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<February 2016>

More Links

# Friday, February 12, 2016
Searchable Irish Catholic Parish Registers Coming to
Posted by Diane

Those searchable Irish Catholic parish registers that are coming to Findmypast in March also will be available on that month.

That includes 10 million baptism, marriage and burial records from 1,000 parishes in what's now the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The collection consists of mostly mostly baptisms and marriages; the handful of burials are largely from northern areas. already has some Roman Catholic parish records, accounting for the "55 million Irish records" total cited in yesterday's press release. 

Both companies' announcements say it's the first time the record images have been linked with a searchable index online.

Trying to trace your Irish roots? Our Irish Genealogy Crash Course on-demand webinar will help you find genealogy records and  tackle challenges unique to ancestry research in Ireland. It's available from as a download you can watch immediately. | findmypast | UK and Irish roots
Friday, February 12, 2016 10:17:24 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 10, 2016
How Did "Finding Your Roots" Find the Military Ancestry of John McCain, Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette?
Posted by Diane

This week's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr." focused on military service in the ancestry of Sen. John McCain and actors Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette. (And it just so happens that our military records webinar is next week—I'll tell you more about that in a minute.)
  • McCain followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals in the Navy. Researchers discovered that McCain's Confederate second-great-grandfather William Alexander McCane served under the brutal Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, deserted, was captured by the Union, and was imprisoned in the notorious Irving Block Prison in Memphis. Gates pointed out the similarities to McCain's own horrific experience as a POW in Vietnam.
  • Moore (whose real name is Julie Anne Smith), grew up in what she described as a "peripatetic" military family. Her ancestor Peter M. Smith fought in the Mexican War, and was among the troops who successfully stormed  Chapultepec Castle Sept. 13, 1847.
  • Arquette was surprised to learn she had a Civil War ancestor, one of the "Hundred Days Men" who enlisted for short periods to serve as guards and laborers, freeing up more-experienced soldiers for combat duty. Her sixth- and seventh-great-grandfathers, respectively, served in the American Revolution and the French and Indian War.
The episode didn't go deeply into the historical records that provided the information, but we did get a glimpse of a Civil War muster roll for Pvt. McCane.

The basic record type for learning about your ancestor's military service from the Revolutionary War up through the Philippine Insurrection is the Compiled Military Service Record, or CMSR. According to professional genealogist Shelley K. Bishop, author of a service records guide in the upcoming May/June 2016 Family Tree Magazine, the War Department created CMSRs for enlisted men to facilitate processing later military pension applications.

A CMSR consists of a jacket with cards that summarize information from muster rolls, hospital rolls, prison records, payment vouchers and more.

Depending on the war, you might find indexes to CMSRs and/or digitized CMSRs on genealogy websites such as and Fold3. CMSRs that aren't imaged online might be available on microfilm, or you might need to order copies from the National Archives.

From there, you can look for military pension applications, regimental histories, state adjutant general records, battlefield maps and other records.

Shelley's article will help you find CMSRs, and even before that issue comes out, learn how to research several types of military records in our Feb. 25 webinar How to Find Ancestor Military Records (see more details about it and register in

You can watch the full military heritage episode of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr." on the PBS website.

Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Military records | Webinars
Wednesday, February 10, 2016 10:51:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, February 09, 2016
MyHeritage Releases Update to Free Family Tree Builder Software
Posted by Diane

MyHeritage launched version 8 of its free Family Builder desktop genealogy software, which syncs to your online tree on the MyHeritage website (you also can edit your online tree on your smartphone with the MyHeritage app).

Version 8 looks similar to the previous version, but the infrastructure of the program has been totally rewritten. That has made Family Tree Builder faster and more efficient, and it now supports trees of up to 500,000 individuals.

Read more about the new Family Tree Builder features on the MyHeritage blog. You can download Family Tree Builder for Windows or Mac from the MyHeritage website.

Genealogy Software | MyHeritage
Tuesday, February 09, 2016 10:36:39 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Findmypast News From RootsTech: Searchable Irish Catholic Parish Registers and More
Posted by Diane

Remember the National Library of Ireland's Irish Catholic parish registers that went online for free in July, and how the digital images on that site aren't searchable? Genealogy website Findmypast just announced it will launch an indexed, searchable collection of these records in March. I can't wait! I'm hoping this will help me find a place of origin for my Irish immigrant ancestors. See more details on the Irish Genealogy News blog.

Findmypast also has released 33 million US marriage records in partnership with FamilySearch (so you also can search these records on the free FamilySearch website). Findmypast will continue to add to this collection, which eventually will contain more than 450 million names from 2,800 US counties. This first installment of the collection is free to search through Monday, Feb. 15. Read more details here.

At last week's RootsTech conference, Findmypast announced it has formed partnerships with several other genealogy companies so the sites' record collections can be embedded within the partner products. Partners include:

Want to take advantage of the growing genealogy record collections at Findmypast? Our Findmypast web guide can help!

findmypast | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Software | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, February 09, 2016 10:31:10 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Family Tree Maker Returns PLUS Ancestry Partners With RootsMagic
Posted by Diane

Those of you wondering what you'll do with your family tree now that has discontinued Family Tree Maker genealogy software will probably welcome these two new options for storing your computerized family tree data and records:

  • announced today it has sold Family Tree Maker software to a company called Software MacKiev (which has been the developer of Family Tree Maker for Mac for six years). Family Tree Maker owners will receive updates and be able to purchase new versions from Software MacKiev, and they'll continue to be able to save their trees to, use hints and search from within the software. (The announcement doesn't specifically mention syncing, though.)

    Update: Here's how responded to my question about syncing: "Family Tree Maker will continue to have syncing capability with Ancestry trees, however this feature may evolve as Software MacKiev updates the software.

    "It will use different underlying technology than our current TreeSync but it effectively provides the same basic functionality of allowing the user to keep data in their online tree and data in their desktop tree consistent." 
  • also announced a new agreement with RootsMagic to connect the website to RootsMagic genealogy software by the end of 2016. That means you'll be able to use RootsMagic as your desktop software while using your Ancestry Member Tree as your online version.
RootsMagic does say its software will sync with Ancestry trees, as well as directly import Family Tree Maker files (no need to export a GEDCOM first). Read more details and a Q&A on the RootsMagic website.

"We have heard your concerns and are working to provide the solutions you requested," states the announcement from "These new agreements will make it possible to preserve your work on Ancestry and Family Tree Maker and enable future features and benefits to help you discover your family history."

Wondering whether all the fuss could've been avoided when Family Tree Maker's retirement was announced in December? You're not alone. spokesperson Matthew Deighton says that the software purchase contract wasn't yet signed when the announcement was made.

For more details on these agreements, see the blog. | Genealogy Software
Tuesday, February 02, 2016 8:44:24 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
3 Reasons to Travel to the Old Country
Posted by Diane

No matter how convenient it may be these days to research ancestors without leaving home, you probably still dream of visiting your family’s homeland. Heritage travel is a booming industry and can provide you with an opportunity to go beyond the same old research strategies and discover those details you can’t get from online databases, books or microfilmed records.

Lisa A. Alzo, guest blogger and author of The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide shares three reasons you should do onsite research in your ancestral homeland:

  1. Meet up with long-lost cousins. We often start our research by tracing  immigrant ancestors, but what about those ancestors who remained in Europe and didn’t make the journey across the ocean? By simply visiting an ancestral town or village, you can run into descendants who still live there and can show you around. And with blogs, Facebook and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to find and make plans with long-lost cousins, then stay connected with them once you return home.

  2. Walk in ancestors’ footsteps. If you’re yearning to see where your ancestors lived, stand in the church where Great-grandpa was baptized, enjoy traditional cuisine and understand what life was like for your ancestors before they made the journey to America, then practicing immersion genealogy can provide an opportunity like no other. With a trip to your ancestral homeland, you can experience firsthand the customs and traditions of your heritage, as well as discover more details about where and how your ancestors lived, worked and worshiped.

  3. Locate hard-to-get records. Contrary to popular belief, not all genealogical documents are online. The proof of your grandmother’s date of birth or details about the death of her parents could be physically stored in the dusty old church books or in the village’s civil registration office or archives. By visiting such repositories in person, you can get information that might not be easily accessible otherwise. When planning for onsite research, always contact the priest or staff in advance so they can better assist you during your visit and inform you of their availability or any planned closings or scheduling conflicts. And, if you aren’t comfortable with the language, hire a professional researcher who can assist with navigating the policies and procedures and help you communicate with staff or villagers who don’t speak English; look for recommendations from ethnic genealogical societies.

Learn more about heritage travel and get tips and resources for preparing a visit to Poland, the Czech Republic or Slovakia in The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide.

Czech roots | Polish roots | Slovak roots
Tuesday, February 02, 2016 1:55:50 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
Find Ancestors in Fold3's Free Black History Records in February
Posted by Diane

In honor of African-American History Month this month, genealogy website Fold3 is offering free access to its Black History Collection of records through the end of February. That includes:
  • Washington, DC court slave and emancipation records
  • South Carolina estate inventories and bills of sale (1732-1872)
  • US Colored Troops Civil War service records
  • Southern Claims Commission records (read about this collections' contents here)
  • War Department Military Intelligence Division records on "Negro subversion"
... and more titles. You'll need to set up a free Fold3 registration to take advantage of this offer. Start searching the free African-American genealogy records on Fold3 here.

If you're researching black ancestors, you'll find helpful websites listed on A few of my favorite guide we've printed in Family Tree Magazine for researching African-American roots include:
  • The African-American Great Migration, which helps you locate ancestors who were part of the mass population shift from the rural South to Northern cities from 1910 to 1940
  • Slave Ancestors Research Guide, which offers a strategy and resources for discovering enslaved African-Americans
  • Using Black Newspapers, a guide to finding and researching ancestors in historical newspapers that were published primarily for an African-American audience

Watching a show like PBS' "Finding Your Roots" can be helpful because you see what records might exist for your ancestors. Here's a link to our post about the season premiere.

African-American roots
Tuesday, February 02, 2016 1:17:38 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, January 29, 2016
RootsTech Genealogy Classes You Can Watch FREE From Home
Posted by Diane

If it seems like half the genealogy world is going to Salt Lake City next week, here's why: FamilySearch's big, bustling RootsTech conference is happening Feb. 3-6, 2016.
  • more than 200 genealogy classes

  • big-name keynote speakers including presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and broadcaster and StoryCorps founder David Isay

  • an expo hall with hundreds of exhibitors, a Demo Theater, a Cyber Cafe, a Media Hub and "Innovation Alley"

  • an Innovator Summit for vendors and developers on Feb. 3

  • a free Family Discovery Day Saturday, Feb. 6, for LDS families with children (age 8 and up)

  • side events and activities, including a kick-off concert Thursday night

  • more than 20,000 registered attendees
If you're going, stop by the Genealogy Gems Think Tank in exhibit hall booth 1230 for free mini-sessions and giveaways from Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, Diahann Southard of Your DNA Guide, and more experts you know from the pages of Family Tree Magazine. Here's a Think Tank class schedule and a prize drawing entry you can print out and have ready to submit.

Not going to RootsTech? You still can be part of the family history learning: RootsTech will livestream 15 classes and sessions on its website—for free. This includes the opening session each day plus classes such as "Seven Unique Technologies for Genealogy Discovery" and "Homespun and Calico: Researching Our Foremothers." 

View the RootsTech livestreaming schedule and tips here. Remember, the times are for the Mountain Time Zone. You'll need to translate them to your local time zone. (The 15 sessions will be available on the RootsTech website for a limited time.)

Also check out our own Family Tree University Virtual Conference, March 11-13, which has video classes you can download to keep, plus live chats and an exclusive message board so you can fully participate from home.

Friday, January 29, 2016 12:11:12 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 27, 2016
"Finding Your Roots": Jimmy Kimmel, Norman Lear and Bill Hader
Posted by Diane

The family trees of three funny men were the focus of this week's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.": "Saturday Night Live" cast member Bill Hader, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, and television writer and actor Norman Lear (who's going strong at age 90).

Gates' contrasted each guest's humorous outlook with the sadness in his family tree. Here are the highlights (or maybe I should say lowlights):
  • Jimmy Kimmel: Usually the show waits until the end to get into DNA, but Your Genetic Genealogist blogger Cece Moore appeared early on to explain how DNA testing could reveal whether Kimmel's great-grandfather Frank Kimmel was the biological child of German immigrants Christian Kümmel and Teresa Stockhausen. They were married six years after Frank was born and their obituaries don't acknowledge him. Moore compared the autosomal DNA of a known Stockhausen descendant, a known descendant of both Teresa and Frank, and Jimmy Kimmel's father. Results showed Frank was the child of Christian and another woman. Researchers weren't able to learn why he was estranged from his parents.
Kimmel's mother's family immigrated from Southern Italy and settled on New York City's crowded Lower East Side of  (home to the wonderful Tenement Museum). His great-grandfather Vincenzo's brother and father died in an earthquake on the island of Ischia in 1883. Vincenzo immigrated in 1903, then sent for his wife and children nine months later.
  • Bill Hader: Hader's German-American great-great-grandfather served in World War I in France, where he wasn't seeing any action. He left his unit for the front lines, perhaps trying to prove his patriotism in the face of anti-German sentiment from home. Gates spent most of his time on Hader's mother's line, in which an ancestor from the conflict-filled border state of Missouri chose to enlist for the Union. His military pension record claimed he was going deaf as a result of "nasal catarrh" (a cold) contracted during the war. (Here's our guide to finding your ancestors' military pension records, and Antiquus Morbus is my favorite site for looking up archaic medical terms and causes of death.)

    The show's researchers traced Hader's mom's family to Revolutionary War soldier and slaveowner William Simms in Virginia, an indentured servant in Colonial Maryland, and all the way back to Charlemagne (a heritage that's not all that unusual, according to this article).
  • Norman Lear: Norman Lear's story had the most sadness to me, from his childhood spent partly without his father (who served prison time for a get-rich-quick scheme during the Great Depression) to his Jewish ancestors' impoverished, persecuted existence in Russia's Pale of Settlement. A series of pogroms there in the late 1800s and early 1900s prompted his family to emigrate to the United States. On his maternal side, Lear's grandfather left first, and sent for his grandmother ("Bubbe") and then-6-year-old mother in 1905. 
Lear's paternal great-grandfather died in the United States in 1902, and his tombstone inscription said he was a Levite, a descendant of the tribe of Levi. His DNA shows he indeed carries the genetic signature found among Levites.
You can watch the full episode on the "Finding Your Roots" website.

Genealogy TV | Italian roots | Jewish roots | Military records
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 3:36:37 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Researching Grandma's Baptism from Your Easy Chair
Posted by Diane

Genealogy research in Eastern Europe has come a long way in the past couple of decades. It used to be that locating church or civil registration records required a lot of effort and waiting. Your options for accessing records were 1) traveling to perform onsite research in archives, 2) spending a fortune to hire a professional to do the research for you, 3) writing a letter and hoping the registrar’s office or priest would understand and answer your quests or 4) hoping records for your ancestral village were included in those microfilmed by The Genealogical Society of Utah, which you could research at the Family History Library or order through a local Family History Center.

But now, has changed all that with its growing collection of church and civil registration records from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and other localities. Lisa A. Alzo, author of The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide shares three steps for beginning research on ancestors’ baptismal, marriage or death records from your easy chair using’s historical record collections:

  1. Get the name right. When searching collections from Eastern Europe, you need to know your ancestor’s name as it was originally spelled. You may know your ancestor as John, but would he instead be listed as Ján or János in registrations? My grandmother, for example, is listed as Erzsébet rather than Elizabeth. And how exactly is Fencsák spelled, anyway? Get as close to the original spelling as you can, and keep in mind which wildcards (characters like * and ?) to use to capture alternate spellings in your searches.

  2. Locate a collection. From’s home page, click the magnifying glass labeled Search, then click Browse All Published Collections. Choose Continental Europe and scroll to find the country you’re searching for (e.g., Slovakia). You can also type an ancestor’s name in the search boxes on the left-hand side, click on a map researching in a specific location or, if you know the name of the specific collection, start typing the first few letters of the name in the Collection title box; matching choices (such as Slovak, Church and Synagogue Books, 1592–1910, where I found my grandmother) will pop up underneath.

  3. Read the directions. When you get to the collection’s page, read the description carefully to understand what exactly is included. Click the Learn More button to access related FamilySearch Wiki articles on a particular collection or topic (e.g., this article on Slovak church and synagogue books). Remember that not all records are online—and some areas are not yet included—so in many instances, you’ll still need to consult the FamilySearch Catalog for microfilmed records, contact churches or archives, or consult with a professional for hard-to-get records and translation assistance. Make sure you sign up for a free FamilySearch account and follow the FamilySearch Blog or subscribe to the FamilySearch newsletter to receive notifications whenever the collections are added or updated.

Learn more tips and resources for doing Eastern Europe research from home by ordering a copy of The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide today.

Czech roots | FamilySearch | Polish roots | Slovak roots | Vital Records
Tuesday, January 26, 2016 12:21:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]