Doing Genealogy The Old Fashion Way in a New Fangled World….

I am not a fan of shaky leaves or having my family tree online where people can link to it or add to it. I am an old fashioned genealogist. Set me in a dusty courthouse, give me $50 in quarters and leave me until the dust sends me into a coma and I am happy as a lark. At least until the coma kicks in.  However, the reality of our world is a lot of what I can find (not all) in that old courthouse is now online and I am no fool. I can research from my comfy chair, sans dust bunnies from home in my PJs just as well as I can travel for three hours and sit in a dusty courthouse. So I do as much online as I can, before I hit the dusty trails (so to speak.)

So how does an old fashioned genealogist take advantage of this new fangled world?  First off, I love’s free records. They have slowly been putting Tennessee probate microfilms online and hopefully someday soon, the deed records will join them.

So I go online to Family Search and I find a roll of film I want to look at. I still use the TN State Library and Archives Microfilm Inventories to help me be sure I know what I am looking at and if you browse the roll of film at Family Search you will usually  find the TSLA microfilm number on the first few pages of the microfilm. Sometimes Family Search will use multiple rolls for one roll of microfilm at TSLA especially if it is an index and then book. So beware you may not have all the TSLA microfilm in one image set at Family Search.

So we pick out a will book.  The next thing I do is look at TSLA’s inventory and see what year that will book covers.

So let’s look at Rutherford County, TN Will Book 1.  The microfilm inventory tells me it is TSLA roll number 282.  So that is what we are going to research in today. Step 2:  Open up Evernote and create a new note under “Tennessee Research in County” in the folder “Rutherford” called “R282 Index to Will Books & Will Books 1 and 2 (1879-1925)”


Step 3: Open Gensmarts and go to the Customize Records section.  Create a new record set called R282 (Rutherford 282)



Click next.  Set place restraints to USA, Tennessee.  Set place restraints to 1879-1904. (Note, the TSLA film covers both book one and two, the Family Search image set only covers book 1) Because I am trying to get all possible ancestors, I didn’t set a county, since my ancestor may have lived in Bedford County, but had his will probated in Rutherford. I can remove them manually later. I also select born, married or died here as constraints. Click next. I do not narrow it down by sex because I have female ancestors who had wills. Click next and name your report. (NOTE: If you only want to research your direct ancestors, first create a subset of people for Gensmarts to analyze from your data)  Under suggested title template, I use _gsSurname_, _gsGivenName_ (_gsBirthYear_- _gsDeathYear_)  This gives me a list of ancestors, by birth name alphabetized by surname. 


Step 4:  Highlight all the names in the list (if you created a subset of your data, you will just have your direct ancestors) Print a list of to dos (click on the down arrow beside print and click To Do List) I do one line per task and only print their names to a plain txt report. Open that in your word processor and copy all the names.

Step 5: Go to Evernote and paste the names into your newly created R282 note. Then using the checklist button create a check box beside each name (I always get two boxes, I just delete the extra ones as I do the research).


Now you have a list of people to search this roll of microfilm for and you have started your very first research log.

Go to the index for this roll of film (which is actually on another roll of film at Family Search) and see if any of your newly created to do ancestors are found on this roll of film. Check off those not found. Make notes of page numbers for those that are found and then you can go back to the roll of film with the will and find those pages. (note the page numbers correspond with the will book page numbers, not the Family Search image number)

Save any wills you find to your computer. I like to use a program called Transcript to help me transcribe the wills once I have downloaded the images.  I enter the data into my genealogy program The Master Genealogist.  

There  you have it. Old fashioned genealogy, using new fangled methods of research.  No shaky leaves necessary. (Though I admit I have no issues with the shaky leave site and use this same method of keeping up with my research over there as well.)


5 thoughts on “Doing Genealogy The Old Fashion Way in a New Fangled World….

  1. Yeah me too. I had forgotten how easy it was to get a list of research people until this week. I used to use it all the time. Now with Evernote I have an easy way to keep up with the research process as well.

  2. Another resource that has just “opened up” in a big way is genealogy books in ebook format.

    Amazon recently introduced its Kindle Unlimited program, which allows you to borrow and read as many Kindle ebooks as you like, for $9.95 a month. I wonder if genealogists have grasped what a godsend KU may be. Here’s why:

    In the genealogy section of the Kindle ebook store on Amazon, along with the how-to-climb-your-family-tree books, there’s a huge number of reference and raw-data collections, from histories of specific families to ships’ records, newspaper abstracts, etc. The problem with such books in the past has been that you didn’t know until after you purchased one (whether a print or a digital copy) if it contained information relevant to your own research.

    With Kindle Unlimited, this pig-in-a-poke problem vanishes.

    Here’s what you could do to further your research without gambling on books that may or may not have anything of use in them (to you). With a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you could borrow ten genealogy ebooks (the maximum allowed at one time). Then you could flip through them, or use your Kindle device’s search feature, to find any information of use to you. If you don’t find anything, then you can simply return them and borrow ten more.

    I know that these days, there are tons of information for ancestor hunters available for free or for a subscription fee at the dedicated genealogy websites such as

    But there’s still a lot of data locked up in various small-press books and books by individuals writing their own family’s story. Kindle Unlimited gives us genealogists a virtually cost-free way to unlock those books — at least the ones that have been committed to ebook format (and you might be surprised how many there are).

    By the way, you don’t even need a Kindle device to read Kindle books. You can download a free Kindle reading app for your smartphone or laptop that will do the trick. (Also BTW, I do NOT work for Amazon.)

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