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# Monday, November 12, 2007
World Vital Records Offers Digitization Services
Posted by Diane

The subscription genealogy database site World Vital Records has expanded its services to include digitally preserving your family mementos. Its new Preservation Packages include
  • converting 8mm, 16mm, miniDVs and VHS tapes to DVD
  • scanning photos and documents
  • digitizing slides and negatives
  • storing digitized images on a secure server
In a World Vital Records user panel survey, 91 percent of members said they were concerned about preserving photos, videos, and/or documents.

Exact pricing isn’t available; Word Vital Records says rates are 50 to 70 percent less than retail value. Call the company toll-free (888) 377-0588 for details.

For information on several batch photo-scanning services and do-it-yourself tips, see the January 2008 Family Tree Magazine and our blog post


Family Heirlooms | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, November 12, 2007 5:53:44 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Report Urges Opening Adoptees' Birth Records
Posted by Diane

A report released today could help change how—and whether—adopted people can search for their family trees.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute examined whether adopted people, once they become adults, should have access to their original birth information.

The report’s conclusion is "yes," and it urges all states to follow the eight (Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Tennessee) that already allow adults who were adopted to access their original birth records. The institute found that in states with open records, “most birthparents and adoptees handle any contact with maturity and respect.”

You can read the report online and learn about the controversy surrounding opening birth records for adopted individuals at CNN.com.

For many genealogists, an adopted parent or grandparent presents a research brick wall. According to the report, some states have restored access more narrowly, “typically to individuals who were adopted prior to the state's law sealing this information.”

You can get help researching ancestral adoptions in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine. Also see these links:

Family Tree Magazine articles | Public Records
Monday, November 12, 2007 4:47:54 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 09, 2007
High School Posts and Preserves WWII Letters
Posted by Diane

Over on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum, mdrogers posted a message about a project at Clover Hill High School in Midlothian, Va., to collect WWII letters, photos and diaries. The Research and Technology class transcribes the letters, archivally preserves them, and posts the text online at It Took a War.

Each letter is accompanied by a little background about the writer. You also can view photos from the front and read or watch interviews with service members.

“My father was a very patriotic man,” says Rose Young, an Army nurse who was at the Battle of the Bulge. “My brother enlisted in service first, and [my father] was proud to have a son, but how many men had a daughter that went away? So he puffed his chest all the time about the fact that he had a daughter in service.”

What a great way for students to learn about history and research, and what a great site for you to peruse.


Genealogy Web Sites | Military records
Friday, November 09, 2007 4:43:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 08, 2007
Research London Children's Hospital Records
Posted by Diane

I learned about this cool resource for British ancestors from the ResearchBuzz newsletter about online search engines and databases:

A new Web site provides historical admission record transcriptions from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London.

The free Small and Special database contains information on more than 85,000 patient admissions from the hospital’s opening in February 1852, through 1914.

You can do a simple search on a name and birth year (exact or choose a range) on the home page. Or, click Search on the left of the page to search on other parameters such as patient’s address, admission date and disease.

Results show the patient’s name, age and address; illness, outcome (such as “died” or “relieved”), admission and discharge dates, and case notes (if any). You have to register with the site to see details such as case notes.

Under the left-hand Gallery link, you can browse photographs. Click Library to see articles about the hospital, staff, and patients such as little Minnie Ashman, who suffered from empyema.



Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy
Thursday, November 08, 2007 9:27:33 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Pennsylvania Debates "Open" Records Bill
Posted by Diane

Pennsylvanians are debating a public records law that could make their state the least transparent in the country.

HB 443 is an apparent attempt to bring public records law up-to-date, especially with respect to electronic records. This much-amended bill doesn’t, as some have reported, close all records with birth dates and addresses. Section 307, which lists records “deemed inaccessible,” makes an exception for personal information of deceased individuals:
“The exemption under this paragraph relating to the disclosure of an individual's home address shall not apply to … any former address of a deceased person. The exemption under this paragraph relating to the disclosure of an individual's birth date shall not apply to the birth date of a deceased person.”
Read the full text of the law on the Pennsylvania legislature Web site.

Currently, Pennsylvania vital records from the past 100 years, stored at the Division of Vital Records, are off limits to all but immediate family. You can request birth and death records prior to 1906 from the county where the event was recorded.

But open-records advocates are denouncing HB 443 provisions that close much government agency correspondence and all government e-mail. That would make Pennsylvania the only state in the nation to take such a step. Other states are either explicitly opening e-mailed correspondence or they don't distinguish between electronic and paper records.

You can read more about this debate on PassOpenRecords.org.


Public Records
Thursday, November 08, 2007 8:18:57 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Family Tree Firsts—Part One
Posted by Grace

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

I do—it was yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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


Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 9:47:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Ancestry.com and Amazon.com Peddle Surname Books
Posted by Diane

Amazon.com’s BookSurge print-on-demand service is collaborating with Ancestry.com to offer the Our Name in History series.

You can pay $29.95 for a book of interesting facts, statistics and commentary about your surname, if it’s one of the 279,000 last names covered in the series. That accounts for nearly 90 percent of US households.

The books' content is based on Ancestry.com’s historical records, but don't expect to find information about any particular family.

It's more along the lines of the “Did you know?” tidbits that pop up when you search Ancestry.com. For example, I’ll look for census records of my great-grandfather and learn “Most Haddad families (47) living in the US in 1920 lived in CT.”

According to the Our Name in History description for a book about my surname (4,872nd most common, says the census bureau), “You'll get a better idea of where people sharing the Haddad name settled and where they may reside today in the United States, Canada, England and other countries.”

If you’re running out of time to pull together those impressive genealogy books you planned on giving relatives for the holidays, one of these surname books could be a somewhat-paler-but-still-sort-of-
related-to-family-history substitute. 

Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, November 06, 2007 12:27:56 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 05, 2007
Finding Old High School Yearbooks
Posted by Diane

My high school reunion (I’m not going to tell you which one) was a few weekends ago . I got to page through some old yearbooks and was reminded not only of my lack of skills with a curling iron, but also of yearbooks’ value in genealogical research.

Any descendants I may have, for example, will learn facts such as the name of my high school and the years I attended, and they’ll get a glimpse of my teen-age tendency toward geekiness. Yes, I’m a former member of the newspaper staff, yearbook committee, academic team and drama club set crew. I’m so glad it’s OK to be geeky when you’re a grown-up.

You also can see names of various award winners and, for seniors, the directory with contact information.

Of course, yearbooks show you all those great photos. If you’ve got family pictures of teen-aged relatives with unidentified others, try compare the unknown faces to photos in your ancestor's high school yearbook. Names of friends who signed the book are clues, too.

The yearbooks now available through World Vital Records are from colleges. The following tips for finding high school yearbooks come from the October 2005 Family Tree Magazine. If you know of other yearbook sources, hit Comment and post them:
  • Look up the school online (try a Google search or a site such as Public School Search) to see if it's in operation. Then call the office and ask whether old yearbooks are in the school or alumni office, and ask permission to visit.
  • If you struck out, call libraries and historical societies in the area, which may collect old yearbooks.
  • Next, see if you can find any alumni—even one from your ancestor’s class—through the school’s Web site. (No Web site? Do a Google search such as graduate central high school anytown.) The graduate may be willing to do a lookup. You also can visit genealogical message boards covering that town and ask if anyone has a yearbook.
  • Not many high school yearbooks are online, but sites with collections include the National Yearbook Project and Dead Fred. A Google search may help here, too. Try searching on the high school name plus yearbook genealogy.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Research Tips
Monday, November 05, 2007 10:46:18 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [10]
# Friday, November 02, 2007
History of the Toothpick
Posted by Grace

Here's one before the weekend: A fascinating brief history of the toothpick

Charles Forster, inspired by the hand-carved picks used by Brazilians, saw huge potential in mass-producing wooden toothpicks in the US. He got Boston inventor Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant to create a machine that was capable of producing millions of toothpicks a day by 1870.

The real genius was in Forster's marketing campaign: One of his ploys was to have Harvard men eat at restaurants and demand a toothpick after their meal. They'd make a fuss when none was available, and when the toothpick salesmen came around a few days later, the restaurant managers bought in.

To read the article, click here.

(The Slate article is a kind of condensed version of 's book The Toothpick: Technology and Culture, which can be bought on Amazon.)

Image taken by C R.


Family Heirlooms | Social History
Friday, November 02, 2007 3:36:44 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 01, 2007
College Yearbooks on World Vital Records
Posted by Diane

Genealogy database site World Vital Records is partnering with E-Yearbook.com, a company offering online subscription databases of old yearbooks.

That’ll give World Vital Records subscribers access to digitized college yearbook pages from the late 1800s to 1960, containing photos, names, dates and information on school traditions, clubs, Greek life, ROTC, athletics and more.

Yearbooks come from schools such as the University of California, Berkeley, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, and University of Texas at Austin. Search each school’s yearbook by name, year and other parameters.

World Vital Records is adding yearbook databases one college at a time, and each college's database is available free for 10 days after it's added. After 10 days, it’s available only to subscribers ($49.95 for two years).

To find the free databases, go to the Recently Added Databases page and check the most-recently added content at the very top of the page. Scroll or use your browser’s Find feature (control + F) to find a database of yearbooks from your ancestor’s college.

I searched the University of Texas at Austin yearbooks for my grandfather, who attended during the 20s. My complaint: I couldn’t find where you tell the years of coverage. When matches come up as thumbnail-size page images, you don’t know the publication year until you click to open the page image (the year then appears at the top of your browser). [Update: This has been adjusted so a book's publication year shows up below thumbnail images in your search results.]


Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, November 01, 2007 8:31:10 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]