Genealogy Blog

3 Tips to Make the Most out of Your Family Reunion

08 May 2014

It’s that time of year again! The time when families gather together to celebrate their unique heritage at family reunions. Reunions offer one of best opportunities to share your stories, gather information and verify your research. The best way you can make the most out of your family reunion is to come prepared.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.39.24 AM

1. Share Your Stories

One of the greatest gifts you can give to your family is taking the time to share your story. When researching our family history, it’s easy to get caught up in the stories of our ancestors, but it’s important to remember to document the important details of our own lives. Whether you take pen to paper and write down your favorite memories or take some time to make an audio or video recording of your favorite stories from the past, make sure to share these memories with your loved ones in person at your reunion. For more tips on preserving your own story, check out “For Future Generations, Say What You Need to Say.”

2. Gather Information

Family reunions offer the perfect excuse to set aside some time to talk with family members and discover their stories. Whether you already know a little bit about a person or nothing at all, it’s always a treat to be able to speak with family members in person. Download the Mocavo Family History Toolkit to access five helpful tips for interviewing family members and an interview question worksheet. Bring multiple copies of the interview question worksheet to your family reunion so you can take notes and keep your research organized.

Download the Mocavo Family History Toolkit Now

3. Verify Your Research

There is no better time to verify your research than when you can discuss your findings with family members in person. Make sure you bring a summary of your present research so you know which facts you need to verify with family members. It’s also important to bring a copy of a current pedigree chart and/or family group sheet(s) so that you can stay on track when sharing or confirming your research. Finally, make sure to bring blank pedigree charts and family group sheets just in case you need to make additional notes or start documenting facts for a new ancestor. Your Mocavo Family History Toolkit also has blank copies of pedigree charts and family group sheets that you can print out and bring with you to any family event.

Download the Mocavo Family History Toolkit Now

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.45.54 AM

1,000 New Navy Cruise Books Added Today

07 May 2014

Our pursuit to bring all of the world’s historical content online free forever is only growing stronger. In October of 2013, we committed to launch 1,000 new databases every day, and we’ve kept that promise every day since.

As a way to say thank you, we wanted to do something extra special for the Mocavo community. So, today alone, in addition to the 1,000 databases we launch every day, we are adding nearly 1,000 Navy Cruise Books to our current collection of more than 340,000 free databases.

Browse Navy Cruise Books Now

Navy Cruise Books offer a unique glimpse into the daily lives of Navy sailors. Similar to high school or college yearbooks, they were created by volunteers aboard a ship to help commemorate a particular deployment. Candid photos and portraits of the ship’s crew members breathe life into their daily experiences, while biographies and stories reveal a first-hand account of what life was like at sea. Images range from documenting moments of their daily routines (such as strategizing and reporting for duty), to more casual images that capture soldiers having a good time while acting in talent shows, winning pie eating contests, and more. We picked out some of our favorite images to help get you started.

Browse Navy Cruise Books Now

Navy Cruise Books Graphic

We hope you enjoy browsing all of the exciting new databases and have a wonderful week full of discoveries.

3 Essential Travel Tips for A Successful Journey

03 May 2014


We recently put together our Summer Research Guide, filled with resources and tips for your summer genealogical research travel. I am sitting in my hotel room in Sandusky at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference writing this post, and thought it would be nice to toss in a few more travel tips for you.

1. Be Prepared for Unexpected Emergencies

You never know what will happen on the road. This week, while in Fort Wayne, I broke a tooth quite badly. I found the right kind of dentist, and they quickly took care of me. But, as part of the intake process as a new patient, I had to provide them with a list of all medications I am on, and their dosages. What if this happened to you? What if you were injured and had to go to the emergency room? Could you provide the physicians with the information they need to take care of you? I was prepared. I keep a list on my phone of all my current medications and the dosage, my physician’s name and contact information, etc. Even if I had difficulty speaking, I could bring up the list for the medical staff.

2. Check the Hotel Amenities

This is especially true if you will be gone for more than a few days. I’m on the road for two weeks. Who wants to pack that many clothes? Both the hotels I’m staying at here in Sandusky and the one in Richmond have guest laundry facilities. By taking a couple of hours out of my schedule to wash clothes, I saved a great deal of space in my luggage. I only had to pack enough clothes for a few days, instead of two weeks. This is especially important to me, as I must also carry my computer, projector, and other electronic equipment for my presentations.


3. Explore Alternate Travel Options

It is not just about the destination, it is also about the journey. After the OGS conference, I need to head to Richmond for the NGS conference. In Sandusky the closest airport is in Cleveland, about an hour or so away. With having to be at the airport two hours early, plus the flying time, I estimated I would spend at least half or more of Sunday travelling to Virginia. Looking at Amtrak, I found that there was a station right here in Sandusky, just a few miles from the hotel. Better yet, the train to Richmond involved switching at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Not only did I book the train, but I booked a bedroom for the 13-hour trip. The price was comparable to a night in a hotel, and breakfast and lunch are included. And going this way, I am able to spend one night in D.C. and go to the National Archives to research for the day on Monday before heading out to Richmond. Explore different options for you. You may be surprised at how easy it is to add a bit more adventure to your travels.


How Often Do You Cite Your Sources?

03 May 2014

We asked and you answered. Last newsletter we asked how often do you cite your sources?

Cite Your Sources

Last week’s question touched on a very important step in our genealogy research process – citing your sources. It’s wonderful that 48% of you are citing your sources every single time. To find out why citing your sources is so important, check out Chief Genealogist Michael J. Leclerc’s article entitled: Three Reasons Everyone Needs to Cite Their Sources. In his article, he acknowledges that many of people often say they are “only doing it for family” or they “aren’t going to publish their research.” However, it is important for people to cite their resources for so many reasons. Read his article to find out more!

Need an easy way to organize and cite your sources? Download this simple research log to ensure you cite all the appropriate information about each record and ancestor you research.

And also don’t forget to take this week’s poll: How far to you plan on traveling for your genealogy research this summer?

Don’t Take the Summer Off – Your Summer Research Guide

01 May 2014

As summer arrives, we enter one of the biggest times for genealogy travel. Genealogists love to plan their vacations around research trips, and there are so many options. If you are lucky enough to get away, download the Mocavo Summer Research Guide to unlock some key tips and tricks to help you have a stress-free research trip.

Can’t get away this summer? No problem, there are many ways you can still “travel” from the comfort of your home. Download the Mocavo Summer Research Guide to discover how you can still take a genealogy research “trip” of your own this summer.

Download your Mocavo Summer Research Guide Now


Five Steps to Create a Foolproof Research Plan

29 Apr 2014

Just like other projects, genealogical research works best when you have a plan. Learn how to create a research plan that will guide you throughout the research process and keep you on track as you dive deeper into your family history research.


1. Assess Your Initial Goals and Interests

Take a moment and think about what initially inspired you to start looking into your family’s past. Were you interested in a specific family member? Or was it just general interest in your family’s past? Assessing your initial goals and interests will help you choose an appropriate research path.

2. Evaluate the Information you Have Already Discovered

Once you have re-evaluated your initial family history interests, take a moment to review the information you gathered in the past. Often you will discover new avenues for research. Discovering new goals is completely normal and to be expected. The constant discovery of new information is one of the reasons why genealogy often becomes a lifetime hobby for many.

3. Create Research Goals and Objectives

The next step is to start creating research objectives. These are the building blocks that will help you solve the mysteries in your family history, and will help break down your search into attainable tasks. One of the best ways to create these objectives is to first focus on one or two of your goals.

An initial goal can be anything from looking for a specific person or family, to answering a research question about the living conditions of your ancestors.

Examples of Research Goals are:

  1. Locate the place from which my great-grandmother came.
  2. Complete the family group sheet for my great grandfather’s family.
  3. Identify when and where was my great uncle born.

Once you decide on the research goals that you would like to initially pursue, you can then create research objectives to help you discover your goal. For example, if your goal is to find out where your great-grandmother immigrated from, research objectives could include:

  1. When was your great-grandmother born?
  2. At which port did your great-grandmother arrive?
  3. Did she travel alone, or with family and/or friends?

All of the questions above are considered research objectives. Before you visit a repository or start your online research, take some time to record a few initial goals and two research objectives for each goal.

4. Identify Potential Record Sources

Now it is time to use your research log to record potential sources. Download your free research log now. A research log can help you keep track of the sources that you have already examined, and those you plan to use during your genealogical research. By diligently recording your research steps, you will be able to easily cross-reference new information with what you have previously found.

5. Examine and Record Your Sources

The information that you should record on your research log before you search includes:

  1. Name of your ancestor
  2. Your selected research objective
  3. Source to examine
  4. Repository or source location

Once you record all of this information on your research log, you are ready to start your search. After you have finished your search, record the following information:

  1. Source examination date
  2. Complete source citation (title, author, publication data)
  3. Notes on findings
  4. Whether or not you made a photocopy or transcription
  5. Whether this source requires further examination

After you have recorded this information in your research log, take the data relating to an individual relative or family such as dates and places, and transfer the information onto your pedigree chart, onto your family group sheet, and into your genealogy database and/or word processor. Each additional entry gets you one step closer to making new discoveries.

Don’t forget to download your free research log


Revoking American Citizenship in the Early Twentieth Century

24 Apr 2014

The great immigration waves in the second half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century brought with them not only problems of immigration and emigration, but naturalization and citizenship. Exacerbating these problems was the xenophobic nature of many Americans, especially the men serving in Congress.

This week the Los Angeles Times published a story about the Expatriation Act of 1907. The story told the story of Elsie (Knutsen) Moren. Born in Minnesota, she married Carl Moren, an immigrant from Sweden. Under the provisions of the act, this caused Elsie to lose her American citizenship. Any U.S.-born woman who married an alien automatically lost her citizenship. This may help explain why you might find Alien Registration files for American-born women. But this story focuses on only one provision of the Act. It encompassed far more.


Expatriation ACct of 1907


On February 20, 1907, members of congress passed “An Act in Reference to the Expatriation of Citizens and Their Protection Abroad.” Like many acts of Congress, there were good provisions and bad provisions.

Section one dealt with the subject of passports.  Under these provisions, foreigners who had resided in the U.S. for three years and had made a declaration of intention to become a citizen could be issued a passport. The passport could be valid for only six months, and could not be renewed. It would entitle the holder to the protection of the U.S. government everywhere except the country of which he was a citizen prior to his declaration of intention.

Section two dealt with American citizens. Any citizen who took an oath of allegiance or became a naturalized citizen of a foreign state automatically expatriated himself and gave up his U.S. citizenship. Naturalized citizens who resided in their country of origin for two years after naturalization, or elsewhere outside the United States for five years, were considered to have renounced his citizenship unless proving otherwise to the Department of State.

In these years that just followed the Spanish-American War, and with worldwide tensions on the rise, Congress was also concerned about the ability to raise military forces. The provisions of this section for revocation of citizenship would not be valid during times of war.

Section three was the provision that stripped American-born women who married alien men of their citizenship. She would regain her citizenship when the marriage was terminated.

Section four provided that a foreign-born woman who had become an American citizenship through marriage would continue to be a citizen even after the termination of the marriage. If she were living abroad, she needed to register with a U.S. Consul within one year of the termination.

Section five provided that foreign-born children of alien parents would be granted citizenship upon the naturalization or resumption of citizenship of their parents, as long as the children were still minors. This citizenship would only become valid, however, when such children began to reside in the U.S.

Section six stated that foreign-born children of American citizens who continued to reside abroad would be required to register with a U.S. Consul their intention to reside in the U.S. and retain their citizenship. Additionally, they would be required to take the oath of allegiance to the United States “upon attaining their majority.” Remember that the age of majority was different in different time periods.

Section seven, however, is the most important to genealogists. It required that “duplicates of any evidence, registration, or other acts required by this Act shall be filed with the Department of State for record.”

The terms of the Expatriation Act of 1907 were relatively short-lived. The provisions concerning women were repealed in the 1920s. That Nationality Act of 1940 repealed the remainder of the provisions of this act. But while it was in effect, it generated records that are of tremendous importance to genealogists.

New Beginning or Jargon Central?

22 Apr 2014

The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society was founded in 1885. In 1954 the Society dropped “State Archaeological and” from its name. Sixty years later, the organization is going for an even more radical change.

Yesterday the Ohio Historical Society announced that it is going to change its name to Ohio History Connection.  The name change is part of an effort to update and re-brand the organization.  Executive Director Burt Logan has been working over the last five years to turn around the agency, which was in financial troubles and losing members. He conducted a two-year study that showed Ohioans perceived the group as “exclusive and not having an image across the state that people find welcoming. . .”

Historical and genealogical organizations across the country are in similar situation. We live in a new era, and many people perceive our groups as stodgy and stuffy, as well as very closed and not open to new people and new ideas. In fighting these perceptions, groups are trying many new ideas.

In a report in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday, Logan sayd that “We want to move the organization out from behind the glass. We’re not dumbing down history; we’re making it more accessible.” He goes on to say that “The name change is not a panacea, but it sends a signal to a broad audience that we have entered a new day.”

I hate to contradict the gentleman, but to me the new name sounds exactly the opposite. It comes across as if the organization hired consultants to research the problem and they came up with a jargon solution.

Yes, names like XYZ Historical Society can elicit images of old-school paneled libraries with cigar-smoking gentlemen in suits. But there are plenty of groups that have rebranded without resorting to current trends in marketing verbiage.

What is more fascinating to me is that the name change comes during a period when in-person visits to historic sites are up 95%, and society membership is up 22%. While I applaud the desire to be more attractive, why the need for something quite so drastic at this point? And investing in a total name change is not inexpensive. Signage, brochures, stationery, etc. all need to be recreated.


Ohio HIstory Connection


The organization already has a website branded Ohio History ( Why not take the same route that groups like the Colorado Historical Society, which became History Colorado? This is a modern, fresh name that doesn’t run the risk of being trendy.

It has been 60 years since the last time the organization last changed its name. Somehow, the name Ohio History Connection just does not sound like a name that will stand the test of time.

The Death of Expertise? Part 2

19 Apr 2014

In the last newsletter, I wrote about an article I saw in the Federalist entitled “The Death of Expertise.” The article dealt with the problems in greater society that have come with the great equalization of the internet. In my post, I discussed how these same stresses are appearing in the genealogical community. Over the last couple of weeks, this post has created a tremendous amount of discussion in the blogosphere as well as social media.

Within two hours of the newsletter coming out, the first response piece was posted. Over the next days, numerous other pieces were posted, not only in response to what I said, but in response to what others had posted in response to my original post. It was amazing how far afield some of the posts went from the original topic. It is always heartening to see a post precipitate conversation. In this case it was interesting to see how the conversation turned down some curious paths.

It was interesting to see how some immediately jumped onto the “elitist” bandwagon. Expertise is not elitist. It is experience and knowledge, both of which are freely available to anyone. As Michael John Neil put it so well “I don’t believe in the existence of the genealogical elite and I don’t believe in the existence of the genealogy police.” I have the same experience as Michael. I’ve never met anyone considered themselves to be an “elite.” I have however, met a number of individuals who consider themselves genealogy police, putting themselves in charge of protecting the defenseless newbies.

Some of these folks have been very upset about experienced genealogists calling them selfish, and only interested in making money, and doing nothing to contribute and help others. First, I must say, anyone who thinks that professional genealogists make a fortune at their craft is extremely mistaken. Professionals work very hard to make a living.




That said, they also give a tremendous amount back to the community in general. They publish their work in peer-reviewed journals and other periodicals (for which they are paid nothing) that will help people in the future. The combined information published in the entire runs of these journals is an incredibly valuable, and irreplaceable, resource. Reconstituting family connections is sometimes very difficult, with no single document to prove a connection, and with extensive discussion needed to understand why something is so. This is the kind of information that is not easily included in online family trees at the moment.

They also make presentations and conduct workshops, often for little or no compensation. Quite frankly, the amount of pay speakers receive for a speaking engagement does not even begin to adequately compensate for the amount of time it takes to research and put these presentations together. They are not making a fortune doing it.

Why do we do these things? To help researchers of all levels. We want to help people learn how to research and find their family. Seeing the glint in peoples’ eyes as they learn a new concept, or have a new door opened in their mind, is a most wonderful experience. To say that experienced people do not care and do not share is patently untrue and insulting.

Another complaint I’ve heard is that the “elite” should stop “harassing” those people who don’t believe in things like source citations and stop forcing people to write a Harvard Ph.D.-worthy citation for every fact. Is there anything more self-destructive than not writing down where you found a piece of information so you can find it again? Those who discuss how to create proper citations are trying to help more experienced researchers do it in the best way possible.

But those tools are not for everyone, beginners especially. I, like most other professionals I know, do not tell beginners to go out and buy Evidence Explained and the Chicago Manual of Style and get cracking! I tell beginners to simple record exactly where they found the information so that they can find it again, because inevitably they will find another source that disagrees with their information and they will have to go back and look again. Even the doyenne of genealogical citations, Elizabeth Shown Mills, says the same thing. Recently she posted Sunday’s Sermon: Ten Citation Commandments for Intimidated Souls. Number 3 is “Thou shalt not be paranoid. Any citation is better than none at all.”

So, I say that expertise is still critical to our success as genealogists. From rank beginner to incredibly experienced, we ignore it at our own peril. Why? Because learning how to find your family from those who have gone before helps to keep you from making mistakes, and more importantly, ensures that the people you put into your online family tree actually ARE related to you.