Category Archives: Research

Setting Goals

I apologize for not having a blog post recently. Between a job change and the holidays blogging was set aside. So what better time to talk about our Genealogy goals than at the beginning of the new year. One of my goals is to have a blog post twice a month for the next year. I may have to exclude December on that goal.

Amy Johnson Crow posted in her blog last week on How to Set Smart Genealogy Goals. It is a very practical method for setting goals and I would like to share it here. You can see the original post at her blog: Amy Johnson Crow Blog – How to Set a Smart Genealogy Goal

How to Set a Smart Genealogy Goal

Have you ever set a goal or made a resolution about your genealogy and it just didn’t work out? If those stacks of copies are still on your dining room table and your photos are still unlabeled and unorganized, take heart. You’re not alone. The Washington Post reports that 25% of people give up on their New Years resolutions in the first week.

But you can be successful with your family history goals. The key is to set the right goal… You could even say a SMART goal.


The business world has long recognized that some goals are better than others, not because of what they’re trying to achieve, but how they are set up. SMART goals are:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Actionable (some say “Attainable”)
R – Realistic
T – Timely

When you include these elements in your goal or resolution, you have a better chance of reaching it. It’s hard to hit a mushy goal like “I’m going to research more.”When our goals are vague, so are our results.

A common genealogy goal is “I’m going to get better at citing my sources.” Let’s take that and turn it into a SMART genealogy goal.


“Specific” lays the foundation for the goal. What is it you’re trying to achieve?

“I’m going to be better at citing my sources” isn’t specific. What does “better” mean? Sources from what?

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations so they are in Evidence Explained format.”


Measurable often goes along with specific. Measurable gives us a way to mark our progress and see how close we’re getting. We can cheer ourselves on when we hit a milestone and we can take action when we’re coming up a little short.

“Rewrite my source citations” isn’t measurable. We can take our goal and improve it by making it more specific and measurable.

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations that I have in RootsMagic so they are inEvidence Explained format.”

Actionable / Attainable

Goals are pretty pointless if you can’t do anything about hitting them. They also fall short if we set ourselves up for failure.

One way you can make a goal both actionable and attainable is to work in an action plan.

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations that I have in RootsMagic so they are inEvidence Explained format. I’m going to do this by working on it 15 minutes a day.


The good thing about goals is that they can help us do things we’ve never done before. I’m all for having “moon shot” dreams, but making those dreams come true usually comes from a series of smaller, realistic goals. (“Let’s go to the moon” was attained by having the goal of figuring out how, then by designing the spacecraft, then building it, etc.)

It is possible to be both realistic and stretch your achievements. The following addition to our goal is still a stretch, but is more realistic.

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations for Mom’s side of the tree that I have in RootsMagic so they are in Evidence Explained format. I’m going to do this by working on it 15 minutes a day.”


“Someday” isn’t on the calendar. If you’re going to hit a goal, it helps to put a deadline on it. (Have you ever heard the joke about “If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done”? This is what’s that’s talking about!)

Let’s put a deadline on our goal:

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations for Mom’s side of the tree that I have in RootsMagic so they are in Evidence Explained format. I’m going to do this by working on it 15 minutes a day. I will have this done by June 1, 2016.

Try It Yourself

Consider what you’d like to improve upon with your genealogy. Is it improving your source citations? It is learning how to use land and tax records? It is compiling that family history that you’ve talked about forever? Turn that fuzzy goal and turn it into a SMART goal.

Another of my goals is to apply for a pioneer/century certificate for my ancestor Ole Hanson by completing my proof of lineage and getting the birth, death, and marriage records from the appropriate court houses. I plan to work on the application and source citations of each document used to prove lineage two evenings a week. I will have this done by May 1.

Use the Smart goals and post one of your genealogy goals for this year in the comment section.



Black Hawk War / Find A Grave

If you are interested in the Black Hawk War you will want to add this to your calendar to hear author and teacher of history, Patrick Jung. If you would like him to sign a book you will need to purchase it in advance and bring with you. The book titles have links to Amazon.

Patrick Jung, author of two books on the Black Hawk War, will be featured at the October 3 meeting of the Green County Genealogical Society speaking on the Black Hawk War in our area and resources for researching ancestors that were in the militia. Patrick Jung has written two books on the Black Hawk War: The Black Hawk War of 1832 (Campaigns and Commanders) and The Battle of Wisconsin Heights, 1832: Thunder on the Wisconsin. He will bring samples of his books for us to see, but won’t have any to purchase. They can be purchased online at Amazon or Ebay. He will be glad to sign any books  brought to the meeting.

The Green County Genealogical Society meeting will be held in the second floor meeting room of the Monroe Public Library at 10 am. Saturday, October 3. Visitors are always welcome and there is no cost to attend. The society is also holding free weekly workshops on various genealogical topics Thursdays through October at 10:00 a.m. in their Research Center in lower level of the library. You may call Sharon (815-868-2416) or Donna (608-921-1537) if you have questions.


Sunday, September 27, 2015 at the Lafayette County Historical Museum 1:30 pm.
Come to discover how Bill Holland became an accidental genealogy buff.  Learn about the morbid sounding site named Find A Grave, which lists almost all cemeteries in the United State, let alone the world, and lists almost all interments, and their family members, in those cemeteries.  This free site holds a plethora of genealogical information, and provides the beginning genealogist with an interesting and informative starting point for their family discovery journey.

Ancestry Launches Largest Online Collection of Wills and Probate Records in United States

The following announcement was written by the folks at Please note that the new collection will be available FREE of charge from September 2 through September 7.

My next post will continue with more sites for finding your ancestors in the “Old Country”.

Ancestry Announcement:

More than 170 million documents from 1668-2005 now available exclusively on Ancestry; New collection provides a wealth of deeper stories about ancestors’ lives. logo(PROVO, Utah) – September 2, 2015 – More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.

Until now, these records have only been available offline. Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records. The documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.

“Ancestry has worked hard over the past decade, to make available a variety of collections that can help the most seasoned family history expert and novices alike learn more about their ancestors,” said Todd Godfrey, Vice President of Global Content. “Ancestry’s vast collection of billions of unique historic records makes it the only place online that can give people such a comprehensive view into their family’s unique history.”

Today, state and federal census records are the most commonly searched collections in family history research, offering a variety of information that is important for building out your family tree. Wills however are one of the most desired types of records, as they can be a treasure trove of information that provides insight into your ancestors’ lives, loves, land, and possessions.

“Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors, going beyond names and dates, and providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Godfrey. “Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived.”

There is something for everyone in the new U.S. Wills and Probate collection on Ancestry, whether you are an experienced family historian or new to the pursuit. Some examples of what can be found in the collection include:

  • Rich Stories – A deeper level of understanding is possible when you learn about the more intricate details of your ancestors’ lives through their eyes; details that can tell new or more compelling stories of their everyday existence, and perhaps, shed light on their character and personality, as well as important subtext that can reflect the type of lifestyle, education, and status an ancestor may have had through language or possessions.
  • New Discoveries – Whether valuable heirlooms, sizable estates, or meager but treasured belongings to pass down, the riches of your ancestor’s lives can be found in a will. Family research can be fun when you “follow the money” and see who wound up with what or even, to which charities or organizations a person’s estate was entrusted.
  • Friends and Family Members – Many additional names can be found in a will in addition to the deceased. Wills can reveal new family members you didn’t know about, and identify new connections, and tell more about the relationships between people mentioned in the will. Intriguing controversies can be seen as you read about those close to them who were included in the will, and those who were cut out.

With a collection that begins with wills from the mid 17th century running through the early 21st, last wishes and estates of notables citizens that helped shape the nation over the past three hundred years can be found in this new collection of Wills and Probates, including past Presidents, businessmen, entrepreneurs, sports legends, famous entertainers, artists and writers, scientists, and much, much more.

To celebrate the launch of the new U.S. Wills and Probates collection on Ancestry,, the collection along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, will be available to explore for FREE, September 2 (12pm MT) through September 7 (10pm MT).

About Ancestry
Ancestry is the world’s leading family history brand. is the world’s largest online family history resource with more than 2 million paying subscribers across all its websites. More than 16 billion records have been added, and users have created more than 70 million family trees on the core Ancestry websites, including the flagship site and its affiliated international websites. Ancestry offers a suite of online family history brands, including,,, as well as the AncestryDNA product, sold by its subsidiary, DNA, LLC, all of which along with its core Ancestry websites, are designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include a variety of factors, some of which are beyond the company’s control. In particular, such risks and uncertainties include the company’s ability to add tools and features and provide value to satisfy customer demand. Information concerning additional factors that could cause events or results to differ materially is contained under the caption “Risk Factors” in the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the company’s parent, LLC, for the period ended June 30, 2015, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 31, 2015, and in discussions in other of LLC’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any subsequent date and we assume no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements.

Connecting to the “Old Country”

I’ve reached the place in my genealogy that I’m attempting to connect my ancestors to their roots in Europe. Only I’ve discovered it’s not so easy and even rather daunting to do European research. As I begin to dig into the “old country” here are some free websites that may be helpful in your search for the ancestors “across the pond”.


This site has a free version of Griffith’s Primary Valuation, a key resource for 19th-century Irish research. It includes as explanation of how to interpret the valuation. Also you will find free e-books, online services for libraries, Irish history and cultural info.


The aim of FreeBMD is to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales. They’ve posted more than 248 million records created between 1837 and 1983.


The GeneaNet genealogy database contains 2 billion individuals, 600,000 family trees, 6 million digitized records, 500,000 old books, 3 million old newspapers, and much more.


Since 1998, this site has provided German genealogy how-to along with data on surname studies, passenger lists, military records, vital records and more.


Search for the names of more than 2 million German soldiers dead or missing from world wars I and II.


This database covers all the families holding citizenship in a Swiss community as of 1962.


The records include church registers and user-submitted family trees. This is the go-to source for finding ancestors in the Netherlands.


This is an online database containing descriptions of approximately 80,000 archival fonds (record groups) from more than 20 guidebooks on Russian federal archives and 40 regional archives published from 1987 to 2004. It provides the most comprehensive access to the holdings of the entire Russian archive system in one place, with English transliteration.


Consolidated Jewish Surname Index is your gateway to information about 699,084 surnames, mostly Jewish, that appear in 42 different databases. These databases combined contain more than 7.3 million records.


This easy-to-use genealogy website features thousands of databases, research tools, and other resources to help those with Jewish ancestry research and find family members.

This is just a start….a jumping off point. Take a dive and see what you can find about your ancestors from the “old country”. Share some of your favorite sites and success stories in the comments. Next time I will share more free sites for finding your European ancestors.

Fryxell, David A. “Catch the Wave.” Family Tree Magazine May/June 2014: 54-59. Print.

A Chance Meeting

This last Sunday we were invited to a family gathering – only it wasn’t our family but the family of my husband’s high school buddy. It’s always fun to gather with old friends as we weren’t the only non-family. One of the gentlemen at the gathering lived on Trotter Road. That turned the conversation to genealogy since my husband’s grandmother was a Trotter. We knew the William Trotter farm was somewhere along that road. We started asking questions about the history of property in his area since his family farm was on Trotter Rd also. Were our ancestors neighbors??  More research is to be done.

My husband and I had driven Trotter Rd several times trying to figure where the Trotter farm was located. Was the farm still there or has it disappeared and been swallowed up into other farms? One thing we did not take into consideration was how the road had changed with the new Highway 81 between Monroe and Argyle. Part of what is Trotter Road now used to be West Duncan Rd. A large section of Trotter is now closed and not used. A farm (the former Scott farm – they married Trotters, too) sits at a dead end on Trotter Rd. From that dead end to Highway 81 is the unused portion of the old Trotter Rd. Now we had new information to use to figure out the location of the farm.

At home, I pulled out my Trotter family information and the land information I had. We studied the information and the map alongside the new information we had about Trotter Rd……and the joke was on us. The farm was actually located on the southeast corner of Lewis Rd and Duncan Hill Rd – not on Trotter Rd as we thought. The farm is gone but we had driven by it many times and each time my husband has been drawn to the piece of property and has made the statement, “That’s a piece of land I would like to own.” It may be the call of the ancestor.

One chance meeting and it led to the discovery of the farm property. On the next trip by the Trotter land I will have the camera.

Don’t forget that Green County Genealogical Society is offering free workshops on Thursday mornings. This week Elder Wright will be sharing many aspects of Family Search.

Throwback Thursday July 23

Throwback Thursday Genealogy

The Green County Genealogical Society is holding Thursday morning genealogy classes on a variety of subjects starting on July 16 to October 29 from 10:00 am – 12:00 noon. The first hour will include teaching and time for questions. The second hour will give attendees the opportunity for application with assistance or time for some research. Subjects will include Youth Genealogy, Family Search, Find A Grave, Sanborn Maps, Computer File Management, Sharing Family Stories, Court House Research and much more.

The Green County Genealogical Society not only has holdings for Green County but also Lafayette and Rock County and other surrounding areas. This is great opportunity to get together with fellow genealogists who may be able to help you open a difficult family tree brick wall. A schedule can be found at the Green County Genealogical Society website at Upcoming Events.

Throwback Thursday Genealogy will be held at the Research Center on the lower level of the Monroe Public Library, 925 16th Ave from 10:00 am – 12:00 noon (take the elevator to the lower level). The classes are open to the public so bring a friend.

Throwback Thursday

Kids Want to Know Their Family History

Recently our 8 year old grandson spent the night to celebrate his birthday with us. We planned fun things like breakfast at a restaurant, shopping for his birthday present, kite flying and grandpa teaching him how to use a BB gun. What was his request? “I want to see the place where dad grew up.”  It was important to him to know and see where dad lived when he was 8. We made a road trip south of Monroe to show him the home place and tell a few stories. And a picture was required.

Home Place

Our Home Place

It is easy to overlook the fact that our grandkids are interested in our stories. I’m always looking for ways to share stories in a meaningful way. Over the next month I have 3 grandchildren graduating from high school. Each is going to receive a photo book with a collection of pictures spanning 18 years….many they probably have never seen because they are in my digital collection on a computer. It is a way for me to share our unique “grandparent-grandchild” story….and something to keep for the next generation.

Do you need some inspiration for sharing your story? Check out this FamilySearch blog: 52 Questions in 52 weeks: Writing Your Life Story Has Never Been Easier. Leave a legacy by sharing your stories…don’t let them die with you.