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<2007 October>

More Links

# Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century, in pictures
Posted by Grace

In our Internet journeys last week, we stumbed across a very fun blog: Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century.

It's exactly what you think it is: lots of old-timey pictures of men with impressive mustaches. The photos come from the collections of the University of Kentucky Archives.

This site could be a great resource for putting a date range on your forefather's facial hair, but unfortunately, the dates of the photos aren't included in the daily blog posts. They are, however, categorized with humorous descriptions, like "Business Mustache," "Faceshelf," "Perfect Specimens" and "Battle Mustache."

Click here to visit the Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century blog:

Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, 24 October 2007 09:09:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Civil War Widows' Pension Files to be Digitized
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and FamilySearch have announced a partnership to digitize case files of approved pension applications from widows of Civil War Union soldiers.

The agreement will kick off with a pilot project to digitize, index and provide access to 3,150 pension files. When that’s done, FamilySearch, along with records site, plans to digitize and index all 1,280,000 pensions in the series.

Oh, happy day!

That’s a huge step toward easing genealogists’ research and restoring their good will toward NARA, which recently doubled pension file ordering fees to $75. Pensions aren’t microfilmed, so paying the fee, visiting NARA in Washington, DC, or hiring an on-site researcher are currently your only options.

Widows' pension application files often include supporting documents such as affidavits, witnesses’ depositions, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, and pages from family Bibles.

According to the announcement, the digitized records will be free at Family History Centers, with an index free on the FamilySearch Web site. Images also may be available for a fee on a commercial site.

The digitized pension records also will be free at NARA facilities, and NARA will get gratis copies of the record images and associated indexes.

This is part of a broader partnership announced today, in which FamilySearch staff will camp out at NARA five days a week with high-speed digitization cameras. Ultimately, it'll mean you have ready access, through FamilySearch and Family History Centers, to court, military, land, and other government records dating as early as 1754.

FamilySearch | Footnote | Genealogy Industry | Military records
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 12:20:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 22 October 2007, Offer Joint Discount
Posted by Diane

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and The Generations Network (TGN) are are tying up a loose end left over from the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in August.

The two organizations announced a partnership at the conference, but until now, didn’t say what their partnership meant for you.

Here’s the answer: You can join both TGN's and NEHGS’ for a special annual price of $155.40, a savings of $75. ($155.40 is the regular price of’s US Deluxe records collection.)

The price, which gets you access to’s US records as well as NEHGS' vital, church, court and other New England records, is good until Dec. 31 and isn't open to those who already belong to both groups.

Additionally, members of can join NEHGS for $60 (a $15 discount), and members of NEHGS can join for $99.95.

Another part of the agreement: databases will include  indexes to NEHGS’ New England Historical and Genealogical Register from 1847 to 2002.

Genealogy Industry | Genealogy societies
Monday, 22 October 2007 13:39:17 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 19 October 2007
Resources for African-Americans, British Researchers and Facebook Fans
Posted by Diane

To get your weekend started right, here are a few updates from the genealogy world:
  • Starting next year, African-Americans will be able to research their ancestors free in an online genealogy database called AfriQuest.
The genealogy wiki WeRelate and the University of Southern Florida Africana Heritage Project (USAF) are among those behind the project. Researchers will be able to add images and records to the database, too.
According to the press release, "Every record readers add to the database will not only be preserved, but will be available to anyone for free, now and in years to come."
Look for a beta release early next spring. You can help get things off the ground by volunteering to add or index records and manage data. Contact USAF’s Toni Carrier or Dallan Quass of WeRelate.
Members can customize their home pages by picking a layout and adding a photograph and caption, along with information about their research interests. Uploaded photos go into a gallery, which can be public, private or available to family and friends. Users also can make announcements public or private.
Those services are free. For its records, FamilyRelatives offers subscription ($75 per year) and pay-per-view options.
You can use the new app, called We’re Related (no relation to WeRelate), to search your Facebook friends for your relatives. If those relatives also use We’re Related, it'll suggest who among their Facebook friends might be related to you. We’re Related also lets you upload your GEDCOM to your facebook profile.

You can get a little more info on the application and instructions for adding We're Related to your Facebook profile on the World Vital Records blog. It’s the 153rd most popular application on Facebook out of more than 5,000—not too shabby.

Friday, 19 October 2007 16:32:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 18 October 2007
Interview with's CEO Tim Sullivan
Posted by Diane

After yesterday’s announcement that Spectrum Equity Investors had purchased The Generations Network (TGN), parent company of, TGN CEO Tim Sullivan was busy working the phones talking to the media—including myself. The major points of our conversation:
• Your experience as an subscriber won’t change as a direct result of the sale, Sullivan states, “Other than the very rapid pace of innovation we’ve built into our cycle in the past year, and we hope to maintain that, even to accelerate it.” That innovation includes the Ancestry Press and DNA Ancestry services, international sites such as the Swedish, and a Web 2.0 platform for
“The firm that’s buying our company is buying our vision. They like what we’re doing and they want us to keep doing that,” Sullivan says.
• Sullivan said RootsWeb—the free, grassroots site TGN (then purchased in 2000—"is absolutely not going away. We will never charge for what’s on RootsWeb. We’re proud to be supporters of RootsWeb.”

He adds there’s only about a 20 percent overlap between RootsWeb users and users, a number his company would like to increase.
Spectrum Equity’s investment in TGN likely won’t change anything at (anyone remember that site?), which TGN purchased in 2003 and allowed to languish. “We continue to support, but we did make a decision that in a world of limited resources and limited hours in the day, that the best thing we could do was focus our resources as completely as we could on”
• TGN is focused on incorporating new technology, such as wireless photo uploads, into its services, and on globalizing genealogy research. “We just sent someone to China to open an office there and build a Web site for people in China,” Sullivan says.
• A few other upcoming changes to include a “pretty major” overhaul of the search interface, improved tree-building experience, and of course, more digitized records.
• Sullivan wouldn’t say whether TGN would go public, just that the company’s future holds many possibilities and his staff is taking things one step at a time.
Its domination of the genealogy industry often means TGN is the company people love to hate. Sullivan’s aware of that and says “I promise we don’t sit around thinking of ways to make people angry.”

I asked about his pre-TGN genealogical interest. He knew some oral history, including an ancestor who worked with Thomas Edison. “I, like probably everybody, was enamored and fascinated by the stories of those who preceded me,” he says, but he hadn’t yet done research.

Back when he ran the online dating service, Sullivan knew TGN’s then-CEO Tom Stockham and thought he’d check out “Before I knew it, it was 2:30 in the morning, and I had my laptop in bed showing my wife documents I discovered.”

“It was an instantaneous and very strong fascination, but like a lot of people, I didn’t have a lot of time and I didn’t follow up and get engaged right away.” His company’s challenge, he says, is engaging people like himself at that time, who face busy schedules and many choices for spending spare moments.

“We’re never going to make it easy, push-button genealogy. But we’re getting close to that tipping point, where the investment and the effort people put in, they see a return very quickly in terms of satisfaction.”

Update: What do you think of what Sullivan had to say? Join the discussion in the Hot Topics Forum.

Genealogy Industry
Thursday, 18 October 2007 08:40:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 17 October 2007
The Generations Network Bought for $300 Million
Posted by Diane

A private equity firm has purchased a majority interest in The Generations Network (TGN, formerly, parent company of, DNA Ancestry,, RootsWeb and others.

Spectrum Equity Investors, already a partial stakeholder in TGN, will pay $300 million for its majority interest. Two of its partners will join TGN president and CEO Tim Sullivan on the new board of directors. Other terms of the purchase weren't disclosed.

Private equity firms buy companies hoping to make money off them, and that’s probably a good bet here. The Generations Network online properties have 900,000 paying subscribers, and receive 8.2 million unique visitors and more than 429 million page views a month. According to the Internet news site TechCrunch, TGN rakes in around $150 million in revenue annually.

Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, 17 October 2007 08:28:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 16 October 2007
DNA Ancestry Emerges From Beta
Posted by Diane’s DNA Ancestry site has emerged from beta offering Y-DNA and mitochondrial tests (ranging from $149 to $199) and promising Ancestry Member Tree users will soon be able to add their test results to the information in their trees.

Public trees are searchable, so theoretically, you could find the name of a candidate for your great-grandfather, take a DNA test and see if you’re a match to his descendant.

DNA Ancestry seems user-friendly, with streamlined test ordering, and genetic genealogy information (including sample test result reports) linked on the right side of the home page. You also can listen to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak,’s chief family historian and co-author (with Ann Turner) of Trace Your Roots With DNA (Rodale, $14.95), talk about genetic genealogy on NPR.

People who get tested with DNA Ancestry are automatically notified of matches in its DNA database. You’ll be able to enter results from other labs in the database, which isn’t yet available but will be free.

Of course, you’ll want to take the site’s marketing with a grain of salt. An ad on says “Looking for your ancestors? Just say ‘aah.’” Kind of gives the impression you take a test and boom, you know your missing ancestor’s name and place of birth.

Yes, you might take a test and immediately learn you unquestionably match a cousin who knows your family history back to the Dark Ages. But we’re not to the point where that’s possible for all. You’ll probably need to plug your test results into several databases before finding a match, and those matches may be iffy enough that you have to do more genealogical research before you can say for sure whether and how you’re related.

You can get more details on DNA Ancestry on its FAQ page and blog. Look in an upcoming Family Tree Magazine for our article featuring  answers to genealogists' pressing genetic genealogy questions.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 16 October 2007 11:15:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 15 October 2007
Batch Photo Scanning Services
Posted by Allison

For our January 2008 issue, contributing editor Rick Crume wrote an article about methods for scanning family photographs—a process that often can be tedious and time-consuming. One option Rick describes in the article is batch photo-scanning services. You ship off your pictures to the company, which then scans and delivers your digital images and originals in just a few days. These services are economical, too; you can get up to 1,000 photos digitized for as little as $50.

The catch, of course, is you have to let your pictures out of your possession. If you’re like me, you might not feel so comfortable entrusting your precious memories to UPS or the postal service. So this type of service might not be the best choice for irreplaceable historical photos.

On the other hand, if you don’t scan or otherwise copy your favorite photos—from yesterday and today—you risk losing them should they become victims of a flood, fire or even the family dog. If you have duplicates of photos, batch scanning seems like an ideal solution for getting them digititzed.

In addition to photographic prints, many services will also scan 35 mm slides and negatives. Depending on the service, you can get your scans on a CD, DVD, USB drive or even have them stored online.

Here’s a sampling of the services we’ve found. Know of any others? Post a comment.

30 Minute Photos Etc.


Digital Pickle


Larsen Digital



Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, 15 October 2007 14:03:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Friday, 12 October 2007
Our Photo Detective in the Wall Street Journal!
Posted by Diane

Family Tree Magazine’s very own Photo Detective, Maureen A. Taylor, is featured in today’s Wall Street Journal, right there on the front of its Weekend Journal section.

The article tells the stories of several families whose photos Maureen has used to fill in a missing piece of the past. Several of the pictures, such as this one showing three young ladies, have been featured in Maureen’s Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine and her Photo Detective blog on

You also get a sense of the research that goes into each photo analysis. Maureen draws on her burgeoning library of obscure reference books; guides to historical uniforms, clothing, accessories, fraternal insignia, artifacts and other items that show up in our ancestors’ photographs; a closetful of antique photos; other historians' insights; and a store of knowledge that comes from studying history and analyzing thousands of images over the years.

See a portion of the article on the Wall Street Journal Web site.

In Family Tree Magazine and her Family Tree Books, Maureen shares tips you can use to glean family history clues from your own clan's photos. Here are some links to get you started:

Photo Detective blog
Here, Maureen analyzes readers' photos, gives advice on preserving old images and more.

Photo Detective Online Archive
Maureen has been identifying images on for years! Access those articles here.

Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs, 2nd edition
In this book, Maureen offers in-depth advice and examples to help you analyze your own family's photographs.

Dating 20th-Century Photographs: Links
Maureen recommended these Web sites in a June 2006 Family Tree Magazine article on analyzing and preserving more-recent images.

Photographic Mystery—Solved!
Another photo success story, showing the value of consulting your relatives when researching family photos.

Now What? Online: Dating Foreign Photos
Some things to look for in images taken overseas.

Software for Organizing and Editing Photos
Maureen and other Family Tree Magazine authors recommend these programs for fixing up and storing digitized images.

The Photo Detective
Maureen's Web site, where you can submit photos and ask questions and find out where to see her presentations.

Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree Magazine articles
Friday, 12 October 2007 13:25:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Family Tree Maker and Ancestry Press
Posted by Diane

News from The Generations Network about its Family Tree Maker software and AncestryPress service:

The company still plans to release a Family Tree Maker 2008 update this month, calling it a “top priority.” It’ll include fixes for program crashes, data corruption, import and merge bugs, Internet corruption issues, and report complaints (version 2008 lacked some reports, including the all-in-one Genealogy Report, from previous versions).

Ancestry’s blog also has a long list of users’ desired features and their status (for example, in the October update, being considered for future updates, not being considered). Take a look and let us know if your most fervently wished-for update is there!

We’ve heard speculation that some reports were missing from the software because manufacturers were releasing the AncestryPress self-publishing service.

It takes information from your Ancestry Family Tree (which you can create free) or your Family Tree Maker 2008 data (choose to keep it personal if you don’t want it publicly viewable in Ancestry Trees) and creates pages that include illustrated family tree charts, timelines and family group sheets. Then you customize the book with text, images, backgrounds and more.

You can print the book from home, making the service free, or have Ancestry print a book up to 100 pages on nice, glossy paper and bind it with a professional-looking cover. The AncestryPress site was irritatingly unhelpful, though, in giving no discernible prices for ordering a book through AncestryPress. I’ve sent off an e-mailed question; I’ll let you know when I hear.

You also can keep your book project stored in AncestryPress and invite others to view it online. There’s no way to download it, though.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 10 October 2007 13:36:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]