Family Tree for Beginners: “Dummies” if you prefer…7 Free books to help you get started

Great News! You decided to start working on your family tree! Now what!? Family tree research can be a bit overwhelming. If you inherited someone else’s work like I did with “BoB” you probably want to start but it’s a daunting task. I can say at first my head was swimming too!

Some people like to watch videos, some people like to ask questions and some people like to read. If you like to read I’ve compiled a list of seven beginner books “For Dummies” like my grandmother would say. All of these books are available for FREE at the internet archive online. Just start a free account on the internet archive and start reading!


  1. Genealogy Online for Dummies by Matthew Helm – 2008 – Learn how to search and locate records online. Some info may be out of date but still a good read for free if you are new to online research.

2. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy by Christine Rose & Kay Germain Ingalls – 1997 – Learn quick and easy methods to trace your ancestry.


3. The Family Tree Guide Book by the Editors at Family Tree Magazine – 2002 – Contains web sites, archives, libraries, city guides and more tips. Again, might be slightly out of date but a FREE read where you might find a tip or a clue.


4. The Library: A Guide to the LDS Family History Library by John Cerny & Wendy Elliott – 1988 – Contains information on the LDS Family History Library in Utah, the largest genealogical collection in the world.


5. Cyndi’s List – by Cyndi Howells – 1999 – A comprehensive list of 40,000 Genealogy Sites on the Internet. Cyndi’s List is still active online today – a great index where you will find what you are looking for!


6. How to Do Everything Genealogy – Second Edition by George G. Morgan – 2009 – Everything you need to know to learn how to become an expert researcher.


7. Plugging into your past: how to find real family history records online by Rick Crume – 2004 – How to use online resources and tools to find family history.


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From Mountains to Megabytes: Organizing and Archiving Your Stuff: Pictures and Stories RootsTech Session 2019

Where do you start with your family tree research and organizing a massive amount of family history? This is a great session from RootsTech – about an hour of very helpful information!


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RootsTech 2021 – Free Online! February 25-27, 2021

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Ten thousand (+/-) people attend RootsTech every year and this year you can too!

I just received an email that the RootsTech Conference 2021 is coming up and this year its free and completely online!

What is RootsTech? It’s a genealogical and technology conference sponsored by FamilySearch International. It’s full of great information and tips and this year you can experience it for FREE online. Need help with anything in your family tree research? You can get help and tips here and many of your questions answered.

Coming to RootsTech 2021

When is RootsTech? February 25-27, 2021 – ONLINE FOR FREE! Register now!


CLICK THIS LINK TO REGISTER – RootsTech 2021 – Online Conference

There are 18 PAGES of topics for this year’s RootsTech! If you want to read more about the individual sessions you can download the list in a PDF file here:


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Here Lies the Body…The Farber Gravestone Collection

I love finding interesting gravestones as I research the family tree. It’s fun to see the evolution of gravestones throughout the eras as certain materials were used at different times in history. What I love about these gravestones is they are so informative, (dramatic at times) and intricate in their carvings.

Old Gravestones – public domain

The Farber Gravestone Collection is one of my favorites. These gravestones were carved primarily by Daniel Farber in Massachusetts and Connecticut prior to 1800. It is estimated that there are approximately 9,000 Farber Gravestones carved by Daniel Farber, his wife and a few others that carried on the tradition.

The project is supported by the American Antiquarian Society. If you have early ancestors in Massachusetts or Connecticut that died prior to 1800 there is chance you might find one of the Farber Gravestones!

Daniel Farber Gravestone Collection


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Tracing African-American Enslaved Peoples & Families: 10 Free books to get you started

Photo: Maria Weems escapes on the Underground Railroad – 1872 Engraving

The Underground Railroad Collection – New York Public Library Digital Collections

Tracing African-American enslaved people in your family tree can be more difficult due to lack of records or knowing where to look for records. Here is a free book list of helpful resources from the Internet Archive.

You can borrow them and read for free you after you create a free account. Click the links below.


  1. The African-American Family’s Guide to Tracing Our Roots: Healing, Understanding & Restoring Our Families by Roland C. Barksdale Hall – 2005 – Covers many topics like “How to begin”, tracing slave ancestors & looking for free people.

2. Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy by James M. Rose & Alice Eicholz – 2003 (2nd Edition) – Covers overview and survey of states.


3. A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors : How to find and record your unique heritage by Franklin Carter Smith & Emily Anne Croom – 2003 – Covers census and state and local records and archives.


4. Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African-American Family Family Tree by Tony Burrows – 2001 – Includes case histories, illustrations and photos of documents, tips and forms/worksheets.


5. Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity by Dee Woodter – 1999 – Covers historical overview, Caribbean ancestry, Native American ancestry, records, reconstructing families.


6. Finding Your People: An African-American Guide to Discovering Your Roots by Sandra Lee Jamison – 1999 – Covers lineage and pedigree documents, census and other records, surnames, family reunions.


7. Finding Oprah’s Roots: Finding Your Own by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. – 2007 – Host of the PBS TV show “Finding Your Roots” gives tips and guidance on finding African-American heritage.


8. Roots Recovered! The How To Guide for for tracing African-American and West Indian roots back to Africa and going there for free or on a shoestring budget by James E. White & Jean-Gontran Quenum – 2004 – More of a travel guide but contains good information on DNA groups and source information on researching African-American roots.


9. African American Genealogy: A Bibliography and Guide to Sources by Curt Bryan Witcher – 2000 – Guide to sources by State.


10. Family Pride: The Complete Guide to Tracing African-American Genealogy by Donna Beasley – 1997 – Covers how to begin, oral history, resources and writing about your history.


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Starting an Ancestry Family Tree – Part 2 – Exploring Features

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Part 2 of the video tutorial series of starting a new family tree.

This video covers the next steps in setting up a new tree and helps you explore the features you will use. This video is about 15 minutes.

Starting an Ancestry Family Tree – Part 2 – Exploring Features

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Starting an Ancestry Family Tree – Part 1 – Starting a new tree

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This is a video tutorial for beginners that want to start building a family tree.

Part 1 will show you how to create a new tree. This video is about 7 minutes long.

Starting an Ancestry Family Tree – Part 1

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U.S. Army Military Records: Understanding Military Organization

Photo: The Michigan 9th Volunteer Infantry guards the infamous Confederate Rebel, Champ Ferguson at trial – Nashville State Prison – 1865. My 2nd great grandfather, William Henry Knowles Sr., served in this regiment as a prison guard under the alias “James Ecmire” in 1864-1865 after serving 3 years on the battlefield in the Indiana 9th Infantry. (Photo – public domain.)


If you are researching ancestors that were in the military in any generation it is helpful to know the terminology associated with military organization.

Terminology: U.S. Army

  1. Army (Regular) – A permanent U.S. army; in peace and war time.
  2. Corps – An organized unit of officers and men or officers alone consisting of two or more divisions. (Revolutionary War corps were one of the nine military subdivisions of the Continental Army.)
  3. Unit – An organized body of soldiers of any size. A division of a larger body.
  4. Division – A major administrative and tactical unit. Larger than a regiment or brigade but smaller than a corp.
  5. Brigade – Unit consisting of several regiments, squadrons, groups or battalions.
  6. Regiment – A ground unit consisting of two or more battalions.
  7. Battalion – A ground force consisting of three or more companies or similar units.
  8. Company – A subdivision of a regiment or battalion.
  9. Platoon – Military unit consisting of two or more squads or sections having a common headquarters.
  10. Squad/Squadrons – A small unit of men (10 or more) with a sergeant and corporal in command. Can consist of a Naval fleet unit or an armed cavalry unit of two or more troops and support units.
  11. Troop – Armed Calvary or two or more platoons and a headquarters group.
  12. Volunteer – One who enters service on his own volition rather than by draft/conscription.
  13. Conscripts – Recruits drafted for military service, compensated by the government for war time enlistment. Also called “draftees”.
  14. Militia – A body of men enrolled for military service, called on for periodic drill and practice but used in actual service only in emergencies. Citizen soldiers. (Army Reserves/National Guard).

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Missouri Birth & Death Index is now available FREE online!

The Missouri Birth (1920 – 2015) & Death Index 1968 – 2015 are now available online for FREE! Thanks again to the hard fighting group at Reclaimtherecords.org you can access the Missouri Birth (1920 – 2015) & Death Index (1968-2015) online for Free. Visit the links below to start to research the index. Additional years … Continue reading

My books are back…Research Assistance now Available!

I have all of my family tree library out of storage now after nearly 4 years! I can now provide research assistance for those researching the same family lines and locations. To view the resources available in my library you can go to the newly created page on this web site called “Research Assistance“. You … Continue reading

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How to read old gravestones {without inflicting damage}

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These are two (2) great videos on how to read old gravestones without causing damage to old, fragile stones. I love this technique!


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New Technology for Old Photos!…Get those Films & Negatives!

If you’ve been around for at least three decades or if you have inherited old family photos you may be looking for an easy way to look at old negatives or films and a way to easily extract these old photos. Films will degrade and deteriorate over time so if you have films or negatives to preserve now is a great time to start.

Photo by Pietro Jeng on Pexels.com

I recently discovered there is a new technology for this and it’s so exciting! They have created a film scanner which allows you to do just these things! Imagine a little viewer that allows you to insert your negative and instantly digitize those old photos on film negatives.

The Kodak Digital Film Scanner will convert your images from negative and slides to and SD card or through HDMI or USB cable.



Kodak SCANZA Digital Film & Slide Scanner


The Kodak Scan Tool for PC and Mac allows you to scan the images from the negative directly to your computer.

Kodak Scan Tool for PC and Mac


If you have old reel to reel films there is also a film scanner made by Wolverine which allows you to convert your reel to reel films into digital format.

Wolverine 8mm and Super 8 Film Reel Converter Scanner Converts Film into Digital Videos


So dig out those old shoeboxes and get started on the next part of digitizing and preserving your old family films and photos!

Have fun!

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