Make It Quick!

Ideas that may help when you’re short on time, waiting  (use your phone),

or need some ideas to move forward with your family history

Quick Tip for Searching

Here is a quick tip for searching virtually any site for any information.

In your url field at the top of the page where you can see address for what you are currently viewing, use the following format:

site:[url]<space>[search word/term]

Examples: Hoyle Hoyle

site: “John Hoyle”

You will get results similar to the images below. Be sure to try it for yourself. You may find things you’ve not seen before.

Newspapers for Family History

Most of us love to learn random facts about our ancestral family members. These facts help us to gain contextual understanding of their lives and, sometimes, their personalities. One of my favorites is “Miss Luella Bemiss is sporting a new permanent today.” I know exactly when my grandma went to the salon and what she had done! Isn’t that fun?

Newspapers are a great source of this type of information about our families. Recently, introduced a new feature called Stories and Events Index. If you are an subscriber, you may receive some hints on your tree from this collection which is AI-generated. 

Alternatively, you can search for the collections through the card catalog. Once there, type in ‘newspapers’ or ‘stories and events,’ then put the state of interest in the keyword box. 

Get ready to be addicted!

You can read more about this feature HERE

Finding Help – ISOGG

Do you have questions about DNA? Look no further than the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. Their mission is to:

“Advocate for and educate about the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research while promoting a supportive network for genetic genealogists.”

ISOGG was founded in 2005 and has members throughout the world. The site may be a little confusing at first, but click on ‘ISOGG Wiki’ in the left-hand menu. This will take you to some suggested links. There is also the link to the Wiki itself at right HERE. There are so many options, but you can self-educate all things DNA. They even offer a ‘Beginners’ guides to genetic genealogy.’ This is the definitive site for all things DNA. Take a look around.

Finding Help - FamilySearch Wiki

The Family History Research Wiki is a fabulous FREE tool kit for genealogists! It can be found by clicking on the map or HERE. You don’t have to have a FamilySearch account to use it. The FS wiki is an ultra-comprehensive resource where you can find almost anything, from how to get started, to how to research in a particular location, to where those frustratingly obscure records might be found. Among the pages is information about record types and how to use them; articles about specific record collections; finding aids; ethnic, religious, or political groups information; methodology; assistance for interpreting foreign language records; even links to blank genealogy forms. If you haven’t visited the wiki nor recently used it, be sure to take a look. It’s like opening an encyclopia. You have to keep turning the pages!

CEMETERY SITES - Billion Graves

“BillionGraves is the world's largest resource for searchable GPS cemetery data, and is growing bigger and better every day. You can help by collecting headstone images from local and other cemeteries, and then by transcribing the personal information found on the images.” (BillionGraves) With well over 40 million headstone images, the main goal of this site is to digitally preserve at least one billion graves from locations throughout the world with the addition of the GPS coordinates for each one. The site has been active since at least 2012 and gives you the ability to be directed right to the gravesite using the BillionGraves app, available for both Android and iOS. You can easily contribute photos through the app, too. The use of the site is free giving you the options to search for people and cemeteries. There is even an option to link your FamilySearch family tree to see if your ancestors’ burial places are already included. Opportunities to transcribe headstone information are also available. This is another valuable resource for adding to your family history data.

Click HERE to visit Billion Graves.

BACK TO BASICS - Sources/Evidence

It is SO important to have reliable sources for our family history research! Where did we get that information? Can we find it again? Is it reliable? Sourcing our data and creating citations can be daunting, for sure; but, being able to find that source document may be critical. We always hope to find primary source documentation - any document or evidence created, or recorded, at (or near) the time of the event; for example: a birth certificate, marriage record, or will. In addition, secondary sources can usually be found - any statement or record made some time after the occurrence of a given event, probably from personal memory, such as a death certificate and compiled records. These are also called collateral, circumstantial, and reported evidence. Many genealogy sites provide citations or the information for creating them.

This link at Cyndi’s List offers a plethora of information about citing sources:

BACK TO BASICS - Research Cycle

The Research Cycle is a useful tool for any genealogist, whether you’re on your fourth generation or fourteenth. This is just one example. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with data, or spread too thinly trying to find out everything about everyone all at once, this cycle will help you refocus. Begin at the top and work your way through. Sometimes, we just need to step back and regroup!

BACK TO BASICS - Pedigree Chart

Let’s take a look back at the basics of our addiction, er... hobby. Likely, the first form you used when you began your family history journey was the pedigree chart. It may have been a blank paper one you completed by hand, or the pedigree emerged as you added your family members on a web site. This is the foundational chart for visualizing and working with your family history. Every family history site where trees are available shows your family in at least one iteration of a pedigree chart. You may see landscape, fan, descendancy, and others. FamilySearch offers multiple informational views on the fan pedigree, including sources, country of birth, research hints, etc. One way to use a pedigree chart is to print from the person on whose family you’re working. It gives you a quick overview of what you know, what you don’t, and what you might need; kind of like a checklist. I like to think of it as the backbone of the family, showing only your direct lineage. Adding information puts flesh on these bones. Basic? Yes. Useful? Absolutely!


Most of the time, we are searching records for primary source proof of the data about our ancestors. That is the ideal. However, sometimes, it helps to see what other people have already discovered. Using the trees at the different genealogy sites can help us compare what we ‘know’ to what others ‘know.’ Look at their information and see if they have a source to back it up. If the data is something you don’t have, you can use it as a clue for further searching. Spending a few minutes in someone else’s tree can be very frustrating, I know; it can also be beneficial. Use caution and be mindful of the Genealogical Proof Standard as you use the information. You may be surprised!


Well, speaking of ‘keeping up,’ shall we talk about DNA? This is definitely an ever-changing, evolving topic. Most of us who have had our DNA tested and try to use it in furthering our family lines have our favorite sites for doing that. Those sites offer good information, but there are other resources available to help us, thank goodness! Quickly checking out these blogs, and others, for updated DNA information and good explanations, will definitely help us ‘keep up.’ Here are just a few.

KEEPING UP – Major Players

Things change so quickly in the genealogy world that it is hard to keep up. Let’s take a look at some of the blogs provided by major genealogy sites. These blogs provide information about what’s happening at their sites; for instance, terms of use changes, additions to records collections, and updates to DNA ethnicity estimates. Often, there are announcements and research helps, too. A quick read once a week, or so, will help you ‘keep up.’ Here is a list of some of the blogs. Be sure to check your most-used sites. Many times, you’ll find the link to the blog in the footer of the web page.


Here is a look at using the MyHeritage app to attach sources to your family tree on their site. This is likely an app that is used less frequently by many of us, but each site has different sets of records. Some of the matches at MyHeritage are to other family trees. Again, this is specific to Android devices, but iOS apps should be similar. There are two methods.


We all know how important it is for genealogical data to be verified by documentation. Many of the major genealogy web sites have ‘hinting’ features. These can be worked with in spurts when we have a little time on either the computer or a handheld device. Using your phone is a quick way to pass the time when you’re waiting somewhere (car, doctor, etc.) I only have Android devices, but usually Apple products are similar. This month (March 2021), we’ll look at


We all love having records available to help us find more about our ancestors. Many of the records are available because volunteers have extracted the information. You can help by transcribing a record, or some records, at one of the sites below. You may need to create a free account. The links go directly to the transcription options. It may take your whole five minutes to familiarize yourself with the site and the process. That’s okay! The next time, you’ll be able to do more. And, who knows, you might just want to spend more than five minutes!

There are likely many other sites offering patrons the opportunities to help index records. If you find them, share with the BIGS membership through

Mapping for Genealogy

A quick activity to give some context and perspective to your genealogy is to use Google Maps ( or Google Earth (on the web or free software download) to look up an ancestor’s address. This will show you what the area is like currently. If you want to go a step further, do an internet search for historic maps of the location. Your results should lead you where you can view old maps. Using the landmarks on the current map will help you find the location on an older one. There are many resources for historic maps. You can learn more on the “United States Maps” page of the FamilySearch Wiki. Likewise, check the wiki for maps in the countries in which your ancestors lived.

Site of St. Joseph’s Hospital, 1901-1966 (2023) Site of St. Joseph’s Hospital (1922)


Finding Help – Cyndi’s List

Cyndi’s List began online in 1996 when Cyndi Ingle published her personal web page and included her personal list of categorized genealogy bookmarks, over 1,025. Today there are nearly 317,000 unique links! Cyndi’s List is not a database, but is meant to be like a giant card catalog of what is available online and of interest to genealogists. As it says on her homepage, it is a “genealogical research portal onto the Internet.” Below is a small sample, very small, of what type of information you can find on Cyndi’s List. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of links in the category. Be sure to check it out.


“This website contains 25+ million cemetery records, transcripts, and burial registers, from tens of thousands of cemeteries across the world, all contributed by genealogists, cemeteries, government agencies, and private organizations.” ( The name of this site isn’t always on the tips of our tongues when we think of searching for headstones. However, with over 25 million records, it is another great resource. A user profile is not required. The interface is quite straightforward, making searching simple. The results pages also include links suggesting where more information for the name searched might be found. Definitely worth adding to our arsenal of cemetery sites.

Click HERE to visit


“Find a Grave's mission is to help people from all over the world work together to find, record and present final disposition information as a virtual cemetery experience.” (Find a Grave) Powered by volunteers, Find a Grave was initially created in 1995 by Jim Tipton who liked to locate graves of famous people. It has grown to include people from all walks of life and is an amazing source of information about some of them. Find a Grave became a subsidiary of Ancestry® in 2013. A quick look at the collections available through Ancestry® yields a total of nearly 220 million memorials! This site is free, easy to use, offers iOS and Android apps, memorial search, cemetery search, and other options. It is absolutely worth becoming familiar with Find a Grave. You never know what you might find to assist you in furthering the information about your family.

Click HERE to visit Find A Grave.

BACK TO BASICS - Family Group Record

After first entering our ancestors’ names into a pedigree chart, we begin to add more information about them and their family members. This additional information is shown on a form called a family group record, sometimes called a family group sheet. In references to older research, you may see the acronyms FGR or FGS to represent these forms. Most websites present family group information in some version of a family group record on the profile view of an individual. Our local database programs (Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, etc.) also present this view. We can see the data for the individual, their parents, their spouse(s), their children, and more expanded dates, places, and sources. Using the family group record as a reference point for research allows us to see multiple generations of a family at a glance, helping us identify the completeness of our records. Added to the backbone pedigree chart, we have a much broader view of our family history.


Using the hints offered by the various genealogy sites is a great way to find information and documentation quickly. On, if you have a tree, simply click on the green leaf from the tree view. From a person’s profile page, click on ‘Hints’ and start working your way down the list. On, anywhere you see a small blue icon that looks like a document, there is a record hint. They may be found on your home page, on your tree view, or in the menu items on a person’s profile page under ‘Research Help.’ offers ‘Discoveries.’ You can access them from the top menu. Check out the options. The discoveries come from a variety of sources. Even five minutes can help strengthen the integrity of your family research.

FIVE-MINUTE FINDINGS - Birthday Ancestors

Have you ever experimented to see what can be found about an ancestor in just five minutes? One fun thing to do is on any given day choose a relative whose birthday is that day. Open your favorite genealogy site and start searching. It’s that simple! You may find new sources. Maybe, you will find information to confirm what you already knew. Maybe, you’ll find some new clues. No matter what, it’s a great exercise. I dare you to stop at five minutes!

KEEPING UP – Genealogy Celebs

We looked at some of the blogs shared by major genealogy sites last month. This time, we’ll look at some of the more popular blogs written by ‘genealogy celebrities.’ We get a great variety of perspectives from these individuals that can really help in our research, often providing clarity in laymen’s terms. Usually, you can subscribe and have the blogs delivered to your email. Taking a quick look at the subject line will help you know if you want to spend the time to read the entire blog entry. However, taking a little time each week (with a cup of tea?) to look at these blogs will go a long way in helping you ‘keep up.’ Here are a few to get you started.


Last month, we looked at how to add sources to your Ancestry tree using the app. This month, we’ll see how it’s done in the Family Tree app from FamilySearch. Remember, this is specific to Android devices, but iOS apps should be similar.

KEEPING UP – Major Players

Things change so quickly in the genealogy world that it is hard to keep up. This month, let’s take a look at some of the blogs provided by major genealogy sites. These blogs provide information about what’s happening at their sites; for instance, terms of use changes, additions to records collections, and updates to DNA ethnicity estimates. Often, there are announcements and research helps, too. A quick read once a week, or so, will help you ‘keep up.’ Here is a list of some of the blogs. Be sure to check your most-used sites. Many times, you’ll find the link to the blog in the footer of the web page.


This month (April 2021), we’ll see how it’s done in the Family Tree app from FamilySearch. Remember, this is specific to Android devices, but iOS apps should be similar.


We download a lot of documents and files while we’re researching. Sometimes (or most times?), we don’t take the time to file them where they belong in our computer filing systems. Just take five minutes to relocate some of your downloaded files that are out of place. Are they on your desktop? In your downloads? While you’re at it, rename the files if you didn’t do it when you downloaded them. Use your preferred naming convention, i.e. mithJohn1843birthVA,’ or Smith_John_b. 1843;’ whatever works best for you.


Take a few minutes to think about how you want to organize your digital genealogy files: documents, pictures, videos, etc. You may want to create a folder called ‘Genealogy.’ Then, create sub-folders for the surnames, locations, document types; again, this is very personal. The most important thing is for you to be able to find your stuff, so create (or copy) a system that works for you. Oftentimes, it helps to write it out on paper, first. It may help to think about how you would physically file your paperwork in a filing cabinet. So, if you can spend just five minutes creating folders and moving files into them, you’ll be that much further ahead.