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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Entries in organize (8)


* start your genealogy pursuit with a picture: draw your family tree!

If you're wondering how to get started with your genealogy research- DRAW out your tree!! Having a visual sketch of your family tree will help you absorb and organize new information. As you will see from my examples, I am an avid family tree sketcher. There are so many ways to draw your family tree, each perspective is unique and can help identify new clues and relationships. You don't need any fancy tools...I use wrapping paper!

It must run in the family.  These are 2 handwritten family trees found in the "box of old family stuff". These trees have given me so many amazing leads! ONE TIP: get credit for your hard work, leave your name and date somewhere on the tree! I don't know who wrote either of these trees, but I have passed them around to some family members for handwriting comparisons :) Someone in my family tree was interested in this great pursuit!




 My Genealogy Charts- get inspired!


 First Drafts

The first thing I do when I'm looking at a new family is sketch out their tree. This chart will be so much help for you while you're researching records. Expect to make mistakes, cross out information, and sometimes get confused...don't worry that's why you are drawing it out. A visual will give you some orientation. At first don't worry too much about making it pretty, you want it to be useful.



 Refresh and redo

Once your first draft gets a little too busy, you might want to consider drawing a fresh copy. When I did this I created a coding system with different colored markers and symbols. This way I could fit more information and keep it looking organized. To get an idea of what I used for encoding vital information, click here








Connect or Eliminate Leads

My grandfather, his grandfather, and his great grandfather all shared the name Joseph Kirkbride Wright. In an attempt to knock past a brick wall, my gggg grandfather Joel Wright born 1782, I tried to find a connection through this namesake. There was a well documented Joseph Kirkbride also from Burlington County, NJ with connections to Wright lines. I made this chart as I navigated through his family lines looking for a lead. For the most part this is a resource I can reference while I research new leads to see if I have already ruled out their connection to my line.

I made the chart below after researching a friends great grandfather. The witness on his naturalization shared the same last name, address, and was also a barber. After looking into this witness I found another male barber with the same surname living next door to the witness in the 1910 census record, another potential relative?  I needed to work through the information to see all the connections. Work in progress.

Step outside the box! Look at your family from different perspectives, get creative, and start drawing out your family tree. *don't fold them like I did, roll up the paper to maintain your work!*


* Do you know your family health history? Family Health Portrait Can help!

Documenting your family health history can often be forgotten when researching your family. Knowing and having access your family health history can be vital for doctors to properly evaluate your health needs when faced with sickness or an emergency situation.

A new FREE online tool from the Surgeon General, My Family Health Portrait, can help you record your family health history. You fill out the easy to use form and it creates a pedigree family health history chart. When you are finished you can download the chart and save it to your computer and share it with family members or your doctor! Family Health Portrait is completely private and secure, the data you enter is not saved on their site and no government record is created. (HHS Privacy Policy Notice) If you already have a Microsoft Health Vault account you can copy your records to your Family Health Portrait and then save the new information added to your Family Health Portrait can be saved to your Microsoft Health Vault Account.

The holidays are a perfect time to talk with your family about genealogy and family roots, why not take this opportunity to start the conversation about your family health history. I know I will be talking with my family about our family health history. Cheers to a happy and healthy holiday season!


* Top 5 Strategy Tips for Newbie Genie‚Äôs

Dig out that box of old pictures and papers

  1. Gather and preserve any pictures or documents
  2. Evaluate what you think you know
  3. Narrow your research 
  4. Interview family and close family friends
  5. Explore with a free account   

1. Gather and preserve original pictures or documents

Dig out that box of old pictures and papers. If you can’t identify people in pictures or you don’t recognize names mentioned, reach out to family members who may know the details. If you don’t have many originals to start your search, chances are someone in the family does! Once you get your (gentle) hands on some artifacts make sure to preserve them, most of the materials used were not constructed to last forever, especially not in a cardboard box in the attic. You will want to invest in some acid free plastic binder inserts, a 3 ring binder and/or an acid free photo album. You can find a very thorough reference for preservation of family heirlooms on the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute. I also suggest scanning all of the original documents; it makes it easier to share with family electronically and gives you peace of mind.

2. Evaluate what you think you know

You have to start somewhere, what do you know about your family? Grab a nice large piece of paper (or wrapping paper!) and starting with you sketch out who you know in your family (parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents). Since this is your first draft don’t worry too much about how it looks, this will be a major resource for YOU during your research. Add any dates or locations associated with each person. You can also find printable Pedigree and Family Tree charts on the web. If you are one of the lucky ones and already have drafts of family trees from other family members, these can be a great resource but I would caution the use of them exclusively when starting out. You want to check your facts and make sure you start your search from reliable information.

3. Narrow your research

Now you have some basic information and you’re ready to start researching your ancestors. It can be overwhelming if you don’t start with a defined scope for your researching objectives. If you have a ton of information from many different family lines you will want to focus on one surname at a time. This doesn’t mean you can’t be actively researching multiple surnames, but you will have the best results if you narrow your scope during your research sessions. There is so much information out there and it’s easy to get tangled up, especially when first starting out with unfamiliar information.  Instead of making a general “genealogy” bookmark or folder for storing links and docs, organize the data by surname; you will be surprised how quickly you acquire information! * I learned this the hard way!

4. Interview family and close family friends

This is HUGE! First identify any family members with an interest in your family history, there is probably someone in the family who often shares old family stories or stays in touch with that distant cousin you’ve never met. If someone is interested in genealogy they will absolutely love to talk with you. Time is precious with these resources! Don’t wait, even if you feel like you don’t know enough or maybe you don’t know this person. Contact family members in a way that is comfortable for you, standard letter, email, connect through social media, phone call, or an in person interview. If you get someone on the phone or in person make sure to record the conversation! Details can be lost or documented incorrectly during the exciting conversation. The value of these interactions is priceless, even the smallest detail can connect the missing dots

5. Explore with a free account

Once you have basic credible information, you should register for free at It is completely free to sign up build a family tree. Take your time and make sure to enter the information accurately. Their software helps guide you through the steps with many resources to help. The reason I suggest this step after you have done your basic research is to preserve the integrity of your tree. As you add information to your tree will use that information to automatically search their databases for matching family trees and documents. A small leaf will appear in the corner by a persons name indicating the match. You have to pay close attention to these hints, especially if you don’t know that much about the person. With this free account you can’t actually see the original documents, but you can hover over the search results and see some basic information from the original. Once you have your tree all set up and you have a good 2-week period to do tons of research, sign up for their 2-week free trial of their membership subscription. This way you can use those 2 weeks looking at documents you have already found or identified and not just entering in your family!


tips from a desperate genie- wrapping paper!!

I am constantly mapping out family trees, it really helps me visualize and understand who I am researching. In the beginning regular paper worked OK for these diagrams, but as my search expanded I found it harder and harder to keep it all organized. I started buying larger paper and even taping pages together, which lead to more and more diagrams.

Then one day it hit me: WRAPPING PAPER

I just happened to be going through some storage bins when I saw rolls of wrapping paper and it's white never ending canvas!! Ever since I have been using the back of wrapping paper to map out many generations all in once space. Seeing all the lines together gives such a unique perspective. This particular tree is in it's 2nd version, after a few weeks of research the first got a little messy.

wright family diagram The tree starts with Joel and Harriet Wright, my GGGG Grandparents from Bordentown, NJ. Wright is a very common surname and there are like 10 standard first names found in every family. This large tree is an excellent research tool for keeping my sanity with all the Joseph's, John's, Anna's, and Mary's.

 Joel and Harriet had 4 daughters and 2 sons 1812-1826 and after working on this tree I have realized that my Wright line is almost extinct! This probably explains my wild goose chases within the Wright surname.  I used a red marker for women and their descending lines without the Wright surname and a blue marker for males and their descendants with the Wright surname. This family had many who moved to Philadelphia and I wanted to keep track of each line's migration. To show the state they were born and died in, I marked a corresponding colored dot under their birth/death year. Another piece of information I decided to include was burial information, a star next to a death year means I know where they are buried.

It's cheap, you can buy recycled, and it's easily folded or rolled up for easy storage. 'Tis the season for purchasing discounted wrapping paper, just make sure it's white on the underside!

Do you have a special tip or unusual item you swear by for genealogy research??

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