Working with DNA Using MyHeritage and Legacy

Working with DNA Using MyHeritage and Legacy

MyHeritage and Legacy will help you with two parts of your DNA puzzle. MyHeritage is the testing company and Legacy is your master genealogy database where you keep track of all of your information. Legacy 10 will have a direct sync to MyHeritage which will make working with DNA matches even easier. 

Our FREE Hands-On with MyHeritage DNA webinar will walk you through using the DNA tools on the MyHeritage website. I highly recommend that you watch this video so that you don't miss any of the features that are available to you. I learned several things even though I have had my DNA on MyHeritage for quite some time.

You can DNA test directly with MyHeritage or you can upload your raw DNA file from another company. You can upload your raw DNA for FREE and their matching service is also FREE. MyHeritage will analyze your DNA and give you a match list of everyone who shares DNA with you. To take advantage of all of MyHeritage's matching tools you need to upload what you know about your family tree and attach your DNA to it. You can have a FREE Basic site that allows you to have up to 250 people in your tree and up to 500 MB of storage space.

For DNA matching you need to have, at the very least, your absolute direct line (pedigree minus siblings). Again, there are some people that don't have this information and that is okay. MyHeritage's DNA matching will help you fill in the blanks when you start communicating with your matches. My absolute direct line is only 173 people so you can see that this is doable with the free account. After you work with your matches and start growing your tree, you can easily move up to a paid subscription. MyHeritage offers tiered pricing so that you only pay for what you need.

Legacy will help you record all of the information you glean from MyHeritage so that you can work with your matches. You can use the FREE Standard version of Legacy which is fully functional. We are confident that once you use Legacy for a bit you will want to upgrade to the full Deluxe version which has all of the nifty bells and whistles. Working with Legacy in conjunction with MyHeritage it is a two way street. You can upload your family tree to MyHeritage via a gedcom export and you will also be taking information from MyHeritage and inputting it into Legacy.  Again, once we have the direct sync up and running this process will become easier and faster.

There are two important things you can do in Legacy to help keep track of your matches. You can add your DNA matches along with all of their contact information to Legacy and you can record how those people connect to you, if known. It is very important to me to be able to record as much as I can in a single program. This saves me time and it keeps me from missing important clues because my information is scattered between software programs. Here are two articles that will show you how to do both of these tasks.

Keeping Track of DNA Contacts in Legacy

Recording DNA Matches

You can also use Legacy's To-Do List to keep track of your efforts. It functions as a research log to keep track of what you need to do, what you are in the process of doing, and what you have done. It will keep you from duplicating your efforts. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast let alone all of the things I have done while working on a brick wall. Be on the lookout for a future article on this topic. 

I hope you noticed all of the FREEs in the above article. I don't think you will find any genealogy company that offers so many things for free as a service to the genealogical community. 

On a personal note,  I have my mother's autosomal DNA everywhere. I have it on every testing site and every 3rd party site.  Since my maternal side is 100% German (all lines have been in Central Europe since the 1600s) she has very few matches. For example, her highest match on GEDmatch is 30.4 cM. She only has 18 matches that are over 20 cM. On 23andMe her top match is 28 cM. On FTDNA her highest match is 47 cM which is a bit better. MyHeritage has more international testers so she has more useful matches there. Her top matches are 124.6 cM, 71. 1 cM, 54 cM, and 51.8 cM and all of these testers are in Germany and The Netherlands. My mother has 73 matches on MyHeritage that are greater than 20 cM. My Heritage's DNA has been very helpful to me with my mother's lines.


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.


Using the Quilt Index to Find Female Ancestors

Using the Quilt Index to Find Female Ancestors

The Quilt Index  “aims to be a central resource that incorporates a wide variety of sources and information on quilts, quiltmakers and quiltmaking.” What does this website database have to do with  genealogy? One of the biggest issues with researching female ancestors has to do with the lack of records. This is especially true when we focus our family history research on records that document men’s experiences rather than women’s lives. How do we find female ancestors? Researching female ancestors using what they left behind is a start. As you research, don't forget to take into consideration materials that document women like cookbooks, diaries, needlework samplers, and quilts. In some cases, there are databases that can help. 

Quilt Index home page
The Quilt Index website

The Quilt Index takes information and images from 90,000 vintage quilts and makes them available via a searchable database. Similar to genealogical databases, you can find  names, dates, and places recorded on The Quilt Index.

Information found on the Quilt Index is  from:

  • “...privately held quilts compiled by state and regional quilt documentation projects in the United States and internationally
  • ... museums, libraries, and private collections…”

Over 250 museums are represented on this website including  the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, the Royal Albert Museum, and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, just to name a few.

The Quilt Index provides the ability to search and browse their collection. Search for a quilt by clicking on Search in the top toolbar and then in the drop-down menu, select Quilts. In this search engine you can include terms such as name and place or even quilt specific information like fabric pattern. Results can be viewed by “basic info” or “full record.” “Basic Info”  includes the following fields:

  • Quilter group (or the name of the person who pieced the top and quilted it)
  • Period
  • Date
  • Location made
  • Project name
  • Contributor
  • Layout Format
  • Quilt Size
  • Fabrics
  • Constructions
  • Quilting techniques
  • Purpose or function (such as fundraising)
  • Notes
  • Inscription
Quilt Index Search
The Quilt Index Search Screen

The Full Record version provides more details including specifics about the construction of the quilt. Both versions include photos of the quilt.

The Quilt Index also allows you to browse by category or to view the entire index. 

This is a good example of a database where you should conduct multiple searches.  Don't just search on your female ancestor's name, conduct a search on the name of the place she lived, the name of a church or group she belonged to. She could have been a member of a group who created a quilt, but the individuals involved are not named.  

Consider reading The Quilt Index FAQs and About page  to learn more about the project. The website also has a wiki and essays about quilt topics that you might be interested in. If you find a quilt from your family history and want to use The Quilt Index image, keep in mind that you’ll need to contact the quilt contributor for permission.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Loose Records, What Are They?

Loose Records, What Are They?

Genealogists are always on the lookout for new records. As the archivist of the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, one type of record that I find genealogists are unfamiliar with is loose records (also referred to as loose papers).

Archives, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies and even museums have bound record books. These bound record books contain such information as County Court Minutes, Marriage Records, Deeds, Last Will and Testaments and much more. Genealogists are usually well versed in finding, requesting and researching in these types of bound records.

Bound Records
Bound Records. Photo courtesy of Melissa Barker of the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

There is another type of record source that you should be doing genealogy research in and accessing. This record source is loose records/loose papers. The name of these records is very telling. In most cases, they are literally “loose” documents or papers that are not bound in any type of book. These loose records are also archived differently from the bound records.

Loose records are considered the “working papers” or “accompanying paper work” to the records recorded in a bound volume. Loose records, many times, can hold additional information and fantastic discoveries for the genealogist that are not found in the bound volumes.

Some bound volumes that have loose records associated with them include:

Court Records

The court system produces bound volumes of minute books and docket books. Most of the time, the courts also produce boxes of loose records. For instance, each court case is usually recorded in a bound volume. The case that is recorded in the bound volume includes the pertinent information about the case and how the case was resolved. The loose records associated with a court case contain such records as affidavits, subpoenas, witness statements, photographs and sometimes even actual evidence. These loose court records can be archived in their original sleeves in archival boxes or the records are removed from the sleeves, flattened, cleaned and put in archival file folders. The loose court records are something every genealogist should seek out when doing research in court records. Don’t just settle for the information that is recorded in the bound volumes.

Marriage Records

Genealogists are very familiar with marriage records that are found in bound books. We can usually locate the marriage license, marriage bond and the marriage return. Once we have found these records, we think we are done. In many cases, this is not true. Like the court records, marriage events could have loose records associated with them and are not archived with the bound volumes. For instance, in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we have a collection of Loose Marriage Records dating from 1950-2014. These loose marriage records consist of documents like parent permission letters, blood test results and copies of the marriage license. Like the court records, these documents are archived in archival file folders and boxes separately from the bound volumes.

Loose Papers
Loose Papers. Photo courtesy of Melissa Barker of the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Probate Records

One of the most coveted type of records that genealogists seek is the last will and testament of their ancestor. If a will can be found, we hope it will give us clues about other family members. Along with the last will and testament are the other probate records that were generated during the estate probate process. Items such as the administrator bond, estate sale and estate inventory. Some of these records and information are in bound volumes, however, still more are found in loose records. Keep in mind that the information found in the bound volumes (also referred to as copy books) are copies of the original documents and not originals. The documents deemed most important were copied and bound but the loose papers contain all the originals. Other items that could be found in the loose probate records are handwritten letters from family members, affidavits from family members, detailed invoices from local businesses that the deceased owed and so much more. Loose probate records are one of my favorite record sources to do genealogy research. It is important to remember that what is found in the bound probate records may not be all that is available for a particular probated estate.

These few examples are not the only types of bound records that have loose records associated with them. It is always a good idea to ask the archivist about what they have available that are separate from the bound volumes. Most archivists know their collections and should be able to help you find those wonderful loose records, if they exist.

So, the next time you are visiting an archive or contacting them by email or phone, ask about their collections of loose records. The information found in them will most certainly add to your ancestor’s story and might even break down a brick wall!


Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, is a Certified Archives Manager currently working as the Houston County, Tennessee Archivist. She is also a professional genealogist and lectures, teaches and writes about the genealogy research process, researching in archives and records preservation. She has been researching her own family history for the past 28 years.


Clean Copy


One of my cousins asked me to look at a will for her because she was having a hard time reading some of the names. Whenever I am presented with a document that I did not personally obtain I try to get a "clean copy" which means going back to where the original document came from and pulling my own copy. Sometimes a document has been photocopied so many times that it is junk to try and read.  I also like to get a clean copy so I can format a proper source citation and to make sure that the document I am looking at is what I think it is.

My cousin sent me a link to someone's page. That person had uploaded a copy of Anderson Chick's will from Walton County, Georgia.  This was not a document they had linked to on the website so not a digital image from microfilm. I didn't link to it for you to see since it is attached to someone's tree page which includes their name. I checked FamilySearch to see if they had a digital image of Anderson's will taken from microfilm. They did. You can see Anderson Chick's entire loose probate file HERE which includes his will. The names recorded in the will are clear. A bonus is that my cousin can now see the entire probate file and not just the will. If a digital image taken from microfilm had not been available online, I would have instructed my cousin to contact the Walton County Courthouse to obtain a photocopy or digital image from them.

Beginning of Anderson Chick's Will
Beginning of Anderson Chick's Will

Another example, I was asked to transcribe a will from Abbeville County, South Carolina. The document was unreadable so I called the courthouse to get a clean copy. When I received it I found that not only was it very readable but there was a second page. That second page contained some very valuable information. I now had the date the will was proved which gave me a date range for when this man died. The will was proved over  five years after he wrote the will. One of the witnesses was different between who witnessed the will versus who was there to prove the will. It turns out that one of the witnesses had died. The new witness was the original man's sons-in-law. I didn't know that right off but after a little digging I was able to figure it out. These little bits of information make for a clearer picture. This wasn't my family but I wanted to be able to give the person I was doing this for as much information that I could.

It is common to find miscellaneous documents in someone's personal papers. If your great uncle Norman hands you his marriage certificate you will have to cite the certificate as an artifact unless you obtain a clean copy from the agency that created it. This is another reason why it is a good idea to go back to the original creator, if possible.

You can expand this concept to the digital copies available online. A digital image of a document can easily be available on multiple websites. Each website has their own way of "cleaning up" the images so they can look very different from website to website. If you are looking at a document that is hard to read you can try finding it on another website before you try and contact the originating agency.

If you are presented with bad copy of a document don't immediately throw your hands up in despair. Try and get a clean copy and many times you will be rewarded.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG
® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Let's Make FamilySearch's Family Tree Better for Everyone

Let's Make FamilySearch's Family Tree Better for Everyone

I am a big supporter of FamilySearch’s Family Tree. Yes, there are some inherent problems with a collaborative tree but I think the pros outweigh the cons. The biggest complaint researchers have is that other people can change data that they have submitted. There are a couple of things I want to say about that.

  • All of your research should be on YOUR computer. You should not be using FamilySearch as your genealogy database program. I think it is a mistake to use FamilySearch that way. People can change what is on FamilySearch but no one can change what is on your personal computer. You can easily sync to FamilySearch using one of the authorized programs (I of course use Legacy) which gives you full control over what is uploaded and downloaded.
  • They aren’t “your” ancestors. These ancestors belong to other people too. Here is a fun Descendants Calculator. I set it at 5 generations, 25 years per generation, and 4 for an average number of children (a very conservative number). This person would have 3,905 descendants.  I am sure more than one of these descendants is a genealogist.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can help make the Family Tree better:

If you don’t know what you are doing you can mess it up for everyone else  
This is my biggest pet peeve. People get excited and try to make changes to the Family Tree without taking the time to educate themselves on how everything works. Adding people, merging people, and deleting people affects EVERYONE who has those ancestors in their tree.  The very best training I have found is the Riverton FamilySearch Library Handouts (look for them under the Family Tree heading). There are 11 pdfs you can download to your computer to read and use as a reference. They include screenshots and Riverton updates them as needed. These are the handouts I use when I give a presentation on FamilySearch (with permission). 

Take the time to address the possible duplicates
A lot of people don’t address possible duplicates. They have FamilySearch ID (FSID) ABC-1234 in their tree and they only worry about updating this FSID. All of the programs that can sync will present you with a list of possible duplicates. If you are working directly on the FamilySearch website you will also be presented with a list of possible duplicates. The two mistakes you can make are not combining duplicates when you should and merging people haphazardly when you shouldn’t. If there is any question, don’t merge. Please see the Riverton Handouts for more information.

Please add your sources
Other researchers need to know where you got your information because if it conflicts with what they have and you don’t have a source, chances are they are going to update the person with their information knocking your data off. FamilySearch only allows you to "tag" sources to the vital events. I like to use the "Reason this information is correct" box for sources. I can copy and paste my source from Legacy into that box and it will show up with the event instead of at the bottom with the tagged sources. I think this make it easier to know which source goes with what.

Take advantage of the Discussions area
This is a great place to post your theories for other researchers to ponder and then add their thoughts.

Take advantage of the Notes area
This is where you can add information that won't fit in the Events area. You have the opportunity to add some explanatory notes and transcriptions.

Be amazed by the Memories tab
Distant relatives you have never met have photos that you don't have and you just might find them here. If the submitter hasn't given blanket permission to use the photo please don't forget to ask for their permission. If you have old photos I encourage you to upload them to FamilySearch. I put a copyright statement in the Description field that says the photo can be downloaded for personal use. If it will be used in any other way they need to get my permission first. Be aware that if you upload a photo you have given FamilySearch the right to use the photo as they see fit. All of this is explained HERE.

Make sure your email address/contact information is correct
Nothing is more frustrating to a researcher than not being able to contact a contributor.

If you use Legacy, here is the training information you need: Legacy FamilySearch Training 
If you use one of the other programs that can sync, check to see if they have specific training materials that address both how you use the Family Tree in general and how to use their program specifically to sync. 

Take the time to educate yourself on how FamilySearch's Family Tree works so you can help other researchers make it better for everyone. I am sure that you too will be one of those people who benefits.


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.



5 Sources to Find Physical Characteristics of Your Ancestor


As we research our ancestors in historical records, we start to get to know them. As researchers, we learn about their wealth (or lack thereof), the type of land they owned, and their military service. We can learn about their religion and possibly even the contents of their household.

But do you ever wonder what your ancestors looked like?

How tall was your great grandfather? Which side of the family did you get your blues eyes from? What color hair did your ancestor have? Did you ancestors have any physical deformities?

Even if you have no photographs of your ancestors, you can find descriptions of their physical characteristics.

Let’s take look at 5 sources for finding a description of an ancestor’s physical characteristics and potentially a photograph. 

1. Draft Cards - A man’s physical characteristics were listed on WWI and WWII draft cards. Height, weight (slight, medium or stout), hair color, and eye color were recorded. Race was also included. If your ancestor had a physical deformity, that was listed as well.  

WWI Draft C Howard
WWI Draft Card for Connie M. Howard of Lee County, NC (Source:

This example shows that Connie M. Howard of Lee County, NC was of medium height and medium build with brown eyes and black hair. No physical deformities are noted.

2. Civilian Conservation Corps Records - Part of the New Deal by President Roosevelt, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public relief corps dating from 1933-1942. The CCC program was specifically for unmarried and unemployed men. Roads, parks and improvement to other federal lands and natural resources were built by the CCC.  

A young man’s height, weight, eye color, hair color, complexion, and physical deformities were included on their admission and discharge papers.

3. Jail Records- Was your ancestor on the wrong side of the law? Admission records into a jail or prison likely will include a description of the inmate which can be very descriptive. In addition to the usual height, weight, eye and hair color, and complexion, descriptions of scars and tattoos are frequently included.

Take a look at the detailed physical description of 1866 Sing Sing Prison inmate Charles Miller.  Beyond the basics, we have a clear description of his scars and even how his mouth inclines to the left.

Sing sing prison admission
1866 Sing Sing Prison Admission Record (Source:

4. Passport Applications - Your ancestor’s passport application is another potential source to learn about your ancestor’s physical characteristics. Similar to the records above, passport applications asked for height, weight, eye and hair color, complexion and more.

As a bonus, you may find a photograph of your ancestor attached to the application.

Passport Abraham Jacobs 1923
1921 Passport Application of Abraham Jacobs (Source:

5. Yearbooks - High school and college yearbooks are another source for finding what your ancestor looked like by actually finding their photograph.  More and more yearbooks are being digitized and made available online. Researchers may be surprised to find how early yearbooks date back. In addition to searching for yearbooks on the large genealogy databases, check state archives and university digital collections.

Digital NC is one example where researchers of NC ancestors can find digitized yearbooks online dating back to 1890. The new MyHeritage Yearbook Collection is another.

Finding an actual photograph of an ancestor is not always possible, but researchers can search for descriptions of an individual’s physical characteristics.  Just as an individual’s household contents can be determined from wills and estate sales, an individual’s physical characteristics can be determined by searching the records he/she left behind.


Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. In researching her own family history, Lisa discovered a passion for oral history and its role in genealogy research. You can find Lisa online at Lisa

Managing Client Files in Legacy

Managing Client Files in Legacy

This article assumes that you are comfortable using Legacy (not for beginners).

There are a lot of certified, accredited, and professional genealogists that use Legacy not only for their personal genealogy but also for their client files. There is a nifty file structure trick that will not only keep everything organized for you but will also make it easy for you to send a client's file to them that has all of their data and media. They will be able the open it in Legacy and continue their research without having to worry about broken media links. If your client doesn't already use Legacy, you can give them the link to download the free Standard Version which will give them access to everything you have sent and a link to our collection of Legacy 101 Articles to help them get started on the right foot. 

Each client will have a folder. Inside that folder will be his/her data file and a folder for their media. Where you keep this folder of client files doesn't matter a bit. They are self-contained and will have internal links between the data and the media. You can move these files on your computer on a whim and you will never have to worry about broken links.  If you send the client their entire folder, they too can put it anywhere on their computer, access it, and have no broken media links though the instructions I send the client puts the folder within the Legacy file hierarchy. For illustrative purposes I have the client files in a folder directly on my C: drive. 

Client Files
(click image to enlarge)

If you open one of the client folders this is what you will see:

Client Folder
(click image to enlarge)

Everything is nice and tidy. 

To prepare the file to send, right click their folder and select Send To > Compressed (Zipped) Folder. You will be sending them this zip file. I like to park the client's file on cloud storage and then send them a download link  You can also email the zip to them using a free service such as WeTransfer. Chances are the zip file will be too large to send via regular email if there are a lot of attached documents/photos. 

Here are the instructions to send to the client. You will need to substitute the name of their file:

1) [explain how you are getting the file to them]

2) Download the file and then double click it to open it. Inside you will see a file folder named Doe. You need to copy this entire folder (don't open it) to the \Documents\Legacy Family Tree\Data folder. If you have done this correctly, when you open the Windows Documents folder you will see the Legacy Family Tree folder inside. If you open that folder you should see a folder named Doe. Here is the full file path:
\Documents\Legacy Family Tree\Data\Doe

3) Now open Legacy. The Sample file should automatically be on your screen. Go to File > Open File. Use the Windows dialog box to navigate to \Documents\Legacy Family Tree\Data\Doe\Doe and open your new file

4) Go to Options > Customize > Locations
In Option 6.1 navigate to the \Documents\Legacy Family Tree\Data\Doe folder using the Change button
In Option 6.2 navigate to the \Documents\Legacy Family Tree\Data\Doe\Doe Media folder using the Change button
Click Save at the bottom

5) Go to Options > Customize > General Settings
In Option 1.2 make sure it is set to Open last used family file automatically

6) Now you can use your new file!


Sending the client your research file will be an added bonus for them and can be a marketing tool for you.


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.


Using ArchiveGrid for Your Genealogy

ArchiveGrid homepage

ArchiveGrid. Have you used this worldwide archive catalog? If you haven’t, you’ll want to start. ArchiveGrid provides a way for you to search for archival materials for your family history no matter where in the world your ancestors came from. ArchiveGrid is a must-have resource for genealogists and with a few tips on how to use the website, you will find genealogically relevant collections in archives worldwide.

What is Available on ArchiveGrid?

First it’s important to understand what’s available on ArchiveGrid. ArchiveGrid’s website explain that it has “over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.”

Archive collections tend to be underutilized in family history research. Why? Primarily because it  involves onsite research. These are collections that cannot be searched with a few words in an online database search box. But the treasures they hold are integral to an exhaustive search and can include facts that place your ancestor in a time and location.

ArchiveGrid result

Crafting a Keyword Search

The most important thing to remember about searching ArchiveGrid is that it’s done with a keyword search. Unlike a genealogy website where information is largely indexed by an ancestors’ name, date, and place, ArchiveGrid is cataloged by a keyword.

So what’s a keyword? It’s a word or phrase that you use to search for information for your ancestor. So consider these descriptions:

  • Where they lived
  • Their religion
  • The organizations they belonged to
  • An occupation and/or employer
  • An historical event they were a part of

Searching by place should be an important part of your search, so let me explain that a little more. Think about where your ancestor lived. Maybe they lived in Bishop, California. That’s one way to describe that place, by city and state. But you could also call it Inyo County, California. That area also has a regional nickname so you could describe it as the Owens Valley or the Eastern Sierra. As I craft my search I would want to try various searches using each of those location names.

Narrowing Your Search

When I searched ArchiveGrid for “Owens Valley, California” I received over 900 result hits. I can look at these results hits in a List View or a Summary View. The List View is just that, a list of the results. The Summary View groups hits by category, allowing me to narrow those results. These categories are People, Group, Place, Archives, Archive Locations, and Topics. If I’m planning a research trip, I might want to choose the category Archive Locations to just see the results for that location I’m traveling to. These categories can help narrow a general result list like Methodist Church to a specific archive or location to help you find relevant church records

ArchiveGrid Results List

To learn more about broadening or narrowing a search see the ArchiveGrid web page, How to Search.

On-Site Research Versus Researching from Home

ArchiveGrid is an important tool to learn more about what sources are out there and what is available when you plan a research trip. When we consider expanding our research to include our ancestor’s FAN Club (friends, associates, and neighbors) searching ArchiveGrid by the place our ancestor lived will help us locate materials written by those people and groups in our ancestor’s community that they interacted with or were a part of.

By conducting a search on ArchiveGrid you can find extant records.  In some cases these materials, while about a specific place, may be located in an entirely different place. Archival materials aren't  always donated to repositories in the  location they originated.

As you find relevant information, be sure to click on the green Read More button for that collection. This will help you evaluate whether that material is pertinent to your research. From there, you may consider emailing the repository to ask questions. If the collection is far from you, consider either hiring a researcher or making the trip to view it.

If you are already planning a trip, make sure you learn about what is available in the archives where you are headed. This can be done via the Summary View on ArchiveGrid, as described above, or by searching a specific archive from the home page. While ArchiveGrid is a catalog of a 1,000 archives worldwide it does not house every archival collection. However, the catalog is being added to so it’s important to check back often.

Incorporate Archives in Your Family History

Archives hold valuable records that can help you break through those ancestral brick walls. ArchiveGrid is just one way to find those records. 


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

Testing Your Lineage


A great way to test the validity of your research is by preparing a report for a lineage society even if you have no plans to apply. This exercise will show you if you have done good research. If you end up applying later, you will have already done the bulk of the work necessary.

NOTE: Do not contact the registrar of the lineage society unless you plan on joining!  This exercise is how you can test yourself apart from applying. Registrars spend A LOT of time getting your documentation ready for submission so please do not contact them for help unless you plan to join.

See if you can trace your line from yourself to one of your ancestors. Pick a soldier that fought in the Civil War, a soldier in the War of 1812, or a Revolutionary War soldier. If you are lucky enough to claim someone on the Mayflower as an ancestor use him/her. These are the most popular lineage societies. 

It isn’t as easy as it sounds even if you think you have a lot of documents. Documenting a person's vital events is one thing but trying to prove the familial link from parent to child is another, especially the further back in time you go. How do you know that your Marmaduke Jowers is the same Marmaduke who is named in Mordecai Jowers’s will as a surviving son?  

Here is another example. 
Let’s say you have this family group listed on the 1850 U.S. Federal census:

David Merchant, age 30, farmer, born in Georgia
Ann Merchant, age 27, born in Georgia
Wesley Merchant, age 8, born in Georgia
Marion Merchant, age 5, born in Georgia
Janie Merchant, age 3, born in Georgia
Daniel Merchant, age 1, born in Georgia

It appears that this is a husband, wife, and four children but the relationships are not specifically named. This is NOT enough to say that the listed children belong to either or both of the listed adults. It is also not enough to say that the two adults listed are actually married. A lot of people make this mistake. In the above family, the man’s wife died and his unmarried younger sister moved in to help him with the kids. It looks as though they are a married couple but they are not. One of the four children is the son of a brother whose wife died in childbirth. The father of that child felt ill equipped to raise a newborn so he handed the child over to his brother and sister to raise. So three of the children belong to David, none of the children belong to Ann, and one of the children belongs to David and Ann’s brother.

Using the same family above I can create another scenario. Ann is David’s 2nd wife. Wesley and Marion are his from his first marriage. Janie is Ann’s from her first marriage but the census taker recorded David’s surname. Daniel belongs to both of them.

Back to my original example, let’s say Mordecai Jowers left a will and in it you find, “To my son Marmaduke...” Your ancestor is Marmaduke Jowers but do you have enough to say that he is Mordecai’s son? What if you find this in the will, "To my wife, Julia..." Is this enough to say that Marmaduke's mother was Julia? The answer in both cases is no. You need more evidence. How do you know that there weren’t two Marmadukes in that area at the same time? Even though this is an unusual name you still have to treat it the same way as if his name were John Smith. How do you know that Mordecai wasn't previously married and Marmaduke is a product of that marriage?  These are the questions you will have to answer if you were really submitting a lineage society application. 

A lot of researchers err here. They neglect to prove the relationship between parent and child. Many times you will not be able to do this with direct evidence and you will have to put together an indirect evidence proof argument ("circumstantial" case). Even if you have direct evidence (a will that says, "to my son...”) that still may not be enough evidence to prove the connection.

When I joined the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) I had to submit a comprehensive report including all of the documents I had used. My application passed the local registrar and was sent to Washington, D.C. for final approval. For one of the parent-child relationships I had submitted an indirect evidence proof argument. The national registrar bounced my application back and said, "What if...?" I then added the needed information to show that her What If scenario could not be true. My application was then approved. I was very grateful to that registrar for going through my research that thoroughly. 

DAR certificate
(click image to enlarge)

I highly recommend that you try this. You will need source citations for every fact AND for every child-parent link. If you don't have direct evidence then you will need to put together an indirect evidence proof argument. 

Learn more about evidence analysis

Learn more about the Genealogical Proof Standard

Learn more about lineage societies


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.


Vietnam Era Military Records


Several people have asked me if you can get Vietnam era compiled service records. The answer is no unless you are the veteran. If the veteran is deceased then the surviving spouse or child can get the records. When my dad died in 2004 I was able to get his entire military service record. The Air Force also sent all of my dad’s medals and ribbons which was a nice surprise and very much appreciated. I got a real kick out of reading my dad’s yearly evaluations. He had a bit of an attitude. If you knew my dad you wouldn’t be a bit surprised that his commanding officers mentioned it a time or two. He had a hot temper and liked to get into fights. He also didn’t like people telling him what to do. Even so, he was good at his job and made it to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant by the time he retired. Not bad considering he got busted a couple of times.

The National Archives at St. Louis has all the information you need to request "non-archival" records. The records are archived when it has been 62 years since the person's discharge date. At that time they become public record.

There is some Vietnam era (and later) information that has been publicly released such as causality lists, POW/MIA lists, and lists of people who received military awards and honors.



Awards and Decorations

There is one other thing you need to be aware of. On 12 July 1973 there was a fire at the National Personnel Records Center which destroyed millions of military personnel files. Read more information about that disastrous event. Luckily, my dad's file was still intact.


Michele's Dad
SMSgt Thomas Calvin Simmons


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.