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



Posted in Cheat Sheets, Genealogy Toolkit, Research tips, Websites

Genealogy Toolkit: Cheat Sheets from Family Tree Magazine

Good news everyone!  You are finally old enough to use a “cheat sheet” legitimately.  In fact, it is one of the secrets of successful genealogists because genealogy is an “open book” test.  You can’t store all the necessary information in your head, so knowing where to look for that information really differentiates the pros from the amateurs.

It is essential that you begin to create your own cheat sheets for the localities you research the most, and also for general research topics.

Family Tree Magazine has developed some handy cheat sheets for general topics and they are free.

Click this link for access to these quick reference guides.  Here are some snippets from several cheat sheets.  I like this timeline of naturalization laws:

Part of online Family Tree Magazine “Naturalization Laws Timeline”

This war service reference guide will help you know which military conflicts your ancestor might have been a part of:

Part of online Family Tree Magazine “War Service Reference Guide”

This source checklist comes in handy:

Part of online Family Tree Magazine “Source List Checklist”

There are plenty more on Family Tree Magazine’s website, so check them out.  Create a link to them in your digital genealogy toolkit, and add printouts to your reference binder, Cheater 😉

For links to this and other handy genealogy tools, click on Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit on the menu bar above.

Posted in Acronyms and Abbreviations, Genealogy Toolkit, Research tips, Websites

Genealogy Toolkit: Acronyms and Abbreviations

First off, check out the new link on the menu above for “Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit.”   This is a collection of websites I find handy for the research process.  In most cases I consider these tools because they are not places to find names and dates, but instead they give me a way to better organize and analyze information.  Some of them, like Linkpendium and Genealogy Sleuth are portals to database collections but I like the way they are organized. One—Railroad Employee Records—is just a cool site I didn’t want to lose track of.

Today I am highlighting the first one on the list, the collection of genealogy acronyms and abbreviations.  We come across these mysterious entries in source documents all the time.  For example… list of Acronyms and Abbreviations

How handy to have a quick place to look up AMOS, and how exciting to learn there is an Ancient Mystic Order of Samaritans.  How could the Odd Fellows have possibly made their name more intriguing?

The website includes a list of books and websites that were referenced in compiling this list.  One thing I find a little off-putting is all the spelling errors and typos in the paragraph that introduces the list.  (Ugh.  That is a pet peeve of mine!)  The list itself seems to have been compiled with greater care, however, and I find it quite helpful.

Even though I can have more fun making up my own explanation for acronyms (you mean to tell me PBA doesn’t stand for Poor Babies of America??) it is more professional to use the standard interpretation.

Until next time…HT    (Happy Trails!)

Posted in Genealogy Toolkit, Immigration and Naturalization, Maps, Research tips, Timelines, Websites

Animated Atlas American History Timeline, and Other Interesting Timeline and Map sites

The most popular post on On Granny’s Trail concerns the Animated Atlas American History Timeline, so I thought it would be worth revisiting. I’m also posting links to a few other animated maps and timelines, and mapping sites with a twist, like the New York Times Immigration Explorer,  History Pin, and Timeline of Events in the West, There are lots of these kinds of timelines out there, so find one you like and put it in your genealogy toolkit–handy sites that help you organize and interpret your research.  I like the Animated Atlas American History Timeline:


It is user-friendly and easy to take in visually, with 8 layers that illustrate when states and territories were created, U.S. Presidents in office, major events in society, Native American, the world, science and culture.  New layers available are women and labor.  A handy slider at the bottom zips you through the years.

Having a historical timeline in your toolkit will help you understand the events that affected your ancestors’ lives, and can give you clues about what kinds of records to search.  Was there a war going on? Did the creation of a territory provide opportunity for free land?  Did world events stimulate immigration from certain countries?

Along with historical timelines for the nation, consider finding or creating state and county timelines, and always create a timeline for a family.  That should be one of the first things you do as you begin your research, but it can also be something that will help you when you are well down the road in your research and may have come to a dead end.

Integrate your family timeline with county, state, and national timelines and you may be surprised at the new ideas that emerge for your research.

TIP:  Keep your genealogy toolkit handy by creating a “Toolkit” folder on the “favorites” or “bookmark bar” in your internet browser, or create a  “Toolkit” folder in the Evernote program.