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# Thursday, July 19, 2007
FamilySearch Adds Jewish Genealogy Resource Page
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has created a new page especially for people researching Jewish ancestors.

The page links to the new Knowles Collection, information genealogical author Isobel Mordy compiled on thousands of Jews from the British Isles. You can download the database as a GEDCOM to open and view in your genealogy software. FamilySearch staffers are adding to the database regularly.

Other resources include an updated Jewish genealogy research outline, a Jewish records guide and links to other Jewish research Web sites.


Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, July 19, 2007 8:31:32 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 18, 2007
New Group Aims to Keep Public Records Open
Posted by Diane

Five genealogists have started the Keep Genealogical Records Open Workgroup (KGROW). Their goal is to educate government officials and the public about the truth behind identity theft- and terror-related efforts to close public records.

“We find there’s no evidence that open public records contribute to identity theft or terrorism to any measurable degree," says KGROW co-chair Jean Foster Kelley.

Her statement echoes the December 2006 Family Tree Magazine special report on public records (available as a PDF file at www.familytreemagazine.com/dec06/publicrecords.pdf). Our research indicates public records pose little identity theft risk; the major culprits are stolen financial documents and corporate data breaches.

States have passed 616 record closure laws since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Now state public records laws must comply with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which could negatively impact your attempts to find relatives’ birth and death records. States can—but aren’t required to—make concessions for genealogical research.

KGROW, a project of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Florida chapter, will prepare a position paper and solicit support from the APG, news media and other organizations.

For more on public records access, see Family Tree Magazine's December 2006 special report. If you know of a threat to records access in your state (such as excessive fee hikes or record restrictions and closures), inform your fellow researchers on the new FamilyTreeMagazine.com Public Records Alert Forum.


Public Records
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 1:54:25 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, July 16, 2007
NYG&B Chairman Comments on Controversy
Posted by Diane

After speaking with New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B) board chairman Waddell Stillman, I’m updating Friday’s coverage of the controversial proposal to eliminate member voting.

The proposal is a response to members’ attempts to stop the sale of the society’s headquarters building (finalized in March), but Stillman says it’s not retaliation. “We’re updating our form of governance so the society isn’t exposed to a repeat of the loss of funds. If we stood by and ignored the six-figure loss we incurred, we’d be shirking our duties as fiduciaries.”

NYG&B trustees say “a handful” of members delayed the sale, causing a loss of investment income based on the $24 million sale price.

If passed, the proposal will do away with proxy voting system, which Stillman says New York State laws require. (The society must mail ballots to members, who can send back their votes, cast votes at a meeting, or designate meeting attendees to vote on their behalf.) If the proposal passes, the board would appoint new officers rather than hold elections.

Before issuing the proposal, NYGB’s board surveyed other non-profit organizations and consulted with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), whose members passed a similar measure—after a similar debate—several years ago. NEHGS has an advisory board in addition to its board of directors. “I wouldn’t know what our board would say about adopting that structure, because we didn’t fully consider it,” says Stillman.

He says NYG&B members will still have access to the group’s services and online resources, though he doesn’t yet know what the society will do with its research collections and financial assets. (The board has two years from the building sale date to move.) “After we take care of housekeeping matters and governance … we will face those huge questions and we’ll benefit from all the debate.”

That debate won’t lead to reduced membership, he predicts. “I think people will act in their self-interest and then continue to enjoy the benefits of membership.”

Stillman also posted to Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter blog—visit to read his and others' comments.


Genealogy Industry | Genealogy societies
Monday, July 16, 2007 4:09:11 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, July 13, 2007
NYG&B Controversy: Members Decry Voting Proposal
Posted by Diane

A simmering dispute within the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B) has risen to a boil as the society’s 5,000 members consider a proposal from the Board of Directors to divest themselves of voting privileges.
 
The dispute began in September 2006, when the board voted to sell the society’s 58th Street headquarters in New York City. In a letter to members, chairman Henry C.B. Lindh cited a shortage of funds for crucial building upgrades, and said that a sale would let the organization focus on the "research and education that are the core of [its] mission."

Members voted to approve the sale at an Oct. 12 meeting, and beforehand by proxy. The society hasn’t announced its new home, but is permitted to remain in the building for two years
 
In January, at least one member suggested, in a note on Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter blog, that a mail merge glitch may have prevented some members from receiving proxy vote letters. President William C. Johns sent a response denying a problem occurred and calling the e-mail “a fishing expedition attempting to identify any reason to delay or thwart the approved transaction.” (Johns hasn’t yet responded to voice mail messages left today.)
 
Members launched an e-mail campaign to protest the sale before the New York Supreme Court approval hearing, but the Hampton Synagogue's $24 million purchase of the building was finalized.
 
In June, the NYG&B sent members and proxy voting materials and a letter about the proposal to remove their voting privileges and leave decision-making power with the 15-member board of directors. (The New England Historic Genealogical Society operates in a similar way, but it has both a board of directors and a larger advisory board.)

In the letter, board chairman Waddell W. Stillman said passing the proposal would streamline the society’s operations and allow faster response to challenges and opportunities. About the NYG&B building sale, he added, “A handful of members, acting to thwart the unanimous vote of the board of trustees and overwhelming vote of the membership, delayed the sale for months. The NY State Supreme Court felt obligated to hear these few dissenters out, long after the NY State Attorney General had endorsed the sale, because our governance system gives each individual member legal standing to object to a proposed action.”

The full proposal was available by request and on the NYG&B Web site members-only section.
 
That’s when members’ e-mails and message board postings really began to fly, all encouraging members to vote down the proposal. (Supporters of the measure have been quiet.) Some examples we found:  
Their messages express concern over the directors’ intentions for the society’s assets, which now include $24 million in addition to the library, online resources, and publications and education programs.
 
In-person voting on the proposal will take place at a July 19 meeting at the NYG&B headquarters. We’ll keep you updated.


Genealogy Industry | Genealogy societies
Friday, July 13, 2007 4:46:12 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Hamburg Museum Details Emigrants' Experience
Posted by Diane

Between 1850 and 1939, more than 5 million Europeans left for the New World via Hamburg, Germany. They're honored in that city’s BallinStadt Port of Dreams museum, which opened July 4.

The museum is in a reconstruction of BallinStadt, an emigration facility—amenities included living quarters, churches, a synagogue and a kosher dining hall—that served 2 million emigrants. (The original building was destroyed during World War II.) Most of those outbound passengers were Eastern Europeans.

Exhibits relate the journeys of specific emigrants. Walk up to life-size models of the passengers, and they’ll “speak” about their migration experiences.

Similar to the Ellis Island museum we enjoy stateside, BallinStadt’s main entrance hall boasts a family history center. Visitors can search genealogical databases including Hamburg emigrants. Unlike Ellis Island, though, the Hamburg emigration lists aren’t free on BallinStadt's Web site. Instead, the site directs you to Ancestry.com, where the records are part of the $155.40-per-year US Deluxe records collection.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilm of the lists, called Auswandererlisten 1850-1934. You can borrow the film through your local Family History Center.

Read more about Hamburg and other ports' emigration records in the February 2006 Family Tree Magazine.

Read these articles for more information on the BallinStadt museum:

Research Tips | Social History
Friday, July 13, 2007 9:03:28 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Try Family Tree Maker 2008 in Beta
Posted by Diane

If you're a technologically adventurous genealogist who loves being first to play with the latest gadget, you can give the next incarnation of Family Tree Maker a whirl.

Family Tree Maker 2008 is slated for official release in August, but The Generations Network is letting you download a beta version now at beta.familytreemaker.com.

(Editorial aside: What's with the erratic version naming? Things were moving along fine with 1 through 11, then we got year names with versions 2005 and 2006, then back to numbers with Family Tree Maker 16, and now we're on version 2008. Is this just to confuse users into thinking they've missed an upgrade?)

Files created with the beta version may or may not open in the release version. Among other warnings (it's almost like the genealogical equivalent of bungee jumping): The beta Family Tree Maker 2008 will stop working August 24, so you should export any stored GEDCOMs before then.

We hear the program interface is radically different with this release, so we're curious about your thoughts. Post them here or on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Product News and Reviews Forum.


Genealogy Software
Tuesday, July 10, 2007 12:05:35 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, July 09, 2007
BYU Gets Free Ancestry Library Edition
Posted by Diane

Provo, Utah-based The Generations Network (TGN) has agreed to provide Brigham Young University (BYU) libraries on Utah, Idaho and Hawaii campuses with free access to Ancestry Library Edition, an institutional version of Ancestry.com.

The arrangement recognizes the contributions of BYU—the only US university to offer an undergraduate degree in family history—to TGN's workforce. "We are grateful for the many graduates who are now employed at our company," says TGN president Tim Sullivan. "As next-door neighbors, we will continue to tap the knowledge and experience of professors and students."

Ancestry Library Edition has many of the same genealogy databases as Ancestry.com, including censuses, immigration records and military records. If your public library subscribes to Ancestry Library Edition, you can search the databases for free—ask at the reference desk or check your library's Web site.

Back in April, TGN dicontinued free Ancestry Library Edition for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Centers. When they tried to formalize that arrangement in a contract, the two sides were unable to reach terms palatable to both.


Genealogy Industry
Monday, July 09, 2007 3:04:57 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, July 06, 2007
FindMyPast.com Adds More Emigration Records
Posted by Diane

FindMyPast.com has added another decade to its collection of outbound passenger lists from the UK, upping the coverage to 1890 to 1929. Eventually, the database will reach 1960.

These emigration records could be useful if you can’t find your ancestors in US passenger lists—if they departed from or traveled through a port in Britain. (Many immigration routes took passengers through British ports, so it may be worth a try even if your roots aren’t British.)

Two cool features of FindMyPast's search:
1. You can add the name of a traveling companion (such as a spouse or child) to your search.
2. If the site doesn't find any exactly matching records, it will show you near matches and point out the differences (see below).

You can search FindMyPast.com for free, but to see record images, subscribe to the Voyager (about $50 for 30 days) or Explorer ($251 per year) package. Or, go the pay-per-view route: Record views cost as little as 3 units, which you can buy in packages starting around $10.

Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, July 06, 2007 4:37:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Ancestry.com Gets into Scrapbooking
Posted by Diane

The Generations Network (TGN) is taking another step in marketing its Ancestry.com subscription databases to the genealogical layperson—in this case, scrapbookers. TGN and scrapbooking supply manufacturer K&Company have joined forces to create a line of Ancestry.com-branded products.

Each album in the line comes with a seven-day trial membership to Ancestry.com. Also available are heritage-themed papers, a family tree poster and a research guidebook.

The partnership attempts to capitalize on scrapbookers’ desire to preserve photos and record memories—and their willingness to spend in the process. An industry survey released in 2004 reported one in four households have a scrapbooker, with 75 percent of them spending at least $25 a month on scrapbooking-related products. The average scrapbooker owns $1,853 worth of supplies. (Do you think she can afford an Ancestry.com subscription?)

Each product from K&Company’s Ancestry.com line will set a scrapbooker back another $2.99 to $31.99.


Genealogy Industry
Friday, July 06, 2007 3:32:37 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, July 03, 2007
New Orleans Heritage
Posted by Diane

After my trip to build houses in a hurricane-ravaged New Orleans neighborhood, I’m slightly tanner, much better with a hammer, and more knowledgeable about the Crescent City’s history and culture.

Our volunteer group worked on the Musicians’ Village, a Habitat for Humanity project in the Upper Ninth Ward that celebrates New Orleans’ musical heritage.
Amidst all the construction, I did get to see a few historical places, including:  

Preservation Hall has been a popular place to hear old-school New Orleans Jazz since 1961. Only a hundred people at a time can pack inside. I sat on the floor about a foot from the band and had to duck the trombone a couple of times.

The Louisiana State Museum has history exhibits in the Cabildo (see an inside view below; it was the seat of government under Spanish rule), where the Louisiana Purchase agreement was signed in 1803. A genealogical tidbit I picked up there: Don't overlook New Orleans as your immigrant ancestors' arrival port. Many Europeans who wanted to settle along or west of the Mississippi River heard they’d have an easier time reaching their destinations from New Orleans.



New Orleans has strong Catholic roots. A church has stood on the St. Louis Cathedral site since 1718. The current building (below, with the Cabildo on the left) was finished in 1793 and overhauled during the 1850s. (Read more about Louisiana churches from John Kendall’s digitized History of New Orleans.)



On my list for the next visit: The National World War II Museum, St. Louis Cemetery and the New Orleans Public Library genealogy department. (We cover this and other Louisiana repositories in The April 2005 Family Tree Magazine's Louisiana State Research guide.)



Social History
Tuesday, July 03, 2007 8:36:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]