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Genealogy for the New, the Frustrated, and the Reluctant: Our Conversation with a Professional

Ellen Goodwin, Artifcts
September 07, 2023

Reading time: 7 minutes 

We see you! You’re curious about something in your family history but are no genealogy pro. You are strapped for time and fear the complexities and cost involved in getting started and doing the research right.

The good news is that you do not need to become a genealogist to benefit from the voluminous records available online and via traditional hardcopy archives of old. We always encourage you to start “old school” with what you may have at home. Check out our Genealogy Gems checklist.

Notebook paper with list of genealogy research items in your home

In today’s conversation, you’ll learn about how professional genealogists can support your efforts to gain new information no matter if you are a highly experienced researcher or an amateur family historian who loves a good story. Who doesn’t after all? Myths, legends, campfire tales are all about good stories. Even better when they stories are your family’s stories!

Genealogy Research with the Pros

Sheri Bennett, a professional genealogist and project manager with Legacy Tree Genealogists, knows a thing or two about genealogy. A practicing professional for nearly two decades with a degree from Brigham Young University (BYU) and first-hand research experience in Mexico and Chile, she’s seen a lot. Enjoy our chat with Sheri as we explore what professional genealogists bring to the table to resolve your family history puzzles and curiosities. 

Ellen Goodwin: It’s not every day I get to chat with a professional genealogist. I’m hardly even a hobbyist. More an admirer! And you have a deep professional background and interesting specialties, too.

Sheri Bennett: Well, you’re in good company with Legacy Tree Genealogists, because we work with all types of people interested in genealogy. But, yes, you gave my technical background, and that’s been bolstered by my own family research while I was at BYU and over the course of my career. My dad was from Tennessee and my husband the south as well, so between researching their ancestry and my own time in Chile and Mexico, I have developed specialties in the US South and Midwest as well as supporting Spanish-language research.

Goodwin: In your experience, is there a common theme as to why clients hire professional genealogists?

Bennett: The specifics vary but, in general, they simply want to know – what are our stories, who were my people, where did they live and work, why did they move? They want concrete answers.

Sometimes to get these answers you need help that stretches beyond a passive hobby, because as we all know, not all information is created equal. I was shocked when a professor once told me that all those many many many family trees out there are only ~40% accurate! People think they are related to people they are not related to if they accept others’ trees.

Goodwin: That sounds … messy. Does that mean you spend a lot of time correcting trees?

Bennett: A lot of time, no, not necessarily, but it is a very common request from clients. We use two documents per relationship to validate and/or correct a relationship. One document is never enough. Someone else’s tree is never enough.

Goodwin: I think that’s a major draw for people like myself: In seeking these answers, you offer reassurance. Your work meets standards that mean your clients have concrete answers and can avoid passing down inaccurate information.

Bennett: As professional genealogists, the genealogical proof standards from the Board for Certification of Genealogists are the cornerstone of our work and our core values at Legacy Tree Genealogists, too: Care – Cooperation – Accuracy – Respect – Efficiency.

We have an obligation to undertake “reasonable exhaustive research.” The key word being exhaustive. What record could contain the needed information? Tax records, probate, … may all be relevant. And what archive, where, would hold that document?

Goodwin: I love how excited and passionate you get about this work as we’re chatting. Even a document is not just a document to you. For so many, it’s hard to breathe life or context into a piece of paper.

Bennett: Documents are so exciting. It’s a connection! They aren’t just paper – if you know how to interpret them, they can tell a story. Where they were born, to whom, was dad not even listed and was that normal for the time? If you’re lucky, like in some Latin countries, even grandparents are listed in a birth certificate, and you get three generations in one document!

Audio icon on beige background labeled "Listen in!"

Stories are there, hidden in those documents.

Goodwin: I’m excited just imagining what all that information you research could mean for today’s descendants. I can picture it: here's the city so-and-so was born and raised in, and the church where she was married—see their signatures on the marriage license—and the location where the bakery she and her family operated once stood, and so on.

Bennett: Yes, seeing it all in black and white, it’s amazing. And to your point of envisioning it, we even map those locations out for clients. You could use it to plan a family heritage trip! It’s another way we can bring the research to life for our clients – real people, real places, real relations and roots of yours.

Goodwin: Your specialties, local knowledge, and archival access across your global team must be an incredible asset to your clients. I know that in my mother’s family, the paternal line was the subject of a self-published book in 1992, but the author mentions at the outset all sorts of gaps where no matter how many letters she wrote to archives in England, Germany, and elsewhere, she never found certain records.

Bennett: Absolutely. We have researchers who specialize in different areas across the world. Often when hobbyists or amateur genealogists hit brick walls like your family member did, it’s because they are working online and cannot access the old churches, tax offices, and other archives where original records are kept.

Goodwin: Thinking about those original records, validating places of birth and marriage, for example, are more black and white sorts of records searches. Surely people also come to you with information more akin to family lore that they want you to explore?

Bennett: Ha, yes. And I’m sure you read a lot of family lore at Artifcts, too. Curiosity certainly motivates people. They want to know if the family legends are true. Do we have a Cherokee princess in the family line? Are we really related to Jessie James? Did my ancestors come over on the Mayflower? They are curious, but they don’t have time to unearth this information themselves.

They want to know, are the legends true?

Goodwin: In seeking these answers, you deliver insights and the proof we spoke about earlier. Clients receive a written report, along with a fan chart, copies of the original documents, and even a data file that they can upload to genealogy software to update their tree. Did I miss anything?

Bennett: All of our findings are delivered in a binder and a password protected website, too. And, keep in mind, it's all the research findings along the way, too.

One of our clients in Cuba was trying to trace his family’s origins back to Spain. But it wasn’t as simple as going one or two generations back. Ten generations back and at last we landed his family in Spain. All of our research discoveries along the way, even the dead ends, were valuable and validating.

Nil results are still progress!

Goodwin: What’s one detail about family history and genealogy research that people might easily overlook?

Bennett: The photos. Often clients want us to find photos of their ancestors, and here there’s an important “yes, but” to consider.

Audio icon on beige background

Was your ancestor in the newspaper? That would help.

Goodwin: I know exactly what you mean about the feeling of connection when you discover new details and context. I Artifcted a family brooch after a lengthy episode of chasing family history and had I known more about it earlier, I would have worn it on my wedding day.

If I were a client of yours, could I share that Artifct with you to support your research? 

Bennett: Yes! We prefer clients to share files with us digitally, if possible, so we can easily access and review them and avoid duplicating any progress they may have already made in their family research.

We certainly do not want you to send us a brooch or original photo or document. If those resources are Artifcted, all the better! We can weave Artifcts into the biography along with the photos and documents within each Artifct, too.

<<End Interview>>

There’s that age old saying, working smarter not harder. And sometimes, yes, that means calling in a professional genealogist for a course correction, powering through a brick wall, or inspiring your search down paths you’ve never even caught a glimpse of. We love that your Artifcts can capture and boost those genealogy discoveries and sharing and hope you’ll have a lot of fun as you continue your family history research!

Happy Artifcting!


You may also enjoy these additional ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Did You Know Great Grandpa was an Inventor?

Grandma's Secret, Not-So-Secret, Coin Collection

She's the Last of Her Generation


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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TIME Magazine Wants YOU ... to Declutter with Artifcts

Decluttering is a bit of an art, isn’t it? While one person may find it completely normal to retain 100s of back issues of magazines and spontaneously start new collections or justify pretty oddball purchases, you may look at all that ‘stuff’ and question, "Why?" But maybe you in turn struggle with sentimental gifts from close family and friends.

Finding the process that works for you can be daunting. Should you set a 15-minute timer and tackle the low hanging fruit? Do you want to keep what gives you joy and take a hard look at the rest, room by room? We’ve written about practical minimalism, which has something to offer for everyone, and decluttering with dementia in focus. We've given you an earth-friendly guide and decluttering targets. So many options! 

But as you take inventory of your home or perhaps contemplate downsizing your home, sometimes the best solution is the one that can check off multiple boxes at once in your busy life.

How to Declutter, Smarter 

TIME magazine published a story this week that placed our wellbeing and mental health at the epicenter of how to declutter. Their seven approaches were informed by mental health and home decluttering experts. One of the tools recommended was Artifcts. Here’s the excerpt:

Another app, Artifcts, helps preserve memories through a combination of images, audio, video, and text. If your grandmother has a lot of vintage jewelry, you could take a picture of each ring or necklace and record her telling a story about its significance. “Now you’ve got her words, her voice, her story, and it’s forever,” he says—yet the objects cluttering up the closet can go.

Paxton also uses Artifcts to digitize his seven kids’ artwork. Every Friday before dinner, he spends five minutes taking a photo of their latest creation and then records them talking about their work. Each kid chooses one piece of art to keep per year, and the rest live on in digital form.

If you are using Artifcts to support insurance claims, populate (at last!) that memorandum of tangible assets in your will, or document your collections, you may be a bit surprised to learn that others use Artifcts to document that which they are giving away or selling. 

Setting aside hoarding disorders and those with infinite resources for housing and storage, the key is this: We cannot keep it all. We must make tradeoffs for space, safety, and sanity, and sometimes that means letting go of items we wish we could keep, whether they are our own or we’ve inherited them. Artifcts is so much more than an inventory app, because here the memories and stories along with the curated items you value most are captured and preserved together, making it easier to let go. 

Our founders' favorite strategy for decluttering smarter with Artifcts is quite simple: Start with the obvious, what’s there in front of you. Kid art cluttering the counters? Old photos on the fridge? Piles of holiday letters and cards sitting on your desk? Simply snap a photo, add a short story, save, and you’re done! You can now recycle those items guilt free and reclaim your counters, desks, and exterior fridge space. That makes Artifcts a powerful decluttering app, sort of a "whistle while you work" phenomenon.

And, by the way, their families know this is a favorite strategy, so they’ve learned not to leave things out. Yet another way Artifcts can help with the clutter!  

TIME Magazine: 7 Low-Stress Ways to Start Decluttering 

We were so moved by the piece from TIME that we are bringing you this special ARTIcles by Artifcts to recommend you take a moment to read it and reflect on the options they have surfaced and see if any of them are the right one to help you in this moment in life and time.

Illustration of objects you might declutter in a home on a yellow background


Happy Saturday, and happy Artifcting!


Hello decluttering, organizing, or downsizing professionals! 

Check out Artifcts for Professionals and stay tuned for an announcement about our FREE upcoming 4-part training series this spring. In the interim, you might enjoy these sorting-, decluttering-, and organizing-themed webinars: 

Heather Nickerson, CEO of Artifcts, Chat with MaxSold: Get in on the auction 

Evenings with Artifcts: Practical Minimalism with Matt Paxton and Zoë Kim (VIDEO)

Getting Organized Ahead of the Holidays


© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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10 Ways Genealogists are Using Artifcts That May Help You, Too

Reading time: 4 minutes 

No one knows how to use any product better than the power users among us. One of our power user groups at Artifcts is genealogists.

We've found genealogists as a whole to be tech savvy, detail oriented, creative, outside the box thinkers, and progressive leaning in the evolution of their methods. Curious what draws them to Artifcts and how they use it, surprising even the people who built Artifcts? Let’s go! 

10 Things Genealogists Have Taught Us About Artifcts 

If you are not a genealogist, you may think, “Don’t genealogists stick to family trees and research archives?” To some degree that was our expectation as we began building Artifcts. But the love of the details and the joy of bringing others in on their discoveries has meant Artifcts is solving a problem that genealogists couldn't quite put their collective fingers on until we came along. We suspect their tricks of the trade at Artifcts will help all of us non-genealogists in our quests, too! 

1. Tags are clearly limitless.

Folders are like corsets. Free yourself with tags! Create as many custom tags as you like on each of your Artifcts to later click on or search by (simply start your search term with #) by family member, location, document type and more.   

Fun fact: Genealogists were the first Arti Members we know of to add more than 10 tags to a single Artifct. 

2. The Artifcts timeline is a beautifully simple design and powerful resource.

Unlike traditional genealogy timelines, your Artifcts timeline is not weighed down by black and white details and restrictions on managing. With a click and drag you can reorder or choose to add more detail to your Artifcts. Creating a timeline for each family member? You can do that automatically by simply tagging each Artifct with the applicable family member and then sorting your timeline view by that tag, e.g. #DanielD or more specifically #DanielDb1938.  

BONUS! You can add public or private “time period notes” to your timeline to keep track of gaps you want to address or validate in your research and then Artifct. 

3. The stories and facts you need are available in fewer clicks

You can inter-link individual Artifcts you create using the familiar @ feature you likely know from social media, email, or even leaving comments in a Word document. Just build the people and Artifcts into your Artifcted "story” with by typing @ and making your selection. Once saved, you and others who can access the Artifct will be able to instantly segway to a related person or Artifct. No one you share your Artifct with will have to guess how all the dots connect. You will connect them as you create your Artifcts!  

Only because a genealogist asked did we ever try to write a “life story” in an Artifct. It’s easy to do when you have all your other Artifcts to help tell the story! Check it out in this ARTIcles story >

Here’s another sweet and silly example using the @ feature that we love from a summer vacation. Click the image to view the Artifct.


4. Brand/Artist is a perfect “free form” field.

A free form field, oh boy! Try using the Brand/Artist field to record Grandpa’s name and his link in the family tree for easy reference by anyone who you give access to view your Artifct. But remember, depending on where you build your family tree, you may need to grant them access there, too.

BONUS! Next time you fill in this field, you can select Grandpa again from the dropdown menu without having to retrieve the link. 

5. Location doesn’t have to be a physical place.

You can insert a link to the folder, share drive, or part of a family tree in whatever software you use to look for “more information” related to an Artifct if you need to dive deeper or reevaluate in the future. Remember, even if you privately share an Artifct with someone, no one else can see this field. If you are instead interested in including a video snippet in your private Artifct but want family you share it with to have access to the full hour long video, you could link to it from the Artifct "Description."

6. Artifcts sharing lists and circles bypass the usual pain of sharing.

Never again will you have to text, email, or airdrop a photo or audio or video snippet to a family member. With a free Artifcts account, anyone you specifically grant “view” access will have the option automatically to download any of the great photos, videos, and more you include in the Artifct in their original formats. No tiny, pixelated photos or videos (unless of course that's what you started with).

7. “Documentation” is for more than receipts and appraisals.

Documentation in each Artifct you create accommodates letter collections, chapters of family books, PDF scans of family recipe books, and more. It’s not just for receipts, appraisals, and the like. And thanks to feedback from genealogists, when you click and share an Artifct, you can choose if you’d like to also share the attached documents. By default, no documentation is ever shared.

8. Colors matter, so use them!

The introduction of options to change your font color and highlight your text in various shades as you write the description/story for an Artifct is also thanks to genealogists. Why? Because in the world of genealogy, colors have very specific meanings and help keep branches of the family tree straight. Others may use them for fun, but genealogists reminded us of the value of color. 

9. Ditto: Image captions matter.

While we introduced the option to add captions to photos thinking it would tie each more easily to the stories and people written about in the Artifct, genealogists instead started using them to reinforce information in the photos in a citation format. “Bravo,” we say.

Artifcted diploma by @tmacentee

We love the detail genealogist @tmacentee uses to record important events and accomplishments. Click the image to view the Artifct.

10. Stories can last for generations with Artifcts.

Start with the mundane black and white details, add in the family lore and research-in-progress as the fuel, and you can capture the interest of your most stubborn friends and family. Okay, maybe we knew this going into the creation of Artifcts, but if research-oriented genealogists are willing to adapt their tried-and-true methods to pick up Artifcting to ensure the STORIES of the heirlooms, trees, photos and more live on, then surely the rest of us mere mortals should do the same.  

It can be a bridge too far for many people to enter the world of sophisticated and complex genealogy software. Artifcts is a powerful tool, with a friendly, warm, and easy to use experience layered on top to welcome all. 

How do you use Artifcts? We’d love to hear all of your tips, hacks, and best practices. Please join us on Instagram or Facebook or write to use at


© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Artifcts Is Our Love Language

Reading time: 4 minutes 

In 1992, Baptist Minister Gary Chapman published the non-fiction book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. (Side note, if anyone out there has a copy, go Artifct That!) 

The book outlines five ways that romantic partners express and experience love, which he termed, “love languages.” In short, Chapman’s five love languages were words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  

In our household, although acts of service and quality time are always encouraged, Artifcts has become our go-to love language. It transcends the generations, spans the distances, and lets us all know we are loved.  

Saying I Love You Artifcts Style 

My entire family knows I say I love you with Artifcts. There are freshly baked late-night chocolate chip cookies and banana breads when coming home from school, and of course, the recipes (and love notes) that follow via Artifcts. 

Gifts are given along with the Artifcts (and the explanations for why THIS gift) as are adventures. One of my favorite Artifcts surprises to date has been gifting our then 19-year-old a trip to Iceland, itinerary revealed and documented via Artifcts.  

I am lucky and thankful that the Artifcts go both ways in our household. My husband is especially sweet, Artifcting the moments, mementos, and memories (and cards!) that say, “I love you.” I was brought to tears when he Artifcted a piece of art he bought me AND included an audio recording of him explaining why he picked THAT piece and what it meant to him. Call me strictly sentimental, but I love having his voice safely paired with the Artifct. 

Saying I Love You Across Generations 

My mother-in-law and my husband have an especially meaningful love language in Artifcts. She’s been Artifcting since we launched and now has several hundred Artifcts and counting. She loves being able to share her stories and memories with her children and grandchildren, and my husband loves learning bits and pieces about his mom that he never knew before. (The grandchildren do too!) 

For instance, little did we know that @Grandmom counts an eight-foot python skin among her most prized possessions until she shared the Artifct with us! 


Who knew? We didn't until Grandmom Artifcted it!

My father has also recently gotten into the Artifcting mode, creating and privately sharing Artifcts with our family, documenting his life from 4H to retirement. I learned things about my father I never knew, and that is the greatest gift of all.  

As for us, and our generation? My husband and I Artifct FOR our children since we know they may not always remember the small moments and otherwise important details. My husband Artifcted the older kids’ swim trophies as we downsized, and I routinely Artifct special moments for my daughter, from learning to ride a bike to skiing her first black diamond. Sure, she’ll have the photos, thousands of them, but photos can’t talk and one day she’ll want to know the stories behind those photos.  


First time skiing a black diamond.Important firsts, remembered always. Made with love on Artifcts. 

Saying I Love You Across Distances 

One of the great things about Artifcts is that you don’t have to physically be there to send and share Artifcts. Part of my family lives in Denmark, and we capture and share the small moments, favorite recipes, and special memories via Artifcts.  

I love waking up to a new Artifct from my Danish family. We’ve even utilized Artifcts to subvert the insanely slow snail mail process. This year for my birthday, my Danish family Artifcted my birthday card, complete with photos, a funny story, and videos! It was the best and greenest birthday greeting yet.  

We also create Artifcts Circles when we travel together, or celebrate holidays together, sharing Artifcts, stories, and memories for all to see. It helps make the distances between seem not so large and gives us all something to look back on and cherish until our next time together.  

Creating A Sixth Love Language? 

We’ve come to think of Artifcts as our sixth love language, although I suppose it’s more of an amalgamation of several of Chapman’s original love languages. In our house, Artifcts always include positive words of affirmation. Creating the Artifcts requires quality time and is without a doubt a service to the next (and current!) generation, in addition to being one of the best gifts ever. 

We’re biased for sure, but we can’t think of a better way to say I love you than Artifcts!  

Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day.


© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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