Review: Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews Organize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith – learn how to invest in organizing your genealogy now so you have more time to find ancestors later!

[Editor’s Note: Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher is available in print as well as in e-book format and right now you can get it at a 27% savings, for only $18.99. PLUS if you use promo code SFTTHOMAS16 at checkout, you’ll save an additional 15%!]

Smith, Drew. Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2016, 239 pages.

I thought I was pretty well-organized when it came to my own genealogy and family history research: I have a research toolbox online, I use a genealogy research log, etc. But in his new book Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher, author Drew Smith opened my eyes to new areas that require focus and action when it comes to getting stuff “in order.”

A Well-Organized Book on Organizing

Full disclosure: I know Drew Smith personally and not only is he a good author, but a great guy and someone you definitely want to know in the genealogy world. My first look at the table of contents for Organize Your Genealogy told me right away that Drew is “walking the walk” when it comes to getting organized!

The author has chapters that include Organizing Your Space, Organizing Your Goals, Organizing Your Files and even Organizing Your Learning and Organizing Your Volunteering. Drew understands that the more organized you are, the more time you save and that time can be spent on finding those elusive ancestors.

A Book that Respects Different Work Habits

I’ve always said that one method of organization that works for me may not work for another person. It is much like being on a diet to lose weight: if it is a challenge and works counter to your lifestyle, then you won’t stick to it.

In Organize Your Genealogy, for each area of focus on getting organized, Drew honors that some of us are techies who prefer apps and spreadsheets, while others prefer paper and color coded filing systems. Every type of genealogist can find some new ways to get organized since the author has covered almost every possible area.

Example: I never thought about the importance of keeping my emails and other communications organized. In the Organizing Your Communication chapter, Drew covers labels and tags, archiving, creating automatic signatures and more.

Downloadable Templates

One of the best features of this book is access to a variety of worksheet templates to download including Ancestral Village Worksheet, Five Generation Ancestor Chart, Family Group Sheet and a Genealogy Conference Day Planner. There’s no need to “recreate the wheel” and you can get started organizing your genealogy right away with these tools.

What’s Inside

Organize Your Genealogy features:

  • Secrets to developing the organized habits that will maximize your research time and progress
  • Hints for setting up the right physical and online workspaces
  • Proven, useful systems for organizing paper and electronic documents
  • Tips for managing genealogy projects and goals
  • The best tools for organizing every aspect of your ancestry research
  • Checklists and worksheets you can use to easily apply the book’s strategies

A Sneak Peak . . .

Here are some tips you will find in Organize Your Genealogy[i]:

  1. Organize yourself first. Genealogy is a mental game, but you need to pay attention to both your mental and physical needs to be productive. Keep yourself hydrated and well fed, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. And once you’ve done that, note at which time of the day you’re most productive and start building your genealogy routine around it to set yourself up for success.
  2. Keep the most important items close. When organizing your physical and digital workspaces, make sure you’re positioning frequently used items (such as important atlases or a particular ancestor’s file) close to you. This will help you cut through the clutter to find the items or files you really need during research.
  3. Turn your research into a gift. Need more motivation? Create birthday, wedding or anniversary gifts from your hard-earned research (such as photo albums or decorative family trees). In addition to giving yourself purpose and a concrete deadline, making a gift will also show your appreciation for family and friends and maybe even get them hooked on genealogy.
  4. Make specific goals. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. Before you dive into research, make a list of specific things you hope to accomplish and brainstorm some ways you can do so.

Here is the book trailer for Organize Your Genealogy[ii]:

Conclusion

You can never be too rich or too thin. Or too organized. Organization skills are the new timesaver in genealogy. A well-organized genealogist knows where he or she “left off” on the last round of research and can achieve amazing results in finding ancestors. Organize Your Genealogy has everything you need to get started – you just need to take the first step!

About The Author: Drew Smith

Drew Smith is a librarian at the University of South Florida in Tampa and has an extensive career in education, information technology and genealogy. He has written numerous articles for national genealogy magazines, especially on using technology for genealogical research. He is the co-host of The Genealogy Guys Podcast, named one of the best genealogy blogs or websites four times by Family Tree Magazine. Drew is the co-author of Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques (McGraw-Hill, 2013) and author of Social Networking for Genealogists (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009). He lives near Tampa, Florida, with his husband, George, and a number of cats.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

[i] Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher product description, Shop Family Tree (http://www.shopfamilytree.com/organize-your-genealogy, accessed 10 June 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.

[ii] Organize Your Genealogy Book Trailer (https://youtu.be/fJoNE8_UVlE, accessed 10 June 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.

 

 

Review: Military Record Retrieval Service from Twisted Twigs

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews the Military Records Retrieval service provided by Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Genealogy.

[Editor’s Note: make sure you check out the special offer at the end of this review – a special discount for fans and followers of GeneaBloggers on the Military Record Retrieval Service from Twisted Twigs!]

Professional genealogist Deidre Erin Denton, through her website Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Genealogy, offers a Military Record Retrieval Service that can actually save you time and money! I am always interested when someone in our industry develops a new product or service so I contact Deidre for more information. As a result of our conversations, not only did I learn more about her records retrieval service, I also received a few sample pension files AND I managed to put together a discount for fans and friends of GeneaBloggers!

If you don’t know Deidre or her involvement in genealogy, click here to read her story. I love the fact that she saw an opportunity not just as a business owner, but also as a way to help genealogists get the records they need at a lower price and on a faster timeline!

Military Records Retrieval Service – How It Works

You can order a US Civil War Pension, for example, from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For $80, you receive the first 100 pages of the file and pay $0.70 per page after the first 100. In addition, you receive a photocopy (in black and white) in the mail after a 3 to 6 month wait during which time you receive no update from NARA as to progress.

By using the Military Records Retrieval service from Twisted Twigs, you pay only $65 for a complete pension and receive digitized color images in PDF format within 60 days. In addition, you will receive updates along the way as to progress made in the retrieval process.

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews the Military Records Retrieval service provided by Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Genealogy.

How to Order

In order to take advantage of this deal from Twisted Twigs, visit http://twistedtwigsgenealogy.com/geneabloggers/ and use the payment button at the bottom of the page. You can pay using Paypal or with a Check or Money Order.

First, you must have basic soldier service information or pension index card information in order for a search to be successful. Then email the information to Twisted Twigs and make payment. Within 24 hours, you will receive a confirmation email stating that your order has been accepted.

In addition, what if there are problems in locating your records? Here is what Deidre has posted on her site: “On the slim chance NARA cannot locate your ancestor’s pension file, you may request another veteran’s file or receive a full refund. We also resubmit requests a few days after a request is returned as ‘file not found’. The file may have been overlooked, we were helped by ‘lazy puller’, or perhaps a new tech was in training.  A second submission usually receives results… or it’s really lost.”

What Can You Expect?

I have had the opportunity to review several actual pension files that were retrieved for clients. The PDF files were easy to download, clear and the fact that they are in COLOR (and not black and white) makes a big difference.

As for the content, I always find pension files to be great finds and to paraphrase Forrest Gump, “like a box of chocolates.” You really never know what you will find!

In the samples provided to me, I saw affidavits related to marriages, military service and more. I saw marriage certificates, letters from family members and even neighbors, and much more. Not only do these records help document military service, but very often I have discovered the marriage and birth info needed for spouses and children.

Conclusion

When you cannot make it to NARA to pull pension files, use a competent records retrieval service like the one provided by Deidre at Twisted Twigs. It is obvious from the sample files that Deidre know how to locate these files and get them into your hands as soon as possible. Also click here to read the many testimonials about the Military Records Retrieval service and you will see how Deidre is invested in making sure you succeed when it comes to accessing these military records.

Special Offer for GeneaBloggers Fans and Followers

Right now, place your order for Military Records Retrieval at Twisted Twigs and get a special price of just $65 per file. This special promotion expires on May 31. 2016 when the price will rise. Visit http://twistedtwigsgenealogy.com/geneabloggers/ for more information.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: Trace Your German Roots Online – A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites

Genealogy author and educator Thomas MacEntee reviews Trace Your German Roots Online – a “must-have” guide for researching German family history.

[Editor’s Note: Trace Your German Roots Online is available in print as well as in e-book format and right now you can get it at a 36% savings, for only $13.99. PLUS if you use promo code SFTTHOMAS16 at checkout, you’ll save an additional 15%!]

Beidler, James M. Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2016, 208 pages.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that James M. Beidler, author of Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and a well-known genealogist had just published a new book specifically for those using online resources for researching German ancestors. My Henneberg line has been a difficult one to research, especially since most of my other lines are English and Dutch. I knew that German genealogy research meant tapping into different skills, but I would never have made any of my recent progress without the solid advice and techniques in Trace Your German Roots Online.

A Wealth of Information on German Genealogy

Do not think that Trace Your German Roots Online is limited to just online resources. Once I started reading, I realized that the book is an excellent immersion into general German research especially when it comes to resources, how to deal with German place names and surnames, and more.

The focus of Beidler’s work in Trace Your German Roots Online is how to use sites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com for German family history research. Besides the more well-known online sites, Beidler also introduces MyHeritage as well as Archion and its Protestant church records – this one was new to me!

The information is presented in easy-to-understand text and with screen captures that will help researchers get started on these websites. More than anything else, Trace Your German Roots Online is a workbook that you will be referencing frequently as you work on finding your German ancestors.

Your German Genealogy Questions Answered

Here is evidence that the author truly understands the plight of those of us with German ancestors: he has devoted an entire section to answering specific research questions. These include “How Do I Identify My Ancestors’ Place of Origin,” “Where Else Can I Access Church Records,” and “How Do I Contact People and Places in Germany?” are just a few examples.

I could easily relate to all of these research questions and the solutions offered were key to helping me find more information on my Hennebergs, my Pressners and other German ancestors.

A Sneak Peak . . .

Here are some tips you will find in Trace Your German Roots Online[i]:

  1. Remember that Germany is not America. Stateside researchers can forget that some of their assumptions about records in the United States don’t apply to the Old World. Because of its decentralized history and frequently changing borders, Germany has left behind fewer “national” records. Instead, be prepared to primarily look for records at the state (Land) and local levels.
  2. Know which resources are free. The Web has opened up incredible possibilities for researchers, but remember that not all online resources are free. Some sites require you to have a paid subscription, while others require you to pay per record. Before you invest in a subscription, make sure you can’t get the same material for free from another resource.
  3. Double-check translation sources. While the advent of automated translation services on the Internet has been exciting for genealogists digging through foreign-language records, take the time to fact-check translations you find. Even if provided by a German records repository, translations online may not be completely accurate and can lead to incorrect information in your family tree. Check your translations with multiple sources to minimize these kinds of errors.
  4. Put yourself out there. The Internet is nothing if not collaborative. Take advantage of this fact by reaching out to other researchers via social media and joining German genealogy groups on Facebook. You just might find that other researchers have faced (and conquered) research brick walls similar to your own.

Here is the book trailer for Trace Your German Roots Online[ii]:

Conclusion

After reading Trace Your German Roots Online, you realize that not only does the author know German genealogy, but also he is invested in helping you succeed in finding your German ancestors. I can guarantee that whether you get the print version or the ebook version, you will be bookmarking several sections and get lots of mileage out of the content in Trace Your German Roots Online.

About The Author: James M. Beidler

James M. Beidler came by his German genealogy expertise honestly: It took him more than twenty years of searching to find any ancestry that wasn’t from Germany. Beidler is the author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide (Family Tree Books, 2014), a columnist for German Life magazine, and a go-to expert for German Genealogy articles and educational articles.

Jim writes the award-winning weekly newspaper column “Roots & Branches”—the only syndicated genealogy feature in Pennsylvania—and edits Der Kurier, the quarterly journal of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society. Jim is a frequent contributor to periodicals ranging from The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine to Family Tree Magazine. His speaking credits include all the nation’s largest genealogical conferences, as well as the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s acclaimed Commonwealth Speakers program (2002–2009). Jim also teaches online courses and webinars for Family Tree University.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

[i] Trace Your German Roots Online eBook product description, Shop Family Tree (http://www.shopfamilytree.com/trace-your-german-roots-online-ebook?source=igodigital, accessed 6 April 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.

[ii] Trace Your German Roots Online Book Trailer (https://youtu.be/FxfX77jx3Bc, accessed 6 April 2016), used by permission of F&W Media.