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Wednesday, October 02, 2013
The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe: Genealogy How-to for 13 Countries and Regions
Posted by Diane
As you might guess, I enjoy asking people I've just met where their
ancestors are from. Here in Cincinnati, the answer often involves
Germany, so then I ask about their surnames to see if we have anyone in
common. (Then I wrap it up before people start thinking I'm
Every once in awhile, someone will answer my ancestor inquiry with, "Oh, I'm a mutt" and rattle
off a bunch of ancestral homelands.
Well, this is for all you genealogy mutts: The
Family Tree Guidebook to Europe: Your Essential Guide to Trace
Your Genealogy in Europe.
collects genealogy research guides to 13 countries or regions of
Europe, plus European Jewish ancestors. You'll learn
It's a good way to get expert instructions for researching ancestors
across Europe in one economical package. The
Family Tree Guidebook to Europe is available now in
ShopFamilyTree.com (where you'll see the list of countries covered).
- what records are available and where they're kept
- which records you can get from here in the US using the web, microfilm, books and other sources
- how to get records from overseas
- how to deal with language barriers and boundary changes
- what websites, books, organizations and archives can help in
You also can get The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe as an ebook.
Genealogy books | German roots | International Genealogy | Italian roots | Jewish roots | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 2:43:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, September 27, 2013
Why We Celebrate Oktoberfest in September
Posted by Diane
It's a question that burns inside my brain this time every year:
Why is Oktoberfest celebrated in September?
Here in "Zinzinnati,"
where German roots run deep, we've already had our Oktoberfest. Our
neighbors across the river in Kentucky have one this weekend. In
Munich, Germany, home of the first and largest Oktoberfest, the two-week
party wraps up the first weekend in October.
The first Oktoberfest celebrated the wedding
of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese
of Saxe-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810.
So why September? I finally decided to look it up. In turns out the informal roots of Oktoberfest started back in
the 15th century, with beer, according to the German Beer Institute.
The brewing season in Bavaria ran from October to March. Beer brewed
during the hot season tasted bad, so in late winter, brewers would work
extra hard to make enough beer to last all summer. The high alcohol
content and storage in casks in cool cellars and caves would
preserve it. (You can get all the technical details on the German Beer
After the summer's grain was harvested, brewers needed to empty
those casks to make room for the October start of the brewing season. People were happy to
In 1810, by the date the royal wedding made Oktoberfest
official, there wasn't much beer left. Horse racing was the main
event there, and Prince Ludwig repeated the races every year on his
anniversary. Over the years, the festival was extended and combined
with finishing off the March beers, evolving into today's
party attended by millions around the world.
Proud of your German heritage? Learn more about those roots with our
Your German Genealogy Value Pack, on sale for more than 20
percent off in
German roots | Social History
Friday, September 27, 2013 10:06:59 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Chelsea Handler on "Who Do You Think You Are?": Tracing German Roots
Posted by Diane
From the beginning of last night's "Who Do You Think You Are?," Chelsea
Handler knew her mother's father had been a German soldier in
WWII. She just wanted to know the extent of his involvement. Her
Jewish heritage through her father's family heightened her
you missed the episode, you can watch it on the TLC website.
Leistungsbuch ("performance book") mentioned in yesterday's
post and seen here:
wasn't a military service record after all. Rather, it was a record
of the grandfather's scores in the Nazi party's Sports Badge Program, part of the
mandatory labor service program and a way to provide military-style
training without violating the Treaty of
A few things I liked about this episode:
Foreign archives and languages makes the
research in this episode more difficult for the average
person than Kelly Clarkson's Civil War research or Christina
Applegate's 20th-century research in New Jersey.
- It shows the importance of learning the historical context in
which your ancestors lived. Knowing about post-WWI life in Germany helped Handler understand why many Germans supported
Adolf Hitler when he first came to power. Finding out about her
grandfather's experience in the Camp Algona (Iowa) POW
camp revealed his likely motivation for later moving his family
- It showed a side of WWII history—the lives of ordinary Germans
during that era—that I didn't know much about.
- The WWII historian who met Handler on the beach, and who was there serving in the Army the day her grandfather was captured. I bet he could tell some stories!
But if your German ancestors, like mine, immigrated to America in the 1800s, church records will be your main source of information in Germany. Chances are you can find German church records yourself. I know this because the October/November 2013 Family Tree Magazine will have Rick Crume's step-by-step guide to German church records. I'll let you know when it's available.
Because so many Americans have German ancestry, we
have a number of German
genealogy guides in ShopFamilyTree.com:
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | German roots | Research Tips
Wednesday, August 07, 2013 11:29:12 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
Tonight on "Who Do You Think You Are?": Chelsea Handler's Roots in Nazi Germany
Posted by Diane
This evening's "Who Do
You Think You Are?" promises to reveal more disturbing family
news from the not-too-distant past (we blogged last week about the
troubled life of Christina Applegate's grandmother).
This teaser for tonight's episode gives you a glimpse of actress and
talk show host Chelsea Handler's quest for information about
her German grandparents' involvement with the Nazi regime:
The booklet you see in the clip is titled Leistungsbuch, which
translates to "performance book." Possibly a German military record?
I guess we'll find out tonight.
Watch this season's "Who Do You Think You Are?" at 9/8 central on
TLC. (And if you have other plans or don't have cable, TLC has been
putting full episodes on the
show's website the next day.)
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | German roots
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 11:47:50 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, April 05, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, April 1-5
Posted by Diane
- FamilySearch has added 23.9 million indexed records and images to the free FamilySearch.org, with new browsable image collections from Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, England, Italy, Mexico and the United States. Notable collection updates include the 19.2 million document images from the new collection United Kingdom, WWI Service Records 1914-1920; 2 million index records from the collection US WWI Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918; and almost the 931,000 index records from the collection US New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1925-1942. Search or browse these databases from the chart here.
- In case you missed it (and were wondering), Irish genealogy research company Eneclann has researched Tom Cruise’s roots.
The actor's real last name is Mapother, but Cruise actually is a family
name. His great-grandfather, born in 1876 to Mary Pauline Russell
Cruise and her second husband Thomas O’Mara, took the surname of his
half-siblings and thus became Thomas Cruise Mapother I. Read more and download a copy of the family tree here.
Celebrity Roots | FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | German roots | Military records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, April 05, 2013 1:44:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Learn How to Interpret German Genealogy Records
Posted by Diane
You're looking for genealogy records of your ancestors in Germany,
and perhaps you've even found some. They might look like this:
And it makes you understand why everyone talks about how hard it is to
understand German records: Not only are you dealing with an
unfamiliar language, but the script makes the words difficult to
Most German Catholic church records are in Latin; Evangelical
(Lutheran) records may be in Latin or German. Records as late as the 1930s are usually
written in the old German Gothic script.
But there are tricks you can use to figure out what these church
records say about your German ancestors.
Our March 14 webinar,
Interpreting German Records, will teach you how to work with German
genealogy records, from basic translation to decoding hard-to-read
handwriting and typeface. German genealogy expert James M. Beidler will
The Interpreting German Records webinar takes place Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time
(that's 6 p.m. Central, 5 p.m. Mountain and 4 p.m. Pacific). You'll
save $10 on your registration if you sign up before March 7!
- tricks for reading German script and type
- resources for building your vocabulary of German terms and
- a methodology for solving the quirks of the printed
strategies for transcribing and translating the handwritten
German cursive script
Family Tree University | German roots | Webinars
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 10:23:54 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
What's in a Name?
Posted by Beth
Bonne année, Gutes Neues Jahr, Xin nian yu kuai, Feliz Año
Nuevo and Kali hronia … Whether you say it in French, German, Mandarin, Spanish or Greek, they all translate to "Happy New Year!" Hope yours is off to a great start!
Speaking of languages, genealogists understand and appreciate the value of names and all the family history information that they can provide. Naming patterns and traditions; spellings; pronunciations; and meanings can impact your search for ancestors from a given locale.
To provide added insight to your ancestral search, we've created 15 PDF downloadable reference guides featuring first names from around the world. Each comprehensive guide is presented in dictionary-style format, making it easy to search for names, spellings and their meanings. For example, A Genealogist's Guide to British Names reveals that the name Harry means "ruler of an estate." Rather prophetic for Prince Harry!
Get more information from your genealogical research this year with a better understanding of your ancestral names!
A Genealogist's Guide to Ethnic Given Names
A Genealogist's Guide to African Names
A Genealogist's Guide to British Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Chinese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Eastern European Names
A Genealogist's Guide to French Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Gaelic Names
A Genealogist's Guide to German Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Greek Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Hawaiian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Indian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Irish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Italian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Japanese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Jewish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Native American Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Russian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Scandinavian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Spanish Names
African-American roots | American Indian roots | Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | French Canadian roots | German roots | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots | Jewish roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 12:04:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, November 12, 2012
Document the Lives of Your Military Ancestors
Posted by Beth
Celebrate your ancestors who served in the military or lived through
historical conflicts by exploring and documenting their lives. With the Military Research Value Pack, you'll get easy-to-use tools that will guide you through:
You'll find that many types of military documents—from service to pension to land records—can reveal important information about your family tree, including soldiers' widows and children. Even ancestors who didn't serve might have left behind draft records.
- What records to look for—military or otherwise—and how to locate them
- How to find and mine online records
- Research tips and guidance for tracing ancestors' involvement in specific US wars and conflicts
And, a reminder:
There's still time to register for one (or more) of the 16 Family Tree University courses that begin today, including:
Use code FTU1112 and save 20 percent!
Editor's Pick | German roots | Military records | UK and Irish roots
Monday, November 12, 2012 10:26:09 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, August 31, 2012
Prepare for German Place Names
Posted by Tyler
German heritage has been the #1 most claimed ancestry in the US, so we here at Family Tree University have done our best to accommodate our Deutsch friends. In this guest post, Presenter Jim Beidler breaks down his session on German place names at Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference:
Probably the No. 1 goal of most genealogists is tracking one or more immigrant ancestors all the way to an Old World hometown, and the many folks of German descent are no different. Unfortunately, problems of history, phonetics and duplicated names often get in the way of that quest.
“Mastering German Place Names” is designed to combat these problems. I am a seasoned researcher that has been sleuthing for the Heimats of his almost entirely German-speaking ancestry for more than a quarter century, and will present my top tips in this Virtual Conference course.
Learn more about the Fall Virtual Conference.
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | German roots
Friday, August 31, 2012 11:31:28 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Get Expert Advice for Researching German Genealogy
Posted by Diane
People claiming German ancestry still outnumber any other heritage
group in the United States—which is why we're offering a new German
Genealogy Value Pack that'll help you trace your German roots
in the United States and in your ancestral homeland.
This Value Pack is full of practical advice for overcoming the
challenges of tracing your German ancestors.
Genealogy Value Pack includes:
Find Your German Roots
Independent Study Course download, with four lessons to
use genealogical records and more to determine who your German
ancestors were and from where in Germany they came.
Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Germanic Ancestors
e-book download by Chris Anderson and Ernest Thode, with expert
instruction on researching German ancestors.
- Tracing German Ancestry in
Eastern Europe download, with guidance on tracing the
German ancestors from Slovakia, Romania, Russia and other places
beyond Deutschland's borders.
Plus, you'll get a
coupon for 25 percent off coupon
for our Family Tree University course German
Genealogy 201: Strategies and Skillbuilding.
- Genealogy Cheat Sheet
download, a quick reference designed to deliver the information
you need to understand the records of your German ancestors
Best of all, this collection of German genealogy guidance is on
sale for $49.99—64 percent off the price of buying each item
more about the German Genealogy Value Pack in ShopFamilyTree.com.
Editor's Pick | German roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 4:37:11 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, April 30, 2012
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Rob Lowe and His Revolutionary War Ancestor
Posted by Diane
In Friday's "Who Do You Think You Are?" actor Rob Lowe learned about his Revolutionary War-era ancestor.
FindMyPast.com's Josh Taylor helped Lowe find him in the Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Research System, which lets you search online for a Revolutionary-era ancestor on which a DAR member's application is based, or for people named in the lineages in DAR applications.
(You can download our tutorial on searching the DAR database on sale for just $1.59 from ShopFamilyTree.com.)
But something was wrong: The application had been "closed" because it was discovered that Lowe's ancestor John Christopher East had been mixed up with a similarly named soldier.
Previews hinted at a twist in this episode. It came when a historian showed Lowe his ancestor on a list of prisoners who'd been part of Rohl's Regiment. A sparkle in the historian's eye hinted that he knew something, but only when he showed Lowe George Washington's personal papers did Lowe realize Rohl was a commander of German Hessian troops.
East (listed under his German name, Oeste Cristophe) was among the troops Gen. Washington defeated in the Battle of Trenton, when his soldiers crossed the Delaware River to surprise the Hessians at Christmas.
I remember learning in grade school about these 30,000 men the British hired to fight the Americans, and we kids thought that was pretty bad.
But Lowe's research revealed Cristophe as a sympathetic figure: Among the youngest of eight children, he wouldn't have inherited land or even had the means to marry in Germany. He took a risk in leaving for America at age 22—then staying (as about 15 percent of the Hessians did) after his release from prison.
This story has a happy ending. Taylor's researchers found Christophe on a list of Americans who paid a tax levied to raise money for the war. Lowe is descended from a Patriot after all and he was invited to apply for the Sons of the American Revolution lineage society.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy societies | German roots | Social History
Monday, April 30, 2012 9:03:33 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Happy Triple Heritage Month: German, Italian & Polish Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane
Did you know October is German American Heritage Month, Italian American Heritage Month and Polish American Heritage Month?
That’s right. The month is almost over (that was fast!), but we can’t let it go by without sharing resources to help you trace these heritages. Here are some of our favorite online articles, sites and resources:
People with German heritage make up the largest ancestry group in the United States, according to the 2000 US census. I'm part of this statistic, at one-half German.
Those with Italian heritage make up the seventh largest ancestry group in the United States, with 15.6 million Americans claiming Italian roots in the 2000 US census.
Hispanic Heritage Month (celebrating the ancestry of another big US heritage group) spanned part of this month, too, ending Oct. 15. You can see Hispanic heritage tips and resources in this blog post.
If you have Polish ancestors, you share heritage with 9 million Americans and are part of the country's eighth largest ancestry group.
Family Tree University | Free Databases | German roots | Hispanic Roots | International Genealogy
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 2:40:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, July 22, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, July 18-22
Posted by Diane
I'm back at it after a short vacation (which involved my first visit to a Civil War battlefield—I'll show and tell next week) to post this week's news roundup. Here goes:
- The new Black Sea German Research site is for those tracing families who migrated from Germany, Alsace, Poland or Hungary to the Black Sea region of South Russia (now Ukraine) in the early 1800s. Search a database of names, upload your GEDCOM and share historical information at this free, volunteer-run site.
- NBC is re-running “Who Do You Think You Are?” season 2 episodes Saturday nights this summer. Check your local listings if you missed an episode or want to watch your favorite again.
Canadian roots | Celebrity Roots | German roots | Photos | UK and Irish roots
Friday, July 22, 2011 2:14:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
If You Were a Pie Chart …
Posted by Diane
While working on an article on ethnic heritage and genealogical societies (look for it in the forthcoming November 2011 Family Tree Magazine) I was inspired to figure out what, exactly, Leo is, heritage-wise.
And by “exactly,” I mean “theoretically,” because:
- you never know what proportion of genes you ended up with from each ancestor after the DNA-combining process
- geopolitical developments and population shifts can mean ancestors' ethnicity is different from the country whence they came (Your ancestor from Russia would actually be German, for example, if he was one of the many “Volga Germans” who settled in Russia’s Volga River valley.)
- nonpaternity events, such as adoption and children fathered—unbeknownst to you—by someone other than the person named in records
- a lack of documentation or incorrect documentation about an ancestor's origins
- all those ancestors yet to be discovered (unless you’ve found ‘em all)
With that caveat, figuring out Leo’s theoretical heritage combo involves first determining Mom’s and Dad’s percentages. Three of my husband's grandparents came from Germany and one from Hungary, so we'll estimate him at 75 percent German and 25 percent Hungarian. I'll go back to my great-grandparents’ origins: I’m half German, a quarter Lebanese (the source for my last name), and one-eighth each English and Irish.
I just divided each of our percentages, added up the common German heritage, and came up with these numbers for Leo (I generated the pie chart online using Kids Zone):
He’s pretty typical as far as American ancestry: In the 2000 census, German was the heritage most often claimed by Americans and by his fellow Cincinnatians. He also shares in the second- and fourth-most-commonly reported ancestries: Irish and English, respectively.
Download the Census Bureau’s Ancestry: 2000 report as a PDF here.
What's your theoretical heritage combo?
Update: Apparently you can order a t-shirt boasting your ancestry pie chart from MeonaTee.com. Great idea! (Thanks to Megan Smolenyak for mentioning.)
Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun | German roots
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 9:44:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, February 14, 2011
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode 2 Recap
Posted by jamie
Spoiler Alert: If you don't already know what happened during Tim McGraw's episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” you are about to find out.
Country singer Tim McGraw, after looking at his birth certificate as a teenager, discovered the man he thought was his father was not his biological father. His birth certificate named baseball star Tug McGraw as his father, who he then forged a relationship with as an adult. Tug passed on without revealing much about the McGraw family tree, so Tim explored the paternal line of his ancestry on "Who Do You Think You Are?"
After gathering a few clues from his uncle, McGraw travels to Kansas City, Mo., to find out more about his great-grandparents Andrew and Ellie Mae McGraw. He views Ellie's death certificate and discovered she was a member of the Chrisman family, who settled that area of Missouri.
This led him to Virginia, researching sixth-great-grandfather Isaac Chrisman. Using surveying records and historical maps, McGraw discovers Chrisman lived on the boarder of Indian territory in colonial Virginia. Through a report made by a militiaman, McGraw discovers Chrisman was attacked by Indians and died.
Issac Chrisman's grandfather is Jost Hite, a German immigrant. He traveled to the colonies as an indentured servant with the Pressler family — ancestors of Elvis Presley. Hite quickly worked his way out of servitude and was awarded a massive land grant in Virginia. McGraw views Hite's deeds, and heads to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley to see his land.
The Hite trail then leads McGraw to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. There an archivist shows him George Washington's teenage journal, which indicates Washington lodged at the Hite family home. McGraw also reads a letter written by Washington to his ne'er-do-well neighbor, in which he praises the Hites as a prime example of how one should live his life.
While McGraw had professional researchers to help him navigate land plats and Virginia records, our Family Tree University Land Records 101 course and our Virginia research guides to help you find your ancestors on your own.
"WDYTYA" airs Fridays at 8pm EST on NBC. Check the Genealogy Insider
blog for a brief recap of each episode, and post a comment to be entered
to win in our Discover Who You Are sweepstakes!
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | German roots | Land records
Monday, February 14, 2011 10:07:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, September 20, 2010
Exploring German Roots
Posted by Diane
Here in Family Tree Magazine’s hometown of Cincinnati, where the population in 1900 was 60 percent German-Americans and a downtown neighborhood is called Over the Rhine, Oktoberfest is a pretty big deal.
The oldest and biggest Oktoberfest, of course, starts in late September in Munich, Germany—which is celebrating its 200th Oktoberfest this year.
Oct. 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen held a grand horse race in Munich to celebrate their wedding five days earlier. The successful event was held again the next year and the next, and Germans—who continue to claim the largest ancestor group in US censuses—brought the celebration to the United States.
Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest includes the Chicken Dance and plenty of goetta, aka “Cincinnati Caviar.” Supposedly, ours is the largest celebration in the United States. Other Oktoberfests take place across the country in towns such as La Crosse, Wis.; Fredericksburg, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla.
Here’s our article about how a fellow Cincinnati genealogist unpuzzled surname variations to discover his German roots.
Our German Heritage Toolkit has helpful articles for you to explore your own German roots, including
... and more. For extra assistance, you can download our research guide to German ancestors, available from ShopFamilyTree.com or look into our Find Your German Roots Family Tree University course.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members with German roots can check out our online research guides to Prussian and Bavarian ancestors, and to Germanic ancestors who lived outside of German borders.
German roots | International Genealogy | Research Tips
Monday, September 20, 2010 2:54:22 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)