and record the homes and other buildings that form the backdrop for your family’s story. Most of us rarely get opportunities to capture these important genealogy images, so you want to make sure you do it right the first time. Follow these tips to get the perfect shot when taking five types of family history photos.

Microfilmed record

A few inexpensive accessories can turn your smartphone camera into a portable microfilm scanning machine, and make your library research time more efficient. No more waiting for a turn at the scanner-equipped film reader or taking laborious handwritten notes. Not all libraries permit cameras, so check with the librarian before you go. Here’s how to do it:

  • For best results, use a small flexible tripod or a clamp with a smartphone mount. I like the Joby GripTight Mount and GorillaPod tripod, which securely holds my cell phone and has bendable legs I can attach to the upper hood of the microfilm reader desk.
  • A remote shutter release like the CamKix prevents “camera shake” when you press the shutter.
  • Position the camera to aim straight down over the reader projection surface. Eliminate glare or reflection by placing a large sheet of plain white paper onto the projection surface. Adjust the microfilm reader lens to sharpen the projected image.
  • Turn off your camera flash and close apps you aren’t using to help conserve power. Take a few test shots before you get started on your project. Make sure the image is sharp and clear, and includes the entire page. If necessary, brighten or darken the film reader lamp to minimize glare.
  • When you start a new roll of film or a new section of records on the same roll, take a photo of the film box and file number or of the source information on the title page. You can use the photo to create a source citation in your research log.

Books, documents and photos

Smartphone cameras are often a better solution than flatbed scanners or photocopiers for digitizing fragile or bound books at the library, and you don’t have to worry about running out of change. When you’re surprised with a photo find at a relative’s house, your smartphone may be all you have to reproduce it. Multiple documents, maps, and other papers can be digitized quickly and with excellent results using a smartphone camera. Remember to ask permission before photographing library materials. Turn off your flash if required (it often causes glare, anyway).

  • Make sure your lens is clean. Apple recommends using only a soft, lint-free cloth, such as a camera lens cloth, to carefully clean dust and fingerprints from the iPhone camera lens. Avoid moisture, compressed air or cleaning agents of any kind, particularly anything abrasive. See your cell phone dealer for more extensive cleaning or repair.
  • To avoid shutter shake and save your arms when photographing many pages, use a remote shutter release. A copy stand, such as the Fopydo Smartstand, also is useful. You’ll also want a bookrest or bean bag to support a book’s covers when open (the library may have these available—ask when you call ahead).
  • If possible, find a flat surface with plenty of light.
  • Support your smartphone on the copy stand, if you’re using one. Place a document or photograph flat on the table and position your camera directly over it so the lens has an unobstructed view of the entire page. Avoid shooting at an angle, which distorts the shape of the paper or photo.
  • If you’re shooting a book, place it on a bookrest so it stays open. You may need to use one hand or a bean bag to gently flatten the page. Position the camera over the page, tilted at the same angle as the page.
  • Take test shots with (if permitted) and without flash to see which produces the best photos in the available light.
  • Speed your scanning workflow by using a scanning app, such as CamScanner (iOS, Android, Windows), Genius Scan (iOS, Android) and TurboScan (iOS, Android), instead of the phone’s built-in camera. These apps crop and straighten pages as you scan, create files with multiple pages, and offer enhanced lighting. You also can name pages as you “scan” them, add a date stamp and choose whether to create a PDF or JPEG file.
  • Save scanned images to your Camera Roll or email account, or export them to your cloud storage service.


Capturing a good image of a gravestone lets you extract all possible information and edit it to improve readability. Some cemeteries have regulations regarding the type of equipment you can use or they require photographers to get permission from the office, so call ahead before you go. And of course, respect the solemnity of the surroundings.

  • Bring a soft brush to remove loose dirt from the stone and a spray bottle with plain water to help bring out the inscription. Don’t apply any other substances, such as shaving cream or flour, to the stone. If the cemetery isn’t maintained, bring garden shears to trim weeds that cover the inscription. Don’t forget water for yourself, sunscreen and bug spray.
  • Use the built-in viewfinder grid to keep the gravestone straight and level.
  • To illuminate a hard-to-read inscription, try to photograph the stone when sunlight hits the face at about a 30-degree angle (morning for an east-facing stone, midday for west-facing stones). Using a reflector or a large white board can help you aim light at the stone. If the sunlight is too strong, shade the stone with a dark cloth. You’ll want to have a helper to handle this paraphernalia while you shoot, as well as for safety reasons.
  • Photos of hard-to-read gravestones can easily lose their identifying information. Your phone’s photo app probably lets you add text on an image, or you can use an app that places a caption below the image on a frame. Instants Photo Edition by Soreha (iOS) adds a Polaroid-style frame to photos captured “in-app” with the camera, or already in your camera roll, with an optional space for a caption. MOLDIV photo editor (iOS and Android) lets you add captions on the photo or within a simple frame around the image.
  • Record and upload GPS and inscription data to the web with a cemetery app such as Find A Grave or Billion Graves (both available for iOS and Android).

Houses and other buildings

Your ever-present smartphone is a handy tool for photographing family homes and the buildings where your ancestors worshipped, worked or attended school. A few tricks will help you best capture the entire facade and, for public structures, move inside to photograph interior rooms. If you’re photographing a private home from a public sidewalk or street, it’s not required—but it is good manners—to first let the owner know the purpose for your pictures. Don’t enter any yards unless the property owner gives you the go-ahead. Be aware that some public buildings have photo and media restrictions for security reasons.

  • Morning or afternoon light, or overcast skies, will give you the most pleasing light with fewer harsh shadows. On sunny days, plan to photograph buildings when the sunlight falls on the front of the structure, rather than directly overhead or facing the camera.
  • Position yourself at a comfortable distance, where you’re safe from passing traffic or other hazards. If you plan to take several photos, a tripod and smartphone camera mount may be helpful.
  • Use the camera’s built-in viewfinder grid to keep the horizon or roofline level. Or use the Camera Plus App (Android and iOS), which offers the traditional “rule of thirds grid” (which helps you compose a pleasing image) and a horizon level. The iPhone’s built-in Camera App includes a grid you can enable in Settings>Photos & Camera>Camera>Grid.
  • To include the tall dome of City Hall or sprawling wings of a ranch-style home with the built-in camera app, you’ll need to step back far enough to see the entire structure in your camera viewfinder or use a wide-angle lens on your camera. Sometimes that’s hard to do. A clip-on wide-angle or fisheye lens (which is curvilinear and will cause straight lines in your photo to appear curved) is especially useful in tight city streets, where it can be virtually impossible to back up far enough to photograph large buildings. The lens also lets you capture interior views of home living rooms, kitchens, and other spaces.
  • Experiment with taking portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) images. The panorama mode available on newer smartphone cameras is another option for including wide structures. See the techniques for Family Group Photos for ideas on using this feature.
  • Turn on your phone’s geotagging, or location, option to help you remember the exact location of the building.
  • Before snapping your photo, check the corners and edges of the frame for power lines, poles, bus benches, parked cars and unsightly trash bins. Try to minimize them if you can. A few of these “props” can help set the date and place, but too much confusion in a photo can overwhelm your main subject.


Frame-worthy group photos rarely just happen. It’s hard to get a gaggle of people assembled in one place, all smiling and looking at the camera at the same time. Use these pro photography tips to make the pictures from your next family reunion the best in decades.

  • Smartphones typically boast two lenses. The front-facing lens, best for selfies, is usually relatively low resolution. For example, the iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel XL both offer a 12 megapixel rear-facing camera and 7 or 8 megapixel front-facing camera. Use the main, rear-facing camera for the best photos.
  • Plan ahead for group shots, if possible, by encouraging relatives to wear solid-color tops. That puts the focus on faces in your pictures. But don’t be overly strict: Uncle Harry’s signature bright plaid button-down deserves a place in history.
  • Turn off the flash to avoid red-eye and harsh shadows. Shoot outside in the early morning or late afternoon, or under an overcast sky. In bright sun, go for open shade, like under a large tree. Avoid patchy shadows.
  • Select a spot with an uncluttered background that’s free from distractions such as trash cans, telephone poles and cars. A park, garden or beach location works well.
  • Gather props like stools, benches, lawn chairs and even ladders to achieve different levels. Pose the kids on laps and on the grass in front.
  • Wide panorama pictures are great for large groups or playful smaller groups (such as everyone holding hands in a chain). Take advantage of your smartphone panorama mode by slowly panning the group in the direction of the arrow on your phone camera app (practice this ahead of time—you don’t want to have a large group posed and waiting on you to figure out your phone).
  • To include yourself in the picture, use a tripod and the self-timer or a remote shutter release. Set up your camera and compose the picture. On the iPhone, access the self-timer by tapping the timer dial at the top of the photo screen, then select 3 or 10 seconds. Check the user guide for other phone models.
  • Take a bunch of photos. You’re certain to get some pictures with closed eyes, runny noses, fussy kids and awkward body language. More photos gives you a better selection. You can take multiple shots in quick succession with the burst mode feature found on most Android and iOS smartphones. Simply hold down the shutter button and the camera will take 10 frames per second. This can result in lots of images, though, so be aware you’ll need to choose the best and toss the rest.

Tip: When shooting a photo, steady your camera by standing with your legs slightly apart and arms held at an easy height, or use a tripod with swivel head.

Smartphone Smarts

You don’t have to use the latest model phone to capture great digital photographs. Most devices released in the last two or three years feature high-resolution cameras and compatibility with popular photo and editing apps. Each device and model will be slightly different, so take time to learn the basic features of your phone’s built-in camera app, including:

  • turning the flash on and off
  • locking focus on the subject (usually by touching the screen)
  • adjusting exposure
  • using the self timer
  • selecting the mode (such as video, photo or panorama)
  • setting resolution
  • performing basic editing (use photo-editing apps for advanced edits)
  • sharing photos

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Denise May Levenick is the author of How to Archive Family Photos (Family Tree Books).
A version of this article originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Organizing Family Photographs on Your Computer

Vicki’s Note – article from Family Tree Magazine.  This is how I organize my paper files, and is standard for that.  On my computer, I  organize by surname first.   Good point to  add the first name of the father, and sub-folders for each family member.:
Organizing Your Hard Drive: Photo Filing Tips
Struggling with a system to organize your digital photos? Think like a census taker and try this method of filing pictures by head of household.

How to Set Up Photo Folders on Your Hard Drive

1. Navigate to the Photo folder inside the appropriate surname folder. Click to select it.

2. Inside the Photo folder, create a subfolder for each head of household you have pictures of—for example, John Johnson Family or Samuel Johnson Family.

3. Inside each of these family folders, create a folder for each family member: John, Mary (his wife), John Jr., Susie (children) and so on.

Photo Filing Guidelines

Genealogists research our ancestors within the context of their familial relationships, so filing in this manner keeps that at the forefront of our thinking.

  • Men: File pictures under their parents prior to marriage, and under their own name after marriage. For example, John Jr.’s photos prior to his marriage will be in the John Jr. folder inside the John Johnson folder. Photos after John Jr.’s marriage are filed in a new John Johnson Jr. folder.
  • Women: Filed in the same way as records—Susie’s photos prior to her marriage go in the Susie folder inside the John Johnson folder, and you’ll place photos after her marriage in the Susie folder inside her new husband’s folder.
  • Group photos and multiple families: Photos of multiple family members go in the head of household’s folder—you have to navigate there to get to the other relatives’ folders, after all. But suppose you have a picture of both the John Johnson and Samuel Johnson families around the Christmas tree. What to do? Duplicate the photo and save a copy in each of the respective families’ head of household folder.

More help organizing your family photos and research from the experts at Family Tree Magazine:

Numbering Systems for Genealogy Family Trees

Numbering Systems for Genealogy Family Trees

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn

(SGS) Stateline Genealogy Sorter

May 31, 2017

Numbering systems were used more in the past for keeping track of generations in family trees.  This was the only way to keep generations of families straight on hand-written forms, family pedigree charts, and for recording in books.   Once software tracking became possible, most of the numbering, sorting, and tracking of people became more automated.

People new to genealogy have not had to know how to do any of the various numbering methods.  There are times that using a numbering system might help.

I do not know much about these methods, and had to look a long time to find any information about how to use them.

I do know that on Legacy software, the RIN numbers, automatically assigned to each person, can change.  They are not important for organizing except for the computer to keep track of individuals.

Some of the most popular numbering systems are: Ahnentafel (Sosa-Stradonitz Method), and the Register, NGSQ, Henry, d’Aboville, Meurgey de Tupigny, and de Villiers/Pama Systems.

I have used the Ahnentafel numbering system while filling out pedigree family charts.  It is very handy, and makes an easy tracking system, once you understand it.  I have even gotten to a second page of the 5 or 6 generation family pedigree charts.

Ahnentafel, also known as the Eytzinger Method, Sosa Method, and Sosa-Stradonitz Method is the numbering of ancestors beginning with a descendant. This system allows one to know an ancestor’s number without looking at the list and allows one to know an ancestor’s relationship based on their number.

The number of a person’s father is the double of their own number, and the number of a person’s mother is the double of their own, plus one. For instance, if the number of Sam White is 10, his father is 20, and his mother is 21.

See more about how to do that and other numbering systems:

Genealogy Numbering Systems (National Institute) –



Organizing Your Genealogy Stuff

Vicki’s note – article by Vanessa Wieland, Family Tree University about a webinar by Paula Stuart-Warren.


Conquering the Chaos,

Organizing Your Genealogy Materials


Take a Little Time


Researching our family history can turn up a lot of paperwork…and that’s a good thing. But how do you keep that data from overwhelming your research? Try this: Set aside five minutes every day to organize your work. Clear your workspace, file all those digital downloads into the appropriate folders and set your goal for the next session. Learn more organization strategies with our live webinar tomorrow!

Use Historical Details to Tell a Story

Ancestor's Story

When it comes to your ancestors, the details are what makes their story come alive. Do you know what movie or play was showing at the time? What songs they were listening to on the radio? Historical events and places create a background that will add color and context to their story, and can provide insight into what they were talking about. It can even provide clues to finding more records. Learn more…

Lay Down the Law


Judy Russell says, “To understand the records, we must understand the law.” We don’t have to go to law school but looking into the local laws where your ancestors lived will reveal what records exist and their contents. That can open a lot of avenues in your research, including how to access the records and answer questions about your ancestors you wouldn’t have thought to ask. Learn more…

Conquer the Courthouse: Know Before You Go


It’s perfectly permissible to wait until you get to a courthouse and then ask where each record you want is housed and how far back it goes. But it’s not the most efficient approach. The records may exist at another location, which can be a hassle for those with limited time or transportation. Use online tools and digitized or microfilmed records to free up more time at the courthouse to dig for obscure or hard-to-find records. Learn more…

The Early Bird Gets the Worm


Learning new research techniques and tools pays dividends and there’s no better way to develop your research skills than with a conference. D Joshua Taylor will present on Legal Traditions in Colonial American Genealogy, plus, you’ll discover Things to Purge and Save with Denise Levenick. There’s still a lot more to come, but don’t wait too long to sign up! You don’t want to miss Early Bird registration.


EXCLUSIVE from Thomas MacEntee: Save 15% on NEW Legacy 9.0 Family History Software

Vicki’s Note – Well it finally is here – the new Version 9 update of Legacy genealogy software to keep track of your family history searches.  There is a free version available also. 

I bought Version 8, and like it, when I have time to do my own family genealogy.  And Thomas MacEntee has come up with a special discount, if you want to buy the enhanced version of Legacy 9.   Thanks Thomas.  I also suggest buying the CD as well as the download.  

Try the free version (see link below).  I found the enhancements worth paying for the paid version of Legacy 8.  I think that the new “hinting” feature (super leafs!) itself is going to be worth getting the upgrade of Legacy 9,

I cannot wait to try the other features.  They are amazing, and just upped the competition for other software providers.  Be sure to click on the link below to see details on the new enhancements.  I knew that they were working on this, but I am one joyous genealogist to see what fun is in store for me with all of the unexpected wonderful new features!


EXCLUSIVE from Thomas MacEntee: Save 15% on NEW Legacy 9.0 Family History Software

by Thomas MacEntee

April 18, 2017

Legacy Family Tree has just released Version 9.0 of its amazing genealogy software – you can save 15% via
 Legacy 9

Legacy 9.0 software for genealogy and family history research has just been released with amazing new features. Check out the new features you’ll find in the highly-anticipated new version of Legacy Family Tree Software:

  • Hinting: Legacy 9 sifts through billions of records from the key websites –  FindMyPast, FamilySearch, GenealogyBank, and MyHeritage – for new information, pictures, and stories of your ancestors. As you add to your tree, Legacy 9 begins the search – automatically!
  • Reports and Charts: See trends in your ancestors’ medical history with the new Cause of Death charts. Expand your genetic genealogy tools with the new X‐DNA color schemes. Get everyone involved at your next reunion or family gathering with Family Tree BINGO – play with cards of your ancestors, descendants, or a mixture. You can also now see your tree at a glance in the Family Dictionary.
  • Searching: One‐click access to your ancestor’s Find A Grave memorial. Create a list of people in your tree with or without Find A Grave IDs.
  • Online Backup: You’ll never worry about losing your data again. In addition to backing up to your hard drive, a thumb drive, or a DVD, you can now backup your Legacy to the Legacy Cloud. It also makes transferring to a new computer a breeze.
  • Stories: Preserve the stories of your ancestors or stories of your own. The new Stories tool lets you  record, organize and print multiple stories for any of your ancestors.
  • Hashtags: Create unlimited hashtags to describe your ancestors. Then search for or print a report of everyone who shares that hashtag. You’re no longer limited to 9 tags. Call them anything you want – #civilwar  #DNAtested  #farmer  #ProvenAncestor  #BrownHair
  • Compare 2 People: Researching two same‐named individuals? Having difficulty differentiating two John Smiths in the same place? The new Chronology Comparison report puts them side‐by‐side, color codes their similarities and differences, and helps you determine if they could be the same person.
  • Color Coding: Legacy’s popular color‐coding system has been expanded. Now enjoy the ancestor color coding in both the Index View and Name List, making it simple to know what part of your tree you are looking at.
  • And dozens of other enhancements: Digital pictures are now auto‐sorted by date. View all 9 tags in the Name List. Two additional  custom toolbar buttons, and much more . . . .

The upgrade price, if you currently have Legacy Deluxe, is $26.95. For first time buyers, the price is $34.95 for the download version of Legacy 9.0 Deluxe. Click here and use promo code thomas15leg at checkout and save 15%! To take Legacy 9.0 Standard for a test with a FREE DOWNLOAD, click here.

Click here for more information and to upgrade your current copy of Legacy or get the new version – via Legacy Family Tree

Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Photographs in a Family Tree

Photographs in a Family Tree

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn

SGS – Stateline Genealogy Sorter


My family collaborated on creating a 6-generation family tree including photographs. Our main motivation was to get something for our Mom (Daisy Bennett Ruthe) to enjoy.  She has been having dementia for several years, and wanted a picture of each person, so that she could remember who each one was, and who belonged to who.

My sister Chris used a great on-line photograph book-making program, , to make family memory books. She photographed my (second) wedding and made a book for my husband and I.  (Look for promo discount codes online for Mikescamera).  Mom doesn’t know that she will be getting a book soon also.

The program that Chris used for the photograph family tree is Aperture, but she is not sure Apple still supports it.

Another (genealogy fan) sister, Melodie, and I helped Chris with the dates and names of the 6-generation ancestors.  A third cousin ( DNA test respondant!) sent me several family photographs so that we could add more faces for our ancestors which we did not have in our photography collection.

Chris put in different silhouettes for any ancestors that we did not have photos for.  This is the top part of the large sheet, which Chris had laminated.  I did not include any living relatives in this photo (3 more generations.)


                                                          Our Mom, Daisy, is here   

                                                                  and here. 


Daisy was happily surprised, “Just What I needed!”  She had a great time re-discovering all of her family/ancestors, and her grand/great-grand children.  It literally took me a couple of minutes before I could take this photograph.  My camera phone was balking, and I had to reboot the camera before it would work.  Mom was still pointing out folks.

Chris insisted that we had to get this project finished and get it to Mom asap.  She was  right.

I have been away from work and too busy to post on my BLOG lately.  My Mom has been in the hospital for observation due to her having visual hallucinations.  The diagnosis is not final yet, but it looks like a more severe form of dementia.  As POA, I will be even more busy with helping her.

The good thing is that I have been able to spend lots of time with her, and am writing down all of her Daisy Stories as she tells us her memories.

Don’t wait.  Always let your people know that you love them, and record their stories.




Famicity Kickstarter campaign is officially open

Vicki’s Note – Read more about this completely new way of sharing your family history with immediate family members, (and third cousins, etc, that you find with DNA testing!) More details about this private, family-oriented social media platform are in my January 17, 2017 Posting, &  this Press Release.


“Famicity: Record,Cherish, and Safeguard Your Family History
Even with today’s digitally connected, social media-centric world,
staying in touch with your family can actually be more difficult than ever.
Famicity changes this.
Famicity is a social network platform that allows you to share
cherished family memories–from the distant past to the present
–simply and privately, with all your relatives.
It’s a living record of your family at your fingertips,
and it’s coming to Kickstarter.
Famicity is designed for the collection of family memories.
There are no feed clogging ads, political articles,
or otherwise superfluous posts like on Facebook and other networks.
Famicity is also designed to protect, manage, and continue your
family’s legacy, no matter where you are in the world.
You can share photos, videos, and precious moments
with your entire family with privacy and a peace of mind.”


Press Release: Famicity Kickstarter campaign

is officially open

Lisa Louise Cooke_s Genealogy Gems

I am happy to let you know that the social media platform company that brings family history sharing practices to life, known as Famicity, has officially launched their Kickstarter campaign at
As I mentioned in my previous email to you, Kickstarter is a website that allows start-up companies to gain support for their ventures. In this case, it offers genealogists a way to become early adopters of this ground-breaking new service, and secure membership at a substantial discount.
The following link is to a press release outlining the wonderful features of this private, family-oriented social media platform. I hope you will share the news with your organization, community, and most importantly, your family: Famicity Press Release
If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them or put you in touch with the right person at Famicity who can do so.
Lisa Louise Cooke
Wishing you and your organization all the best,
Lisa Louise Cooke
Author, Lecturer, and
Producer of The Genealogy Gems Podcast

Nontraditional Family Trees

Vicki’s Note – Article from Family Tree Magazine:



Nontraditional Family Trees

Expert answers on recording ex-spouses and stepchildren on your family tree.
A reader asked, “I’m confused. Do I put the names of divorced relatives on a family tree chart if they have biological children on the chart? If the descendant remarried and had children with another spouse, do I list them separately with the descendant?”
The answer depends whether you’re putting together a family tree for research purposes or for another reason, such as a decorative display.

For genealogy research, you’d record all this information, but not on one chart. On your five-generation ancestor chart, you record only your biological ancestors—parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. No aunts, uncles, cousins or siblings. Spouses or partners who aren’t your ancestors aren’t listed, either.

That means you’d put your mom’s biological parents on a five-generation chart even if they divorced and remarried other people. Also, because no siblings are listed on a five-generation chart, you don’t have to worry about any half- or step siblings your mom may have.

You’ll record siblings and other spouses on a family group sheet (also available on for each family. Here, you write the parents and children of a nuclear family; this form also has spaces to name each parent’s previous or subsequent spouses. If your grandmother was widowed before she met your grandfather, you’d make two family group sheets for her: One for your grandmother with her first husband and their children, and another for your grandmother with your grandfather and their children.

You may be thinking that five-generation charts aren’t very adaptable to blended, adoptive and other nontraditional families. In a purely genealogical sense, ancestors are biological parents, grandparents, etc., whether or not they lived with their children. But if you want to trace your adoptive or step family, you can find charts designed for nontraditional families, such as our adoptive family tree. You also can record people on a traditional five-generation chart, though we recommend clearly indicating the step or adoptive relationships.

If you’re filling out a decorative family tree for display or a baby book, rather than one for your personal research, how you handle relationships is really up to you. We do recommend that to prevent confusion for future family historians, you indicate relationships clearly and/or also keep a five-generation pedigree chart with biological relationships.

If you’re designing your own tree, you can use dashed or colored lines (similar to those on a type of family map called a genogram) to indicate various types of relationships.
Whether you’re breaking through brick walls or just getting started, has resources for every genealogist.

How to Organize Your Family Photos

Vicki’s Note – Facebook posting from 1-19-2017:

How to Organize Your Family Photos


Even those of us who aren’t genealogists usually accumulate a lot of photographs over the years. Some of them end up in albums, others are scattered in digital folders, shoe boxes, and even empty drawers. Genealogists gather even more photos than the average person, through inheritance, gifting, sharing with other genealogists, and a sense of needing to photograph nearly everything to document special and even average family moments for future generations. Taking photos and accumulating them is an important part of genealogy, and it is easy to do. What is not so easy is organizing them. Yet, if you don’t organize them, the identities of those in the photos may be lost to time, and the photos themselves challenging to find when you want to look at certain ones.

There are many different ways of organizing family photos, and you really should do what works best for you. The two most important things to remember are to always label the photos and to keep them organized in a sensible way, usually by category and date. If the photos are physical ones, you should label them on the back with a soft-tipped pen that is marketed as being safe for photographs. If they are digital photos, typing in a name for the photo file will do it. Make sure you include the names of everyone in the photo, their positions in the photo, the place the photo was taken, and the date it was taken. If the photo is from a special occasion, indicate that in your labeling, too. Never neglect to label your photos.

When it comes to organizing them, you have a lot of choices at your disposal. This is the method I use, and it allows me to always be able to find any photo I need quickly and easily, be it a digital photo or a physical photo.

Organizing Physical Photos

I use acid free albums with plastic sleeves for each individual photo. You should never use the old albums with adhesive backing or any album that requires you to glue or tape in your photos, as this can damage them over the years. Each photo is labeled appropriately on the back. I organize the photos by date and by family branch.

I’ll dedicate one album to one branch of the family, then put photos in them in chronological order, starting with the oldest ones, working up to the newest ones. I do this with the general photos that don’t commemorate any specific event or activity. In the back of the album, or in an entirely different album, I organize the photos for that family branch by event type, in chronological order from oldest to newest. Some albums have many clusters of “event” or “activity” photos in them.

Once the photos are organized in an album, I type up a label for the spine of the album indicating the family branch, the years covered (if I had to make more than one volume to keep all of the photos), and the events included (for event or activity photo albums). That way, I can easily read the labels to see what albums contain which photos, and can grab the album I need and flip to the photo or photos I want without any searching required.

Organizing Digital Photos

Organizing digital photos is similar to organizing physical ones, except you do it on your computer with a variety of labeled digital file folders. I create a master folder for each family branch for which I have digital photos. In each master folder, I put sub-folders. I also distinguish between contemporary photos of people I know, and ancient, ancestral photos. Contemporary photos have sub-folders indicating the individual or group of individuals whose photos will be going in those sub-folders, as well as the years the photos in the sub-folders cover. I make additional sub-folders within the sub-folders for photos of special events or activities pertaining to that person or people. Sub-folders for individuals or groups of individuals will go in their master family line folder. All photos are named beginning with the date the photo was taken (or approximate date), who is in the photo, and where it was taken. Sub-sub-folders for events and activities will have those events and activities in the folder names.

For ancient ancestral photos, I do the same thing, except I also include sub-folders for photos of genealogical documents. For each master family line folder, I include sub-folders for photos of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and certificates, military records, newspaper clippings, census records, land records, and any other genealogical documents for which I may have photos.

If I have one main ancestor for a master family folder, I also make sub-folders for branches of that main ancestor’s family. These master folders can accumulate hundreds of photos if you have done a lot of work on the family line. For example, I have a Moneymaker line I’m researching. I’ve been able to trace it back to the original German immigrant in the late 1700’s. My photo organization of the digital photos for this family looks like this:

  • A master folder named Moneymaker Family
  • A sub-folder for the original German immigrant, labeled The Luis Moneymaker Family
  • Within the Luis Moneymaker folder, I have sub-folders for each of his 7 children, each labeled with their name, such as The Jacob Moneymaker Family
  • Within the sub-folders of Luis’s children, I include sub-folders of their children, and so on, down to the present day Moneymaker family
  • Within the sub-folders for each person, I include sub-folders for regular photos, organized in the same way I organize and label physical photos
  • The sub-folders for each individual person also include sub-folders for all the types of different genealogical documents I have pertaining to them

You’ve got to sometimes click-through a lot of sub-folders to get what you want, but once you do, all you have to do is look through the dates on the photo names, going from oldest to newest to find exactly what you want. You can find what you’re looking for quickly, and no photo ever gets lost this way. Your photos are labeled and organized in a way that makes sense and makes even a single photo among hundreds simple to locate any time. Be sure to back up your digital photos and their folders and sub-folders to one or more external hard drives and keep at least one drive away from the house, so your photos won’t be lost if your computer is broken or stolen. You’ll always be able to get them back again. Back up each time you add new photos, and use the off-site hard drives to back up what you’ve collected at least twice a year, or more if it’s convenient for you.

As you accumulate more photos of both the digital and physical kinds, just label them appropriately and add them to the proper album or digital file folder and/or sub-folder. Do it as soon as you get them, and you’ll never have an accumulation of photos to organize again. Just get them organized once, then organize as you go. You will enjoy your photos more, your research will be made easier (especially when it comes to sharing photos with newfound relatives), and future generations will thank you for doing it, as you are creating wonderful heirlooms that will mean something to the generations of the future, because they will know who is in the photos and the significance of each one.

This is just one method of many for organizing photos, but it works really well for me. It will work for you, too.

Working in the cloud

Vicki’s note – this is a Posting from Professional genealogist Michele Simmons Lewis on how to share genealogy work between (your several) computers with Cloud storage on-line. Dropbox could also be used by 2 different people to share/edit the same family tree.

I use both Dropbox and Legacy (started with a free version).  Legacy is a software organizer for international genealogy which helped me make sense of the immense amount of information that one quickly gets doing research on family histories. Legacy has an affiliation with The Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) so their main focus seems to be facilitating searching family history (part 0f their beliefs) vs. pure profit.  Turns out that on-going support (and “free”,  frugal me)  was a good reason for me to choose Legacy as my software.  ( discontinued support/farmed out their family tree making software last year.) I have long since upgraded to the (low cost) paid version that was on 1/2 price sale, with free updates since.

Legacy has immense capability for even the most intense genealogists, and can be complex but more exact and encompassing than family trees.   The sourcing is more thorough, and that’s a good thing if you are serious about doing good research.  Even the basic free version has lots of bells and whistles.  Version 9 will becoming out soon, if you want to wait.

Michele is one of several main support commentators on the Legacy User Group on Facebook that reply with instant, precise, helpful answers to many Legacy software use questions and general genealogy practices. “The Legacy User Group Facebook Group is a place for all of our Legacy users to share ideas and to help each other.”  It quickly got more than 11,000 followers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Working in the cloud

Several people have asked for information about how they can share their data file between two computers using cloud storage.  We see this question come through technical support all the time.  I am specifically talking about Legacy but this should work for any genealogical database program that you use.  As a matter of fact, Evidentia is specifically configured to save to Dropbox. Evidentia isn’t a database program per se but it is still a very popular genealogy program.

I will use Dropbox as an example since most people are familiar with this one but this will work for any of the cloud storage servers.  I personally use OneDrive.  The way Dropbox  works is there is a file folder on your hard drive that sync’s to the Dropbox server.  If you have more than one computer then Dropbox will keep the files on both computers sync’d.  All three locations will have exactly the same files.  For example, I have a desktop and I have a laptop.  Both are sync’d to Dropbox.  If I add a file to the Dropbox folder on my desktop, Dropbox will automatically upload that file to the Dropbox cloud server and in turn automatically download it to the Dropbox folder that is on my laptop so that all three places have the identical information.

In Legacy 8, your data file is normally saved to the Documents\Legacy Family Tree\Data folder (in previous versions this will be C:\Legacy\Data).  Instead of saving your data file there you will save it to the Dropbox folder.  Simply move your family files there.  Your family files will have .fdb extensions.  You will also want to move your Media files there as well.  If you have Legacy 8 this is easy because you can use the Gather Media tool and you will not lose your media links.  I would have them in a single folder named Media.  You will also want to change the file paths in the Options menu so that Legacy knows where you want to put things. Go to Options > Customize > 6. Locations.  I would also send my backup files to Dropbox.  To do that all you need to do is go to File > Backup File and change the file path on that screen.  If you use Dropbox for other things you might want to be a little more organized and label your folders like this

Legacy Data Files
Legacy Media Files

or however it makes sense to you.  For those Legacy users that know what the user files are, do NOT put your user files up on Dropbox because Legacy is programmed to look for those in the Legacy folders on your hard drive.  If you put the user files in the Dropbox folder Legacy will not “see” them.  Both your desktop and laptop will work off of the user files on that specific computer.  If you don’t know what user files are then you don’t need to worry about this at all.  If you want both computers to have the exact same settings then you can copy the user files from one computer to the other.  Personally, I would never bother doing this.  I would just set each computer up.  It isn’t a big deal.

Now that you have it set up you are ready to go.  There is one VERY important thing you must remember.  You cannot have the file open on both computers at the same time.  Why?  Because if the two versions are different, and both computers sync to Dropbox, then you risk corrupting your file.  The proper way to do it is to have Legacy open on only one computer.  When you are finished on that computer close Legacy.  You will now need to wait until the file has completely sync’d which means it is has been uploaded to the Dropbox server and it has been downloaded to the second computer.  This can take minutes or it can take hours depending on several factors; the size of your file, the speed of your ISP and the speed of the Dropbox servers at that moment.  Dropbox will tell you when everything has been sync’d.  There will be a Dropbox icon in your tray at the bottom of the screen.  If you hover over it you will get a message that says, “Up to Date.”

Copyright © 2015 Michele Simmons Lewis