Category Archives: Genealogy Program

Happy Holidays!

Christmas will have just passed and the New Year is coming up quick!

I have the week off between Christmas and New Years and so does my husband, so I’m going to take some time away from the computer. I know, crazy, right? Ah, but it is a time to recharge, to rest, take a break, and spend time with my nearly grown kids.

I’ll be back next week with the next installment of County Histories. In the meantime, here is what’s on my plate for the first half of 2023:

You can view my calendar at any time by scrolling down below to the footer of this page.

I hope you all have a happy holiday season!

NGSQ 2023 Study Groups Forming

Just a quick note to let everyone know that our 2023 NGSQ study groups are now forming.

These are hosted by either myself or Cyndi Ingle (of Cyndi’s List). We will read and discuss one National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) journal article per month as posted on the website NGSQ Study Groups. We will study these articles with a focus on principles taught in Mastering Genealogical Proof (MGP) by Tom Jones. We will discuss topics on the genealogy standards, evidence analysis and correlation, writing, citations, and more.

For more detailed information, the schedule, fees, and to sign up, visit this page.

The registration links are also below:

  • NGSQ/MGP Monday 1:00 pm Eastern Sessions, with Cyndi Ingle – Register Here
  • NGSQ/MGP Monday 3:30 pm Eastern Sessions, with Cyndi Ingle – Register Here
  • NGSQ/MGP Tuesday 1:00 pm Eastern Sessions, with Cari Taplin – Register Here
  • NGSQ/MGP Tuesday 7:00 pm Eastern Sessions, with Cari Taplin – SOLD OUT

If this doesn’t fit into your schedule this year, sign up to be notified when the 2024 NGSQ study group registration is open, add your name to the list.

Maps: Visualizing Your Ancestors – Metes and Bounds Land Descriptions

As described in the last post, there are two main survey methods in the United States. This post will discuss briefly the system of “metes and bounds.” There is a lot to know about this system and one blog post isn’t going to cover everything. In fact, they offer week-long institute courses on this subject (See SLIG 2023 course line-up.)

The metes and bounds system is a centuries-old system that was used in England and brought over with the early colonists. The land descriptions are in a “narrative” style that begin with a particular point and work their way around the land parcel being described. The describe physical points and markers such as trees, rocks, rivers and creeks, and often they will mention neighboring land lines. These types of descriptions heavily depend on physical characteristics of the land and because of that, the land description can change over time or be difficult to re-survey because those markers are no longer there. Trees die or blow down in storms, rocks get moved, rivers and creeks change their shape during floods, and so on.

The land description is a series of calls that give a point of reference, a direction, and a distance. The description uses “metes” and “bounds”:

  • metes – angles of the property, and in what direction (45 degrees southwest)
  • bounds – boundary lines of the property, length (60 chains, along John Smith’s line)
Metes and bounds land description, drawn by author’s spouse.

A metes and bounds description will read like “Beginning at the great white oak, 45 degrees southwest, 30 chains to the felled maple; 76 degrees southwest, 60 chains along John Smith’s line to the marked oak; 5 degrees southwest 16 chains, to the big rock…” You will get odd shaped land parcels. These unique shapes are very helpful if you are trying to reconstruct an area or neighborhood because they should fit together like a puzzle.

The cool thing about these land descriptions is that the naming of the neighbors giving you an instant “FAN Club” member (Friends, Associates, Neighbors). You also get a rough idea of what some of the land might have looked like. (I’ve seen a land descriptions out of Texas that used things like an old axle or a railroad ties as the markers, because the land was desolate and there weren’t any trees or rocks to use as starting points!)

Vocabulary you will see:

  • Acre – 43,560 square feet, 160 square rods
  • Arpent – Similar to acre, used in French sections of US (LA, MS, AL, MO, FL). One arpent is .84625 acres. In MO, it was .8507 acres, or 192.5 square feet.
  • Chain – 66 feet long, with 100 links; one mile is 80 chains
  • Degree – 1/360th of the distance around a circle; used to measure direction; 0 degrees is North or South and other directions given in terms of degrees from N or S
  • Link – 1/100th of a chain, 7.92 inches long; 25 links = 1 rod
  • Perch – same as a rod
  • Pole – same as a rod
  • Rod – 16½ feet; measured as ¼ of a chain or 25 links
  • Vara – Unit of measure used in sections of the US settled by Spain; varying lengths; Texas vara = 33.3333 inches or 36 varas = 100 feet (the Florida vara a little larger, the Southwest vara smaller)
Surveyor’s chain, 100 links = 66 feet; photo taken by author.


  • 1 mile = 80 chains = 320 poles, rods, perches = 5,280 feet
  • 1 chain = 4 poles, rods, perches = 66 feet = 100 links
  • 1 pole, rod, perch = 25 links = 16½ feet
  • 1 link = 7.92 inches

There are software packages that will draw the calls for you. I don’t do enough metes and bounds work in my research to use them. I use my trusty protractor, ruler, and graph paper to draw them when I need to.

Author’s metes and bounds drawing supplies.

There is a lot more to know about this survey system. More than I have time to cover in this blog post. If you have research in areas that used metes and bounds and want to understand your ancestors more, take a land-platting class.

We will talk about the rectangular system next time.

Research in the Equality State: Online Card Catalogs

If you haven’t used the card catalog feature on a few of the main genealogical sites we all might use every day, let me take this moment in Wyoming research to demonstrate it. Main of the big genealogy sites have this feature but I have found that over the years, not many know about it or use it. I’ll show both Ancestry and FamilySearch’s card catalogs today, but be on the lookout for a similar feature on other sites.

At Ancestry, you can find the Card Catalog under the Search Tab:

Ancestry’s Card Catalog

Once your in the card catalog, you can filter your results by using the options on the left. For this example, I have filtered by “USA” and “Wyoming:

You can further filter by the county, record category etc. This will help you see more quickly databases, record sets, and sources that Ancestry has for Wyoming specifically.

Similarly, at FamilySearch, you can also search the “Catalog.” From the home screen, it can be found under the Search tab:

FamilySearch’s Catalog

From this screen, you will see options to search by Place, Surnames, Titles, Author, Subject, and Keywords. Most of the time, I find I use the Place search.

FamilySearch’s Catalog

You can start your search broadly by typing in “Wyoming”:

FamilySearch’s Catalog

From there you can see all of the options that are at the state level, or you can click on “Places within United States, Wyoming” and see a list of counties:

FamilySearch’s Catalog – Wyoming
FamilySearch’s Catalog – Wyoming Counties List

Once you’ve picked a county, you can see what records they have for Albany County land records:

FamilySearch – Albany County Land Records in the Catalog

From there, it is almost like the “old days” of scrolling through microfilm, except you are at home. (Of course, there are some digitized films that must be looked at while at a Family History Center or Affiliate library due to contract restrictions.)

FamilySearch Catalog Entry for Deeds
FamilySearch Deed Index for Albany County

So, if I want to look up any deeds for Susan Baily, I can start “scrolling” or clicking and find the B entries in this index and then find the deed.

Using the card catalog allows me to be more thorough and intentional with my research. If you are just using the global search function from the front page of any of these large genealogical sites, you are probably missing a lot of records. Give the card catalog a look.

Study Group Forming: Mastering Genealogical Proof

The last study group of 2021 is forming now. The group begins on October 6, 2021. There are two time slots, one with Cyndi Ingle (of Cyndi’s List) and one with me (Cari Taplin).

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.

We are also offering one free seat in each group on behalf of the Donna Hansen Peterson Scholarship.

For more information on the study group, you can read the details here:

The group begins on October 6, 2021 so hurry to register:

Wednesdays, 3pm Eastern (with Cyndi): Click here to register. 

Wednesdays, 7pm Eastern (with Cari): Click here to register.

We look forward to studying with you!

Announcing: Donna Peterson Scholarship for GenealogyPants Classes

The Genealogy World lost one of the friendliest and most inspirational students and researchers in June 2021, Donna Peterson. She was one of my students, participating in several study groups I’ve organized over the years. She was always just “going for it” in whatever she was doing. She was on the clock working toward her certification with the Board for Certification of Genealogists. During the pandemic, she took as many online courses and institutes as she could. She was just so active, energetic, and enthusiastic about genealogy and was an inspiration to many.

Donna Hansen Peterson from her Facebook Profile

I coordinate several study groups with Cyndi Ingle and we wanted to honor Donna by offering a scholarship in her name. For each of our study groups, we will offer one registration fee per instructor per group. The first group this will apply to is the Mastering Genealogical Proof study group that will be forming soon and will begin meeting in October. Information about our study groups can be seen here.

To apply for the Donna Peterson Scholarship, click here for the online form.

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!

Beginning Concepts: Popular Genealogical Websites

When I first started genealogy, there were a decent number of online sources, but most everything was still in a library or archive somewhere. I wrote a lot of letters and filled out a lot of vital records applications when I first started. I began on the cusp of what the internet has become (and still becoming) in terms of online genealogy.

If you are a beginner today, I just wanted to share my top genealogical websites for starting your genealogical journey. Some are free, some are subscription. I hear a lot of complaining about the subscription prices, but when I think about how much I spent on mail and application fees, or gas or plane tickets and hotels to conduct this research “back in the day,” it doesn’t compare in my mind. Having access to millions of records at home, in the middle of the night (or early hours of the morning if you are more like me), is worth the fee to me.

My top genealogy sites for getting started (and in no particular order, only as they come to mind):

  • FamilySearch (free) – Hosts millions of digitized records and books that is constantly growing with new digitized microfilms every day, has an invaluable research wiki, and has a public-generated and edited family tree.
  • Ancestry (subscription, though you may access a library edition through a local library) – Also has millions of digitized records, databases, books, newspapers, and more. Also has a DNA database and public member trees.
  • Find A Grave (free) – Public-sourced cemetery and gravestone database full of millions of memorial pages for individuals from all over the world.
  • A newspaper site that holds the newspapers YOU need. Try ($), NewspaperArchive ($), Genealogybank ($), or Chronicling America (free). Examine their catalog before buying a subscription!

Do you have a question of a more specialized nature? Perhaps you want to find some charts and forms to get you started, or find out more about railroad records, or are not even sure what you want to know more about? Another fantastic source I recommend to beginners and advanced researchers alike is Cyndi’s List.

Cyndi’s List has categories for you to browse. Don’t search the site, browse it. Find a category that fits your research question. This site is a list of links to other websites. But they are sites you may not have known to search for on Google or even know that those records and resources even existed.

Genealogy on the internet has exploded in the 20 years I’ve been involved. So much more is accessible at our fingertips than ever before! Get out there and find your ancestors.

NGSQ Study Group Registration for 2021 Now Open

Registration for the NGSQ study groups that I’ve set up are now open for 2021. This year, I enlisted the help of friend and colleague, Cyndi Ingle (of Cyndi’s List) to help with the Monday groups.


This is a monthly study group that will examine one National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) journal article per month as posted on the website NGSQ Study Groups. We will study these articles with a focus on principles taught in Mastering Genealogical Proof (MGP) by Tom Jones. We will discuss topics on the genealogy standards, evidence analysis and correlation, writing, citations, and more. The cost is $50 for the year. For this price, you will get a monthly study group session for one hour with your peers. You will receive the discussion questions at least two weeks prior to the online meeting. There will also be a private Facebook Group for mid-month discussion. This Facebook group will be private and limited to study group participants only, no outside noise!

Your commitment is to come prepared to discuss the questions (or simply show up and listen). I believe the benefit you will get out of a class is equal to the effort you put into it. But I also realize that life happens and if you didn’t have time to prepare, showing up and listening to the other discussion can be a benefit as well.

To read more and see the exact schedule, visit this page: Classes and Study Groups

To register, here are the options:

We hope to see you there!

MGP Study Groups Forming

Mastering Genealogical Proof – Beginning Principles Class

This is 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 October 21, 2020 and ending December 2, 2020 (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):

Wednesdays, 8pm Eastern (with Cari):

We look forward to studying with you!

NOTE: If this session does not work for you and you would like to go back on the waitlist, please click here to sign up: