Leafseeker Solvers #2: Digitizing the paper piles & family data

Leafseeker Solvers #2

Digitizing the paper piles & family data

Right now, sitting at your desk…look to your left…now your right. Yep, we all have those piles of books and stacks of folders creeping away the surface of the desk. Thick with photocopies of family source documents, we need to take time from the researching and focus on those folders by pulling out the useful details and managing the paper flow.

Let me offer my way to control the paper herd and digital files. If it works for you, drop me an email or comment on Facebook. I would love to know!

For this solver tip  you will need to:

  1. Signup for the latest issue of The Leafseeker
  2. Toolbox needs:
    • Index cards or notebook
    • Stacking file sorter trays
    • File labels
    • Filing cabinet
    • Hanging file folders & tabs
    • Permanent marker
    • Pencil
    • Flatbed Scanner
    • Genealogy Software
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Leafseeker Solvers #1 Let’s Get Organized!


Let’s Get Organized!

Jan. 10: Choosing & Using Genealogy Software

The hobby of genealogy may begin with notebook jottings but can quickly turn into a vast jumble of family facts. Using computer software can help keep facts in order and tangle free.

If you are computer shy, many of the software companies offer online how-to tips, webinars, and courses for each step of the way.

There are several well known genealogy software that will get the job done no matter which you choose. Just find one that feels right for your needs. Here are just a few…

RootsMagic (PC & Mac, Ubuntu/Linuz with additional software)  This is my personal favorite. It offers a short learning curve and simple format for storing collected family information. Print out family group sheets blank and filled for your research binder or print reports and charts to share at the family reunion. The program is packed with many options for sharing, data backup, and citations. Their app, RootsMagic To Go, can load your data onto your mobile device for viewing during research trips. The website offers numerous webinars to help navigate the ins and outs of the program. Take their demo RootsMagic Essentials for a spin. You can upgrade to the full version at a reasonable price without losing the data inputted during the trial.

A few screenshots from RootsMagic…


Pedigree View


Individual Page

To Do Lists for individuals or families

To Do Lists for individuals or families

Source Citation database

Source Citation database

Legacy Family Tree (PC, Ubuntu/Linux/Mac with additional software) has a bit more of a learning curve with many of the same program options. Try their demo version, Standard Edition, for a test run. The program is offered in several languages. The website offers many options for navigating the program’s ins and outs.

Ancestral Quest (PC & Mac) is a software that may be useful for those using FamilySearch trees. The program correlates with FamilySearch Trees and former Personal Ancestral File® (PAF) and may be an alternative program for those wishing to keep to the Family Tree Maker program. There is also an on-the-go app. Take their demo version, Ancestral Quest Basics, for a test run.

While I would highly suggest one keeps their main data on a computer in the real world, you may prefer to utilize an online virtual tree application for sharing with family and other researchers.

Ancestry.com’s Family Tree

FamilySearch Family Tree

As you search the reviews for comparisons, there are several software that have been discontinued:

Family Tree Maker (PC & Mac) will be fazed out after Dec. 31, 2016. The program will still be usable for existing owners but will no longer have syncing functionality or customer support after that date. Don’t fret, many of the remaining software companies can help you transition the data from FTM to their program without data loss.

The Master Genealogist (PC & Mac) was discontinued in 2014.

Another application to consider adding to the toolbox:

CutePDF Writer Don’t have Adobe PDF? Not a problem! This little program installs quickly onto your computer and works as a virtual printer. Instead of printing web documents that use up your printer ink and wastes paper, choose this in your printer options, then save as a pdf file into your chosen documents folder. Upgrade to CutePDF Pro for additional options.

Overall, having genealogy software to organize your family history data will be worth the investment in learning the software as well as the wallet!

Happy Leafing!


Next time in The Leafseeker Newsletter: Let’s Get Organized! Digitizing the paper piles & family data

Signup for The Leafseeker Newsletter to receive quarterly genealogy tips, news, and happenings.

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Busy like a bee!

Did the year 2015 fly by and leave you with a trail of genealogy chores? Life sure has a way of putting family research in the back corner. But don’t fret, there are ways to get back on track, get organized, and continue breaking down the brick walls.

To get you up and running for the coming year,  join me in a quarterly series beginning next month: “Leafseeker Solvers” aimed to keep you hopping along even with limited time. Each quarter e-newsletter will focus on a particular topic with tips and how to’s.


Sign up for Leafseeker Solvers!

Leafseeker Solvers
The Leafseeker: January 2016 – #1 Let’s Get Organized!

A. Choosing & using genealogy software

Signup for The Leafseeker Newsletter to receive genealogy tips, news, and happenings.

Note: The previous option for a Bi-Monthly series was better suited and changed to a Quarterly series. This will enable everyone to complete a task on their busy schedule without getting behind. Thanks for joining!


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Adventures in Living History

The smell of black powder, the foot sounds of military in march, and ladies in petticoated skirts swishing as they walk by. Those are some of the first images many would bring to mind when thinking of reenactments regarding the Civil War period. So educational and historical, stepping back in time can be so enlightening!

So with my love for historic preservation and many influential friends who have urged me time and time again, I will be donning the clothing of our black ancestors. There are many avenues to considers as a living historian but first things first…

What period of history do I wish to represent? While I love many eras the years 1830 through 1890 are of great interest. This span of years would cover several eras and historical periods I will consider for attire: Victorian, Romantic, Civil War, Reconstruction, and Edwardian.

Building a wardrobe can be fun and daunting. It’s all in the fine details. Recreating period wear requires a true knowledge for history, materials, and craftsmanship to display the historic details accurately. Photographs are a wealth of information that are going to be so important for recreating my persona.

Should I join a local reenacting group? I have considered this many times over the years. Many of the local groups represent the Civil War and with great passion. Just watch how the Turner Brigade or the FREED (Female Reenactors of Distinction) put on their events and anyone will be intrigued.

Why don’t more minorities don the clothing of centuries past and step into the roles of our forefathers & mothers? I have been asked similar questions over the years. Well, I won’t get into that debate on the who and why but I’ll just say, “knowing one’s family history allows you to feel comfortable portraying such a strong past with honor and dignity.” And wouldn’t history class have been more interesting in school if it was presented with live participants portraying events than the summarized text in the writing?

Those above questions in mind have set me on this path…

  • Portray an African American woman during the Pre-Civil War through Reconstruction time period. This will likely be a blend of several documented women I come across during researching.
  • Appropriately and accurately build a period wardrobe. I am a seamstress and will sew my own clothing as well as purchase from knowledgeable seamsters.
  • Of course I’ll join a local group and perhaps the national group. Being with like minded people is half the fun!
  • I will share the history I uncover through presentations and writings. I aim to research and rediscover the lives and importance of minorities.
  • Overall, one thing I hope to help spread is the broadness the past actually entailed. Our historical past was more than the parodies of old Hollywood movies full of misrepresentation and segregation or the lack of textbooks to promote all of the ethnicities which constructed our American history.

This is my first inspirational piece for building a persona:

Unidentified African American woman

Unidentified African American woman ca. 1860-1870 Library of Congress

I am so eager to delve into the past and broadcast the untold stories of minority ancestors.





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Are you weaving historical background into your research notes?

For instance, when researching church records this week, I took a bit of time to do some background on historic St. Leo Parish in St. Louis, Missouri.

St. Leo

St. Leo Parish, St. Louis, MO (1888-1978) – Archdiocese of St. Louis

Before I jumped head into the church records I was eager to view, I looked into the history of when the church was established, the Irish community it served, and when the church was officially closed.

Most importantly, I saw the church merged with another parish, St. Bridget, in 1963. Without the knowledge of its integration, I may have missed another avenue for potential records.

Records may answer our immiediate questions but keeping those records within context may offer additional leads through additional brick walls!

Keep leaf’n through the dusty piles!

copyright 2013 LaDonna Garner

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The Black Settlement of South Jordan, IA

The Black Settlement of
South Jordan

South Jordan Cemetery in Moorehead, Iowa is the resting place of a small community of black settlers. Follow along through the Leafseeker blog as I begin a journey to rediscover this short-lived settlement the Mier property created after the Civil War.

Before I dive into this project, I will take some time to locate currently known information regarding the settlement and the surrounding communities.

Initial Background Research Checklist:

  1. What has been written about the cemetery and the settlement?
    • newspaper articles
    • historical writings
    • county histories
    • state history
  2. What has been officially recorded?
    • cemetery transcriptions
    • land records
    • historical maps
  3. How has the settlement’s residents been documented or memorialized?
    • newspaper articles
    • population schedules
    • agricultural schedules
    • county histories
    • personal journals

Off we go on a leaf hunt!


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NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair

Are you stuck at home itching to get to the next genealogy conference?
There’s a conference coming to a computer screen near you!

naralogo.jpgThe National Archives is hosting a Virtual Genealogy Fair on Tuesday & Wednesday, October 28th & 29th.

The fair will begin at 10 a.m. (est)

The event will stream on YouTube for each day:
Tuesday’s video
Wednesday’s video

Visit the NARA fair page for a full list of topics and handouts.

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Vacation Genealogist Style

The summer can be quite busy with family vacations but there’s always time & ways to get in a little research!

1. Plan the family vacation around historic sights like Music Row in Nashville. The family can be preoccupied…um…visit the cool retro shops. (Psst, the Nashville Public Library is just a few blocks away. Preorder & pickup pizza on your way back to meet back up with the family.)

2. Make your connecting flight be at an airport that offers free wifi or upgrade your family plan to one with lots of data. (While the family is engrossed in their phones and playing games, stream some Pandora while visiting online library catalog and databases to build your research checklist. There’s nothing better than listening to my “Sailing” channel of 70′s classics while surfing the net for ancestors.)

3. You promised to leave the genealogy at home. (Yeah right! Pack a thin folder to store source document photocopies and slip on a few paper clips. Or better yet, pack a flashdrive to go paperless. They’ll never suspect a thing. My favorite kinds have metal casings like the Kingston Data Traveler. It’s reasonably priced, has lots of storage, and are a bit sturdier for travel.)

4. Choose a hotel near the sites. There’s a Bestwestern Hotel several blocks up from Music Row. This’ll make walking about Nashville down to Music Row easy peasy. (The State Archives is right nearby. You could probably sneak in and out without a problem. Just say you left something down in the car.)

5. The second or third day, let the family sleep in. (Now’s your chance to sneak away. You’ll have a good 2-4 hours of early morning research time at the archives! Just remember to bring back donuts.)

6. Offer to go for ice cream and snacks from the hotel lounge while everyone takes a break in the hotel room. (This is a good time to sneak into the business center and upload your source findings to a Dropbox account.) Word of caution: get the ice cream “after” the business center stop as the hotel staff may not be too keen about sticky computer keyboards.

See, there’s always time for some genealogical adventures! Plus, you can see the theme here right? Food. When their mouths are full they forget you took too long to come back from getting the yummies. ;)

Have a great research trip…uhm…family vacation!

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Techie Woes

I’m sorry Apple, I’ve gone awry! Many of you know I’m tech savvy and we techies love our gadgets. My iPhone has been a tremendous assistant for work.

Today’s tech quandary started when I dropped my iPhone during our kitchen remodeling. The entire back shattered. After calling the nearest Apple Store they informed me they no longer replace the rear glass panels but will instead provide a replacement phone…for just a mere $199. <gasp> iphone_1058

So if you have a loyal cell phone and find yourself in this predicament, let me offer another option…DIY.

Need new parts? Part Of Laptop may have aftermarket parts.

Need some instructions to replace those parts? I Fixit may have you covered.

I’m off to order a new back for my iPhone. “Oh nice, I can replace it with an aluminum back and rid my nerves of another glass shattering moment.”

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Revealing Historical Relationships

Wow, it’s been a long hiatus since my last post, but boy was it worth the wait!

While researching pioneer cemeteries for my master’s thesis, one of the case studies has pulled me into the realm of genealogy; an Iowa cemetery that held both former slave laborers and the land owner side by side. Not segregated by any means, this break in custom intrigues me.

It also led me to put aside the thesis focus of the cemetery’s current preservation and peer into the relationship between the land owner and his hired help. What’s been revealing is a landowner who has possibly passed as “white” to aid blacks during slavery and reconstruction.

This newspaper clipping is just one piece of the clue and can be viewed on the Lewelling Quaker Museum webpage.

So with a holiday interlude from my thesis, I will be spending some time digging up the forgotten details behind this fascinating piece of history to share in an future article.

How could I not? Any inquisitive researcher would be just as eager to write about such a story waiting to be told!

* Keep up to date on this research adventure by following my blog’s RSS feed and liking Leafseeker Consulting on Facebook.

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