Saturday, December 16, 2017

Additional Photos of December's Meeting

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December Meeting - Show Your Legacy

by Heather Murphy

We had a wonderful evening at our December meeting sharing pieces of our past and present.  At the beginning of our meeting we were presented with the 2018 TCGS Board, from left, Jim Macica - President, Art Kelly - Vice President, Margaret Dunn - Treasurer, (not pictured) Dan Metzger - Secretary.  We are grateful to them for their service.

There are several opportunities for additional members to be more involved in the functioning of the society.  We are looking for someone to fill the Membership Chair as well as assistants to other positions.  Oftentimes something comes up, such as an out of town trip or an unexpected illness, and our main volunteers could use an assistant to help with their load or in case of the previously mentioned situations.  If your could share a little bit of your time, please contact a member of the board to discuss how your hands could be of service.  You can find contact information here.

We had time for socializing and enjoying the many displays presented by our members regarding their family history or hobbies.  I have included a few of the wonderful displays below.

Dennis Armstrong presented a stitch work piece by Johanna Nilsson.  The small picture is of Johanna and some of her family members with the stitchery hanging on the wall on the left in her home.

Mary Kay Walker provided a lovely display of various purses and photographs of women.

Hula is an activity that Sandra Floberg has enjoyed.  She made nearly all of these items on display.  She explained that Kumulipo (the green book on the right) is a hula that tells the story of the world from its creation.  In one of her hula classes she was instructed to create a hula telling her own story beginning at her earliest known ancestor.  That project is what began her interest in genealogy.

Thank you to everyone who brought items to display.  It was a wonderful way to share a little bit of ourselves, and our families, with each other.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Timelines: How to Get More Out of What You Know

by Heather Murphy

Whenever you start researching an individual or family one of the most helpful things to do is make a timeline, or chronology, for them. By creating an outline of what you know you can gain ideas of where to search for the additional information you need and identify conflicts with the information you already have.  Timelines are especially useful with families that have not lived in the same place.

To create a timeline, look at the person/family you are researching and extract the dates, places, and people involved and put them into a spreadsheet or a table.  You can also write it out on paper, but inserting rows when you learn new information is more easily done in an electronic format. Using the table method makes it very easy to scan and interpret the data, in comparison to program generated timelines.

Sometimes you will start with very little about your ancestor when you begin, other times you will know a lot of information, and timelines help in either case.  You can better understand the migration of a family and where to look for records when you include all the data you have that would indicate where a family lived at a certain time.  This includes events in the lives of children, spouses, parents, and siblings if those events are likely to help in understanding the location of the family.

You can create as many columns as fit your needs, and sometimes it may vary depending on your specific reason for creating the timeline.  As you see below, this example includes the date of the event, location, identified the event, the person the event was for, other people of interest in the record, and the source of the information.  You can add rows to the table as you learn more about the family.

2 Feb 1836Bohemia/CzechBirthPeter DvorakDeath Certificate
Jan 1862Bohemia/CzechBirth - childJoseph Dvorak1900 U. S. Federal Census
abt 1865Bohemia/CzechBirth - childMaria DvorakPassenger List
abt Apr 1868Bohemia/CzechBirth - childFrank DvorakPassenger List
2 Dec 1868New York, New YorkArrivalPeter, Anna, Joseph, Maria, FrankBarb, Kath, Josefa, Wenzl Urban of Bohemia; Also a Jos Urban listed close in list, but from UngasteinPassenger List
28 May 1870Boscobel, Grant, WisconsinBirth - childAmelia DvorakFamily information
abt 1872WisconsinBirth - childJohn DvorakFamily information
24 Jul 1875Boscobel, Grant, WisconsinBirth - childAnna DvorakFamily information
4 May 1878Muscoda, Grant, WisconsinBirth - childJosephine DvorakFamily information
15 Aug 1884Brule, South DakotaBirth - childAnton DvorakFamily information
21 Aug 1888WisconsinBirth - childCharles DvorakFamily information
abt 1890IowaArrivalPeter Dvorak1915 Iowa State Census
29 Jul 1890Lourdes, Howard, IowaBuried - childFrank DvorakFind a Grave
12 Feb 1898Howard, IowaMarriage - childAnna DozarkTo John Viebrock. Dau of Peter and Anna (Urban). Witnesses Henry Viebrock and Josephine DozarkIowa Marriage Records
16 Jun 1900Saratoga, Howard, IowaCensusPeter, Ann, Charlie, Anton1900 U. S. Federal Census

By making a timeline for Peter Dvorak's family you can see his migration from Bohemia to the United States, through several states, and finally ending in Iowa.  By identifying what we know we can more easily look for inconsistencies in the information, identify questions that need answered, and get clues of where to look for additional information.  Below are some of the clues and questions gleaned from this timeline:

  1. In the 1870 Census Peter's family would most likely be living in Wisconsin.
  2. In the 1880 Census they could be living in either Wisconsin or South Dakota.
  3. Do birth records exist for these counties and states to verify family information?
  4. Is there any evidence to corroborate that Anton was born in South Dakota?  It seems abnormal that the family would move from Wisconsin to South Dakota, then back to Wisconsin and then down to Iowa within ten years and should be verified.
  5. Continue to look for Peter in Iowa in records past 1910, such as census, death, and cemetery.
Most genealogy database software, such as RootsMagic and Legacy, will also create timelines for you.  Often it is a feature that is not included with the free version.  It is most effective if you have been entering additional events, such as censuses and the buying/selling of land.  

Legacy Family Tree - Chronology View creates a timeline with the facts that are attached to your individual.  As you attach sources more facts are added to the timeline for that individual.  There are a few options for customization, such as showing Family Events (births of siblings, etc.) or Historical Insights (national elections, major earthquakes, etc.), and the ability to add any additional events. - Fact List (timeline)

Timelines are a great tool for identifying what you know and visualizing how your data works together.  They make it easier to recognize conflicting information and to identify where to look for additional information.  Timelines are one more tool to help you be a more organized genealogist and to coax more clues out of the information you already have.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ideas to Share Family History With Younger Generations at Family Gatherings

by Heather Murphy

With the end of the year comes opportunities to gather together generations of family.  Why not take advantage of that to share with your living family the people who came before them?  Remember to keep your ideas simple and brief to not overwhelm family members with too much information.  Pick out little pieces of interesting information to share and don't explain distant relationships in detail because most won't be able to follow you.

Family Memory Game

Print pictures of your ancestors, either on cardstock or regular paper and then paste the pictures onto cardstock.  On another set of cards, put the name of the ancestor and a fact about their life.  Use interesting facts about them and try to stay away from using dates and places.  Examples could include "grew up on a dairy farm", "came to the United States from Germany when he was a baby", "loved to grow flowers."  Turn the cards upside down and lay them out in a grid.  Players then take turns flipping over cards trying to match the picture with the name and fact that correspond.

A variation of this game is to only include the pictures of couples.  The goal is to match couples together.

Family Name Word Search

Make a word search with family names or other words that have significance to your family.  This website is free and does not print any advertising with your word search other than a small line referencing the website.  You can enter your own title, any instructions you want to include, and a list of words you want to use.  Simply type the words in the box separated by a space.

There a lot of options to personalize your puzzle, but don't let them overwhelm you.  If you don't want to change anything after typing in your words, scroll toward the bottom where you will find a large green button that says "Generate Word Search."  Another window will open with the puzzle.  You can then print or save your puzzle.

Question Ball

On a medium sized children's ball or beach ball write questions with a permanent marker that help you learn new things about each other.  Players get in a circle and toss the ball to someone.  The question closest to their right thumb is the one they get to answer.  You can get question ideas here or here.  Be sure to include multiple generations!

While genealogy is a lot of dates and places, the most memorable part are the stories.  Be ready to share little moments of your ancestors' lives, and your own, to help younger generations develop a curiosity and desire to gradually learn more about the family that came before them.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The David Rumsey Map Collection

by Heather Murphy

As genealogists, knowing where things happened in the lives of our ancestors is vital to being able to learn more about those events.  Another great feature of combining technology and genealogical research is the ability to not only find current maps of the places we research, but also historical maps that were created closer to the time period in which we are searching.  The David Rumsey Map Collection is an amazing collection of maps that is worth using to gain a sense of place for your research.

The David Rumsey Map Collection, a private collection donated to Stanford University, is a collection of over 150,000 maps from around the world covering a time span mostly from the 16th century to the present.  The website for the collection,, contains over 80,000 images.  Viewers have several different options how to interact with the images, such as ordering prints or downloading files (when copyright allows), compiling slide shows or media groups, and overlaying maps to compare between them.

While there are many different viewers available, a good place to start is to use the LUNA Browser.  On the homepage look for a link under "Quick Links" on the right side of the page.  Read the brief information on the page including a few suggestions on how you can use the images and some tips on how to use the LUNA Browser.  Then click on the brown button near the middle of the screen titled, "Launch LUNA Browser."

Within the LUNA Browser is the ability to search the images.  In the upper right-hand corner is a search engine.  On the left side of the screen are categories that can filter your results.  It is sometimes beneficial to use both the search engine and the refining categories.  Also along the top of the Browser are options titled Collections, Explore, Create, Share, Embed, Print which you can explore, though not every option is available for every image.  It is amazing how many ways viewers are encouraged to use and share these beautiful images.

You can find more than maps showing geographic boundaries.  There are railroad maps, waterways, cartoon maps, advertising maps, atlases, and more.  Below is a page from a county atlas which included drawings of homes and sketches of individuals.

Combination Atlas Map Of Yates County New York. Compiled, Drawn and Published From Personal Examinations and Surveys. 1876.
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

It allowed me to created a Media Group, in which I collected a few images of Washington in different decades.  I then chose the Embed option, and it gave me code to create the image box below.  Clicking on an image will take you to the website where you can take a closer look and save or share the image.

The features of the David Ramsey Map Collection are too numerous and detailed to cover in one blog post.  Take some time to peruse through their holdings.  I guarantee you will find some amazing maps to complement your genealogical research.

Monday, October 16, 2017

TCGS 2017 Seminar - Understanding Your DNA

by Heather Murphy

We had a wonderful seminar on Saturday presented by Diahan Southard.  Diahan thoroughly explained to over ninety attendees how DNA results can help with genealogy research and also their limitations.  We learned the differences between the various testing companies, how to analyze DNA matches within and use them to help with specific questions in our family trees, and even had a hands-on workshop.  Thank you to the seminar committee for putting on an excellent event!  Diahan does on-line consulting and has several DNA quick guides available for purchase at

Seminar attendees

Heritage Books provided a wide selection of books for purchase

Diahan's booth was always busy

Thanks to Art Kelly for a wide selection of items for the silent auction

Friday, October 13, 2017

Share the Wealth

Have you read a blog post that you have found interesting or useful?  Now at the bottom of each blog post you can chose popular social media sites and share with your friends what you have learned.  Go ahead and help others to learn more about researching their family history.

Finding Place Names: Using GNIS and GNS Databases to Identify Places

by Heather Murphy

Have you ever come across a place name in your research you aren't sure still exists? What about a post office name given in a census that isn't the main town? A town in a country you know little about? Looking for cemeteries near your ancestral home? The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) and NGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) can help with each of these.

"The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is a Federal body created in 1890 and established in its present form by Public Law in 1947 to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government." They have links to two main databases, one for domestic names, Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), and another for foreign names, NGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS).  Both databases also include historical places which no longer exist.

After going to their homepage, select "Search Domestic Names" to search for places within the United States. Search parameters include feature name, state, county, and feature class. You can enter as much or as little data depending on your goal. You can enter a feature name alone or narrow it by state and county. If you want to have a list of the cemeteries in a specific county, select the feature class as cemetery and specify the state and county.

Below are the results for cemeteries in Benton county, Washington.  In contrast, a search of cemeteries in Clay County, Indiana had fifty-seven results.

Clicking on one of the entries will bring up essentially the same data as the table, but on the right side of the screen there is box titled "Mapping Services". I have had the most success with ESRI Map or ACME Mapper, but you can look through all the options to find which one you like best.

This first image is from ESRI Map, looking at the location of Cottage Hill Cemetery, Clay county, Indiana. Both ESRI and ACME have similar options for map styles.   ACME's map gives you the ability to mark several locations, which is useful to compare different locations, but it also has an advertisement in the bottom corner of the map.

"Map" view using ESRI

"Map" view using ACME

"Topo" view using either

Notice how each map view provides different information and perspectives, so look through all the different map styles for your location.  I have found the topographical maps to provide interesting information about an area, though keep in mind these do not necessarily depict the area as it would have been when your ancestor lived there.  In this map I can see abandoned train lines, mines, water features, buildings, schools, cemeteries, and much more.

If you are interested in finding a place outside of the United States, select the "Search Foreign Names" option back on the main page or go directly to the NGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) text based search page.

You can then select the country (or not if you don't know which country to select) and then enter your place name in the "Name:" field.  For this example I am searching for "Vysocina."  I believe it is in Bohemia or Czech Republic, but since I am not sure what country it is in I did not select a country.

I now have a list of four places, all within the Czech Republic (Czechia), that have "Vysocina" as the official place name or as a variant name.  The map options for Foreign Names is not as useful as the one for Domestic Names.  The only options here are for the latitude and longitude of the place in Google Maps or Mapquest.  This can be problematic if the name is for a region because often that boundary does not show up in the supported mapping programs, but at least it gives an idea of what part of the country that place exists.

The Foreign Names database may not have as many features as the the Domestic Names database, or even a general search engine, but it might come in useful if you are having difficultly locating a certain place and you aren't having luck elsewhere.  Also, it is useful to know if several areas within a country had at least a portion of the same name, as seen above, so you don't assume that the first place that comes up in search engine results is the only place by that name.

Knowing the places our ancestors lived is so vital to finding their records and these databases are a couple more tools that can help us better understand the places we need to know more about while doing our research.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Have I Been Here Before? How Research Logs Keep You From Going in Circles

by Heather Murphy

With shaking leaves and record hints showing up in many websites it is easy to hop from link to link looking for more records.  How often do you take a couple extra minutes to note the record collections you search so you don't find yourself looking at the same thing a few months later?  Research logs aren't one of the "fun" parts of research, but if you spend a small amount of time creating them you can save yourself time in the future.

Research logs don't need to be anything fancy.  They can be handwritten, in a spreadsheet, a word document, or part of your genealogy software program.  The main elements they should contain are the date you looked at the record, the name of the record, where you accessed the record, who you looked for, and what information you found, including negative results.

PDF file
The FamilySearch Wiki has a page for Genealogy Research Forms.  The forms are organized by the
provider and then subcategories.  The first section is by FamilySearch and after scrolling down a little there is a Research Log in .pdf format (that has type-able fields) and an Electronic Research Log in .doc format.  Down further on the page there are a few additional options for research logs from other providers, such as Ancestry or Family Tree Magazine, most of which are documents that can be printed and filled in by hand.

DOC file

As much of your research is probably done on the computer, having an electronic research log can reduce the amount of time you spend notating.  Simply copy and paste the identifying information from the website into the corresponding field in the log.  Another benefit of using an electronic log is the ability to use a search feature.  If you want to know if you have checked a particular source it is easy to have the program search for a particular word or phrase without needing to scan through all your entries.

Remember to include sources that did not have the information you needed, considered negative results.  Also make entries for record collections you considered checking, but decided they would not provide the needed information.  For example,  I want a death record in 1898 in Bartholomew county, Indiana.  When I look at Ancestry's Indiana sources I see "Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920."  However, by looking at the description of this database I see that it only "includes sixty-seven of the ninety-two counties," and does not include Bartholomew county.  I would make a note of that in my research log.

Sometimes the anticipation of finding what you are looking for leads you to move as fast as you can from source to source.  Try slowing down a little bit to make a record of where you have been and what you have done and it will pay off in the long run.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Research Plans: A Tool to Avoid a Muddled Head and Lost Time

by Heather Murphy

Have you ever gotten up from the computer after researching for a couple hours (or more!) with a muddled head, wondering where the time went...and not quite remembering where you went on your internet researching trip?  Or maybe you have taken a break from your research and can't remember what you were going to search next?  The first tool you can use to solve these problems is a research plan.

Identifying your specific goal, and creating a plan to reach that goal, will help you stay focused.  What is your specific research objective?  What small, manageable segment of your family are you trying to learn more about?  Then, what record types will most likely supply the information you need? The FamilySearch Wiki has several Record Selection Tables that can help you decide which record types to search for a particular piece of information.  In the search box of the Wiki type the country or state you need and "record selection table".  Below are two examples:

You can then further use the Wiki (see the sidebar to the right if you still have the record selection table open) to learn about what records are available for your desired locality, either online or on site.  Make a list of several sources you think would be of benefit, what you hope to find in them, and then proceed to look at the sources, following your outline.  You may come across links to other sources that look interesting, but carefully consider if you should add that item into your plan at that point, or make a note of the resource to look into later.  When you have consulted the sources you outlined, or in the middle of your list if you deem appropriate, consider if you have found suitable information to answer your objective, or if you need to add onto your plan.

Research plans do not have to be complex, but if you provide enough information they can provide an additional benefit of helping you to know where you need to continue your research after stepping away from your project, whether for a day or a month.  It can also be helpful to make notes to yourself along the way of ideas for additional research.


I want to learn more about Nancy, the wife of Zachariah Taylor Casteel.

A simple research plan could look something like this:

Research Objective: Nancy md. to Zachariah Taylor Casteel: obtain death, marriage, and birth dates and places for Nancy.


  1. Every U.S. Federal census possible during her lifetime - birth year and state, could provide an idea of the places she lived during  the time frames of marriage and death, 1900/1910 censuses tell me how many years she had been married, 1900 has month of birth
  2. Death record - death date and place, birth date and place, maiden name to help find birth record
  3. Marriage record - marriage date and place, age, maiden name to help find birth record
  4. Cemetery record - death date, possibly birth date
  5. Obituary - death date and place, possibly birth date and place, marriage information

(These records could provide more information regarding Nancy and her family than I have noted in my plan, but I am focusing on how they can provide the answers to my research objective.)

I would then proceed to learn if these records are available for the time and place I need and then find the specific record collections that will help me.

While it is entertaining to jump from source to source across the internet thinking that the information you seek is a click away, making a research plan can help keep you focused on your goals and help use your valuable time more wisely.