4 Genealogy Quick-start Tips

Genealogy is a very rewarding hobby, and with the help of library resources, you can find and add ancestors to your tree. But, how do you begin? These 4 tips will get you off to a quick start on your family tree:

Keep it simple
Begin with a basic paper pedigree/tree form and fill in basic information. You can always enter this information later into an online tree or computer genealogy program. An ancestral chart allows you to see your family tree at a glance: https://www.archives.gov/files/research/genealogy/charts-forms/ancestral-chart.pdf  The standard is to use maiden names for women; use UNKNOWN for those names you cannot find documentation for. You might use a question mark (?) for information believed to be correct but not yet verified.

Start and stay organized
Details for parents and their children are easily grouped together on a family group sheet: https://www.archives.gov/files/research/genealogy/charts-forms/family-group-sheet.pdf  Keep these and ancestral charts in a binder, grouped by family lines. Add copies of record images as you find them, and file them according to their subject person. A child from one family gets moved to their own family group sheet when they marry.

Always begin with the facts you already know about your family. Fill in family group sheets for your parents, and then for their parents. Verify and document dates and locations of births, marriages and deaths wherever possible. Research and fill in one generation at a time. If you get stuck on a date or location, make a note and get research help at the library to find the documentation that you are missing.

Do not assume someone else’s research on your family is correct. Many well-meaning hobby genealogists post their family trees without any supporting records. Inaccuracies are easily passed on, and multiple online family trees may share the same incorrect information. You can get great research clues by using someone’s existing tree, but ALWAYS verify suggested information by finding records that document it. When you are stumped at proving some information for an ancestor (known as a “brick wall”), keep a research log to note what documentation you are missing, and use this to guide your next steps.

Want to learn the basics of building a family tree? Register (beginning July 15th) for our Genealogy Basics class being held August 31, 2022, from 10AM to 11AM.

Focus on Your Creativity

If you love taking photos, get acquainted with the Worth 1,000 Words Camera Club! The club meets the first Wednesday of each month, both in-person at AAPLD, and virtually. Photographers of all experience levels are welcome. Members use digital, film, and cellphone cameras.

“We have very expert members and raw beginners. Any style of photography, equipment, and any subject matters are covered by the membership, as well as in the meeting content,” said group leader Mike Circo.

Monthly programs include a short teaching session covering a photography technique, or style. Recent topics have included camera maintenance, motion photography, still life photography and Black and White photography. Members then share their work for discussion, positive critique and suggestions. Circo also issues a challenge for the upcoming month, to encourage members to expand their photography skills. “The challenges are generally the most enjoyed part of any meeting because they help us mentally get out of our ruts and impel us to get that camera out,” Circo said.

The group has also begun occasional photography outings. Circo said the field trips allow members to learn from one another while actively taking photos. In December, members photographed holiday decorations, learning about the technical issues of shooting in low light. Members have expressed interest in local landscapes, spring flowers and the McHenry Riverwalk.

Click to register for the Worth a 1,000 Words Camera Club’s next meeting, Wed. June 1, at 7:00 p.m.

Find your family using the 1950 Census!

After the long 72-year waiting period, family researchers finally have access to the 1950 Federal Census.

Learn more about using this resource for genealogy. We will be hosting a webinar with Lisa Louise Cooke, and she will guide us through the 1950 Census. The May 17th webinar was cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control, but the program will be rescheduled! Watch this blog for the new date and registration information.

The 1950 Census has now been indexed for searching on Ancestry Library Edition, which is available for in-library use only. Use this resource for free during your next visit, and find your family in the 1950 census.

Interested in attending our monthly genealogy interest group? Click here for information about our next meeting, coming up on May 10th at 10AM. Attend virtually via Zoom OR in person!


Enjoy A Reader-Recommended Book!

The Spring Fling Reading Challenge invites participants to review a book they've read, and our patrons have responded!

If you're looking for an intriguing new read, why not give one of these "Favorite Flings" a try? Browse online, call the library to place a hold, or stop in and check out our Favorite Flings display in the Adult Services department.

If you've read something you loved, grab a Spring Fling review card from the Favorite Flings display, or at the Adult Services desk. You can also log into your Beanstack account, click Book Reviews, and tell us about your pick. You might see your new favorite on display soon!


Run Rose Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson - From America’s most beloved superstar and its greatest storyteller—a thriller about a young singer/songwriter on the rise and on the run, and determined to do whatever it takes to survive.

Every song tells a story. She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her. She’s also on the run. Find a future, lose a past. Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny. It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her. And destroy her.

Fits Spring Fling challenge square: Read a book with flower in the title.

Patron Review: "I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was very thought-provoking as I wanted to continue reading for the next adventure she embarked on. It was heartwarming with her success at the end of the story. Loved the short chapters." -Anonymous

Go Tell The Bees I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon - The ninth installment in Gabaldon's beloved "Outlander" series! Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall were torn apart by the Jacobite Rising in 1746, and it took them twenty years to find each other again. Now the American Revolution threatens to do the same. It is 1779 and Claire and Jamie are at last reunited with their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children on Fraser’s Ridge. Having the family together is a dream the Frasers had thought impossible. Yet even in the North Carolina backcountry, the effects of war are being felt. Tensions in the Colonies are great and local feelings run hot enough to boil Hell’s teakettle. Jamie knows loyalties among his tenants are split and it won’t be long until the war is on his doorstep.

Spring Fling Reading Challenge squares: Try it as an audiobook!

Patron Review: "I loved this latest edition of the Outlander series. Roger, Brianna, and their kids are reunited with Claire and Jamie on the Ridge! But it wouldn't be outlander without some twists and turns (and tears)." - Outlander Fan

The Last Exiles by Ann Shin - Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, North Korea has fallen under great political upheaval, plunged into chaos and famine. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, their food rations all but gone, he makes a rash decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, miles away, Suja has begun to feel the tenuousness of her privilege when she learns that Jin has disappeared. Risking everything, and defying her family, Suja sets out to find him, embarking on a dangerous journey that leads her into a dark criminal underbelly and will test their love and will to survive.

Spring Fling Reading Challenge squares: Read a book with flowers on the cover, Debut Novel, Staff Pick

Patron Review: "This novel gives a look inside the secretive world of North Korea. A country filled with fear, distrust, and little control over one's life. Yet, the power of love and determination changes the fates of the brave characters in this book. An enjoyable and informative read." - Cecelia G.

Seed Library Journal #4- April 11

After a week (at least) of gray skies and temps in the 40s, the sunny weekend was the motivation I needed to plant my Seed Library seeds! I'm using the tabletop greenhouse I got for my birthday, but you can find seed trays and accessories at most garden and hardware stores.  The Seed Library has lots of vegetable, herb and flower seed varieties available. Check out our catalog online, and request seeds here. An Adult Services staff member will notify you when they're ready to pick up.

Step by step, here's how I planted my seeds:

Soil Prep

I used a good quality potting mix that's made specifically for starting seeds. This one is very  lightweight, and contains a mix of peat moss, vermiculite and organic plant food.







After pouring the mix into a wheelbarrow, I added water until the soil was the consistency of crumbly brownie mix. An old Little Tikes garden trowel was perfect for mixing and scooping the potting mix.

Filling the seed cups

After punching drainage holes in the bottom of the egg cartons, I added potting mix, gently tamping  it down into the cups to reduce air pockets, and give the seeds a warm, damp place to sprout.

Once the egg cartons were filled, I placed them in a waterproof tray.

Planting the seeds

Now the fun part! I opened each Seed Library packet and carefully poured the seeds into a small container. Since some of the seeds I selected are tiny, this made it easier not to lose them! Then I labeled the cartons for each seed variety, and used the labeling sticks to create a small hole for each seed. While I didn't know the preferred planting depth for every variety, I'd read that 1/4" to 1/2" is a good depth to use for most plants.

Carefully using the edge of the seed envelope, I dropped one seed into each hole, and brushed potting mix over the hole to close it.

The wait begins!

With all the seeds planted, I lightly watered once more, before covering the planting tray to trap the humidity. The soil needs to be kept at 60-70 degrees, so I have a warming mat underneath the planting tray to keep the seeds warm. The potting mix needs to be damp but not soggy, so I'll check it each day and water as needed.

Once the seeds sprout, it will be time to add the grow light.

Have your Seed Library seeds sprouted yet? Share your progress on the AAPLD FB page!

The Seed Library Journal #3, March 23

Another gray and blustery day, but spring is getting closer. Next week, I plant my seeds from the Seed Library.

Asters and Bee Balm will go in the butterfly garden we planted beneath our boys' old swing-set. Bees and hummingbirds love this garden, too. Put feeders out in April to attract these tiny wonders on their northern migration.



Giant delphinium will be planted in this bed near the driveway.


If you've planted your Seed Library seeds, we'd love to hear how they're growing!  Check out our Seed Library catalog online, or stop by the Adult Services desk and fill out a seed request form.

A Month to Make Her-Story!

A powerful and revered First Lady. The first Latina U.S. Supreme Court justice. A ground-breaking comedian. These are just a few of the fascinating women you can discover this month at Algonquin Area Public Library.

March is Women's History Month, and a great opportunity to learn about the contributions women have made to our nation, and to history. Whether its a biography, memoir or historical novel based on real life people and events, browse our online catalog for stories that are sure to inspire readers, regardless of gender.




Elizabeth & Margaret: the intimate world of the Windsor sisters by Andrew Morton

Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret were the closest of sisters and the best of friends. But when, in a quixotic twist of fate, their uncle Edward Vlll abdicated the throne, the dynamic between Elizabeth and Margaret was dramatically altered. Forever more Margaret would have to curtsey to the sister she called 'Lillibet.' And bow to her wishes. Margaret's struggle to find a place and position inside the royal system—and her fraught relationship with its expectations—was often a source of tension.


Just As I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson "Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. Here, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say."


Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly - Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of NASA professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.

Historical Fiction

Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini - The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. Estranged from Ada’s father, Ada’s mathematician mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education. When Ada is introduced into London society little does she realize that her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage will shape her destiny. Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine,  and enthralled by the plans for even more advanced inventions, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world.

The Seed Library Journal #2

Okay, today’s snow put a…chill on warm hopes for an early spring, but I wanted to share some pix I took Saturday, which WAS a taste of spring! I hope you were able to get out and enjoy it.

We’ll plant our Seed Library sunflowers on the east side of our house, where they’ll get lots of morning sun. With luck, they’ll be tall enough to see from inside the front porch.

And unrelated to the Seed Library, but still pretty cool, our lilac bush has buds!

Any signs of spring you’d like to share?

Dig Into A Gardening Adventure!

AAPLD's new Seed Library offers a  bounty of vegetable, herb and flower seeds free of charge! Whether you're an experienced gardener, or just getting started, it's not too early to prepare for growing season! Learn more about the Seed Library, and request seeds online. We'll fill your order and notify you when your seeds are ready to pick up.

This season, Adult Services Library Associate Elizabeth Harmon will share her experiences planting her Seed Library flower seeds, and watching her garden grow! Follow Elizabeth's gardening journal through the Adult Services Blog and AAPLD's Facebook page.  And if you're planting seeds from the Seed Library, let us know how it's going by leaving a comment on social media.



The Seed Library Journal- February 23

I picked up our seeds today. We have Morning Glories, Moonflowers, Delphinium, Bee Balm, Asters, and one of my favorites, Sunflowers.  My husband Tom and I discussed where we'll plant the flowers in our gardens, and how many seeds we'll be starting indoors--36. As a kid, I remember starting seeds in cardboard egg cartons. Though I haven't tried it in a really long time, we're going to this year! Time to eat more eggs.

We want to transplant our seedlings outside Memorial Day weekend, so we need to plant the seeds inside by mid-March.  Our next challenge is to find a warm spot that gets good sun, and where our curious kitty won't try to eat the baby plants. And, do we need to buy a grow-light?