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<July 2015>

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# Thursday, July 02, 2015
Fold3: Search Revolutionary War Collection FREE to Celebrate the Fourth!
Posted by Diane

Military records site Fold3 (which also has some nonmilitary records from its previous incarnation as Footnote) is joining the ranks of genealogy subscription sites offering free access in commemoration of the July Fourth holiday in the United States.

You can search Fold3's Revolutionary War Collection free through July 15. That includes (but isn't limited to):
  • Revolutionary War Pensions
  • Revolutionary War Service Records
  • Revolutionary War Rolls
  • Final Payment Index for Military Pensions, 1818-1864
When you click to view a record image, you'll be prompted to start a free basic membership (or log in if you already have one). Start searching Fold3's  Revolutionary War Collection here.

This Fold3 blog post has more on the free access offer, as well as an example of how you can research an ancestor in the site's records.

Our Fold3 Web Guide has help navigating the site, step-by-step search strategies, tips, quick links and more. You can get it as a $4.99 download from and start using it today.

Fold3 | Military records
Thursday, July 02, 2015 9:45:43 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Search Early US Vital Records on FREE Through July 5
Posted by Diane

The Fourth of July holiday brings goodies for genealogists with early American ancestors (and some later ancestors, too—see below):

Through Sunday, July 5, is giving free access to its 160 million birth, marriage, death and divorce records from the original 13 colonies. This includes the recently released collection of Virginia vital records.

Here's a list of the collections included in this free offer. Take a look even if your East Coast ancestors arrived after the Colonial period: Many of the collections extend beyond that era. For example, Amelia County, Virginia, Births, has records up to 1896. I also noticed several West Virginia databases included.

You'll need to sign up for a free guest registration in order to view records matching your search results. If you want to download a record image to your computer or save a record to an Ancestry member tree, you'll need to subscribe or sign up for a free trial, which requires entering credit card info.

Start searching's free early US vital records databases here.

If your searches are coming up empty (or overflowing), you feel like you're not getting everything you could out of your subscription, or you want to know more about using Ancestry DNA, don't miss our upcoming How to Maximize one-week online workshop!

View the workshop program and register at | Family Tree University | Vital Records
Wednesday, July 01, 2015 12:33:51 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Search for Early New England Ancestors FREE in NEHGS' Great Migration Databases
Posted by Diane

In honor of the United States' July Fourth holiday, the New England Historic Genealogical Society is offering a week of free access to its Great Migration online databases at starting July 1. You'll need to set up a free guest registration with the site.

Rejoice if your ancestors were among the first Europeans to settle in New England: The Great Migration Study Project, sponsored by NEHGS and directed by Robert Charles Anderson, traces the 20,000 Europeans who crossed the Atlantic from 1620 to 1640.

(The term "Great Migration" also is used to describe another migration, the African-American migration from the South in the early- to mid-20th century.)

The nine searchable Great Migration databases include:
  • The Great Migration Begins: This database gives details on settlers in New England in 1633 and earlier. This is roughly 15 percent of the Great Migration immigrants.
  • The Great Migration Newsletter: This database contains comprises volumes 1 through 20 of the "Great Migration Newsletter," published between 1990 and 2011. Each newsletter includes articles, book reviews, and details on useful records or one of the towns settled during the Great Migration.
  • The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Vols. I-VII (A-Y): Up to 2,500 people immigrated in 1634 and again in 1635. These seven databases cover surnames starting with letters A through Y, and provide information such as the family or individual's name, place of origin, date and ship of arrival, and the earliest known record naming the person or family. Search results link to a sketch about the person or family from the Great Migration book series.
NEHGS' Great Migration databases are free to search from Wednesday, July 1, through July 8. Click here to sign up for a free guest registration to, then start searching.

You can read more here about the Great Migration Study Project, including about the books and databases this research has produced. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016. Learn here about the migration itself and the types of records researchers consult.

NEHGS resources are invaluable for researching your early New England roots. These and other records are covered in the guidebook Researching Your Colonial New England Ancestors by Patricia Law Hatcher and our Top 25 Tips for Finding Your Colonial Ancestors on-demand webinar with D. Joshua Taylor.

Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Tuesday, June 30, 2015 8:57:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, June 26, 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Returns for a Summer 2015 Season
Posted by Diane

This is a nice surprise: "Who Do You Think You Are?" is returning for a summer season on TLC starting Sunday, July 26 at 9/8 central. Famous folks whose ancestries we'll learn about include:
  • Tom Bergeron, host of "Dancing With the Stars" and "America's Funniest Home Videos." He'll go all the way back to his 10th-great-grandmother and his family's migration to North America.
  • Bryan Cranston, the actor who played the dad on "Malcolm in the Middle" and is Walter White on "Breaking Bad." Update: TLC's original announcement hinted at Cranston's discovery of an "unfortunate pattern amongst the men" in his family, but the show's publicist sent an update that the episode will focus on the actor's Civil War roots.
  • Ginnifer Goodwin, Mary Margaret/Snow White on "Once Upon a Time." She learns more about her paternal great-grandparents, whom her father doesn't know much about.
  • Alfre Woodard, television actor in "The Last Ship" and "State of Affairs" and film actor in 12 Years a Slave. She follows her paternal side and explores where her surname came from. She's also the first African-American on the series in a few seasons—I think since Jerome Betis in 2012, when the show was still on NBC.
Shed Media and Is or Isn't Entertainment produce "Who Do You Think You Are?" for TLC, and sponsor provides research on the celebrity guests' ancestors. (You'll learn the "Who Do You Think You Are?" genealogy researchers' secrets in Family Tree Magazine's upcoming Summer 2015 Discover Your Roots guide—I'll share the link as soon as the guide becomes available in

The next season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" starts July 26. You can watch clips from past seasons on the show's website.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy TV
Friday, June 26, 2015 9:39:45 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Thursday, June 25, 2015
PBS Postpones "Finding Your Roots" Due to Ben Affleck's "Improper" Influence
Posted by Diane

PBS has decided to postpone future seasons of the Henry Louis Gates documentary genealogy series "Finding Your Roots" after determining that celebrity guest Ben Affleck improperly influenced producers to leave out a reference to his slave-owning ancestors. PBS also concluded that Gates should have informed the network "of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content."

The network wants producers to hire another fact-checker and independent genealogist before airing the third season, and won't commit to a fourth season "until we are satisfied that the editorial standards of the series have been successfully raised to a level in which we can have confidence." The episode profiling Affleck's ancestry will no longer be distributed.

The 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment uncovered emails between Gates and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, made public in April,  in which the two discussed Affleck's request to remove a segment mentioning that his ancestors were slave owners.

Both "Finding Your Roots" and TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" have identified slave owning ancestors of other celebrities.

PBS launched an internal review after the emails were made public. Gates said that producers decided to omit Affleck's slave ancestors after determining that other relatives were more interesting. Affleck posted on Facebook that he was embarrassed by his family's slave-owning past, but that Gates ultimately determined the episode's content. (The show also said Affleck's mother was a Freedom Rider in 1964 during the Civil Rights movement, a claim she has said isn't true.)

The episode was the subject of much discussion in the genealogy community and beyond, raising issues including America's ability to deal with its slaveholding past, the editorial integrity of Gates' research team and the veracity of historical documentaries and reality series in general.

This New York Times article has a good overview of the events. This Variety article has more details on the internal review.

Genealogy TV
Thursday, June 25, 2015 9:56:53 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Google for Genealogy: Finding Ancestral Inventions With Patent Search
Posted by Diane

Our upcoming Google for Genealogy Family Tree University online course shows you how to use Google search tricks and free resources to research your family history. For example, have you searched for your surnames in Google Patents?

This search engine indexes patents and patent applications from the United States Patent and Trademark Office back to 1790, and the European Patent Office and World Intellectual Property Organization back to 1978.

You might not think there's an inventor in your family tree, but people applied for patents on all kinds of innovations, from an alarm clock that hangs above the sleeper and falls on his face if he doesn't wake up (Patent No. 256,265, April 11, 1882) to a screen attachment for ladies' bicycles to hide their feet and ankles from view (Patent No. 557,488, March 31, 1896).

My first cousin five times removed Ben Teipel of Covington, Ky., was a wingshooter (I apologize if this isn't the right term for a practitioner of the sport of wingshooting) and an employee of the Ligowsky Clay Pigeon Co. Newspapers reported on his performance in competitions, and one (when he was committed to an asylum shortly before his death) called him the "ex-champion wing shot of the world."

Ben patented a few devices for use with clay target pigeons. This is an illustration of his Target Trap, Patent No. 329,974, issued Nov. 10, 1885:

A much more recent relative's name is on the patent application for this Positioning Assembly for Valve Closure Members:

My dad, a mechanical engineer, is named as the inventor on the patent, issued Nov. 25, 1975.

You can keyword-search the patents' text (indexed by optical character recognition software) the same way you'd do any Google search. The Advanced Patent Search makes it easy to add the patent number, filing or issue date (with a range) and/or other search terms. I entered my family surnames in the Inventor field, and to narrow results, I added a place in the "With all of the words" box.

The Google for Genealogy online course runs Monday, June 29, to Monday, July 24, and covers Search, Books, Translate, Google+, Drive and more. See a course program at

Family Tree University | Research Tips
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 3:51:24 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
New Heredis 2015 Genealogy Software Offers Major Updates for Windows and Mac
Posted by Diane

Heredis genealogy software has released a major upgrade with Heredis 2015 for Windows or Mac users.

New features include:
  • Online searching: From a person's profile, launch searches of online collections in archives and libraries (Heredis suggests which ones to search based on information in your tree). Automatically capture details from online finds and save them to your tree.  to search according to
  • Images: A new photo tool allows you to identify people in images uploaded to Heredis, and if a person isn't in your tree yet, add him or her directly from the photo tool. You also can capture images of ancestors' signatures from records, edit record images and photos uploaded to Heredis, and create and share slideshows and online albums (shown above).
  • Data entry: You can enter an event (such as a census appearance) once and easily apply it to the rest of the family as needed, instead of entering that same event for each person named in a record.
  • Mapping: View interactive maps showing where your ancestors lived and scroll their geographical migrations by place or time period.
Learn more about the new features in Heredis 2015 and see screenshots for the Windows version here and the Mac version here.

Windows users can upgrade for $19.99, or purchase the complete version for $29.99. Mac users  can purchase version 2015 for $24.99 until July 12, when the price goes up to $49.99.

Heredis also has a free app for the iPad/iPhone that lets you view your tree and add or delete individuals, and is working on an Android version.

You can see reviews of previous Heredis versions and other genealogy programs in Family Tree Magazine's Online Genealogy Software Guide.

Genealogy Software
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 2:21:02 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 23, 2015
FamilySearch Launches Project to Index Freedmen's Bureau Records
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch on Friday announced a new initiative to index records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmen's Bureau.

This agency was set up after the Civil War to assist former slaves with food, housing, education, medical care, employment and legal needs. The bureau also documented marriages performed during slavery and helped displaced white Southerners.

This work created records such as labor contracts (such as the one above for freedman John Ramsey and his wife), court documents, marriage registers, correspondence, applications for aid, complaint reports and more.

For many formerly enslaved people, their interaction with the Freedmen's Bureau was the first time they were named in official records—making Freedmen's Bureau records an important resource for tracing African-American ancestors.

FamilySearch, along with the National Archives and Records Administration, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro­-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the California African American Museum, has launched the Freedmen's Bureau Project to mobilize volunteer indexers. They'll view digitized images of Freedmen's Bureau records and extract names and other details, creating a searchable index that will be free on

You can sign up as an indexer for the Freedmen's Bureau Project here.

On, you already can view the digitized records for Freedmen's Bureau offices in 14 Southern states and Washington, DC, as well as records of bureau headquarters and hospitals. Find them by going to the FamilySearch collection list and typing freedmen in the Filter by Collection Name box at top left. But as yet only a few of FamilySearch's Freedmen's Bureau collections are indexed. As the Freedmen's Bureau Project gains momentum, look for more of these records to become searchable.

Can't wait? subscribers can search digitized and indexed records for Freedmen's Bureau field offices in five states plus New Orleans and Washington, DC, as well as headquarters records related to six states. 

If you're not a member or those don't cover the places your ancestors lived, use the Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau tool to find digitized or microfilmed records for bureau offices in your ancestors' locales. Find more on Freedmen's Bureau records and other resources for tracing enslaved ancestors in our Slave Ancestors Research Guide.

FamilySearch announced the project on Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery that takes place on June 19.

African-American roots | FamilySearch | Research Tips
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 10:54:20 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Beginner Genealogy Tips: Where to Look for Great Ancestor Stories
Posted by Diane

One of my favorite aspects of genealogy is finding a good story. Maybe an ancestor took part in an historical event, clawed his way to economic success, survived an arduous migration or even committed a crime. The kinds of things you might see on an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

If you're getting started in genealogy, you might think there's no excitement in your family tree—but there probably is if you look for it. These are some of the best family story sources (and I'll tell you where they've led me to juicy family history details):
  • Newspapers: Probably like many of you, I never thought my family was particularly newsworthy. But I've found news items including a brief mention of a small kitchen fire in my third-great-grandfather's home, reports on my Federal League baseball player relative's performance on the field, a very complimentary profile of my grandfather after his graduation from an orphanage, and a sordid tale of another third-great-grandfather's stabbing during a fight over a woman (one day I'll blog about that guy).

    Digitized newspaper sites include the free Chronicling America and subscription-based GenealogyBank and Visit your library or state archive to scroll local papers on microfilm.
  • Military pension applications: I haven't yet had the pleasure of paging through a family member's military pension papers, but in our "What's in a Civil War Pension File?" video class, military records expert Diana Crisman Smith explains how you could find correspondence about military service, documentation of marriage, written testimony about wounds received, photos and more.

    Subscription site and have indexes and some record images for Revolutionary War, War of 1812,
    Mexican War and Civil War pensions. Some of the record images are on's sister site Fold3, which requires an additional subscription (your library or local FamilySearch Center may offer free use of and Fold3).

  • Family papers: Diaries, letters, postcards, scrapbooks, photos, baby books and other passed-down items from trunks, closets and attics hold "everyday life" details and stories you won't find anywhere else. Go through your house (and your relatives' houses, if they'll let you) for these home sources and examine them for clues. Once your relatives start to see you as "the family historian," these types of items—which many people don't necessarily want to store, but don't want to throw out either—may very well come knocking on your door. Advice for digitally archiving and preserving these sources is in the book How To Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise Levenick. 
  • Histories: I've found profiles of relatives (including yet another third great-grandfather) and a story about a tornado hitting a relative's farm (a journalist was having dinner with the family when it happened). These secondary sources may contain errors because they're usually based on recollections and were edited for print, but they're full of research clues. Local and county histories are often digitized on Google Books (here's a step-by-step Google Books tutorial you can download from and start using right away), Internet Archive,, (some FamilySearch digitized books are accessible only from a FamilySearch Center) or your library's website. Find print versions through WorldCat and in local libraries. 
  • Censuses: Your basic census records offer clues such as school attendance (1850-on), the value of his property or home (1850-1870 and 1940), whether the household included slaves (1790-1860); how many children a woman had and how many were still living (1900 and 1910); and whether any household members had visual, hearing or other impairments (1840-1910). Don't overlook these columns, which may prompt you to dig for the story behind the number. Free sites with census records include (some search results link to record images on subscription sites) and; and also have census records and images.
    Some federal censuses also were accompanied by special schedules for certain populations, such as "Defective, Dependent and Delinquent" classes (1880) and owners of industry/manufacturing businesses (1810-1820, few of which survive, and 1850-1880). Many of these records are on | census records | court records | FamilySearch | Libraries and Archives | Military records | MyHeritage | Newspapers | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, June 17, 2015 11:06:43 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, June 12, 2015
Genealogy News Corral: June 8-12
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Maps
Friday, June 12, 2015 1:35:27 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]