dee_burris: (Default)
This topic comes from one of many interesting blogging suggestions found at Geneabloggers.

My electronic/online toolkit of free resources

When I first began shakin' the family tree, it was a massive undertaking of organizing photos and pieces of paper. I had a blizzard of loose photographs, dozens of handwritten family group sheets, and the massive Williams family photo album, given to my great grandparents for Christmas in 1885, probably as an engagement gift. (I am rapidly figuring out that Maxie squirreled away photos taken long before her engagement to Jo Desha Williams, so as the tintypes fall away from their paper moorings, I'm constantly muttering, who ARE these people and how are they related to me?)

In the olden days before I realized there was family tree software out there, I started documenting my kin in a Word document.

No, you did not misread that.

I nearly swooned with delight to be told that I could download Personal Ancestral File from the LDS church website for free. I'm still using it. I'll probably continue to use it long after it is no longer supported, because at last check, my family tree has 15,302 record entries, and I just don't want to deal with fixing the inevitably corrupted data that would come with a transfer to another software program.

And I host the GEDCOM at Rootsweb - the "free" affiliate of

I have an Ancestry subscription. For a while, my tree was at both locations.

But I am *really* into sharing freely, and I don't like the idea that anyone can search at Ancestry for people in my tree, but to actually see the records, they have to pay.

(The "Ancestry vs Rootsweb" snobbery out there just really tickles know, some notion that since people are paying to host trees at Ancestry and not paying for Rootsweb, that means the family trees at Rootsweb are less accurate. Puh-lease...garbage in, garbage out. The hosting service is irrelevant under those circumstances.)

Here are a few of the other frequently used free online resources in my genealogy research kit:
Arkansas Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Home Page Has information about Union and Confederate Soldiers from Arkansas
Books We Own A free, nationwide look-up service
Causes of Death in the Late 19th Century, hosted by the University of PA at West Chester
Chronicling America Old newspaper searches from quite a few states
DeadFred For finding old photos
Family Search
Find a Grave
GenDisasters Why did they suddenly die or relocate? Was it because of a natural or other disaster? You can also submit documentation of disasters not currently on the site.
Historic Money Conversions How much was great grandpa's estate really worth?
Missouri State Archives If you are looking for birth and death information for the State of Missouri, this one is a gem.
Rotating Census Maps Maybe the folks didn't move, the county lines did...
Veteran's Administration Nationwide Gravesite Locator

My graver's research toolkit

Even before I got bitten by the genealogy bug, I was all about funerary art. So here is what is in my graver's toolkit (contents vary depending on how far away from home I am):

Two digital cameras
A sixteen pack of extra batteries - for some reason I find the batteries often do not last as long in cemeteries...
A household spray bottle of plain water
A four inch wide soft paintbrush
A bricklayer's trowel, for cutting the roots of stubborn Bermuda grass away from flat gravestones
Aluminum foil for reflecting light - I use heavy duty, since I am usually solo on these trips and it keeps its shape better
Notebook and several pens
Groundcloth for sitting on while I take a break, eat my snacks or have a swig of water
Bug spray
Myrtle, my handy-dandy Garmin Nuvi 205W GPS

This year, I'll probably look for some kind of an organization system for this stuff...right now, I just pitch it in the car and go...

My road warrior research toolkit

Sometimes, the rubber has to meet the road and you just have to "go there" and see what you can find...

Depending on where I am going, I take:
Both digital cameras, and extra batteries
My Flip-Pal mobile scanner
If permitted, my lap-top computer - if not, a computer print-out of the branch(es) of the family I am researching
A roll (or more) of quarters and/or my copy card(s)
Small audio tape recorder (I even use it for myself, so I can dictate while I am driving)
Notebook and pens
My big honking sub-divided folder with pockets to put all those copies I bought for a quarter each and don't want to get crinkled...

And last, but certainly not least...a smile for everyone. I've found if I just keep on smiling, a lot of doors get opened to me.


Dec. 5th, 2010 10:26 am
dee_burris: (Default)
Here are some of the *free* research resources I use that may not be on everyone's radar.

Books We Own
So how about all those books you've collected over the years? You got what you needed out of them, but what if someone else could get benefit from them too, and you'd still get to keep them?

This is a look-up service, and a really good idea, whether you are a donor or recipient of information. (Gentle nudge: you can be a volunteer...I just signed up.)

From my brief glance, it appears to include books owned by people world-wide.

Arkansas Civil War Research
For Arkansas researchers, there is the Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Home Page for Arkansas.

I don't know how many years it took them, but these guys have done a spectacular job with their research. Although there is more coverage of Confederate soldiers, they do have quite a bit on Union troops from Arkansas.

Illnesses and Causes of Death
So what is scrofula or quinsy when you see it as an illness or cause of death?

Causes of Death in the Late 19th Century mentioned in the Register of Deaths, 1893-1907 defines these and a whole lot more...

If you can't find it there, then try this one.

Historic Money Conversion
Ever wonder just how much great-great grandpa's estate was worth in 1870? Try this historic currency converter.

Or this one.

Birth and Death Information from Missouri
Many of my ancestors settled in Missouri. The Missouri Secretary of State's office maintains an archive of searchable birth and death records pre- and post-1910 (through 1959), here.

Ever wonder how the weather affected your ancestors?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains historic weather data from 1872 through 2008 at this website.

Disasters in History
And how about those disasters - either natural or manmade?

Look for articles about those in a searchable database here.

Rotating Census Maps
Maybe it wasn't your relatives that moved, it was the counties that did.
dee_burris: (Default)
Since I just had to make the request for a government gravestone for two of my ancestors buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, I thought I'd post the form and instructions here for any others who might need it.

Read the instructions carefully - you have to send supporting documentation with the request, and the cemetery where the soldier or vet is buried has to sign the form also.

The gravestone is free. Installing it in the cemetery probably is not, and that's on you.

Click here for the forms... )
If you prefer, here is a link to the forms at the government website.
dee_burris: (Default)
If you are like me, and are trying to cut down on the volume of paper that naturally comes with genealogy (I'm scanning as fast as I can), then you probably leap at the chance to get historic documents in a digitized format. Especially when long texts are searchable...

If you are an Arkansas researcher, or know one, I have two Arkansas Goodspeed CDs that came to me by mistake from Arkansas Research, Inc.

I ordered one set of CDs, and what I got was two others, Goodspeed's A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region, and Goodspeed's History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, etc. Counties of Arkansas, which were destined for a woman in Utah.

I contacted the owner of ARI, Desmond Walls Allen, as soon as I realized what happened. My name was on the priority mail envelope, but the Utah order was inside.

I asked her how to go about getting the Utah order to its destination. Desmond told me not to worry - it was her mistake and she'd fix it. She said if I had no use for the CDs to donate them. I already have all the Goodspeed everything-that-was-ever-written-about -Arkansas CDs.

My order arrived two days later.

I've offered these CDs to the Arkansas History Commission, and since they have not replied to my email, I am offering them here.

If you are not familiar with the Goodspeed Publishing Co., here's the Wiki page on it.

They are a hoot - besides providing some really good historical background and biographical sketches of the movers and shakers of designated areas of the US in the 1880's, the flowery writing style of the time just cracks me up.

Anyway, if someone wants the CDs, leave a comment and we'll figure out a way for me to get your snail mail address without breaching your privacy...

ETA: The CDs have been claimed. They will have a good home.

I just love it when that happens.


dee_burris: (Default)
Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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