Find-A-Grave: Family Linking Feature

I read on the Genealogy Guys Podcast blog that Find-A-Grave has just added a family linking feature, and being one of my favorite user-contributed websites, I had to check it out. I wonder if Jim Tipton ever envisioned the popularity and diverse uses of Find-A-Grave when he created it: from celebrity grave hunters to support groups for mothers whose children have passed away to military re-enactors to those memorializing loved pets to genealogy enthusiasts! The first thing I noticed when I visited the site today is that there are now 28 million non-famous graves entered in this database (I remember just a few years ago when there were just 7 million). I think it is the attraction to so many individuals that has allowed Find-A-Grave to explode in growth!

When I presented a hands-on tutorial presentation to my local genealogical society in November 2006, I gave some basic instruction on how to create HTML links from one family member’s memorial page to another in the Biography section of each page. (If you have not had the pleasure of searching–and contributing to–Find-A-Grave, you can e-mail me here for a copy of my syllabus for that class.) Here is the page for my great-granduncle, Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Jr. with links to his parents’ and siblings’ memorial pages, which I created with the above method. This view is slightly different from the view everyone else will see when visiting his memorial page, because this is my behind-the-scenes perspective as “owner” (creator) of the page, with the ability to edit the information.

Click on any image in this post for an enlarged view.

As you can imagine, creating these links was rather tedious and time-consuming, requiring a lot of copying and pasting of links and careful typing in of HTML code. Naturally, I did not create links like this on many memorial pages, although I wanted to. The new feature is so much easier! First of all, in order to link individuals, you must be the creator of the child’s or spouse’s page. Click on the Add Relationship Links at the bottom of the Biography section:

An edit page will load:

I opened new tabs in my browser and found the memorial pages for Angelo’s parents, Angelo ROBBINS, Sr. and Mary May KIMBALL. At the very bottom of each memorial page there is now a memorial number:

I highlighted and copied the number. To do so, take your mouse and move your cursor directly in front of the first digit. Left click your mouse and hold the button down while you drag the cursor across all the digits. The number will be highlighted:

Let go of the mouse button. Now hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and then press the C key. You have just copied the number. Go to the Edit page and using your mouse, put the cursor in the box where you wish to paste the number you have just copied. Hold down the CTRL key and then press the V key. When you enter the number, the Edit page will load the person’s name and birth and death dates so that you can verify you have entered the correct memorial numbers:

You can see that you can add more than one spouse (up to five, actually). Adding the Year Married apparently orders the spouses by marriage date on the memorial page (the marriage year does not appear on the memorial page, however). Here’s the page with the new feature added:

And here is Angelo’s mother’s page (Mary May KIMBALL) after I had added her as a parent to all her children, as well as added her father and second husband:

The neat thing is, once you start adding family members, Find-A-Grave’s Reverse Relationship feature starts connecting all these individuals automatically, eliminating some of the repetitiveness of adding family members to each other’s pages.

I have to admit, there are a few things that I feel could use some improvement. You can see on Angelo, Jr.’s page that his mother is listed before his father. I’m not sure why that is, and I would prefer the father’s name first as that is how it would appear in most family tree documents and reports. Secondly, the children of Mary are not listed in birth order, or death order for that matter. They’re not listed in alphabetical order, either, nor in order (or reverse order) of the way I added Mary as their mother. It just doesn’t make sense! Thirdly, I would like to be able to add children to an individual, and not just add parents to a child. And lastly, I think other relationships should be made available, possibly user-defined: siblings, step-family members, in-laws, domestic partners, etc. I realize that these can be added to a biography using HTML, just as I originally added these family members before the new Family Linking Feature was available. Overall, I am pleased with this feature and see it as being extremely useful.

A few other changes I noticed at the site; women’s maiden names are now italicized:

And you can transfer ownership:

Here’s the transfer page:


I may request ownership from the creators of a couple of memorial pages of my ancestors that were probably made when someone transcribed a cemetery or obituary. When that happens, there’s obviously a lot of missing information a non-family member wouldn’t have. I hate to create duplicate memorial pages, so this is a good option.

Kudos to the Find-A-Grave team for continuing to develop features to enhance their site and encourage users to participate more! Now go out and play with the new toys!

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Some Random Acts of Kindness

If there were an award for “Worst Genealogy Lookup Volunteer,” I’m sure I’d be the winner, hands down! With all my computer/Internet problems this spring, coupled with a busy life, I haven’t been able to keep up with my lookup requests until recently. Yet I can’t blame everything on my busy life; I have a tendency to overcommit, and I’m learning (the hard way) to say no. When a distant cousin on my husband’s side asked me if I could build her another website to promote her newest book, I had to turn her down, since I haven’t even been able to stay on top of a site I’m currently working on!

All that said, last February, I posted a series on “Random Acts of Kindess” Week, and encouraged my fellow genea-bloggers to post about their contributions. I wanted to report to my readers what I’ve done, not as a “break-my-arm-in-patting-myself-on-the-back” way, but to give an idea of what giving back to the genealogical community entails. I have been the recipient of so many kindesses, that of course, I want to pay it forward. Perhaps in reading this, others will be inspired to do the same.

First of all, I made a couple of small financial contributions to a couple of favorite genealogy-related websites, because I believe in what they are doing to help out the genealogy community. When I’ve had to make non-genealogy online purchases recently, I’ve tried to do them through my fellow genea-bloggers’ affiliate stores. I’ve also tried to remember to click on their various advertisements, although many times, I read blog posts through my Google Reader instead of at the actual blog site.

Secondly, I took some training from Carol Nettles, the volunteer coordinator at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society. EWGS is creating an index of the Patchen file that will eventually be put on our website. The Patchen file was begun 50 years ago by Lee Patchen, who worked for 20 years, clipping out obituaries from Spokane newspapers and pasting them onto index cards, which were filed in dozens of those old fashioned card catalog drawers. A number of us are adding data from these obits to an Excel file which will eventually allow anyone with Internet access to lookup their ancestor and request a copy of the obituary. So far, I’m about 2/3 of the way through a drawer. I’m a pretty fast typist (keyboardist?) and yet it’s taken me about 4 hours to index about one foot of cards (some prep work is involved; there are references to published works mixed in with the obits)! While I have no ancestors buried in this area, I feel this is a great payback to the genealogical community, especially since I’ve used the wonderful results of such work at the Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s databases!

Next, I’ve taken some random photos of graves at Greenwood Memorial Terrace here in Spokane, and using the Washington State Death Index online at FamilySearch Labs, I’ve slowly been adding memorial pages to Find A Grave for these individuals. Graves that have caught my eye include Civil War veterans’ and the many graves in the old part of the cemetery, which for some reason, is not kept up like the main part. It is very rural-looking, no grass, lots of trees and bushes, and has an old-fashioned feel to it.

Lastly, I’ve had 11 lookup requests since March 27th, most of which I’ve fulfilled. Two requested death and cemetery records for Muskegon Co., Michigan (I have access to these on microfilm at my local Family History Center). One of those requests occurred before FamilySearch Labs added images of Michigan Death records from 1867 – 1897 to their site. One of the requests was for a death after the early 1910s, which were not microfilmed, so I gave the requestor the link to the online Muskegon County Death Index and recommended if she found the death listed there, to purchase the record through the county clerk’s office, rather than the state department of vital statistics (it’s cheaper through the county).

Another individual e-mailed me to ask if I had access to all Michigan marriage records (such as a state index) or just Muskegon County Marriages. I wrote back to tell her it was only the county records. However, just today I wrote again to inform her that Michigan Marriages, 1867 – 1925, are now at the FamilySearch Labs site.

There was a request for four lookups for family members in Greenwood Cemetery in Walker Twp., Kent Co., Michigan. I could not find three that died in 1896 in the index; the death in 1870 occurred before the records were kept (and I believe when the cemetery opened) in 1880. I recommended a local researcher in Kent County who is inexpensive, professional, and thorough, and whom I’ve used on occasion with excellent results.

Three requests, one through RAOGK and another through Books We Own, asked for burial information at Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver, Clark Co., Washington. I used to own the burial books for this cemetery, as a large number of my husband’s ancestors and relatives are buried there. However, I donated the books to my genie society’s upcoming book auction, because the listings are now online. However, I keep my volunteer information available at these websites for this cemetery, because there are many people who are unaware that the burial records are online. I was happy to pass this information on to the three requestors.

I’ve had three requests for lookups in the microfilmed 1899 City Directory of Washington, DC, which happens to be one of many items on a microfilm that contains Muskegon County, Michigan records. I’ve fulfilled two of these requests. There is also an unfulfilled request for lookups in the microfilmed Grand Rapids City Directory in the 1860s and 1870s. All of these films are those I’ve put on permanent loan at my local Family History Center.

Speaking of lookups, Genlighten will soon open has recently opened its website as a place where individuals can connect with low-cost volunteer researchers. Dean Richardson, who Randy mentioned at the Jamboree, has also started a blog for the site. Given my terrible record for looking up records in such an untimely manner, I’ve not signed up as a researcher, although I am considering it (must finish other commitments, first). I see that DearMYRTLE endorses the site, and I think this will become a wonderful resource for our genealogical community. UPDATE: Dean posted some clarifications and corrections in the comments section of this post. Please take a moment to read these!

I’ve wanted to do more FamilySearch Indexing, but other commitments, time contraints and my laptop not working well have created challenges in this department.

How am I doing? Not too badly, I hope–except for taking so very long to fulfill lookup requests. I’d like to read posts from other genea-bloggers on their contributions, too, so if you have some, please add your post links to my comments section. Also, be sure to read Renee’s Genealogy Blog as she writes about her adventures in FamilySearch Indexing.

Some Random Acts of Kindness

If there were an award for “Worst Genealogy Lookup Volunteer,” I’m sure I’d be the winner, hands down! With all my computer/Internet problems this spring, coupled with a busy life, I haven’t been able to keep up with my lookup requests until recently. Yet I can’t blame everything on my busy life; I have a tendency to overcommit, and I’m learning (the hard way) to say no. When a distant cousin on my husband’s side asked me if I could build her another website to promote her newest book, I had to turn her down, since I haven’t even been able to stay on top of a site I’m currently working on!

All that said, last February, I posted a series on “Random Acts of Kindess” Week, and encouraged my fellow genea-bloggers to post about their contributions. I wanted to report to my readers what I’ve done, not as a “break-my-arm-in-patting-myself-on-the-back” way, but to give an idea of what giving back to the genealogical community entails. I have been the recipient of so many kindesses, that of course, I want to pay it forward. Perhaps in reading this, others will be inspired to do the same.

First of all, I made a couple of small financial contributions to a couple of favorite genealogy-related websites, because I believe in what they are doing to help out the genealogy community. When I’ve had to make non-genealogy online purchases recently, I’ve tried to do them through my fellow genea-bloggers’ affiliate stores. I’ve also tried to remember to click on their various advertisements, although many times, I read blog posts through my Google Reader instead of at the actual blog site.

Secondly, I took some training from Carol Nettles, the volunteer coordinator at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society. EWGS is creating an index of the Patchen file that will eventually be put on our website. The Patchen file was begun 50 years ago by Lee Patchen, who worked for 20 years, clipping out obituaries from Spokane newspapers and pasting them onto index cards, which were filed in dozens of those old fashioned card catalog drawers. A number of us are adding data from these obits to an Excel file which will eventually allow anyone with Internet access to lookup their ancestor and request a copy of the obituary. So far, I’m about 2/3 of the way through a drawer. I’m a pretty fast typist (keyboardist?) and yet it’s taken me about 4 hours to index about one foot of cards (some prep work is involved; there are references to published works mixed in with the obits)! While I have no ancestors buried in this area, I feel this is a great payback to the genealogical community, especially since I’ve used the wonderful results of such work at the Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s databases!

Next, I’ve taken some random photos of graves at Greenwood Memorial Terrace here in Spokane, and using the Washington State Death Index online at FamilySearch Labs, I’ve slowly been adding memorial pages to Find A Grave for these individuals. Graves that have caught my eye include Civil War veterans’ and the many graves in the old part of the cemetery, which for some reason, is not kept up like the main part. It is very rural-looking, no grass, lots of trees and bushes, and has an old-fashioned feel to it.

Lastly, I’ve had 11 lookup requests since March 27th, most of which I’ve fulfilled. Two requested death and cemetery records for Muskegon Co., Michigan (I have access to these on microfilm at my local Family History Center). One of those requests occurred before FamilySearch Labs added images of Michigan Death records from 1867 – 1897 to their site. One of the requests was for a death after the early 1910s, which were not microfilmed, so I gave the requestor the link to the online Muskegon County Death Index and recommended if she found the death listed there, to purchase the record through the county clerk’s office, rather than the state department of vital statistics (it’s cheaper through the county).

Another individual e-mailed me to ask if I had access to all Michigan marriage records (such as a state index) or just Muskegon County Marriages. I wrote back to tell her it was only the county records. However, just today I wrote again to inform her that Michigan Marriages, 1867 – 1925, are now at the FamilySearch Labs site.

There was a request for four lookups for family members in Greenwood Cemetery in Walker Twp., Kent Co., Michigan. I could not find three that died in 1896 in the index; the death in 1870 occurred before the records were kept (and I believe when the cemetery opened) in 1880. I recommended a local researcher in Kent County who is inexpensive, professional, and thorough, and whom I’ve used on occasion with excellent results.

Three requests, one through RAOGK and another through Books We Own, asked for burial information at Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver, Clark Co., Washington. I used to own the burial books for this cemetery, as a large number of my husband’s ancestors and relatives are buried there. However, I donated the books to my genie society’s upcoming book auction, because the listings are now online. However, I keep my volunteer information available at these websites for this cemetery, because there are many people who are unaware that the burial records are online. I was happy to pass this information on to the three requestors.

I’ve had three requests for lookups in the microfilmed 1899 City Directory of Washington, DC, which happens to be one of many items on a microfilm that contains Muskegon County, Michigan records. I’ve fulfilled two of these requests. There is also an unfulfilled request for lookups in the microfilmed Grand Rapids City Directory in the 1860s and 1870s. All of these films are those I’ve put on permanent loan at my local Family History Center.

Speaking of lookups, Genlighten will soon open has recently opened its website as a place where individuals can connect with low-cost volunteer researchers. Dean Richardson, who Randy mentioned at the Jamboree, has also started a blog for the site. Given my terrible record for looking up records in such an untimely manner, I’ve not signed up as a researcher, although I am considering it (must finish other commitments, first). I see that DearMYRTLE endorses the site, and I think this will become a wonderful resource for our genealogical community. UPDATE: Dean posted some clarifications and corrections in the comments section of this post. Please take a moment to read these!

I’ve wanted to do more FamilySearch Indexing, but other commitments, time contraints and my laptop not working well have created challenges in this department.

How am I doing? Not too badly, I hope–except for taking so very long to fulfill lookup requests. I’d like to read posts from other genea-bloggers on their contributions, too, so if you have some, please add your post links to my comments section. Also, be sure to read Renee’s Genealogy Blog as she writes about her adventures in FamilySearch Indexing.

Find A Grave Site Now at 19 Million Grave Records

I noticed over at Find A Grave that they now have 19 million grave records which you can search, in their non-famous grave area (for most of us, those would be where our ancestors are listed!).

When I first starting using this wonderful site over six years ago, I believe they only had about 5 or 6 grave million records. Even a year ago, when I presented a tutorial on using this site to the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, there were only about 13 million grave records! If you would like a copy of my syllabus from that presentation, please e-mail me (click on “View my complete profile” in the lower right-hand side bar to get my contact information).

Obituary of Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON – 1937

VENERABLE LADY IS SUMMONED BY DEATH AT LUCHINI HOME

Mrs. Mahala Sears [sic] Wilkinson, 89 years old, died at the home of her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Luchini, 115 Walnut street, at 2 o’clock Wednesday [2 Jun 1937] morning, following a critical illness which began with a heart attack last Saturday.

The aged lady had been in precarious health since July 8, 1936, when she was found to be suffering from a serious heart malady. She got along quite comfortably, however, until last week when the sudden heat wave brought on the condition which resulted in her death.

The body was taken to Whitehall [Muskegon Co.], Michigan, Mrs. Wilkinson’s old home, Wednesday morning, and the funeral and burial will take place there beside her husband, and among loved friends and scenes.

Mrs. Wilkinson was born July 8, 1847, at Prince Edward [County], Ont., and came to the States many years ago. She is survived by Mrs. Floyd Luchini, Alma; Mrs. George Lewis, Mrs. A. L. Ainger and John Wilkinson, all of Whitehall, and Fred Wilkinson, of Kelso, Wash. Mrs. Luchini has the sympathy of many Alma friends in her loss.

–from The Alma Record and Alma Journal, Alma, Gratiot Co., Michigan, Thursday, 3 Jun 1937, unknown page.
————————
Mahala was my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, a Canadian immigrant, herself the child of Ulster Scot immigrants from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. My paternal grandfather fondly remembered her from his early childhood. She used to run her finger down the slope of his nose and say, “Love is like this,” then run it back up, saying, “but marriage is like this!” I had some digital scans of photos of her with my grandfather and his younger brother taken around 1923 in Whitehall, and she appeared rather frail even then. Unfortunately, I did not know enough about re-writable CDs at that time, and those digital scans have been lost. The originals remain with my paternal grandmother in Texas.

This obituary gives me more detailed birth information (date and location) and a complete death date, than what I originally had. A photo of her tombstone in Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall, Muskegon Co., Michigan can be found at Find A Grave here.

Find A Grave Site Now at 19 Million Grave Records

I noticed over at Find A Grave that they now have 19 million grave records which you can search, in their non-famous grave area (for most of us, those would be where our ancestors are listed!).

When I first starting using this wonderful site over six years ago, I believe they only had about 5 or 6 grave million records. Even a year ago, when I presented a tutorial on using this site to the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, there were only about 13 million grave records! If you would like a copy of my syllabus from that presentation, please e-mail me (click on “View my complete profile” in the lower right-hand side bar to get my contact information).

Obituary of Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON – 1937

VENERABLE LADY IS SUMMONED BY DEATH AT LUCHINI HOME

Mrs. Mahala Sears [sic] Wilkinson, 89 years old, died at the home of her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Luchini, 115 Walnut street, at 2 o’clock Wednesday [2 Jun 1937] morning, following a critical illness which began with a heart attack last Saturday.

The aged lady had been in precarious health since July 8, 1936, when she was found to be suffering from a serious heart malady. She got along quite comfortably, however, until last week when the sudden heat wave brought on the condition which resulted in her death.

The body was taken to Whitehall [Muskegon Co.], Michigan, Mrs. Wilkinson’s old home, Wednesday morning, and the funeral and burial will take place there beside her husband, and among loved friends and scenes.

Mrs. Wilkinson was born July 8, 1847, at Prince Edward [County], Ont., and came to the States many years ago. She is survived by Mrs. Floyd Luchini, Alma; Mrs. George Lewis, Mrs. A. L. Ainger and John Wilkinson, all of Whitehall, and Fred Wilkinson, of Kelso, Wash. Mrs. Luchini has the sympathy of many Alma friends in her loss.

–from The Alma Record and Alma Journal, Alma, Gratiot Co., Michigan, Thursday, 3 Jun 1937, unknown page.
————————
Mahala was my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, a Canadian immigrant, herself the child of Ulster Scot immigrants from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. My paternal grandfather fondly remembered her from his early childhood. She used to run her finger down the slope of his nose and say, “Love is like this,” then run it back up, saying, “but marriage is like this!” I had some digital scans of photos of her with my grandfather and his younger brother taken around 1923 in Whitehall, and she appeared rather frail even then. Unfortunately, I did not know enough about re-writable CDs at that time, and those digital scans have been lost. The originals remain with my paternal grandmother in Texas.

This obituary gives me more detailed birth information (date and location) and a complete death date, than what I originally had. A photo of her tombstone in Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall, Muskegon Co., Michigan can be found at Find A Grave here.