Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy Family History New Year!


On December 31, 1914, this colorful penny postcard was mailed to the Cleveland, Ohio home of my husband's uncle, Wallis W. Wood. The children seem to be unwrapping a lucky "pot of gold" for the new year, 1915.

Now, 108 years later, let me wish you a new year of health, happiness, and peace, with a lot of lucky ancestor discoveries!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Looking Ahead to 2023 Genealogy Priorities

The year 2023 will be the 25th year of my genealogy journey! In my final post for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompts for 2022, I look ahead to genealogy priorities for the new year.

  • Continue writing bite-sized ancestor bios. During NaGenWriMo in November, I blitzed 70 ancestor bios onto multiple genealogy sites, some bios about people on my tree and some for my husband's tree. I'm still adding bios of spouses and in-laws, and still doing a bit of fresh research when I focus on an ancestor I haven't looked at for a long time. I never know what additional details I may find! By posting bios, I'm sharing what I know with the wider world and keeping the memory of these ancestors alive for the future. Addendum: Also paw through files to curate notes, digitize what's needed, discard what's not needed.
  • Resume my photo album project. I slacked off on moving photos from archival boxes to archival albums, after a strong start earlier in 2022. Now I want to get back to curating and moving photos, digitizing and adding captions where needed, so future generations will know who's who. This is also a way to make old family photos more accessible "on demand" (when a relative shows even the slightest interest). 
  • Research ancestors and FAN club members of particular interest. My tree and hubby's tree have lots of branches and leaves after so many years of genealogical research. Now I'm going to concentrate on people who are particularly important or interesting in my family's history, such as Hinda Ann Mitav and her husband, Isaac Chazan. They hosted my grandfather in Manchester, England, en route from Lithuania to North America in 1901. Hinda is almost certainly a sister of my great-grandma, Necke Gelle Burk.
  • Genealogy presentations. I use Fold3 often but the browse/search functions are not intuitive, so my new talk will share practical tips for navigating the site to find military records and much more. I'll also be showing how and why to create memorial pages on Fold3 for men and women who served in the military. I've retired my talk about social media for genealogy, because of the ever-changing situation on Twitter and my learning curve on Mastadon (I'm at See a list of all my presentations here.
  • Genealogy education. I'm furthering my genealogy knowledge by subscribing to Legacy Family Tree Webinars and attending RootsTech, as well as by continuing my membership in genealogy groups near and far so I can access their programs. Going into my 25th year of genealogy fun, I know enough to know there's a lot more I could and should know.
Readers, wishing you an enjoyable and productive year of genealogy in 2023!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas Penny Postal Greeting

This penny postal greeting card was received by my husband's ancestors 110 years ago.

The colors are still bright and so is the greeting to you, dear readers!

Here's a hearty greeting from me and mine,

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas time. 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Donate Your Family History Materials in 2023?

Will 2023 be the year you share your family history with the wider world? 

My good friend Mary just finished indexing the genealogy book her husband wrote about his Brown ancestors. Once it's printed, it will be sent to family members and donated to selected repositories, enabling researchers and relatives to learn more about this family's background. 

The index and sources are important elements, showing at a glance who's mentioned in the book and citing specific resources as evidence. The original materials remain with Mary's family, to be passed down to future generations.

Who wants your family's history or artifacts? 

If you're thinking about donating some or all of your family history materials or artifacts, consider repositories in geographic locations where your ancestors were born, died, married, lived, worked, or frequently vacationed/visited. Also consider major genealogical institutions that have a broader scope.

Check each institution's specific requirements and ask permission  to donate before sending or bringing anything to any repository!

Above, the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana) emphasizes that donated family histories, including family record pages from family Bibles, will be preserved and available for other researchers. It welcomes both print and digital materials.

Below, actively invites donation of genealogies and genealogical materials, if they meet criteria as shown here. Donated family histories will be digitized and available for viewing online.

Don't overlook local repositories

Many local libraries and historical groups want donated family histories and artifacts, as well. Browse their websites or call to ask.

Above, the Henderson public library (Henderson, Nevada) outlines what it accepts, and provides both email and phone contacts for the library. Maybe your local library or historical museum or genealogical society would be interested in your family's materials, but you'll never know until you ask.


Remember, LOCKSS (lots of copies keep stuff safe).

Especially if you have no heirs for your genealogy collection, donating copies and/or originals is a practical way to preserve your materials. Keep family history out of the recycle bin in 2023 and beyond!

For more ideas, please see my popular guide, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from and from Amazon (US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia).

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Christmas Greetings from Early in the 20th Century

These penny postal greetings date from the early 1900s. They were received by my husband's uncle, Wallis W. Wood, who was then a youngster living in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Printed in beautiful color in Germany, some of the penny post cards sent to the Wood family were purchased in Toledo, Ohio, and others in Chicago, Illinois. All the cards are still in great shape, in the family's hands more than a century later!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Looking Back at 2022 Genealogy Milestones


Now that 2022 is nearly over, it's time to look back at milestones in this 24th year of my genealogy journey.

  • Fun with the 1950 US Census release. On April 1st, this mid-century US Census was made public, and the race was on to find ancestors! Between navigating the US National Archives Census site (with its rudimentary index) and checking,, and, I found just about everyone I wanted to locate in 1950. I blogged frequently leading up to the release and afterward as well with tips, techniques, and resources. Only a few stragglers remain to be my paternal 1c2r Frank Morris Jacobs, a WWI veteran who in WWII was working in advertising. 
  • Presented 25 genealogy programs. A new one-year record for me! I presented a dozen how-to talks about finding ancestors in the 1950 US Census, including one in-person program. Among my other popular talks were "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past" and "Bite-Sized Family History Projects." It was an honor to present at the WikiTree Symposium, and record talks for The Genealogy Show and Virtual Genealogy Association anniversary. In addition, I was interviewed for two podcasts about preserving family history for future generations. 
  • Active in genealogy blogging and social media. This year, I've written 140 blog posts. Some were related to Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks genealogy prompts, some were for Elizabeth Swanay O’Neal's Genealogy Blog Party. I've been active in many Facebook genealogy groups, also active in Twitter chats such as #AncestryHour and #GenChat, with occasional #ArchivesHashtagParty posts. Given Twitter's problems, I hedged my bets by joining a genealogy-oriented Mastodon server (where I post as I appreciate the growing genealogy community there! 
  • LOCKSS and NaGenWriMo. During 2022, I was increasingly focused on sharing what I know about ancestors, because LOCKSS (lots of copies keep stuff safe). I participated in National Genealogy Writing Month and wrote 70 bite-sized bios of ancestors during November alone. My most popular blog post of 2022 was "Go Ahead and Save My Stuff to Your Tree," part of my plan for LOCKSS. 
  • Cousin connections and elusive ancestors. I 💗 my cousins! It's been a joy to get to know so many during the course of my 24-year genealogy journey, even connecting with a few fairly distant cousins this year. We've shared a couple of photos and confirmed basic dates for mutual ancestors. I hope we can pool our knowledge to make even more progress in fleshing out the lives of elusive ancestors, particularly those who stayed behind in Eastern Europe. 
With the coronavirus pandemic still keeping me close to home for most of 2022, I watched dozens and dozens of informative (often inspiring) genealogy webinars, including at the all-virtual RootsTech (which will be hybrid in 2023), plus the Virtual Genealogy Association and WikiTree, among others. As a member of multiple genealogy societies, I learned a lot from speakers and from discussions with members at virtual meetings throughout the year.  

In all, 2022 was jam-packed and I won't be slowing down in 2023. I have lots of genealogy plans in the works...more about that soon! 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Family History on Our Family Calendar

Here's the cover of this year's family calendar--no faces, but I assure you everyone was smiling at our summertime reunion.

Customizing a family calendar offers a great opportunity to capture family history in the making! Today's family activities are, after all, tomorrow's treasured memories.

The genealogy angle is that parents, grandparents, and other beloved relatives who have passed away aren't forgotten because we put many of their faces somewhere in the calendar. When recipients turn the calendar page and see faces they remember or can't quite place, the stories start to flow.

Last year's calendar had a special series of photos with my three nieces resting their heads on a favorite uncle's shoulder. The earliest photo was from 1990s, most recent photo from 2021, a reenactment of the first in the series. Fun! 

This is an easy project when using present layouts on major calendar websites. Our family prefers lots of photos but even a few photos per month will keep those memories alive for the future.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Forest Cemetery, Traditional Burial Site for Many Wood Ancestors

On this day 75 years ago, my husband's great uncle Marion Elton Wood passed away after a lengthy illness. By tradition, he and a good number of Wood ancestors were buried in Forest Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio, just north of the downtown area.

Marion was born in Toledo on August 29, 1867, the 13th of 17 children of Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest. Marion was a life-long Toledo resident, becoming a carpenter like his father and most of his brothers. He and his first wife (Wilhelmina "Minnie" Caroline Miller) were married in Toledo in 1890 and had two children in the city. Their Toledo home was also the first site of the Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, which they helped organize in 1917 as charter members.

Sadly, Marion had many losses in his life, including the death of his daughter in 1895 (buried in Forest Cemetery), the death of Minnie in 1918 (buried with her parents in Detroit), and the death of his second wife, Johanna in 1928 (buried in nearby Woodlawn Cemetery with her first husband). Marion died on December 13, 1947, at age 80, and was buried in Forest Cemetery's section P. He was survived by his third wife, his son, three grandchildren, five great-grandkids, and two sisters.

According to a book by local historians, Forest Cemetery is the final resting place of nine police officers, 13 firefighters, 16 Toledo mayors, multiple Civil War veterans, a founder of the University of Toledo, and ship captain Samuel Allen.

As well, Forest Cemetery is the final resting place of many Wood ancestors, including spouses and some of their children. 

"Tradition" is Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors prompt for this week.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Eyeballing a New York Birth Cert from 1885

I'm writing a bite-sized bio of Carrie Julia Etschel Mahler (1885-1962), who in 1932 married my great uncle Morris Mahler (1888-1958). Those who marry in deserve their own bios on my family tree!

I already knew Carrie's parents' names, from her marriage license...but I didn't have Carrie's birth certificate, and I did hope to harvest a few more details about her early life to include in the bio I'm preparing. Since she was born in New York City, I knew just where to look for her actual birth cert--for free.

New York City Vital Records online

For months, I've enjoyed the convenience of searching for birth, marriage, and death certificates on the New York City Municipal Archives site. The trick is to have an actual cert number to conduct a search and receive a result. 

As it happens, Ancestry has a searchable index to New York City births, 1878-1909, which includes the birth record number. But this isn't always the case. Many times, is my first stop for a NYC ancestor's vital records number. 

First stop:

The Italian Genealogical Group has done an incredible job of creating searchable index databases for a variety of New York vital records. To go directly to the databases, use this link. I selected the birth database, included a range of years for Carrie's birth (in case there was a delay in recording her birth), and didn't indicate a specific borough because I wanted to search throughout the city.

Happily, this returned one index result: Carrie J. Etschel, born on April 25, 1885, in Manhattan. This matches what I knew from Carrie's marriage license. The key element on this index result is the CertNbr (meaning cert number), 426034.

Next stop: search historical vital records for NYC

Armed with the cert number, year, and borough, I went to the NYC Muni Archives site and plugged it all into the search function, as shown above. Then I clicked the search button.

Immediately I was able to eyeball Carrie Julia Etschel's birth record from 1885, as shown here. There's a choice of downloading the cert or printing, and of course I downloaded to add to my own files. 

By the way, the cert numbers do not always line up exactly with the search function. So if my result doesn't fit what I expect, I do a new search with a cert number that is one digit higher and one digit lower than the cert number I think is correct. Usually this gets me to the correct image.

Read the cert!

Reading the above cert carefully, not only did I learn the exact address where Carrie was born on First Avenue in Manhattan, but also the birthplace and age of both parents, father's occupation, mother's maiden name, plus how many children the mother had in all (8) and how many were now living (only 3). 

Now I have lots of interesting details about Carrie's family that I can include in her bite-sized bio to be posted on multiple genealogy websites.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Bringing My Cousin Back to Life and Getting Rid of Scraped Photos on FamilySearch

Yesterday I stumbled across an unexpected discovery: Someone unrelated to my family had created a profile for my 1c1r on, marking her as "deceased." 


My cousin is very much alive and well, as I know from speaking with her last week! I hadn't added her to the Family Search tree and I was flabbergasted to find her there, before her time.  

Changing status to living

The help center of Family Search explains how to change my cousin's status to "living." This is important for privacy reasons, to be sure living people are not visible in the collaborative family tree.

At top, an excerpt from the process. You can find more detail here. More than one person had contributed to my cousin's profile, so I had to submit a request to the system administrator. UPDATE: My cousin is no longer visible on the tree!

Getting unauthorized photos off the tree 

That same contributor also scraped family photos from public Ancestry trees that feature my family and posted them on FamilySearch. Without permission from the copyright holder, photos cannot be simply taken from an outside source such as Ancestry and posted on FamilySearch.

Shown here, one of the photos posted as a "public memory" on an ancestor's profile (see arrow). At bottom right of screen (see orange oval) is the name of the contributor. I clicked on the contributor's name and sent a message, saying I recognized the photos as being taken from Ancestry and I wanted those photos removed.

I further noted that unless permission was specifically granted by someone in my family, posting photos taken from elsewhere violates the FamSearch terms of service. See the excerpt below for background on this specific issue:

Unless the family photos are removed quickly, I will submit a report to FamilySearch. The last time this happened, with a different contributor, my message resulted in family photos being removed within 24 hours.

Have you visited or followed your ancestors lately?

If you haven't visited your ancestors on FamilySearch lately, I suggest you take a look now. Be sure no living relative is visible and mistakenly shown as deceased. At the same time, you might want to check for family photos copied without authorization from outside sources and pasted on ancestors' profiles.

You can "follow" any ancestor visible on the tree and receive weekly notifications of any changes made to that person's profile. While my cousin's status is set to "deceased," I can follow her profile and see when and if her status is changed to "living." I'm also following dozens of other ancestors, mostly to monitor research updates made by cousins and other interested parties.

This helpful article explains exactly how to "follow" someone shown on the collaborative family tree. Go ahead, follow your ancestors!

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Remembering Mom and Auntie in 1919

My mother and my aunt were born on this day in 1919, twin daughters of immigrants Hermina Farkas Schwartz and Theodore Schwartz. 

Left, Dorothy (1919-2001) and right, Daisy (1919-1981), about 1921.

In the year of their birth, 103 years ago, the Great War was finally over. 

It was also the year that the pop-up toaster was invented...rotary dial telephones were introduced...and the famous cartoon character Felix the Cat debuted.

Remembering these wonderful women, with much love, and missing them still on this anniversary of their birth.