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Your money tracing your roots may cost you lots of time and money


(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)By Mitch LipkaJune 3 Many amateur genealogists start digging into their family histories just to see what is out there and then get seriously hooked. They may be in for an arduous and costly project. That happened to Janet Judge about six years ago after her children challenged her to identify family members in old photos. The 59-year-old nurse from Albany, New York, started with a $300-a-year subscription to Ancestry.com, which at 14 billion records has the largest online collection of genealogical significance. What Judge found enabled her to identify all the people in the pictures. After that, she kept on going. So she paid an additional $275 to one of Ireland's family research centers, a collection of county-based groups that can be found online, and spent a couple of thousand dollars for two trips to that country. Interest in genealogy is on the rise as more and more old records are digitized. Without leaving home, someone in the United States can find material filed in Poland 150 years ago, for instance. But while many indexes are free, you may have to pay an online service like Ancestry.com - or trek to the public library for access at no charge - to actually see the records you want. Some records, like birth and death certificates, typically have to be ordered from government agencies.

Another amateur genealogist, 35-year-old Georgia Hunter of Rowayton, Connecticut, says she has spent at least $5,000 on her pursuit of family stories and documents in the decade since her mother handed her a binder with bits and pieces of her grandfather's life as a Holocaust survivor. That included flying to Brazil to talk with relatives and research documents, plus more than $1,000 for translating services. GETTING STARTED To begin researching, the main thing you need is time. Take inventory of what you already know, and what you can learn from family members, and plug it into an online family tree for free. Popular sites include Geni.com, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Then share your information, and get other family members to contribute what they know, genealogists say.

To find missing information, like a grandmother's maiden name, you will need to scour birth, marriage, death and immigration records, whose costs vary by location. A Social Security application of a deceased relative costs $27. It is easiest when you are looking for records in the United States, genealogists say. A good place to start is the decennial U.S. Census, a snapshot in time made available to the public 72 years after it is conducted. The latest release dates from 1940. For a good resource of the other kind of documents you can find online, both foreign and domestic, see Cyndi's List (this site). If the research gets to be too much for you, you can hire someone else to do it. Expect to pay $25 to $125 per hour, depending on the researcher's expertise and language skills (if the work is overseas), Ancestry.com corporate genealogist Crista Cowan says. Ancestry's own company, ProGenealogists.com, hires out professionals, with projects averaging $2,500 to $3,000 for 20 to 30 hours of work.

There are also organizations like the Association of Professional Genealogists that can recommend researchers in the U.S. and abroad. MAKING CONNECTIONS If you luck out, you will connect your family history to another one already in progress online or at least benefit from someone else's discoveries. Mayflower descendants have the benefit of mountains of research, for instance. Even celebrities are curious. On the PBS show "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.," television personality Barbara Walters discovered ancestors in Poland (the Warmwasser family), and married actors Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon learned they are distant cousins. Actor and filmmaker George Clooney separately found out he is distantly related to Abraham Lincoln. You can also see if you have royal blood by checking on Charlemagne.org if you are connected to one of the European emperor's more than 300 American family lines. Even if your roots are not presidential or royal, it can still be a thrill to learn the details of family history. Judge made discoveries that debunked family legend and revealed dark secrets, such as that one ancestor was a bigamist. She also got a Civil War grave marker added to an ancestor's burial place."It's like a very large puzzle with many small pieces that you put together piece by piece," Judge says, "and when you have put together, you can see the whole picture."

Your money why it may be ok to bribe your kids


(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)By Chris TaylorNEW YORK, April 29 As any exasperated parent will tell you, kids today are so plugged in and mature beyond their years that it is difficult to find a way to discipline them. Do we punish them to bring about the behavior we are looking for? Threaten them? The response of many parents: Get out the wallet, and bribe away. According to a new survey by Baltimore-based investment managers T. Rowe Price, bribery is a critical part of the parental toolkit. The fund shop's new "Parents, Kids & Money" survey showed a full 48 percent of parents bribed their precious offspring. And that is only those who actually admit to the practice; the actual figure may be even higher. Indeed, among parents who classify themselves as "spenders," the percentage of bribers rises even higher, to 55 percent."I was a little surprised at how high those numbers were," says T. Rowe Price senior financial planner Stuart Ritter. "What is unknown is how exactly parents are interpreting these terms."For example, Ritter says, if kids get something in return for doing chores, is that an incentive? A reward? A bribe?

Still, the new findings confirm previous studies that show many harried parents are more than willing to whip out the wallet for their children. One poll by the American Institute of CPAs found that among parents with kids in school, almost half - 48 percent - actually pay for good grades. The going rate for an A on the report card: $16.60. Adam Dolgin, a Toronto entrepreneur, blogger (this site) and father of two, has no qualms paying off his kids."Timeouts often don't work, and no one wants to go back to corporal punishment," he says. "Bribery is sometimes the easy way to go."The irony is that even while many of us are bribing our kids, we still want to be seen as excellent role models. In the T. Rowe Price survey, 69 percent of parents say that they are "very" or "extremely" concerned with setting a good financial example. That is what you call a disconnect. But with all the challenges of parenting, there are not a whole lot of black-and-white decisions.

WHAT'S A BRIBE? "Whether it is grades or chores or anything else, parents are always looking for ways to motivate," says Ellen Perry, founder of advisory firm Wealthbridge Partners in Washington, D. C., and author of "A Wealth of Possibilities: Navigating Family, Money, and Legacy.""Where does motivation end and bribing begin?" Perry says. "Either end of that continuum is clear, but the middle is muddier."

For instance, Perry says, deciding that your kid can play video games after his or homework could be classified as a bribe, but is pretty much standard parental practice. But paying your child $100 for every A on a report card has more of the feel of an outright bribe."That is something I do daily," says Bryan Wisda, a financial planner and dad in Carefree, Arizona. "I bribe my 6-year-old with $5 per day if he is good at school. He is motivated by his ability to buy Legos."Experts say the real question is not whether you dangle the occasional monetary reward in front of your kids but how you use it as fodder for a teachable moment. In other words, giving your kids a buck so they will get out of your face and let you read the morning newspaper in peace? Bad. Giving a buck to teach them about important budgetary issues like saving, spending, or giving to charity? Good."The bigger issue, whenever kids get money, is the conversation that is happening around it," says T. Rowe Price's Ritter. "What goals are you talking about, how do they learn priorities, and what are you telling them about the importance of saving?"As for Adam Dolgin, bribery is a tool that he tries to use sparingly. If his 4-year-old daughter behaves well at the mall, for instance, they might swing by The Disney Store."If you're using bribery in special circumstances to get a desired result, that is one thing," he says. "If you are using it all the time to get control of your kids, that's a problem."