Getting Started on Ancestry Research

I started researching my family tree many years ago (pre-internet)… using the “old-fashioned” method of asking questions of my relatives to fill in the blanks of what I didn’t know. I had a computer program I was using to create the “tree” and family group sheets, but unfortunately I don’t remember what it was.

I do remember that it allowed me to create a GEDCOM file though. GEDCOM stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunication and (according to Wikipedia) is a proprietary and open specification for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogy software programs. Being able to create this file was a blessing, since it allowed me to quickly and easily upload all the data I had gathered into new software (and Ancestry online) when those tools became more readily available.


The software I currently use for keeping track of all this is Family Tree Maker which integrates perfectly with

Quick note: I had tried My Heritage for a little while but I do NOT recommend it… somehow it took over not only my browser home page, but also the default search engine and it took me WEEKS to get my system back to normal!

Ancestry is a very full featured platform for doing your own family research, however, it’s not cheap. What I usually do, when the research bug has bit me, is sign up for a monthly subscription at Ancestry, and research all I can. Then download my GEDCOM file to my desktop computer and temporarily cancel my Ancestry subscription. That way I am not paying monthly for a service I don’t use frequently.

While getting ready to start this blog, I found a great article on about researching your family tree. The author suggests that as a possible replacement to there are services likeAncesStory that will do the Ancestry research for you. There’s also, a free service from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has an amazing amount of information available.

Easy Scrapbook Journaling

I do hand journaling in my albums in addition to some “digital” journaling using my computer and everyday photo-paper. One of the troubles with digital journaling is the temptation to use non-archival paper. I’m always tempted to use index cards, but regular index cards are not photo-safe and acid-free. So, I recommend using something like HP’s everyday photo paper in the 4×6 size for printing your typed digital journaling.

The nice thing about printed journaling (aside from not having to worry about how neat your handwriting is) is that you can fit quite a lot of text in a small space.

Digital Journaling
Digital Journaling

I’ve created a template in MSWord that’s sized to 4×6 with landscape orientation. I then insert a text box to type my journaling. A text box allows you to get text closer to the edges of the page than normal margins would allow.

You can keep the border on the text box (and/or do fancy things with it with some of the settings in Word) or you can remove the border. To remove the border, look under the “Shape Outline” menu and choose no outline.

Text Box, No Outline

You can also do things like change the fill color of the text box, which can allow you to get white text on a colored background. This can be a fun look for journal boxes or page titles, of course you do need a color printer for this technique to work.

Colored Background Text Box

I’m also a big fan of the fun true-type fonts you can get online for free. Installing them on a PC is as easy as double-clicking the font file, once you’ve downloaded it. You will see a preview of the font and the option to install it.

Click Install to add this font to your MSWord Options

I’ve downloaded some great free fonts from the following sites:

By using a combination of hand journaling, handwritten or typed titles and typed digital journaling you can create pages that are simple, attractive and EASY to do.


Creative Memories Going out of Business

I have been a fan of Creative Memories for many years, their scrapbooks are the Cadillac of Scrapbooks, super high quality. However, after a few years of shelling out over $26 for just the 12 x 12 cover-sets (pages are extra), I switched over to Colorbok brand albums, which are less expensive and widely available in stores and online.


I just got an email today from my Creative Memories consultant that all products will be available only “while supplies last”… so if you have some unfinished album projects, it’s time to buy what you need even if it’s going to take you a while to finish!

One of the things that I like about Creative Memories, besides that fact that their products are very high quality, is that their focus is always on preserving the memories and not how many embellishments you have on each page. They place a high value on Journaling (writing the stories of the photos) and on getting albums completed simply and easily…. which is definitely my philosophy as well.

I hope that CM can find a way to rise from the ashes of their financial difficulties, because their consultants and their products have always been an inspiration to me.