Bill's Genealogy Blog

Bill Buchanan is a long-time genealogy enthusiast, living in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. This blog will describe my experiences as I research my family history and help others.

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Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired online school teacher. I love family history. Since 2007, I have spent much of my time providing part-time support for the world's largest free family history site This is very rewarding. I have helped others with the Family Tree and related FamilySearch products.
In 2010-2018 Iserved in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Centre. I have a FHC blog at Bill's Family History Center Blog For information the Latter-day Saints and family history click

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Navigating the FamilySearch Beta There seem to be a lot of people who are unhappy with this. I thought I would share a tip about checking the hits in FamilySearch Beta. To avoid losing your place, RIGHT click the interesting hits to open them in a new tab. It just takes seconds to examine the contents of each tab and close it (if it is not what you are looking for). Clicking the first tab will take you back to the same point you were at on the first page. I found this a real time saver! Before discovering this, I found the navigation a nightmare. More Great Genealogy Brickwall Solutions - Part II Another excellent article from or in short form: [Disclosure: I have no connection with this website, but I find it excellent.] A handout I prepared for members of my class last Thursday. Tips for Online Searches Don’t assume that the information you already have is 100% accurate, and don’t assume that the online information is 100% accurate. Try to verify it. Putting too much information in the search screen may prevent a successful search. Don’t be too precise in your searches. Allow some flexibility. (Yes, the 1901 Canada census clearly indicates an exact birth date. Maybe it’s even true, but in your searches allow a few years of leeway before and after.) Don’t assume that someone was born in the country where you found their marriage or death. Look for confirming records. If you do an online search based on this "birthplace" you will not find them, even if the record would be easily found otherwise. First and middle names are often switched. Sometimes given names will be replaced by abbreviations or initials. "William Edward David Coulter" was commonly known as "W E D Coulter", but occasionally he shows up as "Wm. Colter". Surnames may be spelled in unfamiliar ways that sound somewhat similar. Nicknames will often be used. (I was in my 50s before I realized that "Great Aunt Minnie Steele" was actually "Mary Elizabeth Steele".) Consider the source of the information. Records made at the time of an event are usually more trustworthy than later records. Official records are usually more accurate than recollections of family members ... but not always. Sometimes information given on an official record is wrong. Sometimes this is an inadvertent error. (One of which has plagued my Buchanan line for over 130 years!) Sometimes it is deliberate, as in the case of ages stated at the time of marriage. (If the bride and groom were both 21 years old, parental permission for the marriage was not needed. But brides liked to be shown as younger than their husbands, so sometimes they would shave a few years off their age. In areas where first cousins could not be legally married, sometimes genealogy was falsified to allow the marriage to take place.) "Estimates" are just "guesses" wearing their Sunday best. They are useful so long as you remember that they are only reasonable guesses. They should be replaced as soon as you have official data. Senior and Junior do not always mean father and son. As you go back in time, these terms are sometimes used to mean the older and younger of two people with the same name living in the area. They may indicate a bride and her mother-in-law! Be reasonably vague in your search terms. (Including death information may limit the search results to records containing death info, excluding birth, marriage and other important facts.) Have patience. Gather information, and then see whether it fits or not. Maybe paste it in your PAF notes for handy access. Many databases allow wildcard searches, where * represents all letters after that point, so Peters* would find Peterson, Petersen, Petersborough. The ? wildcard represents a single letter, so Pe?ers?n would match Peterson, Pederson, Petersen, etc. Enjoy your research!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I just received this from NEHGS. They asked me to inform my readers. If you have New England ancestors, this may be of interest to you. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NEHGS ANNOUNCES GROUNDBREAKING NEW PUBLICATION New information details the family of Thomas Brigham BOSTON, MA—October 19, 2010 – The New England Historic Genealogical Society is pleased to announce its new publication, The History of the Brigham Family: Descendants of Thomas Brigham, the first comprehensive treatment of this significant American family in nearly one hundred years. This new volume, compiled by Rhonda M. McClure of the NEHGS staff, reviews and updates (and, in some cases, amends) the accounts of Thomas Brigham, the family’s founder in America, that appeared in the earlier versions. McClure said, "I am excited for people to have a better understanding of this unique family, one that holds such a special place in the history of our country." Four years in the making, this new Brigham volume extends the history of this notable American family to the fourteenth generation. McClure has brought forward as many lines as possible, incorporating information from questionnaires supplied by descendants of Brigham sons and daughters. "We are very proud of this publication and are thrilled to share it with the world. Rhonda is one of our prized experts and this work is nothing less than a scholarly masterpiece," says NEHGS President and CEO, D. Brenton Simons. Among the notable Brigham descendants covered in the volume are Brigham’s Ice Cream founder Edwin Leon Brigham, SAT developer Carl Campbell Brigham, inventor Eli Whitney and former Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and George Walker Bush. The original volume of The History of the Brigham Family was published in 1907 and a second appeared in 1927. For more information, contact the NEHGS Sales Department at 617-226-1212 or visit the NEHGS website at

Monday, October 18, 2010

I loved this article by Marian Pierre-Louis in Roots and Rambles Canvassing a Town for Historical Resources "The next time you take a trip to a town where your ancestors lived don't just stop at Town Hall or the library. There's a lot more that you can do to really get a sense of who you ancestor was and how they lived. You can do this by canvassing the town for historical resources. ..." I hope you enjoy reading her article. As I read it, I could visualize myself visiting Neepawa, Manitoba for the first time. ... Well on subsequent times too. Here in Alberta, "old buildings" means they were built before 1960. Anything older has usually been demolished and replaced. But even here the old cemeteries still remain and if you look hard enough you can find rare older buildings.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This just arrived from Genealogy in Time More Great Genealogy Brickwall Solutions - Part I One little quibble among all of the great tips: Junior and Senior were sometimes used to distinguish people of the same name living in a community, even if they were not related. Nicknames often served the same purpose. As the article rightly points out, Senior and Junior did not automatically mean a father and son. In earlier times, you cannot safely assume that the father of Robert Walker junior was Robert Walker senior. Robert Walker junior, was just the younger of the two Robert Walkers in the community His father might well be Henry Walker! This would be totally consistent with the usage of the time, even if it seems strange to us today. The part about translating names brings to mind the Acadian genealogy of a friend. When a LeBlanc family moved to an English-speaking area they would sometimes disappear from the written records and an identical White family would appear. If one of the White families moved back into a French-speaking area they would suddenly become LeBlanc again. People liked to fit into their community. If changing the surname helped, it was often done. Enjoy the excellent article!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Piece of History A few days ago I received a package in the mail. In it there was a variety of genealogy items including the tiniest possible ziplock bag containing a little piece of stone and an explanatory note. I have deleted details that might cause problems for the person who removed two tiny fragments of stone from a historical site. "You are receiving a piece of [the ancestral home]. [My daughter] didn't see me take them and couldn't believe I'd taken them when I showed them to her in Dublin. She says 'Mom, I can't believe you actually did that -- can you imagine what would happen if all the [family] that go there did that!' Oh well --- say I." I found this story amusing. I was the one that encouraged the traveler to physically touch the walls of the ancestral home when she visited it. I didn't suggest taking unauthorized souvenirs, and the daughter asks a very valid question. I think the best answer is "Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints." The two of them visited the dining room at the ancestral home and sat down. The waitress came to them and said "This is a private club. You are members aren't you?" "Of course", replied the mother with a smile, and they proceeded to order their meal and enjoy it. She is a fun gal, and she loves her ancestors. I hope they got a chuckle or two from her adventures that day. I am touched that she would think of me at such a special time and place. I will probably never get a chance to travel to the old country to touch those walls. I appreciate my own little piece. Please don't do it again, but thank you! You are wonderful, and I am blessed to know you.

Thursday Night's Lesson ... Successes and Failures Screen Sharing I wanted to share a lengthy Powerpoint presentation on multiple computers simultaneously. Wednesday I tried LogMeIn's site. It was incredibly simple to use, but I couldn't get it to work on some computers. On Thursday I went in early to the Family History Center and tried, only to find that it still would not work on some computers, including one where it had worked perfectly the day before! This led me to try a different free product, ScreenStream I installed this software and found it too confusing. Next I tried the free version of YuuGuu Like ScreenStream, their software needed to be installed on the hosting computer, but like it was very simple to use. Better yet, it worked on all of the client computers. My presentation went off without a hitch! I plan to use it for live demos in the future. This is much better than using a projector, because the students can sit at the computers. (And I don't need to arrange access to a different room with a projector and screen.) Certificate Problems I was teaching a lesson on the Online Portal that gives FHCs access to certain commercial databases for free. Validation that you are accessing the sites from an official Family History Center computer depends upon a security certificate installed on the individual computer. After the lesson, the students were invited to use the Online Portal for their own research. We ended up having to re-install the certificates twice on two of the computers. In the meantime we had some frustrated students ... so that part did not go as smoothly as planned. I should have done a trial run on each of the computers before the class, but things had been working perfectly the previous time I used the Online Portal.

Friday, October 08, 2010

(for the Oct 14 class at Riverbend, if I have time left over after demonstrating The Godfrey Memorial Library. Also see the Genealogy In Time tutorial How to Use Google Advanced Search for Genealogy to overcome Google's limit of 2 hits per page.) Power Googling for Genealogy When doing Google searches, unless you have limitless time and patience, you normally want fewer than 200 hits. Personally, I consider 20 to be a good number. If you have found 398,798 pages that refer to your search, you are using the wrong search terms or using them wrongly. These suggestions should help. Square brackets [ ] are used to denote queries, so [ to be or not to be ] is an example of a query; [ to be ] or [ not to be ] are two examples of queries. Exact phrase search ("") By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. ["Jane Watson" "Riding Mountain"] will look for pages that contain both of these terms. Without the quotes, all pages that contain those four words in any order and any context will be listed. e.g. Jane Jones and Sally Watson were riding up the mountain. But use some caution, a search for [ "Gertrude Taylor" ] (with quotes) will miss references to Gertrude E. Taylor or Gertrude Emily Taylor. This search works within many websites (site:) Google allows you to specify that your search results must come from a given website. For example, the query ["Richard Welsh"] will list pages about any Richard Welsh but only from Terms you want to exclude ( -) Attaching a space and minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word. For example [Anthony Blair -"prime minister"]. Fill in the blanks ( *) If you include * within a query, it tells Google to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches. For example, the search ["Alexander * Bell"] will include results about Alexander G. Bell and Alexander Graham Bell as well as Alexander Harper and Sharon Bell. The * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words. Search exactly as is ( +) Google employs synonyms automatically. By attaching a space and + immediately before a word (but no space after the +), you are telling Google to match that word precisely. The OR operator is needed if you want to specifically allow any one of several terms. Separate the terms with OR (in ALL CAPS). For example, ["Pigeon Lake" OR Falun OR Mulhurst] will give you results about any of these adjacent places, whereas ["Pigeon Lake" Falun Mulhurst] will only show pages that include ALL of these on the same page. This is especially handy for surnames with multiple spellings. The tilde (~) operator takes the word immediately following it and searches both for that specific word and for the word’s synonyms. It also searches for the term with alternative endings. The tilde operator works best when applied to general terms and terms with many synonyms. [Eley ~Missouri] Need to do a quick calculation of a birth year? Try the query [1871 - 46] Google’s answer = 1825 To include all numbers in a range in your query, separate the lower and upper limits with two periods without spaces ["Edith Linnen" 1850..1870 Edwardsburgh] In genealogy queries, other useful words include born, lived, married, died. [Annabel McLeod born 1735] Google Alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results -- such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs -- that match your search term. You can use Google Alerts to monitor anything on the Web. For example, some genealogists use Google Alerts to receive notification of new online content about families they are researching. You can create Google Alerts at (You need to be highly specific in your search terms to avoid spamming yourself.) See Happy Googling!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The following links are for the lesson I will be teaching tonight at Riverbend FHC. is working again!

Researching the UK Online The Genealogical Society of Utah and FamilySearch are services of the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. GSU has microfilmed many of the useful government and parish records for the UK. These microfilms can be borrowed for a handling cost of about $6 CDN, and viewed at your closest Family History Center. The Family History Library Catalog can be searched online at > Library > Catalog. (For Canadians, the online ordering of films is at and requires the use of an email address and credit card.) FamilySearch has a wealth of free resources online. To search the IGI’s extracted parish registers, click> Advanced Search . (This does not cover all parishes, but many thousands.) Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File family tree databases may be a good source of clues. Also check if you have access. Many additional records for the UK are accessible for free at and where the output from FamilySearch Indexing is made public. Hugh Wallis’ website provides a handy way of seeing which parish registers have been extracted by the Church, and searching those. The free ParLoc software is helpful in seeing which parishes were located in the area. Maybe your ancestors were christened, married or buried in a nearby parish where family or friends lived. FreeBMD (free birth, marriage and death index) is a free resource. I find it especially handy for finding the maiden name. It also saves time and effort when you wish to buy an official birth, marriage or death certificate. It is found at and at A companion service FreeREG (Free Registers) will be very useful for certain selected locations, but most registers have not yet been transcribed. General Register Office for England and Wales You can use the info from FreeBMD to buy certificates online. They cost $15-$20 depending on the exchange rate. Mailing Lists on RootsWeb can be a good resource, for example: WorldConnect Project (Family Trees) A good source of clues but not guaranteed to be accurate. RootsWeb Message Boards – leave a query or answer someone else’s query GENUKI - Information helpful to researchers in UK and Ireland Online Parish Clerks – various counties have these free helpers but there seems to be no single website. Do a Google search for “Online Parish Clerk” Old Maps - 1851 UK Jurisdictions Also see Census records for England and Wales can be found on these subscription sites: / /, 1881 census is free on FamilySearch. Access to Scottish records can be purchased at Searchable index to passengers leaving the UK (including many foreign nationals) Free Genealogy Look Ups in certain books Online Resources If these resources fail to help you, remember that there are many more available. Check the Family History Library Favorites link on the desktop of the FHC computers. Also check Cyndi's List of genealogy sites: I wish you success in your search!