Ruth's Genealogy

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

This Genealogy On A Budget series presents links to free online genealogy databases.

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Do you have ancestors who entered marital bliss in Denton County, Texas? The Denton County Clerk website offers free search and download of marriages licenses:

The Denton County marriage records go back to 1875. In 1875, the courthouse burned and the records were destroyed. Marriage records are recorded in the county where the marriage license was purchased, not the county where the marriage took place.
You are welcome to search the marriage license records on our website for free at: Real Property Records Search website. You will need to select “Marriages Name Search” from the Search Criteria menu located in the top left corner of your screen. On this site you are able to research, view, and print copies of marriage licenses for free.

Note that the actual marriage search page is located at the Real Property Records Search site, so don’t be confused when you arrive.

Here is an example of a marriage license that I downloaded from this site:

Hall-Schad marriage license

 

This is the marriage license of my grandfather Victor Earl Hall and his second wife, Agnes Schad, dated 29 Feb 1936.

The site isn’t clear about the dates of the available licenses, and I have only the one couple that I know to be married in Denton County. However, a random search for the surname Turner returned records (images!) from 2013 and before, including a license for Alonzo Turner and Nannie A Wilson, dated 17 Apr 1876!

I wish I had more ancestors from Denton County, Texas!

In Genealogy on a Budget (Part 1), I referred to an online article showing that a person could easily spend $18,000 per year on genealogy, making it a rather expensive pursuit.

I decided to make a list of the more popular research sites, as well as other necessities, such as genealogy database software, a scanner and a printer, just to see if I could come up with an $18,000 tab.

The costs of the items on my must-have list totaled about $1500, considerably less than the total presented in the article. But $1500 is still a lot of money, money that some folks just can’t afford.

Let’s look at how I manage to do some valid research, without having to mortgage my socks!

As for me, I’m always on the lookout for bargains and discounts. It is something of a challenge to spend money on what’s important to me, yet still come away with something in my pocket. And I do love a challenge!

First off, my computer is a HP desktop model, running Windows 7,  3 years old. The printer is about 2 years old, and I use the camera on my iPhone 4s, also about 3 years old. My genealogy software is RootsMagic 6.

For backup, I use free accounts with Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive, along with an 8GB USB drive and an WD 150GB external hard drive (purchase several years ago.)

This blog is hosted by WordPress.com for free, although I do have a custom domain name and have recently purchased a premium theme. I also have a Freepages site at RootsWeb and maintain a database at RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project. Both free.

Internet access (broadband) runs $25/mo.

Now, to research. I do not have subscriptions to any pay genealogy sites.

So, how in the world can I conduct research???

At Diigo, I have a large collection of links to free genealogy data sites, amassed over many years of research. And I am constantly on the lookout for more. I “keep my eyes on the prize.” Sites like FamilySearch, The USGenWeb Project and its affiliated state and county sites, Find-A-Grave, the Bureau of Land Management, Chronicling America… all offer free original documents and photographs or indexed data, and many are run by volunteers. And they are constantly receiving and presenting new data. Also, sites such as Ancestry.com maintain many free databases, such as World War I Civilian Draft Registrations  and 1940 United States Census.

Many local libraries have wonderful genealogy and history departments, and all you need is a free library card. The downtown Fort Worth Library is excellent (and has free weekend parking) and the Hillsboro Library in Hill County, Texas, the home of so many of my ancestors, has an amazing genealogical collection.

And I follow other genealogists on Facebook and by RSS with Feedly. These folks are always willing to lend a helping hand with advice and frequently post about new databases and genealogical finds. Just a few days ago, a link to a free Tennessee database containing scanned Bible pages was posted and in it I found a Bible for my Vance/Brevard line, with entries dating back into the late 1700’s.

If you need a genealogy database program, RootsMagic Essentials, Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition and MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder are all free.

Finally, there are many folks out there who volunteer to do document look-ups or take photographs at far-away places, for free or simply for the cost of mileage or postage. I was a volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, and hope to be again when the new RAOGK gets under way. I volunteered to take cemetery photos and I never charged for my efforts. I see it as a way to “pay it forward”, to help someone else as a way to thank those who have helped me.

Oh, did I forget to mention that even those pay sites occasionally offer free access to databases normally behind a pay wall, such as WWI records from MyHeritage, available through the end of July. And Fold3 is providing free access to its Revolutionary War Collection, also thru the end of July.

So you see, genealogy can be an expensive hobby, but it truly doesn’t have to be!

 

Genealogy on a budget (Part 1)

According to a recent article:

Ready to spend $18,000? The high cost of searching for your ancestors

The growing urge on the part of millions of Americans to investigate their roots has spawned a billion-dollar genealogy industry that is still growing by leaps and bounds. For the past eight years or so, I’ve heard people toss around the claim that genealogy sites are the most frequently visited (second only to pornography) and that ancestor-hunting is the country’s most popular pastime (after gardening)…

Yep, it’s pretty easy to spend some big bucks when you’re searching for your ancestors. We’ve all “been there, done that.”

But $18,000?

Ok, let’s look at some prices for subscription research sites:

(Assuming you have a computer and internet access)

(These figures may not be completely accurate. Have you tried to find the subscription rates for some of these databases lately? They are frequently well-hidden!)

And you’re gonna need a genealogy database program (Windows):

Definitely gotta have a scanner for that growing stack of photographs and documents:

  • starting at about $29 for a basic model

And don’t forget about backups (certainly don’t wanna lose all that expensive data!):

And then you will probably need pens, pencils, notebook paper, folders, computer paper, a filing cabinet of some sort- depending on your style (look for those Back-To-School sales)

But, wait! These figures are for online genealogical research. What about the old-school write-a-letter-visit-a-courthouse-research-at-the-library-wander-through-a-cemetery genealogical research?

Depending on how aggressively you search and the distance to the target, add maybe $50-100/month to that total (stamps, gas, snacks, mosquito spray, copying machine costs).

And, hey, you’ll need a digital camera, too. Less than $100 on Amazon.com right now. Or just use your smart phone’s camera (umm, they don’t grow on trees…).

So, let’s see here… our total is… where’s that darn calculator… 3 research site subscriptions, 1 genealogical database program, a case of Deep Woods Off, all that hardware and all those travel costs…

A total of about $1500 so far. Probably less, because I’m not planning to buy a new printer, digital camera or filing cabinet every year.

$1500 is certainly not $18,000, but it’s still a lot of money.

Well then, how can you have fun with genealogy, and still keep those expenses down?

(to be continued…)

 

Genealogy on a budget (Part 2)

 

According to a recent article:

Ready to spend $18,000? The high cost of searching for your ancestors

The growing urge on the part of millions of Americans to investigate their roots has spawned a billion-dollar genealogy industry that is still growing by leaps and bounds. For the past eight years or so, I’ve heard people toss around the claim that genealogy sites are the most frequently visited (second only to pornography) and that ancestor-hunting is the country’s most popular pastime (after gardening)…

Yep, it’s pretty easy to spend some big bucks when you’re searching for your ancestors. We’ve all “been there, done that.”

But $18,000?

Ok, let’s look at some prices for subscription research sites:

(Assuming you have a computer and internet access)

(These figures may not be completely accurate. Have you tried to find the subscription rates for some of these databases lately? They are frequently well-hidden!)

And you’re gonna need a genealogy database program (Windows):

Definitely gotta have a scanner for that growing stack of photographs and documents:

  • starting at about $29 for a basic model

And don’t forget about backups (certainly don’t wanna lose all that expensive data!):

And then you will probably need pens, pencils, notebook paper, folders, computer paper, a filing cabinet of some sort- depending on your style (look for those Back-To-School sales)

But, wait! These figures are for online genealogical research. What about the old-school write-a-letter-visit-a-courthouse-research-at-the-library-wander-through-a-cemetery genealogical research?

Depending on how aggressively you search and the distance to the target, add maybe $50-100/month to that total (stamps, gas, snacks, mosquito spray, copying machine costs).

And, hey, you’ll need a digital camera, too. Less than $100 on Amazon.com right now. Or just use your smart phone’s camera (umm, they don’t grow on trees…).

So, let’s see here… our total is… where’s that darn calculator… 3 research site subscriptions, 1 genealogical database program, a case of Deep Woods Off, all that hardware and all those travel costs…

A total of about $1500 so far. Probably less, because I’m not planning to buy a new printer, digital camera or filing cabinet every year.

$1500 is certainly not $18,000, but it’s still a lot of money.

Well then, how can you have fun with genealogy, and still keep those expenses down?

(to be continued…)

 

Genealogy on a budget (Part 2)

 

JanMStanley (1)Tonight, I was just finishing up on the file update for my Aunt Jan, reviewing everything, making sure I had the dates, locations and source citations correct. Trying to be thorough and wondering where else I could find information about her life. Let’s see: birth, education, marriage, residence, census, death, funeral. I think I got all of that.

Hummmm…. education. I know the name of the high school and the year of graduation. I even found her high school yearbook on Ancestry.com. Wow, check out those hair styles…

(Focus please!)

I did a quick online search for the high school + the year of graduation and I discovered that the R L Paschal High School Class of ’56 has a website. This site contains all sorts of tidbits about the Class of ’56, including yearbook photos (which I already had from Ancestry) and…digital images of the 6-page graduation program!

And there on the last page, with all the other S’s, is my Aunt Jan Marie Stanley.

Adds a personal touch to the file, don’t you think?

Genealogy and web design are to my brain as are Oscar Madison and Felix Unger to that apartment in New York City. Can they really live together and get along?

I think so.

About a month ago, I purchased Bloggy, a premium theme for this blog. It was time to remodel the kitchen, so to speak. I wanted some fresh paint and new appliances.

In the first couple of days after the purchase, I created new pages, set up widgets, added links and images. The site was looking pretty good. Then my attention went back to genealogical research and I didn’t pay much attention to the blog’s inner workings. But the web-development part of me took charge again. You see, I love creating and developing a website almost as much as I love genealogy! So I went to Bloggy’s own website and conducted a more thorough study of the theme and its abilities, and learned a lot.

So when I got off work last Sunday nitght and got home about 1 am, I logged onto this blog and went to work. Chronic insomnia occasionally has its benefits. By 7 am Monday morning, I had

  1. developed my WordPress public profile, adding as my gravatar a baby picture of me
  2. added a “follow me” widget
  3. added a link to my Diigo bookmarks
  4. completed the About page, including adding a featured image (that baby picture again)
  5. worked on both cemetery pages, adding an image gallery to each
  6. created a “Genealogy on a Budget” page, with sub-pages for my links to free genealogy websites/software/etc. I was considered creating a Weebly site for the budget pages (I do love to build websites!), but got to thinking: Why create a separate site that might draw visits away from this site???” Duh!
  7. also changed and tweaked the theme for my Archives site

I also discovered that it’s probably not a very good idea to stay up all night working on a website. My brain was mush for the rest of the day!

It took me a couple more days to really get the “Budget” pages to look the way that I wanted them to. I first had to go through over 400 bookmarks saved at Diigo and weed out the duplicates and dead links, then reorganize them according to location. And since Diigo’s export function really doesn’t work very well, I had to figure out how to get those links to this blog. Than done, I then needed to develop the Budget pages in such a way to present the links succinctly. I accomplished this by adding tables to the pages, and began inserting my favorite free genealogy sites. It’ll take a few days to get them all added.

My blog is done, for now. So come on Oscar, I gotta get back to work on that photography… oops, I mean genealogy. ;)

 

The starting over work with my RootsMagic database is progressing nicely. But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. I have only edited a few of my ancestors’ files so far, but I have been really digging and scratching, in search of new data. As much as possible, I am trying to present a complete picture of that person, birth to death and everything in between.

The work on my grandparents is done (for now…). Particularly with these two people, I remember so much “first person”, especially with my recently-deceased grandmother. But the only documentation I have for some of these facts is “personal knowledge”, which is really not the most dependable of sources.

As an example, I entered several residence facts (dates and locations) for my grandmother. I knew these facts to be true, as I had visited the sites hundreds of times throughout my own lifetime. The locations were accurate, the dates for some where “ballpark” figures.

I needed more than personal knowledge and estimations to vouch for these facts!

So start off, I went to the Tarrant (County) Appraisal District website. As I knew the street addresses for my grandparents’ homes (those that I remember visiting), I searched for those addresses. This database shows recent previous owners, as well as the legal descriptions (subdivision name, block number, etc) of the property locations.

Armed with that knowledge, I next went to the Tarrant County Clerk home page, and searched for real property records for my grandparents that correlate with the legal descriptions. Most of the documents don’t show the actual street addresses, only the legal descriptions of those locations.

I found and downloaded about 40 pages of documents, containing the legal property descriptions and my grandparents’ names, dating from 1950! I’m not quite sure what all of these documents show, as I am not terribly familiar with the “legalese”, but they do all relate in some way (deeds, mechanics liens, etc) to the legal descriptions and ownership of my grandparents’ homes.

MilesFStanleyII (82)This document from 7 Mar 1950 shows that my grandparents paid $1950 for:

certain improvements, to-wit: Convert existing garage into a room, repair entire house, construct garage…

That $1,950.00 in 1950 had the same buying power as $19,256.17 in 2014! (Annual inflation over this period was 3.64%)

Interestingly, from the Tarrant Appraisal District site, I learned that this house was built in 1946, yet by 1950 it needed significant repair work.

An added bonus from these many documents: my grandparents’ signatures on every one!

While these resources deal with Tarrant County, Texas, I’ll bet many other localities have similar records available online, just waiting to be found!

 

The starting over work with my RootsMagic database is progressing nicely. But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. I have only edited a few of my ancestors’ files so far, but I have been really digging and scratching, in search of new data. As much as possible, I am trying to present a complete picture of that person, birth to death and everything in between.

The work on my grandparents is done (for now…). Particularly with these two people, I remember so much “first person”, especially with my recently-deceased grandmother. But the only documentation I have for some of these facts is “personal knowledge”, which is really not the most dependable of sources.

As an example, I entered several residence facts (dates and locations) for my grandmother. I knew these facts to be true, as I had visited the sites hundreds of times throughout my own lifetime. The locations were accurate, the dates for some where “ballpark” figures.

I needed more than personal knowledge and estimations to vouch for these facts!

So start off, I went to the Tarrant (County) Appraisal District website. As I knew the street addresses for my grandparents’ homes (those that I remember visiting), I searched for those addresses. This database shows recent previous owners, as well as the legal descriptions (subdivision name, block number, etc) of the property locations.

Armed with that knowledge, I next went to the Tarrant County Clerk home page, and searched for real property records for my grandparents that correlate with the legal descriptions. Most of the documents don’t show the actual street addresses, only the legal descriptions of those locations.

I found and downloaded about 40 pages of documents, containing the legal property descriptions and my grandparents’ names, dating from 1950! I’m not quite sure what all of these documents show, as I am not terribly familiar with the “legalese”, but they do all relate in some way (deeds, mechanics liens, etc) to the legal descriptions and ownership of my grandparents’ homes.

MilesFStanleyII (82)This document from 7 Mar 1950 shows that my grandparents paid $1950 for:

certain improvements, to-wit: Convert existing garage into a room, repair entire house, construct garage…

That $1,950.00 in 1950 had the same buying power as $19,256.17 in 2014! (Annual inflation over this period was 3.64%)

Interestingly, from the Tarrant Appraisal District site, I learned that this house was built in 1946, yet by 1950 it needed significant repair work.

An added bonus from these many documents: my grandparents’ signatures on every one!

While these resources deal with Tarrant County, Texas, I’ll bet many other localities have similar records available online, just waiting to be found!

 

A few days ago, I posted about my summer genealogy plan: to “start-over” with my RootsMagic database. The project is to re-do, clean up and simplify all of my source citations, to make them compatible with Evidence Explained.

So, how’s it going? Well, I have reconstructed the source citations for 4 folks and it’s a slow go, starting from scratch. My method has involved:

  • Step 1- I exported the GEDCOM from my old database, but with names only (no sources, no notes, no multimedia links)
  • Step 2- I installed RootsMagic To Go on a USB drive and plugged it into my computer, then opened the old database from the USB drive and opened the new database from my hard drive. Both databases are now open, side by side on my computer screen
  • Step 3- I looked at the sources for each fact, threw out the weak ones and re-did the citations for the stronger sources (ex: I was using a marriage index entry as a source, as well as the original marriage certificate)

This is a slow process, but I’m also taking my time, trying to make sure the citations are correct. I think things will move faster, as I get more comfortable with this system.

For comparison, here are images of the “old” source citations for my Mom’s file:

MarSStanley old sources1

MarSStanley old sources2

And here is the single image of the “new” citations:

MarSStanley new sources

Same facts, but clearer and more concise citations.

As I understand the purpose of a source citation, it is to present the information necessary to allow another person to retrace the researcher’s path and locate said source.  As I look at the “new” source citations, I think those paths are clear.

 

My summer (and well beyond, I’m sure) is set!

On 13 Jun, DearMYRTLE posted this on her Facebook page:

My project this summer isn’t scanning. AAACK! It’s all about starting over with my RootsMagic genealogy software. It isn’t that I didn’t like my other RM database file. It’s just so confusing because older entries had everything in notes, newer entries had source citations a la Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book Evidence Explained.

That’s something that I’ve been thinking about, too. For a couple of years, actually. Why? My sources are, simply put, a mess! I know a lot more about citing sources now than I did when I first switched over to RootsMagic several years ago. I also understand better now how RootsMagic manages sources.

A couple of years ago, I tried to rework my sources/citations to adhere to Evidence Explained guidelines. To do this, I decided to rewrite all my sources by using RootsMagic’s Free Form source template. The problem with this approach is that the each citation has to be written by hand from scratch.

I quickly got bogged down and discouraged with this massive task, and soon abandoned the idea entirely.

But DearMYRTLE, you have inspired me!

Just as I have started over with this blog, I guess it’s a good time to start over with RootsMagic.

In preparation, a couple of “opportunities” have presented themselves:

  1. Can I run 2 instances of RootsMagic at the same time, in order to view the old database entries while preparing the new entries?
  2. What are my most frequently-used source types and how can I better use them when starting over?

Opportunity #1 has a simple solution. The RootsMagic software comes with its own portable app, RootsMagic To-Go. I installed the portable app on an extra USB drive and plugged it into my desktop computer, started it up, and now I have the desktop app and the portable app side-by-side on my screen, each fully viewable and editable. (I also changed the color scheme for the display of each instance, blue for the old, green for the new, just to clarify things).

Opportunity #2 took a bit of head-scratching. I looked at all the sources (several hundred!) that I used in the old database to see which needed to be combined/modified. I’m trying to improve and simplify my Source List, you see. For example, I have cited many, many databases found at FamilySearch.org. I found that I have 3 different citations that all refer to the same Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976 database! What should be one source type is written 3 different ways! Hence, my problem. So I made a short list of source template to start with. RootsMagic Source Type FavoritesMost of my sources will fit into one of these types, I hope. It’s a beginning.

Another change will be the “share this fact” feature, where a single fact can be used with multiple ancestors, such as with a census enumeration. I have never liked the way the shared fact is presented, so I won’t be using that feature with the new database.

I also want to make sure that the Place List is consistent throughout, along with several other minor fixes.

As a test, I “started over” with my own Person page. After a bit of juggling, I have completed my new file. It contains only 3 source types at this time:

  • Personal Knowledge- “been there, done that”
  • Artifact, Family, privately held (by collection)- my person stuff, such as my birth certificate, marriage announcement and college diploma
  • Basic Online Template- not listed in the image to the left, but it worked out well for USGenWeb data, such as the date and file number for my divorce decree (oops, kinda forgot the gory details…)

Now, granted my personal file doesn’t contain the usual family history source items, such as census data, Civil War service records or probate files, so it was fairly simple to do over. But I am pleased with the way that it turned. The same facts are present, each documented as thoroughly as before, but my source list in cleaner, much simpler and, by using RootsMagic’s templates that have been structured with Elizabeth Shown Mills and Richard Lackey in mind, I believe the source citations are written correctly.

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