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More Links

# Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Which is Which?: Genealogies and Family Trees on
Posted by Diane

To beginner users—and even to those with more experience—it can be confusing to distinguish the various types of user-submitted pedigree information on

So what’s the difference between the Genealogies and Family Tree sections on the site? Guest writer and author of the Unofficial Guide to Dana McCullough has the answer with this comparison guide.

Many people use’s Family Tree function, but it’s not the only way to submit and record your family information for later reference and for other people to see.

The Genealogies section of the site is sort of like a repository for family trees. Here, you can find databases of genealogies that has acquired throughout the years. It’s made up of the Ancestral File, the Pedigree Resource File, the International Genealogical Index, and Community Trees. These records have come to in a variety of ways, and some of them are even user-submitted. One of these collections, the Pedigree Resource File, is a searchable database with, in addition to resources from multiple genealogies, more than 200 million records submitted by website users and LDS members. You can contribute to this resource by uploading your family information in a GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) file, a standard file for genealogical information.

When you submit a GEDCOM file (the universal genealogy computer file format) of your family tree to the Pedigree Resource File, FamilySearch preserves a copy of it forever. Because this record is now an archival copy, you can’t change any of the information in it. But you can submit a new, updated GEDCOM file in the future. After you submit your GEDCOM file, you and other users can search for and through it in the Genealogies section of (see image above).

By contrast, FamilySearch Family Trees, a separate feature from the user-submitted genealogies, aren’t locked in time. You can edit your Family Tree at any time, and anyone searching for your Family Tree will see the most recently updated version (see image above). As a result, you can add new records to your Family Tree as you find them and make changes to the information on it if you find new or different information.

Unlike Genealogies, you’ll use the Family Tree Find tool (under the Family Tree tab, then Find) to search information you and other have posted to FamilySearch Family Trees.

To put it another way: Think of FamilySearch Family Tree as your evolving family tree that’s a living, breathing organism, while Genealogies (like those in the Pedigree Resource File) are more like fossils that have been carefully preserved in a collection. You'll want to stick with your Family Tree as you're conducting your research, but you can create a GEDCOM version of your genealogy and upload it to Pedigree Resource File when your research is "final."

Learn more about the differences between Genealogies and Family Trees on and how to find them by ordering your copy of the Unofficial Guide to today.

Family Tree Firsts | FamilySearch
Tuesday, 15 September 2015 13:14:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Family Tree Firsts Blogger Entries Due Friday
Posted by Beth

Just a friendly reminder that if you're a newbie genealogist, you could be Family Tree Magazine's next Family Tree Firsts blogger!

We're looking for someone who enjoys writing and is interested in his or her family history, but is just starting—or hasn't yet started—to research it.

We'll select one winner based on the strength of the application. Over the course of six months, you'll have access to Family Tree Magazine's how-to genealogy products, Family Tree University classes and webinars, as well as other products, services and surprises from our partners. You'll blog once a week to share your genealogical finds, trials and tribulations. We might even include you in a future issue of the magazine!

To enter, click here to fill out an application and compose your first blog post. This will let us get to know you and see how you'd write your blog. But, hurry! The deadline is Friday, Nov. 16. Good luck!

Family Tree Firsts | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 13 November 2012 11:25:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 02 December 2011
Meet Our New Family Tree Firsts Blogger!
Posted by Diane

Just a quick note to send you over to to meet our new Family Tree Firsts blogger, Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.

She'll be doing family research with help from Family Tree University courses and sharing what she learns on the Family Tree Firsts blog.

And stop by to say hi to our previous Family Tree Firsts blogger, Nancy Shively, at her Gathering Stories blog.

Family Tree Firsts
Friday, 02 December 2011 16:12:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 04 October 2011
We're on the Lookout for a Family Tree Firsts Blogger!
Posted by Diane

Attention beginning family historians (and anyone who knows one): We so enjoyed hearing about the genealogy search of inaugural Family Tree Firsts blogger Nancy Shively, that we want to follow along as another new researcher discovers his or her roots!

So we’re seeking a genealogy newbie to blog about his or her research experience on the Family Tree Firsts blog.

(If you've become attached to reading Nancy's posts over the past year, as we have, she'll keep finding and telling family stories at her Gathering Stories blog.) 

We're looking for someone who enjoys writing and is interested in his or her family history, but is just starting—or hasn't yet started—to research it.

To enter, compose your first blog post and fill out our entry form

Magazine editors will select a winner to be our Family Tree Firsts Blogger based on the strength of the application. Then, over six months, the blogger will have access to our how-to genealogy products, classes and webinars. The blogger will blog weekly to tell the world about his/her genealogical experiences and finds.

We’re super excited about seeing the world of genealogy through the eyes of a newbie! If you’re new to genealogy and you love to write, click here to apply. Or if you know someone who fits the bill, send him or her to this post. The deadline is Oct. 31.

Family History Month | Family Tree Firsts
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 15:42:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 04 March 2011
News Corral: March 4
Posted by jamie

Genealogy has gone prime time. NBC gave "Who Do You Think You Are?" the green light for a third season. "Faces of America" will return to PBS for another season. And on this week's "Top Chef All-Stars," contestants traced their family treed and competed at Ellis Island, cooking up dishes based on their family's heritage. Read more about the genealogy TV trend here.

GenealogyBank is offering a yearly subscription to its newspaper collection for 75 percent off. This offer is good through March 14, and you can learn more on

Family Tree Firsts blogger Nancy Shively discovered her great-grandfather suddenly came into money and lost it all, and she's determined to find out more. Read her full story on

The last living World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died Sunday. Buckles drove an Army ambulance in France in 1918, after lying about his age to recruiters. He was 110 years old. Read his full story here.

The National Archives at Atlanta will present a Civil War Symposium, a day-long program commemorating the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The event features scholars and historians from leading archival and academic institutions, as well as an exhibit of 19th century African American newspapers. The symposium is slated for April 16 and costs $20 to attend. Visit NARA's website for more information.

Don't forget about our Ultimate Family History Starter Collection. This multimedia bundle brings you our most invaluable tips, tricks and how-tos to help you jump start your genealogy research. There are only 150 copies of this collection available through the end of March. There's more information in this Genealogy Insider blog post.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Family Tree Firsts | Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers
Friday, 04 March 2011 15:49:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Family Tree Firsts Blog: The Mysterious Michael Shively
Posted by Diane

Over at our Family Tree Firsts blog, newbie genealogist Nancy Shively (who you may recall was selected last November to blog about her research experiences) can't stop thinking about Michael, born in 1807, the oldest Shively on her tree. Information-wise, he still remains stubbornly out of reach.

Read about two neighboring Indiana land patents and other clues Nancy has found to the mysterious Michael’s whereabouts.

Also, Nancy mentions a Cincinnati connection that clicked for me—I wonder if a local park called LaBoiteaux Woods is named for the family of Michael’s first wife, Keziah Laboyteaux?

Family Tree Firsts | Research Tips
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 11:48:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 23 December 2010
12 Days of Genealogy: Beginner's Guide Download
Posted by Diane

On the 11th day of Christmas, my genea-Santa gave to me … the Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy download!

Was someone on your Christmas list bitten by the genealogy bug this year? Our downloadable getting-started guide has important information for beginners to know in a user-friendly, engaging presentation. That includes:

  • Research principles (such as starting with yourself and working back in time)
  • How to fill out basic genealogy forms
  • Finding and using essential records, such as censuses and vital records
  • How to keep your research organized
  • Common myths and research traps to avoid
  • Best websites for genealogy research 

The Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy download is a fully searchable PDF your giftee can refer to again and again. Click here to get it from

12 Days of Genealogy | Family Tree Firsts
Thursday, 23 December 2010 23:12:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Meet Our Family Tree Firsts Blogger!
Posted by Diane

A little while back, we started our search for a newbie genealogist to blog for six months about his or her family research experiences and resources. 

We were thoroughly impressed by all the entries we received, and wish we could pick all of them! The Family Tree Firsts blogger we selected is Nancy Shively of Skiatook, Okla. A genealogist of six months—since she discovered her mom had a brother who died in infancy—she’ll be researching mostly in Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennesse, Indiana and Canada.

Nancy reports she's excited to get started blogging, and adds “I am interested in my female ancestors but also in the military experiences of the men in my family tree. I love walking through old cemeteries. I want to know how my family fit in with larger events and trends in history.”

You can read Nancy’s first blog entry on

Update: And Nancy's the 1,400th blogger at Geneabloggers! Sweet!

Family Tree Firsts
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 13:32:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 04 October 2010
Be Our Family Tree Firsts Blogger!
Posted by Diane

In another of our Family History Month happenings, Family Tree Magazine seeks a genealogy newbie to blog about exploring his or her roots.

We're looking for someone who enjoys writing and is interested in his or her family history, but is just starting—or hasn't yet started—to research it.

To enter, compose your first blog post and fill out our entry form.

Magazine editors will select a winner based on the strength of the application to be our Family Tree Firsts Blogger. Then, over six months, the blogger will have access to our how-to genealogy products, classes and webinars, and products, services and surprises from our partners. The blogger will blog twice a week to tell the world about his/her genealogical experiences and finds, and he/she will even appear in a future issue of Family Tree Magazine.

We’re super excited about seeing the world of genealogy through the eyes of a newbie! If you’re new to genealogy and you love to write, click here to apply. Or if you know someone who fits the bill, send him or her to this post. The deadline is Oct. 31.

Family Tree Firsts
Monday, 04 October 2010 13:35:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Register Now for FREE FTU Class: Discover Your Family Tree
Posted by Diane

When you’re a family history newbie, the prospect of diving into your roots research can seem overwhelming.

We’ll help you get started with our free, two-week Family Tree University course called Discover Your Family Tree: Genealogy for the Absolute Beginner.

This course, which begins Monday, Oct. 11, will start you on the fun and rewarding journey of discovering your roots. You’ll learn how to begin, where to look for information to extend your family tree, what to do with what you find and how to put it all together. Family Tree Magazine publisher and editorial director Allison Stacy is the instructor.

Family Tree University courses are self-paced. You download each lesson (two for this course; four for most others) and any accompanying articles and go through it at your computer, or you can print the materials. Each lesson concludes with a quiz or exercise. You’ll receive feedback from your instructor via e-mail, and you can communicate with the instructor and your fellow students on a message board.

Registration is open now at for the free, two-week class Discover Your Family Tree: Genealogy for the Absolute Beginner.

The next session of Family Tree University how-to genealogy courses begins Oct. 11. You can see all the offerings on

Family Tree Firsts | Family Tree University | Research Tips
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 13:41:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Lindsay the Intern Visits Ellis Island
Posted by Lindsay

The Family Tree Magazine staff had to do without their intern last Monday, as I spent the weekend in New York. Being the amateur genealogist that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Ellis Island. Here’s a tip for the tourist: don’t visit Ellis Island on a Saturday afternoon in late July. It took me no less than 3 hours to make it through the line (which has airport-style security) and onto the ferry. Luckily, it was a beautiful day—had it been 5 degrees warmer, I don’t think I would have made it.

I vaguely remember a visit to Ellis Island on my first trip to New York when I was ten years old. My grandpa showed me (I forget how or where) a record for “Frank Sena” (his grandpa’s name) from Italy. During my research at FTM however, I learned that all of my ancestors came to America before 1892—the year that Ellis Island actually opened. The “Frank Sena” my grandpa showed me could have been any number of people.

Ellis Island consists of a big, beautiful building (now the Ellis Island Immigration Museum) on an island surrounded by trees and gardens. Despite its physical beauty (and the hundreds of tourists running around), the building has an eerie quality. Maybe because of the “horror” stories I learned in school—of people waiting for weeks, being inspected in six seconds and turned away for seemingly silly reasons—I felt uneasy as I passed through the exhibits.

The Museum itself is somewhat scattered, and unless you do the audio tour for another $8 (I opted out of this), it may be difficult to know where to go. There are many unmarked, unlocked doors, so I had to suspend my usual fear of “breaking the rules” and be a bit adventurous. While searching for the exit, I wandered into a room and was asked if I was there to pick up a record (there’s a station where you can search for your ancestors and print the actual records—or you can order them from I didn’t see any original records though, which was disappointing.

(me in the Great Hall on the second floor)

The two parts of the Museum that were the most memorable were the “Barbie Dolls of the World” exhibit, and some lone “graffiti columns.” The Barbie Doll exhibit—which took up a large portion of space on the first floor—made part of me wonder, “What is this doing here? Don’t they know this is a historic site?” and the other part think, “This is such a brilliant idea.” If I was ten (okay—maybe five) years younger, and you asked me to wait in line for three hours, you better believe I was walking away with an Italian-themed Barbie.

After being a bit dumbfounded by the Barbie exhibit, I was relieved to see some genuine artifacts in the form of two or three graffiti columns, located in a dim hallway on the second floor. The columns had been stripped of paint to reveal original drawings and writing from immigrants who had been waiting (presumably, to be examined). I couldn’t read any of what had been written (it was faded and written in foreign languages), but the columns finally made me feel connected to the many people who had passed through Ellis Island.

In other news, my family tree search continues! Thank you for your comments on my past posts—your advice has been very helpful. I’m learning that genealogy is largely about the process—you can’t learn everything in a week! I have made some exciting discoveries on my mother’s maternal line, which is now traced back to colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut. I may not be a Mayflower descendent, but I’ve discovered some ancestors that journeyed to America shortly after the Mayflower landed, in the 1630s and 1640s. I will update with more details later this week.

Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 17:32:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Is Lindsay the Intern a Mayflower Descendant?
Posted by Lindsay

I was hoping after last week’s devastating revelation that I could improve the Rudd family morale by verifying the myth that we are descendants of the Mayflower pilgrims. Like the Uncle Sam rumor, this one has been purported by my mother’s family, so instead of blindly trusting the research (see below), I set about to prove it on my own.

I began optimistically after reading an article that said, “It has been estimated by Gary Boyd Roberts, of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, that there are some 30 million descendants of the Mayflower families.” With 30 million descendants, my chances were looking good!

I started by tracing back through Hazel Silverberg, my great-grandmother. Using, I traced her grandparents, Charles Russell Hall (b. 1853, New York) and Alice Roberts (b. 1865).

My alleged Mayflower link is through Charles Russell Hall’s mother, Anne Green Soule (b. 1826, married to Russell W. Hall). I immediately questioned Anne’s two last names, Green and Soule, especially as her mother’s last name is reportedly Cady. Where did “Green” come from? Did she have a previous marriage? If women were remarried after being widowed or divorced, did they keep their name?

On this page of research (date: 12/10/89), Anne Green Soule has a * next to her name, and written below: “is already verified by some other researcher. They let me see it, but it’s against the rules.” Um, what?

It also says, at the bottom, “Anne Green’s birth and death must be confirmed somehow and then we can be official Mayflower descendants.”

So it would seem—to my astonishment—that there is no actual evidence that we are Mayflower descendants. Great.

My online search of records for Anne Green Soule and Russell W. Hall was fruitless. All I uncovered was an 1860 Census record that listed Russell Hall and Anna Hall (b. 1827, NY)—no mention of Green or Soule. At this point I changed my strategy. Knowing of the abundant literature on Mayflower genealogy, I started Google-ing.

I confirmed my relative’s research from the Mayflower pilgrim (George Soule) to Coomer Soule, Anne Green Soule’s alleged father.

I hit a roadblock when—in the only Mayflower family tree I found that listed Coomer Soule’s children—they were listed:
i. JOSEPH CADY SOULE, b. 27 Jan 1805; m. JULIA KEACH.
ii. LUCY SOULE, b. 11 Aug 1808, Woodstock, Windham County, Connecticut; m. NATHAN BROWN.
iii. EMILY SOULE, b. Abt. 1811
iv. ELIZABETH SOULE, b. 22 Mar 1815; m. LYMAN HAWKS.

Well… where’s Anne? And it doesn’t look like any of those daughters married a “Hall.”

I needed help, so I started digging around’s message boards when I stumbled upon this posting from January 3, 2000:
“Looking for the daughter of Coomer Soule and Nancy Cady who is believe to have married Russell Ephraim Hall, Children William Coomer Hall b. 12/8/1857, m. 12/25/1891 Hattie Alma Cone in Hartford, Windsor Co, VT. William d. 12/29/1938.”

This (nameless) poster seems to share my dilemma. He (or she) is implying that there was a daughter who married a Russell Hall. This couldn’t just be one of my aunts though, because William Coomer Hall is a different child than (perhaps the brother?) my Charles Russell Hall.

Unfortunately, my luck stopped there. None of the responses had valuable information. Help me out, Genealogy Insiders! Where should I go from here?

(My mom’s abandoned Mayflower Society application from 2002).

Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 17:34:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Is Lindsay the Intern Related to Uncle Sam?
Posted by Diane

You might remember Lindsay, Family Tree Magazine's hard-working summer intern, from last week's introduction. This week, Lindsay investigates her family's supposed connection to Uncle Sam:

I now have 133 (verified) people on my MyHeritage family tree! The most exciting part of my research has been tracing my ancestors back to their homelands. I have discovered that these include, on my father’s side: Italy, Canada (Scotland) and Germany, and on my mother’s side: England, Ireland, Germany and France. It definitely feels like I’m making progress, especially since I hit my first “brick wall” this week! Well, sort of…
I remember that, as a child, I used to tell people I was related to Uncle Sam—you know, the guy on the “I want you” posters. Did I think this would make me popular? I don’t know, but with the exception of a couple retaliatory remarks (“well, I’m related to Abraham Lincoln”), people didn’t really care.

But one incident—that I just can’t forget—is a heated argument I had with a (then) boyfriend on a road trip to Chicago. When I informed him that he was practically dating a celebrity, he told me that I was wrong—I couldn’t possibly be related to Uncle Sam. He went so far as to claim that Uncle Sam wasn’t even a real person!

Well, he is in fact a real man by the name of Samuel Wilson, and he was a meatpacker for the US Army during the War of 1812. So, my goal this weekend was to prove, once and for all that he is, in fact, my ancestor. Easy, right?


Let’s start with the facts: Samuel Wilson was born in Arlington, MA in 1766 and lived in Troy, NY during the War of 1812. He passed away in 1854 (see his grave here on Find-a-Grave). From what I discovered online, he married Betsey Mann and had four children, of which only one (Benjamin) reproduced. Benjamin Wilson (1802-1859) married Mary Wood.

How does this relate to me? In addition to a surplus of unrelated articles about the real Uncle Sam, I was able to dig out a couple of articles from my mom’s genealogy folder. 

In the one above, dated May 16, 1931, William Rudd (my great-great grandfather) states: ”’Uncle Sam’ Wilson had a daughter, Caroline Wilson, who became Mrs. Pierce. Mrs. Pierce had a daughter, Mary, who became Mrs. Rudd—and she was my mother, and thus ‘Uncle Sam’ Wilson was my great-grandfather.”

Wait a minute: Caroline Wilson? This name was not once mentioned in my Uncle Sam research. Furthermore, I read that it was only Sam’s son, Benjamin, who had children. Does this mean my ancestors fabricated this alleged ancestor and are, thus, fame-mongers? 

I have verified that William Rudd’s father was George R. Rudd (b. 1854) and that he married a woman named Mary (b. 1852). All of the information mentioned in the article above is true, except for the father-daughter relationship between Caroline and Sam. 

But, wait!  I uncovered some very interesting information in the 1880 census from Cincinnati, OH. According to the census, George and Mary Rudd were living with Caroline Pierce (“mother”, b. 1823 in New York), Samuel Wilson (“uncle”, b. 1827, New York), and John Wilson (“uncle”, b. 1838, New York).

From this, I assume that Caroline’s maiden name was Wilson and she is somehow related (maybe the sister of) Samuel and John Wilson. But because the dates are so off (this Sam Wilson wouldn’t have even been alive in 1812), it doesn’t make sense. Maybe Caroline and Sam Wilson’s father was named Sam—but still, it is probably not Uncle Sam.

I daresay my Rudd ancestors were simply confusing two people of the same name, from the same state (in genealogy, it apparently happens all the time). Am I missing something, Genealogy Insiders? Is it possible Sam fathered an illegitimate child somewhere? Perhaps, but for now, I will have to break the sad news to my family that no, we are not actually related to Uncle Sam.

Family Tree Firsts | Research Tips
Wednesday, 21 July 2010 14:38:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 13 July 2010
Meet Lindsay the Intern!
Posted by Diane

Everyone, please say hi to Lindsay, the Family Tree Magazine intern! As she helps put together magazine issues, books and digital downloads, she’s hoping to learn all about genealogy while gaining experience in the magazine biz.

Lindsay will keep you updated on how her genealogy education is going right here on the Genealogy Insider blog—here’s her first post:
Earlier this year, my mom sent me the following email:

“Lu, you won't believe this, but we are related to Audrey Hepburn! She is my 13th cousin, one time removed! We are also related to a host of other famous people, on my mother's side. Katharine Hepburn is our 4th cousin 2 times removed, Isaac Newton is our 3rd cousin 13 times removed, Howard Hughes is our 8th cousin 1 time removed and then we are related to Edwin Hubble, Ed and John Tilly, more Mayflower passengers, several First Ladies, Jane Austen 8th cousin 5 times removed, Richard Lovelace, another author 5th cousin, 9 times removed, Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Browning 14th cousin, 1 time removed. Anne of Russia, who was an Empress of Russia, Alexandre Dumas is our 12th cousin, 5 times removed.

“Now this is just from my Grandma's Father's side of the family.  We are probably related to some much more amazing people and we will figure it out, eventually.”
Are you thinking, “what a strange and diverse group of relatives”? I didn’t give this message too much thought at the time. I probably said something along the lines of “That’s so neat, Mom! Several First Ladies?” and thought little more of it.
That is, until I joined Family Tree Magazine as its 2010 summer intern. My name is Lindsay Sena and even though I started this internship a month ago, I’m still just beginning to learn the ins-and-outs of genealogy research. I may be fresh out of college, but I realize that it would be nonsensical to pass up the amazing resources at FTM (read: it will be years until I can afford my own subscription to

So last week I finally sat down and began filling out a five-generation chart. Luckily, my mom offered me information that went far beyond five-generations—including one line that a cousin traced all the way back to the 16th century (I hope to verify this—you may see why I have developed a skepticism of this information). Because my family tree was overflowing, I transferred the data to a tree on and have been regularly updating and revising.

It is a privilege to be working at Family Tree Magazine. I understand now why people are so passionate about genealogy; it’s the thrill of unraveling the mystery, which is your unique heritage. I’ve already uncovered some pretty juicy stuff, and I plan to blog at least once a week with my progress.

So, Genealogy Insider readers, as I embark on this genealogy journey, please offer me any suggestions and advice—I can use all of the help I can get!

Family Tree Firsts
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 16:12:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Jamie the Intern Bids Family Tree Farewell
Posted by Jamie


As my summer here at Family Tree Magazine comes to a close, I realize that I have learned so much in a mere three months.

When I first came to Family Tree Magazine, I vaguely knew what genealogy was; I didn’t understand that so many people loved researching dead people and what a huge industry it is.

I have learned so much just by checking the facts in articles, selecting reader tips and organizing back issue content. I would find myself engrossed in an article about the windfall of genealogy information that can be found in religious records or cemeteries, when I should have only been checking to make sure the links in those articles worked. I have a greater understanding of history and how it affects looking for my ancestors.

I never thought learning about genealogy and my family history would be so exciting, so enlightening, so entertaining or so addicting. Every article I worked on was like a clue in a giant treasure hunt that lead me down a path to where “x” marked the spot.

Three months ago, I had no idea what my families’ pasts held for me. And while my Kiely and Lehan branches still need lots of research, I have barely even touched the maternal side of my family tree. Completing the search will definitely be a journey that is life long and one that will help me to understand not only where I came from but where I am going.

I really get why “roots mania” has taken hold in America: Genealogy is interesting, fun and a hobby that turns seemingly ordinary people into gen junkies relatively quickly. I can’t go into a thrift store without scanning the names in old Bibles. When I was recently in Washington, D.C., I went to the Smithsonian and saw an old slave register, the first thing coming mind was “Are these names indexed?” I was also upset to learn that the National Archives and Records Administration doesn’t pull records on Saturday, even if they are open.

I can find family histories on GoogleBooks with a few clicks of a mouse and I can use USGenWeb to find a death index for Kentucky that I would have never found before. I can ask – and answer ­– questions on GenForum. I even created a family tree on

My summer spent here at Family Tree Magazine was certainly a whirlwind and worthwhile experience. Now, just wish me luck on getting by without digital census records on demand.

Family Tree Firsts
Tuesday, 22 September 2009 13:31:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Hitting the genealogy jackpot
Posted by Jamie


I have previously explained to you the difficulty in tracing the Royce line of my family tree because of issues with my grandfather’s paternity. Well, I have busted through that brick wall and have made my way to my great-great-grandfather James Henry Royse of Fleming County, Ky.

Frequent name, location and even wife changes (every generation in my direct Royce line from my father to my great-great-grandfather has had multiple wives) made my research difficult.

While working at Family Tree Magazine, I've had to go through the entire catalog of back issues, so I have learned a wealth of ways to trace my roots as well as sharpen my searching skills. One of the back issues suggested looking at forums or joining a Listserv to see who else is researching your family tree. I stumbled across a distant cousin on GenForum who had replied to a post about the Royse family of Fleming County, Ky., in which he referenced an ancestor with a name and birth date similar to someone in my line.

He had left his e-mail address, so I wrote him with all of the details I had about our potential common ancestor. I received a speedy reply that indicated we weren’t talking about the same ancestor, but he did have research on my collateral line. My new-found cousin then kindly made copies of everything he had on my branch and mailed it to me.

I didn’t know what to expect, but when I received the information I raced to open it. At first I glanced over it and saw that the earliest ancestor listed was Thomas Royce, born 1569 in Martock, Somersetshire, England. I then scanned the list looking for James Henry Royse, which my cousin had kindly highlighted for me, and all of the information listed matched my research from the censuses, FamilySearch and other resources I had used on

I then read the whole document through and learned a great deal about my family. My ninth-great-grandfather, Robert Royce, was a constable and was elected to the First General Assembly of New London, Conn. My seventh-great-grandfather, John Royce, and sixth-great-grandfather, Moses Royce, both had trouble with Indians, as John died from an Indian attack on his Pennsylvania farm and Moses’ wife was kidnapped by Indians, never to be heard from again.

My fifth-great-grandfather was quite a character. Arron Royce/Royse fought in the battle of Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War with Col. George Washington and General Braddock. They were captured by the French, and Arron, Daniel Boone and Washington all escaped. He also served as a captain in the Revolutionary War (apparently, I need to get my Daughters of the American Revolution application ready). Arron also is responsible for changing the family name from Royce to Royse, after a fight with his brother John that caused Arron to even move to Fleming County.

This all leads back to my great-great-grandfather James. His son, Allen Taylor Royse, who isn’t in my direct line, decided to change our family name back to Royce. That explains why some census years and other records list the last name as Royse in some cases and Royce in others for James’ family.

Full-fledged fact or family folklore? We shall see. Of course this all needs to be verified through my own research, but that shouldn’t be too hard as my cousin cited all of his sources. And even if he hadn’t, at least his research would have been a great guide for me to trace my family tree.

Family Tree Firsts | Social Networking
Wednesday, 16 September 2009 12:16:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 13 July 2009
Meet Jamie the Intern!
Posted by Grace

Hello, Genealogy Insider readers! My name is Jamie Royce, the Family Tree Magazine intern. I'm currently a student at the University of Cincinnati, and I am a native to the area, with family strewn all across the Queen City. I'm also just embarking on my inaugural genealogical journey, which I'll be sharing with you this summer.

On my first day, Diane showed me how to do an search. We started off with my paternal grandfather because I knew the most information about him, and the 1930 Census popped up. My grandfather's name was misspelled, of course, but something more interesting was found: My 5-year-old grandfather and his mother, who had her married name of Royce listed on the census, was living with her two sisters and their mother, no husband to be found.

Diane and I thought this was weird as there were no wars going on or anything during the time, but with no explanation my findings just slipped to the back of my mind.

A few days later I was talking to my mother and explaining to her the living situation of my Grandpa R. and his mother. She thought it was interesting as well, and then slipped in this bit of information: "Well you know, your Grandpa R.'s mother wasn't married when she had him. Royce is her married name."

No, actually, I didn't know that, Mom. How would I?

Then I realized that my family gets its surname through marriage, as my Grandpa R. was not related to his mother's husband biologically; so I'm only biologically related to people with the last name Royce that descend from Grandpa R. This was a bit shocking to learn.

I was left with so many questions. When did Grandpa R.'s mother get married? Why was she living in her mother's house if she was already going by a married name? Where is her husband? What was his name?

Unfortunately, Hamilton County doesn't have older marriage licenses or vital records digitized, so I'll have to make a trip downtown to find Grandpa R.'s birth certificate and his mother's marriage license. But the 1930 Census did indicate that Grandpa R.'s father is from Kentucky; whether that's his birth father or his mother's husband, I'm not sure.

I also wonder if the mystery Royce adopted Grandpa R. as a son. Grandpa R. did take the name Royce, but I'm not sure what is birth certificate says, if his name was ever legally changed, or if he was adopted by his mother's husband. It clearly is, at the very least, a bit of an open secret that Grandpa R.'s father was not his mother's husband. All of these questions will make my research harder.

Without a definitive original last name on my Grandpa R., I may never find his birth certificate. Does the record indicate his last name was his mother's maiden name of Kiely? Does it now have Royce? Does it have his currently unknown biological father's last name? I may have to scour all of the records around my Grandpa R.'s birth date to find what I am after.

I looked up the address listed on the census for my Grandpa R. and his family, and it turns out the house still stands and is exactly 200 years old. Next week I will tell you all about it, complete with pictures. You won't believe how close I lived to my ancestor's home this entire time without even knowing it.

census records | Family Tree Firsts
Monday, 13 July 2009 12:47:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, 02 February 2009
Genealogical Lightning Strikes Twice
Posted by Grace

Diane wasn't the only one getting lucky with Footnote in the office today—I found my great-grandfather's naturalization papers in Footnote's Northern Ohio naturalizations collection!

My great-grandfather's witnesses on his petition for naturalization have opened up a few new avenues into discovering Wasyl's life. (I don't recognize either of the names.) I feel lucky to have found such a great photo of him—I only have one other—and a signature, to boot? Goldmine!

I had a little fun with Google Maps, too—it turns out that Diane's great-grandfather and my great-grandfather lived a mere 2 miles from each other on Cleveland's West Side around 1940. Maybe they once met!

Family Tree Firsts | Footnote | immigration records
Monday, 02 February 2009 15:45:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Naturalization Records Found—O Genealogy Joy!
Posted by Diane

My grandfather’s resume says his father was naturalized in 1944 in Cleveland. So a couple of years ago, I sent off a Freedom of Information Act request for those records to the Citizenship and Immigration Service. No dice.

Then when I noticed the subscription records site Footnote was posting citizenship papers from the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern District, I started eyeing the “percent completed” bar as it ticked upward.

Every once in awhile, I’d search. Still nothing. I wondered if my grandfather fibbed, thinking he’d have a better chance at a job if his dad were a citizen. (Grandpa made himself 10 years younger on the same resume.)

Friday I tried again. I clicked on a match, even though the first name was all wrong. And it was my great-grandfather! His address and birth date; his wife’s death information; and the kids’ names and birth dates confirmed it. Looks like his name in Syria was Fadlallah. I knew him only as Mike in US records—I guess if you're gonna Americanize your name, you might as well go all the way.

Best of all, his picture’s on the 1942 declaration of intention (also called “first papers”). I’d never seen him.

Also part of the file was an oath sworn by two associates and a 1944 petition for naturalization (“second papers”).

Naturalization papers state the immigrant’s date and port of arrival, and ship name (though I’m pretty sure my great-grandparents didn’t really sail on the SS Unknown). Now it’ll be a piece of cake, I thought, to find them on a passenger list.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Aside from getting creative with passenger list searching (I’m going to try Steve Morse’s Ellis Island One-Step Search), here are some things for follow-up:  
  • Naturalization papers give birthplaces for the applicant's children, so I'll look for birth records for my great-unces and great-aunt. 
  • The declaration of intention says my great-grandfather filed first papers in Cleveland in 1918—they would’ve expired without being followed up by second papers within seven years. I didn't find a 1918 record, so I'll look into what's going on with that.
  • Research the guys who swore oaths on my great-grandfather’s behalf.
See for guidance on locating your ancestors' naturalization records.

Footnote's naturalization records collection is here.

Family Tree Firsts | Footnote | immigration records
Monday, 02 February 2009 09:42:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 14 January 2009
Me vs. Court Records at the Family History Library
Posted by Diane

I got into it with some court records during last Saturday’s Family History Library research match. When the final bell rang, the judges put their heads together for a few minutes and declared the score … a tie.

Out of the two cases I was looking for, a criminal trial and a divorce petition, I found the petition.

After much scrolling of microfilm, I located both cases listed in a handwritten index (in multiple indexes, in fact, which was a bit confusing). In a roll of district court minutes, I learned the divorce was transferred to a special district court.

The special district minutes, on a different roll of microfilm, reported the case was dismissed with court costs to be paid by the plaintiff, my great-grandmother (that made me chuckle—she was destitute; I doubt they ever got their money), but didn’t say why.

On yet another roll of film, I scored a pretty good hit: The case file held the divorce petition with my great-grandmother’s accusations against her husband, as well as a court order for the sheriff to serve him. He’d pled guilty to violating local liquor laws and was a guest of the state penitentiary at the time.

His case was even more challenging. The index gave a minute book number and a page number, but neither seemed to match up with the content on any roll of the FHL’s court records microfilm for the county. The trial was in June 1913, yet the case file number in the index corresponded to cases in the 1880s, long before my great-grandfather was in the country.

On the recommendation of the information desk consultant, I checked the 1880s case file film to see if a long-ago court clerk had misfiled the records. A batch of files that would’ve included my great-grandfather’s case file number was missing. There must’ve been a blip in the numbering system at some point.

Then I scrolled through the case papers for 1913—maybe the indexer wrote down the wrong number. Nothing.

The consultant pointed out that keeping track of the papers a court action generated over a stretch of time was particularly difficult before computers. And of course it’s possible the records escaped microfilming or are just gone.

I once requested my great-grandfather’s case records from the county court, but at that time all I knew was the date, not the information from the index, and my letter was returned with the note “found nothing.” Now, having spent hours glued to a microfilm reader getting nauseous from the whirring images, I hope my request didn’t cost the clerk half a day’s work.

I’ll probably risk the clerk’s ire and send another, very polite, request for a search, along with a photocopy of the index page.

court records | Family Tree Firsts | FamilySearch
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 08:02:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 20 October 2008
Family Tree Firsts: Inside a Library Lock-in
Posted by Diane

I’ve always been an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of girl. As a kid, I was the first one to fall asleep at slumber parties and get her hand dipped in warm water (it doesn’t work, by the way).

So when I signed up for last Friday’s genealogy lock-in at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, I was worried I’d pass out on a city directory and end up with street names tattooed on my forehead. But I managed to last almost 'til the end.

If you've never been to a lock-in, it’s an after-hours research session at a library. Around 30 researchers (all the tables were taken!) had the genealogy and periodicals departments all to ourselves. I recognized a few people from April’s Ohio Genealogical Society conference.

The pursuit of family history kept everyone awake and focused, including me. I hadn’t made a firm research plan, so I wasn’t expecting thrilling discoveries. And I didn’t make any, but I got some groundwork laid.

I started off using the library’s free wireless to try some searches for my dad’s family, who remain absent from the 1920 census. I did find the Social Security Death Index entry for the man who vouched for my great-uncle when he applied for a delayed North Carolina birth certificate in 1971.

Next I turned to Cincinnati city directories. My great-great-grandfather on my mom’s side started a cigar store in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and his family ran it for years. When I was little, my mom drove me by the building—it had an outline where the “H.A. Seeger Cigar” sign used to be.

Here's a photo from around 1910:

(My great-great-grandfather is third from left; his son is in the doorway).

I wanted to see how long the store was open. My ancestor H.A. Seeger showed up in printed directories starting in 1875, when he boarded downtown, then in 1877, when he opened the cigar store (the family moved in above it). The store's listing disappears after 1955. Here’s a Google street view of the building today:

It was late by the time I was through photocopying directories. I decided to save map research for my next library trip, and browsed the compilations of vital records, church records and cemetery transcriptions from counties across the country.

Then I found my husband’s late-80s photographs among the high school yearbooks. That was entertaining.

I don’t know if it was the 80s hair or the hour, but I could feel my brain switch to Off mode, so I packed up my laptop and papers, checked my forehead for accidental tattoos (none), said goodbye to the bleary-eyed souls still scrolling microfilm, and went home to get some shut-eye for the next day’s Family History Fair. I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Family Tree Firsts | Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun | Libraries and Archives
Monday, 20 October 2008 12:20:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Family Tree Firsts—Part Five
Posted by Grace

This weekend I reached another milestone: attending my first genealogy conference, hosted by the Ohio Genealogical Society.

It was seriously awesome to meet so many Family Tree Magazine readers (especially the one who said her favorite part of the mag is "Preserving Memories").

Although I spent most of the weekend helping out at our exhibitor table (see below), I also got to attend a few of the sessions. I sat in on "Pig Blood in the Snow: Court Records Can Solve Problems" mostly because of the name—but also because our upcoming September issue includes an article on court records. I also really enjoyed Jeffrey Alan Bockman's "Using Maps in Genealogical Research." I now know better than to believe Grandma's story about having to walk 4 miles to school each way.

Kenny Burck, first vice president of OGS and German research aficionado, was certainly the most decorated genealogist I met last weekend.

All his various badges, medals and pins denote memberships and lineages. (This would be a great picture to try out photo tagging on!) Can anyone top Kenny?

Later, I struck up a conversation with Hans-Friedrich Coordes, who was at the conference representing the KfTN, which tracks down relatives and ancestors in Europe. (I'm a fluent German speaker and like to practice every chance I get!) He was in Cincinnati only for the weekend, but he made an incredible genealogical discovery in the little time he had.

Another exhibitor told him she had ancestors with his surname—from the same town in Ostfriesland Hans-Friedrich is from, even. After comparing some names, they determined they were not-so-distant cousins. He was blown away.

Have any of you made great connections at a conference?

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Family Tree Firsts | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, 22 April 2008 17:24:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 14 January 2008
Family Tree Firsts—Part Four
Posted by Grace

This weekend I made my first excursion to a Family History Center. Practically every article we publish in Family Tree Magazine recommends going to your local FHC, not only because you have access to the Family History Library’s massive collection of microfilm but also because the volunteers are so helpful!

I gathered my ever-growing file folder of notes and photocopies and headed to the FHC in Norwood, Ohio, to see what I could find. The center is only open for a few hours a day, and since it was a Saturday, there were researchers at nearly every microfilm and computer station.

I struck up a conversation with the volunteers and learned quite a bit about their holdings. The Norwood FHC has many rolls of microfilm on permanent hold from the FHL, and quite an impressive selection of Cincinnati-specific records. They've got most of their rolls of film indexed in the card catalog you see above. (The volunteers recommend asking before you request any roll of microfilm to double-check if it is available locally. You could save $5.50!)

Most of my family is in Northeastern Ohio, but I did find a roll of Cuyahoga County birth records in the local holdings. One of the volunteers retrieved it for me and helped me get set up at a microfilm reader, and I began poking around the index and the recorded births. My great-grandmother's birth record didn't appear to be on the roll, but the index for her year did not seem to be complete. An FHC volunteer told me that births in the early 1900s were often recorded months or even years after the fact, so there's no telling where my great-grandmother would show up.

I did make one big discovery while I was at the FHC—I found out that I get very queasy looking at microfilm. Will this be the end of my genealogy quest?

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Family Tree Firsts | FamilySearch | Libraries and Archives
Monday, 14 January 2008 13:12:02 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, 17 December 2007
Family Tree Firsts—Part Three
Posted by Grace

When I arrived home from work Friday evening, a large envelope from the Social Security Administration awaited me in my mailbox. My first thought was that it was a notification of my retirement date being pushed back to 2070.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the letter to find photocopies of the Social Security applications I requested less than six weeks ago!

The photocopies have a little information I didn't know before. The place of work at the time of application is good to know, although only one of my great-grandparents was employed at the time he applied. Their addresses, signatures and self-reported birthdates are invaluable.

The part I was most excited about—the names of their parents—is included, but I was saddened to see the names were Anglicized. In the case of my great-grandfather Wasyl, it seems someone else filled out the form for him: The handwriting doesn't match his signature, and the printed name says William instead.

One great-grandparent was born in Ohio, and another lists only "Russia" his birthplace. But one lists "Sushicka, Austria," so I've been fiddling around with ShtetlSeeker to see if there are any close matches for towns in what's been the general area of Austria, Poland and Russia in the last century. In the meantime, I've found the Social Security number of my last great-grandparent on my father's side, so I'll send away for that one knowing the wait won't be too excruciating.

Any suggestions for my next step?

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One
Part Two

Family Tree Firsts
Monday, 17 December 2007 14:40:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Family Tree Firsts—Part Two
Posted by Grace

If you remember reading my first post in the Family Tree Firsts series, you may recall I was excited for the next visit with my dad's parents so I could pick their brains. My trip back up to Cleveland for Thanksgiving did not disappoint.

Showing my grandma and grandpa the WWII draft cards, passenger records and census schedules I found were enough to get them talking about their parents and grandparents. I got a lot of names, dates and other interesting information, which I typed as fast as I could on my laptop, and when it ran out of batteries, I switched to a notebook.

My grandma told me her father, Stanley, was sad he couldn't go back home to visit his mother because he had ran away from the Russian army. He had only an elementary school education, so my grandma would teach him spelling and writing and give him tests. My grandmother's grandmother's first husband, whom she had her children with, died while they were still in Europe, and she married again when she got to the US. (Her second husband, Edmund, is on the far right in the picture at right, next to my grandmother during her first communion. Her father, Stanley, is on the left.)

My grandfather never knew his grandparents, but he could tell me a little about his parents. (That's them, Tanka and Wasyl, in the picture at right.) Wasyl's brother came to the US, but he had two sisters who continued on to Argentina and were never heard from again. I'll be interested to see what I can find out about that. I also never knew before last week that my grandfather was a twin; his sister died when she was just a baby.

After my grandmother accused me of using unethical interrogation techniques (totally untrue), she had me help her get some photo albums from the closet. They were in practically pristine condition, and my mom and I took them home so we could scan some into the computer. (For more on scanning, see our January issue's story on photo digitization.)

What I'm most thankful for is having had so much time with my grandparents. Being 25, I'm probably in the minority having all four still around. I'm pretty surprised how much information about my family's past I was able to get in a conversation over Chinese takeout. (Having read our March 2008 issue's story on oral history helped!)

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One

Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, 28 November 2007 15:50:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 07 November 2007
Family Tree Firsts—Part One
Posted by Grace

Do you remember the first time you made a records request?

I do—it was yesterday.

When I was growing up, I tagged along on trips to state archives and libraries while my mother and her sisters and mother were researching her family line. But my genealogy experience is limited to that and working here at Family Tree Magazine—which, let's face it, is probably the absolute best way to learn about tracing your family's history.

With every resource at my fingertips (namely, every Family Tree Magazine ever printed and our access), I started to get curious about my Dad's side of the family. I know that most of my great-grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe, but it gets hazy from there.

My first step (and probably the easiest) was using Steve Morse's One-Step Search tools to see if I could find any of my great-grandparents on any passenger lists. After a brief period of believing my great-grandfather Stanley had changed his name from Wikenty after arriving, I realized that passenger records have two pages and saw that Wikenty was coming to stay with his brother Stanislaw—bingo. (Jumping to conclusions should be the cardinal sin of genealogy.)

I began filling out a printout of our downloadable five-generation pedigree chart with as much information as I knew. Armed with three of my great-grandparents' Social Security numbers (found in the Social Security Death Index) and the requisite forms from the SSA, I mailed off requests for copies of their SS-5 forms, the application for a Social Security number.

And now I wait. With any luck, I'll soon (soon being a relative term) know the real birthdates and birthplaces of my great-grandparents and finally find out their parents' names. In the mean time, I'm really looking forward to the next time I see my grandparents—I have so many questions to ask.

Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, 07 November 2007 09:47:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]