04 June 2024

8 Topics to Make You a Better Genealogist

Six months ago I thought of a way my weekly blog articles could do more for you. I wanted each article to give you the big picture on any single genealogy topic. Most of my articles since then give you several ways to:

  • solve a problem
  • improve your family tree
  • use new tools to your advantage
  • advance your research.

These articles are like one-stop shopping for genealogy best practices.

Here are the 8 articles that received the most attention so far. Have you missed any?

Get a comprehensive view of 8 topics designed to make you a better genealogist.
Get a comprehensive view of 8 topics designed to make you a better genealogist.

21 Genealogy Tools I Can't Live Without

Years ago I found out my husband's cousin was working on her family tree using only a spreadsheet. That meant it held nothing but names and dates. Any family tree software, whether it's on your desktop or online, offers you so much more than that.

Take advantage of the different tools available to you—many for free. When I took a look at my most important tools, I found that I'm using 21 of them on a regular basis. Find out what you may be missing.

7 Free Genealogy Map Projects

It seems anyone who's passionate about their family history has a fondness for maps. As a kid, I thought it was amazing that my parents grew up a block apart. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. All my branches have intersecting locations, both in New York City and in a small section of Italy.

Here are 7 different ways you can use maps to illustrate, understand, and enhance your family tree.

5 Free, Easy-to-Use Family Tree Charts

I rarely print anything out on paper. But certain forms are terrific to bring with you when visiting an archive or library. And when I research an unrelated family, my custom spreadsheet is exactly what I need.

Here are 5 different PDFs and spreadsheets that I created or adapted and want to share with you.

3 Key Signs a Family Tree is Wrong

If you think that family tree hints are the only way to build your family tree, I'm here to tell you you're doing it wrong. Hints alone can lead to countless errors. Besides, the joy is in the research and in knowing you've found your people.

Before you believe anyone's online family tree, find out how to tell when their tree is wrong.

These 3 key signs don't include a lack of source citations. And that's my own guilt showing. I've spent the last couple of weeks putting in tons of source citations I'd postponed creating. I have a long way to go, but I'm doing it because it will show that my family tree is based on facts.

4 Ways to Safeguard Your Digital Family Tree

How many hours have you put into your family tree? Countless hours, right? That's why your top priority needs to be safeguarding and securing your files.

It isn't hard to do, and you must make it a regular habit. I use:

  • cloud storage
  • backups on internal and external hard drives
  • online storage on family tree websites
  • and I always export a new GEDCOM file after a long day of genealogy research.

Find out your options, make your choices, and stick to a plan. If you work on your family tree every day like I do, daily backups are so important.

8 Tips for Researching Your Immigrant Ancestor

I'm lucky to have recent immigrants in my family tree. None of my people came to America before 1890, and the majority passed through Ellis Island. (Funny how 1890 is recent to a genealogist.) That means I have ship manifests with the ability to unlock generations of ancestors.

For many people ship manifests are our first look at our old-country origins. But it's up to you soak every bit of information out of that manifest. These 8 tips will help you get more mileage out of each ancestor's passage.

4 Keys to Italian Genealogy

Too many people think they can't build their family tree because they don't speak Italian. To them I say:

  • Can you learn a handful of words if they're shown to you?
  • Can you pick out a name among the words on a page?

These 4 keys will de-mystify Italian vital records and help your find your ancestors. I started reviewing these records without knowing anything. Now nothing about them slows me down.

Top 5 Uses for the Free Family Tree Analyzer

Any genealogy researcher can get carried away with the excitement of a new discovery. Those moments of excitement open the door for human error. No matter how careful we are, we're going to have mistakes in our family trees. That's a big part of the value of Family Tree Analyzer (FTA).

Years ago I struggled to improve my coding skills so I could write a program that did an ounce of what FTA can do. FTA's author, Alexander Bisset, has created something far beyond my imagination. The moment I found his software, I quit coding.

If you want your family tree to be your legacy, to be accurate and reflect your work, you need to use FTA. Here are 5 very important ways to use it to improve your family tree.


If you have a topic you'd like me to cover in this blog, let me know. There will be some topics outside my experience, but I'm eager to know what you'd like to know.

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