All posts by cattaplin

About cattaplin

Researcher, writer, speaker

Spring Cleaning: George Long Binder

I’ve been slowly, ever so slowly, making some progress on my Spring Cleaning projects. I’ve made a small amount of progress scanning while also watching some Netflix (Hannibal, in case you’re wondering). And I’ve started working on one of my project ancestors, George Long and his family group. He came to the U.S. from Ireland (where? “North Ireland”), got married, had a couple of kids, and then was killed in a machinery accident in 1855 at a mill in Gilboa, Putnam County, Ohio. I’d really like to know where in Ireland he is from. Well, I’m not going to figure it out with the state of affairs that is his binder, digital folder, his entry in my Reunion file, and so on… it’s a mess, to say the least.

The George Long binder has loose pages I haven’t fully processed, sticky notes with to do items, no separate tabbed sections for all of the children… it’s a mess, as I said. So, my next project is to just get this binder organized physically. Then we will delve into the digital side of this project. As a forewarning… none of the digital records are organized either!

Spring Cleaning: Matching Binders to Digital Files

I have a whole system that I use to organize my genealogy. It is a hybrid paper/binder and digital system. This may not work for some. Some of you I know think it is ridiculous to keep paper files these days. but I just like to sit down with my binder and “read” about my ancestors as if their binders were their book. My binders also act as a visual timeline that just works best for the way I visualize and think about research.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The important thing is to do what works best for YOU.

Anyhow, after all of this scanning and sorting and going through my hard drive, I know I have some family digital files that I have not made match my binder system. I started doing this a while ago (several years now) and have just worked on it as I worked on a family project. But I think it might be time to be more methodical about it. (Here’s the blog post about that system.)

The digital corresponding system to my binders.

So, this will take many months to do, but I am going to go through each one of my paper binders and make sure its corresponding materials match in my hard drive. Wish me luck!

Spring Cleaning: Digital Files

I don’t know about you, but my hard drive is something of a mess. I tend to take research trips, scan and photograph a lot of documents, and then never process those documents I scanned. I am not the only one am I? I mean, I have things I took pictures of from back in 2007 when I went on a trip to New Hampshire with my grandma. If I do the math correctly, that was about 14 years ago! I bet I will not know or remember what I was thinking or why I took a photo of that document or the page in book, let alone if I took a photo of the book’s title page!

I need to clean all of that up. Additionally, my hard drive just needs a clean out and organization session (or two or ten).

This needs some major TLC!

So, for the next week or so, when I have a moment, I am going to go through a folder on my hard drive that needs some TLC…and I’ll keep doing that until I get it done.

Spring Cleaning: Digital Stuff

After getting settled in after moving, and getting my paper piles in some form of organization, I have a few piles that require scanning. I usually like to put on some music or watch some light-hearted YouTube Videos or something on Netflix, and fire up the scanner.

I use a ScanSnap to scan things that can be sheet fed. It really makes life a lot easier. Depending on what I’m scanning, I may store the file in Evernote, on my hard drive, or attached to my genealogy software. I have folders for newsletters and handouts from lectures that still come in hardcopy. I print some things so I can take notes in the margins. I’ll rescan those and store them so I don’t have so much paper. (It might be weird but it works for me.)

I have the 1300i model.

When it comes to getting organized, my most common answer to any question I get is most often “This is what works for me, but you have to do what will work for you.” And sometimes that takes a bit of trial and error. Later I might decide that I don’t need to keep some things on paper that I’ve been keeping, or I might decide to change how I organized my hard drive files, etc. I’ve changed how I do things several times over the years. As computers and the internet evolves, so has my organization system.

So, my goal for the next week or so is to get my scanning caught up. Any good Netflix ideas?

Next Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Groups Forming

Registration is now open for the next Mastering Genealogical Proof study group which begins on April 21, 2021. If you are interested, now is the time to register! The class information is as follows:

This will be a beginner/low-intermediate level class to study the book Mastering Genealogical Proof by Tom Jones. We will cover the principles outlined in the book as well as discuss the workbook questions.

Details of the course (PLEASE READ):

  • There will be two sessions: Wednesday daytime (lead by Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List), at 3pm Eastern, and Wednesday evenings (lead by Cari Taplin) at 8pm Eastern (so adjust for your time zone). Beginning April 21, 2021 and ending June 2, 2021 (so 7 weeks total). Each class will be about an hour.
  • We will meet on Zoom. 
  • Cost for the course: $50
  • You will need to have the book, Mastering Genealogical Proof. It can be purchased on Amazon or through the National Genealogical Society if you don’t already have it.
  • There are questions in the book that we will use to guide discussion. Reading the chapter and answering the discussion questions will prepare you for each week’s class.
  • For first half (or so) of each class session, I will present/recap the principles for that week (I’ll have slides).
  • The second half will be going over the discussion questions.
  • There will also be a private Facebook group for this class only so you can ask questions and discuss issues in-between class sessions.
  • Class size is limited to 25.

If you are interested, please sign up for the class time you are interested in:

Wednesdays, 3pm Eastern (with Cyndi): https://checkout.square.site/merchant/ZR9R1ZQPYQB26/checkout/OBWHBLEU5VJITZ2S4N2YCQ5M

Wednesdays, 8pm Eastern (with Cari): https://checkout.square.site/merchant/ZR9R1ZQPYQB26/checkout/6IXPC72D2U242JANRANHAYXN

We look forward to studying with you!

NOTE: If this session does not work for you, we will be holding the next session beginning on October 6, 2021. To be notified when registration opens for the next session, please click this link to sign up for the waitlist.

Spring Cleaning: Paper Stuff

If you follow me much, you know that during 2020 we decided to move out of Texas (and none too soon by the sounds of it) and back to Colorado, the state we love. We started out just moving into a rental while we got our house in Texas ready to sell. Then, just after the holidays, we bought a new home here and just last weekend finished the moving in and cleaning the rental, and all of that fun stuff. We are exhausted but happy to be in the new place and get settled again.

Now that my office is mostly unpacked, I found a huge stack of papers that just accumulated during the 6 months while living in a rental. We didn’t unpack everything while there so some things just couldn’t get filed properly. So, one of my jobs this week is to go through those papers and get them sorted, filed, or recycled. I will have a pile of things to scan as well and I will just put on some music and scan away until those are finished.

I also have a filing cabinet full of things that can probably be scanned and recycled or just recycled. There are some things that just don’t need to live in paper form if you file them in an organized way on your computer or in the cloud.

A Good Start in My Recycling Bin!

The biggest hurdle with getting organized is making the decisions. We, as humans, don’t like to make decisions. We like to know yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, up/down, and so on. If we know what the “buckets” are, we know where to put the stuff. However, we get hung up on choosing the “buckets.” So, I have to decide what to keep, what to scan (and how to file it), and what to recycle.

I’m hoping to keep up with Cyndi Ingle‘s “Filing Fridays” on The Genealogy Squad group on Facebook, now that I’m in a permanent location!

Cyndi’s List Turns 25 Today!

One of my favorite colleagues is Cyndi Ingle, the grand web-mistress behind the ever invaluable Cyndi’s List. She is also one of the co-founders for one of the best genealogical Facebook Groups out there, The Genealogy Squad (last year they asked me to join their ranks as one of the administrators). She also teaches classes, webinars, institute course, etc. on technology topics, how to utilized websites better, how to organize your computer, how to use some cool technology tools to make your life easier, and so on. She has also become a discussion group leader for the study groups I offer after demand got larger and my time got smaller.

Cyndi is a powerhouse in the genealogy field, always helpful and generous with her time and knowledge.

Her website, Cyndi’s List, is turning 25 today, March 4, 2021. She has been providing this free service to genealogists for a quarter of a century! I remember when I first heard about Cyndi’s List. It was from my friend and mentor, Birdie Holsclaw. She was a huge fan of Cyndi and her list. She pointed me to using Cyndi’s List quite early in my genealogical life and I’m so grateful.

Cyndi’s List is a collection of links on just about every topic relating to genealogical research that you can think of. And if she doesn’t have a section for a topic, she’ll add one! You just have to let her know.

Why should you use Cyndi’s List when you can simply use Google these days?

For one thing, Google only indexes about 4-5% of the internet. The little Google bots that crawl the web to index it for their search engine, only drill down a few levels into a website. So, if you have a deep and complicated site, like a University for example, Google isn’t going to crawl all the way down into those layers and index the items you are probably looking for. For example, if you are looking for a digitized record on a University library website, the layers may look like this: University > Libraries > That Particular Library > Digital Collections > History/Genealogy > County/State/City or whatever identifying layer > Digitized Marriage Collection. That is at least seven layers on my hypothetical scenario here, and I’ve been on sites where it’s more. Google typically goes maybe four levels deep.

A second reason, you don’t always know what to Google for! Cyndi’s site is broken up into categories. If you start by browsing her categories, you will find something valuable that you didn’t know you should Google for! You will get keywords and phrases you hadn’t thought to use for your searches.

A third reason, Cyndi has hand-picked these links, vetted them as useful for genealogists before including them on her site. So the links you find are applicable. With Google you get all kinds of links and have to wade through a lot before you might find something that applies to your research.

I have a concrete example that happened just last week. I was on a Zoom with Cyndi and telling her I was having a hard time reading the name of an Irish town that was listed on a birth record. On Google, if you type in a place “close enough” Google will ask “Did you mean…?” and give you some results that may or may not be correct. I have had this help me many times when trying to decipher handwriting when it comes to old town names. However, this Irish town name was not coming up. And in fact, Google kept separating it so that it would become a celebrity’s name. (“Did you mean Tony Shaloub?” No Google. I certainly did not.)

While I was Googling, Cyndi was pulling up Cyndi’s List, going to her Irish category, pulling up an Irish atlas database that would show you all of the towns in a county alphabetically, and she came up with the answer in no time!

I just did the same at Cyndi’s List to write this blog post and found a broken link. Oh no! Cyndi depends on her users to help keep the site up-to-date. She has thousands of links to keep track of and can’t do it alone. On the left side of the page is a “report a broken link” button that will allow you to quickly let her know something has moved or is just missing. Do this. It takes a few seconds and helps her out tremendously!

We have to get out of the habit of Googling. Or only Googling. Sometimes Google is the right tool. However, Cyndi has provided us this fantastic free resource of genealogy-related links! AND she is a one-woman operation.

I have two requests:

  1. Visit Cyndi’s List. Examine her categories. Discover what you didn’t know you needed! Or find something to help answer your mysteries. (If you find a broken link, click that report button.)
  2. Send her a donation. Any amount is appreciated, I’m sure. Every penny helps her keep the site up and running! She foots the bill for all of the web costs (design, hosting, security) and puts hours and hours into maintaining those links!

Happy Birthday, Cyndi’s List! I for one appreciate you very much!

Marriage Announcements

You may have noticed that in October, Ancestry released a new database from Newspapers.com “U.S., Newspapers.com Marriage Index, 1800s-1999.” I have found the database to be a fantastic resource. From the Corporate blog:

“The Newspapers.com Marriage Index collection adds to the world’s largest, searchable digital archive of newspaper published historical wedding announcements. Since the early 1800s, newspapers across the country have been publishing rich information about engagements, marriage license applications, wedding announcements, and more.”1

I have been using the database for a couple of months now and I have to say I am quite impressed with some of the articles that I’ve found that I missed during other search sessions. I can’t say why I missed them, except that this database is narrowed down to marriage announcements only thereby narrowing down results you might otherwise get by doing a general search at Newspapers.com. I have found that it weeds out some of the “noise” for me in search results, allowing me to more easily spot articles that pertain to my research.

Of course, not every database is going to be flawless. And while machine learning algorithms can help, nothing beats human eyes and interpretation of the articles as we see them. So don’t rely solely on this database, especially if you know something should be there. However, it can help eliminate some of the chaff (we have millions of pages of digitized newspapers these days!) and perhaps bring forward some items you didn’t know existed.

If you have an Ancestry account, go to the card catalog and type in “U.S., Newspapers.com Marriage Index, 1800s-1999” in the title field, or the link directly to the database is here.2

I hope you find this new index as valuable as I have.


1. See “Ancestry® Debuts World’s Largest, Searchable Digital Archive of Newspaper Published Historical Wedding Announcements,” Ancestry Corporate (https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/blog/ancestry-debuts-worlds-largest-searchable-digital-archive-newspaper-published-historical : viewed 9 February 2021), published 19 October 2020.

2. Please note that Newspapers.com is a separate subscription from Ancestry unless you have one of their combined subscriptions. Also, if a newspaper article is in a newer issue of the newspaper, it might fall under their “Publishers Extra” subscription which is a separate fee. Among other things, this extra fee covers the extra licensing fees required to publish newspaper images that are still under copyright.

GRIP Registration Opens Today!

Just a quick note to let you know that registration for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) opens today! Click HERE for more information.

I will be coordinating a course about Great Lakes research titled “The Spirit of the Inland Seas” with the wonderfully experienced and fun teachers such as Paula Stuart Warren, Cyndi Ingle, and Judy G. Russell.

I will also be teaching in Paula Stuart Warren’s course “Digging Deeper: Records, Tools, and Skills.” I will present on the topics of probate records and PERSI.

Registration opens today, Wednesday, February 17th, at Noon Eastern for June courses and 2 PM Eastern for July courses. I hope to see you there!

Valentine’s Day a Little Early

We are all working/schooling from home in my household. So, when the flower delivery came Monday, it was my husband who answered because I was in a meeting.

As long-time readers will know, we recently moved back to Colorado after being in Texas for 6 years. We had been planning to move after our daughter graduated high school, but when everything went online and we weren’t “tied” to Texas anymore, we decided quite quickly to take the plunge and head back. I missed the crisp mornings and the view to the west.

We just bought a house and will spend February moving into the new house. (We’ve been renting for 6 months while we shopped.) So, the blog might be a bit low-key, with shorter posts and announcements rather than a more in-depth series for a few weeks while we get re-settled. I’m just happy to be able to unpack my genealogy books soon!