Posted in Genealogy Toolkit

Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit

Dayna Jacobs, AG®   https://ongrannystrail.com/

toolkit piktochart

This toolkit is full of my go-to links that are (mostly) not record repositories, but rather are tools to help me find, interpret, and organize my research and records. I think you’ll want to keep them handy, too.

Abbreviations & Acronyms for Genealogy – What do they mean?

Animated Atlas – U.S. History Timeline

Archive Grid – Enter a zip code to identify nearby archives

BLM-GLO Records – Find U.S. federal land patents and locate parcels on a map

Cheat Sheet – Boolean Genealogy Searches – Online searches made easy from OGT

Cheat Sheets – Family Tree Magazine – A variety of helps

Cheat Sheet – Table of Wars and Ages of Servicemen –  Determine which war your ancestor might have been involved with

Citation Creator – EasyBib – Help for source citations

Cloud Convert – Convert files from one format to another

David Rumsey Digital Map Collection – Excellent map resource

Earth Point township and range tools – Locate land in the public domain

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher – Google search templates for genealogists

Encyclopedia of Genealogy – by Dick Eastman

Evernote – Organize your research

Free Forms and Charts – Family Tree Magazine

Free Forms and Charts – Rootsweb

Genealogy Gophers – Searches in genealogy books digitized by FamilySearch

Geographic Names Info System (GNIS) – Supercharged online gazetteer

Historical Map Archive – A look back in time

Internet Archive – For digitized county and family histories

Learning Center – Free online courses at FamilySearch

Linkpendium – Links to genealogy resources organized by locality

Map of US – Interactive map of the U.S. and county boundaries by year

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) – Order land entry files and pension files

Newspapers – Library of Congress: Chronicling America

Research Report Template – Download this editable template from OGT

Research Wiki – FamilySearch – Huge knowledge base for researchers

Surname Distribution Maps – See where surnames are clustered geographically

The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy – Online version of a classic

Timeline Template – Download this editable template from OGT

Topoview – Download historical or current topographical maps from the USGS

Town and County Database (Rootsweb) – Enter the name of a town to find the county

Vital Records – Where to write

Worldcat – Find libraries and items for interlibrary loan

The ICAPGen ℠ service mark and the Accredited Genealogist® and AG® registered marks are the sole property of the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists.  All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Digitizing your files, Research tips

6 ways to simplify your digital genealogy life


My digital genealogy life sometimes feels out of control.  Know what I mean? In a single online research session I can download more digitized documents than I would bring home in a whole week of library research. I can connect my digital camera and dump hundreds of digital photos onto my laptop in no time at all.  When my hard drive began to look like my virtual hall closet, I knew I needed to do a little straightening up.

Here are six things that have helped me simplify my digital genealogy life (the hall closet will have to wait!):

1. Establish a file-naming convention

I’m talking here about your digital files – you know, what you name the documents and images you save on your computer. Establish a file-naming convention for yourself and put it on a sticky-note on your monitor until it becomes second nature. Giving some thought to how your file names will work for you after you have created hundreds of files will pay off down the road when you want to find a file for a particular individual or locality or time period. You will also see the benefits immediately as you peruse your tidy file directory. Keep it simple. Some wise advice I received early in my research is, “Everyone knows the alphabet. Use it.” That’s when I stopped using complicated numbering systems and went back to alphabetizing. You might have a first-class numbering system for your paper files, but your digital files are better off alphabetical.  Here’s what I use:  Surname-given name_year_event_details as needed.  Here is how it looks in my directory, filed in the “Hansen, Peter” folder:

  • Hansen-Peter_1855_immigration_ship_manifest
  • Hansen-Peter_1862_marriage_license
  • Hansen-Peter_1862_marriage_certificate

See how easy it is to view at a glance a chronology of Peter’s life as represented by the documents I have for him?  And I can see where my gaps are.  For example, I should try to find an 1870 census. Naming your files in a consistent way as you download them, and saving them to the appropriate file folders (see item #2) are a foundation you can build on as you simply your digital genealogy life.

2.  Use no more than 5-8 main folders to organize the genealogy files on your hard drive

Take a look at your file directory.  I’ll bet you have dozens of categories of file folders there.  I suggest you create no more than 5-8 categories for your main file folders and then file everything—folders and loose files—within those main folders.  Here are some ideas:  Surnames, Localities, Conferences and Workshops, Software Data Files, Forms and Templates, DNA, Correspondence, and General Family History Files. Adapt it to your needs.  You can create subfolders within the main folders, but keeping 5-8 main files on “top” will simplify things.  I am a folder-creator extraordinaire, but I felt like I was so much more in control once I boiled things down to some basic categories and neatly filed away my hundreds of sub-folders and files for easy access.

3.  Establish a consistent workflow for saving webpages, documents, and images

What do you do when you find a webpage you want to remember? Do you save a screenshot?  Do you clip it to Evernote or create a bookmark? Do you copy the link into a document?  Whatever it is, be consistent.  Write down your workflow for this and every other type of situation you encounter regularly.  What do you do when you find a source document on Ancestry, FamilySearch, or other website you want to save? How do you import, name, and process digital images from your camera or other device? Write down your workflow and post it where you can see it. It will become second nature before long, and having a routine will make your research seem simpler.  Your files will also seem to organize themself because they will get filed as you go.  You won’t be re-inventing your methods every other day and then finding your files scattered across your hard drive.

4.  Utilize the basic features of a note-keeping program like Evernote, OneNote, or Google Keep

Note-keeping programs are perfect tools for genealogists, because they are designed to keep track of anything and everything, and after all—isn’t that the definition of a genealogist? Note-keeping programs allow you to clip and save webpages and images, save and annotate documents, write notes and research reports, and keep track of research on the go because it will be synced on all your devices.  It’s a hundred times better than a brief case.  Having all your research in one place and saved across all your devices will simplify your digital genealogy life in a big way. I use Evernote as I research, and then find a home for my permanent files in the main file folders described in item #2.

5.  Keep your files in a cloud-storage and file-sharing service like DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or iCloud

Remember when you had to save a file on your laptop, then download it to a flash drive and copy it onto your desktop computer if you wanted the same file in two places?  Or maybe you became really good at emailing files to yourself.  I hope you are not still doing that, but if you are I have good news for you.  Cloud-based file-sharing services will make your life so much simpler!  With a file-sharing program your files are stored in the cloud but are available on all your devices—your laptop, desktop, tablet, and smart phone.  When you change a file on one device the changes will show up on all devices, instead of having different versions of a file saved in different places. I use OneDrive, but have used DropBox and Google Drive in the past.  Having your files synced across all your devices will make your digital life immeasurably easier!

6. Download a scanning app on your smartphone or tablet

My husband teases me because I have four different scanners—a standard-sized flatbed photo scanner, a large scale flatbed scanner, the scanner integrated with my printer, and a Flip Pal mobile scanner. What do I use the most?  The scanner app on my iPad.  That’s because I find it is so much easier than firing up the desktop computer and flatbed scanner at home, and I also find myself in need of mobile scanning so often.  Why don’t I just take a snapshot with my phone? Well, a scanner app finds the corners of a document to correct the perspective distortion and adjusts the exposure to make a decent-looking well-proportioned scan of a document. I use it to save images of source documents, books, microfilm, handouts, receipts, flyers—you name it.  And my scanner app allows me to name my images and send them to Evernote or OneDrive. For source documents that require a higher resolution scan or are larger format, or for high volume projects, I can always use my flatbed scanners, but more and more I find my iPad and iPhone scanner apps meet my needs.


Posted in Library of Congress, Photos, Websites

Little-known database is a treasure of early photos and drawings


The Library of Congress houses a collection of early American photos and drawings of historic buildings you will want to explore (the photos—not the buildings, that is).

The Historic American Buildings Survey has “more than 556,900 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 38,600 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century.” This collection is part of the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, and I plan to highlight a few other awesome collections in the future.

The collection is key word searchable, so try inputting the name of an ancestor’s hometown or a notable landmark. You might be surprised to find some pretty cool pictures or drawings that give you a glimpse into your ancestor’s life. And they are downloadable and free to use!

Posted in Maps, Research tips

My Week at SLIG – New tools to share with you: TopoView


I recently attended a week full of classes at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and have come back with my head swimming–it’s full of ideas for tools, websites, repostitories and methodologies I want to share with you.

I’ve always been a fan of USGS topo maps—I used to order the 24,000 scale maps directly from the USGS and was quite pleased with my collection. I love looking at these “close up” maps that have dots representing buildings, and have cemeteries and tiny details labeled. Then I discovered the ability to download maps from the USGS website.  Even better!  But even then the interface did not feel entirely useful or slick.  In recent years I have been on the website for the The National Map, by the USGS, and have been happy to see it become more user-friendly. Check out the homepage for The National Map and you will discover the Historical Topographic Map Collection. Continue reading “My Week at SLIG – New tools to share with you: TopoView”

Posted in Land and property, Military, Research tips

7 Key Pieces of Evidence from John Gooch’s Bounty Land Warrant File

Back in April of 2016 I wrote about a new discovery I had made in my 30-year search for facts about John Gooch, my 3rd great-grandfather. After all these years, new information rarely surfaces, so I was excited to find him in a new online database for Bounty Land Warrant Applications on Fold.3.  John Gooch’s life has been a study in correlation of indirect evidence, and the facts provided in this new record added substantially to the study.

John Gooch – War of 1812 Service Record Index  (Fold3 database)

Years ago I had found evidence on an index card of a John Gooch who served in the War of 1812 in the North Carolina Militia, but was never quite certain it was my John Gooch, who died in Austin, Texas. I was pleased to see that direct evidence in the Bounty Land Warrant Application file was exactly what I needed to verify this connection.

Once again, I was reminded of the importance of obtaining the application file when there is evidence of land ownership or a pension, for example.  So many times researchers are excited to know their ancestor was a homesteader or a soldier, and are thrilled to discover a certificate of land ownership or military service, when the real treasure is to be found in the application files that were created to prior to a patent being issued or a pension being approved.

Here are seven key pieces of evidence I found in the Bounty Land Warrant Application file for John Gooch:

  1. His age was 64 on 11 April 1855.  Obviously, any clues about a person’s age are always welcome and help to identify them. In John’s case, other indirect evidence  is off a year or more (he had a twin whose headstone gives a birth date of 1 January 1790 and his own cemetery record says he was “abt 70” when he died in 1864).
  2. He was a resident of Travis County, Texas and filed his application in Austin on 11 April 1855.   This reassures me I have the right John Gooch, as he was buried in Austin nine years later where both of his married daughters were living.
  3. He served as an Ensign in a regiment of the North Carolina Volunteers under the command of Colonel John Patten and Captain James Lowery. When I find a list of men in this regiment it will provide me names of associates, friends, and possible neighbors, since militiamen were mustered from the same community.  I can look up regimental histories to understand the movements of the troops when John Gooch was with them. Learning more about these men – particularly those who appear to be neighbors based on tax, census, and land records – I may uncover clues about John’s life. By the way, what is an Ensign in the Army anyway?  It is the term for a rank that was abolished in 1815, so perhaps that is why John’s Bounty Land Warrant Application says he was an Ensign, whereas his entry on the War of 1812 Service Record Index says he was a 2 Lieutenant and Lieutenant.
  4. He was in Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina in February/March of 1815.  These are the dates he served, and the place where the regiment was mustered in, according to the application file.  This is consistent with the land records I have found for a John Gooch who sold land in Buncombe County 1812-1817, and tells me my John Gooch of Texas was indeed the same John Gooch found in Buncombe County, North Carolina.
  5. The application has John Gooch’s signature on it.  This tells me he was literate, at least to a degree, and is evidence he was alive and present at the time of the application. It is also just cool to see! In many instances what appears to be a signature is actually the name written in the hand of the clerk, but I compared it to the writing of the clerk and feel it is his actual signature – the only one I have found for him. If I ever find another record with a signature I can compare them.
  6. He was also known as John Goudge back when he lived in North Carolina.   This is an interesting notation on the application, and something John made a point of having recorded, in case his military records were filed under the alternate spelling.
  7. James Gillett and William Sauer were acquaintences of John’s in Texas.  Once again, it is helpful to know the names of associates, and these two men filed affidavits saying that John was who he said he was.  I can look for evidence of John’s relationship with them and perhaps find clues about him in their records.

There were plenty more clues found in John Gooch’s Bounty Warrant Application file, but these are the ones that jumped out at me.  After a more careful examination of the records I may pick up on more.  I’ve included some images from the file so you can see what it looks like.  Not surprisingly, John ended up assigning (selling through an agent most likely) his land to another man, since the 160 acres was located in Council Bluffs, Iowa–nowhere near where he lived in Texas.

Why did John Gooch wait so long to apply for Bounty Land?  Well, from what I can tell the Scrip Warrant Act of 1855 awarded bounty land to men who served for as little as fourteen days, whereas the previous acts required a longer period of enlistment.  It appears John only served 24 days before the war was declared over, so this was his first chance to apply for bounty land. He didn’t waste much time, either, as the Act was official on 3 March and he applied on 11 April of 1855.

Page 1 of John Gooch’s War of 1812 Bounty Land Application
John Gooch told the judge that he had sometimes been called “Goudge” back in North Carolina
Bounty Land Warrant #27743 certificate  issued to John Gooch


Back of Bounty Land Warrant #27743 certificate issued to John Gooch

Military Land Warrant #27743 issued to John Gooch
Posted in Research tips

Free Digital Newspaper Projects Out West


I’m always looking for free resources online, and I especially like finding historical newspapers.  More and more states have newspaper projects, and the West has some pretty good coverage.

Newspapers are an excellent record group for Western States researchers since they existed in many places before official vital records, statehood, or censuses.  There are many individual digitization projects in this region, so you are bound to have some luck Googling “digital newspapers in (city, county, state)”, but I wanted to compile a list of major statewide resources.

The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website hosts many of these statewide newspaper projects through their National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), so some of these links will take you to a state’s own project through their state library or archive, and some will take you to the NDNP link.  It’s best to check both links, as there may or may not be overlap in the online collections.  Here are links to the projects:  Continue reading “Free Digital Newspaper Projects Out West”