Category Archives: How To

Local Land Records

A couple of weeks ago, Junel Davidsen gave a talk at the Santa Cruz Genealogical Society. her talk was about Researching Local Land Records.

I wish I had been able to be there. The lecture was about finding and using local land records. Local land records contain more than property descriptions, names of buyers/sellers and legal jargon. Records kept by local officials for hundreds of years hold a treasure-trove of information. Finding these records can reward researchers with biographical information, evidence of relationships, clues to migration and more.

Junel has made the handout she created available for downloading, not only at the Santa Cruz site, but also here. Having this file, which is full of hot links, is almost as good as being there!

To get the file, Click here.

Meanwhile, if you see Junel, perhaps Wednesdays at the FHC, give her a big thanks.

Online U.S. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

(The article below is from Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. Credits are given at the end of the piece.)

One of the more useful tools for genealogists is the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries created by the Newberry Library in Chicago. When I first started in genealogy, one of my biggest frustrations was trying to find records of ancestors in the county where they lived. Many genealogical records are created by counties. In many cases, I knew the town where they lived and I also knew what county the town was in. Yet I couldn’t find the records that normally are kept in county courthouses, such as probate records or the deeds of land transfers.

As I gained more experience, I soon learned that the problem was mine. I had looked in the country records for the county lines of today. In many cases, the county lines had moved over the years, even though my ancestors had not moved an inch. Once recorded at the county courthouse, records normally remain at that courthouse forever, even if the county lines are redrawn later and the property or the town in question is then “moved” to a different county.

For instance, if your ancestor lived in the town of Smallville in Washington County when the information was recorded at the courthouse and later the county lines were redrawn so that town of Smallville and your ancestor’s location were later in Lincoln County, you still need to look for older records in the Washington County courthouse. Existing courthouse records usually are not moved to a new courthouse when county lines are redrawn.

Experienced genealogists all know that you need to look in the county courthouse for the correct county as of the date the records were filed. But how do you find the correct county lines as of the date(s) your ancestors lived there and left records? You can find several books at well-equipped libraries that will provide that information. However, the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries will provide the information as well without requiring the time and travel expenses of visiting a well-equipped library. Yes, you can find the information without leaving home. The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries web site is available FREE of charge. You can even download the files to your own computer and save them or use them as you please. The online atlas has been available for years but I find that many genealogists are unaware of its existence and do not know how useful it can be.

With the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, you can view records on a per state basis, an interactive map, or choose the time slots that best meet your requirements. You can search by location or by time or by both. To use the web site for the first time, select a state from the map on the site’s home page to view all of the Atlas’ content related to that state, including shapefiles, chronologies, and metadata. If you cannot quickly find the information you seek, narrow the search by choosing from the available list of options. Probably the most useful option for genealogists is to display maps by dates.

A lot of helpful information about the site can be found on the “Using the Atlas” page at:

This is a web site worth bookmarking. You probably won’t need to use it often but, if you do ever have a need, it can supply the information you seek quickly.

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is available at the Newberry Library’s web site at:

Randy Majors left this comment to the above blog posting:

Your readers may also find this free tool I built based on the excellent Newberry source in your article:

Simply type a PRESENT-DAY address, city or place, then type any HISTORICAL date, and the historical county boundaries from that date will appear overlaid on a familiar Google Map (including satellite view). Then optionally overlay research locations on the map such as courthouses, cemeteries, churches, and libraries, and link right to them for more information. It also displays the statute that formed the boundary, and optionally animate the change in boundaries over time for that location. Over 60,000 visits to this tool I think largely due to its simple usability.

The above article and comment are from and are copyrighted by the Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter at Many thanks go to Dick Eastman for his continued support of the genealogy world.

As a reminder, the best PC program ever that shows county boundaries over time has been AniMap. It is still for sale as version AniMap 3.0.2 at the GoldBug Software web site:
And remember, the Monterey FHC has a copy of AniMap that can be used inside the FHC.

But, for sure, the above ONLINE and FREE options can be used at home, now, as we need.

Transferring DNA from one company to another

If you have taken an autosomal DNA test at one company, sometimes you can transfer the data to another company and get a discount on the new reports.  Sometimes the volunteers at the FHC get asked “what can be transferred where?”  Personally, I can never remember.

I found this chart online at the blog of Roberta Estes at DNAeXplained that shows what can go where and thought you might find this useful.

FamilySearch Sign-in Required After 13 Dec 2017

The price is right, it is FREE 🙂

The following appeared on the FamilySearch Blog today.

Beginning December 13, 2017, patrons visiting will see a prompt to register for a free FamilySearch account or to sign in to their existing account to continue enjoying all the free expanded benefits FamilySearch has to offer. Since its launch in 1999, FamilySearch has added millions of users, billions of various historical records, and many fun, new features like Family Tree, Memories, mobile apps, digital books, and dynamic help. In order to accommodate continued growth of these and future free services, FamilySearch must assure all its partners that its content is offered in a safe and secure online environment. Patrons creating a free account and signing in fulfills that need.

Patron sign in will also enable FamilySearch to satisfy the ongoing need for user authentication. This authentication can deliver rich, personalized discovery, collaboration, and help experiences. Simply put, signed-in visitors can access more searchable content and enjoy more personalized services.

This really isn’t a big deal. If you don’t already have a sign-in, just get one. They are one of the two largest genealogy sites in the world.

Subscription Sites

When you are doing genealogical research at home and run into a “pay-wall”, perhaps the Monterey FHC can help. All of these excellent websites are available at the Monterey FHC for free! If you like saving money, then use these sites at the FHC.  If you find that you must have a personal login, you can always subscribe at home later. (Yes, I have an Ancestry signon, world edition.) Just another reason to come to the Monterey Family History Center – look here for directions.

Provided by the Monterey FHC Directors

  • Genealogybank Discover your family story in Newspapers 1690-today. 7 day free trial, then $20 per month or $70 per year.

Provided by Monterey County Genealogical Society

  • Vitalsearch-CA Search official records in California, birth, death, marriage certificates. $10 per month or $70 per year.
  • New England Historic Genealogy Society NEHGS is a highly respected research site with emphasis in the New England area. $7.50 per month to $90 per year.

Provided by Salt Lake City Family History Library

  • 19th Century British Library Newspaper Digital Archive Over 2 million newspaper pages. Fully searchable but spotting in some distant locals
  • Alexander Street Press The site for the American Civil War. 4 million soldiers and thousand of battles. 15000 photos, 100,000 indexed pages of diaries and letters.
  • American Ancestors New England Historic Genealogy Society-NEHGS is a highly respected research site with emphasis in the New England area. $7.50 per month to $90 per year.
  • Ancestry – instituion version. The largest for profit genealogy company in the world. Immigration and naturalizations records, Census and voter rosters, Photos, newspaper and a collection of public family trees.
  • Arkivdata These are Swedish records that have been re-photographed and digitalized. Were you to go to Sweden and ask for original records you would be sent to a computer with these very same records.
  • FamNet Online network for New Zealand roots
  • Find My Past – institution version. This is a family history and genealogy website that is primarily for British and Irish records. Includes PERSI.
  • Fold3 This site is named from a traditional flag folding ceremony in which the third fold is made in honor and remembrance of veterans who served in defense of their country. From the Revolutionary war to current and recent wars, including Mexican/American wars/ Indian war/ Spanish American/Vietnam/ Korean
  • Geneanet Family tree search and site.
  • Kinpoint – Premium take family names to the temple.
  • MyHeritage – Library Edition 5 billion historical records. Helps you research your family history, build your family tree and add photos, and historical records. Includes a private family site for your family only
  • Newspaper Archives This is best collection of newspapers anywhere. Largest collection of US papers followed by Canada and then UK. Some collections back to the 1600’s though majority is the 20th century.
  • Paper Trail This site is dedicated to research of pioneers. It has journals, histories, of pioneers headed west from 1800 to 1899. It is very useful if you have ancestors who crossed the plains whether they were Mormon Pioneers or not
  • ProQuest Obituary Listings This site is primarily for US research. This site more than 10 million obituaries and death notices published in newspapers from 1800 onward. It is very useful in finding death dates of your ancestors.
  • Puzzila Descendant Viewer view critical data for your descendants in FamilySearch Tree

“Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.” – Oscar Wilde

RootsMagic releases Ancestry features!!

According to the dictionary, SURPRISE means “an unexpected or astonishing event, fact, or thing”. Well, this week has been full of surprising things. Today, for example, we learned that RootsMagic has finally released the update that connects RM to Ancestry!

This is great news to me as I am in the process of switching from The Master Genealogist software to RootsMagic and have made more updates in the Ancestry tree that I have in TMG. I need to be able to blend the two trees without losing anything or anybody!

The “TreeShare for Ancestry” option allows you to upload a tree from RM to Ancestry or download from Ancestry to RM. You can also keep the two trees synchronized, keep them matching. When you upload or download trees, they include pictures as well as sources, notes and other expected items.

The other new option they have added is called “Ancestry Hints Integration“. This basically allows you to work with all those wonderful Ancestry Hints from inside of RootsMagic. If you accept a hint, it will also update your synchronized RM tree!

The upgrade is free to anyone with version 7.x. When you apply the upgrade, you are offered a chance to win a prize. Go for it.

If you have been setting on the sidelines about RootsMagic or Ancestry, perhaps watching a video that shows how the new system in RootsMagic works will help you decide. And if you already have RootsMagic and want a quick tutorial on how to use these new options, you should watch this. Trust me, it is worth it. Do note, it is 36 minutes long, and uses voice and video.

I’m off to do some serious tree matching and merging now. 🙂

“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” – Clint Eastwood

Monthly Meeting – June 1, 2017: “Research like a pro: Dayna’s FamilySearch Power Tools” by Dayna Jacobs

We have our general meetings on the first Thursday of the month. It just so happens that in June, the first Thursday is also the first day of the month! Don’t let the calendar confuse you.

Most people have used FamilySearch’s record search or family tree features, but few genealogists tap into the powerful research tools available on the free site. FamilySearch is one of the first places professional genealogists go to see what records are available for a locality, and they know how to access these records, whether online, on microfilm or as textual records. Dayna will take you deep into the records side of FamilySearch, and give you the tools to find sources you had no idea existed!

Dayna is one of our favorite speakers, her full biography can be seen here: Dayna Jacobs Don’t miss this MoCoGenSo meeting!

Doors open at 6:15 pm, the meeting starts at 7:00 pm. We’ll see you at the Family History Center, 1024 Noche Buena, Seaside, CA., left rear of building.

If at first you don’t succeed, search, search again. That is why we call it re-search.