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I write all of my family history books using Register Reports. These reports were developed long ago by the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS). They have been proven time and again as the clearest method of communicating from whom and how one descends.

But there are other items I include in my family histories and I will mention a few. Not all items discussed are used in every book, but a certain amount of decision making occurs in an attempt to make the book both informative and interesting.

I have identified some 52 grandfathers. A book is comprised of the highest level (generation) of a group which are related and descends until it reaches my own surname of Bourland. Thus I generally do not repeat data in any book appearing in another. A book can thus contain several (perhaps 5 to 7) surnames or at times 25 surnames.

The first section of a book is often a diagram of the families in the form of a Descendants Chart or Fan Diagram. If the descent is more complicated I will draw a diagram using colors to illustrate the descent of a surname until it changes by marriage, at which point the color changes. This helps the reader visualize the interrelationships more easily. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

A Table of Contents is appropriate and since all of my books end up in PDF form, tabs can be made for additional inclusions such as maps, a bibliography, and other somewhat extraneous items which nonetheless are related and interesting.

Next can come a history of the town or area from which a family originated. My father’s family remained in one Kentucky town for 200 years, so its history was significant. Here might be discussed the town’s formation, the industries and certain historical events and people.

In one case my relatives helped settle one town and as it enlarged settled several other nearby towns and in turn married into other surnames. Each of those towns might be discussed in terms of their history. In other cases research may have identified a particular section of the country from which we immigrated, and or the ship used to transport us may be known and described.

Because some families remained where they were, others moved one or more states and some were clearly westward bound, there may be a discussion included of how multiple families impacted numerous states. While such a discussion could be included in a Note of each person in every Register, the impact can be greater if moved to the front of the book.

Historical acts are sometimes included. For example when Thomas Hooker left Massachusetts and went to Hartford (where I lived for 35 years) I included a description of that trip over the ‘Connecticut Path’ used previously by Indians and now is generally U.S. Route 84.

Last to be mentioned might best be described with a what and why. In one book I included a rather long description of the War of 1812. Few know today much about that war and yet many of my ancestors were impacted by it. So I included a chapter in one particular book.

Any document such as a Register Report in Word can be saved as a PDF. There is software available which allow you to add a page or pages of PDFs to each other. Therefore, you can add diagrams, Tables of Contents and other writings to what is the essence of your effort represented by the Register Reports.

Hopefully the above will offer some suggestions of use to you as you create the legacy you hope to leave behind from your research.

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Here are some comments I copied from certain genealogy-related sites, where the blanks refer to genealogy software:

“I had my sister-in-law excited about getting ___, but when she discovered that ______ doesn’t interface with NFS (New Family Search) it was a deal breaker. Now I jealously watch her as she easily transfers information to and from her genealogy program to NFS.”
“I’m all for adding Internet connectivity to _______. Of course, FamilySearch is not the only site online that offers online connectivity. At least two other major sites offer public APIs for connecting to their data …….”.
What these two, as many others, are asking for is the ability to download from the Internet directly into their genealogical database.
I believe this to be inherently wrong-headed. Here’s why:
  • • Most data on the Internet has no Source attributions nor notations;
  • • Much on the Internet is factually incorrect;
  • • Most people have their own style of writing which is not your style;
  • • Many people do not include data such as county, middle names, nicknames, etc;
  • • Downloading data upon data will not place that data in chronological sequence.
There are two major points I would make as a result.
First. If your work is to be your legacy, it should be in your style, not in the style of various people. Therefore, either copy the found data or dump your findings into a separate database, print it out and rewrite/retype in your style and in chronological order.
Second. Accuracy in genealogy is more important than a court of law. Just think, if you conclude you are related to George Washington based on inaccurate data, your descendants will believe and perpetuate that myth until someone remarks, “You’re crazy”. Not a nice legacy to leave.


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On December 6, 2010 Google brought forth its promised trove of books available at their Internet site. What’s a trove? In Google’s case some 3 million books, many of which are free public domain works.

I have spent some time wandering about the site and already have found a half dozen books having promise for my own research. The trip through the site is easy. The results are books of interest which can be downloaded as PDFs and stored on your own systems – tablets, flash drives, hard drives, or whatever.

Here’s what you do. Go to http://goo.gl/85COh.

Key in “Genealogy” in the box on the upper right. You can also select Free Genealogy.

Click on “Free only” on the upper left. (or, review those for sale before hitting Free).

Review the “Free only” books and find those of interest.

Click on one, let’s say for illustration Foster Genealogy, Part 1,

When Foster Genealogy, Part 1 comes up, click on “Read on your device” on upper right,

Then either read on a Smartphone, a Laptop, eReader or at the bottom click on Download PDF under the Adobe logo.

Continue with your research acknowledging in your Source record that the book was found on Google eBookstore.

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Are you spending hours wondering what presents to give for Christmas? Is the recipient too young for this, too old for that ….. and how could you possibly impact his or her future life meaningfully beyond a few hours?

Do you have one of the following on your list:

  • A person close to or in retirement with no hobby beyond golf,
  • A person facing the “empty nest” problem,
  • A person who enjoys a challenge but has not found one,
  • A person who loves history,
  • A person who loves history yet can’t connect their ancestry to that history?

Here’s a thought.

Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbys in the world. It is a hobby deeply connected to history. A hobby requiring logic, research and organizational skills. It inevitably allows one to meet and discuss with many new friends and cousins a matter of interest to both – their ancestors or methods of research.

Most important, it is a hobby which allows one to leave a meaningful legacy for children, grandchildren and generations beyond. Memories go  soon; the written word remains forever.

So ….. why not give a copy of the book for sale on this web site entitled “Getting Started in Genealogy, or, How To Leave a Legacy and Have Fun Doing So”.

The impact on the recipient could be enormous, could involve the entire extended family and as said, leave a meaningful legacy.

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Within this Blog are numerous posts which address certain aspects of writing a book based on your genealogical research. You can either scroll through or else the search” command to locate them. We all have different ideas on how to present our findings, these are just mine.

The list includes:

  • “Ages” Report in Genealogy Software
  • Constructing a Book in PDF
  • Leaving a Legacy
  • How Much Writing For a Book?
  • What Becomes a Book?
  • Include Historical Notes in Your Family History
  • More on Writing a Family History
  • More Thoughts on Writing a Family History
  • Additional Thoughts on Writing Family History
  • Let’s Create a Family History Book
  • How To Create a Family History Book

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When you are seeking help from others in researching your ancestors, there are several principles you should bear in mind.

First, clearly indicate you are willing to share that which you have. Genealogists generally speaking are very giving. They share easily. So be prepared to give, and to receive.

Second, assuming you have genealogy software (and you should), what both of you should share is a Register Report WITH NOTES and SOURCES included. By Notes I would hope you and your correspondent have captured biographies, news articles, anecdotes, relevant  historical observations and so forth associated with each person. That is, your best attempt to flesh out the life of an individual. Dates and location of birth, death and burial are relatively easy to find; Notes are much tougher to come by. Data without a Source has very limited use or believability. Without a Source, it is just a hint, not a well-considered fact.

Third, sign your e-mail or letter with a signature which includes the following: Your full name, your town and state, your telephone number and an alphabetized list of all the names you are researching. The telephone number is because some of us prefer spoken to written words and telephone calls today no longer cost $3 to $4 a minute. A conversation often leads to thoughts and questions the written word finds hard to convey.

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I continue to get the question in the classes I teach which goes like this: “I am overwhelmed and do not know where to start. I have (1 to 4) boxes of stuff retrieved from the old family attic, so where do I begin?”

First of all, I say you are lucky. Most people have yet to be told about the find in the attic, other have a sibling who forgot s(he) took the boxes, and many will never locate such a serendipity.

Next I say, read either in my book or on the internet how to record Source records. (I will give two examples shortly).

Then remove the first item out of the first box and put a sequentially numbered label on it if it is a piece or several of paper. The sequential number should be of the form 0001, which allows for 9,999 Source items. If it is a book or bedspread or otherwise clumsy item, then take a piece of paper, apply the label there, and describe on the paper what the item is and where you intend to locate it. For the regular piece of paper or book-replacement numbered 0001, insert it into a legal sized manila folder and do the following: Put the following on a log you will maintain, or prepare an entry in your genealogy software which looks like that below:

0050, Marriage Certificate, C. R. CARDWELL and Emily C. GRAHAM on March 15, 1876.  Item 240 in  the Madisonville, Hopkins County, KY Vital Records Department. The marriage was solemnized by Isaac H. Henry. Attested by C. R. Cardwell and Harvey Graham (father of bride). Groom age 22; bride age 22.  Marriage to occur at Bride’s Home. Witnessed by William Bailey and Joseph Cardwell (brother to groom).

0095, Book, Some Early Pioneers of Western Kentucky, Their Ancestors and Descendants, by Helen E. Hart Peyton, Anundsen Publishing Company, Decorah, Iowa. 1990, Second Edition, found in this Compiler’s Library.

I strongly advise one to buy genealogy software early in your research, and equally important to learn how to enter Source records in that software.

Now, pick up the next item in Box 1, label it or a piece of paper as item 0002 and follow the procedure.

Now if the item is a photograph of totally unknown individuals, just set it aside for later reflection. Do the same for any item you deem useless until you are better acquainted with what are in fact very useful in genealogy, such as Wills, Propate Records, Divorce Degrees, Marriage Certificates, Death Certificates, Probate Inventories, Obituaries, Newspaper articles, Birth Certificates, Deeds, Land Warrants and the like.

Just continue with your serendipities.

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