Thursday, June 5, 2014


I'm sure most of you have used this at one time or another

It was a dark & stormy night.  Or was it a bright and sunny day?  I can’t recall.

When I began this wonderful journey of finding out more about my ancestors I had little information on my paternal side and some information on my maternal side.  I wanted to learn more.  Who were my great grandparents?  Where did they come from?  How did they live?  There was just so much I didn’t know.  I began with what I did know.

I had some names & dates from conversations with my parents.  And I had a family tree for my mother’s family, handwritten by my maternal grandmother.  

If we go back to the very beginning, we would be in the year 2000.  I had a hunger to learn more about my family.  I talked to some friends and they suggested I go to the (FHC) Family History Center here in San Diego and look at census records on microfilm.  That’s exactly what I did.  I honestly can’t tell you all the details about that first visit.  What I can tell you is that I was assisted by some very nice ladies at the center who helped this novice learn how to operate a microfilm reader.  

I began with the 1900 census, which I knew, should contain all my grandparents.  I scrolled and scrolled through those pages.  Then suddenly……there she was!!

My grandmother, Florence Bowden, 12 years old, living with her mother & sister.  I was so excited.  It seemed surreal to me to think of my grandma as a young girl.  I know that was when I did my first genealogy happy dance (I just didn’t know it).

I went back to the FHC again and found more census records.  The ladies at the center also told me about ordering SS-5 (social security applications) records for my grandparents.  They said those forms may have their parent’s names on them and provide more proof of identity. 

Here are the handwritten notes from those first two visits.  Don't laugh. 
Notes from FHC in 2000  Notes from FHC in 2000-2

How different are the research methods we use now?  

Here are just a few of the things we didn’t have, or had little of in 2000, just 14 years ago:
  • Digital cameras to photograph books or documents.  Yes, you could use a film camera, but few people did.  And yes, there were digital cameras, but the majority of people were still using film. 
  • Hand held scanners/wands to save those book or document pages.
  • Computers and laptops in nearly every home.  I had purchased my first computer in 1986 and was a decade or more ahead of most of my friends. 
  • Flash drives to save documents that we find online while researching at a library or courthouse or family history center.
  • The large variety of software databases that we now have available.
  • Facebook to connect with family, friends and genealogy groups.
  • Evernote to save & organize what we find.
  • Google Earth to zoom in to places our ancestors lived.
  • Online data was nearly non-existent.  It wasn’t until August of 2000 that began to add actual images of Federal census records to it’s site.  Here is a screenshot of some of the history of  To learn more about the history of their site go to
Ancestry screenshot

There's a LOT more that wasn't available to us back in 2000 and before, but you get the general idea.
I did go ahead and order those Social Security Application forms for all 4 of my grandparents.  Turns out only three of them had applied.  Let me just say that those applications provided me with information that I didn’t have, and got me well under way to becoming a dedicated (some would say addicted) genealogist.  Stay tuned for another post covering Social Security Applications.

I was well on my way, when about 6 months later I changed my working status from part time to full time.  My research came to a screeching halt. But only for 2 years.  Then my husband and I met a couple on a cruise and when we began talking with them, the wife, Debbie, told me she was doing some genealogy research.  I was all ears.  She told me that lots of information was coming online now and she filled me in on all the details.  I was excited to get back home and see what I could find. 

NOTE: I purchased my first computer in 1986 and upgraded frequently.  I have always had a zeal for technology.  

The rest, as they say, is history.  That couple we met became close friends, even though we live in California & they live in Texas.  Debbie and I began exchanging information about how to research, what we found, who we found, etc.  Just ask our husbands how much time we spent together during visits and on the phone.  

Genealogy has come a long way in those 14 years.  I know that many of you out there began your research decades ago.  I would love to hear how long ago you started and how you think our research methods have improved or maybe not improved during that time.

Surname Saturday - Milne - More about my Grandmother 
My Interview on Geneabloggers

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl 

Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall


  1. It really is amazing how quickly technology is progressing. It makes so many things easier (except when it breaks and makes them harder). I chuckled as I noticed your scans of two yellow ledger pages. I have two pages that look very similar except mine are notes for a daughter about her parents, their siblings, and their grandparents. So many reasons to be grateful!

    1. It is amazing Nancy. I'm not sure what got me thinking in this direction today, but it was fun to think back. I have few things on paper these days, but I won't part with those original notes. Thanks for chuckling along with me. We are so very fortunate to have the technology that we do. It is much more helpful than it is harmful or frustrating. Don't ask me that on a day when things aren't going well though. I've been known to growl.
      Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back soon.

  2. I started researching my family history around 1976 when I was 16 or 17. My grandma lived with us so I had a wonderful first person resource to get me started. I still have my first family tree chart, that I drew freehand, with all the notes I made as my grandma told me names and dates and stories. Like you and Nancy, I am grateful for the technology we enjoy these days. If I had needed to do it all by legwork I would not be nearly as far along as I am in researching my family.

    1. Nancy - I definitely wish I would have taken more advantage of those wonderful women, my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother was always close by and lived with us in my late teens. She died when I was 20. I didn't ask near enough questions. And my maternal grandmother lived til I was 36, but wasn't close by. I'm glad you asked the questions and kept notes. Like you, if I had needed to do all the research by writing letters and legwork, I wouldn't be even close to where I am. I do still visit libraries and courthouses as often as I can because I just enjoy it. And, we know there are millions of records not online. Good luck with your research.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I enjoyed reading your story about how you got started in genealogy! I'll have to write my story someday, but I started about the same time as you. It was either 1997 or 1998. I have the filed on my old computer which I 'never' turn on. We are getting ready to move & then I plan on getting everything off of there & accessible! Anyway, I live by one of the biggest genealogy libraries in the U.S. and was working temp jobs at the time. In between jobs, I would often spend 8 hours or more per day going through microfilm after microfilm.... using Soundex, of course! We've come a long way!

    1. Dana,
      Yes, indeed, we have come a long way since we both began. Good luck with your research.
      Thanks for your comments.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.