Tag Archives: cyndi’s list

Building a Locality Guide: Resources

Now that we’ve talked basics and you’ve made some decisions in terms of how to put your locality guide together, let’s go over some resources you can use to build your guide. These are places you can turn to for general to specific information that can build your guide’s usefulness.

First, let’s examine some resources for general information.

  • FamilySearch Wiki – Use this fantastic wiki for general information about a genealogical topic (such as probate records, vital records, census records, etc.) or about a location (county, state, or country).
  • Cyndi’s List – Use this valuable resource to find general websites of interest that can help you build the historical and geographical portions of your guide.
  • Wikipedia – Use this for general historical information about a particular location or topic, I find Wikipedia most helpful for a quick overview of a subject and then determine what I want to know more about, then will look for more specific sources of information. Often, Wikipedia articles have very helpful citations that can lead to other sources of information on a topic.

Next, let’s examine some resources for specific information.

  • FamilySearch Catalog – Use this part of the FamilySearch site to find books, microfilms, digital collections, and databases for specific localities. This is where I go to identify many of the collections that are available for a particular county.
  • Cyndi’s List – Also useful for links to websites about specific subjects or locations. I often find websites here that I didn’t even know I needed!
  • Local public libraries – Look for the public libraries that serve the county (or town or region) you are building your guide for, especially one that has a local history collection. Examine their catalog and websites for useful resources.
  • Local college or university collections – Many colleges and universities have archives and manuscript collections that can have useful collections or online resources useful to note in your guide.
  • Local genealogical and historical societies – Look for the nearest genealogical society that may cover your guides’ area. Check their websites for any databases, publications, collections, or services they may provide.
  • Local museums – Many locations have historical or specialized museums that may also have a research room. Check for those in your area of focus.
  • Books and journals – Look for histories, reference books, journals, articles, and other published materials that cover your guide’s area of focus. You may find them on WorldCat, Amazon, at the local public libraries, in bibliographies, and so on. These may be quite useful to note in your guide and provide you with content for certain portions of your guide.

Now that I’ve shared some of the resources I use to build my locality guides, I will share next time more about the specifics of what to include in your guide. We will go over each of the sections, how I put them together, what I like to include, and other tips.

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!

Getting Organized: The Digital Side

I’ve been going on and on about my binder organization methods for several weeks now. What about my digital organization? There are a couple of aspects that I will cover over a few posts, primarily: files on my computer and scanning/digitizing tips. This week, I’ll address how I organize my digital files so they match my binders (more or less).

I must admit that I did not come up with this idea on my own. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have figured things out before us. Every time you attend a lecture, an institute, a webinar, you learn something new, even if you thought you knew everything there was to know about a topic. At the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy‘s (SLIG) first “Tech Day,” I attended a class by Cyndi Ingle (that famous lady from Cyndi’s List! and who is one of the moderators for the Facebook Group “The Genealogy Squad“) and learned a method that would allow my digital files to mirror what I had already created in my binders.

My binders are in chronological order. I don’t know why I hadn’t come up with a method on my own yet, but I hadn’t. I took Cyndi’s class “Coordinating the Cloud” which was about many technical topics, but the biggest takeaway for me was a file-naming system that I adopted for my digital files. (THANK YOU, CYNDI!) Basically, you can name your digital files in such a way that it will match your binders. Now, this might be a big “duh,” but for me, it was “a-ha!” I just hadn’t realized it yet. There are those moments when something should be so obvious but it isn’t for some reason. This was one of those moments.

So the file naming system goes like this:

YEAR-SURNAME FIRSTNAME – code or description of the document.jpg (or whatever file type it is)

For example:

  • 1850-HIGDON Joseph – census.jpg
  • 1853-HIGDON Joseph & RENFRO Malinda – MR.jpg   (marriage record)

And in my finder it looks like this:

DigitalBinders

Because of the way computers organize files, numbers come before letters. So by putting the year first, those files come before the children, just like my binders. You can choose some style things. I typically like to have the surname in all caps, it is just easier for my eye to land on it, however, in this example, you can see my inconsistency. It happens. Someday when I really want to procrastinate I’ll work on fixing these things.

If you have documents in the same year, you can put a month number (and a day if you wish) after the year and it will sort appropriately: 1851-06-15-HIGDON-Census.jpg. I currently use a, b, c, but may change my mind later if I get a lot of documents in the same year.

If you remember, my binders are organized by each couple and their children except the child I’m descended through. You can see in the image above that the child I’m descended through has a note in the folder name indicating where I will find that child’s information. The rest of the children have their own sub-folder and they are ordered by birth order using the notation “(ch#)” in the file name.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed some files with “wcit” in the filename. That is a duplicate of the image, usually, that has been copied into a word processing file (in my case I use Mac Pages, but you can use whichever software you desire). To that image, I’ve added a text box with the citation to the page to provide “separation safeguards” which prevent separation of an image from its source (citation) information.1 I want to save both the original and the citation-treated images in my digital folder.

This is a work in progress. I didn’t sit down and fix all of my digital files as soon as I learned this naming convention. (Who has the time?) I fix it as I work on various projects in my family. One of the things about getting organized is that it doesn’t happen overnight or in one session of organizing. Make a commitment to work on it 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week, or whatever timeframe works in your schedule.

But most of all, get started! And keep learning!


1. See standard number 8, “Separation Safeguards” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2019).