10 Tips for the Newbie Genealogist

family tree

Over the last 30 years, I have learned a few things when it comes to genealogy.  Some do’s and some don’ts.  So, below are some tips and tricks that I have learned over the years.

1.  Don’t assume anything!  Just because someone’s death certificate states that their parent’s name was so and so, DO NOT ASSUME that it’s true!  Death certificate information is given by the family and could be wrong.  Always verify with other documentation, especially birth records which was filled out by the parents.  Census records, church records, etc. are all good places to verify information.

2.  Everyone gets excited when they see the shaking leaf.  Unfortunately, many of those hints are from other people’s trees or the “Millennium File”.  I never, ever trust these.   I learned this the hard way when I followed one tree all the way back to Adam & Eve.  Really?  Many times, there are no sources.  You can use these as a starting point if you are stuck, but ALWAYS verify the information with your own sources!  I tend to just ignore all of these hints as I prefer to do my own work.

3.  I also tend to ignore the hints from Web: *.*.  These are hints from elsewhere on the web and are not actual records.  Very similar to the Millenium Files.  Unless it is an actual record or tombstone that I can see a picture of, I tend to ignore it.  Ditto for Family Data Collections.

4.  Get or print a hard copy of your source!  If you have everything on your computer, that is dangerous!  You could lose everything at the drop of a hat.  So, hard copies are still the best way to ensure that you don’t lose everything.  Also, back up, back up, back up!  I have had to start my family tree over twice.  Thankfully, I did have hard copies of everything and was able to recreate it.

5.  Organize!  Everyone has their own way of organizing their records.  Whether it be a filing cabinet or notebooks, start off with one system and continue.  Just make sure that you can find something when you need it!  I will explain my organizational system at another time.  Make sure your sources use the same type of format in your computer family tree.  Many times when you say “yes” to a hint, it will automatically download the source information.  Make sure you go to that source on your tree and it is filed correctly and in the same format that you always use.

6.  Get a stand alone computer program.  Ancestry is great, but you have to be online to do all your work.  If you want to take your work with you, then a stand alone program is the way to go.  There are a lot of great programs out there.  I have looked at them all, but I always go back to Family Tree Maker.  I have been working on it for 20+ years, and I prefer it.

7.  Take a break!  I have been stuck on this one brick wall for 20+ years.  I take a break, then come back to it.  Get frustrated again, take a break, then come back to it.  Genealogy is a process and is never-ending.  I go in spurts; working on my tree for a month, then on my husbands.  However, you will burn yourself out if you work until 3 am every single day.  Take time out!  Have other hobbies!  Don’t spend every waking hour on your family tree!

8.  Spend your money wisely!  Don’t order every single record on every single family member.  Honestly, I stick to my direct ancestors.  I do not bother with siblings.  Yes, I try to get information on them, but beyond, birth, life, and death records, I don’t care.  I don’t care who they married or who their children are.  They are not my line, so I don’t waste my time or money.  When you do order records, make sure you order the entire record.  If you are going to spend the money, don’t order the condensed version.  Get the whole thing!  You will be surprised what you can find on an original Social Security Application or in a Military Record.

9.  The more records you have for a person, the better!  Birth, Marriage, Death are the important ones, but Wills, newspaper articles, tax and land records, can all be interesting reads and can hold a wealth of information.  Take census records with a grain of salt.  Many census records were filled out by neighbors or the census taker as reading and writing were a novelty in the old days.  If they could not understand the person talking, they would just guess.

10.  The most important tip that I can give, is have fun with it!  If you don’t get excited when you find a new ancestor, then what is the point?

Hope these tips help and newbies that may be contemplating starting their family tree.  Have fun and research on!


Community. Family.

Once again, my small town has been rocked to it’s core.  I have spoken before about my town.  Settled in the early 1870’s, Bothell started out as a logging town because it was located on a slough.  The logs were floated down stream, plucked out, processed and sent to market.  The town was incorporated in 1909.  To date many historical buildings still dot our town, some dating from as early as 1886.  Main Street itself, is full of history.

So when a developer came to town and wanted to remodel the historic Mercantile Building on Main Street, there was blowback from the community.  Months went by and the developer finally agreed to keep the original facade of the building, while also developing upward to include apartments on top of shops.  Construction started and I felt optomistic every time I drove by because it seemed as if the contractor was keeping their word to make sure that the history of this building did not dissappear.

I woke this morning to devastating news.  The Mercantile Building, which was in the process of adding it’s final floor at 5 or 6, don’t know which, had caught fire during the night.  At 3 am it quickly turned into a 3 alarm fire.

 Firefighters did their best to keep the fire from spreading, to no avail.  The fire was so hot that it melted the construction crane as well as buildings across the street.


The building in this picture was 5-6 stories high before today.  The building to the bottom of that is also a total loss.  Photo borrowed from Kiro 7 News – http://www.kiro7.com/news/photos-bothell-building-under-construction-burns-in-3-alarm-fire/409311288

Buildings across the street and blocks away caught fire as well from embers.  Most downtown buildings flooded and have water damage.  As of this writing, 17 hours later, there are still hot spots all over downtown.  A tree caught fire just a little while ago.  The fire at the Mercantile Building is still an active hot spot with firefighters on duty there.


Within 4 hours, with firefighters still activally engaged with the blaze, my community had already rallied.  A Facebook page was created for people who wanted to assist in any way.  Coffee and donuts were quickly delivered.  The response was so great that the City actually had to formally request that people drop off donations to the operations center on the other side of town.  Actually the response was so huge that by this afternoon the City said “No More!”  I actually found that kind of funny.

Most downtown business closed for the day because early on the smoke was so thick that people were having trouble breathing.  As the day progressed, the press swarmed our small town.  Helicoptors were flying overhead and news trucks were all over downtown trying to get interviews.

A local business across the street from the Mercantile Building had a flooded basement and requested towels and a shop vac to get cleaned up.  They also had some roof damage and needed to patch it before it started to rain.  Within a couple of hours of the request, they were flooded with help.  They were able to get the roof patched up, the basement cleaned up and were open for business by the afternoon.  Amazing!

By 11 am local business had set up Fundraisers for the local businesses who had lost everything.  Local salons were offering chairs for hairdressers that lost their’s in the salon that is a total loss.  A local sign company offered to print up “We Are Open” signs for business that were closed today, but would be open tomorrow.  One lady wanted to bake cookies for every company that showed up to help fight the fire.

That is us.  That is Bothell.  We are community.  We are family.

During a press conference, our little town’s Chief of Police and Mayor made a point of constantly stating that Bothell will survive and will rebuild.  They encouraged everyone to support our local businesses when they reopen tomorrow.  I, for one, will be doing just that!

#wearebothell #bothellstrong


Photo borrowed from Bothell Community Facebook Group

Peaches, Peaches & More Peaches!

If you are anything like me, you have been caught a little off guard by the fruit being ready so early this year.  Strawberries were in early June, not early July…blueberries were ready in late June, not July…raspberries are also late June, not July…even some apples are ready now and not in the fall!  Therefore, I have been getting my family out to the u-pick farms to stock up!  Since I am not quite ready to can just yet, I have been stemming, cleaning and freezing.

It is also the beginning of the season for peaches.  We don’t have any u-pick peach farms close, therefore, I go to my local fruit market.  I started off with once case of peaches this year which is roughly 30 lbs.  Again, I am not quite ready to can, so I will be freezing these as well.  How do I do that, you ask?  It is actually really simple and is not as much work as you might think!

I start by boiling a big pot of water…I will leave the water boiling the entire time I am working, adding some more water every once in a while.  Once my water is boiling, I add 6-7 whole peaches.


I let the peaches boil for about 30 seconds.

Next, I remove the peaches from the boiling water with some big salad tongs (you know the ones, the cheap plastic ones!)  I then put the peaches in another big pot, or just the sink, full of cold water and ice.  You will need to replenish the ice after every batch of peaches to make sure that the water stays cold enough.


The next step is quite genious!  You just rub the skins right off of the peach!  But be careful!  They become quite slippery without their skins!


The skin comes off, no fuss, no muss!

Once you have your naked peach (shame on you!), cut the peach in half along the pit line.  I hold the peach in my hand while I do this, so be careful not to cut yourself!  Once you get a cut all the way around the peach, it will easily pull apart


Extract the pit, and cut the peach any way you like!  I place my prepped peaches into ziploc bags all ready to freeze!


All ready to freeze!

Now, if you are like me, you hate to not use all those pits, bad parts and skins for something!


What to do with them all?

Guess what?  I use them too!  I use all of this to make peach juice which I will also freeze.  The peach juice will then be used to make peach jelly or syrup at a later time.  Below is my recipe to make peach juice.  Enjoy!

Peach Juice

Place peels, pits and bad spots into a large pot.  (Don’t worry, bad parts of the peach actually add a little sweetness to the juice!)  Cover with water by about 3-4″.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook down for 30 minutes.  Strain through a cheese cloth and you have peach juice!  Place in jars or plastic containers and place in the freezer for storage.

Stay tuned for what I actually make with my peaches and juice!

Time to Unite, Not Divide


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only LIGHT can do that, hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted.  Life has gotten busy with the end of the school year, start of my summer, and just life in general.  This past week, however, has been a week of upsets, therefore I feel the need to write about it.

I am a middle-aged middle class white woman.  Some would call me privileged, however, that just shows me that they don’t know my story.  I was raised by a single mom with very little help from a deadbeat dad.  Back then, my mom received $250 a month in child support which she had to fight tooth and nail to receive.  I learned very early on that when I asked for something and the answer was no, I just accepted it.  I did not beg or whine to get my way.  My mom kept the fact from me that for a while we were on food stamps, had no health insurance and were on the verge of losing our home on more than one occasion.

My kids have grown up under similar circumstances.  However, instead of keeping it from them, I tell them when we are struggling.  They have also learned that they must work hard for what they want and nothing is given freely.  Unlike many in today’s world, my kids work for their privileges.  They do not have that sense of entitlement like many of their classmates.  They do not drive brand new cars, instead they have the one with the big dent in the front and leaks oil regularly.  They also have an older tower computer that runs a little slow, but still does the job.  They don’t have the latest and greatest, but still hold their heads high because they know that what they do have, they worked for.

I will not get into specifics about this week’s shootings and violence.  Instead, I will say that everyone is human.  Black, white, gay, straight, police officers, criminals, strange people, normal people, men, women…WE ARE ALL HUMAN.  Therefore, as human beings, we all make mistakes.  No one is perfect and judgement can be flawed.  FORGIVENESS and LOVE is the only way that people will be able to live together.  Negativity only begets negativity.

Therefore all these posts that I see about how everyone else, or guns for that matter, is to blame drive me crazy.  As humans we are all responsible for our own actions.  I take responsibility for my actions.  My kids take responsibility for their actions.  It’s time for everyone else to take responsibility for their actions.  Quit passing the buck people!  Grow up and teach your children to be responsible.  Quit giving them everything that they ask for!  Say “NO” once in a while!  Hearing “NO” is a GOOD THING!  It teaches them humility and responsibility!  Your kids are flawed America!  You are raising a bunch of spoiled brats!

I can’t count how many times I have had to call a parent about their kid being bad on the bus and the parent can’t believe that their “Angel” could ever do anything wrong!  Until I show them the video of their daughter pretending to have sex with the bus seat and her flute.  Or writing “rape me” on the bus window.  Or using pot on the bus.  The examples could go on…but i digress…

The fact is, people need to quit posting all the negative and need to focus on the positive!  I am loving seeing all the positive posts regarding kind interactions between police officers and the public.  HATE BEGETS HATE, LOVE BEGETS LOVE!  It’s time to start loving more and hating less!  I know that it is sometimes a hard thing to do, but why don’t we start with something small?  How about just acknowledging each other instead of ignoring.  It is a small step, but hopefully a significant one.

Thanks for reading my rants.  If I just reach one person, I will be happy!  🙂