Climb the family tree on your lunch break and be back down in time for work
No time for genealogy? Here are 14 genealogy to-dos you can accomplish on your lunch hour.
1. GOOGLE YOUR ANCESTORS. “Genealogy Googling” requires only Internet access and a few facts about your family tree. Go to Google.com (Google.com) for the ability to combine search terms and find exact phrases. Enter an ancestor’s name in quotation marks, plus a location (as in “sampson doyle” lawrenceburg kentucky). Be specific about the place; you can always widen your search. Also try using initials and nicknames, putting the last name first, and searching two suspected spouses’ names, each enclosed in quotes.
2. SEARCH INSIDE BOOKS. Use the same search strategies as above, but this time with Google Book Search (http://books.google.com). Not every book searchable here can be previewed in total on screen. Google “snippets” give you access to only a few lines from a book; you might still need to track down the actual title at a used bookstore or the library.
3. CHECK YOUR DNA. Use your lunch hour to order a test kit from a genetic genealogy service. Once the kit arrives, you can swab your cheek, package your sample, run it down to the mailroom, and still have most of your lunch hour left. When you get the results, spend another lunch searching for matches in DNA databases at Family Tree Magazine (www.familytreemagazine.com). Go to the “How To” tab, then “DNA” to locate the article Genetic Genealogy Test Results Databases.
4. DOWNLOAD DIGITIZED MILITARY RECORDS. Footnote.com (Footnote.com) offers limited access for free, or full access for $11.95/month or $79.95/year; to date it has most key Revolutionary War and a growing number of Civil War records, plus selected files from other conflicts.
At Ancestry.com (Ancestry.com) ($19.95 per month or $155.40 per year; $29.95/$299.40 to search outside the U.S.), you can view bounty-land warrants, Civil War POW records, WWI and WWII draft registration cards, and more.
Or comb the free Family Search record site (http://pilot.familysearch.org) for Civil War pension records, Ellis Island Passenger Arrival lists, and birth, death, and marriage records from as far back as 15th-century Switzerland.
5. REQUEST A DEATH CERTIFICATE. Another task you can accomplish on a lunch hour is ordering (and maybe downloading) a death certificate. Usually, getting an ancestor’s death record requires writing to the right government agency (with a fee), then waiting. First, link to the Vital Records Office in the state where your ancestor died (www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm). Verify that deaths were recorded at the time and follow the instructions for making a request (you might have to contact the state archives or a county vital records office).
6. INTERVIEW A RELATIVE. Lunch hour is perfect for a local family call, or to make an appointment for a longer call or a visit. Your conversation with Aunt Ethel might just turn to her favorite family stories. You could even have some questions prepared—go to FamilyTree.com, select “Get Started,” then “Interviewing” for articles with suggested questions and interviewing advice.
7. ORDER RECORDS ON MICROFILM. If your office is close to a Family History Center, you’ve got time to zip over. Download a U.S. directory PDF at www.familytreemagazine.com.
For more information, search for “Family History Centers” at www.familytreemagazine.com.
Order microfilmed records ($5.50 per roll) from the Family History Center in Salt Lake City www.familysearch.org.
Use your noon break to plan your next microfilm foray by searching the Family History Library’s online catalog at www.familysearch.com; click on “Search Records” then “Library Catalog.” You’ll also find a 15-minute overview online class link that teaches you how to use the Library Catalog. I like to start by clicking the “Place” search and entering a place name to see available records. When you find something useful, click “View Film Notes” for the film number, then take it to an FHC after work to do more research.
8. JOIN A GENEALOGICAL OR HISTORICAL SOCIETY. We don’t mean just your local group; membership in a society for the area where you’re researching (at the state or county level, or both) can pay off big. Many societies have Web sites with databases and message boards that let you order publications, ask about local cemeteries, get insider advice on circumventing that courthouse visit, and see if someone can do a quick record lookup.
Link to societies nationwide: Federation of Genealogical Societies (www.fgs.org/membership/members.php); Cyndi’s List (www.cyndislist.com/society.htm); or USGenWeb (www.usgenweb.org) for state and county pages.
9. WATCH, LISTEN, AND LEARN. Grab headphones and munch your lunch while enhancing your genealogy IQ. On RootsTelevision.com (RootsTelevision.com), you can view expert interviews, documentaries, genealogy lectures, how-to videos, and more at your convenience.
10. MAKE NEW GENEALOGY FRIENDS. Social-networking sites such as RootsTelevision.com (RootsTelevision.com), Geni.com (Geni.com) and FamilyHistoryLink.com (FamilyHistoryLink.com) are a hot trend in genealogy.
If your Facebook page already keeps you busy, add a genealogy application such as FamilyBuilder.com’s Family Tree application to your profile (FamilyBuilder.com).
Most genealogy sites let you store and share your family trees; you might even be able to forego traditional genealogy software. Use the networking features to collaborate with family members and other researchers, share discoveries, post family photos, and plan reunions.
11. USE THE LIBRARY. Surely you have a list of research to-dos you can tackle a few at a time on lunch hours at a nearby library. But you might also be able to put that library card to work remotely: many library systems let users access databases from home (or the office) simply by typing in a valid card number.
12. UPDATE YOUR FAMILY TREE. Web sites such as the following let you dispense with boxed genealogy software and build your tree online: Ages-Online.com (Ages-Online.com); Ancestry.com (Ancestry.com, click on Family Trees); FamilyPursuit.com (Text); and SharedTree.com (SharedTree.com).
Besides securing your pedigree files in the event of a computer crash, storing your family tree remotely means you can access your information from anywhere.
13. BACK UP YOUR FAMILY TREE FILES. If you brought your digital data to the office, lunch hour provides the perfect time to back up your hard work. A large external hard drive can be had for $50 to $100. Just plug it in to the USB port on your computer and drag over your files. Another option is making online backups. Free services offering modest amounts of Web-accessible storage space are available.
14. READ A BLOG. Lunch is a perfect time to catch up on the news, links, and chatter in your favorite genealogy blogs. Go to any of the Web sites listed above, or try Cyndislist.com/blogs.htm, with a listing to more than 1,000 blogs.