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  • Private vs Public Family Trees

    The Pros and Cons of Choosing a Public Family Tree vs. a Private Family Tree

    The best way to create, organize, grow and share your family tree is by using an online family tree website. But before you start signing yourself up, you need to make an important decision: will your online family tree be public or private?

    To start with, there are actually three types of online family trees:

    1. Private. Each submitted tree is maintained separately and distinctly from other trees in the collection. You can manually search for your ancestors online, but you cannot see the full family trees of other members of the website.
    2. Linked (semi-private). Your family tree is semi-private when it is in a linked family tree site. Your tree is still separate from everyone else's tree, but if one of your records is similar to another record in someone else's tree or elsewhere on the service's tools, you're alerted to it and can request that information be merged into your own tree.
    3. Public Family Tree. A public family tree means that your information is viewable and searchable by all genealogists. One of the best types of public family tree takes that a step further: the collective family tree. In a collective family tree everyone's information is pooled into a huge communal resource or database. You maintain and build your own separate family tree, but you also get to see how it links to the worldwide family tree.

    Each of these types of family trees has its benefits and drawbacks. We'll concentrate on the main differentiators, which is the private versus public concern. Most new family historians find it a difficult decision right out of the gate, citing either privacy concerns or a lack of connection as their main pro or con, but there are plenty more factors to consider when you're making the choice.

    Public Family Trees

    Pro: With full access to your tree, long lost relatives are almost certain to show up and help fill out your information and expand your knowledge.

    Con: When anyone can see your tree, those relatives can potentially find your information and use it on their own trees without contacting you or offering any information in return. On a collective family tree your data will connect but you might not get any personal information in return.

    Pro: You gain the benefits and advantages of everyone else's research, and you get to share the results of your own hard work and research.

    Con: Sometimes less serious researchers can let inaccurate information creep in, though collective family trees tend to reduce that possibility to a great degree, because multiple sources of facts offer greater credibility.

    Private Family Trees

    Pro: You have total control over who sees your information and with whom you'll share it.

    Con: Your private status causes extra steps and inconvenience when someone wants to connect with you, which may put off researchers, both casual and serious, who would otherwise get in touch.

    Pro: Your privacy feels more protected when your information is hidden.

    Con: Even private trees can be vulnerable to security issues, and many public trees offer highly secure privacy filters for living relative information.

    Pro: You have total control over all incoming and outgoing information.

    Con: Too much control could be a bad thing, blocking you off from new connections and new information that could open doors to more in-depth research.

    In the end, what it boils down to is making a decision between your time and the genealogy community. You put in all that work and all those hours and spent money building your family tree-why should you share it with someone who might just be lazy? The thing is, sharing is one of the most important parts of genealogy. Our family trees are not just personal history; they're part of a greater record of everyone's history, and how we're all connected to one another. A public, collective family tree is probably the purest form of genealogy research there is.

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  • Transforming Family History into a Narrative

    Transforming Family History into a Narrative: Bringing Your Story to Life

    Genealogists understand the power of family history and life stories. Too often, though, they become simple collectors of information, facts, and documents. They never share the knowledge they've gained or the stories they've learned because they're not sure how to take all that information and turn it into a descriptive narrative.

    In the end, taking all your research and turning it into a legacy for your family will be one of the most rewarding things you do as a family historian. That's why we've assembled these tips on how to make that leap from family historian to family history writer, and bring your family story to life.

    Interviews. Talk to your living relatives-as many as are willing to sit down with you! Take a tape recorder as well as a notebook and pen, and ask for their stories. Ask questions about daily life, family traditions, hobbies and interests they had. Encourage them to share the details of their personal lives, and the lives of those around them. You're moving beyond the dates and locations to really understand who your relatives were, and are.

    Research locations. Setting is one of the most important parts of creating a really compelling story. Research town and city news and events during the time your ancestors lived, and look for photographs and personal first-hand accounts. You want to paint a vivid picture of the place they lived in and the community they were a part of.

    Take trips. One of the best ways to really understand where your relatives came from is to revisit those places, seeing them in person instead of just photographs. Take a tour of their neighborhood to get a feel for the people who live and lived there, and talk to neighbors about their town and its history.

    Look at the larger picture. Your family history is intensely personal, but your ancestors were also deeply affected by the world events happening around them. Find out what was going on, from wars to natural disasters, political upheaval, epidemics, advances in technology and science, and more. Learning as much as possible about the world around them will give you real insight into their personal lives.

    Learn about the culture. This is especially important if you're writing about ancestors who come from a place that is very different than your current home. Research the culture your family came from, including food, music, and family and holiday traditions.

    Read fiction. Most historical fiction is careful to include real and authentic historical details, and can offer you a vivid sense of the atmosphere of the time you're writing about. Fiction can show you how to create a really interesting narrative, and also how to think of your ancestors as characters in a story, not just records you've uncovered.

    Create a plot. A family history can be just a recitation of facts and figures, but to make your story deep and moving, consider finding what writers call a "narrative arc." What goals were your ancestors trying to achieve? What were their obstacles? How did they achieve their aims? A plot not only makes your story more interesting, but it also helps you focus your efforts. Some potential plots include immigration stories, rising to success, living through wars or conflicts, and family upheavals.

    Choose a starting point. Begin at the beginning, right? Not necessarily. A story should grab the reader right out of the gate. Start with an interesting anecdote, a fascinating fact, a compelling conflict to make your story dynamic, interesting, and alive. You can use flashbacks or narrative description to fill in any important background information.

    Get personal. You've got a database full of facts and figures, but what your family is interested in is the real stuff: stories, traditions, special moments. Don't be afraid to focus on the personal, emotional details, even if it means leaving out some of the data you've painstakingly researched. The most valuable and important history you can offer your family comes from your heart, not your head.

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  • Webinars & Workshops

    A World of Untapped Genealogy Resources: Webinars Workshops

    If you're serious about your genealogy research, the web is full of untapped resources for learning more. Webinars are free interactive workshops led by genealogy experts on every facet of genealogy research, from tools to tips to lessons on expanding your research skills. They're some of the best, fastest, and most inexpensive ways to really expand your genealogy knowledge by giving you direct, usually free, access to experts in the field.

    The Benefits of Genealogy Webinars

    Genealogy webinars offer:

    • Live walk-throughs of complex genealogy resources that you need guidance to learn, such as local and federal census databases, family tree websites, online historical collections and other online genealogy resources
    • Q&A sessions that give you the chance to get answers from experts in the field to your specific genealogy research questions, as well as the opportunity to chat and make connections with other family historians
    • Courses on family, local and social history research for worldwide regions, the most important records to track down, writing family history and more
    • Copies of all the materials used and research done in the webinar, including the slides of the presentation, the handouts, and a recording of the webinar, to keep and refer back as well as share with your local genealogy community

    You can watch a webinar live, which is usually free, or you can access webinar archives, which usually either require a fee for each video or a site subscription.

    Where to Find Genealogy Webinars

    GeneaWebinars  is a free community resource listing all types of webinars presented by genealogy vendors, genealogy societies, and individual genealogy experts. You can also explore these resources for some of the most popular and useful webinars:

    Some conferences and seminars also offer live broadcasts of their programs and lectures, with presentations recorded and available online after the conference. If a conference you're interested in attending seems too expensive or far away, always check to see if they'll be providing online access too!

    Online Genealogy Courses & Workshops

    Other resources include online independent study classes and workshops you can complete at your own pace.

    • The Brigham Young University Independent Study Department  has courses on family, local and social history research for a number of regions including England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland, Germanic countries, and the American south.
    • BYU has free online courses , including Introduction to Family History Research, Vital Records, Writing Family History and more.
    • Boston University offers a 15-week online genealogical certificate program taught by well-known and respected genealogy experts.
    • When you join the National Genealogical Society  (NGS) you get to take all their online courses for free-plus get the benefits of being an NGS member.

    But don't stop there. The OneGreatFamily Resources page also has a ton of great resources you can use to expand your research skills, find even more in-depth information, and track down other webinars and conferences.

    Webinars are some of the best ways to get a quality genealogy education-no wonder they're becoming more popular. They allow researchers with a budget and other limitations to become involved in the genealogy community and get the kind of knowledge and experience they could never have found any other way. With webinars, you can uncover tactics and methods for adding generations to your family tree you never imagined you could find.

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  • How To Date Old Family Photographs

    How To Date Old Family Photographs: Basic Techniques Of Dating Pictures

    Great-Grandma's family collection of antique pictures can be a treasure trove for you, the genealogy researcher, especially if you can establish when an antique picture was taken.
    Dating a photograph can help you identify the subject(s) (in early photography the subjects were referred to as sitters) and can provide additional information as you piece together your family tree.

    There are some basic techniques to begin the process of dating an antique picture:

    What is the print made of? Is the image printed on metal, glass, card stock, or paper? Daguerreotype (early tintypes) and ambrotypes (printed on glass) were often mounted in double wooden frames that opened like a book. These were the most common types of early photographs and date back to around 1839. By 1870, almost all antique pictures were printed on heavy paper or card stock. The heavier stock was much more common in early photographs; by the 1930s even studio portraits were printed on thin paper.

    Is the antique picture printed in black and white or color? Some images were being hand-tinted as early as the 1850s. Although color still photography was introduced in 1906, it was an expensive process that only professionals could afford to use. Color antique pictures did not become common for home use until the late 1950's and early 1960's.

    How are the people in the photograph posed? Very early antique pictures showed people in rigid poses and usually without smiles, partly because exposure times could be as long as twenty seconds. Many portrait photographers even used braces to help sitters stay in position during the process. Candid pictures and then snapshots became more common in the 1920s.

    How are the sitters dressed? The straight tunic dresses and bobbed hair of the 1920's are easy to distinguish from the cinched waists and luxuriant chignons of the late 1890's.

    What other objects are visible in the antique picture? A Model T car is absolute proof that the picture was not taken before 1908. Furniture, toys, brands names, logos - all these things can provide clues, and thus, invaluable assistance in identifying previously unidentified photographs.

    Additional information on dating family antique pictures is available from this list of links.

    Tracing a family resemblance through the generations with antique pictures can give you a warm sense of connection to your family's past.

    Store your pictures and other media in OneGreatFamily - it's a safe place to keep your treasures.

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  • William Shakespeare

    This week marks nearly 450 years since William Shakespeare was baptized into the Church of England as an infant on 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was the third of eight children, and his father was a glovemaker and an alderman, a member of the local assembly.

    At age eighteen he married Anne Hathaway, and together they had three children: first a daughter named Susanna, then twins named Judith and Hamnet. Neither of Shakespeare's daughters ever received an education; Judith could not even sign her own name on documents. Susanna married a physician named John Hall and they had one daughter named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the only grandchild born during William Shakespeare's lifetime and thus was the only grandchild he ever knew. Elizabeth married twice but never had any children. Shakespeare's daughter Judith married Thomas Quiney, a winemaker, two months before her father's death. Thomas and Judith had three children, all of whom died without marrying. William Shakespeare's only son Hamnet, Judith's twin brother, died at the age of eleven. Thus Shakespeare has no living descendants today, the last being his granddaughter Elizabeth.

    From 1585 to 1592 Shakespeare's whereabouts and activities are unknown. Sometime during that period he moved to London to act and write plays. He joined a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men and became a part owner of the company. After 1594, his plays were performed only by the Lord Chamberlain's Men and they became the leading playing company in London. In 1599 they built their own playhouse, the Globe, on the south side of the River Thames. After Queen Elizabeth died, James I gave the company a royal patent and the name was changed to the King's Men. The company was very successful and it made Shakespeare a wealthy man; he divided his time between homes in London and Stratford.

    Shakespeare's prolific playwriting career spans more than two decades and includes a variety of subjects and genres; he also wrote many sonnets. 154 of his sonnets were published in a compiled volume, Shakespeare's Sonnets, in 1609.

    Many of Shakespeare's plays were written in non-rhyming iambic pentameter verse, or iambic pentameter "blank verse." The first recorded plays that can indubitably be attributed to him are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI, written in the early 1590s. During the 1590s, he wrote history plays and comedies; Julius Caesar, one of his most famed histories, was the first play performed in the Globe after it opened in 1599. In the early 1600s, Shakespeare began writing tragedies, including Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear, all of which were written to be performed in the Globe Theater. On 29 June 1613 the thatched roof of the Globe caught fire from a cannon, and the theater burned to the ground. William Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. In 1623 former colleagues published the First Folio, a collection of his works containing all but two of the plays now attributed to him.

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