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Monday, May 23, 2016
It Takes Two: The Research Benefits of a Two-Monitor System
Posted by Diane
Handling all your data and research can be a struggle. In this guest post, author and co-host of the Genealogy Guys podcast Drew Smith explains why it’s important to have dual screens in your workspace to best keep your research organized.
Before genealogists had the benefit of computers, they used a desktop or table to spread out their documents and notebooks. In the ideal workspace, they had plenty of room in which to make notes to themselves or fill out a handwritten pedigree chart or family group sheet. With a large desk, they could simultaneously view a printed copy of an original record. They could put two records side-by-side, comparing the information to see whether or not the records referred to the same person or to different people.
The modern genealogist is more likely to view digital documents and record their research conclusions in desktop software or in an online family tree. But if everything is displayed on a single average-sized monitor, you’ll have to switch the view back and forth between different windows, just to make comparisons between records or to record notes and conclusions.
A larger monitor may make it possible to have two different windows viewable at the same time. You can buy 27-inch PC monitors for as little as $200, but higher-quality monitors may cost as much as $500 or more. If your budget allows you to do so, you can even find 32- to 34-inch Windows monitors for around $900 to $1,000. But for the price of a 32-inch monitor, you can easily buy two 27-inch monitors, with far more total viewing space.
If your physical workspace provides enough room for at least two 27-inch displays, I would recommend considering that configuration. This provides room to do your writing on one display (taking notes, entering data into your software, etc.) and to do your research on the other display (viewing one or more records). You’d be surprised how much time and mental energy you save by not having to switch window views in and out.
Besides the cost of a second monitor, is there a downside to having multiple monitors? Yes: If you try to do serious research work on one screen, you may have distractions on the second screen, such as your email inbox or social media sites. In this case, you may find yourself less productive than if you had only a single screen! So if you don’t need to do real work on the second screen for a while, use it instead to display an inspirational photo or the text of your research goal in big letters.
Learn more tips and strategies for organizing your genealogical workspace by pre-ordering your copy of Organize Your Genealogy today.
organizing your research | Tech Advice
Monday, May 23, 2016 2:43:24 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Little-Known Courthouse Records: My Ancestor's Mechanic's Lien
Posted by Diane
Genealogists researching old court records generally expect to find
records like deeds, probate files and trial proceedings. In our Courthouse
Research Made Easy Family Tree University course (running May
23-June 27), you'll learn about these and other, lesser-known,
ancestor records you can find at the courthouse.
I was lucky to discover an interesting one by chance, and it told me
a lot about a few days in the life of my third-great-grandfather
Thomas Frost, a carpenter. Even luckier, the record was online.
The Hamilton County (Ohio) Genealogical Society has a downloadable
PDF "sundries" index, kept for non-deed documents, from the
county recorder's office. I casually scrolled through and spotted
Thomas' name with "mechanic's lien."
My first stop was FamilySearch's
collection of Hamilton County, Ohio, records. It's not yet
indexed, so you can't search it. Instead, I browsed to Land and
Property records, then to the book, volume and page number
referenced in sundries index: Mechanic Liens Vol. 7 (1864-1869),
The document outlines the materials and labor Thomas provided to a
Mr. S. Schwab on a two-story brick building at 177 West Third
Street, October 26-28, 1864. The list included "Repairing front
gutter and trimming same and making new cornice and turning and
furnishing tin spouts to rear of house," "Time & Trouble Fixing
Clossets" and "nine square and 20 ft. of Shingling at $2.00."
I had to look up what a mechanic's lien is. It serves as security
for a person working on a construction project. The tradesperson
receives interest in the property title, and if the person in charge
of the project doesn't pay his workers, they can be paid from the
sale of the property. Similar laws have existed for centuries, according
to Wikipedia, but Thomas Jefferson conceived of mechanics
liens in their modern form to encourage construction in Washington,
Thomas was owed $391 and at the time he filed the lien Jan. 27,
1865, he'd received only $90. If I'm interpreting this correctly, it
looks like he did receive payment.
You can bet I looked for an old map to find the location and see if
the building still exists. It's a parking lot now.
But I know exactly where my ancestor was for three days in 1864, and
what he was doing. Courthouses are filled with records like this,
records you never would've realized existed. The four-week Courthouse
Research Made Easy online course will show what records exist
and how to find them, as well as offer strategies for in-person
courthouse research. Learn
more about the course and register at FamilyTreeuniversity.com.
court records | Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 2:39:17 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Five Resources For Finding Early Immigrants to the US
Posted by Diane
Looking for early immigrants to America, before passenger lists were
required in 1820? Try these resources, which you'll learn more about
in our online workshop How
to Find Your Ancestry Before 1850, May 16-22:
- Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s:
This index by P. William Filby and Mary K. Meyer compiles
information from a variety of records. It's in print at many
libraries and searchable on Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and
through HeritageQuest Online (available at many libraries).
- Early passenger lists: A few early lists exist. For
example, Philadelphia passenger lists from 1729 through 1808
(with a break during the American Revolution) are transcribed in
Pennsylvania German Pioneers by Ralph B. Strassburger
and William J. Hinke, and the National Archives has microfilm of
some early lists for New Orleans and Philadelphia lists.
- Land records: The colonies of Virginia and Maryland
made land grands to those who sponsored immigrants. The
patent or headright would name those transported.
to Find Your Ancestry Before 1850 also covers the 1790 through
1840 US censuses (which name only heads of households), tax records,
"cluster" research, and other strategies and records for researching
early Americans. See
a workshop program at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
- Naturalization records: In the Colonies, non-English
immigrants had to swear oaths of allegiance as part of the
citizenship process. The US passed its first naturalization act
in 1790. These records have sparse information but may include
the date, ship name and port of departure.
immigration records | Research Tips
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 9:59:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Genealogy News From the NGS Conference in Florida!
Posted by Diane
Genealogical Society's annual family history conference is
happening now through May 7 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Here's a
quickupdate with news from the conference:
Ancestry.com | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Libraries and Archives | MyHeritage
Wednesday, May 04, 2016 4:01:09 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
Organized Genealogy Research: Matching Up Two Theresas
Posted by Diane
My new favorite genealogy accomplishment is figuring out whether the Theresa Seeger Kolbeck whose 1937 death announcement I found by chance in a newspaper
index on the Kenton County Public Library website was the sister of my great-great-grandfather, German immigrant
Heinrich Arnold ("H.A.") Seeger.
All I had on H.A.'s sister was her
baptismal record from Steinfeld, Germany, with her date of
birth and parents' names.
A little research into the local Theresa—actually Mary
Theresa—uncovered a death certificate with her birthday as Feb.
18, 1949 (three days after H.A.'s sister's birthday) in Germany. She
and her husband Herman Henrich Kolbeck immigrated May 16, 1873, and
settled in Covington, Ky. The 1900 census reported they'd been
married 27 years, putting their marriage in 1873.
Following tips Drew
Smith will share in our Genealogy
Organization Tips and Strategies webinar on May 19, I planned
out some steps:
Finally the stars aligned and I could get to the FamilySearch
Center to view the Steinfeld church records. Within 15 minutes,
I found Theresa's and Herman Henrich's April 23, 1873, marriage
record. Theresa's parents had the same names as on her baptismal
record, and the same names as H.A.'s parents.
- From previous
research in Steinfeld, Germany,
marriage records, I knew they usually name the parents. I added a to-do list item to view the records covering 1873 at my local FamilySearch Center. So many folks around here have roots in that part of Germany that the film is in the
permanent collection of my FamilySearch Center. Getting out to research requires all kinds of
scheduling acrobatics for me, so I knew it'd be awhile
before I could visit.
- I looked up the Kolbecks in other databases on the Kenton
County library website. and found church record index
entries for the baptisms of several children. The
library has the records on microfilm, so I ordered digital
copies through its fee-based
A few were the Kolbecks' children, with Theresa's maiden name as
variants close to (but not exactly) Seeger. One baptism had a sponsor Frances
Säge. Frances was the name of H.A.'s wife. Other baptisms were the children of another Kolbeck couple, with Theresa a sponsor in one.
- Also from the Kenton County library, I ordered a copies of
two newspaper death announcements for Theresa. Neither named her parents or birthplace in Germany.
Yay! I could add
all those Kolbecks into my family tree.
Drew Smith recommends organizing your genealogy research around goals, and I have
two new ones for this family:
Organization Tips and Strategies webinar on May 19 will help
you manage your research process, so you can take a focused approach
to solving genealogy problems. Learn
more about this online event in ShopFamilyTree.com.
- Figure out whether Theresa and Herman Henry were cousins.
You probably noticed that Theresa's mother was born a
- Figure out if and how that other Kolbeck couple in the
Covington, Ky., baptismal records was related to Herman Henrich.
That family later moved to Ford County, Kan.
German roots | Research Tips | Webinars
Tuesday, May 03, 2016 3:18:13 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, April 25, 2016
Genealogy Roadshow Debuts May 17 (PLUS: Submit a Family Mystery for Next Season!)
Posted by Diane
Roadshow" has released a preview of its new season, premiering
Tuesday, May 17, 8 p.m. ET on PBS. Shows this season will take place
in Boston, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles.
If you haven't seen this series, it has professional genealogists D.
Joshua Taylor, Kenyatta
Berry and Mary
Tedesco use research to solve family history mysteries for
ordinary people. Often,
the guests have done a little genealogy themselves and run across a
family legend or difficult research problem.
(PS: Josh Taylor will present our Best New England Genealogy Research Strategies webinar this Thursday, April 28. Got ancestors from Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut or Rhode Island? Find out more here about this terrific opportunity to learn from an expert.)
Here's a preview of this season of "Genealogy Roadshow":
website also is beefed up with genealogy tips and clips from
past episodes. Many featuring background on historical events and
people in guests' trees, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, the US
Colored Troops, and pirates and outlaws.
"Genealogy Roadshow" guests are selected through an
application process—here's the online form for next season.
Genealogy TV | Webinars
Monday, April 25, 2016 10:31:57 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, April 11, 2016
My No. 1 Favorite Genealogy Resource
Posted by Diane
Newspapers! It's newspapers. They're full of details you don't find
anywhere else (although sometimes colored by a reporter's
perspective). Because our Find
Your Ancestors in Online Newspapers webinar is coming up April
21, I'll let my third-great-grandfather Thomas Frost
demonstrate why I love this resource.
You first heard about Thomas when I blogged about his
sensational divorce (a Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
newspaper article provided the clue to look for divorce records). On
Nov. 19, 1879, two papers detailed the charges, although with
The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer article is at the top and the
Cincinnati Daily Star article is below it.
Thomas' life didn't improve from there.
The Daily Enquirer reported March 8, 1881, on his visit with the children in an article titled "A Frosty
Day." Mary was supposed to make herself scarce before he arrived, but instead she hid in the house. She jumped out when
Thomas reprimanded one of the children and "made things rather
lively ... Cold water, hot water, pokers and any amount of angry
words were brought into requisition ... ."
Then things got even more crazy with this March 16, 1882, headline:
It would be thrilling only to a genealogist. (Or maybe a serial
It appears my ancestor had taken up with a woman, Mary Bergan, who'd
left her husband (or he left her, as the Cincinnati Daily Gazette claimed) and was
staying in the European boarding house. The landlady said Thomas
told her Bergan was his niece, and he became "desperate" when she
was with another man.
On the night in question, Bergan was hanging out with James Murphy,
John Collins, and another roomer named Birdie Huston. Thomas waited
in the downstairs hallway for the party to leave. Then he leapt from behind the stairs and confronted Murphy. A scuffle ensued and
Thomas was cut on the head.
Police detained Bergan, Murphy, Collins and Huston at another
lodging house. Collins took the blame for the cutting, with a
razor he'd grabbed from Murphy's pocket.
The Cincinnati Daily Gazette carried some different details, including a gory description of the
wound. It was an "ugly-looking" two-inch gash positioned "just back and a little above the left temple."
fracture was visible in Thomas' skull.
From articles about other relatives, I've learned about a kitchen
fire, child's birthday party, barfight, commitment (for one who'd
become "violently insane") and other events in their lives that probably wouldn't
make the news today. Where court records are missing, newspapers
informed about the bootlegging
arrest and trial of my great-grandfather (not the one in the
In our Find
Your Ancestors in Online Newspapers webinar, you'll learn the
best websites and techniques to search for articles with this kind
of detail about your ancestors.
The webinar is on April 21,
and all registrants receive a copy of the presentation slides and
access to view the webinar again as often as you want. Find
out more about this webinar and sign up at ShopFamilyTree.com!
Newspapers | Webinars
Monday, April 11, 2016 10:51:49 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
Raise a Glass: Connecting With German Genealogists Online
Posted by Diane
In some ways, what has happened to online German genealogy in the last few years reflects what’s been going on in the wider family history world: more instant communication and loads of ways for people to connect. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the newly released Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, shares how collaboration made possible by the internet has affected his genealogy research.
Two correspondents who the internet figuratively brought to my doorstep stand out to me when I think about my experience with online German research.
The first crossed my path a dozen-plus years ago, when I was trying to track down a female ancestor for whom I (frustratingly!) had an exact birth date but no maiden surname. Her married name was Gertraut Rauch, and I knew her husband had been born in the northeastern section of Berks County, Pa., but all the information I had on her came from her tombstone. I was prowling online bulletin boards, having just realized that these were replacing the “queries” of my first years of doing genealogy (now most people have moved on to online family trees).
In any case, within hours of posting a Rauch query, a researcher named DelLynn Leavitt from Idaho Falls, Idaho, replied saying he knew Gertraut was the daughter of a man named Jacob Sicher. With that small fact, my brick wall came tumbling down. And this type of connection would have previously taken months or years to form, but it took less than a day for us to connect thanks to the internet!
Fast-forward to 2010: After many years and a dozen trips to Salt Lake City’s Family History Library, I finally unearthed the German hometown (Gerolsheim) of my surname immigrant ancestor, Johannes Beÿdeler. Coincidentally, I had already made plans to go to Europe that year to take in the once-in-a-decade Passion Play, so I simply added Gerolsheim to the itinerary. I tried to contact Gerolsheim officials in advance through the town's own website—but there was no email contact listed. Instead, I contacted the local tourist bureau (which did have an e-mail address, and a few days I had a response from the town’s deputy mayor, Klaus May.
I still think Klaus and his wife would have put us up for our entire stay in Germany if we had just asked! Klaus showed us around the town and introduced us to the Ortsbürgermeister (village mayor). With Germany’s largest wine festival in full swing in nearby Bad Dürkheim, we toasted a local Riesling wine with Klaus, his wife, and the mayor to celebrate our newfound friendship. What a great connection to have made through the internet!
Learn more about what the web can do for your German genealogy research in James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, available now on ShopFamilyTree.com; order between now and April 28 to get free shipping.
German roots | Social Networking
Tuesday, April 05, 2016 1:35:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Sneak Peek! "Who Do You Think You Are?" Premieres Sunday With Aisha Tyler
Posted by Diane
The month of March sneaked* right by, and it's already time for the
premiere of TLC's "Who
Do You Think You Are?" this Sunday at 9/8 central.
This episode features African-American actor Aisha Tyler (she was
Ross' paleontologist girlfriend on "Friends" and she's a cohost on "The Talk").
I always enjoy when a genealogy show visits places that also figure
into my family tree, so I should be happy with this one: Tyler
travels to Cleveland, Ohio, and the Western
Reserve Historical Society, as well as the Texas State Library &
Archives and other sites in Austin.
The stories Tyler discovers in her mother's family history include a
second-great-grandfather who, according to the show's publicist, "took a brave stand for his people, and left a mark
so great that he is commemorated today by one of America’s
capital cities." He was born out of wedlock to a white man who
opposed rights for African-Americans.
I'm not allowed to reveal too many details about the episode, but
here's a video sneak peek for you:
a rundown of other "WDYTYA?" celebrity guests
*For any fellow grammar geeks out there, I actually looked up whether sneaked
or snuck would be correct, and the Grammarist
recommended the former, although the newer snuck has
become common and is also acceptable.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Genealogy TV
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:55:25 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
German Resource Spotlight: Hamburg Passenger Lists
Posted by Diane
Immigrant ancestors tend to capture researchers’ imaginations more than others. We’re enchanted by the idea of our ancestors coming to a foreign land with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a dream of better things to come.
Fortunately for those with German ancestry, researchers have access to more than one resource to help document their ancestors’ incredible journeys. In addition to passenger arrival lists in North America, German researchers can also find embarkation lists that record Europeans as they left the continent. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, looks at the Hamburg Passenger Lists, one of the major German assets on Ancestry.com.
The resource, which is actually a collection of the scanned passenger lists and a collection of handwritten indexes for these records, are from emigration departures from the port of Hamburg in northern Germany. Hamburg was the number-two exit point from Europe from 1850 to 1934, so you’ll likely want to search these two resources if you have ancestors who left Europe in the second half of the 1800s or early in the 1900s.
You'll need an Ancestry.com subscription to search the passenger list collection, which offers images of the lists from 1850 to 1934 but is only searchable through 1923. However, the handwritten indexes collection is only browsable, so you’ll want to focus on a specific time period. While you can’t search through the handwritten indexes, they can help cover defects of the passenger lists, which can have bad handwriting that prevents you from finding your ancestors.
These Hamburg lists can provide valuable context for your research when used with other resources. For example, I searched for my ancestor, Rosina Friedrika Wibel, on the Hamburg lists. From other resources, I knew she was born in 1829; A Rosine Wibel (note the spelling difference) was identified in the Hamburg lists as departing Hamburg on the ship Harmonia on 28 Feb 1857. Reviewing stateside passenger lists, I found that she arrived in New York almost a whole month later, on 26 March 1857. And if I couldn’t find Rosina in the searchable embarkation lists, I could have used her arrival date from the US passenger list to pinpoint when to browse for her in the Hamburg’s handwritten indexes.
Here’s a quick timeline of the Hamburg Embarkation Lists:
- 1850: Embarkation lists begin, initially with just the passengers’ names, but later with additional details.
- 1855: Handwritten indexes are first created for embarkation lists.
- 1854–1910: The lists and handwritten indexes are separated into “direct” (passenger who weren’t going to change ships before their ultimate arrivals) and “indirect” (those who did change ships). After 1911, the lists and indexes are no longer categorized this way.
- 1915–1919: No lists are kept during World War I.
- 1934: Passenger lists cease to be created for Hamburg.
Learn more about how to research German immigrant ancestors in James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1.
German roots | immigration records
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:40:45 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)