Genealogy Do-Over – Week 5, Cycle 3: 31 July-7 August 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 5 Topics: 1) Building a Research Toolbox an 2) Citing Sources.

Click here to to download this article in PDF format.

Previous topics in the Genealogy Do-Over:

[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 5 posting on January 30, 2015 except for my personal updates.]

Topics: 1) Building a Research Toolbox an 2) Citing Sources

Here we are in the fifth week already of the Genealogy Do-Over and this week’s focus is all about tools: finding and curating online tools to assist with your genealogy research AND understanding the basis of citing sources as a tool to document your research.

* * *

Building a Research Toolbox

For several years I’ve been advocating the following concept: every genealogist should create a consolidated research toolbox filled with various tools such as historical value of money calculators, links to historical newspaper sites, etc.

The reason? Efficiency and increased productivity. Think of how much time you spend looking for a link to a site you saved a week or a month ago? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time looking for ancestors? Or when you need to calculate something – like how much $1 in 1910 would be worth in today’s money, you spend time out on the Web searching for a site to do the calculation. Don’t forget that each time you wander out to the Internet, you are at risk of being attracted by those BSOs (“bright and shiny objects”) and time is wasted!

A genealogy research toolbox can take many forms: a blog, a website, an Excel spreadsheet or even a cleaned-up and organized list of bookmarks:

A genealogy research toolbox can take many forms: a blog, a website, an Excel spreadsheet or even a cleaned-up and organized list of bookmarks.

  • What I Plan to Do: Since I’ve already had a research toolbox for the past three years, I will be reviewing the links to make sure they all work and making updates where needed. I’ll also spend some time online look for new tools to add to my toolbox. Here is the current version of my Genealogy Research Toolbox:
  • “All-In” Participant Options: If you don’t already have a research toolbox, download and review the Building a Genealogy Research Toolbox handout here:
  • Modified Participant Options: Consider creating a research toolbox, especially if your current toolbox consists of tons of bookmarks or favorites that are not very well-organized.

BONUS: Building a Research Toolbox video from RootsTech 2015

This past February, I was honored to present a live streamed session entitled Building a Research Toolbox (you can watch the video below or click here to view). In front of a full house of over 800 participants and with thousands watching live on the Internet, I explain the concept of a research toolbox and how it has helped my genealogy research.

And click here to download the Building a Research Toolbox syllabus for free!

BONUS: Tools to Get You Started

Here are some tools that I recently located while preparing for a Newspaper Research Strategies Boot Camp. They are so useful that I can’t see doing without them . . . so why not have them ready to access in a toolbox?

Citing Sources

True confession: Like many beginning genealogists, I did not always cite my sources during research. I was a name collector. I’ve evolved as my research skills improved and as I took advantage of educational resources. For me, citing sources is not about impressing other researchers or meeting any standards established by others. I cite sources so I can go back and find the original information. Plain and simple. Source citations are the equivalent of a trail of breadcrumbs along my genealogy journey.

So, why do we use source citations?

There are many reasons why a genealogist might want to cite sources while researching ancestors.

  • Establish Proof. Cited material gives credibility to a fact or relationship while proving a connection.
  • Determine Reliability of Evidence. Some sources are more reliable and make a stronger proof. Compare points of evidence based on their source.
  • Track Records and Resources. Easily go back and locate records and their repository. This is effective when the original record or a copy is lost.
  • Expand Research. When encountering a difficult area of research, look for sources that were successful in making a proof and check them again for further information.
  • Discover Conflicts. Locate contradictions in existing research or when new evidence is found.
  • Understand the Research Process. When using another researcher’s work, sources can give a glimpse at how that research was developed.
  • Placeholders. Pick up a research project where you left off by looking at source citations.

How do I create a basic source citation?

A basic source citation has the following components:

Author, Title, Publisher, Locator

For the book Evidence Explained, here is a basic citation:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub Co, 2007, p. 103.

  • Author: Format can be “First Name Last Name” or “Last Name, First Name.”
  • Title: Format can be Title (italics) or Title (underline). Also article titles may precede publication title.
  • Publisher: Format often includes publisher location, name and year published and sometimes appears in parentheses.
  • Locator: Usually a page number or range of page numbers depending upon the source type.

In addition, for online sources you may need:

  • Accessed: List date when source located as in “accessed on March 29, 2009” since online sites are known to disappear.
  • Examined: List search criteria as in “examined for any reference to ‘xyz’.”

Following the Basic Source Citation format above, you will want to add more “locator” information when using records such as census pages, death certificates, etc. and also specify the name of the person(s) listed in the record.

1850 U.S. Federal Census, Lewis County, New York, population schedule, Leyden, p. 84, dwelling 1254, family 1282, line 36, Clarinda PARSONS, digital images, Ancestry ( accessed 16 October 2011); from National Archives microfilm publication M432, roll 523, image 168.

How can I access the citation format templates?

While I have added the source citation templates to the Genealogy Research Log (on the Citation Formats tab), click here to access a list of common citation formats in a Microsoft Word document.

  • What I Plan to Do: I’ll be using the Citation Formats tab in my Genealogy Research Log to build source citations for the research I’ve done in the past two weeks. In addition, as I encounter new record sets, I’ll take time to create new templates which will increase my productivity in the long run.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: If you own a copy of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (either hard copy or digital), read Chapters 1 and 2. Doing so will help you understand how source citations are constructed and why they are so important to genealogy research.
  • Modified Participant Options: If you have cited sources for your previous research, review the cites and check them for formatting and accuracy. If you don’t have a cheat sheet or template to help speed up the process, consider creating a way to use pre-set source citation templates.

* * *

And that’s all I have for this week’s topic of the Genealogy Do-Over. Get ready for next week when we discuss evaluating the evidence that we’ve gathered for our proofs and we’ll look at various online genealogy education options.

Next Week: Week 6, Cycle 3 – 8-14 August 2015

  • Evaluating Evidence
  • Reviewing Online Education Options

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

How MyHeritage helped me with an impossible genealogy brick wall

The best offer right now for MyHeritage - save 50% and make amazing progress with your genealogy research!
Here’s how you can break through brick walls using resources from MyHeritage AND at the same time give back to the genealogy community!

One Woman’s Success with MyHeritage

We recently received the following feedback from a genealogist about her recent experience with MyHeritage:

“I have been researching family history for almost 30 years. I did not think that MyHeritage could offer more clues on long-standing brick walls I had, but it actually did. Their search functions seems to operate differently than the others so I decided to give it a try. Since joining MyHeritage, I have located a branch of my Grandmother’s family in Europe that went missing after the second World War so that was a miracle!  MyHeritage also solved another impossible brick wall for me with more records and newspaper sources. And Smart Matches continues to surprise me !” Magda Maria

Find out what MyHeritage has in store for you and your genealogy research today!

The Genealogy Fairy is a genealogy-focused grants program working to make family history dreams come true!

A Special Incentive – Announcing The Genealogy Fairy

I’ve been very blessed with my success not just at genealogy but also earning affiliate income from various offers such as the one from MyHeritage below. I’ve come up with a way to say thank you to everyone who uses my links for these offers and to give back to the genealogy community.

So I’ve created The Genealogy Fairy and the grant application process begins on August 1, 2015. Here’s a sneak peek at how the program will work:

Each month I’ll take 5% of my affiliate revenues and donate it to various genealogy-related programs. These will include general genealogy society fundraising, special projects and even personal grants to genealogists wanting to attend conferences or publish a family history. So please know that when you shop with links that I post, part of what you spend gets returned to fund worthwhile genealogy programs!


50% Off MyHeritage – Exclusive Deal! Looking for a “winning” tool for your genealogy research? Check out this special deal courtesy of GeneaBloggers!

50% Off MyHeritage – Expires TOMORROW Friday July 31st!

If you are ready to move the next phase of research with your genealogy, click here to get your 50% off deal from MyHeritage. The normal price is $238 USD and you’ll pay just $119.40 for a full year’s access to MyHeritage Premium Plus AND the Data Membership. PLUS 5% of what I bring in goes back to fund projects in the genealogy community!


©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Opportunities 2015 at GenBiz Solutions

Thomas MacEntee of GenBiz Solutions shares his own experiences at starting a genealogy business in the blog series Genealogy Opportunities 2015.

In 2011, 2012, and 2013, I produced a weeklong series of articles related to the business side of genealogy called Genea-Opportunities right here at GeneaBloggers and at Hack Genealogy. This series has attracted quite a bit of attention and I have decided to revive the series in 2015 over at the GenBiz Solutions website.

Here are the links to the previous series:

Genealogy Opportunities 2015 Topics

As in previous years, I hope you will join me and other members of the genealogy community in having important conversations about the professional side of genealogy and including a wide spectrum of opinions.

Instead of appearing at GeneaBloggers as they have in the past, all posts will appear at GenBiz Solutions, my new site focusing on starting your own genealogy business. Leave your comments in the posts or post at your own blog and cross-reference the posts at GenBiz Solutions. I would also love to see the conversation picked up in various genealogy mailing lists and groups on social media – let’s use hashtag #genbiz on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Monday, 27 July 2015: Genealogy – For Fun or Profit? – The focus will be on the different types of genealogy businesses and how you can start your own genealogy business.
  • Tuesday, 28 July 2015: Careers in Genealogy – A look at “traditional” and “unorthodox” genealogy careers with a focus on some genealogists who are thinking “outside the genealogy box,” to carve out their own career paths.
  • Wednesday, 29 July 2015 Genealogy: What Do You Mean It Isn’t Free? – While the perception is that everything should be “free” when it comes to genealogy, in the past three years we have seen phenomenal progress in the willingness of consumers to pay for quality goods and services for genealogists and family historians.
  • Thursday, 30 July 2015: How Do You Make Money in Genealogy? – Most of my colleagues and follows have heard me talk about the “abundance model” I have embraced not just for my genealogy business, but also in life. I will be sharing many numbers related to the first half of 2015: hours worked, revenue, expenses, income and what it all means. I will also try to share the secrets to my success: be nice, be abundant, and be open.
  • Friday, 31 July 2015: Money Changes Everything – Or Does It? – A recap of the series and I will share my insights on what I have learned so far in 2015.

Stay tuned for an exciting week and I hope you will not just follow along, but participate and share your own insights and thoughts if running a genealogy business is important to you.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.