How to Plan Genealogy Trips: 6 Tips for a Perfect Genealogy Research Vacation

Family Traveling

We live in the information age which makes it convenient to conduct genealogy research without the need to leave your home. Most of the records and data are stored online and can be accessed whenever you need them. No matter how easy it may be to find information about your family, you are probably thinking about visiting your ancestors’ birthplaces once in a while. In this article, we will share some useful tips to help you plan your first genealogy research vacation. 

Genealogy Traveling

What Is Genealogy Travelling?

Before we get down to the tips that help you plan your next trip more efficiently, let’s figure out what genealogy traveling is and what types of genealogy vacations are there. Genealogy traveling usually refers to a trip you make to visit your ancestors’ homeland and conduct your family history research. There are two main types of such trips:

  • Genealogy tours

If you are planning to visit the land of your ancestors where you have never been before or don’t speak the local language, it might be better to book a genealogy tour organized by the locals. Such trips are usually focused on visiting local libraries, archives, and even cemeteries where you can find information about your ancestors. These types of tours can be group or individual ones.

  • Independent genealogy trips

If you are not a fan of working with tour operators, you can plan a trip of your own. You are free to visit any places you want without following a strict tour plan. However, it is still important to plan your trip in advance to make sure you have everything you need to feel comfortable during your vacation.

Tips for Planning Genealogy Research Trips

Even though genealogy vacations have a lot in common with regular trips, there are some things you should think through before you get on a plane. These tips will help you get started. 

  1. Plan your genealogy trip ahead of time

    All of the genealogy research trips should be planned in advance. There are so many things to think of: from getting proper travel documents to booking a place to stay. With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our lives, make sure to check whether you need to get a vaccine or be tested for infection before your trip according to the specific restrictions of the country you are planning to visit. You also need to decide what places you want to visit and what genealogical goals you pursue.  

    Family Traveling

  2. Conduct research before the trip

    Doing research while being in the place you’re visiting for the first time is not the best idea. We recommend learning as much as you can about your family before you go on a trip. For example, ask some of these family history questions to your family members to find out more about your ancestors’ past or any other information you can use during your trip. 

  3. Make copies of your family history documents

    Don’t take original documents related to your family histories such as records or family pictures. Make copies to take with you, especially if you want to show them to local researchers.

  4. Find a guide

    Get some help from local researchers and guides to show you around the area or drive you to the place you need. Guides can also help you with the translation, especially in small villages where people don’t speak a word of English. Try contacting genealogical societies in the area to find a local guide. 

  5. Pack your luggage wisely

    Besides clothes and toiletries, make sure you take all the necessary research materials such as a laptop, camera, maps, and a notebook to make notes along the way. Pack only stuff you will need and leave extra space in your luggage to bring back mementos. 

  6. Have fun

    Even though you are taking this trip to do research and learn more about your family’s past, you should still take it like a real vacation. Relax and be opened up to every opportunity this road trip can offer you.  

Once your trip is over, use all of the data discovered and pictures were taken to create a unique family tree with the Treemily builder. Share your findings with the entire family like if they were on vacation with you. 

The Shelbys: Family Tree and the Truth About the Peaky Blinders’ Leader

Tommy Shelby

The Peaky Blinders series will come back with its final season in 2021. The filming of the 6th season has already begun. Before we get to see the final story of the Shelbys, let’s take a look at every member of the family more closely. 

 

Shelby Family

What Is the Show About? 

Peaky Blinders is a British crime drama series released in 2013. The show tells the story of the Shelby gangster family of Irish descent who lives in Birmingham, England. Their story begins in 1919 just after the First World War ends. The leader of the gang and the main character Thomas “Tommy” Shelby is portrayed by an Irish actor Cillian Murphy. Throughout the seasons, viewers watch how the family is working on expanding their business and influence not only in their hometown but also internationally.

Shelby Family Tree

The Shelbys family line begins with Mr. Shelby whose name is unknown and his wife Birdie Boswell. Birdie was a Gypsy Princess and a member of the largest and most powerful gypsy families in England at that time. Together with Mr. Shelby Birdie had two children, a son Arthur Shelby Sr. and a daughter Elizabeth “Polly” Gray (née Shelby). Take a look at the Shelby family tree created with the Treemily family tree chart maker

Shelby Family Tree

Polly Shelby is an accountant and company treasurer at Shelby Company Limited. She was married to Mr. Gray and together they had two kids, Anna and Michael Gray born in 1906. Both children were taken away by the parish authorities and separated right after their birth. Anna Gray was sent to Australia where she died of spring fever. 

Arthur Shelby Sr. was married to a woman from the Strong family. The couple had five children together, four sons and one daughter. Arthur abandoned his kids after their mother’s death. All of the children were raised by Arthur’s sister Polly. 

Arthur William Shelby Jr. is the eldest son of Arthur Shelby Sr. born in 1887 and is a Deputy Vice President at Shelby Company Limited. Arthur is married to Linda Shelby born in 1895. The couple has a son named Billy.

John Michael Shelby is the 3rd son of Arthur Shelby Sr. Also known as John Boy, he served as a soldier of the Warwickshire Yeomanry during the First World War alongside his brothers Arthur and Thomas. His first wife Martha Shelby died of unknown causes leaving John widowed with 4 kids to raise. His second wife Esme Martha Shelby (née Lee) is a member of the Lee gypsy family also from Birmingham. Together they have 3 kids. 

Ada Thorne (née Shelby) is the only daughter of Arthur Shelby Sr. and his wife born in 1897. She is the only member of the family who is not involved with Shelby’s family business. Her husband Freddie Thorne is a communist and a former best friend of Thomas Shelby. Ada and Freddie have a son Karl Thorne named after Karl Marx.  

Finn Shelby is the youngest of the Shelby brothers born in 1908. Even though Finn is involved with Peaky Blinders and their business, his brothers always try to keep him away from any dangerous and illegal actions.  

Thomas Shelby: The Irreplaceable Leader of Peaky Blinders and His Family

Thomas Michael Shelby was born in 1890 in Birmingham, England, and was a second child of Arthur Shelby Sr. He is the leader of the Peaky Blinder criminal gang, ahead of the Shelby family and Shelby Company Limited. During the First World War, Thomas received drastic experience while serving as a sapper and it has changed his life forever. As awful as it sounds, it was the war that gave rise to the Shelby family’s success and made Thomas a strong and fearless leader. His leadership qualities, as well as his strategic and commanding abilities, made him the head of the family instead of his elder brother Arthur who is too hot-headed and impulsive to make important decisions. 

 

Tommy Shelby

 

Tommy’s wife Grace Helen Shelby (née Burgess) worked as an Irish barmaid when she met her future husband. Graсe was born in Galway, Ireland in 1894. Before marrying Thomas Shelby, she was married to an American banker Clive Macmillan. Grace and Tommy’s son Charles Shelby was born in 1922. Tommy Shelby also has a daughter named Ruby. Her mother, a former prostitute Lizzie Stark, was previously engaged to John Shelby but the engagement was called off.  

Discover other famous people’s family trees both real and fiction by checking out the rest of the Treemily blog articles. Don’t forget to sign up for our family tree builder and try it for free to create your own family visualizations. Share them with your friends and family or order a printed version of a tree to make a great gift for your loved ones. 

 

Michelle Obama: Family Tree and Contribution to the Society

Michelle Obama_

Every February the US citizens pay tribute to the past generations of African Americans who have struggled for their citizenship rights while contributing so much to society. It is known as African-American History Month (Black History Month) which also celebrates the contributions made to American history. We’ve decided to pay our own tribute to all African-American generations, future, and past, and tell you more about one of the most outstanding women in African-American history. 

Michelle Obama Early Life 

The future first lady of the US back then named Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, IL where she has spent her entire childhood. Besides African-American, Michelle has Irish, English, and Native American ancestry. She attended Whitney Young High School and entered Princeton University where she studied sociology and African-American studies in 1981. 

While growing up, Michelle faced gender and racial discrimination. It was important to her to prove and show the rest of the world that women, regardless of race, do have rights and the ability to speak up and succeed. Her final university thesis covered the topic of the black community at Princeton University and how African-American students felt while attending one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country. In 1988, Michelle also earned a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.

Contributions to the American Society

Michelle Obama has become a role model for millions of African-American women and girls. She always knew that her true destiny is to serve people and help them lead happy and active lives. Michelle previously worked as an assistant commissioner in Chicago’s City Hall, and later founded and directed an AmeriCorps program aimed to prepare young people for work in public service. 

As a first lady, Michelle introduced numerous initiatives, from Let’s Move! and Joining Forces to Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn supporting education and a healthy lifestyle. She also raised the awareness of poverty and the importance of fighting unemployment and hunger. Michelle still encourages millions of young people to be braver and work harder on the way to their dreams. 

Michelle Obama Family Tree

Parents

Michelle’s father Fraser C. Robinson III was born on August 1, 1935. He was a Democratic precinct captain and worked as a city water plant employee back in town. Michelle’s mother Marian Shields Robinson was born on July 30, 1937. Marian worked as a secretary for mail-order retailer, an executive assistant in a bank and currently helps her son as a basketball executive. Both Michelle’s parents were from Chicago, IL.

On October 27, 1960, the two got married in Cook County, IL. Their first child Craig Malcolm was born on April 21, 1962. He currently works as a basketball coach at Oregon State University. Michelle was the second and the last child in the family. On March 6, 1991,  Fraser C. Robinson III died from complications of multiple sclerosis. 

Grandparents

The roots of Shields and Robinsons families trace back to pre-Civil War African-Americans in the American South. 

Paternal Line

The Robinson family is descended from Gullah, African-American people who lived in the Lowcountry region of the South Carolina state. Michelle’s grandparents on her father’s side Fraser C. Robinson II and LeVaugh Delores Johnson were born on August 24, 1921, and February 6, 1915, respectively. Fraser’s grandfather Jim was born to a family of slaves in 1850 and was the first member of the family to become a freedman in 1865 right after the Civil War had ended. 

Maternal Line

Some of Michelle’s maternal ancestors were also born into slavery in South Carolina. Based on the latest research and DNA test, Dolphus T. Shields, the son of Michelle’s great-great-great-grandmother Melvinia was of a mixed-race and was a result of supposedly a continuing relationship between Melvinia and her master’s son who was a white man. 

Michelle’s grandfather Purnell Shields was born on December 19, 1910, and was a painter. His wife and Michelle’s grandmother Rebecca Jumper was born on April 5, 1909. Purnell and Rebecca had only one child together and died of unspecified causes in 1983 and 1988, respectively. 

Marriage and Kids

Michelle Robinson met her future husband Barack Obama born on August 4, 1961, while working for a Chicago-based law firm. The two got married in 1992 and had two daughters Malia Ann and Natasha born in 1998 and 2001, respectively. To learn more about Michelle’s family, check out the Barack Obama family tree article we’ve previously published on our blog. 

 

Final Thoughts

If you want to read more stories about the most outstanding women in US history, check out our article about Kamala Harris family tree and other posts on our blog. Join the Treemily community to create stunning family tree visualizations with our family tree generator for free and share them with your loved ones. 

Did Your Ancestors Participate in the Women’s Suffrage Movement?

Women’s Suffrage History

In August 2020, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of women getting their right to vote in the US. Today, we would like to tell you more about this exceptional women’s rights movement and let you meet the women who made this all happen.

Women’s Suffrage History

The question for women’s suffrage was first raised back in the 1840s when the first women’s right convention called the Seneca Falls Convention passed a resolution defending the concept of women getting their right to vote and affect future legislation.

In 1869, the very first two US suffrage organizations were established by women’s rights activists. One organization was founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the other was led by Frances E.W. Harper and Lucy Stone. While both organizations were fighting for the same beliefs, the two couldn’t find the right way to unite. Finally, more than 20 years later, they were merged to create the  National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Susan B. Anthony became the head of the association. By the time the women’s suffrage amendment was passed, the number of associate members exceeded 2 million people. 

Suffrage

Similar organizations and parties related to the topic were appearing across the country over the next decades. For instance, another activist Alice Paul formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916 whose actions were mainly focused on passing a national suffrage amendment for women. Supporters and members of the NWP organized numbers of pickets, hunger strikes, and other protests. During one of such pickets near the White House, over 200 people were arrested, most of them were women. 

Finally, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution passed in the U.S. Congress. Since then, the US states and federal government were prohibited from denying the right of the US citizens to vote based on their sex.

Most Famous Women to Take Part in the Suffrage Movement

Susan B. Anthony born on February 15, 1820, was one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of the women’s suffrage movement. Susan was born in a family of Quakers and since childhood has not tolerated social inequality and slavery. Together with her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton they founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society, the  Women’s Loyal National League, and initiated the American Equal Rights Association before founding the NAWSA in 1890.

Susan B Anthony

Elizabeth Cady Stanton is another great leader of the women’s rights movement. Besides the foundation of numerous organizations, together with Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, Elizabeth created the History of Woman Suffrage book that was published in 6 volumes between 1881 and 1922. The book contains over 5700 pages telling the entire story of the women’s suffrage movement. 

Alice Stokes Paul was an American suffragist, women’s rights activist, and feminist. Together with Lucy Burns, Alice was the one who organized the first suffragist parade called the Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington D.C. According to some records, the number of participants exceeded 10,000 people. For over 50 years, Alice was the leader of the NWP fighting for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment aimed to provide equal rights to all US citizens regardless of their sex. 

Alice Paul

100 years ago, these and many other women made it possible to secure for women political, legal, and social equality. If you want to know whether any member of your family has helped women to fight for their right to vote, use Treemily to do research. You can later use our family tree generator for free to create a chart including all of your ancestors who have participated in this and other women’s rights movements.

5 Indoor Winter Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained

Cooking

It’s not always possible to keep your kids playing outside when winter weather can go bad in a matter of seconds. None of the parents want their children to catch a cold and get sick especially during the Coronavirus pandemic when everyone is recommended to stay home as long as possible. We’ve come up with a list of indoor activities that can help your little ones stay entertained and active throughout the day. If you haven’t tried them yet, now is the best time to start. 

Crafting

 

Crafts

You can start a craft project with your kids no matter what age they are. From DIY Christmas ornaments to simple photo frames and wall decorations. Teach your little ones how to draw, use colored paper and glitter, and get creative! This will help you to keep your children entertained and develop their imagination.

Board Games

Toy stores currently offer a great variety of board games and puzzles that are interesting to play and can help your kids to practice logic, creativity, and simply let them spend time doing something fun. Figure out what your children love the most and find games related to this particular topic (whether it’s a card game like Uno or a board game like Scrabble that can teach your kids new words).

Family Tree

Family tree

Involve your kids in the family research to help them learn more about your ancestors’ past. Create a family chart with the names of your closest relatives. Use our premade family tree template to fill in the information together with your kids. Or you may also try our online family tree generator to create unique family history visualizations and share them with your loved ones. 

Family Performance

Does your kid love movies or want to be an actor/actress sometime? Put on a short family play and divide roles between your family members. Or plan a family karaoke evening singing your kids’ favorite songs and making your home look like a real stage for performances. 

Cooking

Cooking can be very entertaining both for adults and their children. Let your kids mix the dough, shape cookies, or pour the batter in a tin to make a cake, and enjoy the final dish together with your family. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your youngest kids if you’re planning to bake something or cook with a stove. 

Take a Moment to Spend a Great Time With Your Family!

We understand that lockdown can get annoying and tiring for everyone. Try to stay positive and spend this time strengthening family bonds with your loved ones. Check with the family members to whom you haven’t talked for a while and bring up the best memories of your family’s past to teach your children about their origin. Keep safe and make sure to spend today’s evening with your family doing something fun!

 

Best of the Best: The Biggest and Most Famous Family Trees

Family library

It’s impossible to count the exact number of family trees that have been assembled over the years. From popular public figures and celebrities to individuals, people have been creating family visualizations to help them trace back the family lineage to past generations. In this article, we will share the largest, oldest, and most famous family trees of all time.

The Largest Family Trees

According to the Guinness World Record Book, the largest family tree ever assembled belongs to a famous Chinese philosopher and politician Confucius. One of the very first tree editions published in 1837 covered 80 generations and contained over 600,000 descendants. The tree currently contains more than 2 million names. It is now known that the descendants of Confucius live all over the globe, most of them reside in China and Taiwan. 

Confucius Family Tree

The Oldest Family Trees

While the Confucius family tree carries the title of the biggest one, the Lurie family is known as the oldest one in the world. Its history traces back to 1037 BC. According to the records, the family lineage starts from the 3rd king of the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah called King David. The information about King David is mainly described in the Hebrew Bible. Even though there is not that much evidence that David actually existed most of them are provided in the Lurie Legacy book written by Dr. Neil Rosenstein.

King David Family Tree

The Most Popular Family Trees

Some events in our lives make people want to search for more details on their favorite movie characters or public figures. For example, when the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie was released, everyone wanted to know more about Harry’s godfather Sirius Black and his family history. Here is a family tree of the house of Black hand-drawn by J. K. Rowling.

Sirius Black Family Tree

You might have seen this tree before in the ancestral home of the Black family in the movie. You may also remember that several members of this family were removed from the tree by Walburga Black, the mother of Sirius. According to her beliefs, Sirius was also no longer honored to be a member of this family when he decided to run away. 

Another event that makes people want to find out more about someone’s family past is the US Presidential Election. We’ve already compared the family trees of the two previous US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. This year we’ve also decided to help you learn more about the recently elected President and the VP of the US Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. If you are interested in the past of the previous US Presidents, you can also check out the article on the Kennedy family tree.

With the recent release of the Crown series 4th season, the royal family tree has become extremely popular, especially the one that covered the family history of Princess Diana. Diana, Princess of Wales belongs to the Spencer aristocratic family that was founded by Sir John Spencer in the 15th century. 

 

Princess Diana family tree

 

Diana was born on July 1st, 1961 to Edward John Spencer and Frances Ruth Spencer (née Roche) and was the 4th child in a family. In 1981, Diana became officially engaged to Charles, Prince of Wales. The couple got married the same year on July 29th. Together they had two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Diana and Charles got divorced after 15 years of marriage in 1996. A year later, Diana died in a car crash in Paris. She still remains one of the most popular members of the British royal family. 

Stay tuned with Treemily and be the first to know interesting facts about the most popular family trees. Try our family tree maker online to create your own visualizations and trace back your family’s past. 

The Key Differences Between the Treemily Ancestor, Descendant, and Dynasty Family Trees

Family tree

To make it easier for the Treemily community to choose one of the Treemily products, we’ve decided to make a simple guide describing the key features and differences between them. In this article, we’ll tell you more about the Ancestor, Descendant, and Dynasty family trees to help you pick the one for creating your own stunning family history visualizations. 

Descendant Treemily

As it’s clear from the title, the Descendant tree features up to 5 generations of your descendants. You can create a Descendant family tree for an individual or a couple to include their kids, grandchildren, and further generations all the way to their great-great-grandchildren. One tree can include up to 11,222 names but if you have more members of your family, our team will be glad to work on a custom visualization just for you. We also believe that such a tree can become a great holiday present for your grandparents. Check out our walkthrough video to see how to make a Descendant tree with Treemily.

Ancestor Treemily

Our Ancestor family tree maker can be used for creating a tree that describes your family heritage all the way up to 10 generations. Just like the Descendant one, this tree can be made for an individual or a couple to describe their ancestors’ history. If you want to trace back your generation’s past, this is the best choice for you. You can also watch the walkthrough video to see how easy it is to make such a tree with the Treemily builder. 

Dynasty Treemily

Dynasty family tree was primarily designed for people willing to show their connection with famous people. No matter how far the connection goes, the tree will show exactly how you are related to a scientist, an artist, or any other luminary. The tree features your lineage of up to 150 generations.

Dynasty

What Do They Have in Common?

All of the above-mentioned trees allow placing pictures of your ancestors directly on the tree. You can also order any of your family history visualizations as a poster, a framed picture, or a canvas wrap, or download its digital version. 

What Product Should I Choose?

Your choice of the Treemily tree depends on your major purposes. If you want to show your connection to a world-known celebrity, go for our Dynasty family tree. If you want to trace back your family history, try out our Ancestor family tree maker. Or create a Descendant family tree to describe your family’s descendants known to date.

Join the Treemily community now and create your own dazzling family trees to keep the memories of your loved ones alive!

Ask Genealogists: Useful Tips for Your Research

genealogy search tips

There is a lot of guesswork and uncertainty in genealogy research. Many records contain wrong information, mistakes can be made in documents transcriptions, and, of course, there’re misspellings in censuses. What’s more, in the 19th century when publishing family genealogies was a popular thing, many genealogists often relied on legends, gossip, and erroneous family stories. As you can see, there’s a lot of room for human error in genealogy research, and even seasoned genealogists make mistakes once in a while. With this in mind, we’ve asked five genealogy experts to share their genealogy search tips for beginners.

Meet Our Genealogists

Melissa Barker: Melissa is a Certified Archives Manager, professional genealogist, FGS reviews editor, lecturer, teacher, and writer. Melissa has been involved in genealogy for 30 years and runs a genealogy blog where she shares her valuable experience with other researchers. Connect with Melissa on Twitter.

Paul Chiddicks: With 15 years of experience in genealogy, Paul is a blogger with an interest in military history. He runs his own online blog and often features in online genealogy magazines. Connect with Paul on Twitter.

Natalie Pithers: Natalie is a Professional genealogist offering research services. She started her own family tree when she was 18 – that’s almost 20 years ago! She is madly deeply in love with the past and runs her own blog. Natalie is a proud member of the Guild of One-Name Studies and an enthusiastic member of Historians Collaborate. Connect with Natalie on Twitter.

Kenneth R Marks: Kenneth started his genealogy journey as an amateur researcher 18 years ago and gradually turned into obsessed ancestor hunter sharing his considerable knowledge with others. Connect with Kenneth on Twitter.

Helen Tovey: Helen is editor of Family Tree Magazine, covering all aspects of genealogy research. Helen has been involved in genealogy since she was a teenager and now she encourages people to do family history research, helping them find answers to the trickiest questions.

1. How do you think the understanding of their past can benefit people?

Melissa Barker: Understanding our past can help us understand who we are, who our ancestors were and where we came from.

Paul Chiddicks: I think it can help us understand more who we are today and more importantly where we came from.

Natalie Pithers: I think that understanding the past helps us to avoid making the same mistakes again. Be that on a large scale (wars) or on a small scale (family dynamics). Understanding the past can also help us to understand why we are the way we are now. That’s something that can be very comforting or very challenging!

Kenneth R Marks: It gives us another dimension to our lives, allowing us to understand our ancestors. More importantly, it allows us to make connections with relatives that many times we didn’t know we had.

Helen Tovey: I think it can give people a much stronger foundation to their sense of self – it gives people a richer sense of their roots, the stories, lives, adventures, and tribulations of all sorts of ancestors, not just those of their immediate nuclear family – giving us a long view of history, of the ups and downs, of the opportunities and inspiring perseverance of those who came before.

2. Why did you start genealogy research? Is it your profession or hobby? What made you want to become a genealogist?

Melissa Barker: I started genealogy research because I was curious about my ancestors. At first, it was just a hobby then I decided to turn my avid hobby into a profession and became a professional genealogist. Then I went back to school and became an archivist.

Paul Chiddicks: I class myself as “an enthusiastic amateur”, I am not a professional. Sadly for me, my Dad died when I was just 3 years old, which left a big gap in my life, once I was old enough to ask questions about my Dad and my Family, I just never stopped asking questions.

Kenneth R Marks: Just as a hobby. I started because I was curious. Then I really got into it.

Natalie Pithers: My Mum inspired my love for genealogy. She’d tried to trace our tree, before the days of the internet. I was fascinated by her findings. I continued the research into our tree – and over the years I did the trees of several friends. I wanted to become a genealogist because I love so many aspects of the role. I love the challenge of research, logical thinking and problem-solving. Yet I also love the creativity of writing up the findings, imagining life in the past.

Helen Tovey: I’m not a professional genealogist but I’m lucky enough to have a job in the world of family history – something I’m hugely grateful for.

3. What path led you to transform your interest in genealogical research from a hobby to a career?

Melissa Barker: The reason I became a professional genealogist and made it my career is because I love helping others find their roots. I had so much fun finding my own roots that I wanted to help others do the same.

Paul Chiddicks: I currently only carry out my own research or unpaid work for friends, maybe one day I will take it to the next level. At the moment writing and blogging about my Family is taking up most of my time.

Kenneth R Marks: I wanted to help newer researchers with genealogy search tools and tips that I had discovered that would help others with their research.

Natalie Pithers: I had children! I’d had a full-time career as a contractor in Project Management. I really enjoyed it but I wanted something I could flex around the kids. Genealogy was perfect. I was genuinely passionate about it, found it stretched my brain and many of my project management skills helped with the organisation side (both in terms of running a business and in terms of managing the actual research).

genealogy advice

4. Did you just start by asking your family members? Did you start doing any research in libraries?

Melissa Barker: Both! I started by asking as many family members about what they knew and I found out that was much information. So, I turned to libraries, archives, courthouses and anywhere I could find records.

Paul Chiddicks: Asking family members first, record offices came after once I had established the key facts.

Kenneth R Marks: I started by asking my relatives and by performing online searches. Very little has been done in libraries.

Natalie Pithers: My Mum had already completed questionnaires with her side of the family. I started on my Dad’s side by quizzing my grandparents. I did go to the libraries – to access the Birth, Marriage and Death indexes.

5. What is one mistake you often see non-professionals make in their family history research, and how might they correct/avoid it?

Melissa Barker: The one mistake I see non-professionals make is believing everything is online. Being a seasoned genealogist and especially an archivist, I know that the majority of genealogical records are still sitting on shelves in boxes at libraries, archives, historical societies, genealogical societies and other records repositories just waiting to be discovered.

Paul Chiddicks: I write a regular blog for Family Tree Magazine here in the UK and one of my recent blogs was ‘The Top 10 Sins of a Genealogist’. Every single one of these sins/mistakes comes from my own experiences.

Kenneth R Marks: They don’t interview their oldest living relatives immediately.

Natalie Pithers: Not recording sources or conclusions. They think they’ll remember, but it’s amazing how quickly you forget where something was from – or why you concluded a piece of evidence was relevant (or irrelevant).

6. Are there any mistakes you’ve made that you regret about?

Melissa Barker: Yes! I wish I had taken better care to cite my sources for the information I gathered early on when I started doing genealogy research. I have records now that I have no idea where I got them.

Paul Chiddicks: All of them.

Kenneth R Marks: Yes, that I didn’t start 20 years earlier and interviewed my grandmother, who was brilliant and would have known everything about my family.

Natalie Pithers: I recorded sources but not exact citations. So, in the early days, I’d put that I’d discovered a fact in the 1901 census but have no further detail. It meant re-finding documents was difficult.

Helen Tovey: I regret not making recordings of both my grandmothers’ voices. I interviewed them, but just wrote down their quotes, and I’d love to have recorded the sound of their voices too. I also regret that when I started out when I came across something ‘untoward’ that I would often just tell other family members what I’d found. I’ve learnt with time, to be more diplomatic and cautious about what to say and how to say it.

7. What are some of the challenges you typically face while doing research?

Melissa Barker: The challenges I face are not having enough time to work on my own research. Being a professional genealogist, I work more with others’ researches than I do on my own research.

Paul Chiddicks: Time, I still work full time and have a grown-up family, so spare time for Family History is hard to come by.

Kenneth R Marks: None really. There are challenges everywhere in life. Goes with the territory.

Natalie Pithers: Gaps in records and my surname (Pithers) being mistranscribed or misspelled in original records. I have a very long list of all the variants I’ve found!

8. We all reach deadlocks sometimes. Is there anything that stimulates you to keep going?

Melissa Barker: Maybe it’s because I am an archivist working in archives every day but what keeps me going is knowing that records are being found in attics, basements and old buildings all the time and being donated to archives. Families are donating records after their loved ones have passed on a daily basis to archives which contain one-of-a-kind documents and information that has never been known before. This is what keeps me going.

Paul Chiddicks: I think all Genealogists have that ‘never say die’ or ‘never give in’ persona about them, it’s that tenacity that makes us good Genealogist’s.

Kenneth R Marks: Just the desire to find out as much as possible about my ancestors’ life stories.

Natalie Pithers: That burning desire to know the truth. To discover someone and remember them.

9. What are the benefits of hiring a genealogist over trying to research something on your own? At what point do you think a novice should bring in the professionals?

Melissa Barker: The benefit of hiring a professional genealogist is their expertise in their particular area. My area is Tennessee research and if you don’t know much about researching in Tennessee, a professional can be a huge benefit. A novice should bring in the professionals when they feel like they have done all they can do.

Paul Chiddicks: Again I have written a blog on this very topic, the link is here.

Natalie Pithers: Tracing your family tree is time-consuming and there’s so much to learn. Even experts continue to learn all the time. It’s not all fun either. Much as I love it, there is also a lot of data entry. Recording sources, proof statements, workings, research logs, etc.

If you are interested in discovering your ancestors, don’t wait until you ‘have the time’. Life’s too short and you never know what’s going to happen. If you don’t have time, hire a professional.

There’s also so much more that can be discovered in local archives. If you’ve done some online research consider hiring a professional that can visit the archives that are too far away from home.

10. What’s been your best genealogy discovery so far?

Melissa Barker: My best genealogy discovery so far is my 8th great grandfather provided wheat to George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War.

Paul Chiddicks: This is a very personal and emotional story that I have shared here.

Kenneth R Marks: The discovery of a family still living in Germany that I communicate with regularly, and other “cousins” that I have met. Also, the discovery that several of my ancestors were murdered in the Holocaust.

Natalie Pithers: My Nan claimed that we had French ‘blue blood’. I discovered that my 4 x Great-Grandfather was the illegitimate son of a Reverend. That Reverend was the son of a Baron, and that family line was of French descent. With some suggestions, they may be descended from the Plantagenet line. Richard III was my favourite Shakespeare play so I was very pleased with this discovery.

Helen Tovey: My best discovery so far has been recently finding a living relative at RootsTech. I always love making connections online via my online trees, but it’s so much more special to meet them in person. I don’t have a single discovery in my research that stands out, but I do really enjoy digging deeper into my ancestors’ lives and making sense of them – understanding why they might have made the decisions they did, the difficulties they had to face, and what it was that made them who they are.

11. What’s your source of inspiration?

Melissa Barker: My source of inspiration is my ancestors. Knowing each one of them has a story to tell inspires me to keep digging.

Paul Chiddicks: Fellow Genealogists inspire me every single day, with their individual stories and their generosity and kindness in helping others

Kenneth R Marks: Just the motivation to complete as best as possible my ancestors’ life stories

Natalie Pithers: Everything I do, I wonder – how was this done in the past? What did it feel like? What did my ancestors think about it? Even simple things like making breakfast. I’ll wonder, what did they eat? That curiosity seems to be insatiable and drives me forward to discover as much as I can about our ancestors.

Helen Tovey: The thought of leaving my kids a rich and inspiring record of their ancestors, that helps me to keep organized, and try to gather as many photos and memories as possible. I also love online learning resources – from the digitized records to podcasts and webinars.

12. What advice would you give someone who wants to start their family history research and what tools would you suggest they use?

Melissa Barker: My advice to anyone starting their family history research is to start with yourself. Tell your story first and then move to your parents, grandparents, etc. The tools I would suggest that new genealogists use are a good computer genealogy database to keep up with all the information you gather, take good notes and use those archives records that are not online.

Paul Chiddicks: Ask questions of your elderly Ancestors before it’s too late. I use Family Tree Maker, but whatever you choose treat yourself to some software. Consider taking a DNA test.

Kenneth R Marks: Don’t get hung up on dates as the be-all, end-all to research. Verify that you have the correct individuals in your tree but use newspaper research to discover the stories of your ancestors’ lives.

Natalie Pithers: I’d suggest they ask their family for as much information as possible. That they get a really good ‘how to’ book or do a course. And that they use an offline tree provider, like RootsMagic or Legacy rather than just building on Ancestry. Avoid the hint system until you are confident you are building up your own chain of evidence. Secondly, don’t rely on just one website.

13. Where do you recommend people who are new to genealogy start out? What do you consider “Step 1” in family history research?

Paul Chiddicks: Join a local family history society in the area that your family lived. Also, join as many family history online forums as you can both these are packed full of all sorts of experience and expertise to guide you through the early stages of your research. Most important of all, have fun!!

Kenneth R Marks: Interview your oldest relatives.

Natalie Pithers: Start by ordering the birth and marriage certificates of your oldest known relatives. Then use FreeCEN and FamilySearch to begin looking at census documents. Learn to cross-reference the details between Births, Marriages, Deaths and Census before branching out into more records.

Helen Tovey: This advice is never going to go out of date – do start with yourself, then your parents, and grandparents, working backwards. Make the most of the opportunities to record and share family stories, photos, and memorabilia. These are the close bonds that help us to feel connected – and that feels to me like what’s at the heart of treasuring our roots.

Family History on a Budget: How to Save Money on Research

Money doesn’t grow on trees.

Due to the increasing number of online databases and websites with historical records, it feels like genealogy research has never been easier. However, many of the resources can’t be accessed without a paid subscription, resulting in a steep fare for just a hobby.

Though such resources are convenient (and if you can afford them they will be of great help), the truth is that they are not a necessity in many cases. Let’s see if it’s possible to find out about your ancestry without spending a cent.

How to Reduce the Cost of Genealogy Research

Genealogy research is an expensive hobby and you are unlikely to find your ancestors absolutely for free. The good news is that there are still some ways to save money on your family history research and visualization, from free records to an online family tree maker

1. Free Genealogy Records

If you divide all costs that genealogists bear to carry out ancestry research into categories, you will see that the largest share of the money is spent on record subscriptions. Although such giants like MyHeritage and Ancestry are very convenient to use and provide large amounts of data, many of the records provided on such resources may be found elsewhere for free.

There are countless online public and government archives that provide census records, pedigree books, birth, death, military, and other records free of charge. Also, you can find there old newspapers and city directories there. We’ve already provided a list of totally free genealogy websites, don’t neglect to check it out.

If the record is held behind a paywall and can’t be accessed online for free, you can go to your local library or a history center – quite often they offer access to genealogy subscriptions.

Another option is to use a free trial of the website you’re interested in. Typically, paid websites provide 14 days free and you can use those two weeks to your fullest advantage.

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2. Record and Photo Scanners

This type of cost is unfortunately unavoidable. Eventually, you will find yourself in need of a scanner. Whether it’s a record from an archive or your granddad’s photo, you will need a photocopying device you can use anywhere at any time.

You will need a photo scanning app. No phone can handle the task properly. Sure, you can apply some edits after photographing but it will take way more time and is not nearly as convenient.

There’s a wide choice of mobile apps, so try several options to find the one that suits you.

find your ancestors for free

3. DNA Testing

One of the frequently asked questions among researchers is: “How much does it cost to get a genealogy test done?” A lot.

This is one more major cost that many genealogists face is DNA testing. It can tell us a lot about our heritage however such tests are not free. Nevertheless, over the last couple of years, DNA tests have become more affordable. Moreover, there are many free options to further expand your family history research after you’ve undergone the test.

Another option is to wait for discounts. Choose the type of test that you want to take and check announcements about a price drop. Quite often, companies offer discounts for attendees at conferences on genealogy research.

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4. Make a Wish List

This will not help you economize, however, you won’t have to spend your own money on some things. We’ve published a gift guide for genealogy researchers, so you can check it out for ideas. It’s a win-win situation, in fact, since you get a useful thing that you don’t have to waste money on, and your presenter doesn’t have to rack their brains trying to think of a present for you.

 

We’re all working with a limited amount of money. Although it’s impossible to do quality genealogy research without spending a cent, you don’t have to spend a fortune on it as well. These tips will help you cut off all unnecessary expenditures and spend only on the things that may really make a difference for your genealogy research. In the end, you can easily create your family visualizations with our online family tree maker