Sorting Saturday – Pick up a 3 month subscription to for $10!

I’m a big believer in genealogy bargains. So imagine my delight when I found a Livingsocial deal featuring a three-month subscription to for $10!

If you’re not familiar with Livingsocial, this website offers local and national deals on everything from museum tickets to restaurant outtings.  Joining living social is free, and allows you to purchase deals online from your home computer, laptop, or mobile device.

Yesterday, I found a great deal: A three month subscription to for $10.  This deal is set to expire on Saturday, July 21.


If you’ve picked up this deal please let everyone know what you thought about this transaction.

If you already have an subscription, do you consider $10 to be a bargain for this service?

Happy Bargain Hunting!


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What’s the Buzz About Billiongraves? – Tombstone Tuesday

As a librarian, I hate to send to send my patrons to more than one place to find information.  But when dealing with genealogy research, I often need direct people to multiple resources to help folks find what they need.

Which is why I decided to take a look at 

Hailed by a growing number of bloggers and websites as ‘A Website to Watch’, has a goal of providing a catalog of, (you guessed it!) one billion graves.  This is a free site which provides headstone pictures & transcription, cemetery information, mapping, and other resources for researchers.

On the main page (pictured on the right), you’ll find a simple headstone search box in the bottom left side of the website.  You can search by Given Name, Family Name, Birth Year and Death Year.  There are also advanced search options available.  The name search is pretty flexible, and allows for a diverse spelling of the name you’re researching.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t despair.  By registering with the site, you can request photographs and names from cemeteries around the world.  And that, dear genies, is where the volunteers have the most impact. – Things to Know Before You Begin Volunteering

1) To keep the site free and successful, volunteers participate in the transcription and survey services.  Registration is easy and free.  You can register for an account by submitting a username, e-mail address, and a password.

2) On your profile page, you can change your location, profile picture, and other login information.  There are several great tutorials and guides which can help you become acquainted with the site. 

From this page, you can peruse the Request Board from people all over the world who need photo and transcription assistance.  Your request board is geographically set by your city and zip code, so make sure to change your location right away when signing in for the first time.

You’ll also be able to see your personal tally of transcriptions, photos, and cemetery additions.  And if you’re wondering where your contributions stand, you can left click on the ‘Leaderboard’ link to view a list of contributors.  Several of the top transcribers were submitting over 6,000 records by the end of the month!

3) Left Click on the ‘Transcribe’ tab to begin your transcription work.  The transcription record itself is very simple.  In the yellow ‘Buried Here’ heading type in the given name, family name, birth and death information.  The input fields allow you to easily type in a month, day, and year, so you are not required to use the drop-down fields.  This is very handy for transcription purposes!  If more than one person is named on the stone, you can ‘Add Individual’ to the record.  An ‘Add Description’ tab is also available to insert epitaphs or engravings.

4) When you’ve finished your entry, left click on the green ‘Save’ button.  The record will be saved and you’ll have the option to transcribe another headstone.

Surveying a Cemetery?  There’s an App for That!

If you’re looking for a way blend your own research while making use of that new smart phone in your pocket, download the BillionGraves app!  Left click on the ‘Participate’ tab located on the main page, and you’ll find several guides which will walk you through the download and app usage process.  The guides are available in a PDF format, and are easily printable if you need to share them with a group.

Verdict – If you’re looking for a simple and easy way to contribute to the area of cemetery research, give BillionGraves a try.  It’s simple, addictive, and makes great use of technology.  As this is a growing collection, do not discredit the offerings of sites such as Find A Grave or  Just as there are mutliple vital records websites, BillionGraves is the tech savvy new kid in the cemetery research community.

The Comment Question of the Day – What are your experiences and thoughts on BillionGraves?   Leave your interesting or creative responses in the comment box below.

See you at the Library!


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Cemetery Hijinks Do Not Include Stone Tipping – Funny Friday

We’re prepping for our Naperville Cemetery Tour on Wednesday, June 13, and I hope you’re ready to join us!

While preparing for our tour, symbolism scavenger hunt, and grave dousing have led me to think about several facets of cemetery research – AKA – Cemetery Hijinks.

I call it hijinks for several reasons:
a) It may involve some sort of covert exercise (gate jumping, wall scaling, or bribery to enter the grounds)
b) It requires balance and dexterity to avoid falling/walking into plant life, large monuments, or open holes
c) Swatting bugs is on par with heavy aerobic exercise
d) Unexplained things happen, and you may or may not have someone there to substantiate your claim

There are other interesting elements which coincide with typical cemetery hijinks.  One of these is reading and deciphering headstone epitaphs.  Many are proverbs or biblical verses, but occasionally there’s a real gem which pops out and takes you off guard.

Cemetery symbolism takes on a whole new dimension, when instead of finding peaceful doves, dutiful anchors, and clasped hands with the words ‘reunited’, you’ll find something like this:Yes, it’s a motorcycle.

I’ve also heard of Yoda, the 3 Stooges, an assortment of cars, and the Dallas Cowboys emblem standing vigil in cemeteries across the country.

Other useful links for your cemetery hijinks:

Cleaning Headstones – Dos and Dont’s from Hunting Kiwis
General Cemetery etiquette from Dancing in the Gardens of Those Gone Before
Six Seriously Spooky Cemetery Stories from Miss Cellania’s Files

All of this, of course, is a shameless plug for our field trip!

Before you grab five of your friends for this event, don’t forget we will be experimenting with Grave Dowsing, so please read this informative guide and watch this video with Mr. E.J. Adams.

Bring your own set of metal clothes hangers or dowsing rods if you wish.

Weather permitting, we will meet near the oldest section of Naperville Cemetery (The cemetery is located at 705 South Washington Street in Naperville) at 7pm. Signs will be out near the curb. Carpool if you can, and please be patient with parking!

If there is inclement weather, such as rain, thunder, lightning, or extreme wind as of 6 pm, our program will be cancelled.

This is the last Genealogy Club meeting of the season, so if I don’t see you at the field trip, I wish you good luck with your family history endeavors!

See you at the Library!


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Tracing your English Ancestors with Pen & Sword Press – Tuesday’s Tip

I’ve been overdosing on British genealogy lately, and I think the blame goes clearly to publisher Pen and Sword Press for their astonishing number of recently published research guides.

On my desk right now are titles such as Tracing your Rural Ancestors by Jonathan Brown, Tracing your Criminal Ancestors by Stephen Wade, Tracing your Textile Ancestors by Vivien Teasdale, Tracing your Shipbuilding Ancestors by Anthony Burton, and Tracing your Pauper Ancestors by Robert Burlison.

You heard me wax poetic about Tracing your Legal Ancestors by Stephen Wade last year, which outlined the ins and outs of the British legal system.  This insight was a great asset to some of my patron queries, and I’m happy to say the book has been filling inter-library loan requests to patrons throughout the region.

In my quest to fill our shelves with new ethnic and geographical genealogy guides this year, I was on the lookout for titles which could help my patrons bridge the gap from,, and Scotlands People to records which may be available in other depositories.  I’ve been giddy reading these books, which are just what a researcher needs to tackle some of these subjects.  Each book includes facts, case studies, and a step-by-step guides for your research.

I found Tracing Your Pauper Ancestors and Tracing your Rural Ancestors to be especially helpful in my personal research.  Pauper Ancestors gave me a touchstone in admission procedures for poorhouse, charity hospitals, and workhouses. Rural Ancestors gave me insights into land records, enclosure records, and the roles of small village life.

Each of these titles and more are available for sale online and at book stores, and a growing number of libraries are purchasing these titles as well.   Call or visit your local library to check these items out, or ask the library staff to request the titles you want from another library.  If you want to see what libraries own these Pen and Sword titles, visit  The website is easy to use and my give you an idea of what libraries to visit on a research trip.

ALSO: Join the Fountaindale Public Library Genealogy Club for a tour of the Naperville Cemetery on Wednesday, June 13 at 7 p.m.  The Naperville Cemetery is located at 705 S Washington Street, Naperville.  Look for signs at the entry way of the cemetery.  This event will allow you to try your hand at grave dousing and sharpen your deduction skills with a cemetery symbolism scavenger hunt.  For any questions, e-mail me at or give me a call at (630) 685-4201.

See you at the Library!


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Genealogy Day 2012 and Sharing Photos Online – Tuesday’s Tip

Hello everyone, I hope you all are enjoying the great spring weather!

I’m just now recovering from our amazing Genealogy Day a few weeks ago.  We had a few volunteers from Jane Addams Middle School out for the morning to assist in the event, and between our staff and volunteers here are some great photos from the event!

Now, I’m not telling you to go out and get a Flickr account on your own right this second because you all would tell me, ‘It’s just one more thing I have to think about.’

And you’re right.  You’re absolutely right.

I encourage you to think about how easy it is to sort through photos from your trip, conference, research session, or family archive and share them with your friends and family.  You have plenty of options for photo sharing online, and this article from Family Tree Magazine can help you sort out what best suits your needs.

If you need help sorting out your online photo needs, let me know if you need any assistance.  Our friendly library staff is here to help!

Don’t Forget!  Our next Fountaindale Public Library Genealogy Club meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 9 at 7 pm!  The ever amazing Tina Beaird from Plainfield Public Library District will present a great program on Military Genealogy.  Light refreshments will be served.  Bring your friends and get ready for some insight and new places to find the resources you need!  You won’t want to miss it!

Put the ‘spring’ into your genealogy step during our Drop-In Class & Research Assistance session on Sunday May 13 from 1-5 pm!  All research levels welcome!  Need some help getting started or do you need insight in breaking down those brick walls?  We’re here to help!  Registration is not required but is highly encouraged!

Also: Don’t forget about our June field trip to the Naperville Cemetery on Wednesday, June 13 at 7 pm!  The trip will consist of a short walking tour of the cemetery, a cemetery symbolism scavenger hunt, and some experimentation in grave dousing!  If it rains, we’ll think of something else!

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns at (630) 685-4176.

See you at the library!


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Thanks For An Excellent Genealogy Day!

Dear Genealogy Day Attendees:

All of you are amazing!  Jose and I were reading through the comments from your cards and survey forms, and we are so happy that you all enjoyed the program!

My deepest thanks to everyone who took the time to give us your thoughts and feedback.  My apologies for the microphone issues, but my mic test couldn’t withstand the hurricane force of 101 people in the room!

To everyone with ethnic genealogy requests – I will have a series of mini workshops next year to help you all with those topics.  I try to keep Genealogy Day subjects as broad and far-reaching as possible.  But I’m excited that the interest in ethnic and technology based libraries is going strong!   I will be able to tackle those topics with such an amazing group of patrons.

To Do List for Next Year:

-Better Microphone equipment
-Mic Stands for the audience
-More lunch seating
-Earlier ending time/shorter lunch
-Convince Craig Pfannkuche to speak again; don’t take ‘no’ for an answer
-Tell Jeanne Bloom to work on an Orphan Train genealogy program; bribe her to become my mentor
-Woo Jennifer Holik into doing a program on the ‘destroyed’ Military archives in Missouri
-Ask Jane Haldeman to work on Google Earth Part 2; convince her to build it into her plans to rule the Google world.

What have you taken away from this year’s genealogy day?  What was your favorite topic?  What has this one-day program done for your research?

If you need me, I’ll see you at the Library!

Many Thanks,
Debra, Jose, and the FPLD Library Staff

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1940 Census Madness or How I Learned to Stay Connected with Facebook and a Phone – Wisdom Wednesday

I have been asked to write a blog entry about my personal family history research experience (now in its ninth year) for about a year now.  My life circumstances have not allowed the free time to make this happen… until now, ironically the week that the 1940 Census went “live” online.

What an exciting time in Genealogy! Today at our fingertips (literally, from the comfort of our homes) we are connected through library databases, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, the “Cloud”, genealogy blogs and so many other resources besides sites like the National Archives, Ancestry, Family Search, My Heritage and whatever other partner in the 1940 Census release that I may have overlooked!

I’m far from claiming to be a technology whiz but I do have to say that you have to be comfortable enough with perusing online sources in order to fully benefit from the overwhelming amount of information that is now available to us. Anyway, I thought I would detail here how I managed to keep up through Facebook as the 1940 Census came online – all while I was across the country in Washington DC at a national medical facility (where I had frustratingly inconsistent Internet access) and far away from my genealogy records and my home base.

I’ve been on Facebook for several years now (to keep up with my teenage daughters, my family members spread across the country and the small community of families dealing with the same medical condition my daughter has). It was not until recently that I decided to utilize this social network for genealogical purposes – but boy was I glad I did!

The Facebook community of genealogy buffs has grown exponentially in the last year and I’ve learned and kept up on genealogy news right along with them. Some examples of active FB groups I “friended” are: Ancestry, Family Search, Family Tree Magazine, Mocavo, Find My Past US, GenLookups and a variety of local or ethnic historical and genealogical societies (or those in the localities you may be researching).

A mother-lode of information has come from individual state or country research communities sponsored by Family Search (but independently administered). For instance, if you friend the group “Ohio Genealogy Research Community”,  individuals post on their page what surnames or locations in Ohio they are researching, what luck they have had and perhaps a valuable resource they’ve used that you might not have known about. The administrators also have times they will offer their free services to try and help with your brick walls, vital records or cemetery searches or any number of different ways to assist you.

Many of the genealogy societies and sites like Ancestry or Mocavo post links to their very helpful blogs that once again, provide up-to-the-minute genealogy news and research hints or even contests (if you are inclined towards those kinds of things). And, of course, there’s always your library’s Local History department’s blog or posts that can inform, instruct, encourage and entertain as you grow your family tree, so don’t forget to friend your local library page! While I’ve only tried twice so far to contact distant cousins on Facebook (one successfully  and one who unfortunately never responded), there are endless possibilities available for connecting with the younger generations of your family – it just depends on how much online searching you are willing to conduct (and how you feel about cyber-stalking J).

So back to the 1940 Census: since I had limited access to the Internet early this week (okay, my daughter wouldn’t share her laptop with me and the Business Center where I was staying had limited hours), I surfed all the previously mentioned sites and groups on Facebook on my phone to see which states were coming online first (as you probably experienced, the National Archives site had all the states’ census records online Monday, April 2 but had many technical issues, so very few folks were able to access them consistently until Tuesday or after) and on which partner sites: Ancestry, Family Search, or My

Since most of my and my husband’s relatives are from the Chicago area and Illinois was not one of the first states rolled out, I went for Indiana where many of my dad’s relatives lived back then and where they still are. (At this time, I jumped on the available computer for my 2 hour time slot and cruised on over to Ancestry!) I then went to Steve Morse’s Unified 1940 Census ED Finder at to find out which Enumeration District they were in, then plugged that into Ancestry’s 1940 Census search. Twenty pages into the 35 pages of that Enumeration District – BOOM! My first family find in the 1940 Census! Yeah! I downloaded the record on my thumb drive and was off and running, apparently like thousands – millions? – of other genealogy researchers.

Upon my return home, I’ve spent (almost) every waking hour till I posted this blog, searching for my family in Chicago and Buffalo, New York – now that these two states are available fully available online. Found my mother with her parents and my great-grandfather (and not in the place I expected); my great grandparents in Buffalo; my paternal great-grandfather in Chicago but NOT my dad and his parents, at least not yet. Whew! Staying connected, plugged in, up to date, whatever we call it, on all that is new in genealogy research today really is a time-intensive task – but I love every second of it! So, who will you find today – and how??

Happy Searching!

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