Posts tagged James W Petty

online genealogical research

The imperfect road of online genealogical research [pt. 1]


Navigating the twists and turns of online genealogical research.

online genealogical researchMary sat back from her computer in frustration. Her grandfather didn’t just die; he disappeared. Her family had always been so secretive about their past. When she was a little girl and had asked for family stories, or where her ancestors had come from, the subject was quickly changed, or she was informed that it was impolite to ask such questions. She had the impression that someone in her past had been less than perfect. Now, she was finding that her ancestors seemed to be hiding from her as well. .

The wunderkind of family history today is the Internet. Or is it? Rumor has it that there are “all encompassing” databases on the web that you can access for free that will give you your complete family tree – just like a pedigreed registered dog. Or so the myth goes about online family tree research. .

Unfortunately, there is more fiction present on the Internet than documented fact. And the genealogy consumer must beware and be prepared to learn in-depth research skills for himself, hire a professional genealogist, or go down the primrose path. But, from a professional point of view, it is a most valuable tool that if you know how to use it and understand its limitations. Then you can get the most out of what we call Happy Hunting on the Imperfect Road of Internet Genealogy. .

Recently my wife, Mary, had the following research experience while helping a frustrated novice inquirer who wanted to find “some names for temple work” and thought she could just pop on the “net” and find her family tree. Much to her chagrin, no such database existed, so Mary decided to spend some time with her to see what could be found. .

During an online free research session that turned out to be a very technical 40-hour-online search, they gleaned some truth from the rocky road’s chips and gems and some new names and historical data have been added to the inquirer’s pedigree. To do so meant knowing about reputable research websites to search, how to use their database resources, understanding their limitations and interpreting the discoveries. .

We have provided here a report of our findings and how we did the research – for those who want to see what we used to hike the family tree via the Internet. For the reader’s convenience we have blended Mary’s experience with the inquirer’s and called the inquiring researcher “Mary.”

But, before we start, please keep in mind the following. These tips will make the journey more pleasurable and profitable.

Professional Genealogy Insider Tips for Internet Family Tree Research

• Buyer Beware! Genealogical and historically relevant material is available on the Internet but does not come with the Good Housekeeping Seal of guaranteed documented truth.

• The beginning researcher should stick with record-based sites for doing online research. These include sites such as; Heritage; and Family But remember their records and indexes are only as accurate as the competency of those providing the information on the records and their indexers.

• Genealogical database indexing is done by imperfect people. Remember that what you know will shape how you view and search for information. You have to be willing to think in terms of all the mistaken ways something can get put onto a record and then be indexed when you are ready to search for and find those elusive lost relatives.

• Internet research can easily fill all the hours you have to spare and then some, as you hunt for the answers to the mysteries of your family tree. You must be a real good detective to make sense of what you uncover and you must be willing to endure many, many, many unsuccessful searches. Family tree research is about spending lots of time in the records, a willingness to develop technical research skills and having a mind that loves solving puzzles.

• Leave the 21st century behind when you are looking at records of the past.

• Be sure to make copies, and document everything you discover, so you can keep track of what you find. Make a paper copy of every record you search that contains your family – you will refer to it over and over again in your Internet searches. Be sure to make a copy of where you found it! And attach this tracking information to the record so you can find it again.

• If you have a jump drive, you can save your copies there for later printing.

• Make copies of the record template where available – especially on for such records as census and military records – so you will know what questions they had to answer, noting that the questions and answers can often vary due to the record, the census year, the census taker, the responder, and the data indexer’s ability to read, decipher and interpret the information.

• Information included on a record can vary and conflict with what you know and what you learn about a person or a family.

• Records created about an individual over the course of his or her lifetime can radically vary from record to record.

• Ages can vary and conflict.

• Spellings can vary and conflict.

• Sex can change from record to record.

• Note military service or lack of.

• Race can be an issue and it can be wrong.

• Family traditions and stories need to be proven with documentation.

• Do collateral searches for other family members to find your lost ancestor.

• Occupations are valuable for tracking people through time in the records that have conflicting information.

• Keep track of where your family lived, noting what street they lived on as they can often stay in the same area for years or even pass the family home onto new generations. As inevitable conflicting information will show up on other records pertaining to the family, this may help you find someone whose name or age, etc., has been lost in the database indexing or even in the original creation of the record, or through marriage.

• is free through your local Family History Center or the Salt Lake Family History Library. But a year’s subscription to access their website will be cheaper in gas and time and a whole lot more fun!!!!

• Study how to use Ancestry – wild card searches really can open up your potential for success.

• Learn the differences between Ancestry’s Ranked, Exact, Soundex and Advanced searches.

• Remember there is more to Ancestry than census records.

• After you spend hours in, go to and see what resources are available from the Family History Library for you to use at your local Family        History Center or available online.

• is the best free genealogy site out there on the Internet – even though much of its database has been created by family tradition submission.

• The Family History Library has made a tremendous contribution to helping everyone who comes to their website and to their library system through          their vast online and onsite genealogical, historical, and educational resources.

• If you have trouble finding something on or, see if your local library can give you free access to Heritage This is an excellent      genealogy subscription site that is only available through libraries and societies.

• Googling in all its variations is a great way to find interesting tidbits about your family on the Internet.

By James W. Petty, AG, CG

(Part 2 of this article will be published tomorrow.)

Looking for help with hard to find records or genealogical questions? Contact Heirlines Family History and Genealogy, breaking through family history walls for almost 40 years. We professionally identify and document ancestry and kinship relationships and verify and certify the family tree with Certified Family Trees™ and Certified Forensic Genealogy Solutions™. We’re ready when you’re ready!

Give us a call toll free 1-800-570-4049 and speak with one of our professional genealogists today or visit us at

family legacy

The Legacy of Shirts – Family Legacy


Taking the opportunity to define the family legacy of your parents and grandparents.

family legacyWhen I look back upon my life, and the impact my father has had on who I am and how everything in the world is to me, my thoughts drift to a defining moment in my life. Shirts. Yes, that’s right. Shirts.

As a child, I always felt I had everything. I had plenty of toys, and books, and sports equipment. As a budding artist I had pencils and crayons, and stacks of paper to work with. And I had sufficient clothes to be presentable at school, at work, at play, and in Church.

As I grew into a young man, the clothes grew with me. But then an interesting thing happened. At some point I found myself “borrowing” my father’s shirts. I was advised on how to hang the shirts; how the collar was folded; and how to keep the shirts neat in Dad’s closet.

Then one day, the collars were too small, and the sleeves became too short. I no longer had an endless supply of clothing. I didn’t understand it – until one day, many years later, I did.

Looking Up to Me

My father was someone I had always looked up to, both physically and emotionally. But now, physically, he was looking up to me. That had an impact on me, because if he was looking up to me, in my mind, it meant he was also expecting big things of me. It applied to my work, to my education, to my Church service, and to my relationships. This is a concept I have kept in my heart through out my adult life. If my Father is looking up to me, he is expecting big things of me.

Several months ago, my wife and I had the opportunity of listening to a talk by the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey, in which he outlined his concept of “First Things First: To Live, To Love, To Learn, To Leave A Legacy.” Stephen R. Covey is an amazing writer and speaker, and this presentation turned a light on in our minds.

My parents are in their eighties, and are experiencing the difficulties of growing older. They manage well in their quiet existence, but our family has seen our father begin to fret about his life and worry to the point of discouragement, as he has struggled to accomplish important goals.

He is such an amazing man, and as a much-beloved physician, he has had the opportunity of touching and improving the lives of countless numbers of people. It hurt us to see him punishing himself over his perceived weaknesses. But when we listened to Stephen Covey’s ideas about the importance of leaving a legacy, we both felt the rush of inspiration. Our parents needed to know what a wonderful legacy they have provided to others.

Preserving a Legacy

We proceeded to contact my brother and three sisters with the idea of preparing a family legacy book as a Christmas Gift to our parents. We encouraged them and their families to “share with Mom and Dad, G’Pa and G’Ma, what they have given us all: It’s a wonderful life we have because of them. Because they have lived, and loved, and learned, they have left a legacy for us all.” This was to be a volume containing the written thoughts, feelings, and memories of each member of our family, from the oldest child down to the youngest grandchild, regarding the topic “Mom and Dad’s Legacy to their Family.”

Over the space of the next several months, members of the family composed stories and remembrances of their lives and experiences with our parents and grandparents. They gathered favorite pictures, and the youngsters prepared drawings and outlined their hands and fingers for posterity’s sake. It was a process that took much longer than the expected few short weeks of the holiday season.

When the book was finally completed and compiled, we selected a special night when we could bring in dinner – Valentine’s Day. After a pleasant evening of good food and conversation we presented the binder to them; and then sat with them and read all of the selections, beginning with “Shirts.” It was a very moving experience to share these testimonies, and see our parents through the eyes of other members of the family.

Several of the children remembered “Mr. Carrots,” a patient of my father’s who brought fresh carrots from his farm as a token of his appreciation. We also remembered going out at night with Dad when he would make visits to the homes of patients who were unable to come to his office.

Grandchildren wrote of their love for the man who had shared his love of the scriptures with them and changed lives. As we read, we were reminded of his dedicated service to his family, his profession, his community and his God.

Mom was equally remembered for giant gingerbread cookies that made her a real hit at our school and among our friends. Our children drew pictures of her love for them and wrote of the ever-present special “pink milk” always found in her fridge. She was also wonderfully talented in arts and crafts, and shared her skills with dozens of homemaking classes. And like Dad, she too, lovingly served us and our neighbors and those they met as they traveled the world in their later years while serving professionally and as missionaries.

A New Outlook

The evening was a complete success, and our parents were in tears as we left. A few weeks later, my father phoned, and told me that he and Mom had been reading the book each day. Mom couldn’t remember the stories from one day to another, and each reading brought fresh tears of joy to her. He stated that this had given him a new outlook on what he had accomplished in his life. With tears in his voice he thanked me again and again for what we had done.

What had we done? Not a great deal. We hadn’t spent dollars, and we hadn’t accomplished great feats, but the hearts of the children were turned to their fathers, and we had expressed our love to our parents in a powerful way.

Stephen Covey has said:

There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.’ The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution. 

In this gift of writing our parents’ legacy, we discovered they gave us all this and more. We have big shirts to fill. We learned they are someone we can always look up to and emulate; they expect big things of us.

We encourage you to learn the same. Take the opportunity this year in your family to gather your thoughts and memories to define the legacy of your parents and grandparents, or whoever is important in your life. They need to know the legacy they have established. You need it as well. It is a thrilling, spiritual experience that will help bind your family and inspire you to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.

Looking for help with hard to find records or genealogical questions? Contact Heirlines Family History and Genealogy, breaking through family history walls for almost 40 years. We professionally identify and document ancestry and kinship relationships and verify and certify the family tree with Certified Family Trees™ and Certified Forensic Genealogy Solutions™. We’re ready when you’re ready!

Give us a call toll free 1-800-570-4049 and speak with one of our professional genealogists today or visit us at

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