Copyright 2013. Stepstone Genealogy. All rights reserved.

genealogy and family history


NEW FOR 2019

Using a Library for Genealogy Research - New!

     Discover tips and techniques to uncover hidden discoveries in public and private libraries. e.g. finding aids, subjects guides, unpublished family files, subscriptions databases, obituary collections, microfilm/microfiche, maps, tutorials and special collections in public, private and university libraries.

Google Earth Pro and Earthpoint - New!

​     Ever wonder where your ancestor's homestead was located on a map of today? Using your ancestor's land description from their land patent, learn to place their homestead onto Google's satellite view of today. Also included is how to use Google Earth Pro and the David R. Rumsey's Historical map collection overlayed over the same satellite view.  

The ABCs of DNA    

     What is DNA? What types of DNA are used for genealogy? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do I know what test to take? If you have asked yourself these questions, then this presentation is for you. If the highly technical nature of most DNA talks confuses you, then this presentation is for you. It is intended to answer questions using a non-technical, genealogy-oriented approach.

Understanding DNA  Test Results - New!

     After receiving your DNA results, the questions come quickly. Learn how to navigate the results, understand ethnicity reports, geographical background maps and identifying cousin matches with Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage.

WATO: What Are the Odds? Tool - New!

     This tool is designed to help work out how one person, the "target", is related to a family group of people who have taken an autosomal DNA test, especially if you have limited or no tree information about the target. It is designed for analyzing the probability or possibility of an adoptee or a new and unidentified DNA match appearing on your DNA match list fits into an existing family tree from a group of DNA matches.


Family Bibles: Treasures Beyond Value
  Family Bibles are a treasure to genealogists, particularly in the absence of civil or church records. They may contain the only written record of an event, especially if not available in the public record, i.e. the births and deaths of infant children. Learn the best approaches to find family bibles, to evaluate their condition and tents and to care for your family's treasures.

General Land Office Records

     Land records are a valuable resource for genealogists providing the earliest and most comprehensive information on our ancestors and their land. Learn how to access, view, print and save the federal land grant records available through the Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office website and how to order copies of your ancestor’s land grant file from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Immigration and Naturalization Records
     Solve the mystery of your family’s origin with the use of American-generated records. Learn to research immigration records or ships’ passenger lists, court records, naturalization records, land entry records, church records and the census to find valuable information to help discover your ancestor’s home country.
Land Survey Systems
     An overview of the survey systems within the U.S. - metes and bounds, state and federal land systems, Spanish land grants of the South and French land grants of the Mississippi River region. Learn basic terminology, understand platting property descriptions, general research strategies and how to use land records to unravel your ancestors' land records and solve genealogical puzzles.
Making Sense of the Supplemental Censuses
     The U.S. government also collected non-population, special supplemental censuses, collecting territorial data, agriculture, manufacturing, slave schedules, state, veterans, social statistics, and mortality (causes of death). Learn how to build a personal guidebook for help in reading and understanding each census. Learn what's available and where to find them in Ancestry, FamilySearch and the National Archives.
Newspaper Research: What's Available On-line and How to Find Scanned Images
  Newspaper research can provide clues to birthplaces, keys to finding relatives and adding local flavor to our ancestor's lives. Finding the newspaper in the area of research and during a specific time frame can be challenging. Three websites will be shared to help discover the names of the newspapers available, the time frames they were published and major sources of online images. Vital Records: Birth, Marriage and Death
     Vital Records are one of the best resources for building a family tree. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the information contained in vital records and where to locate them. Learn to search, examine and order copies of vital records available through online state digital archives and county offices and what to use when vital records are not available.


Basic Genealogy: What To Do With What We Have . . .
    Most researchers admit to collecting and gathering an assortment of information from a variety of sources either inherited, downloaded from genealogy databases, copies from books, and research notes.  So, what happens next? Learn several techniques and tools to stay organized, extracting the data from the record, analyzing what's found, citing the source and the first steps in identifying research questions.

Beyond Maps: Location in Context
Understanding location is essential for successful research. Over time, names change, the surrounding areas change, and boundaries change.  Understanding those changes can break through "brick walls" to find "lost relatives." Learn how to add more descriptive information and context to enhance the accuracy and completeness of our genealogical data. 

Capturing Our Stories: Using Artifacts and Photos as Writing Prompts

     We all have family artifacts and photographs and with each comes a story or a memory. Learn an easy way to use photos and artifacts to write short, simple essays, profiles, narratives or descriptions. Each story can be shared with family and friends, by email or print, individually or compiled into a collection later or as a digital story.

Difficult Women: How Women’s Name Changes Confound Our Research
     Finding and following our female ancestors is not always easy.  Many of the historical documents we rely on were created for men and it is the male’s surname that is carried down through the generations. The names of our female ancestor's changed in expected and in some cases, unexpected ways.  Using case studies, strategies and techniques will be shared for correctly identifying our difficult to find and difficult to understand female ancestors.

Discover County Histories and the Family Stories They Tell
     The town, county, and regional histories are important sources for genealogists for 18th and 19th-century research. Discover settlement patterns of a given area, origins of the early settlers, geography, religion, economics, education, the social conditions and major events of the times, and if lucky, a biographical sketch of your ancestor. Learn what's been written, where to find them and how to assess their value.

Genealogica Italiana: Researching Italian Records
     Ecclesiastical and civil record images for birth, marriage, and death are available on FamilySearch; immigration and naturalization records are available in city/county records and at the National Archives. Discover ways to learn the meaning of a surname, understand Italian naming conventions, read the documents, translate the records and capture the history of your Italian immigrants.
Mapping an Ancestor
     Geography is a discipline closely related to genealogy and an untapped resource for learning more about our ancestors. Using geography and maps in research provides visual clues to help answer questions about where, how far, and what is nearby.  A case study of the George E. Curry family of Ohio and Kansas will be shared to show how maps focused the research, located property, identified lost place names, solved a family mystery and identified jurisdictions to write for records.  

On-site Research Far or Near? Planning for Success
 Whether traveling 25 or 2,500 miles for research, there are many things to consider before, during and after a trip to the courthouse, archives or library. Several topics are explored including what to do before you leave --- What to pack and what not to pack --- What research to accomplish in advance of your trip --- How to collect and record the information as you find it --- How to handle the research results when you return, i.e. notes, scans, copies of records, photos and/or interview results --- How to stay organized. Technical tips and tools in using cameras, cell phones, scanners, and copiers will also be shared to accomplish a successful family genealogy research trip and/or vacation.

Surname Distribution Maps

     Surname Distribution Map scan help focuses on the Germanic areas of Europe where our family surnames most frequently appear. Surname maps are generally created from population lists, e.g. censuses, electoral rolls, taxation records and telephone directories. The maps "graphically display locations where surnames occurred at different periods of time." The location where the surname concentration is at the highest is useful to the researcher in indicating the region a given spelling of the name was first adopted. The location is a starting point for research in the birth country. If the surname is less common and from families that have remained in an area in the home country over time, the better success at using the maps for hints as to where to search next.  Additional resources presented will include German and Polish surname search strategies, use of umlauts in German and American surnames and use of wildcard searches in Ancestry.

The Scots-Irish: Settlers in the Wilderness
     The American descendants of Presbyterian and other Protestant dissenters from the Irish province of Ulster who migrated to North America during the 18th and 19th century, they are found on the rolls of Revolutionary War patriots; were early settlers of the American frontiers and were the ancestors of several American presidents. As a group, they forever changed the face of America. The class is an introduction to the Scots-Irish and the sources available to genealogists researching their Scots-Irish heritage.
Timelines and Chronologies
     Genealogists use a variety of methods to better understand their ancestor’s lives and experiences. One method is the use of timelines and/or chronologies to summarize a person or family’s life, demonstrate how lives interconnect with each other and with history, identify discrepancies and inconsistencies, identify research problems and additional areas for further research and ease the writing of a memoir, family history or obituary. See how the method worked in understanding a family migration from Kentucky to Missouri to Kansas in the mid-1800s.

Voices from the Past: Researching Old Letters & Diaries

     Old letters, diaries, journals, and other handwritten items are primary sources of genealogical information and a wonderfully intimate look into the hearts and minds of our ancestors in past times.  They offer valuable, exciting and sometimes challenging opportunities for discovering missing pieces to the family puzzle, giving valuable clues of where to look next. Learn tips on what to look for, what questions to ask, how to archive and organize the gems we have hidden in our family papers.

What I Wish I Had Known . . .
    Facilitated conversation among society attendees where experienced genealogists share their learnings with knew genealogists. The following topics  may be covered: cite your sources, the importance of the original, people married more than once, the importance of location, it might be a mistake, we can always learn, relatives are everywhere, importance of law, public or private sharing, problems with technology and the access to on-line sources. 


Calculating Our Ancestor's Lives

     Learn to compare the lives of your ancestor's with your own and determine relationships using a variety of calculators, e.g. birth date calculator, cousin calculator, a calendar converter, distance calculator and an inflation calculator. Online genealogy calculators save time, reduce errors, focus our research and add details to our family histories.

Connecting with Your Cousins

     Learn to communicate effectively with potential cousins. Learn the best practices for sending messages to receive the highest response rates, requesting additional information and for figuring out DNA connections.  

Evernote: The Genealogist’s Best Friend
      Evernote is a free software program and app that syncs notes, pictures, audio, and pdf between many devices, e.g. PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Androids, tablets and Kindle Fire. Evernote stores information organized into notes and notebooks tagged for easy searching shared with others or kept private in the cloud. Snap a photo of a headstone in a cemetery using your phone. Scan a document on your laptop at the library. Record the story your mother told in the car. Clip an article from the web. Tag and store them all in Evernote. When you get home, they are all synced to your devices and computers. If your device should crash, your notes are safe in the cloud. Thomas MacEntee describes Evernote as the “genealogy researcher's best friend and one of the best tools you can use to capture almost anything.”
Evernote for Genealogists
     After examining the basic components of Evernote—notes, notebooks, tags, search, sync and web clipper—time is spent sharing all the possible ways Evernote can be used to support a genealogist’s efforts—clipping articles to read later; building a research plans and research logs; capturing research findings and results; transcribing records and recording interviews; annotating photos and keeping links to favorite websites in the cloud for easy availability across multiple devices.
Evernote: Research Planning for Success

     A good research plan is not just a place for "to-do" lists, but a way to stay organized and focused and a way to keep genealogy goals in sight. Learn to create a "before you leave home" checklists and how to stay mobile with easy record-keeping techniques using notes/notebooks, scanning and uploading to Evernote from more than one device. Learn simple ways to maintain a research log, identify all the sources examined and their locations for easy citations.  

Google Tools Beyond Basic Search
     Genealogists depend on Google for searching the web, and yet there are much more frequently un-used Google tools available to assist in researching ancestors. Learn how to locate photos; find missing relatives; translate foreign records; find obituaries and related news articles; locate county histories and biographies; download books for reading later; keep learning through videos and resolve research problems with discussion groups. Maximize your research experience using Google’s tools.