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# Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Find Ancestors' Old Birth, Marriage & Death Records FREE on Ancestry.com Through Oct. 6
Posted by Diane

Ancestry.com is opening up its birth, marriage and death records for free access through Oct. 6 to mark the new season of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." (Ancestry.com is a sponsor.)



You'll need to sign up for a free account with Ancestry.com (or log into the account you already have) in order to see the details of your search results.

Start searching the birth, marriage and death records on this Ancestry.com page, which also has more information about "Finding Your Roots."

You can enter only a name and birth year here, but once you have your results, click Edit Search on the left to add more details to your search (dates and places of of marriage, death and other life events, parents' names, etc.).

Tonight's "Finding Your Roots" features athletes Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo. The show airs at 8/7 Central on PBS, and you can watch a short preview here.


Ancestry.com | Celebrity Roots | Free Databases | Genealogy TV | Vital Records
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 10:30:28 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Genealogy Tip: Check the 1900 and 1910 Censuses for Clues to Unknown Children
Posted by Diane

Sometimes the best we can do for a “date night” at our house is hanging out in the living room while my husband watches a game and I do genealogy on the laptop.

On one of these thrilling evenings, I was using the Cincinnati Birth and Death Records (1865-1912) database, a card index created long ago from city vital registers. I kept remarking on the death records of infants I'd come across. Each one made me more grateful for my two healthy (I’m crossing my fingers and knocking on wood right now) little ones.

Greg was feeling the same way. He wondered how a genealogist today could even know to look for a baby who died at a few hours, days or weeks old before official birth and death records began.

You could form a hunch based on long gaps between children, or maybe oral tradition, a tiny headstone, a letter or another home source would be a clue. There’s also the census: The 1900 and 1910 censuses had columns for women indicating “mother of how many children” and “number of those children living.”

I realized then that I’d always assumed my great-great-grandmother Frances (Ladenkotter) Seeger hadn’t lost any of her children. I hadn’t found any records indicating that was the case, and no infant’s headstone is in the family plot.

Sure enough, when I looked again at her listings in the censuses for 1900

and 1910

those two columns showed a nine and a seven. Two of her babies had died. (Of the 12 mothers on the 1900 page, only two had the same number in both columns.)

I looked for them in the Cincinnati database of births and deaths. Joseph Heinrich died in 1877 at 29 days old of “pyaemia result of dorsal abscess” (septicemia related to an abscess on his back). I also found his cemetery burial record (which had his name).  

I found the birth of the second baby, Mary, on Aug. 2, 1878.

I may have found the death: This card, for a baby who died of premature birth at two hours old, has the right address, date (“8-3-78,” which would mean a birth shortly before midnight), and a close last name (Suger), but the baby’s name is Herman instead of Mary.

Either the birth or death card could have an error carried over from the original registers (which still exist, apparently, but are fragile and not available for research), or one made in transcription. I haven’t had any luck searching cemetery records, either.

Details about a relative who died as a newborn more than a century ago might or might not provide leads to additional genealogical information. Either way, putting these babies on the family tree matters to me, as I’m guessing it does to other genealogists. It creates a truer picture of your ancestral family, and more important, it keeps a brief little life from remaining unknown.



Research Tips | Vital Records
Tuesday, February 04, 2014 2:55:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Partnerships Add Burial Records and Obituaries to MyHeritage.com
Posted by Diane

Halloween talk of death won't scare many genealogists, who are acutely interested in when, where and how their ancestors died. But what's scary sometimes is the search for evidence of an elusive ancestor's death.

Maybe this will help:

MyHeritage has joined with the BillionGraves cemetery records website and the memorial website Tributes.com to add 5.5 million gravestone images and records, and 3.5 million obituaries, to its search engine.

These records are available for free on SuperSearch, MyHeritage's search engine for historical records on the site. Those with family trees on MyHeritage will receive Record Matches to alert them to matches in these new collections. (The Tributes.com obituaries will tend to be recent deaths.)

In related news, MyHeritage is holding a Halloween photo contest: Enter your most creative and original Halloween family photo by Nov. 3, and three entrants will win a one-year MyHeritage data subscription. Get details on the MyHeritage blog.

Need advice for finding out about your ancestors' deaths? Try our Death Records Workbook eight-page download, available for $4.99 in ShopFamilyTree.com. It has instructions and resources for finding death records, substitute records that can provide death information,  sample records, and a form to help you organize your death records search.


MyHeritage | Vital Records
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 1:09:11 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 31, 2013
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Tips to Find the Genealogy Records Christina Applegate Used
Posted by Diane

Last's night's "Who Do You Think You Are?" with Christina Applegate is a good example of how much you can learn even if you start with very little information. All she had to begin her search for her paternal grandmother was her father Robert's birth certificate and his mother's name.



Robert thought he remembered a few other details, such as when his mother died, but those vague memories turned out to be wrong. At one point he even said "I thought I was older."

Yes, I teared up at the end of the show when Robert appeared devastated to learn of the violence in his parents' marriage and his mother's death caused by tuberculosis and alcoholism. And then when Christina comforted him by pointing out how he's had a positive life despite having every reason not to. And again when he left flowers at his mother's grave, knowing she had wanted him buried by her side.

Genealogy can be healing.

Documents consulted in the episode include: 
  • Birth, marriage and death certificates. Almost all states had mandated keeping these by the early-to-mid-20th century. (A few leave marriage records to counties.) They're generally available from state vital records offices, but often access is limited to immediate family for privacy reasons. Download our free chart of statewide vital record-keeping dates from here.
I liked how the archivists helped Applegate examine documents for clues beyond just names and ages. In the 1940 census, for example, they looked at the years of schooling for each household member as well as the months out of work. They put those details into the context of the lingering Great Depression and what that meant for the family.

If you missed the episode, keep an eye on the "Who Do You Think You Are?" website for a link to watch it online.

To find Family Tree Magazine guides and video classes for doing genealogy research in vital records, the census, newspapers and other records, visit ShopFamilyTree.com. You can use the search box at the top of the site or browse the Genealogy Records category.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | census records | court records | Newspapers | Research Tips | Vital Records
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 10:15:01 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, April 11, 2013
Your Ancestor's SS-5: Get It Before It's Too Late
Posted by Diane

It's time to look up your 20th-century ancestors in the Social Security Death Index and request their Social Security number applications (SS-5s) if you haven't already.

Threats to close the Social Security Death Index are resurfacing with a vengeance: President Obama's budget proposal would give the Commissioner of Social Security license to grant or deny access to the SSDI and our ancestors' SS-5 forms. It makes the records' availability subject to a bureaucrat instead of the Freedom of Information Act.

Other genealogy bloggers have expertly explained why there are more effective ways to prevent tax fraud and protect the identities of taxpayers, while also meeting the needs of genealogy hobbyists and those who use Social Security records to identify survivors of deceased servicemembers and unclaimed persons. Read more from:
I'll explain what the SSDI is and why it's important to genealogy: The SSDI is a computerized file of deceased individuals whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration. It contains mostly deaths from 1962 and later, though my great-grandfather who died in 1949 is listed.

You can search the SSDI on websites including FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com (which excludes recent deaths) and order your ancestor's SS-5 for a fee from the Social Security Administration under the Freedom of Information Act.

Once you find an ancestor in the SSDI, you can request his or her SS-5, which requests parents' names, among other information. This is the only record I've ever found giving my great-grandfather's mother's name.

Here's how to order your ancestor's SS-5.


Public Records | Vital Records
Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:31:20 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, January 25, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Jan. 21-25
Posted by Diane

  • Just a reminder: You have until Monday at 11:59 p.m. ET to register for our Family Tree Magazine VIP giveaway! Some lucky person will win a free one-year VIP subscription, which includes a subscription to the print magazine, a Family Tree Plus membership (giving you access to exclusive how-to articles on our website), tuition discounts at Family Tree University, 10 percent off every ShopFamilyTree.com order, and our Family Tree Toolkit. Register here for your chance to become a Family Tree VIP for free
  • The Minnesota Department of Human Services is gathering bids for a project to digitize 5 million pages of old adoption records dating as far back as the late 19th century. The records are now on about 2,000 rolls of microfilm and likely include thousands of adoptions (the exact number isn’t known because files vary in length). Adoption records in Minnesota become public after 100 years, according to TwinCities.com, and 2017 is the 100-year anniversary of the law mandating adoption recording. 
  • You might’ve heard about HBO's upcoming fictional genealogy series, "Family Tree." It stars Chris O’Dowd as a Brit who occupies himself by investigating his family history after he loses his job and his relationship. Thanks to contributing editor Rick Crume for sending me a link to an Entertainment Weekly article about the show. Do you plan to watch?


FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun | Genealogy societies | Public Records | Vital Records
Friday, January 25, 2013 11:14:37 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Search Irish Vital Records Free on Thursday Jan. 24
Posted by Diane

Researching ancestors in Ireland? Flex those typing muscles: Tomorrow, Jan. 24, Irish genealogy website findmypast.ie will let you access 21 million Irish vital records free in honor of its first Irish Family History Day.

This according to the Irish news websites IrishCentral and siliconrepublic

The vital records, new on the site, range from the 1800s to 1958. Read more about them here

Findmypast.ie is a website from brightsolid publishing, which also operates findmypast.com (US), findmypast.com.au (Australia and New Zealand) and findmypast.co.uk (England, Wales and Scotland), among other genealogy websites. When you visit from the United States, you may get a pop-up suggesting you use the American site, but you can just close it and carry on.

Also, if you're in the United States, be mindful of time zone differences when you plan your search session(s). Findmypast.ie is based in Dublin, which is five hours ahead of the US East Coast.

Update: Now that Irish Family History Day is upon us, I found more information about this offer. Visit findmypast.ie's Irish Family History Day page for a promo code that gets you 50 free credits to use the site's pay-as-you-go records. The code is valid through Jan. 31.


Free Databases | UK and Irish roots | Vital Records
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:04:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Tips for Finding Your Ancestor's Death Record
Posted by Diane

When my husband and I were house-hunting awhile back, we looked at a house adjoining a small pioneer cemetery nearly concealed by trees. Which I thought was cool—you could see the area's history in the names on the worn stones. My husband said, "Quiet neighbors."

But a few friends looked stricken and said they might have to think twice about coming over.

So it goes for many of us genealogists. We're fascinated by cemeteries and death records; other people think that's creepy. But in the spirit of genealogy and Halloween, here are some tips on finding your ancestors' death records:
  • Death records are generally available after the state passed a law that counties or towns had to keep records and forward them to the state health department or vital records office. To find out when that was for your ancestor's state, download our free US Vital Records Chart (PDF document) from here. Compliance with the law wasn't always 100 percent, so keep that in mind.
You can get websites and contact information for state vital records offices from the Centers for Disease Control Where to Wrote for Vital Records listing.
  • Restrictions on public access to death records are generally shorter than those for birth records—depending on the state, it's usually 25 to 50 years if you're not immediate family. Check the state vital records office website for this information.

The town or county health department or a local genealogical society where your ancestor lived can tell you when death recording began there. Remember that these early records often aren't complete.

  • No official death record to be found? Look to other sources, such as newspaper obituaries and death notices, cemeteries, church records, US census mortality schedules and probate records. 

Learn more about tracking down death information for your ancestors from these Family Tree Magazine expert resources:


Research Tips | Vital Records
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 12:24:01 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Ancestry.com Death Records Challenges Offer Chances to Win
Posted by Diane

Ancestry.com is issuing daily mystery genealogy challenges and that come with chances to win prizes. Use the site's death records collections to answer a challenge (or you could just wing it) and you'll be entered into a Nov. 2 grand prize drawing for a new iPad.

New challenges will be available Oct. 19, 22, 24, 26, 29, and 31.  If you answer the challenge correctly, you'll either be entered into a prize drawing for that challenge (Monday and Wednesday challenges) or receive a bonus entry for the grand prize drawing (Friday challenges).

Challenge prizes include gift certificates, Ancestry.com subscriptions and a DNA test (scroll down and click the terms and conditions link on this page to see the list of prizes).

Click here to see the current challenge.

In addition, several genealogy bloggers also are offering their own contests sponsored by Ancestry.com, with three-month Ancestry.com World Explorer subscriptions as prizes. They include:
  • Genea-Musings (ends Oct. 21); this blog will hold a second contest Oct. 23.
(If there's another blogger I missed, please click Comments below and let me know.)

Ancestry.com | Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites | Vital Records
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:37:38 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, September 28, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, Sept. 24-28
Posted by Diane

  • Got family who landed in Australia? This weekend, Ancestry.com.au (Ancestry.com's Australia site) is giving free access to its Australian Birth, Marriage and Death and Cemetery indexes, containing more than 17 million records of those who were born, married or died in Australia from 1788 until the early 20th century. The free period runs through Monday, Oct. 1, 11:59 p.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday 1 October, 2012 (that's 9:59 a.m. Monday EST in the United States). You'll need to set up a free registration with the site to search the records.
  • Registration is open for FamilySearch's  2013 Rootstech genealogy conference, taking place March 21-23 in Salt Lake City. Organizers are planning for the 2013 conference to have a 40 percent larger exhibit hall and more classes, including a new track for those beginning their family history research. Registration fees range from $19 for a one-day pass to the Getting Started track ($39 for all three days) to a $149 early bird special (regularly $219) for a full three-day pass. Click here to register for the conference.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | International Genealogy | Vital Records
Friday, September 28, 2012 1:14:50 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 16, 2012
Free for a Limited Time: Canadian Vital Records, Japanese Internment Camp Records, 1930 Census
Posted by Diane

Two Ancestry.com sites have limited-time free record offers:
  • Ancestry.com is offering free access to two databases now through Feb. 23 to mark the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which sent 120,000 Japanese-Americans and residents to internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor: 
  • Update: I also just received an Ancestry.com newsletter stating that the site's 1930 US census collection will be free through Feb. 20.

In both cases, you'll need to set up a free account with the site (or log into your existing account) to view record matches.


Asian roots | Canadian roots | census records | Free Databases | Vital Records
Thursday, February 16, 2012 11:33:21 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Wednesday, November 02, 2011
SSA to Remove "Protected" Death Records From Death Master File
Posted by Diane

The Social Security Administration is making changes to the public Death Master File—the source of the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) that genealogists know and love to use—that’ll impact your research.

Effective today, Nov. 1, the Death Master File will no longer contain “protected” records the SSA receives from states. According to a notice from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which disseminates the Death Master File, “Section 205(r) of the Act prohibits SSA from disclosing state death records SSA receives through its contracts with the states, except in limited circumstances.”

4.2 million of the 89 million deaths in the Death Master File will be removed, and approximately 1 million fewer deaths will be added each year.

I’m working on getting clarification on when and where the removed deaths occurred, and whether genealogy websites will have to remove those deaths from their current versions of the SSDI.

Update: The records now in Ancestry.com's version of the SSDI will stay, says spokesperson Matthew Deighton. "The current records that we have on Ancestry.com will remain unaffected," he says. "We understand that we may receive fewer records from the Social Security Administration, but it is not clear which record sets will be impacted at this point. We recognize the importance of these databases to the family history community and will do our best to minimize the impact of this to our users. Ancestry.com will continue to monitor this situation."

The changes are bad news for the genealogists who use the SSDI. Banks, employers and others who use the public Death Master File for security reasons—for example, to see whether an applicant is using a dead person’s SSN—will also undoubtedly be unhappy. (So, the Death Master File actually helps prevent identity theft.) Medical researchers use the database to track former patients and study subjects, too.

Here’s the full notice from the NTIS (it's in a PDF linked on this page):

We receive Death Master File (DMF) data from the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA receives death reports from various sources, including family members, funeral homes, hospitals, and financial institutions.

Q: What change is SSA making to the Public DMF?
A: Effective November 1, 2011, the DMF data that we receive from SSA will no longer contain protected state death records. Section 205(r) of the Act prohibits SSA from disclosing state death records SSA receives through its contracts with the states, except in limited circumstances. (Section 205r link - http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title02/0205.htm)

Q: How will this change affect the size of the Public DMF?
A: The historical Public DMF contains 89 million records. SSA will remove approximately 4.2 million records from this file and add about 1 million fewer records annually.

REMINDER: DMF users should always investigate and verify the death listed before taking any adverse action against any individual.


Vital Records
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 9:32:28 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [11]
# Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Tips for Finding Death Records on This Friday's Geneabloggers Radio
Posted by Diane

This Friday’s free GeneaBloggers Radio show is all about death—records, that is—and host Thomas MacEntee will interview Diana Crisman Smith, instructor of the Family Tree University Death Records 101 course. You’ll also hear from Susan Soper, an author and journalist who has created ObitKit, a workbook for writing your own or someone else’s obituary.

This ominously titled GeneaBloggers Radio show, “The Final Chapter—Obituaries, Death Records and Genealogy” is Friday, Oct. 21 at 9 p.m. ET, 8 CT, 7 MT and 6 PT (for regular listeners, that’s a new time). Go to the GeneaBloggers Radio website to listen.


Research Tips | Vital Records
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 3:33:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Parents With a Sense of Humor
Posted by Diane

Hee, hee. I was searching Ancestry.com birth records for one of my Frost relatives, and I found this record for an unrelated person:



Must be a transcription error, I thought. But here's the original record:



Sure looks like Icy Frost to me. I suppose this little one's name could be Joy, what with the similarities between the clerk's capital Js and Is. Elsewhere on this birth registry, I found a James:

   

and the surname Isaacs:



What do you think? There are more genealogy giggles—these, from censuses—in the November 2011 Family Tree Magazine Everything's Relative column. If you'll be in charge of naming a baby soon and want to know what to avoid, this book might be for you.

Genealogy fun | Vital Records
Wednesday, October 05, 2011 4:57:35 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Brick Wall Tips From the Virtual Conference
Posted by Diane

It was a busy Family Tree University Virtual Conference weekend for us and for our Virtual Conference instructors, Supermoderators Thomas MacEntee and Nancy Hendrickson, and the conference attendees. Thanks to all participants for a great event!

If you missed it, you can order the Virtual Conference video classes for on-demand viewing at ShopFamilyTree.com

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the live chats, which buzzed with research tips, questions and inspiration. For example, Thomas’ Saturday evening chat, Pick Thomas’ Brain: Ideas on Creative Approaches to Genealogy, was chock full of advice.

I’ve pulled some comments from the chat to share here (I made some edits and added topic headings so the Q&A is easier to follow).

On brick walls:

  • Thomas: First, very often I think what we call a brick wall isn't really a brick wall . . .

  • Joan: What do you mean by a brick wall not being a brick wall?
  • Thomas: To me it is a matter of perhaps not having all the right tools at one's disposal. Or it could be a matter of going back and rechecking spelling, surname variations, etc.
  • Allison FTU: A true brick wall is when you have exhausted every possible avenue for research and there is no more information

In many cases, what we refer to as a brick wall is really just an exhaustion of ideas

  • Patricia: A Brick Wall to me is having a timeline just end with no leads. Just solved 2 of my brick walls by reviewing current finds in detail as if I was looking at the finds for the first time.

On ancestral adoptions:

  • Terri: My brick wall is my grandmother, born and adopted in 1900. I thought her SS application might help, but she apparently fibbed on the application! Gave her adopted info as official

  • Kerry: I've used church records to find babies who were baptized prior to their adoption. Not all were adopted at birth.

  • Allison FTU: If you know what area she was born in, you might try guardianship records.

  • Terri: Are guardianship records civil records, private institutions, what?

  • Allison FTU: Guardianships are typically court records. So you do need to know which county to look in.

On going beyond well-known resources:

  • Carol: I have a line that went to Nebraska. FamilySearch and Ancestry seem to have nothing and GenealogyBank only later years. Any links for Nebraska?
  • Thomas: What time period? Were they Homesteaders?
  • Carol P: Late 1800s to early 1900s

On ordering ancestors’ vital records:

  • Mary Ann: When I look for birth, marriage, and death certificates in the US, I am taken to sites where it is free for 7 days and then you pay. Is there a good site to find these certificates?
  • Thomas: I personally don't recommend those sites. In most cases, if you know how to order them directly from the state or county, it is better and cheaper. What do others think?
  • Mary Ann: Yet, the states’ [vital records office websites] are sending me to those sites.
  • Kerry: I totally agree; I'd much rather order directly from the source.
  • Terri: I have seen some states that use a private online payment service for their records, but there's generally an option to pay the vital records office directly.
  • Kerry: Some states (Minnesota, for instance) house records at the state historical society, and you can order (and in some cases, view) them online.
  • Thomas: Did you know that some societies have a vital records service where they will, for a much cheaper fee, pull the records? Illinois State Genealogical Society does this for Illinois Death Certificates.
  • Mary Kay: Or borrowing microfilm from your local FHC.

On hard-to-trace immigrants and F.A.N. clubs:

  • Christine: Ancestor arrived in 1750 from Rotterdam, based on PA baptism records which are German Lutheran—don't have a clue where to start across the pond. Strategy much appreciated....

how to get from point of departure (Rotterdam) in 1750 to where he might have lived...

  • Thomas: Have you tried the F.A.N. club approach? Friends, Associates, Neighbors?

Elizabeth Shown Mills uses that F.A.N. club term all the time.

Last night on my radio show, Gail Blankenau from Omaha who specializes in German Parish Records used the term "10 up and 10 down" meaning always go up 10 lines from what you've found and down 10 lines as well.

  • Allison-FTU: Christine, have you heard of something called manumission records?

In Germany during the time period, emigrants had to pay a tax to be released from serfdom. The resulting records are manumissions

There's an often-referenced index to German manumissions by Werner Hacker ... let me see if i can find a link

  • Christine: Would they have been microfilmed by the Family History Library?

On online research tools:


Family Tree University | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | immigration records | Research Tips | Social Networking | Vital Records
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 9:50:10 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Thursday, June 16, 2011
A Marriage Certificate Finds its Family
Posted by Grace

Whenever I find loose family photos or paperwork at antique malls (which is very often, because I love antiquing), I always feel sad for the families separated from the ephemera. On a trip home recently, my dad showed me a marriage certificate he'd found in an estate sale cleanout. (Guess where I get the antiques habit from?)

This beautiful certificate was for Walter C. Peck of Cleveland, Ohio, and Irene E. Kershner of Berwick, Pa., who were married on July 5, 1924, in Berwick, Pa., by the Rev. H.R. Shipe. I just had to know if this marriage certificate had a family that would want it.

So I did a little genealogical detective work on Ancestry.com.


(Click the image to enlarge it)

I found a Walter (age 31) and Irene Peck (29) living at 1273 Bonnieview, Lakewood, Ohio, in the 1930 census (recorded on April 5, 1930). They had two children, Clarke (5) and Carlos (8 months), and Walter was a ticket agent for a steam railroad. They rented their home for $50 a month and owned a radio set.

But Irene also showed up listed with her parents, William and Sarah Kershner, at 373 Monroe, Berwick Township, Pa., on the 1930 census (recorded April 8, 1930). Her two sons, Clark (listed as 4 and 11 months) and Carlos (7 months), are also included. (I'm figuring they were visiting during enumeration time.) I found the Kershners at the same address in the 1910 census, with Irene, 10 at the time, being among seven listed children.

Irene pops up in the 1920 census as a sister-in-law to Jacob and Lucretia Nagel in Lakewood, Ohio. She worked as a stenographer at a chemical company.

A WWI draft registration card filled out June 5, 1918, for a Walter Clark Peck living at 1339 E. 80th St. in Cleveland states he worked at a chemical company in Cleveland -- perhaps Walter and Irene had a workplace romance. Walter's emergency contact was his mother, Elizabeth Peck, who lived at the same address. Walter shows up on the 1910 and 1920 censuses living with his parents, Clark W. and Bessie Peck, in Cleveland.

Ohio death records show Walter C. Peck, born in 1897, died at home in Fairview Park, Ohio, on Nov. 13, 1961. I couldn't find a death date for Irene; Carlos Peck passed away in 2002.

But Clark Peck is still alive, and I called him on the phone today. He's a bit hard of hearing, so I mostly spoke to his wife, Beryl (Heiser) Peck, who confirmed pretty much everything I'd found.

Beryl said Walter Peck and Irene Kershner had met at Grasselli Chemical in Cleveland, where they'd both worked. Walter later worked for the Canadian Pacific Rail for many years; Beryl said Walter traveled around the world a couple times before he passed away in his 60s. Irene lived until the last 1980s. Now in his late 80s, Dr. Clark Peck practiced dentistry and taught at Case Western Reserve University for 30 years. He and Beryl now live in Westlake, Ohio, and have two children and many grandchildren.

By the time I got off the phone, I was tearing up from happiness. Beryl thanked me multiple times for contacting them -- I'll be mailing out the marriage certificate (and a copy of this blog post) to her and Clark today. I'm so glad that this beautiful record will return to its family -- and stay with them for many years to come.


Related resources:
Ancestry.com | saving and sharing family history | Vital Records
Thursday, June 16, 2011 2:49:24 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [11]
# Saturday, April 02, 2011
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode 7 Recap
Posted by jamie

Spoiler Alert: If you don't already know what happened during Gwyneth Paltrow's episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” you are about to find out.

The daughter of actress Blythe Danner and producer/director Bruce Paltrow, Gwyneth Paltrow has Hollywood roots. But the actress looked past her famous family to explore her ancestors' extraordinary stories during her episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Gwyneth began by researching her mother's side of the family at the New York Public Library. She finds an obituary for her great-grandmother Ida May Danner, which lists her parents as David and Isabel Stoute Yetter. Isabel's death certificate indicates her a full name is Rosamond Isabel Yetter, born in Barbados, West Indies, and she worked as a domestic servant.

Using this information, Gwyneth finds Isabel and her sister Martha on a passenger list for a commercial sailing ship traveling from Barbados to America. The pair are the only two passengers on this voyage, somehow managing to travel on cargo ship instead of a passenger ship. Isabel is age 18 when she immigrates to America.

Gwyneth then travels to Barbados to find out more about her great-great-grandmother Isabel. At the department of archives, she searches baptismal records, discovering Isabel's father was a merchant clerk — a respectable middle class occupation. She then searches a burial register, finding Isabel's mother and father were both dead by the time she was 13 years old. (For more on searching vital records, see our on-demand webinar.)

During Isabel's time in Barbados, females greatly outnumbered males, so marriage prospects were very limited. Job opportunities were also in short supply for unmarried white women because free black women in Barbados would work for lower wages. And without family ties except each other, Gwenyth concludes the sisters moved to the United States to see what opportunities awaited them there.

Gwyneth then researchers her paternal grandfather Arnold "Buster" Paltrow's family. Buster often spoke ill of his mother Ida Hymen Paltrow's parenting skills, and she seemingly exhibited signs of a severe depression. Gwyneth wanted to know more about Ida and what may have caused her depression.

Ida attended Hunter College, known as Normal College in 1897 when she studied there. The school was a teacher's college, the top profession for a New York woman. Ida was often absent, according to student registries, and she was discharged from the school in 1898. Death certificates for Ida's mother Rebecca Paltrow and Ida's brother Samuel Paltrow indicate Ida attended to them as they died months apart in 1897, explaining her absences from college.

Gwyneth continues her search at the New York City Municipal Archives. The 1920 census lists Ida's family with the surname Paltrowitz. Ida's oldest daughter Helen Paltrowitz, who was 1 in the 1910 census, is not found in the 1920 census. Gwyneth then searches death records, discovering Helen died at age 3 when she was run over by a wagon. Gwenyth concludes these tragedies contributed to Ida's depression.

Gwyneth then focus on one last ancestor, Ida's husband Meyer Paltrowitz. She discovers Meyer's grandfather was Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Pelterowicz, a master of Kabbalah, a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an eternal and mysterious creator and the mortal and finite universe. Books about Hirsch indicate he was regarded as an extremely holy man and a miracle worker. (For more on tracing Jewish roots, see our guide.)

"WDYTYA" airs Fridays at 8pm EST on NBC. Check the Genealogy Insider blog for a brief recap of each episode.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Research Tips | Vital Records
Saturday, April 02, 2011 10:51:17 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, December 29, 2010
FamilySearch Adds New Records Online
Posted by jamie

FamilySearch has expanded again, adding over a million records and images to its already gargantuan digital depository.

It bolstered state-specific collections, as well as collections from Canada, Spain and Venezuela, by adding more names and digital images to existing indexes. FamilySearch also updated the U.S. Social Security Death Index database with more names and digital images, and created new databases of records that were not previously available online.

The new and updated collections include:

Note the indexes are free to access, but you must create a free account to view digital images of the original record.

View all of FamilySearch's online offerings on its historical records collections page.


court records | FamilySearch | Vital Records
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 11:01:14 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, December 02, 2010
Archives.com Adds Millions of Records
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site Archives.com has added more than 40 million new digital records and 110 million scanned newspaper pages dating back to 1753.

The new record collections now available on Archives.com include:

  • 40 million indexed vital records from states including Texas, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and Utah. These represent a 25 percent increase in the site’s US vital records. Information you’ll get varies by state, but generally includes the child’s name, sex, birth date and place, and parents’ names.
  • 110 million newspaper pages from Newspaper Archive, dating back to 1753 and containing billions of indexed names.
  • 300,000 indexed burial records through a partnership with cemetery mapping company Names In Stone. In the search results, users can view burial information and click the View Full Record link to see supplementary fields and a cemetery map on NamesInStone.com (no additional payment or membership required).

Since its July 2009 launch, Archives.com users have spent more than 2 million hours on the site and performed 50 million searches. Users can search all records, search by record type (such as marriage) or state, or search by collection name. A subscription costs $39.95 per year; a seven-day free trial is available.


Cemeteries | Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers | Vital Records
Thursday, December 02, 2010 8:38:48 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, October 28, 2010
French Records Free This Weekend at Ancestry.ca
Posted by Diane

Subscription site Ancestry.ca, the Canadian sister site to Ancestry.com, is celebrating All Saints Day by making many of its historic records from France—roughly 50 million names—free to search from this Saturday, Oct. 30, to Nov. 1. 

This weekend's free Ancestry.ca records include:

  • Paris, France records, featuring more than 200 years of birth, marriage and death records
  • Marne, and Saone-et-Loire, France, birth, marriage and death collections, which feature vital records spanning nearly 400 years 
  • Upper Brittany, France, records collection, including rare immigration and military records, as well as vital records dating back to the early 1500s
  • Marseilles, France Marriages, 1810-1915, with nearly half a million records

You can see the French records collection and access the free databases (starting Saturday, Oct. 30) at <ancestry.ca/toussaint>. (You’ll need to set up a free registration with the site to view your search results.)

All Saints Day, Nov. 1 in Western Christianity, is a celebration of all the saints. It’s sometimes called All Hallows or Hallowmas. The night before, or “All Hallows Even,” is believed to provide the origin for the word Halloween.

You'll find a French-Canadian genealogy research guide in the June 2006 Family Tree Magazine, available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com.


Ancestry.com | French Canadian roots | Vital Records
Thursday, October 28, 2010 4:57:02 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 18, 2010
Got Ancestors From Oakland County, Michigan?
Posted by Diane

The clerk’s office in Oakland County, Mich., has added an online genealogy search with an index of marriage and death records back to 1941. Older records will be gradually added.

Home to the city of Pontiac, Oakland County is just north of Detroit and considered part of the Detroit metro area.

You can search by name and the year of marriage or death if you know it. Marriage record matches give the couple’s names and marriage date; death record matches show the person’s name and date of death.

If you find an index entry for an ancestor, you can click to order a copy of the record ($15 for the first copy, $5 for additional copies, plus a $5 “enhanced access fee” for online orders).

If your ancestor married or died in Oakland County between 1935 and 1941, you can order records from the clerk’s office online even though they’re not yet in the index. If the marriage or death occurred before 1935, you must order records by mail or in person.

Oakland County also has birth records, but Michigan birth certificates created less than 100 years ago are restricted to all but the person named in the record and his or her parents. However, according to the state vital records office website, “an heir may request a copy of a birth record less than 100 years old if they can provide an out-of-state death certificate, or the death information if it was a Michigan death, with the request.” 


Free Databases | Vital Records
Monday, October 18, 2010 4:57:31 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, October 08, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Oct. 4-8
Posted by Diane

  • A friendly reader told us about another genealogy app for the iPhone called Traces, which searches the databases at the FamilySearch beta site. beta.familysearch.org. The reader (who’s not affiliated with the product other than using it) recommends it as “far and away the best iPhone app ... I've found to facilitate actual genealogy research and database searching.” See a list of iPhone/iTouch genealogy apps on the MobileGenealogy.com website.
  • The National Archives is holding a day-long symposium called The Civil War: Fresh Perspectives on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, at its Washington, DC headquarters. It’ll feature panel discussions related to themes from the archives’ special exhibit, Discovering the Civil War. Registration is required, along with a fee of $50. Click here to learn more and register.
  • UK family history subscription website Findmypast.co.uk and FamilySearch are beginning a project to digitize the Greater Manchester County Record Office’s cemetery registers and institutional records (from gaols, schools and workhouses), which date as far back as the 16th century. When the project is complete, you’ll be able to search indexes free at FamilySearch. The indexed information will link to the records at FindMyPast.co.uk, where you’ll be able to view the record images for a fee.
  • There’s more for those with UK roots: Old-maps.co.uk has added 60 more years of town plans and other maps to its collection, which now covers 1850 to 1996. In addition, new spy maps produced by the Russian military from 1950 to 1997 cover 16,000 sq km of the UK, including 103 major towns and cities. You can search and browse maps for free and purchase printed or downloadable PDF versions.


FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Software | NARA | UK and Irish roots | Vital Records
Friday, October 08, 2010 3:10:24 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, September 03, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 30-Sept. 3
Posted by Diane

  • Wondering whom to thank for your Monday off work? Historians disagree on who should get credit for Labor Day. Most think it’s either Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew Maguire, a machinist, secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ, and secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Read more Labor Day history on the US Department of Labor website.
  • The National Archives in Kansas City has opened to the public 300,000 Alien Case Files (A-Files) for individuals born in 1909 and earlier. This is part of the group of immigration records transferred last year from the US Citizenship and Immigration services to the National Archives. The files themselves date from 1944 and later, but the records remain closed until 100 years after the birthdate of the subject of the file.
The files aren’t online; you can search NARA’s Archival Research Catalog for your ancestor’s name to see if there’s a file on your ancestor (after clicking a name in the search results, click Scope and Content for a few more details about the subject of the record). You can access the records in person or order copies from NARA.
Just choose an alphabetical range and you’ll be linked to an index page listing the vital events within that range. You can use your web browser’s Find function to look for a name. Once you’ve found the name, publication and date, click the Quick Links to Newspapers link to find the image of the page with the information you need.


immigration records | NARA | Social History | Vital Records
Friday, September 03, 2010 1:59:28 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, August 12, 2010
Genealogy Q&A From Our Ask the Editors Webinar
Posted by Diane

Thanks to everyone who attended last night's free “Ask the Editors” webinar! We had a blast, and we hope to do it again.

I wanted to share the questions attendees asked—and our answers, of course, enhanced with links to resources we mentioned and a few new ones. But first, because Allison, Grace, Lindsay and I started the webinar with an introduction, blog readers can “meet” most of us on our FamilyTreeMagazine.com staff page. Get to know Lindsay here. And now for the main event:

Q. How would I find a 1905 death certificate from Mexico?

A. Civil registrations in Mexico (akin to vital records in the United States) started in the mid- to late-1860s, though records may not be complete. In most cases, records were kept on the municipio level and you can request copies from the local civil registry (addresses are in FamilySearch’s Mexico research outline). Older records may have been transferred to a local or state archive.

Before writing, see if the record is in an online index or on microfilm. Many Mexican death records are indexed on the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site. Search the Family History Library online catalog for microfilmed civil registration records or indexes, as well.

You’ll find more advice in our Mexico Research Guide digital download, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.

Q. I can't find my ancestor’s birthplace. Different censuses give different locations, and I don’t know his parents’ names. Where should I look?

A. It’s not unusual for a person’s birthplace to be inconsistent from one census to the next. The trick is to go beyond census records. Many sources will give a place of birth, so continue researching the person in any record you can get your hands on. Bibles, baptismal records, newspaper birth announcements, military records, passports, naturalizations and death records are a few sources that often name a person’s birthplace.

See which places are mentioned most often, and focus there. You may find online birth indexes such as those for Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri or South Dakota. Websites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch often have vital records indexes, too.

Get in-depth information and online search demos in our recorded webinar Vital Records: Researching Your US Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.

Q. How do you trace a child named Jane Doe who was a foundling, and was adopted?

A. Adoptions weren’t always formalized in courts—sometimes a relative or neighbor would take in the child. For a formalized adoption, look into guardianship records (court records of hearings to determine who would care for a minor). Also look for an amended birth certificate, changed to reflect the child’s adoptive rather than biological parents.

Another good resource is newspapers. Finding an abandoned child would be a newsworthy event and may have received press coverage and follow-up articles. Also see the resources in our adoption toolkit and the “Early Adopters” article in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital issue).

Q. How do you find a grave site when the cemetery doesn’t know where the stone is?

A. Try looking in the cemetery for plots of relatives and those of the same last name, since family members are often buried together. Also search for burial indexes, many of which were created years ago—perhaps before the cemetery lost track of the burial record or the stone was overgrown. In the 1930s and early ‘40s, the Works Progress Administration indexed cemeteries in many communities; you’ll find a free WPA cemetery database at Access Genealogy and printed indexes at public libraries and the Family History Library. The Daughters of the American Revolution also has collected cemetery and other records for years.

A webinar attendee suggested the researcher look for burial permits, which many counties would issue before a grave could be dug, as well as funeral home records. Just this week, I got a letter from a reader who found a permit that a deceased’s relative's second husband had obtained to have the remains moved to his own family plot.

Q. Several of my lines have “daughtered out.” What is your advice for researching women?

A. Our female ancestors just don’t show up in as many records as our male ancestors did, so sometimes you get to a point where you can’t trace a family line back past a woman. Allison emphasized the importance of not focusing just on the female ancestor, but also researching her husband, children, siblings, parents and neighbors. Records of these people may lead you to a maiden name and other information about the woman. Because people often married those who lived nearby, researching the husband’s family may lead to records of interactions, such as land transactions, with your female ancestor’s family.

See our list of records that often reveal details about female ancestors.

Q. What will increase my chances of success in your photo calls?

A. As Allison explained in the webinar, which photos end up in the magazine or another project is partly luck, for example, say we need a wintry photo for a January calendar page, and you’ve sent in a photo of kids sled-riding on a snowy day. Or sometimes a project calls for a vertical or horizontal orientation.

Another thing we look for is a photo with a clear focal point to draw the viewer’s eye. “Compelling” is a good word to describe a photo that makes someone want to pick it up and look at it longer. (We’re always happy when someone picks up the magazine!) Pleasant, open expressions on faces (we know outright smiles are rare in old pictures), a steady gaze, or cute kids are often compelling. Photos with unusual or surprising subject matter also can be compelling.

If we’ll be reprinting the photo at a relatively small size, we’ll want to make sure viewers can still easily discern the subject matter in the pictures (in this respect, photos of large groups of people might be at a disadvantage). But we hope you’ll upload your photos to our Flickr pools regardless—we love seeing them, as do others.


Cemeteries | census records | Female ancestors | International Genealogy | Photos | Vital Records
Thursday, August 12, 2010 3:30:10 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, August 06, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 2-6
Posted by Diane

  • Families is a new app for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that works in conjunction with  the windows-based family tree program Legacy Family Tree. You can transfer Legacy family files from your PC to your mobile device, then view and edit them. (You’ll need to download a free program called Families Sync to your PC in order to transfer the files.) Families is available at the Apple App store. Learn more on the Families website.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | UK and Irish roots | Vital Records
Friday, August 06, 2010 1:40:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Get Better at Genealogy With Family Tree University Online Classes
Posted by Diane

You can improve your genealogy research skills and make progress in your family tree quest, even on your busy schedule.

Registration is now open for the first online course offerings from Family Tree Magazine’s newest educational endeavor, Family Tree University. Choose from these courses:
Courses start May 10 and last four weeks (after which we’ll begin offering courses on even more topics). Each self-paced course has four to six lessons that are “released” at regular intervals over the four weeks.

Once you’re registered, you’ll receive your student login and password via e-mail, with instructions on how to access Family Tree University’s virtual campus. Then, you just log on at your convenience to review each lesson (online or in a PDF you can print out) and complete an exercise or quiz to practice your skills.

The professional researcher who’s instructing your class will provide feedback on your assignments. (Meet the instructors here.)

In your “classroom,” you’ll also have access to the required readings for that lesson, a library of resources for further learning, a message board where you can talk with other students and your instructor, and a “journal” where you can communicate privately with your instructor.

You can save 15 percent off your first course by entering the discount code LAUNCH15 when you register. Tuition is regularly $99 per course.

To learn more and register for a course, go to FamilyTreeUniversity.com. We’ll see you in class!

census records | Family Tree University | immigration records | Land records | Photos | Research Tips | Vital Records
Wednesday, May 05, 2010 10:27:47 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Massachusetts Bill Threatens Vital Records Back to 1841
Posted by Diane

The National Genealogical Society UpFront blog is reporting on another threat to vital records access, which could make it harder for genealogists to learn about their Massachusetts ancestors.

Massachusetts Senate Bill 820 would close the state’s birth and marriage records dated after 1841, the year statewide record keeping began, so only the person named in the record or his parent, guardian or attorney could see it or get a copy.

From the UpFront blog: “The bill's text eliminates the current section that closes out-of-wedlock births and replaces the entire section with text that closes all births and marriages ... the last sentence states, ‘The provisions of this section shall not apply to such records, returns or notices recorded or filed prior to January first, eighteen hundred and forty-one or to such copies thereof.’”

Right now, you can order certified copies of vital records dated 1841 to 1915 from the Massachusetts State Archives—it's unclear how Senate Bill 820, if passed, might affect that service.

Some post-1841 Massachusetts vital records and indexes are available at sites such as the NewEnglandAncestors.org subscription databases and in the free FamilySearch Record Search pilot, as well as on Family History Library microfilm.

Many states restrict records for up to 100 years—after which the person in the record is likely to be deceased—but closing 169-year-old records seems unnecessary. See the UpFront blog for information on to whom you can address your concerns regarding the legislation.


Public Records | Vital Records
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 9:02:48 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, March 12, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: March 8 to 12
Posted by Diane


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy Events | Vital Records
Friday, March 12, 2010 9:24:28 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, January 14, 2010
Records Coming Soon to a Large Genealogy Website Near You
Posted by Diane

Like last year, content growth is again a focus for Ancestry.com in 2010. During last week’s press junket, content manager Gary Gibbs talked about new records coming to the site in 2010:
  • US vital records, digitized in partnership with state archives. They include vital records from Vermont (1908 to 2008) and Delaware (1800 to 1933); divorces from Connecticut; and the Hayes Library Ohio Death Index.
Gibbs said that respondents to a lengthy Ancestry.com customer survey chose birth, marriage and death records as the resource they’d most like to see, and 1861 to 1914 as the time period most important to their search.
  • Seven state censuses were released last year; look for more this year.
  • US county land ownership maps were originally slated for release in 2009, but Gibbs’ team decided to key the records in a more useful but time-intensive way, delaying the launch until 2010.
  • A 1950 "census substitute" consisting of city directories—helpful to reverse genealogists seeking living relatives, and to beginning researchers.
  • 1880 Defective, Dependent and Delinquent ("DDD") schedules. These supplemental census schedules provide details on individuals with disabilities or who were institutionalized. Surviving records are currently scattered among libraries and state archives. (Can't wait until they go online? Download our cheat sheet to DDD schedules and their locations.)
  • Index improvements to the 1790-to-1840 head-of-household censuses will key the tickmarks indicating household members’ sex, age ranges and status as slave or free, so you’ll be able to search on these parameters.
  • The site will add 700 million more names from voter lists to the US Public Records Index database.
I asked about the 1940 census—whether it’ll be indexed and online when the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) releases the census to the public April 2, 2012 (the official April 1 release date is a Sunday). Gibbs said NARA will digitize the 1940 census, but couldn’t say much else except that Ancestry.com is “intensely interested” in the project.

Look for tips on preparing for the release of the 1940 census (as in determining enumeration districts, not making sure your tailgating gear is in shape) in the May 2010 Family Tree Magazine.


Ancestry.com | census records | Land records | Vital Records
Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:32:38 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 13, 2010
March 2010 Family Tree Magazine and Your Genealogy Resolutions
Posted by Diane


The March 2010 Family Tree Magazine hit newsstands Jan. 5 with articles I think will mesh nicely with 2010 genealogy resolutions you may be formulating. For example:

Resolution: Polish your genealogy research skills.
Article: Assess your genealogical fitness level with the survey in “Shaping Up,” then read how to brush up in areas where you need more knowledge. Links direct you to a range of classes (with plenty of free options), websites, books and organizations that can help researchers from beginners to experts learn a thing or two.

Resolution: Enhance your family’s story with social history
Article: Learn how ancestors came into the world in “We Deliver for You,” an overview of childbirth practices in your grandmothers’ and great-mothers’ days. You’ll also find out about birth, hospital and midwives’ records.

Resolution: Break through your brick wall and figure out whatever happened to Great-great-grandpa.
Article: Maybe a weather event, epidemic, workplace accident or other disaster befell your forebear. “Flirting With Disaster” helps you find death records, newspapers and other sources that may name victims of unfortunate occurrences.

Resolution: Get with the times and equip yourself to digitize photos, record oral histories, back up your hard drive and more.
Article: “Go Go Gadgets” (my favorite title in the issue) explains what to look for in seven tech tools: an Internet connection, all-in-one printer/scanner/copier, digital camera, external hard drive, digital voice recorder, GPS unit and USB flash drive. For each device, we include a chart comparing popular models.

Resolution: Get with the times and figure out Twitter.
Article: Our Toolkit Tutorial illustrates the anatomy of a Tweet, defines Twitter terminology (such as tweep and hashtag) and gets you started on this fast-paced social network.

Resolution: Keep your family connected.
Article: A family website is one way to stay in touch. Our MyHeritage Web Guide outlines how to use a tree on MyHeritage to do research and connect with kin.  


The March 2010 Family Tree Magazine has even more articles, including a guide to tracing Puerto Rican roots, facts about color photography and new sources helping African-American genealogists overcome research obstacles.

Look for the issue in your favorite bookstore, or visit ShopFamilyTree.com to purchase a digital download or order a print copy.


African-American roots | Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Social History | Social Networking | Tech Advice | Vital Records
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 2:54:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, January 04, 2010
Ohio Probate Court Posts Online Records Archive
Posted by Diane

The probate court  for Hamilton County, Ohio—location of our hometown of Cincinnati—launched an Archived Record Search for records from 1791 to 1994.

It's not a database search where you type in a name. Instead, you open image files (PDFs or TIFs) of index books and/or record books for records including:
  • Estates, 1791 to 1984
  • Wills, 1791 to 1973
  • Trusts, 1791 to 1984
  • Guardianships, 1791 to 1984
  • Marriages, 1808 to 1983 
  • Minister's Licenses, 1963 to 1975 (index books only)
  • Birth Records, 1863 to 1908
  • Birth Registrations and Corrections, 1941 to 1994
  • Death Records, 1881 to 1908
  • Probate Court Journal Entries, 1791 to 1837 (no index; you must browse by volume and page number)
  • Physician Certificates, 1919 to 1987 (no index; you must browse by volume and page number)
I spent most of the Bengals' game last night opening and looking through the digitized books. I found a few people who may be relatives—giving me something to add to my 2010 to-do list.

Start by going to the Archive Record Search page and clicking the link for the type of record you’re interested in. On the next page, read the information: it’ll tell you whether the website has the index and/or the record volumes, whether the court has additional index or record volumes that aren’t online, years of coverage, and how complete the records are. 

If an index book is online, click the name of the record at the top of the page. Click on the alphabetical range for the surname you want, which opens the file (it may take awhile). You might have to check several index books if you're not sure of the year you need.

You also might have to scroll through the entire index: In some cases, surnames aren't alphabetized beyond the first letter, or all S surnames with E first names (for example) might be grouped.

Once you find a suspected relative in the index book, note the volume and page number. Then, if the record book is online, go back to the main page for that record and search for a volume and page number to see the record. Otherwise—assuming the record book still exists—you can request photocopies from the court or see if it's on FHL microfilm.

If there's no index book, check the information on the site to see which volumes cover which years. Then type in your best guess of a volume and page number, and start browsing.


court records | Free Databases | Vital Records
Monday, January 04, 2010 9:04:44 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Ohio Town's House History and Genealogy Meet on Free Site
Posted by Diane

What started as a survey of house histories has turned into a website with genealogy information for an entire community.

In 1995, the women’s club in Terrace Park, Ohio—a village of 2,267 residents and 1.25 square miles—asked every resident to fill out a survey about the history of local buildings.

Leland Cole designed an online home for the data: the Terrace Park, Ohio, Building Survey website. Now Cole and his wife, Carol, add to the site with help from the women’s club.

In all, the free site describes about 925 buildings. You can find all kinds information, including when a house or other structure was built, what it’s made of, its uses, changes made, owners’ names and ownership dates, notes about resident families from maps and phone and city directories, and more.

Most listings have links to photos of the property, a deed index and owners’ census transcriptions from 1810 to 1930.

The page for 203 Marietta St., for example, tells you the original owners, the West family, occupied the house from 1890 to 1951. Samuel Adams West was an attorney; his family was related to Oliver Robertson of 602 Miami Ave. The page gives birth and death dates for many occupants, transcribes their census records, and has photos showing how the house has changed over the years.

You can use the Terrace Park building survey site in several ways:
  • Click Search to search for a person’s name or other words in building descriptions. You’ll get a list of results for related buildings; click one to see information for that building.
  • Click Street Index to browse to a street name, then click the house number you’re looking for.
  • Use the links on the left side of the home page to browse the site’s deed records, census records and burial information.
  • Click Related Information to read background material on the community and local organizations.
Researching your ancestors’ neighbors and associates is one way to get around genealogical brick walls, and it gives you a really good picture of how your ancestor lived. Cole's site—the only one of its kind I've found —provides rich detail for people with Terrace Park ancestors.

To find historical and genealogical information from your ancestral hometown, try clicking around the county's USGenWeb site, visiting the local historical or genealogical association site, and running a Google search on the county or town name and genealogy


Cemeteries | census records | Free Databases | Land records | Vital Records
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:44:25 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Vital Records Research Tips
Posted by Allison

I've been thinking a lot about vital records lately, while working on our next webinar with presenter Lisa Louise Cooke: Vital Records: Researching Your US Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths Online.

While I've got this topic on the brain, I thought I'd share a few tips with you:
  • US vital records access and coverage varies from state to state. Each state has its own rules  and regulations, but for privacy reasons, death records are  usually  closed to the public for around 50 years, and birth records for 75 to 100 years. But you can sometimes get these records for genealogical purposes if you can prove a relationship.
  • Some states started state-level vital record keeping later than  others—in certain cases, well into the 1900s. But many counties started recording vital statistics  decades  or even centuries before the  state  mandated it. Look for those records at state archives and through the Family History Library.
This is good background knowledge to frame your expectations for your vital records research. Lisa's going to get more specific in the webinar, and demonstrate web sites that can help you get to your ancestors' records.

The webinar will take place next Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern (that's 6 Central, 5 Mountain, 4 Pacific). You can read more about the session and register on ShopFamilyTree.com.

Vital Records | Webinars
Wednesday, October 14, 2009 2:21:01 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, October 01, 2009
New Webinar: Finding Vital Records Online
Posted by Diane

Varying availability and privacy restrictions can put getting your US ancestors’ official birth, marriage and death records among your more frustrating genealogical pursuits.

Help is on the way in our next webinar, Vital Records: Researching Your Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths Online.



This session, presented by Lisa Louise Cooke (known for the Genealogy Gems and Family Tree Magazine podcasts), will cover vital records in the United States, including
  • An overview of US birth, marriage and death records and what's in them

  • Answers to the burning question of why coverage and access varies from place to place

  • Types of vital records Web sites to keep an eye out for

  • Online resources vital records and indexes

  • Even if the record you need isn’t on the web, how to use online resources to get offline records
Participants receive access to a recording of the webinar, PDF copies of the presentation slides, and bonus Family Tree Magazine articles on vital records.

The webinar is Oct. 21, 7 pm EDT. Early birds save $10 on registration—it costs $39.99 until Oct. 8. And the first 10 registrants have the opportunity to submit information for possible use as examples in the presentation.

Click here to register.


Vital Records | Webinars
Thursday, October 01, 2009 5:08:41 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, September 14, 2009
FamilySearch Record Search Site Updates
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch sent a note to let us know about recent additions to its free Record Search Pilot site. Those include:
  • records from Brazil; Mexico; British Columbia, Canada; the Czech Republic; and Hungary
  • Philadelphia, Pa. marriage indexes, 1885 to 1951
The Record Search site changed a bit earlier this month. From the home page, you can search across all collections. To find a specific database, click Browse Our Record Collections below the search form. On the resulting map, click the region you’re interested in searching, then click the title of the database you want to search.

On the individual database page, click About This Collection to go to the FamilySearch Wiki page on the database. There, you’ll see a sample record image and information on the creation, content, coverage and reliability of the collection.


census records | FamilySearch | International Genealogy | Vital Records
Monday, September 14, 2009 8:51:51 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, September 04, 2009
Search Arkansas Marriages Free on FamilySearch
Posted by Diane

To coincide with the ongoing Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Little Rock, Ark., FamilySearch released the first installment of a collection of Arkansas marriage records on its free Record Search Pilot site.

Volunteer indexers from the Arkansas Genealogical Society have completed a quarter of the project so far--that’s 442,058 records linked to 199,431 digital images of original marriage certificates from the counties of Ashley, Baxter, Boone, Chicot, Clay, Crittenden,Desha, Drew, Fulton, Jackson, Johnson, Lee, Logan, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Nevada, Perry and Pike.


FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | Vital Records
Friday, September 04, 2009 1:01:08 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, June 25, 2009
Free: Search Louisiana Obituary Index 1804-1972
Posted by Diane

The Louisiana Biography and Obituary Index is now online at the New Orleans Public Library Web site.

The database has references to obituaries and death notices published in New Orleans newspapers from 1804 to 1972, and biographical information from older Louisiana biography collections.

You can use three options to find a name in the database:
  • Use the basic search form (below) to search by surname, first and middle names, and the death date. You can use an asterisk (*) as a wildcard at the beginning or end of a name. A Browse button by each field lets you select from an alphabetical listing of all available terms for that field. The Search button is at the bottom of the form.

  • Click the Advanced Search link to add age, birth date, cause of death and other terms.
  • At the bottom of the basic search form, click a letter of the alphabet to browse entries for surnames beginning with that letter. (I wasn’t able to get any of these surname listings to load.)
Matches give you the publication name, date and page number where you can find the original obituary or biographical information. Click Ordering Obituaries for instructions on requesting the item (the cost is $2 per item).

The index is from the New Orleans Public Library's card file of more than 650,000 names. Putting it online was a nearly-10-year endeavor of the library and the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Free Databases | Libraries and Archives | Newspapers | Vital Records
Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:55:39 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, June 08, 2009
The Mystery of the Stray Headstone
Posted by Diane

About a year ago, a headstone appeared on the side of a road in the city of Weed, Calif.

Jennifer Bryan, a member of the Siskiyou County Genealogical Society in Yreka, Calif., is trying to find out where it belongs. The stone has never been set into concrete, she says, but it is engraved:
William C. Vann
Dec., 7, 1910 - May 5, 1972
“We’ve checked with all the local cemeteries, monument stone carvers and funeral homes, and haven’t been able to local where this headstone belongs,” Jennifer writes. “We realize this may be a ‘rejected’ headstone, or perhaps it was lost in shipping and the engraver has created a new one for the family by now.”

But in case William C. Vann’s family (or maybe a delivery truck driver who got in a bit of hot water) is wondering what became of his headstone, Jennifer and her fellow society members are asking for your help.

Anyone researching a Vann family, possibly in California, that William may have belonged to? Got a theory how the stone came to be on the roadside? Click Comments (below) to post here.

Here’s a photo of the stone:



Cemeteries | Genealogy societies | Vital Records
Monday, June 08, 2009 12:17:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [18]
# Thursday, April 09, 2009
GenWed Has Free Marriage Records, New Blog
Posted by Diane

The marriage records site GenWed just started a genealogy blog called Tracing Your Routes. They jump right into the fray with a review of points on both sites of the debate over the quality and reliability of online sources.

At GenWed, by the way, users submit ancestors' marriage information or digitized documents to a free database. Sources include license applications, certificates, banns (church notifications a couple intends to wed so the congregation can speak up if a spouse or some other problem is lurking in the closet), newspaper announcements and other records.

The site reports more than 25,000 free records for marriages in a range of states and counties, plus more than 30,000 links to “mostly free” marriage records and indexes on other Web sites.

On GenWed’s home page, scroll to the bottom to find the search box for GenWed’s free database, or click on a state name (on the right) to see links to marriage resources for that state.

FYI since we know many of you are keenly interested in the free links: The links under “Professional Searches” lead to fee-based sites, as do the “Search XX State Now!” links at the top of the state pages. You’ll also find ads with Ancestry.com search boxes and links marked with a $ that lead to subscription databases.


Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Vital Records
Thursday, April 09, 2009 10:38:09 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Thursday, March 19, 2009
Seeking Michigan Adds Free Death Records
Posted by Diane

The historical records site Seeking Michigan has added Michigan death certificates from 1897 to 1920. You can search athe index and click to view a record—free.

Run a basic search by name or construct an advanced search by typing keywords and assigning a data field for each term (such as first name, last name, city/village/township, etc.). The advanced search is the same for all Seeking Michigan's collections, so scroll to the bottom of each field pull-down menu for fields specific to the death records.

To browse the death records, click View Collection next to the basic search box (or just use this link).

The records are available through a partnership with the Library of Michigan. Also on Seeking Michigan, you’ll find Civil War photographs and records, WPA property invoices (documents describing the land, buildings and surroundings of building in rural Michigan), oral histories, maps and more. Here's an overview of the collections.


Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Vital Records
Thursday, March 19, 2009 8:19:46 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Search Wyoming Historical Newspapers Free Online
Posted by Diane

The Wyoming State Library has posted the first set of historical Wyoming newspapers from the Wyoming Newspaper Project.

This project involves digitizing a 70-year collection of the state’s newspapers from 1849 to 1922.

So far, more than 407,000—about half—of the newspaper images are online. They span 1867 to 1922 and include 200 titles such as The Cheyenne Daily Leader, Laramie Sentinel, Natrona County Tribune, South Pass News and Torrington Telegram.
 
You can run a keyword search or browse by title, year, city or county. You’ll download the pages with matching terms as PDF files.

Newspaper announcements may be particularly helpful for vital information since Wyoming didn’t start keeping statewide birth and death records until 1909, and marriage records, until 1941. Plus, the state's birth records are closed for 100 years.

This clipping is from the March 9, 1886, Cheyenne Sun Individualities section, which reports comings and goings of folks around town.

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips | Vital Records
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 7:53:43 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, March 05, 2009
Cologne Archive Collapse: All is Not Lost!
Posted by Grace

When the Stadtarchiv Köln—or City Archive of Cologne—collapsed Tuesday afternoon, two people died, surrounding buildings were irretrievably damaged, and more than a thousand years of records were buried in the rubble.

The archive contained 65,000 documents, the oldest coming from the year 922. The archive's holdings—more than 16 miles of files—included tens of thousands of maps, photos, posters and one-of-a-kind artifacts from the Middle Ages. The collection was valued at $500 million, according to Welt.

The city archive, which first found a place in Cologne city hall in 1406, withstood World War II with no losses. Officials say the building fell into a crater created by work on a nearby subway line. The building that collapsed was built in 1971. According to Wikipedia, it was built with an estimated service life of only 30 years. The archive reached its holding capacity in 1996; some material has been removed for storage elsewhere.

While emergency workers attempted to stabilize the building with concrete, about 100 volunteers have pitched in to save valuable documents from the rubble since Tuesday night, according to a city press release. A small portion of the archives was in an unharmed area of the building. Rain is expected over the next few days, so a temporary roof will be set up over the collapse site to attempt to save more documents.

Hamburg genealogist Andrea Bentschneider did research at the Cologne archive once and describes its holdings as "gigantic."

The collapse comes at an especially bad time, she says, because German privacy law recently changed to allow easier access to civil records. The city archive of Cologne had announced that as of this month, all death records up to 1978, marriage records before 1928 and birth records before 1898 would be available for research without restriction.

"We can only hope that these civil records as well as all other records were secured and saved on microfilm or a similar medium. Otherwise 1,000 years of Cologne's history may be lost forever," Bentschneider says.

It seems that much of the archive's content may be safe. Welt reports that former city archive head says a large part of the archive’s pre-1945 files were microfilmed; the backups are stored in the Barbarastollen archive in the Black Forest.

And FamilySearch filmed 171 rolls of film from the Cologne archive in 1984, says public affairs manager Paul Nauta. The library has been able to help other archives before by providing copies of the lost documents. FamilySearch’s holdings include these items from the Cologne archive:
  • Genealogy and coast of arms 1350-1880
  • Tax lists 1487-1703
  • Orphans house registers 1592-1788
  • Soldier pay records 1552-1613
  • Court records, inheritance and land 1220-1798
  • Court minutes 1413-1652
  • Town council minutes 1440-1653
"This is one of the clarion calls for why preservation services offered by FamilySearch and other like organizations can be so critical. Most genealogy consumers are aware of the convenient access value, but the tragedy of the Cologne archive reiterates the value for preservation," Nauta says.

Historic preservation | Libraries and Archives | Public Records | Vital Records
Thursday, March 05, 2009 9:39:31 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Free Database: San Francisco Mortuary Records
Posted by Diane

Mortuary records are among genealogy’s overlooked resources, and can provide new details about an ancestor’s death.

Those with San Francisco roots have a free, convenient way to access that city’s mortuary records thanks to an SFgenealogy.com indexing project.

Webmasters Pamela Storm and Ron Filion, announced that their 60 volunteers have completed the first phase of indexing the Halsted Mortuary Records database.

The database includes digitized images of 45,000-plus mortuary records dating from 1923 to 1960, along with an index. (Earlier records are still being processed; later records are being indexed.)

You can search on name and date of death. For the surname, you can choose from search options including Soundex, Metaphone, Double Metaphone and NYSIIS. Read more about these on SFGenealogy.

Here's a shot of a record view page:



According to the webmasters, the Halsted mortuary was one of the oldest and largest in the City by the Bay. Some of its records include re-interments and military burials.

Free Databases | Vital Records
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 9:08:16 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Time to Talk About Your Family Health History
Posted by Diane

For the past several years around this time, the Surgeon General has urged Americans to use holiday gatherings as an opportunity to talk about health history.

It’s not to make you feel guilty about that extra piece of pecan pie. It’s because your ancestors’ medical conditions may have a genetic component. So maybe you can improve your health outlook by changing a few habits—or at least you’ll know what to watch out for.

While Great-uncle Hector’s intestinal blockage might not be the best dinner-table conversation, we encourage you to gently ask about family members’ illnesses and causes of death when your family gets together.

You can record what you learn using the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait online tool, then print a chart to show your doctor.

Other ways to gather famliy health history:
  • You may find clues about illnesses in journals and letters—health was a major topic of discussion for our ancestors.
If you find yourself wondering what a record means by “podagra,” consult the archaic disease dictionary at Antiquus Morbus (it’s a term for gout in the joints of the foot.)

See FamilyTreeMagazine.com for more resources on researching health history.


Research Tips | Vital Records
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 3:35:28 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]