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Ancestry.com has purchased over time many of the databases associated with genealogy, providing much help to our community. Those new to the hobby often build a database within Ancestry and either leave it there forever or constantly download Gedcoms to use in their software on their PC. If you leave it there, I would question whether or not you have thought about an end product of your research.

I would like to offer a perspective on the question. While I appreciate there are many reasons to be engaged in genealogy, my reason and hence this suggestion is directed at what I consider the main purpose for the research – to write a book(s) to leave for your descendants that they may understand ‘from whence they come’.

One would never write a book which jumped back and forth between periods of time; for example some paragraphs on employment in 1990 followed by early birth years followed by schooling in 1970. You would not record Census years in random sequence. One would write chronologically.

Information in Ancestry is added by person as posted or found over long periods of time. So you might think you have everything and then someone finds more. The same with your own work. You start with the Internet, you move to Ancestry, you visit a hometown, you return to a hometown and so forth. What you find varies widely by time period. What you find is often written by many people in different styles and with typos and improper grammar.

Thus, when you enter this data into your own database, it should be placed within the Notes in chronological order. The information should be put into grammatical sentences and separated by appropriate paragraphing.

So I suggest maintaining nothing in Ancestry beyond name, dates and places of birth, death and burial and concentrating on your database at home on your own PC. I would download whatever I find and copy/paste or type in my own style that which I find in Ancestry or elsewhere.

And never ever would I load a Gedcom into my own database, but rather into a specially named database and work from Ahnentafels or Registers to place into my own database. No one writes in my style nor do they have the same purpose as I have designed for my descendants.


It may be of help to some to list the technology I use. However, do not conclude that to become a Genealogist one must have all of these items. You don’t even need a computer, but could go to your local library for the Internet. You could use the local Kinkos for a printer when needed. You could backup with an inexpensive online system. And your computer if you have to have one could be a refurbished one, which all of mine are except the MacBook.

Here is the list:

* Hardware: I have three laptops: Two are Macintosh PowerBook G3s, built in   2000 and still work like a charm. The third is a new MacBook 5,2.
In addition I have a Mac Pro Tower with two screens. With two screens and the ability to drag back and forth, I have in essence a 38 inch screen.
* External storage: 2 thumb drives. Free Agent Drive-250GB.
* Online storage: None
* Backup: Time Machine (free)
* Firewall: Built-in
* Virus Protection: None (it’s a Mac)
* Anti-Spyware: None (it’s a Mac)
* File cleaner: None
* Printer: HP Photosmart C4795 all in one printer, scanner, copier.
* Phone: TracPhone
* Email: Mac Mail, AOL Mail and GMail (all free)
* Mobile Device: Only TracPhone and Laptop
* Music Media: Mac iTunes
* eBook Reader: None
* Browser: Firefox and Safari (both free)
* Calendar: iCal (free)
* Graphics: Adobe PhotoShop, Reader, and Acrobat Pro
* Screen Capture: Shift/Control/4 (enough to buy a Mac for and free)
* Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (free)
*  Office Suite: Microsoft Office
* Blog: WordPress
* Genealogy Database: Reunion


Geneabloggers.com is a most interesting site and one with value. It introduces genealogists to the many blogs which exist to help new and experienced  genealogists with fresh thoughts, techniques and approaches.

The site is run by Thomas MacEntee. A co-author is Gini Webb, an experienced genealogy researcher with one very particular attribute – she was born in Augsburg, Germany, about 50 miles northwest of Munich, and researches extensively her own ancestry in that country. Many of us, including me, could benefit from that experience…. and she is willing to help.

Gini now lives in San Diego and manages her own blog Ginisology. In addition she can be found at:
facebook.com and

I recommend these sites highly.


Several times in this blog I have discussed the need to have and display proof of your research data. ‘To have’ means you have that proof. ‘To display’ it means others can evaluate those proofs and take comfort in the accuracy of your work.

The Proof Standard is:
•    Conduct reasonably exhaustive search
•    Collect complete and accurate citations
•    Analyze and correlate all information
•    Resolve all conflicts
•    Arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

The best book on the subject is Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian, 124 pages by Elizabeth S. Mills.

My most frustrating and personal experience is the following:

According to White, Scott and Allied Families by Emma Siggins White, the famous “Breeches Bible” of William White has been preserved.  This Bible is an edition of the Genevan version, known as the “Breeches Bible” as it used “breeches” instead of “aprons” in Gen. iii, 7.  This Bible was printed in London in 1588, and is filled with records of the White and Brewster families.  According to these records the book was owned by William White in England in 1608, and was brought over in the Mayflower.  It has a record of the birth of Peregrine White, the first child of English parents born in this country.  “Sonne born to Susanna White dec 19, 1620. yt six o’clock morning.”  There are some childish pictures and scribbling in the book, including a caricature of Peregrine, a sketch of a meeting house, and an Indian drawing his bow.  The book was owned in 1895 by S. W. Cowles of Hartford, Connecticut.

Now I need to tell you that Emma Siggins White’s book is hardbound, 346 pages which include many quotes, citations, family crests and numerous family off-shoots, and printed by Tiernan-Dart Printing Company of Kansas City, Missouri in 1920.

And I probably don’t need need to tell you that this was a most exciting find for me.

But here next is a summary of my research, we can even call it proof as the Proof Standard was clearly met, although on the wrong side of the ledger.

Subsequent research proved the Bible a fake.  S. W. Cowles bought it in 1892 from a Manchester, CT bookseller named Charles M. Taintor (who would be a cousin of William White as well as of this Compiler, see the Taintor chapter) for $12.00.  He donated it by his will to a son and it ended up in California with his surviving wife.  She gave or sold it to a lady in Texas by the name of Miriam Lutcher Stark who in turn donated it to the University of Texas.  John B. Thomas, III removed it years later from a book cart in the University Library, became interested and determined it was a fake.  See B737 for the research papers associated with this effort.

Yes, disappointing, but I can hold my head high as the standard has been met. Grandchildren will not perpetuate a myth.


I am a strong believer that we who are interested in, and work in Genealogy need to leave a legacy for our descendants. The legacy could be some notes, some scrapbooks, an autobiography as I have written about, or other items. But the best action we could take is to write a book or books.

I have a cousin who wrote me a most unusual letter when I published a book on our mutual surname. The letter addresses much better than I can the value of a book. The letter follows, click to enlarge:


A major objective one should set for performing family history is to provide a legacy for descendants.Generally this should mean creating a book. In my case I have written several books (see elsewhere in this blog) and the total pages have been about 3,000.

That probably seems like a great deal of writing, 3,000 pages. But if one uses a Register Report from within their genealogical software, that includes an index of people, a list of Sources and certain specifying data such as “Third Generation” and other such.

Now let me demonstrate why this is NOT a great deal of writing. First, one borrows with attribution fromother writings about the person or times; second, one asks living relatives to write their own biography; thirdone adds other interesting historical or similar notes; and lastly, let me demonstrate how the computer writes a great deal for you.

In the illustration below, it is assumed that a database has been created with names, date and place of birth, death and burial, as well as occupation. What you wrote is in BLACK, what the computer wrote in the Register Report is in RED.

As you see, the job of good software is to make one’s efforts easier and more useful. And to answer the initial question of how much writing for a book: A lot less than one may think.


If only I had started into Genealogy before I was 18 ….  or better, if my parents had done so for me. Let me explain with three examples.

First, I was particularly close to and admired my father. Fortunately I asked for and he did write his autobiography. Several years after he died I visited Germany and passed through Koblenz. In World War I he had been stationed there and billeted with a German family with whom he developed a good relationship. However, he failed to add their name and address in his autobiography. Imagine if you will, as I have, had I gone to that home, asked if they remembered my father, and they had regaled me with stories of their time together. What a memory that would have created.

Second, I lived many years in the Hartford, Connecticut area. I probably traveled a thousand times to Boston and spent that many nights there. Long after I had retired and moved south, I found that many of my ancestors had come in the 17th century to Massachusetts. I could have dined at the Wayside Inn instead of a Mariott; I could have slept in Plymouth instead of downtown Boston – well, you get the idea, I could have traveled the same footsteps as my ancestors.

Third, one of my English ancestors bought a regiment of soldiers in the 1790s. He fought with this regiment in Spain, in South Africa and many other places. In 1807 he took his men to Uruguay in South America and there was killed by Maldonado in Montevideo. 176 years later I married a lady who was born and raised in Montevideo. When she criticizes me, just think, I can say “Yes, but your people killed my people in 1807.”

The family history which I have researched has provided intellectual stimulation for me in retirement. What I have done will allow my descendants to better appreciate the places where they live or the places to which they travel.


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