Genealogists of the Past – Kale Hobbes

Genealogists of the Past – Interview 2

Hello there! Our blog writer, Tyler, is starting a new series of blog posts called “Genealogists of the Past.” This series will be a collection of interviews from people who were young (early teens to early 20s) genealogists from different decades! Our first interview comes from experienced genealogist and book writer, Ben Nicholls! So, if you began genealogy as a teenager or a young adult in the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, or beyond, please consider contacting our co-founder, Tyler, for an interview.

A little Info on Kale…

Kale Hobbes, better known as “Leprechaunrabbit” on his social media venues, has been doing genealogy research for nearly 50 years! He began his genealogy journey back in 1972; his grandmother and 3rd grade teacher helped introduce him to family history research when he was only nine years old. In the time since, Kale has become a very successful genealogist, running his own blog site, “Down the Rabbit Hole.” He is also very active in the genealogy community on Twitter and Instagram, being an #AncestryHour Ambassador and is involved in #genchat. Now, Kale has agreed to be the second interview of Tyler’s “Genealogist of the Past” series to talk about how the past five decades has changed the field of genealogy.

The Interview Questions…

  1. Give us a brief introduction about yourself.
  • On Twitter, I am the long-eared bunny bartender from #genchat and an #AncestryHour Ambassador: SirLeprechaunrabbit® I can be found on most of the social media venues, as “leprchaunrabbit.” 
  • I happily promote all genealogy discussion groups as I find them; and I try to participate in their discussions – my German is improving (my Tante E would be so proud!). 
  • I embrace all ages and experiences of those who hold an interest in genealogy. We have all started out with nothing and built up our documented collections; it is just the lucky few who started out younger than most. 
  • I am married to MiLadyRabbit; it will be 18 years this July. From our previous marriages, she has a daughter, and a son and two grandchildren, while I have my “trio of Army men” (sons) and one grandson.

2. How old were you when you began your genealogy journey? 

  • I was only nine years-old and innocent. I did not foresee the dark, apocalyptic endeavor that would slowly take over my life! It has survived marriage, divorce, a military career, a cross-country move and fourteen computer crashes.

3. How did you get into genealogy? Did you do it by yourself or did someone help you?

  • My Grade Three teacher is to blame! Madame Gallant exposed me to genealogy, but it was Gramma Rabbit (AKA my paternal grandmother, Emily MOREAU, year-1975) who made certain it would be fatal! 
  • Disguised as homework for social studies, Madame asked the class to draw our family tree! No explanations just draw. 
  • I was artistically challenged back then – and, yes, even to this day a big, smiley face is beyond my capabilities, so, I thought that I could do one better: bring it in for Show ‘n’ Tell! [BAD IDEA] 
  • I wrote on my blog how I failed my genealogy assignment, if you are interested to read it.

4. What was it like being a young genealogist in the early 1970s? Did you meet anyone your age at the time who also was interested in family history research? 

  • The Alex Haley movie ROOTS came out in January 1977. Everyone got bit with the genealogy bug, and they eagerly sought help from each other, but they would not consider any assistance offered from a 14-year-old with five-years research experience! 
  • “Go away kid, you bother me,” was their glib remark (but more often times a flippant W.C. Fields impression) that made my involvement very unwelcome. 
  • It had only been one and a half years earlier (June 1975), when my Gramma Rabbit had passed away; and with all the negativity from the senior-aged researchers around me, I was missing her very, very much. 
  • Half-heartedly I continued in silence, enjoying the quiet but loathing the loneliness, with only my school studies taking precedence. 
  • For years, Mama Rabbit tried to convince herself that it was just a phase I was going through. By the time I reached my 21st birthday, she gave up trying.

5. How do you think genealogy research has changed since you started back in 1972?


– Most repositories had banking hours that conflicted with  

school hours. 

– Mail was via the postal services and took ten days for across 

town delivery and up to eight weeks for international replies – 

IF they replied! 

– Pens were NOT permitted in public libraries or archives.  

– White gloves were a must! 

– Internet access was limited to universities and R&D*  



  • At nine-years-old, my traveling was limited to public transit or walking.  
  • If money was involved to acquire proofs or copies, it could not go beyond a self-addressed stamped envelope or ten cents a page using the public library photocopiers! 
  • It was not until 1993, when I got access to a computer! 
  • The next major leaps forward were ZIP drives (1994), thumb drives (2000-2018), EVERNOTE® note taking software (2000), AXCRYPT® encryption software (2002), digital camera (2005), wireless headset/microphone (2012), external hard drives (2015), PHOTOMYNE® photo scanning app (2015) and multiple screens (2 in 2017, and 3 in 2019). 
  • As of 2018, I am now on my second laptop (fourth computer); and, as of 2019 my third cellphone with 64M extended memory. 

6. What were the challenges of searching for family back then?

  • Back in the early 1970s, with Gramma Rabbit leading the way, I would take gravestone photographs – long before it was cool.  
  • Trying to arrange meeting my eldest generations to talk with them. Once I got my driver’s license, most of them were already gone. 
  • Unfortunately, my mother and father’s generations did not want to talk when I asked them. When they finally did, I was either serving overseas in the army, or busy with a growing family of my own. 

7. How did you do your research with limited technical or less access to information? 

  • Extensive note taking! I went everywhere with two spiral bound books. 
  • One was a research log, while the other contained transcriptions, citations, postal addresses and observations. 
  • Obituaries were my first go-to, followed by family plots in cemeteries.  
Kale has extensive and well organized genealogical binders!

8. Tell us a bit more about your work as a genealogist.

  • It is still just a hobby. I would love to certify, but I have not seen a professionally prepared genealogy report to understand IF I could piece one together. (Yes, I am afraid of taking on too much and failing).
  • When I have less than an hour to do some (daily) research, I go online and look up obituaries; and whenever I have some spare time outside, I still take pictures in cemeteries. Sometimes filling requests, other times, capturing the artistic work of the stonemasons. 


To conclude, Kale has seen the field of genealogy change completely since he began family history research when he was nine years old. Although, some things being a genealogist never change, like visiting cemeteries or archives. I can definitely relate with Kale about not having family understand our passion for research. My grandparents also hope that my genealogy “stuff” is just a phase XD. It is also still good to be resourceful, even though technology and the internet has made genealogy easier than ever. You still need to know to do the “footwork” with genealogy, going to archives for records, visiting cemeteries, requesting family records and documents, etc. I really admire and respect Kale for all the work that he has done to build up the genealogy community online, with his professional blog, being involved with different things are Twitter like #AncestryHour and #genchat; it is a big inspiration to me.

Again – if you started researching family history genealogy as a teenager or young adult (early 20s) in a previous decade. Please consider contacting Tyler for an interview just like this one!

Genealogists of the Past – Ben Nicholls

Hello there! Our blog writer, Tyler, is starting a new series of blog posts called “Genealogists of the Past.” This series will be a collection of interviews from people who were young (early teens to early 20s) genealogists from different decades! Our first interview comes from experienced genealogist and book writer, Ben Nicholls! So if you began genealogy as a teenager or a young adult in the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, or beyond, please consider contacting our co-founder, Tyler, for an interview.

A Little Info about Ben…

This year, Ben Nicholls will be celebrating his 20th anniversary of starting genealogy and we feel this post would be a great way to celebrate. He began his genealogy journey in 2001 while studying at university, in London, at the age of 23. So far, he has written two books about genealogy, Bond of Blood and Trial by Fire. Not to mention, Ben runs a successful website, which provides their own genealogical services. Their mission statement is “We reconnect families past and present.” Ben has agreed to an interview with Hidden Branch team member, Tyler, about what genealogy was like back 20 years ago when he started.

Ben (circa. 2007) with his two books, Bond of Blood and Trial by Fire.
Bond of Blood
Trial by Fire

The Interview Questions…

  • Give us a brief introduction about yourself; how old were you when you began your genealogy journey?

“I was 23 when I started actively researching my family history. Before then I had taken an interest and asked older relatives to show me photos of ancestors and help me draw up family trees. However, it was when I was at university in London, that I actually started researching myself.”

  • How did you get into genealogy? Did you do it by yourself or did someone help you?

“I wanted to find out about my dad’s dad because he was the only grandparent I knew nothing about. Because I was studying in London, my dad told me to go to Somerset House where I could get a copy of his birth certificate. Somerset House happened to be on my bus journey home from uni so I stopped off one day and went to enquire. I was told that all the family records had been moved to the Family Records Centre in Islington. So I went up there and someone helped me get hold of a copy of my grandad’s birth certificate. Then they helped me find him on the 1881 census. From there, I got on with things myself and asked questions when I got stuck.”

1881 U.K. Census record for Ben’s grandfather, Robert James Nicholls.
  • What was it like being a young genealogist in the early 2000s? Did you meet anyone your age at the time who also was interested in family history research?

“The early 2000s was an exciting time to be a young genealogist and looking back now, I consider myself very lucky to have started my research at this time. In January 2002, the 1901 census for England and Wales was published online and you could search for your ancestors by name. Up to that point, the only English/Welsh census you could search by name was the 1881 census. Every other census was searchable only by address. And if you wanted to search birth, death and marriage records (post 1837), you had to look through huge books – four quarters to a year – one at a time! However, there was a project starting at this time to make those records searchable online – which is now complete. The other reason I consider myself lucky to have started at this time is because it took a lot more time to find the information you were looking for and so the sense of joy and satisfaction when you did find it was that much greater.

I didn’t meet anyone my age researching their family history. Nowhere near! Everyone in the Family Records Centre going through those books with me was about three times my age. But that didn’t bother me. I was on a mission and I was loving it.”

  • How do you think genealogy research has changed since you started back in 2001?

“Massively. There were just a handful of databases searchable online in 2001. Research back then was very manual. You had to trawl through books and microfiche and microfilm for hours on end. You had to travel to places to look at more localized records and visit churchyards on the off chance a gravestone might still be standing and legible. That was half the fun though. Nowadays there is so much online it’s unbelievable. The convenience of that is great but it has taken away a bit of the magic. For example, you can type into Ancestry the name of an ancestor born in England in 1830 and within moments you can read their name on all the census returns from 1841 to 1911 inclusive. Now that’s cool but I remember seeing my grandad’s name on the 1881 census after all the effort I’d gone to find him which gave me such a buzz that you don’t get in the same way after a quick online search!”

  • What were the challenges of searching for family back then? How did you do your research with limited technical or less access to information?

“Back then I had to trawl through a lot more paper records than I do today. In that respect, one of the challenges was time. However, I was a student so time was not such an issue for me! Another challenge was money. I had to order a lot more certificates in those days because that was the only way to find out information and then use that information to consult other sources. As a student, this was a challenge!

The third main challenge back then was travel. I had to travel to archives in places where my ancestors came from to access information that was not available at the centralized London repositories. I really enjoyed this aspect though. Whilst I was visiting these places, I got a feel for my ancestors who lived there.”

  • Tell us a bit more about your work as a genealogist and as an author:

“For most of my 20 years as a genealogist, I have helped friends and family with their research and about 5 years ago, I decided to formalize this and set up a business called Footsteps so I now get paid for doing my hobby. I provide a complete family history service so as well as research, I work with an adoption agency and a calligrapher who produces beautiful hand-written family trees. Recently I’ve been fascinated by the idea of bringing people’s family history to life so I’m working on an immersive Victorian experience where people can effectively travel back in time and live a day in the life of their British Victorian ancestors. For more information about all of this, you can visit my website:

I love exploring various family history themes through writing novels. About 15 years ago I wrote and published two novels about family history and time travel called Trial By Fire and Bond Of Blood. I am currently writing a novel about a character who was adopted and goes on a search for birth parents and a sense of identity and belonging.”


To sum it up, it is crazy to see just how much the field of genealogy has changed in just the span of 20 years. Back when Ben was beginning his genealogy journey while at university, he had to spend many hours looking through physical records, searching for family clues. He also had to travel to actual libraries, local cemeteries, and archives to do his research. Since the rise of the internet, researching your heritage has never been easier. You often never have to leave your home to do a solid majority of the work. Despite this, Ben still said that he found researching back in the 90’s fun and enjoyable, explaining that there was sort of “magic” to it. Back then it was more of an adventure and you had to go some digging out in the “real” world.

Again – if you started researching family history genealogy as a teenager or young adult (early 20s) in a previous decade. Please consider contacting Tyler for an interview just like this one!

Genealogy Research…in 2050?!?

Researching family history has its challenges. Often when genealogists are trying to understand more about their ancestors, they run into problems or “brick walls”, such as problems locating information about an ancestor, who their parents were, where did they live, etc. Now, we currently live in an “Age of Information” but this can also be a double edged sword, there is a ton of information out there and not all of it is correct. The sheer amount of information available in our digital age brings up an interesting question: what will all this research be like in the future, say, in 30 years? Will genealogy be an easier field of study due to major improvements in documentation? Or will genealogy research be increasingly more difficult as people seek privacy online?

New Challenges & Excitements

How it will be easier:

In many ways, genealogists in the future will have an easier time researching their ancestors. This is because now, everyone’s vital information is documented and recorded in various ways, unlike in the 1700s or 1800s. The inventions and innovations of the modern era have documented our lives in more detail than ever before. Some examples are new records/sources, genealogists in the future can use are…

  • Birth certificates
  • Hospital/Medical records
  • Baby books
  • Social Security records
  • School records
  • College forms
  • Travel/Visa records
  • Etc, etc, etc…

Records today have become mostly standardized and probably by 2050, many more records will be digitized and available online. Not to mention, that finding photos of your ancestors will definitely not be an issue in 2050 for many genealogists. In fact, some genealogists then may be overwhelmed by the amount of family photos they come across, as modern phones and cameras have made photography a normal part of life. Family photos that are stored digitally will also not be subject to any physically decay or deterioration overtime, so our photos could look the same forever!

Other things to note:

  • Many more U.S. censuses will have been released, the United States 1980 Census will be released to the public in 2052. In 2051, the U.K. and Ireland will also release their census data from a century earlier.
  • People will also be living a lot longer then we did in the past so their stories will more likely be passed on.

Greater Complexity:

Genealogists in future decades will undoubtedly have a lot to look forward to, that does not mean there still are a fair amount of challenges and “brickwalls” to deal with. In many cases it could become fairly hard and complex to piece together. 

For one, there will be a lot more information available than before, a lot of which will be inaccurate or false. So the family historians of the future will have to be very careful with the information they gather and put in their family tree. 

Another point is that it may seem like finding and identifying relatives in photos will be a piece of cake in the future. Although, there will likely still be many challenges in this part of family history research. Sure, some genealogists in 2050 may have an overabundance of family photos, to a point where that they don’t know what to do with them all! Others might find that there is little to none. This could the case because many family photos, nowadays, are simply stored on someone’s smart phone or computer, never printed or uploaded. This makes them far easier to lose, then something in a photo album. It’s possible that many of these pictures and memories will have long gone by 2050. Another issue is that people don’t write on the back of printed photos anymore like that they used to. This issue could give the family historians of future decades tons of headaches, trying to figure out who the people in the pictures are or when they were taken.

Also, genealogists should record accurate and detailed information and stories of their family today, so in the future, genealogists won’t have such a hard time researching. Since nowadays, people move more frequently for employment or personal reasons. Many families may relocate several times. So it might be harder for a genealogist in 2050 to research their family. The information you record should be on paper instead of online for privacy reasons. 

One fact that will make genealogy research harder in the future is that modern family structures can be much more complicated than they were in the past. Unfortunately, divorce rates are on the rise. In the past decades, around 40%-50% of U.S. marriages have ended in divorce. Not to mention, in some circumstances, a child’s parents don’t even get married. Another aspect of modern culture is acceptance of different types of relationships people have and many couples don’t have children. These differences will mean future genealogists will need to work especially carefully!

The Impact of Social Media on Genealogy Research

Social media will likely have a major role in genealogy research in the future. It will definitely make discovering and learning about your ancestors’ lives a lot more fun and interesting than today. Just imagine…finding your ancestors’ Twitter could tell you what they thought, discovering their old Instagram page would show who their friends were or where they went for vacation, their Facebook could have a photo of the family reunion Christmas 2019, the possibilities are endless!

How I could see this becoming reality is old/inactive social media accounts could be archived and preserved like any other genealogy record, perhaps after a couple of decades. The accounts that are archived eventually could end up onto genealogy websites. Imagine genealogy database titles like, “U.S., Facebook Accounts, 2004-2010” or “U.S., Instagram Accounts, 2011-2016.” In this scenario, if you would want to find more about your ancestors, you would not only need to keep track of their vital information but also note their contact information like their Snapchat or Instagram username.


Of course, these are just speculations and this probably isn’t exactly what genealogy research in the future will be like. But, these are just my thoughts. Family history research will definitely be a lot different in the future, for better or for worse. Hopefully the field will continue to grow overtime. Well, we at the Hidden Branch wish you happy holidays and a good end to the year!

See you in 2050!


  1. Futuristic City Night View Wallpaper
  2. Vital Records
  3. The 1980 U.S. Census Logo
  4. Family at the Airport
  5. U.S. Divorce Rate Statistics
  6. Social Media Apps
  7. Skyline of Sydney, Australia, 2050

The History of the Hidden Branch

It is now the 28th of October, 2020, meaning the Hidden Branch blog has officially been around for ONE WHOLE YEAR!!! For this occasion, our member, Tyler, would like to present the history of this small blog group…and you would be surprised how much history this group has!

The first idea of “the Hidden Branch” originated as a genealogy service that our member, Tyler, started in the spring of 2018. He began by asking family, friends and classmates if they would like to have their family tree made. The 13 year old had some success and eventually he earned a grand total of $100 from happy clients. Then, he stopped researching family trees for others because he wanted to work on his own family history and maintaining the Hidden Branch by himself was difficult.

Flash forward to October, 2019, nearing the end of the decade, when the modern group of the Hidden Branch formed. The group started out with three members: Daniel, Emily, and Tyler. The teens met through Instagram, where each had their own genealogy profiles. Daniel suggested creating a blog group, which turned out to be a real pivoting point. They decided to use the name “the Hidden Branch” from Tyler’s old business and immediately began setting up social media accounts, including Instagram, Facebook and a website on Weebly. The year ended strong when the group was featured in the November issue of The Genealogy Show Newsletter (based in Birmingham, England) and in Irish Roots Magazine, Issue 112.

Our interview with The Genealogy Show

Irish Roots Magazine, Issue 112

In early 2020, the group worked hard during quarantine to update the social media accounts and switch the website to WordPress. In June, our group recruited its fourth member, P.J and in September, the Hidden Branch added it’s fifth member, Emmy. Expanding our group to over three different countries. The five now collaborate via Google Meet or Zoom calls and have become pretty close friends. The group currently have accounts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as well as a website. Posts are current and relevant, offering information about genealogy in a way that would attract younger people to the field. The Hidden Branch also currently admitting one new member, Rebecca, into the group and is excited for what is next to come as 21st century genealogists and who we will meet.

Our group, Emmy, P.J., Emily, Daniel & Tyler

[Not pictured: Rebecca]


Here are some thoughts from each group member about why they decided to join and what they think of the group now:

Emmy – “Starting genealogy when I was a young kid was a lonely business, no one around me was interested in it and so I kept to myself, starting an Instagram page to connect with other (mostly adult) genealogists. Now I have a group closer to my age to chat about and share genealogy finds with, and I would hate for future young genealogists to feel the same way I did as a youngster! That’s why I joined The Hidden Branch.”

P.J. – “I joined because I want to get more kids and teens into history and genealogy. I’d never heard of a group this young doing genealogy, I thought I was alone. I’m so glad I joined because I think this group is going to start a movement in the genealogical community.”

Daniel – “I had joined because I felt that we needed to create a community made by young genealogists for budding young genealogists so that we can share tips and tricks to help not make the start seem so daunting – as it did for me 3 years ago. I’m personally glad that I’m not alone when it comes to teenagers interested in genealogy as we then take the baton from those before us and pass it on to future generations and keep the memories of family long before us alive.”

Emily – “I joined the Hidden Branch because I wanted to talk to and get to know people my own age who were interested in genealogy, as before I joined I didn’t know any  teenagers interested in the topic. I also wanted to contribute to the genealogy community by writing posts and sharing research tips. I’m really glad that I joined the Hidden Branch as I’ve made new friends and I’ve been able to both share and expand my knowledge in the field of family history. I look forward to the future of our group!”

Tyler – “I am really glad that I met the people at the Hidden Branch and that we have created this blog group together. Before, I thought I was the only teenager out there who loved researching his genealogy…thankfully I was wrong. It is really nice to talk to people my age who also really enjoy learning about their family history. I also deeply enjoy sharing my love of family history with the world by writing blog posts and contributing to the Hidden Branch and BWB Hour and sharing my finds on my genealogy accounts on Instagram and Twitter. I am happy to be a part of this group and I am excited for what the future holds for us.”

Vietnamese Genealogy Research – the Tips and Challenges…

As someone who is half-Vietnamese in heritage, it is no surprise that I have learned a thing or two about Vietnamese research; and I have to say it is pretty tricky. Vietnam has never really been a country that has kept genealogical records, most likely due to the country’s tumultuous history. But here I will share with you my experience with doing Vietnamese research, what I have learned, and some tips on how to better research.

Here are a few tips I would like to share, knowing this will help you make sure you are recording your genealogical data correctly! Even if you don’t have Vietnamese heritage, it may still be interesting to read about.

Date Order:

The date order that Vietnam uses is day/month/year compared to the U.S.’s month/day/year format. The date format that Vietnam uses is pretty commonplace across the world but still something to remember. When recording dates for your Vietnamese ancestors, make sure you specify which date format you are using.

Vietnamese Names

General Info & Naming Order:

  • Most Vietnamese full names consist of 3-4 names
  • In Vietnam, the naming order goes in this order: Family Name | Middle Name | Given Name. Compared to how in the West where the naming order is the opposite. So for example, in Vietnamese, my great grandmother’s would be recorded as Phạm Thị Yên… 
  1. Phạm, the last name
  2. Thị, the middle name
  3. Yên, the given name
  • However, in English, the order of the name would be Yên Thị Phạm. I record my ancestor’s names with the Western name order simply because I am more accustomed to it and so I know what is the given, middle, and family name. However, you can use whichever order you feel like comfortable with, just make sure you are consistent with which order you use. So double check you have the name order correct!
  • This is the same naming system used in countries like China, Japan, & Korea.
  • Still, most people in Vietnam go by their given or “first” name.
  • Many Vietnamese Catholics also have Christian names, my grandmother’s Christian name, for example, was Maria.
  • Vietnamese immigrants to the US or other English speaking countries also adopted American or English sounding names.

Family Names:

  • Another thing to note is that Vietnamese women will keep their maiden even after marriage. However, when introducing themselves, Vietnamese women typically use their husband’s given name. For example, my great great grandmother often went by the name “Mrs. Khang” because Khang was her husband’s first name. An American example would be if a woman were to go by the name “Mrs. John” or “Mrs. William.”
  • Vietnam also has a limited number of unique surnames. The family name “Nguyen” is used by about nearly 40% of Vietnam’s population. The most common 14 surnames account for 90% of the population. So be careful when looking at records because there’s a lot of people with the same surname.

Middle Names:

  • Middle names are often used to distinguish people with the same family and given name.
  • In the past, women mostly had the middle name “Thị” and men had the middle name “Văn.” These middle names implied gender, however, these names are now considered out-dated. 
  • Sometimes they can also indicate family generation, for example, siblings often shared the same middle name.
  • Other middle names simply add meaning to the full name, with some meanings relating to happiness or intelligence 
  • Sometimes the mother’s maiden name could be the middle name for the children

Given Names:

  • Most Vietnamese given names have a literal meaning, similar to middle names.
  • The majority of these names are Chinese in origin.

Character Markings:

As you could see with my great grandmother’s name, the Vietnamese language uses the Latin alphabet but uses tonal markings, these specify the tone you need to speak/read the word and a change in tone can completely change the meaning of the word. So make sure you include these character markings when recording your ancestor’s names. 

My experience with doing Vietnamese Genealogy

How I got Information:

  • Getting information about my family was pretty difficult. As mentioned, Vietnam basically has never kept vital records of any kind until recently. So for the most part, I had to interview my family members about my ancestors and my family’s background.
  • If you or your family happens to be Catholic Vietnamese, there is a better chance of finding vital records at the parish your family was a part of in Vietnam. Often, the parish kept records such as baptism or marriage records. You may even be able to visit your ancestor’s gravestone in the parish cemetery. But, at the moment, none of these possible records are online.
  • However, many cemeteries have been converted to public land since the end of the Vietnam War.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi MInh City


  • Many lied about their age during the Vietnam War to avoid military service, usually the person would say they were a year or two younger than they actually were. So make sure you gather both dates, if they did lie about their age.
  • Remembering your year of birth wasn’t something that was super important back in the day in Vietnam. However, people usually knew what Chinese zodiac sign they were so you find that a relative doesn’t exactly know what year they were born. You could ask what Chinese zodiac they are and get the year from there.

Research all you can in the new country

  • When conducting research on your Vietnamese relatives, make sure you research all you can in the country of your relatives immigrants, whether it is the United States, Australia, etc. Often you can find public records on genealogical websites to see where your family lived and many still have their naturalization papers or certificates.

Sources and Images


  1. Vietnamese Names | ThingsAsian
  2. Vietnamese Names | A Guide
  3. Why 40% of Vietnamese People Have the Same Last Name | Atlas Obscura


  1. Map of Vietnam
  2. Common Vietnamese Names Pie Chart
  3. Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
  4. Chinese Zodiac Wheel

Introducing Teens to Genealogy – Conor

We at the Hidden Branch want to introduce more teens into the world of genealogy!

Tyler, one of our Hidden Branch Members, did some genealogy research for his friend, Conor. Tyler looked into the family history of Conor’s grandfather and found his family’s past was a unique mix of Italian, German, and French immigrants, who came to America during the 19th and 20th centuries. Afterwards, Tyler interviewed his friend to see what he thought about all these new discoveries.


  1. Did you know much about your family history before this research was done?

“I didn’t know much about my family history before Tyler made the tree for me as a birthday gift. I only knew people from a couple of generations back and their nationalities, but I had never heard of anyone beyond that.”

  1. What was the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve discovered in your family tree?

“I found a couple of things surprising about my family tree. The first is that the majority of my past ancestors didn’t have my current last name. The ones who did have it only dated back to the early 1900’s. I found this interesting because I thought my current last name would’ve dated back further. Instead I found out that it just came up out of the blue, while other last names had been running through generations longer. Another thing I found interesting was how many kids my ancestors had. Some of them had over a dozen kids! I found this interesting because it showed me how big family trees really are, especially if you look into your cousins and distant relatives.”

  1. Do you think you will research other branches of your family?

“Yes! I will do research into other branches of my family! Tyler had done research on my dad’s side, so I am excited to look into my mom’s side of the family more! Tyler also gave me this video:; to help me enter more people onto my family tree.”


“I really enjoyed researching my friend’s family tree. I got to practice my genealogy skills and it adds to my experience as an amateur family historian. I was proud of the work I did and I am glad he appreciated his family tree.” – Tyler

The Flesh and Bones of Genealogy

Although I have only been doing genealogy for about two years, I have learned a lot about the subject in that time and feel somewhat confident in my knowledge of the field. So today, I would like to share a brand new way of thinking about how to structure your family history. I like to call it, “the flesh and bones of family history”. You may ask, “What do you mean by this?” Well, the way I envision genealogy, you are looking for two main things: statistical information about your ancestors and a lore or story to go with it. 

I like to think of the statistical information that we gather in our genealogy endeavors (such as dates, locations, relationships, etc) as the “bones” of our research because it serves as the foundation. It’s what makes our research seem “rooted in fact” and puts our ancestors at a specific place and time in history. Without it, our genealogy will simply just be made up of semi-legendary stories that we could never prove. 

On the other hand of the spectrum, the crazy family stories we come across and the lore of our genealogy, I like to think of as the “flesh” of our research because it’s what gives our ancestors character, uniqueness, a life story, and paints a vivid, exciting portrait of their lives. Without a lore or story to our ancestors, your genealogy would just be filled with an endless list of dates and names, which although can be interesting, is still a bit dry and rather boring, like a pile of bones.

To sum it up, my “flesh and bones” concept of genealogy is very similar to the idea of Yin and Yang in Chinese folklore, where you need two opposite things to make something whole. That is why you always need both the flesh and bones of genealogy.

Ideas for Staying Organized

Ideas for Staying Organized

In my opinion, one of the most important aspects in being successful with your genealogy research is staying organized. We have all once not been unorganized with family history research; having a messy tree, not properly sourcing your relatives, mistakenly recording that your distant ancestor was born before their parents, etc etc. It happens to everyone, and that’s ok. Now I am here to show you ways I think can help you stay organized, which will help you do more successful research!


Binders have really helped me in my research and I have a very uniform way of keeping them, I keep these on my bookshelf in my room.

  • I have five different binders, four for my mom’s grandparents (my great grandparents) and one for my dad’s side (not much is known on that side) and also for recording more recent genealogy.
  • The four binders for my great grandparents are also divided into five sections, one section for the great grandparent, their siblings, and their parents, and the other four sections are also my great grandparent’s grandparents (my 3rd great grandparents).
  • This keeps the different branches of my family thoroughly separate.

Other Things Genealogy on my Shelf

Other genealogy related things I keep in my bookshelves are a memory keeper, where I can record family stories and tree charts, a family bible, and my grandparent’s wedding albums. The idea is to keep all your genealogy stuff in one area. 

With my family photos that I have gotten over the years, I keep those in a couple places in my room and closet, usually in little boxes and I organize these by family branch. For the family recipes that I have collected, I have a small binder where I write some down and also a small box filled with my great grandma’s recipes, which I organized in alphabetical order.

My Desk Cabinet

I also have a desk cabinet, which I keep a lot of genealogical documents, research, etc. How I organize these is I have different filing sections, this is how I do it…

  • The “Important” Section: This is where I keep important papers and documents, such as a paper I wrote about my civil war ancestors.
  • The Recent Project Section: This is where I keep things that I am currently working on.
  • Hole Punching Section: I keep family records that need to be punched for my binders in here.
  • Drawings: I store grave rubbings and drawings of family photos or houses in here
  • Giveaways: This section is to store family records that I am giving away to other family members, usually because a copy of a record was made.
  • Miscellaneous: This section is where I kept all other random things genealogy related!
  • Not to mention there are sections for things not genealogy related.

Well I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope it is helpful with staying organized in your genealogy endeavors!