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Tune in for the best information, innovation & inspiration to help you grow your family tree!

Sep 16, 2014

Do you have enough time to work on your family history the way you would like to? How about taking on someone else’s family history? In this episode I’ve invited someone who has jumped over his own family history to diligently working on a perfect strangers…or did he jump over it? It’s a very interesting story! We’ll also be talking later about coping and in fact excelling even in the face of technological change. 

I’m home for a week before I head back out on the road. And the next stop is Naperville Illinois and the Fox Valley Genealogical Society where I’ll be presenting a full day seminar on Sept. 27, 2014. The following week I’ll be at the Pima County Genealogical Society in Tucson AZ and then in October the Heritage Quest Library in Sumner Washington.  I hope you’ll check out my full schedule at and perhaps join me at one of the upcoming events. 

Improvements at Genealogy Gems
We have a new easier way to get exactly the content you want from the Genealogy Gems website! We've added a new feature to the bottom left hand corner of the Genealogy Gems homepage: Select Content by Topic.

Now finding the content you want, whether a podcast episode, blog article or video, is as simple as selecting the topic from the drop down menu.

For example: Looking to learn more about DNA? Select "DNA" in the list. Are you new to family history? Click "Beginner." You can also access our complete archive of blog articles in the "Blog Archive by Date" drop down list just below Topics.

We are really striving to make the website something you can turn to every day not only for the latest in genealogy, but for the topics and content you need when you need them. This is your website!


Family History Jewelry
Also new to the Genealogy Gems website has been so new items in the store including some exclusive genealogy research quick sheet bundles, and a beautiful line of customizable jewelry, perfect for showing off your family history. You can select from rings, pendants, and a charm bracelet – each one customizable with family photos creating true heirlooms. In fact Marlene was so excited about how her customized jewelry turned out she called in to tell us about it.

“You are a genius.  I just received my bracelet from lisa lisson.  I did a generation picture of my Mother and 4 Mothers going back to my 3rd Great Grandmother.  It is beautiful, and sacred.  Thank you for hooking up with this website, I am thrilled.  You really care about me and my needs.” Marlane

You can find the jewelry created by Esther’s Place at our store. You’ll be amazed how quickly they will create your jewelry and affordable it can be. I’ve got them working on a bracelet right now that features the women in my family tree.


Silver Surfers: Internet Use by Older Adults
We reported on a very interesting infographic recently on the Genealogy Gems blog called Silver Surfers: Internet Use by Older Adults

Interesting Stats: 

  • In 2012 Baby Boomers aged 47-65 spent an average of 27 hours a week on the Internet
  • Of the seniors that are online, one in three are using social media.
  • A big change from just back in 2009 when only 13% of seniors online were using social media.
  • In fact 1 in 5 Twitter users are over 50
  • 49% of online seniors have a Facebook account
  • Seniors aren’t just socializing, they are shopping too. 59% of seniors online have made a purchase online in the last 3 months

Here’s what you had to say on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page:

From Sheri: "Lisa, My sister and I met you at RootsTech this year. We're already planning next year’s trip! I read the article about silver surfers and just wanted to say that when I was a kid (Fairbanks, Alaska) we had party-line phones, one TV station! My mother wrote letters to her family in Idaho regularly and long distance phone calls were very rare! I'm a baby boomer and have always been interested in technology. I do most research online with Ancestry, Fold3, FamilySearch, etc. I haven't jumped into the blogging pool but who knows! I'm currently starting to work on suggestions from your Google Earth CDs, putting together family tours. Love your podcasts. You are my favorite "source". Sheri"

From Diane: "Thanks for the article about the silver surfers. I saw you when you spoke to the San Diego Genealogical Society and learned a lot. I am a major social media user. I am on many FB groups, use Twitter, Pinterest and have my own genealogy blog. I am a baby boomer. Party lines were in use when I was a kid and for parts of my growing up our household didn't even have a phone. Here is a link to my blog." 

From Sandee: "When I was a kid, we communicated mostly by letter -- which soon fell by the wayside because they took so long to write, were full of scribble-outs and add-ins, and had a long turnaround time. Phone calls were for really important stuff and emergencies. When I went to college, my parents gave me a tape recorder and several REELS of tape so I could send oral "letters" home (which I don't think I ever did). My dad read the Dick Tracy comic strip and said that someday we really would have wrist-worn telephones and would be able to see each other as well as talk. In spite of all the complaints about constant contact via cell phones and text messages and emails, modern-day communication seems to foster friendships."

Check out Pebble Smartwatch for iPhone and Android (Black)



Candace says: "When I was young we had a party line with 8 families. We weren't supposed to listen in to other conversations, but we all knew which ring indicated the best news."

Candace’s memories remind me of the Andy Griffith show!

From Lynn: "You asked about seniors and 'net usage. I mostly use e-mail and delight in being able to stay in touch on a daily basis with my 94 year old cousin in Michigan. She is the only person in her assisted living facility with a computer.”

Thank you to our sponsors:



Natalie in TX has success with one of Lisa's Tips:
“I attended your 3 classes this past weekend at the Houston Genealogical Forum and I really enjoyed them as I do all of your classes. I have done a lot of work already on newspapers for about 20 years with interlibrary loan and traveling to libraries and newspaper offices out of town.  My small towns' newspapers so far have hardly shown up online but slowly that is changing.  So when I finished your class I used some of your Google search tips on some newspaper sites.  Some things worked, others didn't but one thing I'm glad you mentioned was do not overlook was if a hit came up on a newer date, not to overlook it.  I went to the Old Fulton Postcards website and he mainly has New York newspapers on his site but he also has The Rogersview Review from Rogersville, Tennessee.   So I found  several hits on that site but the one I wanted to tell you about was I was looking for my 3Great Grandfather Williamson Tucker and there were a few hits but one was in 1995 and the other was in 2001. 

So I clicked on the 1995 article and it was a picture of New Hope Baptist Church and the first two sentences said "New Hope Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1833. It was given in a land grant by Williamson Tucker in memory of William C. Bailey."  Then the 2001 issue which was a listing for Hawkins County churches and had New Hope on it,  and it gave a little more info that William Bailey gave land to the church but never made a deed for it.  He then died and then my ancestor Williamson Tucker acquired the land from the Baileys and then deeded it to the church.   Wow, I did not know that, and I probably would have skipped over those two hits because they were so late dated.  So thank you for the tip!   I've been writing a paper on my grandfather the Rev. Ellis Birl McLain who was a Methodist minister who lived in many places and so far I have found him in 15 different newspapers in six states so I really do know the importance of searching newspapers.” 

Linda from South Australia writes in about Dealing with Chaos:
“I just read your advice on ‘dealing with the chaos’ (a problem that has been tormenting me for ages) and a very bright light went on in my head when I read your suggestion for using Evernote to store things for future research.  I use MS OneNote to store some of my loose bits of genealogy info, but I haven’t organized them well.  I’ll use your tip – the simple idea of having a ‘future research’ section for each family makes me feel better already!

The harder part will be putting something in there, leaving it for later, and then going back to what I was looking for in the first place – I’m easily distracted!  Especially when someone I’m NOT looking for turns out to be more interesting than the one I AM looking for.”

Del in California has been busy using Google Earth for Genealogy:
“I finally got around to watching the Google Earth video CD I purchased from you last January when you were here.  I have been doing the map overlays, which is really a neat feature…It served a practical use, as I have a plat map of the whole of Bent County, Colorado upon which I have marked all the locations where we own mineral rights (passed down from my grandfather).  I can then use the transparency feature to compare the holdings with the actual topography.  I also have overlaid plat maps of various ancestors who had original land patents in Indiana, Colorado, and Ohio.  A couple of the ancestors donated land for cemeteries, which I have visited and are visible on Google Earth and marked on the overlay maps. Fun stuff…would not have been able to actually make it work without the CD.”

Google Earth for Genealogy digital video series

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox book


GEM: Project Lizzie – An Interview with Ron Ploof
We’re all working on our own family tree, but have you ever considered working on someone elses? Someone you’ve never met and you don’t know their descendants?

Storyteller Ron Ploof is here to share how and why he took on such an endeavor, and some of his successes and challenges along the way which he is documenting on his new website Project Lizzie at

In this interview we head back to 1976 when Ron was 13 years old, and helping his uncle who had just bought a house in Massachusetts. Exploring as 13 year olds do, Ron found something intriguing in the attic of that house – a stack of 99 postcards tucked away. He’s held onto them for the past 38 years. Ron was always fascinated with the pictures on the front of the cards, but in 2012, he started studying the stories on their backs. And that's when he could see that 86 of them were addressed to a Mrs. Lizzie Milligan and postmarked between 1904 and 1925.

He has spent the past year-and-a-half trying to learn as much about her, including a trip from California to Massachusetts to find her gravesite. Ton started publishing Lizzie's story online in February of this year.

Ron has asked his readers to join in the hunt, which begs the question: Why should his readers care? It’s a very important question, because we all have had a non-genealogist relative ask us the question: Why should I care? Even when they are related to the person! If we can share the why, we can more successfully share the journey.

2/24/18 UPDATE: Read the final installment on Ron Ploof's blog here.

Profile America — Wednesday, September 17th
On this date in 1787, the Constitutional Convention wrapped up in Philadelphia with the delegates accepting the document and sending it on to the states for ratification. Less than two years later, the new U.S. government had to take out a loan. This week in 1789, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton was in negotiations to borrow nearly $192,000 from the Bank of New York and the Bank of North America. The money was needed to pay the salaries of President Washington and the members of the first Congress. The loan was obtained in February 1790 and paid off in June. Today, the president's salary is $400,000 a year — more than twice the amount of the first loan — and the debt of the 50 united state governments is around $1.15 trillion.

Sources: Kane's Famous First Facts, 1104, 3804  Page 6


Coping and Exceling through Techological Change
Recently I was teaching an online class, and one of the students was stumped because the class materials said to use the Advanced search link on and it wasn’t there. She stopped worked and posted that she couldn’t do it because the link wasn’t there.

This is a perfect example that we really need to cultivate our problem solving skills in today's constantly changing online environment. I totally get that it can be frustrating to visit a familiar website or refer to something in a book (or a class!) and find that things are not as they used to be.

In this case, Google removed the "Advanced Search" link from the Web Search and Image Search home pages. And I’ve had situations where I went to teach an iPad class, and the night before a new operating system was released changing practically everything!

However, if we come to expect change then we won’t have to be quite so surprised and frustrated when we run into it. And of course in most cases that change is really an attempt by the website to improve and evolve, although that can seem debatable when it's something you enjoy or depend on.

When you run up against change, you are better equipped than most to deal with it. As Genealogists the sleuthing skills we have honed become our greatest assets!

The quickest way to determine what's going on when something changes online (which again can happen nearly every day) is to just "Google It!"

After reading the student’s message, that's exactly what I did, because I didn’t have the answer on the top of my head either. So I went to and searched on: google advanced search no longer on home page. 

The results quickly led me to the answer: At both the Image Search page ( and the Web search page ( the Advanced Search has been moved to "Settings." Simply click "Settings" in the bottom right corner and you will find "Advanced Search" there as one of the options.

The good news is that chances are, if we've noticed a change, others are already talking about it online, and often will have already shared the answer. "Googling it" is often the easiest way to determine what's going on, so that you can get on with your family history work. So until we meet here again, get on with your family history work!