Friday, November 21, 2014

Genealogy Boot Camp: Special Holiday Edition! Saturday 29 November 2014

What do you get when you combine two educators who love to share their knowledge about genealogy, with a holiday theme, and some really great prize giveaways?  

The answer is: The Hack Genealogy Holiday Special Boot Camp to be held online on Saturday 29 November 2014  from 7:00 – 10:30 pm Eastern / 6:00 – 9:30 pm Central.  

I am pleased to be co-hosting this event with my colleague, Thomas MacEntee.  

If you've attended one of our boot camps before, or have watched the recordings, then you are familiar with our approach: High quality instruction and handouts delivered in an intimidation-free environment.  If you haven't yet experienced Boot Camp, here is a great opportunity to check it out.  

But don't delay...there are only 500 seats available.  And, did I mention we are giving away prizes?


Here is the official announcement for the the Holiday Boot Camp from Hack Genealogy:

holiday specia boot campl
We have a very special Boot Camp experience for you this year. In celebration of our first year providing these exciting and fun genealogy education events, and to get into the holiday spirit, Lisa and I are holding our very first Holiday Special Boot Camp!
We realize that starting in late November and through December, it can be difficult to schedule anything related to genealogy. That’s why you won’t find many genealogy conferences or even online events to attend. Most genealogists are busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and even Festivus (December 23 if you forgot). And while these events often involve family stories and relatives asking about family history, we tend to push the education aspect aside. Well not this year.

A Good Old-Fashioned Variety Show

Lisa Alzo and Thomas MacEntee
Do you remember watching variety shows on television as a kid? Here in the United States, we had weekly shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett and others. But around Christmas, there would also be “holiday specials” by stars such as Bob Hope, Sonny and Cher, The Carpenters and The Osmond Family.
Sure, looking back now they may seem odd or even hokey, but there was something about them that made Christmas and other holidays seem special. And they covered just about everything, right? Some music, some funny skits, some storytelling, some Christmas carols.
So in the spirit of the holiday season, we’ve decided that this month’s Boot Camp won’t focus on just one topic as we’ve done in the past. The Holiday Special Boot Camp will cover a variety of topics, some selected by Lisa, some of my favorites, and some submitted by you, the attendees! And wait until you see what we have in store! This Boot Camp is so unusual, and not like previous events, that we should be calling it the Un-Boot Camp! 

A Different Time, A Different Price, A Whole Different Boot Camp

So do you want to join us for some holiday fun and also learn some new genealogy tips and tricks? Here’s what you need to know:
Title: Holiday Special Boot Camp
Grab Bag!
Saturday 29 November 2014
7:00 – 10:30 pm Eastern / 6:00 – 9:30 pm Central
Join us on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for this special event when Lisa and I will share our knowledge of genealogy with you, we’ll have a few laughs and maybe even sing a few songs! And we’ll have contest and door prizes too!
To register, click hereThere are only 500 spaces available.
Otherwise, you can watch the recording starting on Monday 1 December 2014. And as an incentive, we’ll be giving away special prizes for those who watch the recording!

What is PWYW?

So how much does all this cost? Is it free? Well, it is sort of free. Normally, the full price for a Hack Genealogy Boot Camp is $12.95 with an early bird discount of $9.95. With that you receive 3.5 hours of live instruction, over 20 pages of handouts and templates, and access to the recordings.
Since this month’s Boot Camp uses a different format and since we’ll be covering a variety of topics, we’ve decided to use a Pay What You Want model. This means that you decide how much this knowledge is worth to you. You can donate $5, $10, the regular $12.95 or even more. We know some people will likely throw in a few dollars just to say thanks for making the Boot Camp concept available. It doesn’t matter what you pay or if you pay. Lisa and I just want you to come ready to learn and to have fun.
After you register you’ll see a Donate button and we’ll keep that button active between now and even after the Holiday Special Boot Camp. And those who just watch the recording may want to contribute, especially once they realize they’ve learned some new genealogy tricks. Click here if you would like to make your donation right now.

[Note:  25% of the proceeds will go to the Preserve the Pensions project initiative of the Federation of Genealogical Societies]

Copyright, 2014 Lisa A. Alzo
and HackGenealogy
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Build Your Family History Writing Skills with New Genealogy Intensive

I’m passionate about writing my family history.  How about you? If, you feel compelled to tell your ancestors’ stories, but have doubts or fears about how to get started, what to write about, or how to craft a compelling narrative, then join me for The Write Stuff: Build Your Family Writing Skills, a new Genealogy Intensive offered through In this six week, interactive course (13 October – 17 November, 2014), you will build your skills as a writer and learn about the tools and techniques to produce a quality family history.

Why Am I Doing This?

As avid genealogists, we collect names, dates, places, and sources, and these are all essential to us learning about who we are. But a total family history is so much more just charts and graphs, boxes and lines, or references. Writing about our ancestors and our heritage gives context, meaning, and purpose to all of the facts we have collected, and I want to help you to learn how to lose the intimidation and let go of your fears about writing so that you can dig deeper into your family stories. As a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s Creative Nonfiction Writing program, I learned from many of the best in the business, and I have spent years building my own career as freelance writer. I want to share my experience with you.

Why the “Intensive” Concept?

In the genealogy field, there are countless opportunities for learning about what records are available and how to search them. In addition, there are many study groups out there to help you build upon the methodology and research practices. However, when it comes to writing, there is not the same in-depth type of instruction readily available. Even presentations given at conferences and via webinars are typically only lectures that will “tell” you about some of the key techniques, but don’t always “show” you what to do (I know this because I have given many of these presentations). With six weeks of concentrated focus in this “intensive” format, you will receive “take away” assignments to put into practice what you learn, and get the kind of one-on-one interaction with the instructor that is not always possible in a conference or webinar setting.

Specifically, in “The Write Stuff” experience, you will:
  • Learn writing skills and techniques to produce a quality family history
  • Build on the skills each week.
  • Focus on getting a working draft.
  • Receive constructive and helpful feedback.
  • Learn to overcome fears and anxiety about writing.
  •  Have fun!

Through on-line instructional sessions, weekly assignments, and collaboration with other participants, attendees will have access to an instructor with more than 23 years of writing experience, who will teach key nonfiction writing techniques used to produce a “can’t put down” family history that will keep the pages turning for generations.

The intimidation-free learning environment will offer you the chance to find your voice, and write without worry or fear that you are doing something wrong. You will learn the essential skills you need to be accurate and thorough in your writing while maximizing your creativity!

The cost to attend a The Write Stuff GenealogyIntensive™ over a six week period is $129 per person. A special discounted price of $99 will be available during the early registration period.

Click here for more details and to register. But don’t delay…there are only a limited number of seats available, and you will want to be sure to get the early bird discount. 

I hope you will join me so I can help you to stop worrying and start writing!

[Disclaimer:  I have been hired as a freelance instructor this intensive by HackGenealogy, and I will be receive payment for leading this intensive.]

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: Mind Maps for Genealogy

As a freelance writer, one of the questions I’m often asked is “How do you come up with your ideas?”  Sometimes I find it difficult to give a clear-cut answer because it’s not something I can easily explain.  Most of the time what I initially have is a “mish-mash” of ideas, thoughts, and examples.  I then dump them all into something called a “Mind Map – a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.

I have been using mind mapping for a number of years to visually plot out research problems and to generate ideas for articles, books, and presentations.  Plenty of books have been written on the subject, including several by Tony Buzan (who coined the term) .

When it comes to using mind maps for genealogy, I've seen a few presentations at conferences, watched some webinars, and have read articles [I even wrote an article about the topic: see “Mind Maps: Free Your Mind,” Internet Genealogy Magazine, October/November 2012].  

Therefore, I was my interest was piqued when I learned about a new book, 
Mind Maps for Genealogy, Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis by author and educator, Ron Arons, that explains the concept specifically for genealogy and family history.

I was asked to review the book and my review follows below.


Book Review: Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis 

The following is a review for the book Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis by Ron Arons, Oakland, California: Criminal Research Press, 71 pages, published 2014. $26.95 (includes shipping and handling).

The book is available for purchase from the author at:

Image courtesy of Ron Arons


In Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis, Ron Arons covers in detail how genealogists can use mind mapping to create a visual road map for idea generation and genealogical problem solving. Arons starts the book with a basic history and overview of the mind mapping concept, and also explains mind mapping terminology.  The author points out how people learn and think differently from each other and discusses how mind maps allow you to plot, view and analyze facts and relationships in more creative, visual ways than other commonly used methods such as timelines, spreadsheets, maps, and even genealogy software programs. Arons also talks about how genealogists can use mind maps to identify missing data, sort out inconsistent or conflicting data, and solve “brick wall” research problems. 

While Arons certainly does a thorough job covering the basics, he also goes a step further to show real examples of how apply the process of mind mapping to such concepts as The Genealogical Proof Standard , Inferential Genealogy , Cluster Research/FAN Club Principle , and more. 

In an Appendix section, the author provides two sample mind maps based on example research problems from two of the biggest names in genealogy: Elizabeth Shown Mills (Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage – QuickLesson 11)  and Dr. Thomas W. Jones (Mastering Genealogical Proof). This visual illustration of evidence laid out in mind map parent and child nodes shows how you can effectively use mind maps to solve perplexing problems in your own research.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the section on “Entire Life-Focused Genealogy” where Arons uses his own research example to walk the reader through the entire mind mapping process (brainstorming, planning, keeping a research log, correlation, and analysis)  to explore the life of Isaac Spier who served time in Sing Sing Prison for bigamy.

Mind Mapping Tools

The number of mind mapping tools and apps currently available for use is quite extensive. In his book, Arons focuses on just two major mind mapping software programs – FreeMind and Xmind,which for years have been the two most popular FREE programs that run on both PCs and Macs. For each, he explains shows beginner/getting started and advanced views. Arons does mention other programs such as SimpleMind, MindJet, Coggle, and more. 

Appendix I covers “Considerations for Selecting a Mind Map Program or Service.”
On a personal note, I was somewhat disappointed to see that he did not mention my favorite program Scapple (Literature and Latte) . However, to be fair, Scapple is not heavily marketed as a mind mapping program, but I use it extensively for this purpose. 

Other Considerations

My only reservations about this book have to do with the production quality. In my personal opinion, a more substantial cover (perhaps glossy, or a harder card stock)  would greatly improve the book's appeal. Also, many of the screenshot images would appear better if captured at a higher resolution.


If you have been wondering about how mind maps could help you with your genealogy research or writing Mind Maps for Genealogy is just the book to help get you started. The book provides an excellent overview of the mind mapping process, is easy to read, and includes great examples, recommendations, and resources. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new way to display, analyze and correlate research data, or who wants to tap into fresh ideas for family history writing.

[Disclaimer: I was asked by the author to provide a review of this book.  I purchased the book myself and have not received any form of compensation for this review].

Friday, August 15, 2014

Join me for the Family Tree University Czech and Slovak Genealogy Crash Course 19 August 2014

If you have Czech or Slovak roots and don't know where or how to begin your research, come join me for the Czech and Slovak Genealogy Crash Course on Tuesday, August, 19, 2014, hosted by Family Tree University. In this crash course I will share with you my tops and tricks for researching Czech and Slovak ancestors I've developed during my 25 years as a genealogist.

Below is the description for the course from the Family Tree University website. Hope you can take advantage of this opportunity to learn about Czech and Slovak Genealogy without leaving home!

Image courtesy of: Family Tree University

Czech and Slovak Genealogy Crash Course

Format: Live Webinar Click here to register.
You'll Love This If:
  • You want to research Czech and Slovak ancestors but don't know where to start
  • You want to learn about what websites and other resources are available for Czech and Slovak research
  • You want to trace your ancestors from the US back to Slovakia or the Czech Republic
Date: Tuesday, August 19
Starting Time: 7pm ET/ 6pm CT/ 5pm MT/ 4pm PT
Lisa A. Alzo
60 minutes
Family historians with Czech and Slovak roots share a similar assortment of brick walls, from surname issues to border changes and language troubles. Nearly 2.5 million Americans claim Czech or Slovak ancestry. If you count yourself among them, then this hour-long webinar is for you. Lisa A. Alzo, a specialist in Eastern European genealogy, will show you where to begin, which resources to consult and how to overcome the most common pitfalls and obstacles associated with tracing ancestors back to Central and Eastern Europe.  
What You'll Learn:
  • How to start searching for your Czech and Slovak ancestors
  • How to understand complex language and naming patterns
  • How to get the most out of Czech and Slovak-related online resources
  • Where to find vital records, military records, land records and more
  • What local resources exist for conducting Czech and Slovak family research
About Your Presenter:
Eastern European genealogy specialist Lisa A. Alzo received the Association for Women in Slavic Studies 2002 Mary Zirin Prize for excellence in scholarship, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International. Her books include Three Slovak Women (Gateway Press), Slovak Pittsburgh (Arcadia) and Cleveland Slovaks (with John T. Sabol, Arcadia). She's written numerous articles for genealogy publications, including regular contributions to Family Tree Magazine, and blogs regularly at The Accidental Genealogist.

Copyright 2014, Lisa A. Alzo and Family Tree University
All Rights Reserved
[Disclaimer: I work as a freelance instructor for Family Tree University and will be paid an instructor's fee for this webinar]

Friday, August 08, 2014

Blogger Bootcamp 16 August 2014: There's Still Time to Register

Are you interested in starting a blog to share your family stories and genealogy research Then, consider signing up for Blogger Bootcamp on Saturday, 16 August 2014. I'm happy to be joining my colleague, Thomas MacEntee, once again to offer this next installment of our genealogy bootcamps.

Below is the description of the Bootcamp from the Hack Genealogy website:

Blogger Bootcamp

Come join well-known genealogy educators Lisa Alzo and Thomas MacEntee as they team up to offer a unique education event: Blogger Bootcamp! On Saturday, 16 August 2014, you’ll be able to learn from two experts on how to get started with your own genealogy and family history blog using the Blogger platform by Google (also known as “blogspot.”)*
Thousands of genealogists and family historians have discovered how a blog can not only assist them with their research, but also connect them with other researchers and even long lost cousins! In addition, some genealogists have successfully monetized their blogs – meaning their blogs make money each month – so they have some “mad money” to support their genealogy habit!
  • Learn the basics of using Blogger including how to set up a blog, what design elements and layouts to consider, how to pick the best name for your blog and more.
  • Understand the best ways to include photos and images as well as videos; learn the importance of comments and discussion as a way to attract readers.
  • Ramping it up a notch by focusing on SEO (search engine optimization) and other marketing techniques. Adding advertisements and affiliate links to generate income without driving away your readers.
  • Taking your Blogger blog to the next level by understanding the blog life cycle and dealing with issues such as starting additional blogs, changing domain names, moving to WordPress or another platform, and other technical issues
You’ll receive over 3 hours of educational content, handouts and freebies for the low price of $12.95! You’ll also receive access to the recorded versions of each webinar for up to one year!
Register by Monday, 11 August 2014 and receive $3 off the registration price for a low $9.95! Space is limited and if you register but can’t attend, you’ll still receive the handouts, the freebies and access to the recordings!
* While some general blogging issues will be covered, this event is specifically focused on the Blogger platform. A Boot Camp event in the near future will specifically cover using the WordPress platform.

Win A Free Registration!

That’s right. You could attend this Blogger Boot Camp for free if you are selected as our Registration Rebate winner! Simply register and pay for the upcoming Boot Camp by the early-bird deadline of 11 August 2014. We’ll select one person from the list of registrants and refund their entire registration fee!  No contest forms to fill out! We’ll announce the winner here at Hack Genealogy on Tuesday 12 August 2014.


Saturday 16 August 2014
Duration: 3.5 hours (with a 30 minute break)
  • 11:00 am EDT /10:00 am CDT
    Welcome / Meet & Greet
  • 11:15 am EDT / 10:15 am CDT
    Get Up and Running with Blogger
    Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A.
  • 12:30 pm EDT/11:30 am CDT
  • 1:00 pm EDT /12:00 pm CDT
    Taking Your Blog to the Next Level: Blogger
    Thomas MacEntee
  • 2:30 pm EDT / 1:30 pm CDT
    Closing and Thank You


Get Up and Running with Blogger
Presented by:  Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A.
Have you been thinking about starting a Blog but don’t know where to begin? Discover how to use Blogger, a free weblog publishing tool from Google, to connect with family and other researchers to share your genealogy research, photographs, and more.
A blog is a great place to share your genealogy research findings, connect with cousins, or promote your society or organization online. With Blogger, a free weblog publishing tool from Google, getting started is as easy as 1-2-3. In this session, you will learn the basics of Blogger including how to set up a blog, choose a relevant blog name, create and edit your postings, add photos and video, interact with readers, and much more! You’ll also get tips on how to generate ideas and create engaging content, general guidelines about copyright and privacy settings, as well as hints and tricks, and key resources to help get your blog up and running in no time*
*    Attendees will also receive a free Blogger Cheat Sheet.
Taking Your Blog to the Next Level: Blogger
Presented by:  Thomas MacEntee
Having a blog is like maintaining a garden: you can’t just scatter seeds and expect it to thrive without some care and maintenance. New bloggers are often puzzled by the tools and techniques needed to take a blog to the next level of success. In this session you’ll learn about the “must have” gadgets for your Blogger blog; why blog content is the most important factor in blog success; how to market your blog and finally, how to manage the life cycle of your blog.*
*    Attendees will also receive access to a Blogger Ramp Up Kit with tools and tips as well as an Editorial Calendar Template.
Click here to register for the Bootcamp and to learn more about your presenters!  We hope you will be able to join us!

Blogger Bootcamp, Copyright, 2014 Thomas MacEntee and Lisa A. Alzo

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eight Great Years of Blogging for “The Accidental Genealogist”

Where does the time go? I can't believe it has been eight years since I started this blog! In some ways I find it hard to believe it was so long ago, but in other ways I still feel that the experience is brand new because I am always learning more about the process. Blogging and this blog have come a long way since 2006. I started out not knowing anything about blogging, what exactly I would blog about, or if anyone would be interested in reading what I wrote. Over time (some 796 posts to be exact), I found my voice, my audience, and I made some changes including a move from being hosted just on “Blogger” to acquiring the "Accidental Genealogist" domain name (you can read why I chose to do so here). 

During my eight years as a blogger, I haven't always posted as much as I would have liked, but I I have enjoyed the blogging experience. That said, I would like to take the opportunity today (on my Blogiversary) to share some of my personal highlights from the past eight years.

1. Blogging about what I know.  My blog provides a forum where I can write about my two favorite subjects:  Genealogy and Writing (see “The Accidental Genealogist,” posted on July 2, 2006.). I have been extremely fortunate to have combined my two “passion” into a career as a writer, lecturer and instructor.

2. Sharing stories about my favorite ancestors. Over the years I have been able to write about my Slovak and Rusyn ancestors, and my research successes and obstacles in the quest to learn more about them.

Family photo collage created by Lisa A. Alzo

3. Meeting fellow bloggers. Through online interaction and meet-ups at genealogy conferences, I have had the pleasure of meeting other bloggers, many of whom have become some of my closest friends. The Genealogy Blogging Community is a close knit group (really, a family). [Time for a shout out to Thomas MacEntee, whose GeneaBloggers site has been instrumental in connecting and inspiring us.] 

4. Cousin connections. One of the biggest benefits to having a blog is that it greatly increases your chances of connecting with cousins and long-lost relatives, and I have done both many times over the years since I started my blog.

5. Support and encouragement. When I first started to write my blog I had absolutely no idea if I was on the right track or if I was floating alone out in cyberspace. Very soon after my first post, I received welcome messages from blogging pioneers such as DearMyrtle and Randy Seaver of Genea-musings.

6. Sojourn in Slovakia. One of the highlights of my time as a genealogist was being able to visit my ancestral homeland of Slovakia (twice)! Having the blog provided a way to share my experiences.  (See "Sojourn in Slovakia" and "Sojourn in Slovakia: The Sequel").

7. Fearless Females. I especially enjoy researching and writing about the women in my family tree, and I give presentations and teach courses to help and inspire to do the same. As an extension of this instruction, I run the Fearless Females Blogging Prompt Series on my blog every March in celebration of National Women’s History Month. (The series started in March 2010).

8. Loyal readers. Most people write a blog in hopes of informing, inspiring or interacting with others. Building a blog is something I don’t actively focus on.  Nevertheless, I am grateful to have readers! I don’t post every day, and sometimes I go for long periods of time without writing anything at all, but I appreciate every single person who follows my blog, and in particular, those who have written to me or have told me when we meet in person how much they have enjoyed it whether it was because of a story or tip I have shared, or to thank me for running the Fearless Females series.

So…What’s Next?

I don’t really know. I’m hoping to share additional research finds and write more about how my ancestors influence and inspire me every single day. I also plan on announcing some exciting new concepts and projects I have in the works.  So stay tuned.

Thanks for sticking with me. I look forward to many more years of blogging bliss!

~ Lisa 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Announcing FamilyTreeDNA Special Webinar on Researching Your Female Lines 15 May 2014

I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting a webinar on Researching Your Female Lines for FamilyTreeDNA Webinars on Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. This is a special webinar to help continue to the celebration of Mother's Day.

Photo by Lisa Alzo, held for private use. All Rights Reserved

Webinar Description:

Most historical records have been created for and are about men, making it more challenging to research the women in your family tree. This webinar will discuss the importance of documenting your female ancestors' lives, provide tips for tracking down those elusive maiden names, and offer a list of key resources you'll need to get started. 

Click here to register and reserve your spot for this webinar.

Can't attend live? 

An archived recording of this webinar will be available on the Webinars page of the Family Tree DNA Learning Center through June 15, 2014. 

Copyright 2014, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

[Disclaimer: I am working as a freelance presenter for FamilyTreeDNA Webinars and will be paid a speaker's fee for delivering this webinar].