Tag Archives: preserving family history

The Hawk Took It! – Other Travelers Part 4

The Hawk Took It! –

Other Travelers Part 4

(Part of the Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter


Well this is a new one for me.

We know all of the usual hazards in preserving and maintaining family history paperwork and electronic records while searching for our genealogy.  How many different ways can we lose important historical resources?:

  • computer crash
  • flash drive defect/aging out
  • our older relatives losing memory
  • those that know passing away without sharing
  • the library/house/historical society/architectural site/religious site/courthouse was burned or flooded or got bombed or torn down
  • paperwork got lost
  • the handwriting or photographs faded away
  • family members that have it, won’t share
  • deleted or thrown away by someone who thought it was just old junk
  • the baby tore it
  • the dog ate it
  • the hawk grabbed it and flew to the top of the neighbor’s tree!!

And the last one really happened to our speaker today before she got to the Library.

Kim Caswell did a great presentation on “Funeral Practices of Our Ancestors“.

She had a full program based on years of research, all saved onto her USB flashdrive which was protected from the morning mist in a ziplock bag.  Kim also had it in another bag with a battery operated stuffed cat that “mewed” when you moved it.  This was going to be a joke gift for her sister at a quick coffee time before the program.

Kim put the bag onto the top of her truck, while she went back in to get her laptop.  Meanwhile, the neighborhood hawk hearing the “cat” mew as Kim put down the bag, swooped down to snatch the bag and flew to the top of the neighbor’s tree!!

True story.

As Kim said, “I can’t make this stuff up”.

So as you face your usual genealogy search challenges, remember this to get some perspective, and a little chuckle, that at least you did not have your research snatched by a hawk!

I can’t even believe that Kim’s presentation could have been more awesome.  Her back-up was very informative and seemed complete to us, and even had photos.  Kim is determined to get her bag out of the hawk nest when she can.

Good luck Kim, and thanks for being a good sport.  We have fun at the Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library!

Remember to always back-up, off-site of hawk snatching locations.







Family-History Storytelling

(Vicki’s note – Monday, July 25, 2016 article from Family Tree Magazine.  Here’s my tip for remembering life experiences – write down all of the good and bad things that you remember smelling from your childhood, or from a life situation.  It makes for an easy way to get a lot written in a powerful way.  Note – there is a reason people burn their memoirs written to purge their powerful feelings.):
To Write or Not to Write: Respecting Privacy in Family-History Storytelling

Posted by Diane Haddad

When you start writing your life’s stories, you may wonder what to put in and what to leave out. Should you mention that time you got arrested, or when your best friend betrayed you? What about your difficult relationship with your dad? What if telling your stories will reveal someone else’s secrets?
Writing your life story can raise questions about how to be fair and honest, and what stories of your life should keep private. Story of My Life workbook author and guest blogger Sunny Morton has three quick things to consider when you start writing your family history:
Everyone has a right to privacy. Writing about your life doesn’t obligate you to share all your stories. Chances are there are some events, relationships, failures or disappointments in your past you’d rather not write about.

While you should consider acknowledging all life-changing events (even if you choose not to dwell on details), you don’t have to write about everything. For painful events that prompted major changes in your relationships, career, living circumstances or way of life, a passing mention—along with the results—may be sufficient: “After my divorce, I moved to Seattle, where my sister lived. I wanted to leave painful memories behind.”
Honesty is key. You don’t need to tell everything—but everything you tell should be true. Of course, you won’t intend to write falsehoods, but it can be tempting to downplay your role in a big family argument or skip over the nice things your “worthless” baby brother actually has done for you. Nobody is all good or all bad, including yourself. Try to write about everyone fairly. In doing so, you may discover some new truths in the process of writing: how you felt about someone, what you learned from a situation, how you feel now.

Consider including at least some of these insights in your life-story writings. You may think it’s obvious what the past taught you or how you might feel, but that may not be the case. And your insights or life lessons may turn out to be the most valuable part of sharing your memories (for you and others).
Think twice before revealing someone else’s secrets. Many who write their life stories have to decide whether to divulge confidential or sensitive information about someone else. Should you write about a relative’s addiction, debts, temper or marital problems? Consider the answers to three questions:
First, is this your story to tell? If it didn’t significantly affect your life, it doesn’t really belong in your life story.

Second, what are your motives? Revenge, or an unfortunate but real need to set the record straight?

Finally, who may be hurt by your revelation? Even if the person with the secret is dead, that person may have living loved ones who may suffer.

After considering these questions, you may still see the need to reveal confidences, but you may approach it more sensitively.
My new book Story of My Life guides you through the process of deciding what stories to tell, telling them (including lessons learned) honestly, and focusing on what’s most important. You’ll find hundreds of memory prompts and reflection questions about the people and events of your past.

Story of My Life is available as an easy-to-use softcover workbook and as a writeable PDF—just type your answers and save them in a preformatted document you can print or share as you like.

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Indiana

(Note from Vicki – I was reminded about this wonderful genealogy resource. Allen  County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

–  It will accept your genealogy research if your family does not want it after you pass – remember to put your  genealogy work into your will – using form ‘My Genealogical Will For Preserving My Family History”.

– It has some great free databases available on-line, see link below.

-It might be worth a road trip to do research on their in-house databases there, or take one of their many workshops.)

.Allen  County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.


Allen County Genealogy Center

Our Databases

Need help? Take the next step with your research.
Contact: Genealogy@ACPL.Info

About Our Databases
Our Goal is to make your search successful
Our databases are part of the unique collection of print materials, microtext, online resources, and staff expertise that comprise the great research experience in The Genealogy Center.

The Databases and Files have been compiled by the library and its various volunteer corps or have been given to The Center to post on the web for free use by all. Each database can be searched separately. Please be certain to read the details about each database, including search tips, for the best searches possible. On The Genealogy Center main page, in the Discovery box, there is a place for you to search all of our databases at once.

Databases & Files (which you can access online at http://www.genealogycenter.org/Databases.aspx
Browse a list of our databases
Microtext Catalog
African American Gateway
Allen County, Indiana Resources
Family Bible Records
Family Resources
Genealogy Center Surname File
Indiana Resources
Native American Gateway
Other States Resources
Our Military Heritage
Community Album

On-Site Databases
Databases for in-house use

The On-Site Databases are data files the library licenses from outside vendors. These databases are free to use when in The Genealogy Center but are not accessible remotely.

African American Heritage
African American Historical Newspapers
Archives Unbound: Evangelism in Africa: Correspondence of the Board of Foreign Mission, 1835-1910
Archives Unbound: The Civil War in Words and Deeds
Archives Unbound: The War of 1812: Diplomacy on the High Seas
PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)
Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive


Allen County Preservation WeekAllen County Visit

Free Family Genealogy Charts

Here is a great website from Cyndi’s list that may have the family chart(s) (and other genealogy forms)  that you need:


I have not found the chart that I am looking for yet. I have been looking for a particular type of family genealogy chart which does not seem to exist, so I will be creating one.  My family is making a unique family history book that will be mostly photographs of ancestors and descendants.  My sisters and I are right in the middle of the generations that will be depicted, and we will have a chart in the middle of the large (12″ x 18″ ??) book that opens onto both pages showing ancestors and descendants of our parents.  My Mom’s ancestors will be on one side of the book, at the top of a page, and my Dad’s ancestors on the other side of the book on the top of that page.

My best way to describe the family chart that I am looking for is an angel-shaped chart (without the head.)  It will have 6 or 7 generations of ancestors as a wing from our Mom’s family, and another from our Dad’s family.  I don’t like the fan charts, as I don’t like standing on my head to read the names and dates, so their ancestors will be shown as 2 landscape hourglass wings.

The descendants will be split on both sides of the bottom of the pages, with (my) three siblings on one page and four on the other side.  Then the grandchildren, and great grandchildren will continue as the “skirt” of the angel. (Although – looking at  it, I may have to make it a two/five split to balance, because my own individual family has the most grandchildren/ great grandchildren.)  I’m not sure if it will include the descendant’s spouses yet; but I will include the dob, dom, dod, and places of birth for the ancestors, so that I can show the countries of origin.

It will look something like this, with the spine groove of the book in the middle, open to the center of the book. (I did this on Excel.)

Angel Family Chart

There will be more generations back, even if some of the names are blank. I want to get back far enough to show the diversity of the countries that our ancestors came from- Germany, Ireland, Scotland, French, Welsh, English, and (??)

So there will be bigger “wings’ and less “skirt”, unless we take too long and need more room for descendants.  The book will be (self) published years before that, but maybe I will leave room for more descendant names to be written in later as some of the grandchildren have not yet had children that are in our (unplanned near) future.

Happy Easter to all of you, and enjoy celebrating your families on this holiday, and everyday.


Protect an Overlooked Genealogy Treasure – Emails

April 14, 2015

Protect an Overlooked Genealogy Treasure

by Marian Pierre-Louis

Email picture

When it comes to recording, preserving and conservation genealogists have impressive skills. Genealogists will scan or photograph original documents for later review. They will enter their data in a genealogy program – and even cite the sources! They will put family letters into protective sleeves and precious photos into acid free boxes. But there’s one area that genealogists often overlook.

When was the last time you saved your email? While all email can be considered important, let’s just consider the email related to your family history. This could be correspondence with a distant cousin or sending a request to an archive for a document. It could be a group collaboration on a sticky genealogical puzzle. Or it could be correspondence with a genealogical professional located in your ancestor’s home town.

The Problem

Many people feel that saving email in their email program is good enough. That’s a dangerous game to play. Email programs were never intended to be database repositories. Many of them even have a size capacity limit. After that limit has been reached the programs can get glitches, crash or stop working. For instance, when using Outlook 2003 or 2007 the size limit of the file (a .pst file) is 20 GB. That may seem large but if you are emailing photos or videos you could reach capacity very quickly. The size limit for Outlook 2010 is 50 GB but from what I’ve read online 5GB is a good practical working limit for any of those programs.

While you may not experience software crashes with Google Mail (Gmail), you will encounter mailbox size limits. Most users have the standard free 15GB limit. Schools and businesses may have 30 GB limits. Items in your spam and trash folders count toward your limit. Beyond that you will either have to delete email to make more room or have to purchase extra space.

Even if your inbox doesn’t reach capacity there are other threats to the safety of your email. In my case, my HP laptop overheated (a known issue) and the hard drive crashed not once, but twice. Some of my data was salvaged but much of it was lost.

Over the years I have been negligent about saving my email properly. I did make backup copies but over a 10 year period sometimes even the backup copies get lost.

The Solution

So what is the solution? Save individual emails to another format. Using the “Save As” feature in Outlook, you can save individual emails as html, text (.txt) as well as some Outlook message formats. My recommendation is to save the email in .txt format to your genealogy directories. Txt is the most basic format and most easily read by other programs. It is the least likely to become obsolete due to software version changes.


Gmail users have a harder time saving their email beyond using copy and paste. It is now possible to save your Gmail in the .mbox format (see here for instructions). This will save all of your emails to a single file (which is great for backing up!). If you want to save individual emails to your genealogy folders, you’ll have to use the cut and paste method.

Another thing you can do (I would do this in addition to saving individual emails to your computer) is to copy and paste emails to the notes area for the relevant ancestor in your genealogy software program.

While some correspondence, as mentioned earlier, is very obvious and should be saved, there are other emails hiding in your inbox that are even more important. These are the emails you exchange with your parents, siblings and extended family.

Sometimes these emails are very short such as “when was Aunt Louise born?” and its corresponding answer. Others are important gems hidden in the midst of day to day chatting. For instance your mother might mention the weather being windy today and then mention that time when the family gathered together during the 1938 hurricane.

These are the emails that I’ve lost. I’ve emailed my uncles with quick queries or received unsolicited stories and memories. But my day to day life was too busy to stop what I was doing to save the emails to a different format on my hard drive in an organized manner. One of my uncles has since passed and all my email exchanges with him are lost.

There’s no teacher like experience! I now carefully consider each email I receive and quickly save it to the correct family directory. When saving emails be sure to capture the date and to and from fields Hopefully you will have the chance to learn from my experience before you make the same mistake yourself.

Do you have a different way to save your family history related email? Tell us about it!

Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.


(from comments – you can also save to Evernote.)