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