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    Getting started - lots of written info and several questions

    I need some guidance on beginning my genealogy journey. I’m starting from a really good place, but I’m not sure of my initial steps. This is my first post here, so please be gentle.

    TL;dr - My grandmother did extensive genealogy research over many years. I have all of her handwritten notes and a couple of completed binders containing records on a great many ancestors. It’s all on paper. 1) How do I convert it to an electronic format, and which one? 2) What can I contribute to the project over the next 20+ years in terms of details, additional ancestors, and fleshing out the stories/histories of some of them?

    Long version:

    Between the ages of 10 and 13, in the early 1980s, I stayed for a couple of weeks with my grandparents each summer. My grandfather was a hunter, a woodworker, a farmer, a baseball fan, and a very active physical man. I was not that kind of boy and he did not understand me at all. Instead of working with him outdoors, I sat inside with my grandmother as she worked on a lifelong genealogy project. I was fascinated and loved helping, hearing the stories, and working on the mysteries. These were the days before the Internet, so the research was slow. At age 13, my family moved to another state and I stopped spending part of the summers at their house, but I never forgot how much I enjoyed the work. Over the years, from my teens through my early 40s, I’d discuss the project with her whenever we were together. Sometime around 2000, she presented each of her three children with three-ring binders containing nearly identical copies of a family history. She kept an original for herself, with some working notes. She also had an entire four-drawer filing cabinet full of documentation. Her children (my mother, aunt, and uncle) seemed to be utterly unimpressed with the binders. I was delighted. I made it plain to her that I wanted to inherit every scrap of paper. She assured me that no one else cared. I told her I’d hang on it it all and continue the work someday when my life was a bit less active.

    I think that day is coming. I’m nearly 51, with one child out of the house and another on the way out. I’m looking for something to supplement my other two hobbies (writing fiction and playing music). As promised, I received everything when she passed away several years ago, much to the relief of my family members, who did not want to deal with a file cabinet and many boxes of old papers. I was thrilled with the inheritance. A year ago I dug through some of my grandma’s files, but I was overwhelmed. I’ve let the project percolate in the back of my mind, and since I seem to have a lot of time stuck in the house these days, I am thinking about getting started.

    I know that my grandma tried to document her findings according to recognized genealogical practices and standards. I also know that worked hard to manage evidence correctly - primary evidence, gathering evidence from multiple sources before declaring information as “true,” etc. I believe she left me in as good a place as possible during this transformation from the written to the digital world. The scope is this - we have solid records going back to the American Revolutionary War (and in a few cases, back further).

    Anyway, now that that’s off my chest, on to the real content. I now am the owner of about eight boxes of handwritten materials and photocopied resources. I have no idea how to get rolling.

    1. Do I convert all this content to digital? What format? Am I really about to embark on a massive quest to manually enter all of this data?

    2. I’m a computer guy, and I know that formats and companies come and go. I’m concerned about entering vast amounts of information into any system where the system may not survive over the next 50+ years. In other words, will Ancestry.com really still be here? They may not be… we all know how fast the computer world changes and that it’s still really in its infancy. And what if I don’t like Ancestry two or three versions down the line? Am I stuck? I know that is a serious problem with many companies that put their data in the cloud. Once there, it’s very difficult to move.

    3. I’m also looking for aspects of the project that I can contribute to myself. That part is easier, but ideas or unique perspectives are welcome.

    4. Finally, a bit of fun and hope. My son is now 20 and my daughter nearly 15. I made some comment about the genealogy boxes and going through the papers. Both kids were enthusiastic and both assured me that they would really like to be involved in the project. Furthermore, they each see it as a lifelong project for themselves. I see the same spark in them that I had, and that gives me hope!

    Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for any help or ideas.

    #2
    I inherited a printed genealogy from my mother's aunt. Aunt Pearl knew what she was doing, but I haven't been able to locate the files that she built that tree from.

    I rebuilt the tree using Ancestry's trees and records, but I do not keep my master database on Ancestry. It's on my Mac using Family Historian. I manually scan and upload documents and make their entries into the database. It makes me look more closely at each record and be familiar with my tree.

    There's another thread about genealogy software - you might take a look at it. I re-loaded my tree after a year or so of research. Learned a lot, and the second tree was better than the first.
    https://www.familytreeforum.com/foru...-do-you-use-it

    Gedcom has been a standard for transferring data for a while. I've heard talk in the past that there should be a new version or replacement - there's no serious contender that I'm aware of. But just as you probably have old versions of data sets for different applications that are no longer read by the current version, the same can become true in the future for gedcom. No crystal ball here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEDCOM

    There's a wiki article about getting started. That's a good place to start.
    ------------------------------------------------------
    My Families
    London-area Coverly Family Finder DNA Project

    Comment


      #3
      I personally:

      Would convert it all to digital, it sounds like there is a lot. I would guess that the next generation won't want all that paper and it will just get lost. I would get a file naming convention going, eg date YYYYMMDD_Name eg surname first name_where - then it gives you a fighting chance of finding your document again.

      Onto what depends really, I subscribe and use Ancestry - I have done it for years - on and off, but the tree stays there. (if you do not subscribe you can't visit any of the records, but when you pay again they are all accessible)

      I also use Family tree maker (personally I don't think the best) but the only once that will synch to ancestry - meaning I have all the records found on ancestry kept on my hard drive.

      There are many family tree products out there and I would suggest looking at a few threads that are on here discussing them.

      and as PF has pointed out they have the facility to produce a GEDCOM file - which is a flat file that can be imported to most programs.

      Since your grandma has done her research there are many more records accessible, and many on-line - including newspapers galore.

      A software program will allow you to attach documents/images to people/person.

      NB many software programs have a free lite version - so worth looking around, I started with RootsMagic - and still have it.
      Carolyn
      Family Tree site

      Researching: Luggs, Freeman - Cornwall; Dayman, Hobbs, Heard - Devon; Wilson, Miles - Northants; Brett, Everett, Clark, Allum - Herts/Essex
      Also interested in Proctor, Woodruff

      Comment


        #4
        You might find something like Zotero for the digitised records together with Family Historian for recording the tree will be invaluable.

        Zotero is an indexing software and you can easily link the records/sources into Family Historian.

        Zotero

        Family Historian
        Caroline
        Caroline's Family History Pages
        Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others. Socrates

        Comment


          #5
          I did a lot of research before the internet, so I had to manually enter everything when I went live, lol. It was an extremely useful exercise, it showed the holes in my research and flagged up a glaring error.

          My full unexpurgated tree is off line, on a roll of wallpaper. A slimmer version is online with the express purpose of attracting contacts. Unless you are happy to share your whole tree with strangers, I don't see the point of putting it all on line.

          New stuff comes on line all the time. I have just added three back generations on a branch I thought was a brick wall. A family tree angel copied some Australian records for me. 20 years ago I could not have hoped to access those records even if I had known they existed, which I didn't of course.

          Happy hunting!

          OC

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Caroline View Post
            You might find something like Zotero for the digitised records together with Family Historian for recording the tree will be invaluable.

            Zotero is an indexing software and you can easily link the records/sources into Family Historian.

            Zotero

            Family Historian
            Caroline, I'm trying to understand more about how it works - you have a photo, say a .jpg file, on your hard drive. You would make a reference entry into Zotero, and it would "know' where that files exists, but not make a copy of the file, right?

            And Zotero's database of references, you may set it up to exist just on your hard drive, right?

            I haven't updated my version of FH in a very (very!) long time. Since my FH file has a link to the .jpg file, what does Zotero do for me?
            ------------------------------------------------------
            My Families
            London-area Coverly Family Finder DNA Project

            Comment


              #7
              Another option to consider: a shared, public tree. There are several sites that are doing this, often with some sort of rules and moderation.

              I keep some of my tree on WikiTree.com. I've heard that it is dedicated to keeping it open, not privatizing it some time in the future. I've never seen that promise in writing. It relies on each person following wikitree rules about entries and community behavior. It does provide a mediation feature if wikitreers can't agree on a profile.

              FamilySearch's FamilyTree is another option. It also allows some sort of mediation of its common tree. I haven't tried to straighten out the muddle that's been made of one of my lines.

              There are other options, too. Others will need to chirp up about them. But if you want to ensure that information is passed down thru generations, I would suggest including a public family tree.

              Your question asked about what you could add. Of course there can be more. In that period of time since she stopped her research, there's been at least one census released.

              I have researched a couple of my side branches that went to Colorado. There are online Colorado newspapers.
              ------------------------------------------------------
              My Families
              London-area Coverly Family Finder DNA Project

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by PhotoFamily View Post

                Caroline, I'm trying to understand more about how it works - you have a photo, say a .jpg file, on your hard drive. You would make a reference entry into Zotero, and it would "know' where that files exists, but not make a copy of the file, right?

                And Zotero's database of references, you may set it up to exist just on your hard drive, right?

                It is a way of cataloguing the records you've attached to FH.I haven't updated my version of FH in a very (very!) long time. Since my FH file has a link to the .jpg file, what does Zotero do for me?
                I haven't used it much yet, but if I was starting again with lots of paperwork like this I would use it. I think I would start by cataloguing everything and then linking it to FH (because I use FH!!). It was the mention of " recognized genealogical practices and standards" that reminded me of it.

                https://organizeyourfamilyhistory.co...h-with-zotero/ explains much better than I can. I bought the book but that is as far as I got as life got in the way!!

                P.S. I would be very wary of only having my tree online and also would be extremely wary of family search's tree.
                Caroline
                Caroline's Family History Pages
                Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others. Socrates

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by PhotoFamily View Post
                  Another option to consider: a shared, public tree. There are several sites that are doing this, often with some sort of rules and moderation.

                  I keep some of my tree on WikiTree.com. I've heard that it is dedicated to keeping it open, not privatizing it some time in the future. I've never seen that promise in writing. It relies on each person following wikitree rules about entries and community behavior. It does provide a mediation feature if wikitreers can't agree on a profile.
                  For details on WikiTree's continuation plans, see: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:The_Free_Family_Tree & https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:P...ur_Shared_Tree

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Caroline View Post
                    P.S. I would be very wary of only having my tree online and also would be extremely wary of family search's tree.
                    Thanks for the info on Zotero. I'll check it out.

                    I don't find WikiTree can replace the tree on my own computer - I can't upload copyrighted material. And I don't put information into a public database for people born after 1900.

                    FamilyTree - yeah, I don't keep my tree there. I've seen some interesting things happening with my peeps in that tree.

                    Aren't there other public family trees? Geni??

                    OP hasn't posted since his original post.
                    ------------------------------------------------------
                    My Families
                    London-area Coverly Family Finder DNA Project

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Thanks to everyone for the insightful answers. I'm going to investigate Family Tree Maker, Family Historian, and Zotero. I will also read the software threads linked above. It sounds as though they are pretty popular and are a good place to start. Since my original post, I've thought more about several branches that I can investigate. I also realize that manually entering all this data is a great way to become really intimate with it. It'll certainly take some time to research all of these options. I want to start out on the best path possible so that I don't regret it later.

                      I just read the Organizing your family history research with Zotero and that has pretty well sold me on the tool.

                      Thanks for taking the time to answer. I'll be a slow-moving participant for quite some time, I suppose.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I've just discovered that Family Historian is a Windows-only application. I need to look for a Mac program, as that's my preferred platform. That's an unfortunate limitation, because otherwise the software looks great.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by dmgarn View Post
                          I've just discovered that Family Historian is a Windows-only application. I need to look for a Mac program, as that's my preferred platform.
                          Yeah, I run on a Mac. I use VMware Fusion to create a PC/Windows environment.
                          ------------------------------------------------------
                          My Families
                          London-area Coverly Family Finder DNA Project

                          Comment


                            #14
                            What a lovely story. I do envy you all that information. It wasnt till after my parents died, and also members of my immediate family that I began my research. So many stories lost. My father suffered a debilitating stroke and I sat for hours and hours with him, when I think now of the stories and information we could have shared it makes me so frustrated. Why did we never talk of the past........However you decide to proceed, enjoy. It’s a great hobby/pastime.

                            Comment

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