Monday, November 30, 2009

Census Tools Free for Download

In case you have not been to one of our census classes lately (we have two of them: "Census Tracking" and "Census Time Lines") or our class on using Excel in genealogy, you may have missed hearing about this helpful website.

From this site you can download about 40 different spreadsheets that may help you consolidate, coordinate, manage, record, and otherwise sort out the rafts of information that you find in the census record. If nothing else, you get very clean and readable census forms which you can refer to as you squint at the illegible headings in census images on line.

Check out the forms and other census insights at:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We Are Still Short a Few Adopt-A-State Volunteers

We still need some volunteers to "adopt" the following states: Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi, Maryland, and Delaware. These states have been orphans too long...dig deeply and adopt one!

This is an important job. A volunteer in this area agrees to visit their state section in the library a couple of times a month to ensure that the shelves are neat and that the books appear in the correct order. If you have ever been frustrated because you could not find a reference book on the shelf where the catalog said it should be, you know how important this job is. It does not take a lot of time, but the service to researchers is huge.

If you are interested, see me or send me an email at with "Adopt-A-State Volunteer" in the subject line.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Changes Coming for the Genealogy Center

In the next few months you are going to see some big changes in the Genealogy Center of the Largo Public Library. These changes are driven in part by the need for more shelf space to accommodate our expanding collection.

The family history section of books (those with the 929.2 call numbers), are going to be moved to the opposite end of the Genealogy Center--in the area of the microfilm cabinets. And room will be made for them there by moving out the US Census microfilm. That resource has been eclipsed by Internet access to the same images on sites such as Ancestry, Heritage Quest, and Family Search, to name just a few. The online indexing and image availability has rendered the old microfilm collection obsolete and virtually never used anymore.

When the family history collection is moved, there will be more room for it in its new location, as well as more room for the state sections of the collection to expand also.

Executing this plan is going to make things a bit unsettled for a while, but in the long run it will serve to improve the value of the collection to researchers.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Terry and Jim Willard Talk About Attacking Dead Ends

At the GPS general meeting on 21 Nov., Terry and Jim Willard spoke to us about overcoming research obstacles. They first examined some of the more prevalent causes of dead ends (such as the absence of primary source document, name changes, gender problems, etc.).

This was followed by an approach to attack those dead ends by constructing and executing a good research plan. Jim explained the S-O-L-V-E acronym to remember the steps in doing this: Survey the problem, Organize your information, Locate relevant material, Verify you data, and Evaluate your findings.

This was a very helpful session and I hope you were able to attend. Here is a picture of Terry and Jim getting ready for their presentation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Books Await You in the Genealogy Department

I've posted this news in a previous post, but it is worth doing again in case some of you failed to see it. Over the summer we had more than $5000 of new books come into the Genealogy Center. This was a combined effort between the Largo Public Library and the PGS: we suggested the titles and the library bought the books.

The purchases concentrated on the "Old Northwest"; that is, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, but other states were included also. And, for the first time is such a buy, we concentrated on the publications of local genealogy historical societies societies. As a consequence, the topics were much like the data our society transcribes and makes available to researchers: cemetery canvases, funeral home records, vital statistics for that area, etc. This product of this book buy may save you a trip to a courthouse, or at least make such a trip easier and more profitable.

Regardless of that, check out the state section of the collection of interest to you. You may find that some useful new references have been added since you last looked.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Want to Adopt A State?

If you do, we have several opportunities for you to consider. These states still need to be adopted: Wisconsin, New Jersey, Maryland, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

If you choose to adopt one of these states, you will be expected to tend to that states portion of the stacks in the genealogy collection at the library. Once or twice a month you should "read the shelves" in that state area to ensure that books have been filed in the correct order--after all, a mis-filed book is essentially a lost book. You will also see to it that the state area is straightened up and that the books in that section have the appropriate state sticker attached.

It's a pretty simple job, but one that is tremendously important to researchers trying to find a reference book.

If you are interested in this type of volunteer work, contact me at and put Adopt-A-State in the subject line of the email.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Roots Magic Essentials Released

This will be of particular interest to those of you who are curious about using Roots Magic genealogy software, or those who have not yet made up your mind about which software to invest in.

Here is what Roots Magic has to say about the free product: "RootsMagic Essentials shares many of the same features with the full RootsMagic software including clean and friendly screens, the ability to add an unlimited number of people and events, pictures and media management, the SourceWizard to write your source citations for you, powerful merging and clean-up tools, dozens of reports and charts, support for international character sets, FamilySearch integration, and the ability to share data with other people and software programs. The full version of RootsMagic is available for purchase and includes features not available in RootsMagic Essentials. \

"RootsMagic Essentials is available now for free at Users of other genealogy software products will find it easy to experiment with RootsMagic Essentials using their own data. RootsMagic Essentials can directly import data from PAF, Family Tree Maker (through 2006), Family Origins, and Legacy Family Tree. It can also read and write data using the popular GEDCOM format."

Dick Eastman is in the process of running user tests of the product, so check with his newsletter in the future. When I see it, I'll post a link on this Blog to his opinion. Right now it appears that the Essentials package is a good basic program, but don't try to use it as a full-fledged genealogy software program.

Here is a hot link to the Roots Magic site:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Free DAR Online Databases

This is something to get excited about. The DAR has made accessible for free the DAR Genealogical Research System on its public website. There is too much there to describe in this post. Let me tell you what I did to give you a flavor for what you can do.

I put in the name of a Revolutionary War ancestor and up popped his date and place of service, birth, and death; his pension number, and a short description of his service. Also listed were his residence, spouse, and all of the people who have established a formal relationship to him for the DAR.

Dick Eastman has written an extensive review of this capability and you can find his article at:

The link to the DAR site is:

Friday, November 20, 2009

PGS Donation to the Pinellas County African American History Museum

Following the African-American Genealogy presentation by Harriett Thompkins on 10 November, I made a presentation to Sandra Rooks, Executive Director of the Pinellas County African American History Museum. In conversation with Sandra I discovered that the Museum had been given some microfiche records but that they had no reader. We are in possession of three readers that the Largo Public Library was going to dispose of. I could think of no better place for one of them than with Sandy and the Pinellas County African American History Museum

The picture above is of Sandy receiving the reader. We wish them well in its use, and anticipate more interaction between our two organizations.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Social Networking

The latest issue of Rootsweb Review, the online newsletter from Rootsweb makes an interesting observation. The idea of using the Internet for social networking is really not such a new thing at all for us genealogists.

Some of the vehicles for social networking are new to be sure--Twitter and Facebook to name but two. But the idea of connecting with people for the purpose of collaboration on a common purpose is not. Genealogists have been doing that for years in the form of mail lists, bulletin boards, published queries, etc. Modern tools make that pursuit easier, but the pursuit itself is not new at all.

We have a class on getting the most out of the Rootsweb site during which we talk about their online newsletter. In case you are interested, you can subscribe to the Rootsweb Review by following this link:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

PGS is Represented at the Annual FSGS Conference

The PGS was represented at the annual Florida State Genealogical Society Conference in Melbourne, Florida on 13 and 14 November. Play the video below for more information and highlights.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Courthouse Records

We are all familiar with the important roll that courthouses play in the study of genealogy and the pursuit of documentation. In fact, we have a class taught by Damon Hostetler on that very subject.

The Bloomfield Enterprise Online recently had an article authored by Julie Miller that gives a good overview of the many documents one can find tucked away in courthouses. It is a good review and you can check it out at:

Monday, November 16, 2009

PGS Class on African-American Genealogy

On 10 November, Harriett Thompkins, shown in the picture here, presented our first class dealing with African-American genealogy. Harriett talked not only about the unique challenges faced by African-American family researchers, but also about the common aspects of research faced by all genealogists.

Attendees came from Tampa as well as local communities, and they represented PGS members and non-members alike.

The presentation was well-received and will be scheduled again in the Spring. So if you missed it this time around, be sure and check the schedule in the future so you can add it to your calendar.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Charlotte County Genealogical Society Seminar

The Charlotte County Genealogical Society will be holding its 2010 Spring Seminar “Updating Your Genealogy Toolbox” with Dick Eastman on Friday, February 12, 2010.
TOPICS include:
  • Genealogy Searches on Google
  • The Organized Genealogist
  • The Latest Technology for Genealogists
  • Where is Genealogy Software Headed?

Additional information is available on their website –

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Making a Cookbook of Ancestors' Recipies

There is nothing new about the project of collecting recipes from a families history and putting them together in a book. In fact, I know of a couple genealogy and historical societies that are doing just with with the help of their members. It can be a fun and rewarding project.

Here is a website that Chronicles the efforts of one person to put together such a book. In fact, she did it quite successfully. Along the way she learned a lot about the process. She made mistakes, had to redo work, etc. Wendy A. Boughner Whipple is this person and she has published her lessons learned in a book titled: Creating an Heirloom: Writing Your Family’s Cookbook.

The website she offers gives you an interesting overview of the cookbook creation process and is full of information of value whether you buy her book or not. She gives interesting insight into such topics as fonts to use, the use of art work, archiving you work, etc.

Check it out at:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Class on African American Genealogy

Harriet Thompkins, one of our newer members, is teaching a class on African American genealogy at 6 pm on Tuesday, 10 November. The meeting will be in the Local History Room of the Largo Library.

Harriet will use her own experience in researching her family to demonstrate the research techniques and strategies that can be successful in this challenging area. Every African American who has slave ancestors has a built-in brick wall when it comes to surnames. Slaves often adopted the surname of the owners, or neighboring families, or geographic places. Attaching a surname to an individual ancestor takes exceptional patience and research skill....and, of course, some luck.

If that quest is successful, another wall then looms. That is the challenge of tracing the slave ancestor back to his/her country of origin.

This class can be information regardless of your race because the research challenges and frustrations tend to be universal. Although the ways to break down these brick walls may be specific to African Americans, some of the research thought process are applicable to all of us.

If nothing else, attend the class to celebrate Harriet's success in the tracing of her family in the face of great odds.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dues Renewal and Membership Questionnaire

The membership application and questionnaire should be arriving in your mail shortly, if you have not already received them.

We are kicking off our membership renewal drive with this mailing. Each member is provided with a pre-addressed envelope in which to return the questionnaire and his/her membership renewal. Your support is what allows us to continue our services which include publications, classes, annual seminar, research assistance, speakers at monthly meetings, and much more.

The dues continue at only $17 for the year. This is a great deal! We are well below the average for society dues in the state and are pleased that we can continue to offer such a great deal for such a low cost. The size of our membership is what allows us to do that, so your continued support is truly important.

With this mailing we also want to update our membership information files. We are asking everybody to complete the two-sided form enclosed with the letter. The information is used by the Society’s Executive Board to identify speaker topics, class subjects, etc. It also helps us identify skills and experience among our members that may be beneficial as we undertake various projects. If you have already paid your dues, please complete the forms anyway and simply write on the Membership Application form the words “dues already paid.” In the event you have recently joined the PGS and have already submitted the forms, please bear with us and do it again so we can get a clean start at data collection.

We are also doing something to help you remember to return the forms. We will hold a drawing at our meetings in the months of November 2009 through February 2010 from the forms returned in that month. The drawing winners will receive a free yearly membership in the Society. You do not have to be present to win, but you do need to submit a form.

You can use the envelope enclosed in the mailing to return the form, or you can bring it to a meeting and turn it in there. The envelope is pre-addressed so you just have to add a first class stamp.

This is the first time in recent history that the PGS has done a mailing like this, which implies how important membership renewal and membership information is to our successful operation. Please take a moment to complete and return the forms with your continued support.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Footnote Unvails the Interactive Census recently announced that the entire U.S. census records will soon be online at its website. The unique thing about the Footnote offering is that its version allows you to correct, comment, or supplement the original records. You can even add pictures. You can also link people together as relatives, even if they live in different households. All of that capability is new to Footnote.

Dick Eastman (you remember, our primary speaker at the Annual Seminar in February) has written his take on Footnote's offering and is quite positive about it. You can read all of Dick's article at: