Still Under Construction

Digging Up Your Roots is coming back but we are currently under construction. I spent the long winter months taking the Boston University Genealogy Certificate course. It was hard and very time consuming, but oh so worth it. There were five modules in all ranging from the foundations of genealogy to genealogy as a profession. Each module worth its weight in gold.

The course was finished in time to got to the National Genealogy Society’s Annual Conference held in Las Vegas. This was a weeks worth of intensive learning. If a breakfast lecture/meeting was signed up for, then you could be going for 12 hours, at least, which makes for a very long day. I sat in lectures given by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Tom Jones, Elissa Scalise Powell, and Craig Robert Scott, to name a few. There were lectures on evidence and DNA which were very interesting.

Now we here at Digging Up Your Roots are reformatting our business structure; from business plans to new logos and hopefully sometime in the next two weeks we will be back up and running full steam.

Happy Digging


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Organizing with ARC

Arc Customizable Notebooks

I wanted to write about a notebook system that I really like. It is very customizable for anything you may need. If you want to use them as your day planner it works equally well. This is the ARC system found at Staples. The beginnings of a notebook are sold (covers – leather or poly, pages and binder rings) but you can add pages like to-do, projects and graphs. There are post-it type notes, small project idea notes, and poly storage compartments to add, just to list a few things. Here is a great write-up from Derek on a A Nation of Mom’s and the Staples site has a video to see it in action. One more site that I like, not only for it’s review on the Arc system but because of its productivity information David Seah.

I am using the notebook system as a tie-in with my computer calendar and to-dos. At the moment I don’t trust my online calendars. I am sure it is something I am doing with syncing, but I keep losing appointments and that is not a good thing. I have the to-do section in the front, this way a genealogy project comes up, or a class lesson, I quickly jot it down. As ideas come to me I put it in the lined section. I also have a projects section that I use to outline certain areas of my genealogy research.

I recently bought David Seah’s the Emergent Task Planner and I’ll use the hole punch to add these to my notebook. The only thing I really wish was that Livescribe would get together with some of these people and companies to design the pages into dot pages. However, there is a work around albeit a bit on the expensive side. You can print your own dot paper on a color laser-jet, and if the printer has a scanner, use those pages to scan the forms/pages on it. This way whatever you write in your ARC will now sync onto your computer, into Evernote, or wherever you need it. A downside to this is, you won’t get the form, only what you write, into your Livescribe account.

I can only hope that one day Livescribe will get big enough that there will be plenty of other paper options available.

Happy Digging!!!

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Livescribe Sky Pen

A few weeks ago I did a post on the Livescribe*** (referral link, see bottom of post for explanation) pen. I currently use the Echo and have been using their pens since the beginning. Well in a moment of being blonde, I can say that because I truly have blonde roots, I ordered the Livescribe Sky pen. No research, just going by the information on their website.

Then after ordering I started having second thoughts. Yes, it is really nice that the pen will connect and sync to Evernote wirelessly, B U T will it do the same for Email, or Facebook, Google Docs, Google Sites, Computer or even MyLivescribe, like my Echo does through Connect Premium? Really what was I thinking? Why didn’t I research all this first? Why didn’t I go to some reviews and see what others were saying? I admit the sale price of $149.00 got me going, but still it was no excuse to forgo my normal buying routine.

Then a slight glitch happened. A few days before ordering Sky I ordered some extra pen refills in fine, and the portfolio through Livescribe (Target and Best Buy did not have any in stock). When the ordered was delivered I received someone else’s shipment. I called customer support and told them of the mix-up. I also asked for expedite delivery since I really needed those refills. While I was on the phone with this really great customer service rep. I asked about those features. She said they are not available at the moment, only synching to Evernote. However, there are plans in the future for an update that will allow synching to other services.

This is a huge deal breaker for me. I am in the process of getting super organized, (a future post coming soon) I need my notes to go to my computer folder, but I also need the ability to email them to Omnifocus if they are upcoming projects. I also need the ability to send the documents to Google Docs or to my computer in my Dropbox folder (another post coming on that one).

Another thing that really bothers me is that the pen is expensive. If it wasn’t for the Christmas sale going on the 2gb Sky is $169.95; whereas, the 2gb Echo is only $119.95. That is a significant amount of money. There really is not a whole lot of extras you get with the 2gb Sky, a starter dot notebook, but only 25 pages, 2 ink cartridges and 2 pen caps. For the $169.95 price I would at least expect a full-size notebook.

For my extremely busy lifestyle I need to have my information go to different aspects of my organization. Even though I know I will need a computer near me to dock my pen so it will send to those sites, I am fine with that for now.

Let me explain this a little better. Here is an example of what I mean by sending to different aspects of my organization. I am working with a client on a genealogy chart for her husband. I found some really interesting information which is contained in a very extensive document while I was in the library of a town 400 miles from home. I was not sure if this was something she wanted and would pay for the many photocopies. I wrote the information down in my Livescribe notebook along with a note to her and gave her the cost of photocopying all those pages. I made the mark needed to tell the pen that I wanted to send this page via email, I then write the code for her email address (which is already entered into the pens memory). Then I find some other information which I know will be helpful in my search; however, the library will not allow photocopies of this particular series because of its age. I can only write down the information, so I jot down the information and some notes. I make the mark to send this to Evernote.

While at the library I also found some really interesting books on the history of the town and it mentions the surname I am searching. I write down all this information for future reference and again mark to send to Evernote.

I then head over to the local FHL as I heard they hold all the birth records for that county (remember I am giving an example here). I have never been to this FHS so I am unfamiliar with their procedure, but I figure it must be the same as other FH centers. I get all set-up at a table and come to find out that, no they don’t do things as expected here, and the wonderful lady is going to explain to me how they keep their files and how to access information from their computers. I have out my trusty Livescribe notebook and pen and start taking notes and recording as she explains things to me. She is also giving me some wonderful history on this town and I am capturing everything she says and only writing down keywords; because I am so enthralled with what she is telling me.

All my other notes are taken in my Livescribe notebook and these I don’t mark. When I get back to my motel room I dock the pen to my laptop. It opens the appropriate software and sends off the documents I marked. The ones I didn’t mark automatically stay on my hard drive and also go to MyLivescribe. This way if I should ever need to access them remotely I still can. My client gets the email, I don’t have to remember to write it up and send it off to her. Evernote is already set-up to put the information I send in my genealogy folder.

I get a return email from my client that she does want the information, I forward that email to my Omnifocus’ special email address and it adds that as a to-do for me.

Once I get home and if I need to remember something about the history of that town that the clerk at the FHL had told me. I open my notebook and tap on the keyword I made around that time and I can hear everything she said. I can now go to my Genealogy Folder in my Evernote account and look at the notes I wrote and see if I can find those books online, perhaps as a free download in Google Books.

So you can see not having these options with Sky is a waste of money for me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my Echo pen. But for now, I will wait until a later time when it can do these things. Because it really would be awesome to have been able to email my client right from the library’s WiFi system and perhaps receive an email back so I didn’t have to make a second trip and photocopy the information right then.

Just a reminder that I am in no way affiliate with Livescribe. I am just a very happy customer. I have not received any free items from them to write this post. If you do click on my refer link, you will get a 15% discount and I will get a referral fee.

***Today is the last day of their sale – $20.00 off Sky & $30.00 off Echo 2gb, so now would be an excellent time to get one of their pens***


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We Have a Winner!



We have a winner!!! Barbara Munson you have won the 2012 Windows version of Family Tree Maker. Check your email for the license number and a download link. If you don’t see it in your inbox make sure to check your Spam folder.




Happy Digging!

Cathy von Hassel-Davies

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CELEBRATION! and Giveaway!

In order to celebrate the opening of von Hassel Genealogy I am giving away one 2012 Family Tree Maker for Windows. In order to qualify you must comment and tell me what are you currently using to keep track of your family tree.

Winners will be drawn this Monday evening December 11, 2012.

Good Luck!!!

Posted in Genealogy | 5 Comments


I said I was going to do a post on apps and software, but Livescribe is so fantastic for so many things it will take up a whole post. What is Livescribe you ask? First I must say, I do not work for Livescribe, I am just a very happy customer who has been using their pens ever since they introduced The Pulse (2008). They are now onto their 3rd generation pen, Sky. Actually I think the doctors at UNC Family Med. all bought Livescribe pens because of my enthusiasm. Okay, so now what is Livescribe? Just the best thing since sliced bread. There is a 15% off coupon link at bottom of post.

Livescribe lets me capture whatever I write onto paper and preserves it on my computer. However, that is not the best part, the best part is that I can record at the same time I am writing. If that isn’t enough to make your spine tingle wait until you read this -> later when I go over my notes, if I want to hear what was said at a particular time, I just tap on a word and I can hear what was recorded at that point in time of my note taking.

Okay I know I’ve confused you. I am sorry let’s see if I can do better. Livescribe is a little computerized pen that also has a recorder in it. You can take notes and record at the same time, on special dotted paper, you just tap record located on the bottom page. When you are done just tap on Stop. The dots let the pen remember what was recorded during that particular time of writing. Then at some future time you can replay your meeting/lecture/interview by just simply tapping anywhere on the dotted page of your notes or drawings (another great thing is that it does not have to be words). Then with a USB (for Echo pens, Sky is WiFi) connector you can connect the pen to your computer and upload your notes to your hard drive and/or a site setup by Livescribe (since I use Dropbox this is where I keep my files), these are called pencasts.

Here is a video which I think explains it much better.

I not only use Livescribe for genealogy, but also when I go to town council meetings and interview people for articles, (I am a freelance journalist for our local county paper) and  conferences. I have notebooks for each occasion and I can save my pencasts accordingly; interviews, town meetings, genealogy, classes/conferences. Another great feature is that you can search your notes, so no more hunting and pecking through numerous pages of notes. This is such a wonderful part of the pen, I am sure we have all had this happen – you attend a conference and the guest speaker talked about some wonderful new thing, but you did not catch the whole name. Now it is just a matter of searching on your note paper or tap near the word/area that you remember was talked about, and viola you have it. No longer missed sections during a conference. You can also share you information through email, Facebook, Evernote, Google Docs and mobile devices such as an iPad. The Sky pen will do this wirelessly, Echo needs a separate app.

Livescribe’s onboard microphone is good for decent sized conference rooms, but you can also buy the 3-D earplug (you can buy the pen set which comes with the headset), which can record in larger spaces. I used my pen without the headset in Omni hotel’s conference room which was large and I had no problem.

The sharing feature works beautifully if you are sharing your research and trees with others. My sister and I are both trying to figure out the von Hassel’s, so when I find out information I can easily share it with her through Facebook or via email. This is extremely handy. I have also come across German words or phrases that I am unsure of, I just write them down, tag to send via email to my Mom or Dad, and once I connect they get my queries.

Livescribe also has apps available for the pen, however, I do not use many of them. The one I do use is a Spanish transcription app. I can write TWO EGGS OVER EASY, tap on  each word and Livescribe will translate it into Spanish for me. I also use Connect which allows me to send my notes to any Google Site and Docs.

Livescribe Connect Video

I use the pen also without recording, just turn the pen on and it keeps track of your writing. I like this feature when I am researching a family. As long as I am taking notes on the special dotted paper, it keeps track of everything, and later when I am home I just upload it to my computer and keep the file in my “family” folder. I tend to come home with multiple pages of notes and I love that I can use the search feature and easily find what I am looking for.

I want to add a few things about the pen. It is a little on the bulky/large side. If you use very skinny pens it will take a bit to get use to the bigger size barrel. My Dad, who was the recipient of my Pulse when I bought the Echo, loves it because he has arthritis and it fits his hand perfectly. So the size can be a blessing.

The paper is not very expensive, I usually buy the 3-subject notebook right around 7 or 8 dollars, I tend to buy it in Target or Best Buy. Also if you have a color laserjet printer with postscript drivers installed, and can print 600 dpi or higher, you can print out your own dot paper.

I am a fine ink person so I buy my ink cartridges right through the Livescribe site. However, I did hit a bonanza one day at Best Buy and bought 4 boxes for a very reasonable price. The clerk thought maybe they were discontinuing the line but they weren’t. My Echo is the 4 GB version and I have been in two hour meetings and both the battery and recording lasted just fine.

If you are interested in getting Livescribe – Echo or Sky please use this link and get 15% off your purchase. Not only will you get a discount but you will also help me. Remember I am in no way affiliated with Livescribe.

As always if you are confused and/or have questions do not hesitate to leave a comment. Also if there is a feature of the pen that you would like more information on let me know and I will do a post on that subject.

Happy Digging!


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Organizing Your Research – Computer Files

You had a few days to ease your way into downloading the software you are going to use and to do some searching. Now you need to do something with all those online documents, pictures or whatever else you managed to find.

Let us start with the files and folders on your computer. I put all my documents into a program called Dropbox. This keeps my documents not only on my computer, but in the cloud. I can access all my documents from any device that has Internet access and keep everything syncing on my multiple devices* – iPad, iMac and Macbook Air. Dropbox will give you 500 MB free space by clicking on this link, and you can earn more by referring your friends and family.

The first folder I created was Genealogy and then I have subfolders; Blank Forms, Certification, Classes, Clients, Families with subfolders with actual names – e.g. von Hassel, Davies (more on this in a bit), General, Research, Reading, Receipts, and Workshops.

Certification is for documents I come across on genealogy society pages that offer certifications courses.

Classes & Workshops – if I see an interesting classes or workshop I not only put them here but I right away put the registration deadline in my calendar two weeks ahead of time. Then I set a reminder to remind me two more weeks ahead, this gives me plenty of time to decide if I want to attend or not.

Clients – This has a few sub-folders, all pretty much understandable – Family name, I might have Jones, and then in Jones, Research with the same sub-folders found in my Families folder – Documents, Videos, Audio, Important Info, Census, Ship Manifesto, War, Marriage, Death, Pictures, and Miscellaneous. Another folder called FTM where I keep my backups, Receipts, Billing which has hours, mileage logs and expense documents.

Families – I use for some of my searches and they give me the option to attach my citations to family members. It also allows me to download the documents, these go into their family folder and appropriate sub-folder. If I have videos or tape recordings they go in their respective folders under that family. Within the family sub-folders I also do a daily backup of my Family Tree Maker file I worked on that day, so I have a folder FTM. I also have folders named Documents, Videos, Audio, Important Info, Census, Ship Manifesto, War, Marriage, Death, Pictures, and Miscellaneous. I think these all speak for themselves.

Blank Forms, pretty self explanatory – any form that I can use for genealogy.

Reading – for online magazines or any PDF file that I find interesting and want to read later. (I also use Pocket but I will do another post on software and apps)

Receipts – for anything I buy for genealogy; books, software, documentation fees. If I see I am getting a lot of receipts for one particular subject I make another sub-folder.

General – anything I am not sure where to file.

I hope I did not cause confusion. Any questions do not hesitate to email me or comment and I will get back to you right away.

*VERY IMPORTANT: if you format your old hard drive remember to unlink that computer/device from your Dropbox account. If you don’t and just delete the information off your hard drive you also will be deleting it off the cloud.

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Looking for Your Family

Are you interested in finding out your family history but do not know where to turn. Is this your first time researching your family tree and digging into your roots? Here are some helpful guidelines for you.

A great place to start is the family Bible. Many people used their Bible to record births, deaths, marriages and other information. Some even used the margins to leave wonderful little tidbits and others even stuck in old letters and notes among the pages. These are treasure troves I love to find. My family Bible had a lot of information inside and this spring I will be heading to Germany and will try to find both my grandparents’ Bible.

Find a genealogy program online. Archives is a site to help you get started, they have a list of some freebies. Go ahead and try one or two out and get comfortable with it. Remember this is going to be your lifeline so you definitely went to give a lot of thought to this. Another route to go is look at paid software and download a trial version. Most software programs have this option, however, one word of warning, make sure there is a general format that you can export to, like Gedcom, so if you do go with another software program you can easily import all your information. There is nothing worse then to use a propriety software and not be able to put your information elsewhere. If you want to switch programs you will have to manually enter all the information.

You can start entering information that you know and from  your family Bible. Also, talk to your relatives and ask some questions about family members. The best thing is take a tape recorder/digital recorder with you. The information you gather here can be invaluable, and also a precious memory to have for yourself and later generations – the voice of a distant relative talking about their family history. Enter this information into your program.

If you don’t want to bother with a software program for now you can download numerous different charts and record pages online. Cindi’s List has been around for many years and is a wonderful genealogy site with tons of information. On their page they have a site for free printable charts and forms. To start with I would suggest downloading and printing the Family Data Sheet. This is a great place to get started.

Okay, now you have some information to go on and continue on with your digging. All this information is what is considered unverified and now you need to start finding sources and put these citations with corresponding family members. A good place to start that has free searches is the Family Search site. Start by creating an account for yourself, this is a free service so there is no obligation on your end.

Now go ahead test it for yourself, click on the link and put in Thomas as the first name and Miller as the last, then click on Residence and type in New York. See the huge list you get. You can also streamline your search by clicking on the box below that says Filter Your Results by… You can save your results by clicking on the upper right hand side for Shoebox, Copy or Print. If you are logged in with your new credentials Family Search will keep everything for you in one place – the Shoebox. This way if you ever need to come back to your information just hover your mouse over My Source Box and click on Go To My Source Box and all your saved results will appear there.

Go ahead and play around, gather some information. Next we will talk about organizing tips for your paperwork and computer.

Happy Digging!


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Pitfalls of Research

Genealogy is very time-consuming, research intensive and the inconsistencies can drive you batty. For example; when I research families I begin with a preliminary search in the Census and birth/death/marriage records among other sources. Once I have this information I am off to the county courthouse and/or local church to see what other information I can find.

When I get to a stumbling block I start to look at other family trees. This is dangerous and care needs to be taken, because if there is no source citations for me to double-check, their research can be wrong. On the flip side you can also find conflicting information in the official records, as we will see later on. So you have to continue and keep digging in records and hopefully the information will all jive.

Here is a situation I am encountering right now. I am researching a family, let’s call them the Charles Carter family. I gathered information from one of the family members and then proceeded to go online and do some digging. I managed to find his father Ben, and then his grandfather, Abe. This is where things started going wacky. In all the Census, it states that Ben and his parents were born in Virginia, then lo and behold 4 Census later (40 years) lists Ben and his parents birthplace as North Carolina. Ben’s death certificate says he was born in Stokes County, NC which is a different county then listed in the aforementioned Census. Another document, his enlistment papers, shows him as being born in Alamance County, NC. Before I can head to the county courthouse and church records I need to get this settled.

I headed to a few family tree where they list him with his wife, and the birth dates for Ben match the Census data. But the kicker is, a few trees state Abe Carter as the father of Ben, but the citation (Census) they list does not show an Abe with a son named Ben. The bigger draw back is there are no other types of documents/citation linked to the family trees to prove where they received their information that Ben is the son of Abe. If they showed some sort of other citation to prove it that would be different, so I would need to actually see Ben’s name as a son listed somewhere.

So now you see how relying on another’s family tree can get you into trouble. A good thing that can come out of it is you might see a name you didn’t have before and looking into it you might find some links that will lead to sources. Or, they might even list someone else that you can search and find who you were looking for in a round about way. Also don’t forget to look for other family members living close by.

One of my other families had a son who lived with his grandmother on his mother side, while all the rest his siblings lived at home. It seems his grandfather passed away and he being the oldest at 12 went to live with his grandmother to help her out. They lived two doors down from his parents and he was listed in her household, but retained his father’s last name. This was an easy match because I had him listed in an earlier census living with his parents. I also had his mother’s maiden name so this helped make the connection.

So in closing, remember to use what resources are out there, but, put them in a non-verified (I use NV) category until you can actually prove it.

Happy Digging!!! and may the research always be in your favor!!!


Posted in Genealogy, North Carolina, United States, Virginia | 1 Comment