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<February 2016>

More Links

# 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]
# Wednesday, January 20, 2016
"Finding Your Roots": Maya Rudolph, Shonda Rhimes and Keenan Ivory Wayans
Posted by Diane

Season 3, episode 3 of Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr. shared the family trees of actor Maya Rudolph, television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes (the force behind "Grey's Anatomy") and comedian Keenan Ivory Wayans.

These highlights and takeaways that stood out to me:
  • Maya Rudolph, whose father is Jewish and mother was African-American, described herself as feeling “rootless.” It turns out her family has deep roots in Vilna, then in the Russian Pale of Settlement and now in Lithuania, where vital records document her line back to her fifth-great-grandfather. That search was possible because her great-grandfather Julius Rudolph’s US naturalization records gave his original name, Judal Rudashevsky.
Researchers traced her mother’s family to enslaved third-great-grandparents in the early 1800s (using a strategy described in previous posts: looking for white slaveowning families with the same surname and living near the enslaved person). The owner's will freed his slaves, but his descendants continued to exploit the freedmen and ignore labor contracts. The slaves sued in court and, surprisingly, won.
Rudolph’s DNA revealed ancient Asian heritage. Rare for African-Americans, it comes from Indonesians who migrated to the island of Madagascar, the origin of a small percentage of slaves. Despite family rumors that her grandfather was part American Indian, her DNA showed no Indian ancestry.
  • Shonda Rhimes’ Chicago family was part of the 20th century African-American Great Migration to northern cities (you’ll find our research guide to this Great Migration in the January/February 2016 Family Tree Magazine). Around 1910, her great-grandparents escaped the impoverished, segregated Mississippi Delta, where white landowners often would use intimidation to keep their sharecroppers from leaving. A deed record in Arkansas showed they had managed to save enough money to purchase their own land there by 1918.
  • Keenan Ivory Wayans' family in South Carolina could be traced back to his enslaved great-great-grandfather Marion Brock and his mother, Millie Martin. Searching nearby for Brock or Martin slaveowners, researchers found his family listed in a white man’s estate record. Just seven years after Emancipation, Marion Brock was able to buy 105 acres of land.
In another branch, his third-great-grandfather Ben Pleasant was the enslaved personal servant of a man who served as governor of South Carolina from 1852 to 1854. During a trip to Canada, abolitionists kidnapped Ben, who chose to return home to slavery. Wayans pointed out that while many want to think of their slave ancestors as willing to give up anything for freedom, Ben chose to be with his family. I think a lot of us can identify with the desire to see our ancestors as doing what we consider to be the right thing according to today's values.  
Interestingly, Wayans' DNA test showed he also has Asian genetic heritage, with African ancestors in Madagascar.
Read more about this "Finding Your Roots" episode on The Root and watch the full episode on the "Finding Your Roots" website.

African-American roots | Genealogy TV | Jewish roots
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 11:49:54 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Genealogy Website Merger: Findmypast to Absorb Mocavo
Posted by Diane

British-based genealogy website Findmypast, which acquired the Mocavo website in July 2014, will unite the two sites over the coming months, Findmypast announced earlier this week.

Mocavo launched in March 2011 as a genealogy search engine, and grew into a historical records site. You could search individual databases for free, or subscribe for advanced searching and to search across all collections at once. In 2012, Mocavo acquired ReadyMicro, a developer of digitization technology, and the next year announced progress in developing software that reads cursive handwriting.  

Mocavo's site content will move to Findmypast, where it will continue to be available to Mocavo members. Findmypast plans to honor Mocavo's promise in 2013 to make records "free forever." Mocavo members will receive updates and instructions as accounts are transferred.

Read more about the marriage of Findmypast and Mocavo on the Mocavo blog.

Update: Findmypast is having a free weekend Jan. 22-25. It includes World records but not the 1939 Register. See the Findmypast blog for more details on this free records offer.

findmypast | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, January 19, 2016 3:11:23 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Five Important Dates in Eastern European Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Genealogy and history go hand in hand. If you want to be successful in tracing your Polish, Czech or Slovak roots, brush up on the history of these countries (and of Eastern Europe in general) to better understand records from the old country and learn about your ancestors’ lives. Check out these five key dates in Eastern European history you should know about, given to us by Lisa Alzo, author of The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide:

  • 1772, 1792 and 1795: In the Three Partitions of Poland, Russia, Prussia and Austria break Poland into three pieces and absorb them. This effectively wipes Poland off the map for more than one hundred years, making research between these years and Poland’s independence after World War I difficult.

  • 1815: The Congress of Vienna redraws many of Europe’s borders, including Napoleon’s Duchy of Warsaw. Many of these borders won’t change until the end of World War I and likely reflect the divisions of Europe that were in place when your ancestor left the old country.

  • 1867: The Austrian and Hungarian governments form a dual monarchy, sharing a common ruler. As a result, your Polish, Czech and Slovak ancestors may list Austria and/or Hungary as a birthplace.

  • 1918: World War I ends, and Europe’s borders are redrawn, with many of Eastern Europe’s ethnic groups receiving independent nation-states. Poland gains independence for the since time since the Partitions, and the defeated Austria-Hungary is divided into Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Galicia (which goes to Poland), and Transylvania (which goes to Romania). These changes may change how your immigrant ancestor chose to list his information on passenger lists and other North American records. See the picture above for a snapshot of Eastern Europe’s borders in 1922 following the changes.

  • 1945: World War II ends, and Eastern Europe’s population is devastated. Borders—especially Poland’s—change yet again following the war, with Ukraine gaining Subcarpathian Rus’ and Poland losing territory in the east to the Soviet Union but gaining formerly German territory in the west.

Learn more tips and resources for decrypting Eastern Europe’s changing borders and complicated historical influences on your ancestors’ lives. Order your copy of The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide today.

Czech roots | Polish roots | Slovak roots
Tuesday, January 19, 2016 11:22:30 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
8 Habits of Highly Organized Genealogists
Posted by Diane

Why is organizing genealogy stuff perpetually challenging for so many of us? Maybe because finding new ancestry information is more fun than logging it. And organization isn't a one-way-fits-everyone kind of deal—the system and tools best for you depend on how your brain works.

But the pros will tell you that organizing is an important part of research. It helps you figure out how the new piece fits into your family tree and form conclusions about your ancestors. That's why we're holding our Family Tree University Organize Your Genealogy in a Week online workshop Jan. 25-31, where you'll learn best practices from genealogy experts and exchange ideas with other family historians like you.


What I like about the following eight getting-organized principles (which have come from Family Tree Magazine contributors and readers over the years) is that you can apply them with the tools and techniques that are right for you. You'll learn a lot more about such tools and techniques in the Organize Your Genealogy in a Week workshop.

1. Keep the big picture in mind.
You can use genealogy charts such as five-generation ancestor charts and family group sheets to help you visualize how your relatives fit together, or try an online family tree builder with an app on your smart phone. (Find free downloadable blank forms on It’s also handy to have a large working family tree chart, where you can see the whole thing at once. 

2. Take charge of paper files.
Set up a filing system for family papers. Many researchers use binders or file folders arranged alphabetically by surname. Each surname folder holds papers from a couple’s marriage to their death, as well as any general notes. Children go in their parents’ folder, then get their own folder when they marry. You also might keep folders for towns or counties, with maps, historical background and local research notes.

3. Go digital.
To save space in paper files and create electronic backups, scan photos and paper documents. Organize digital files with the same system as your paper files. Determine a file-naming scheme, write it down and stick to it.

4. Establish an organization routine.
If you regularly take short chunks of time to file stuff, it becomes second nature. Set up an inbox on your desk or computer hard drive for items you need to take action on (scan, label, etc.) and a “to file” folder for documents ready to be put away. Once a week or month, schedule time to empty these boxes.

5. Take advantage of tech tools.
You can organize with tons of tech tools and apps, such as Evernote for tracking information and research findings, Calibre to manage e-books, Flickr for photos, Excel spreadsheets for checklists and logs. Find some of our favorite genealogy apps listed here.

6. Designate a workspace.
If you’re like many of us, your genealogy workspace may double as a guest bedroom, dining room table or living room floor. Try to have a designated spot for your files, computer and books.

7. Color-code folders and files.
You could use a color for each surname, though you’d probably run out of colors before too long. I'd color code by branch with a different color for each of my grandparents’ lines. Color-code computer files and folders to match: On a Mac, click on a folder or file in the finder window and then click the down arrow next to the gear icon. From the drop-down menu, select Label and the color. PCs don’t have built-in folder color-coding, but you can download a program such as Folderico.

8. Create a kit for on-site research.
Prepare a bag with tools you might need for research at a repository: notebook, pen, pencil, money for the copier, flash drive, a family group sheet, surname variant lists, blank census or passenger list recording forms, etc. Now you won’t have to run around gathering stuff when you leave for the library.

Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, January 19, 2016 10:21:39 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]