1. Google your ancestors.
2. Search every book ever printed.
3. Check your DNA.
You also can use your lunch hour to share your results for others’ benefit, or use their results to your advantage. My research led me to the Phillips Worldwide DNA and Genealogy Project, where Phillips males have combined their Y-DNA results and pedigrees to sort out the various families with that all-too-common name. My Phillips connection is maternal, so I can’t compare it to the Y-DNA results, but even so, the site gave me two generations—proven by others’ DNA—of ancestors prior to Zachariah.
5. Request a death certificate.
Another document-retrieving chore you can accomplish on a lunch hour is ordering—and in some cases, downloading—a death certificate. What must seem grisly to nongenealogists is mighty useful: Besides the date, place and cause of death; these certificates often include information about relatives and the deceased person’s birth.
7. Order records on microfilm.
Even if your nearest FHC is too far for a quick trip, while you’re hunting for a job nearer this vital lunch-hour destination, you can use your noon break to plan your next microfilm foray. The FHL’s online catalog lets you peruse its riches and decide what to rent. I like to start by clicking the Place search and then entering an ancestral stomping ground to see what records are available. When you find something useful, click View Film Notes for the film number to put on your request, then take it to your nearest FHC after work. Hmm … Heirs & Legatees Estate Book Index, 1777-1877 for Wilkes County, Ga., might have some answers …
9. Watch, listen and learn.
Grab a set of headphones and munch your lunch while using your computer to enhance your genealogy IQ. No need to worry about what’s “on” Roots Television during your lunch hour: You can start and stop the expert interviews, documentaries, genealogy conference lectures, how-to videos and more at your convenience. While you’re watching the Web, surf over to the Family Tree Magazine video channel for short demos, library tours and more. Then tune in to one of the many advice-filled genealogy podcasts now online, such as Genealogy Gems, the Genealogy Guys Podcast or our very own Family Tree Magazine Podcast.
11. Use the library.
It’s not just large urban libraries that offer such services. Consider the Prince William County public library in suburban northern Virginia: It serves up the same databases plus the New York Times and Washington Post historical newspaper collections. See <www.pwcgov.org/library/electronicresources>.
13. Back up your family tree files.
- 4Shares gives you 5GB of free space, which you can keep private or make public.
- Dropboks offers no-frills free storage of up to 1GB. Files are encrypted and secure.
- Openomy, another no-frills Web service that’s handy if you want to share your files, provides up to 1GB free.
14. Read a blog.
Used to be, lunch hour meant kicking back with your leftovers and a magazine, maybe a dog-eared paperback. In these high-tech times, though, lunch is a perfect time to catch up on your favorite genealogy blogs. These Web-based chronicles blend diaries, news, links, chatter and personal favorites. Delve in, and before you glance up from the monitor, lunch hour will have passed, and Mr. Dithers will be at your door wondering when you’re getting back to work. A few of our favorite blogs:
- Ancestry Insider delivers techno-gossip and tips not only on Ancestry.com, but also that other genealogy giant, FamilySearch.
- Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter offers “straight talk” from knowledgeable online genealogy veteran Dick Eastman.
- Genea-Musings gives you news and how-tos on Web sites, software and more.
- The Genealogue introduces you to the lighter side of genealogy, featuring Letterman-style top 10 lists such as “Least UsefulAncestry.com Databases.”
Sure, there’ll be times when you need to block off several hours for tackling your family tree. But even if you don’t live a life of leisure, you can make real genealogical headway by checking off these lunch hour tasks. Just make sure you wipe off the jelly blobs before they obscure Granny Martha’s immigration date.
Once I find the record I’m looking for (or not looking for), I source it in my genealogy software and scan it onto my laptop. The digital image goes into a family file. If the family is married into another one, I add a shortcut in the other file, so the record is cross-referenced and quicker to find.
I use Google Alerts to get notification of online postings from
possible relatives. To set it up, go online to <google.com/alerts> and follow the prompts. I’ve found connections in obituaries and message boards for the surname I’m researching.
When visiting a cemetery, bring a list of family surnames with you to make spotting potential relatives or in-laws (helpful for learning maiden names) faster and easier. Always check adjacent gravesites in all directions.
I have hundreds of photos and scan the backs of those with names or descriptions. To associate the two image files so the IDs are easy to find, I name the scanned photo front and give the back the same name plus _IDs at the end. This forces the images to be sorted so the file with the back follows the front.