Posted in Genealogy Toolkit

Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit

Dayna Jacobs, AG®

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?

Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialism & Postnominals in Genealogy – By NGS

Age Calculator – Calculate age based on the DOB and another date, by Cornell Univ.

Ancestor Search – Google search templates for genealogists, by Randy Majors

Archive Grid – Enter a zip code to identify nearby archives, find collections

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries – Identify U.S.  county boundaries at any point in history

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

Census Enumerator Instructions – For U.S. censuses 1850-1940

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

Cheat Sheets – By Thomas MacEntee – 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

DNA Painter – Tools for genetic genealogy

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

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher – Google search templates for genealogists

Evernote – Organize your research

Family Relationship Chart – From the National Genealogical Society

Free Forms and Charts – Family Tree Magazine

Geographic Names Info System (GNIS) – Supercharged online gazetteer

Genetic Affairs – Tools for genetic genealogy

GPS Visualizer – Create .csv files of places in GNIS and import them to Google Earth

Historical Map Archive – A look back in time

Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps – By Randy Majors

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

Newspapers by Locality – From the Ancestor Hunt

Obituary links by locality – From the Ancestor Hunt

PhotoTree – Help with photograph types and dating

QuickSheets – From The Ancestor Hunt

Research Guides – From the Newberry Library

Research Report Template – Download this editable template from OGT

Research Wiki – FamilySearch – Huge knowledge base for researchers

Resources by Locality – From the Ancestor Hunt

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

Timeline Template – Download this editable template from OGT

U.S. History Timelines and Chronologies

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 Genealogy Toolkit, Research tips, Timelines

Time for a Timeline: A Downloadable Template for You

Time for Timelines 2So you are in a research quandry.  Perhaps you are suffering from information overload, and don’t know what to make of it all.  Are there too many pieces of evidence going through your mind? Are you trying to figure out what to do next?

Maybe it’s time for a timeline…

My little brain is too tiny too hold and sort more than a few pieces of evidence, so I use a research log and report for the “holding”, and a timeline for the “sorting”.  I’m guessing you have already discovered the benefits of timelines, and the need to make order of the events in an ancestor’s life while placing him/her within the context of local and world events.  If so, it might be time to update a timeline for your latest research project.

Timeline template snippet. Click on the link to download the template.  Dayna Jacobs (
Click on the link below to download this template.
Dayna Jacobs (

Downloadable timeline template

Timelines reveal gaps, inconsistencies, and conflicts in our research, but they also sometimes serve up a well-ordered line of logic that can make writing a proof summary or proof argument much easier. Timelines are valuable tools at any stage of research:

  • In the beginning they steer us to the jurisdictions most likely to house our ancestor’s records.
  • As we accumulate records they help us order and make sense of our findings, and they often nearly shout out to us what our next research objective should be.
  • At the conclusion of our research project timelines help us to prepare our proof summary or proof argument. Utilize timelines as the scaffolding for your research, but also as the showcase.

Create a timeline for an individual and another one for an entire family. Record the locality, date, and age for life events such as birth, marriage, death, birth of children, residence (census, directories, voter registration), land ownership, military, education, employment, and immigration, among other things.

Be sure to tie events to source documents in your research log for easy reference. Include significant local, state, and national events, such as wars, natural disasters, border expansion, change of jurisdiction, railway or waterway development, and mineral discoveries in your timeline. These things influenced your ancestor’s choices and will help you make sense of the personal events of your ancestor’s life.

Timelines are key to a good researcher’s success. Give it a try – you will be rewarded every time!

Posted in Cheat Sheets, Genealogy Toolkit

My Cheatsheet for Genealogy Boolean Searches

After blogging about the use of Boolean searches for genealogy, I decided to try and track down a compact cheatsheet or template I could use when searching in Google.  I didn’t come across anything that served my purposes completely, so I made my own.  I thought it might be helpful for others, so have posted it here for you to use. I’m sure my list will change as I work with it more and more, but it is a good starting place.

Using whichever search engine you prefer, just plug in your own data using this punctuation and format, and see what kind of results you get:

Cheatsheet- Genealogy BooleanWhile compiling this list I came across some previously untapped resources in the search results.  I am talking about some high quality original sources that enriched my research and were golden.  I encourage you to come up with your own template, and to mix and match the search terms and compare the number of hits you get.

Too many hits? Try adding additional search terms to your string until you have shaped it and narrowed it to suit you.  Then copy it and add it to your personal template.

To get an idea of how the construction of a search string affects the number of hits that will result, I’ve included a chart that illustrates my own results in one session:

Number of hits with diffferent search strings, by Dayna Jacobs of
Number of hits with different search strings, by Dayna Jacobs (

When using a search engine it is helpful to know a few keyboard shortcuts.  I cannot keep track of more than a few in my head, so am sharing the ones I use most often:

Google keyboard shortcuts for genealogy and other searching, by Dayna Jacobs of
Google keyboard shortcuts for genealogy and other searching, by Dayna Jacobs (

I hope this gives your online searching a boost.  I’d love to hear your success stories!

Posted in Genealogy Toolkit, Research tips, Websites

Genealogy toolkit: Linkpendium

In the continuing series “Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit”, I introduce you to, “The Definitive Directory” of genealogy links online. I liken it to Cyndislist, except that Cyndislist is organized by subject, and Linkpendium is organized by locality, and then by subject, so each index has a different function. Since I tend to organize my research by locality, I find myself turning to Linkpendium first.

You will get a bonus tool in this blog, because I am using the Penultimate app to illustrate the use of Linkpendium. To get started, go to Linkpendium and click on a state.


Check out the statewide resources or select one of the counties below:


A list of subjects will now appear, with links below each subject. To the right you will see the name of the website. A dollar sign indicates a subscription site, but there are links to many free sites.


Linkpendium should be one of your first stops as you identify each locality where your ancestors lived. I’d be interested to know if you have any luck with the site. Let me know what you find!

Posted in Genealogy Toolkit, Railroad maps

Genealogy Toolkit: Were they workin’ on the railroad?

One of the great 19th century developments in the United States was the railroad industry.  When the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads joined at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869 and thus made the transcontinental railway a reality, it was a monumental day in the nation’s history.

Alfred A. Hart stereoview #359 detail, “The Monarch from the East.”
showing the U.S. 21st Infantry Band in front of UPRR Locomotive #119.
Promontory Summit, UT, May 10, 1869. Courtesy National Park Service.

You may have had an ancestor who was employed by a railroad.  If so, you will want to locate employee records, which can be a good source of genealogical information.  Here is a good link to locating railroad employee records on the Genealogy Today website.

It has articles and links to employee records for various railroads, links to related organizations, and additional resources.

I also came across a helpful link on the that is “A Study of Railway Transportation—For Primary and Intermediate Grades” by the Association of American Railroads, 1942. It has photos and articles about various aspects of the railroad industry.  Where else could you find a swell picture like this one of a conductor and engineer comparing watches?


Even if you don’t have an ancestor who was employed by a railroad, you will want to learn about the railways that would have impacted their lives.  The Library of Congress Railroad Maps Collection, 1828-1900 is searchable by keyword, geographic location, and railroad line, among other things.

Enjoy some train sounds while you look for your railroading ancestors, courtesy of the Catskill Archive.  Click on the numbers below:

1   2   3   4    5   6   7   8