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Tip of the Week Archives

(12-27-2003) Here's our featured tip of the month: Use online pedigree databases to backup your files! I have been struggling to find a way to keep my files updated online so that others may use the information I have collected in an easily accessible format. There are many options available. One such option is Pedigree Resource File, created by the LDS Church and indexed at When you submit a GEDCOM file on the website, it is stored in the Granite Mountain Records Vault near Salt Lake City and is organized and put on the Pedigree Resource File CDs that become available in sets of 5 every few months. This is a solid way to backup your information and share it, but it is unchangeable once it is submitted, and each submission is kept separate. If you submit the same family several times because you have discovered new information, the members of the family will be listed each time in the online index. And the potential researchers who would like to look at your work must pay for the CDs to view your full submission. Compared to the LDS Church's Ancestral File database also available online, Pedigree Resource File is superior in its ability to show the sources that were submitted in the GEDCOM.

In order to know whether to purchase the CD to find out the amount of information about the family in question, a new site called has been developed to analyze each submission contained on the PRF (Pedigree Resource File) CD sets. It will show you the amount of sources and their value, and can be used as an excellent resource to purchase PRF CDs wisely.

The option that has suited my needs lately is using Rootsweb WorldConnect. This user-submitted pedigree database is available at and is synonymous with's Ancestry World Tree. When submitting to WorldConnect, you are able to edit your GEDCOM--or change it every time you make a change to your database. So each week when you are ready to create a backup of your database, or just a specific family you have been working on, you can submit it to WorldConnect and it can be easily downloaded later to restore, or downloaded by users who are interested in the same family. WorldConnect shows the sources you have in your database with footnotes which is shown well in my recent submission called "Woodward and White Family". This makes it possible for you to share your research with others interested, and even get family members excited about your research, and is a convenient and free way to backup your database frequently. Give it a try!

(11-1-2003) Here's our featured tip of the month: Get organized! After rigourous hours of research, you can really begin to accumulate quite a pile of papers! Between all the pedigree charts, family group records, timelines, research logs and calendars, analysis pages, extraction of records and indexes, and photocopies of original records, just a few hours of research can turn into several inches of loose papers. And those loose papers can create piles, or even carpet disasters. I have found that organizing my records makes all my research much easier.

Your next question is probably: How exactly do I keep my files organized? My personal system for organization isn't really one to be recommended to more "perfectionist" researchers, so I won't go into huge details. There are several ways to do it and with differing supplies: 3-ring notebooks, file folders, or sheet protectors. One organization system is arranged alphabetically by surname, then alphabetically by first name within the surname. Other systems reference the RIN or Record Identification Number that PAF assigns to each person as they are entered into the database.

You need to choose the system that is best for you and can easily be expanded. It should also be accessible--an organization system that makes it harder to find something will only complicate your research. I found some very helpful suggestions about organization at the Genealogy Research Associates website. Take some time to explore your options and get to work!

(1-13-2003) Expand your record types. As I prepare for accreditation which seems to be looming over me soon, I realized that expanding my record types will help me a lot. This tip isn't just for genealogists planning to become accredited and work professionally, but for anyone. Expanding your record types will help you get a broader knowledge of the locality you are studying, the people in your family, and also their neighbors. These things can all be very important!

Your next question is probably: What is meant by expanding my record types? I know that I fall into a rhythm which allows me to find a relatively large amount of pertinent information, but I don't use the best sources to find that information. If I get in the rut of depending on vital information taken from census data, I should expand by checking out some vital records, or applicable church records for the locality. If I get into the methodological trap of drawing false connections, I should broaden my horizons and try records that I don't use often enough, such as probates and land records. In fact, you can search for land patents for people who purchased the land directly from the United States government in the 19th century by visiting

By being adventurous and trying new options like these, we may be able to bridge gaps that we have yet to cross. What a wonderful prospect! One last question you may ask: How do I know what is available? The Family History Library Catalog is available at the LDS Church's website and can lead you to records by searching for the locality of interest. Good luck, and don't forget to expand!

(12-16-2002) Preserve the memories you create. I just finished a book I checked out from the public library, published by the Scrapbooking Guild called The Simple Art of Scrapbooking. In the book, I learned that there are easy and fun ways to preserve your memories. Here are a few simple ways to keep track of your keepsakes:

1. Get a file folder for each member of the family for each school year. This gives you a place to quickly stash items you want to keep--fingerpaintings, certificates, photos, gifts, or notes. This makes it easier to sort things when the time comes.

2. Label things before you forget what they are, who they are from, or what they mean to you. If you have an old collection of photos given to you by your mother, go through it now, or at least soon, while precious resources are still alive. This will also help you when the time comes to arrange the photos for display.

3. Don't get overwhelmed. If you are interested in scrapbooking, or even just collecting the things that seem important, set aside an hour a week to work on sorting these things. If you try to cram it into a super-Saturday and then have it finished...good luck!

Keep these things in mind and you should be on your way to successful scrapbooking.

(12-9-2002) Be sure to backup your information--it saves a lot of heartache. This weekend, the most terrible thing happened to me. My computer files were corrupted, and I was unable to make a GEDCOM, and the backups I had were 3 months old. I would lose about 100 hours of just data entry, not including the research to find the information, if the backup had been my only option. I was pretty sure my life was over, and that I should just throw in the towel and give up family history. How overwhelming and frustrating...

The happy part of this story is a friend of mine was able to fiddle with my computer until my file worked again, about 4 hours of work, but it ended up solving my problem. This is a very happy ending to such a sad scenario. If I had not been so lucky, I would have needed a current backup. Current backups are important because they provide you and your research with a safety net--something to hold onto. Here's a tip or two to quickly and easily backup your files:

1. Choose a backup day of the week. If you have a day to remember, say for instance Friday, it will be easier to remember to back up your information. And, if you close up shop without backing up, you will remember later that night, and feel REALLY BAD! If you backup every week, on the same day, maybe even at the same time, it creates a habit.

2. Create backups in multiple places. I have now decided to create backups on floppy disks, on my zip disk, and on the computer I have access to at work. Friday morning, before leaving home that day, I put the file on floppy disks, and once I arrived at work I am able to put the backup on my zip disk and on the hard drive of the work computer. This creates an even better safety net for me...if my home computer was stolen, I would have the files at work. If my backpack was stolen or damaged (dropping it in a puddle might do that!), I would have the floppy disks that I keep at home, as well as the work file.

Anyway, you know the rest, and I'm sure you've heard this preaching a thousand time, but the 5 minutes you take to make a backup may save you hours down the road. Think about it...

(12-2-2002) Share what you know about family history with your friends and family.
Sharing what you know is a very fulfilling use of time, for both you and your listener. They may become interested in this catching hobby and have a desire to learn more, or they may just be grateful that you are doing it for your own family. Friends appreciate learning new things, and they may just want to get started. For tips on how to get started, check out Brigham Young University's Center for Family History and Genealogy Online Tutorials for an easy introduction to family history and the resources available to anyone.

If you would like to share your knowledge with your family, now is the time. I just spent 5 days with my family, and found that there was a compiled family history book, which my parents had purchased copies of for each of the children, and was able to return home with my very own copy (including photos, certificates, life stories, and more!) Sharing with your family will benefit them because they will be interested in their roots, and you have done the research to tell them about their roots (that right there makes you qualified to teach!). Sharing with your family will also benefit you because, just like my recent experience, they will almost definately have things to share with you that may just help out. Sharing with our friends and family is a wonderful way to strengthen our relationships, and have a little fun. Go for it!

©2002, Trish Tolley