Is My Relative in Family Search Family Tree?

FamilySearch Family Tree Basics

The FamilySearch Family Tree is a 'One Tree' Concept and has created it's collective database of names from a number of sources. It is entirely possible that your relative is already hanging out on the tree waiting for you to find them and add sources and memories to their profile. So, before you start adding someone to the tree, it's critical that you determine whether or not a profile exists for them.  

3 Critical Tips about Preserving Your Family History

If you are not working to preserve what you have access to, it will be gone and you will kick yourself for the loss. Here are a few tips from my blogging pal at Genealogy Tip of the Day along with some of my remarks about the tip.

Save the Photo and the Facts Behind the Photos
For pictures, make certain to include identification if you have it, who made the digital image, where they got it, and who made identification.
Photos without identification are worthless to the vast majority of people. They will end up in the trash bin or in some random box at an estate sale for a crazy person to gather. Some of those crazy people have good hearts and want to reunite photos with families. However, their task is extremely difficult when there is very little information to go off of. 

Don't make your family choose between saving photos or tossing them because you didn't record what you knew (or asked someone)!

Be certain to include what you remember about relatives you knew growing up as well. And who knows, when writing your own stories down, you may get some insight into that ancestor who has you stuck
Amen, Brother! I think about the story my Grannie shared about playing cards with her mother. My Grannie was such a cheat. She could see the reflection of her mother's cards in her mother's glasses and would use that sneak peak to triumph regularly. Naughty little girl! But, this story tells me so much about my Grannie and her mother. 

... consider the fragility of the source. Some sources, particularly the minds of relatives, photographs, and tombstones are more fragile than other records.
People, places, and stuff is just as perishable as the bananas I buy from the store weekly. They age rapidly and loose the quality of the resource if not used quickly. When I teach family history classes, I don't start with building a tree, I start with curating the perishable. The tree can be built 'anytime' but the memories are lost quickly.

These are three great tips from Genealogy Tip of the Day are used with permission from the site owner. Check them out!  Then leave your preservation tips in the comments section.

Fab Finds: Proud 2B Canadian Kit

When you think of the color scheme red and white, what do you think of? 

Proud 2B Canadian Scrapbook kit
Proud 2B Canadian Scrapbook kit by Melissa Bennett

Now that I have visited Canada, the Maple Leaf flag comes immediately to mind when I think of red and white.

This kit was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT for my Canada vacation scrapbook. Here's the front cover for the overall album:

Canadian Theme Scrapbook Layout

Inside the album, the color scheme was perfect for the family section of our little adventure.

Canadian Theme Scrapbook Layout
Left Page
Canadian Theme Scrapbook Layout
Right Page

Notice how soft the tones can be?  Perfect for a modern vacation that goes back in time.

The kit also has bold colors for the modern day activities like visiting the Montreal Science Center. 

Canadian Theme Scrapbook Layout
Left Page
Canadian Theme Scrapbook Layout
Right Page
This is a great kit that doesn't just celebrate Canadian History. If you have any need for red and white in your page designs, leave out the maple leaf and Canadian flags and you're set!

If you'd like to see more of my favorite kits, let me know in the comments section. I'm currently looking for an 80s inspired kit that has muted colors to compliment the photo processing of the late 70s/early 80s. Feel free to share a link to a kit you find interesting.

How do I research someone I know little about?

How do I do genealogical research about someone I know little about

After working with a variety of beginners, I have encountered a number of questions. The mosty common question is often stated this way,

"I want to learn more about my great-grandmother but I don't know much about her. How do I begin?"

Today I will walk you through the beginning steps I take to discover someone's family history. Then I will follow up with a few other posts, so stay tuned!

To start, I prefer to start folks on because it's free, you gotta love that. Secondly, many other websites are distracting with instant trees and multiple variations of the same person on a variety of trees. I take a sourced based approach to building my tree so that's why start at Family Search. 

Before I start building the tree, I need to identify what I already know.  Let's say I know these bare bones facts:

Zula J Offord
born 1869
died 1929, in Ohio, United States

The first step is to see if there are any records available that will tell me more about Zula, I'm hoping that with a less common name such as Zula, that I will be able to narrow down the possibilities quickly. By searching records first, I will know what profile on any online tree is likely to be my ancestor. Hopefully, I can discover a maiden name, a birth place, a spouse's name, or parents' names. 

After Logging in to FamilySearch, I click on the Search tab which will take me to this screen.

Basic FamilySearch Search Tips

In the entry from, I type the name Zula Offord (leaving the middle initial off).

For the birth I expand the year to the range of 1865 - 1875.
Why would I do that when I have a birth year of 1869? 
Don't get stuck in the 'this record says the birth is 1869, so I should type in 1869" mind set. To increase your changes of finding your ancestors, it is better start with a broad year range to capture any record that is the right person with a slightly 'wrong' date. 
If I have too many results returned, then I can narrow down the birth year range. 

For the death, I key in the range of 1928 - 1930 and the place of Ohio, United States.
This range is smaller than the birth range because I am more certain of the death date. However, sometimes records are indexed incorrectly or the death records for one person do not all agree on the same date. Once again, it's better to have a wide death date range than a specific year to ensure you capture all relevant records. 
I'm quite certain Zula died in Ohio, so I add her death place. It's possible that she died somewhere other than where she was buried (which is in Ohio). I'll keep an open mind but I want to narrow the records to only Ohio death records at this time.
Now, I press the Search button to see what is available on FamilySearch. 

Basic FamilySearch Search Tips

In this case, FamilySearch returns likely candidates for my search terms including:

  • 3 death records
  • 1 Find A Grave record
  • 1910 US Census (not shown)
  • 1920 US Census
  • Death record for possible spouse named John (not shown)
  • Death record for possible child named Grayson (not shown)
The possible spouse name of John and and child named Grayson triggers a memory about this family and seems most likely fit. Upon further research, I find that John Offord is buried beside Zula in the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. Other research does support Grayson as Zula's son.

Hooray! These are my people!

I am confident this collection of facts pertains to the Zula Offord. From these records I learn:
  • Zula's parents were Warren Devore and Sallie Ball
  • Her full birth and date dates, as well as places
  • The names of at least three children
For this blog post, I intentionally chose someone who was easy to find in the search results from the smallest set of facts. If you're results page isn't this simple, don't be discouraged. There are other things you can try:

  • Vary how you spell Zula's names. 
  • Spend more time analzying results if you don't recognize Zula's relatives
  • Narrow down your birth or death ranges if you have too many results
There are other possibilities as to why you are unable to quickly find records for your ancestor at among which include no records available for the time/place your researching, browse only records available online without a search function, or records are located on another website. There are many reasons you might not find your ancestor quickly. At that point, I would call in a Family History Consultant, they can help you!

In my next post, I will share what you can do once you discover a relative in a record on Family Search. 

Does this help you get started? Leave a question or tips on how to get started searching the Family Search records.

Are your related to the Gusslers?

I received a lovely email from Marcia Barnes as she stumbled upon my website and my Geiszler family lines. It reads:
"Gussler is my ancestry. We might be related. I have hit a brick wall, my  great  great great grandfather reason was  raised by a family in Larue County KY. I think I have found his father but not for sure....  Name changed from Gussler to Gusler due to become angry due to fighting in Civil war. Father upset with son and side he fought on. Does any of this sound like a story you have heard  in your research.Are you related to any of the Gusslers who brothers came to US in 1700. "

'Are we related?' is a great question to which I do not believe I have the full answer.

According to the Franklin County Clerk of Superior Court (in Ohio), Joseph Keizler was admitted to Citizenship of the United States of America in 1858. Joseph was a native of Baden, Germany. The record was certified on 11 Oct 1858.

Joseph Keizler is believed to be Geißler as the naturalization certificate was passed down through the family and all remaining family records indicate the last name is some variation of Geißler.

As such, researching Joseph Geißler, I have only discovered that he married in Columbus, Ohio in 1856 and before that he does not seem to be in Ohio, thus he would have been in Baden or en route to Ohio.

Joseph does not seem to have immigrated to Ohio with other family members. As such, it's very difficult for me to know what his relations are prior to 1856. It's possible that he's related to the Gusslers but it would not be a direct link because Joseph came in the 1850s from Baden rather than the 1700s. However, with the Gussler family living in Kentucky, perhaps they sent letters home talking about the Western frontier in Kentucky and Ohio and the large German population in Columbus and Cincinnati and thus Joseph decided to come over. Once again, the time line seems about a generation or two too far removed.

However, there is the Civil War piece of the puzzle with a family feud and changing the family name. Once again, it's possible that Geißler  is related, however, why would he have naturalization papers if he was living in Kentucky? Seems like that was unlikely.

So am I related to the Gusslers in Kentucky? At this time, I am inclined to so it's inconclusive.

Heritage Scrapbooking: Collage With A Purpose

Remember back in the hey day of modern paper scrapbooking when the "Creative Memories" philosophy was king?
Cut your photos into pleasing shapes and add stickers and die-cut shapes to a layout and you'll have your memories preserved forever. 
Although the company was big on preservation, they forgot one little detail. When you start chopping your original photos up, you're stuck with those shapes FOR-EVER! I can't turn back time and fix the shapes of my photos, but I can redo a scrapbook page to make the mistakes less of a problem.

Tech Tuesday: How Not to Write a Collaboration Email

Writing Collaborative Family History Email
Collaboration is the name of the game in 21st Century Family History and I love when someone contacts me asking about research that I have shared on, FamilySearch, or FindAGrave. However, there's one little thing that folks can do to make their emails a little easier to respond to.


I know that seems too simplistic. However, I have received a number of emails asking about research pertaining to individuals and there is no link to the individual to help me refresh my memory. Here's one example,

I noticed that you had information about Jerry Lester stating that he was married to Sarah Quiggly and they had five children. You have him connected to James Lester as his father. Well, the Jerry Lester son of James from Massachusetts died before wedding and having children. I'm happy to find new information contrary to my research. Please let me know what supporting information you have for Jerry, husband of Sarah to Jerry son of James. 

While this email is extremely polite, what is it lacking?

Dates and places would certainly be nice. The email does mention Massachusetts but that isn't helping much (especially with common names). What is lacking is a link to who they are referring to. Let me say this another way.

A link is essential. 

In order to answer this email, I need some way to know which site was used to find the tree links. It really does make a difference which resourced was used.

First, my accounts on various websites are not always in sync. Perhaps I have new information that needs to be transferred to the other site. So tell me which site was used.

Second, I do a lot of volunteer work on various sites to 'pay it forward.' Sharing a link to Sarah Quiggly will quickly help me recognize if the person you are asking about is a volunteer project or a common ancestor.

Finally, I am a busy mother of five children. When I have free time, I spend it doing genealogy. If you want me to answer your email quickly, then make it easy for me to access the person you are asking about.

These are three of my reasons why sharing a link about an ancestor you want to collaborate on is essential. Other genealogists have different reasons why a link, or a person ID number, would be invaluable to quickly respond to your email.

Whenever I receive such emails, I attempt to politely ask, "Who are you talking about?" and request the website or link so we can start on the same page. Often, the person sending the first email is so gracious to respond, "Oh, yeah. That would be helpful. Sorry and here you go!" Others seem put off by my request and do not respond again.

Collaborative genealogy is nothing knew, it's just in a new format. For online trees and queries, let's all commit to better partnerships by sharing identifying information so the process flows just a little bit easier!


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