Genealogy Do-Over – Week 2 Cycle 3: 10-16 July 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 2 Topics: 1) Setting Research Goals, 2) Conducting Self Interview, and 3) Conducting Family Interviews

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Previous topics in the Genealogy Do-Over:


Topics: 1) Setting Research Goals, 2) Conducting Self Interview, and 3) Conducting Family Interviews

As we move into the second week of the Genealogy Do-Over, and since we’ve tackled the first week’s topics, I want you to take yourself back to when you first became interested in genealogy and family history. Were you a teenager like me who watched the mini-series Roots on television? Did you have a family history related assignment in high school or Sunday school? Or did you just hear others in your family discuss ancestors and you decided to do some research?

This week you are back at square one. Back where you started. But you have more knowledge and access to more tools than that first time. And you’re going to heed the same advice you would give any other newcomer to genealogy: start with yourself.

Sit down and record what you know about your own history (birth, marriage, children, religious rites and sacraments, etc.). Then move on to your relatives. I realize that this time you’re at a disadvantage: some or many of your relatives to whom you had access for information are now no longer here. Still, take time to do these interviews and you might be surprised at the results.

And once you’ve recorded information, you’ll set your initial research goals based on that information.

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Conducting Self-Interview

There are many different formats to use for your personal interview including a simple written narrative, a bullet point list of dates and places, or a family group sheet. Make sure you take your time and record the important data related to:

  • Birth
  • Marriage(s) and Divorce(s)
  • Religious events including bar/bat mitzvahs, baptisms, confirmations, etc.
  • Children

An additional option is to actually write out your own mini-biography in your own “voice.” You can then extract the data (next week) for your research log and you’ll have a nice memento to pass on to your family.

  • What I Plan to Do: For Cycle 1, I created both a personal interview and a family group sheet for myself and my parents. The interview is important – it is a “brain dump” of what I know in terms of dates, places etc.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: Select an interview format that works for you and enables you to extract the necessary information to launch your initial research next week.
  • Modified Participant Options: Review any copies of family group sheets in your files and check them for accuracy.

Conducting Family Interviews

Once your interview is done, create a list of aunts, uncles, cousins and other relations who would have information about your parents, grandparents and other extended family members. Again, the format and method of interviewing is up to you. Some options:

  • Family Group Sheet: If you have a fillable form (print or online) have your family members complete as much information as possible about their own immediate families.
  • Record an Interview: With today’s technology it is easier than ever to record an interview. Consider using Skype and one of the several Skype recording programs. Or download an app for your iPhone or Android device. Yes, you will have to transcribe or record the information, but what can compare to preserving the voice of a family member as they describe their family’s history?

Setting Research Goals

While I have listed this topic first in this week’s series of topics, you really need some initial data (from the interviews above) before you can set research goals. Very often people set goals such as “trace my family’s Irish roots” that are too broad or are based on family lore or assumptions.

Set goals based on information from initial interviews; don’t worry if you believe some information is incorrect. Next week we will create research goals to prove or disprove data points. Create a simple list such as “verify birth location for _________” or “determine parents of _________.” Next week these goals will form the start of your research plan.

  • What I Plan to Do: I actually did Family Group Sheets for myself (easy since I have no children) and both my parents. I also spent time on the phone with some of my aunts asking questions. I took notes because they weren’t comfortable being recorded on Skype – I ALWAYS ask permission when I interview a family members. It is important that they understand how the information will be used and how it will be recorded.
  • All-In Participant Options: Use paper, Evernote, OneNote, or any program to track your research goals.
  • Modified Participant Options: If you have existing lists of research goals, verify that they are in line with any family group sheet data. Create new goals based on new insights after reviewing the data.

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That’s all for this week. Well, except for one question that has been bugging me lately: what resource do you use for a family group sheet? Do you use an online version? Do you print one out? Share your resources on family group sheets over at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook group.

Next Week: Week 3, Cycle 3 – 17-23 July 2015

  • Tracking Research
  • Conducting Research

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.

Using Etsy for Genealogy

Etsy is a popular commerce website for purchasing hand-crafted items; did you know that Etsy can also be used to assist in your genealogy research?

I started using Etsy several years ago when a colleague told me she purchased some hand-colored fill-in-the-blank genealogy charts which she then completed and gave as gifts to family members. I had known about Etsy, sometimes called “Ebay for handmade goods,” but I really never thought I could find genealogy-related items, let alone find assistance with my genealogy research. I’m here to let you in on some Etsy secrets when it comes to researching family history . . .

Genealogy-Related Gift Items on Etsy

To locate a variety of gift items, simply search for the word “genealogy” on the Etsy main page. What will you find? Here’s a recent sampling:

  • Family tree prints that can be customized, either by the vendor or by the purchaser
  • Surname wall hangings in bright colors and frames
  • Family tree jewelry including pendants and bracelets
  • Peel-and-stick wall decal family trees – you provide photos and text
  • and much more!

etsy city directory

Genealogy Research Books on Etsy

What I didn’t expect to find on Etsy was a variety of books to assist me in my research.  By adding the word “books” to my genealogy search, I located old city and business directories, published family history compilations, genealogy society quarterlies and more. Today’s search for “genealogy books” lists over 300 such items just waiting to be discovered.

Don’t Forget Surname and Place Names!

In addition to using the terms “genealogy” and “family history,” I spent quite a while browsing items related to specific surnames and place names that I research. I found artwork by a woodcut artist Dorothy McEntee, as well as many postcards and maps of Lowville, New York, one of my ancestral towns. I never would have thought of using Etsy for locating these types of items . . . I’m glad I decided to take a chance on a new resource!

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Check out Etsy today and see if it can’t help with some of your research!

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

MyHeritage: Breakthrough Feature! Global Name Translation™ Technology to Drive Family History Discoveries

The amazing tools for genealogists and family historians just keep coming from MyHeritage! Check out the new Global Name Translation Technology!

[Editor’s Note: We just received the following press release from MyHeritage . . . and it looks like they’ve added another outstanding feature to their set of tools for genealogy research!]

MyHeritage Launches Breakthrough Global Name Translation™ Technology to Power Family History Discoveries

New technology eliminates language barriers to enhance family history research and preservation

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah – July 8, 2015: MyHeritage, the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history, today announced the launch of Global Name Translation™, a new technology to help families break through language barriers in the quest to uncover their past. The technology automatically translates names found in historical records and family trees from one language into another, in very high accuracy, generating all the plausible translations, to facilitate matches between names in different languages. In addition, a manual search in one language will also provide results in other languages, translated back to the user’s language for convenience. This is a unique innovation not offered elsewhere, useful for anyone interested in discovering their global roots.

There are many immediate benefits for users. For example, people living in the USA with Russian roots previously had to search for their ancestors in Russian to maximize their chances of finding pertinent information. The new technology will now accept searches in English, automatically increase their scope to cover Russian and Ukrainian as well, and conveniently translate all results back to English.

The new technology also enhances the acclaimed MyHeritage matching technologies to bridge across language gaps. For example, If a user from Greece with a family tree in Greek, is related to a user from Israel with a family tree entered in Hebrew, MyHeritage will be able to connect them, automatically matching between names in the ancient languages of Greek and Hebrew, and show the two users how their family trees overlap, leading to exciting family reunions like never before.

“Global Name Translation™ helps overcome the Tower of Babel syndrome”, said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “The world is getting smaller and more connected, yet information from other countries is still mostly hidden from those who don’t speak the language. It’s our mission to develop the best technologies for facilitating family history discoveries for everyone, everywhere. Therefore we set an ambitious goal of taking down one of the most formidable walls that hampers research and discovery – the difficulty of translating names from one language to another. We’re proud to have pioneered this solution and thrilled with the value that it will provide to users around the world.”

MyHeritage has developed this technology using original research, advanced algorithms and based on its massive multilingual and international database of 6 billion family tree profiles and historical records. The technology covers first names and last names and is able to tackle not only names encountered in the past but also new names it has never encountered before. The technology is generic but also utilizes extensive dictionaries built by MyHeritage to cover synonyms and nicknames. Therefore a search for Alessandro (Alexander in Italian) will also find “Саша” which is the Russian form of Sasha, a popular nickname of Alexander in Russia.

The first version successfully translates names in between English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. The next version currently in development will add Chinese and Japanese, and additional languages will follow.

To take advantage of Global Name Translation™ technology, create a new family tree for free on MyHeritage and enjoy the automatic matches or use MyHeritage’s SuperSearch search engine for historical records.

About MyHeritage

MyHeritage is the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history. As technology thought leaders, MyHeritage is transforming family history into an activity that’s accessible and instantly rewarding. Its global user community enjoys access to a massive library of historical records, the most internationally diverse collection of family trees and ground-breaking search and matching technologies. Trusted by millions of families, MyHeritage provides an easy way to share family stories, past and present, and treasure them for generations to come. MyHeritage is available in 42 languages.