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# Thursday, December 06, 2007
Don't Know Much About Family History, But We Want To
Posted by Diane

Lots of Americans say they’re interested in their family history, but many actually don’t know much about their ancestors, according to an Ancestry.com survey released today.

Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said they’re interested in learning more about their families, but half could name only one or none of their grandparents, 60 percent didn’t know both grandmothers’ maiden names, and 22 percent couldn’t say what either grandfather did or does for a living.

Half the survey respondents had ever researched their roots.

This may be a bit unexpected: More young people than older people were among the 78 percent wanting to know more about their roots. Eighty-three percent of 18-to-34-year-olds were interested, followed 35-to-54-year-olds at 77 percent and those 55 and older at 73 percent.

Could be the older folks are already doing genealogy and know a lot about their families, so they’re not as worried about learning more.

The research firm MarketTools conducted the survey. Information about the number of respondents and how they were surveyed wasn’t available.

What do you think of the numbers? Click comment to share your two cents.


Genealogy Industry
Thursday, December 06, 2007 1:44:23 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Wednesday, December 05, 2007
1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses Going Online
Posted by Diane

We’ve just seen the first fruits of a project from the National Archives of Ireland and Library and Archives Canada to digitize, index and post online the 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses.

You now can search or browse Dublin’s 1911 census records free at www.census.nationalarchives.ie; the rest of the 1911 and then 1901 records will follow.

Search on a name or place, then and click on a match to see a page with the household's residents and links to PDF images of the dwelling’s census return forms (they were a bit slow to load).

What an exciting development, and not only because contributing editor Sharon DeBartolo Carmack tipped us off just in time to slip the good news into our March 2008 Irish research guide before the issue went to press.

The project is creating the only master index to Irish census records—currently, you have to look up the district electoral division (DED) for your ancestor's townland (similar to a neighborhood) and residence, then find the Family History Library census microfilm covering the right DED.

On your relative’s Household Return (Form A) for 1901, you’ll find his or her name, age, sex, relationship to the head of household, religion, occupation, marital status, county or country of birth, and ability to read, write and speak Irish.

All of that’s also in the 1911 census, plus, for married women, the numbers of years of marriage, children born alive and children still living.

You can get a good picture of your family’s economic status, too: On the House and Building Return (Form B), census takers recorded details about dwellings, such as number of windows, type of roof, number of rooms a family occupies, and overall condition.

Though Ireland took censuses every 10 years starting in 1821, the infamous 1922 Four Courts fire took a toll, as did government officials who destroyed old returns once they gathered statistical information. The 1921 count was skipped due to the Irish Civil War, leaving 1901 and 1911 as the only censuses available.


Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Research Tips
Wednesday, December 05, 2007 10:48:52 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Ancestry.com Adds Passport Applications
Posted by Diane

Ancestry.com has added a passport applications dating from 1795 to 1925, taken from microfilm in National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) record group 59, General Records of the Department of State.
 
The US government has issued passports to citizens traveling abroad since 1789. But except for short periods during the Civil War and World War I, passports weren't required until 1941.

A non-naturalized immigrant couldn’t get a passport unless he’d formally declared his intention to become a citizen.

If your ancestor’s passport application is among the 1.5  million here, you’re genealogically set. A few I found include the applicant’s birthplace and year, occupation, hometown, length of uninterrupted residence in the United States, date and court of naturalization, reason for travel and appearance (for the man who submitted this application, right down to his “flat” nose).

According to NARA’s Web site, 95 percent of mid-19th century passport applicants were men. A man's wife and children traveling with him were listed on his passport. Likewise, children traveling with only their mother were on her documents.

Later in the 1800s, women more often obtained passports in their own names. By 1923, they constituted more than 40 percent of applicants.

The records are available with a $155.40-per-year subscription to Ancestry.com, or you can order copies from NARA. Note passports issued March 4 and 5, 1919, are missing from NARA’s film and from Ancestry.com's database.

Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, December 04, 2007 9:14:34 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, December 03, 2007
Family Tree Magazine Sponsors Family History Expo
Posted by Diane

Guess what? We’re sponsoring ourselves a genealogy conference!

Family Tree Magazine is the key sponsor for the fourth annual Family History Expo, Feb. 8 and 9 in St. George, Utah.

The conference (formerly the Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree) draws speakers from all over the United States, including Trace Your Roots With DNA co-author and Ancestry.com historian Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Reading Early American Handwriting author Kip Sperry, DearMYRTLE blogger Pat Richley, World Vital Records president David Lifferth, RootsMagic president Bruce Buzbee and others.

The exhibit hall will feature more than 60 exhibitors, including Family Tree Magazine in booth 419. Each attendee gets a free Family Tree Magazine, plus chances to win prizes such as subscriptions and The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists (Family Tree Books, $29.99).

Registration costs $60 in advance (sign up online at MyAncestorsFound) or $65 at the door.

Here’s a little extra incentive: Nestled in the southwest corner of Utah, St. George is a balmy 50 to 60 degrees in February, when those of us in more northern locales are shivering through bone-chilling temps. I thought you’d come around!


Genealogy Events
Monday, December 03, 2007 4:59:23 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, November 30, 2007
Fun with math and microfilm
Posted by Grace

Yesterday, we Family Tree Magazine editors got to thinking about just how big the Family History Library's collection is. I don't even know what inspired us, but we wondered—would the FHL's microfilm reach to the moon?

We did the calculations—and they won't. But it's still pretty far:

The FHL has 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. A microfilm box is about 4 inches wide. A mile is 63,360 inches, and the FHL's got 9.6 million inches of microfilm boxes, assuming they're all a standard size. Laid end to end, those boxes would stretch about 151.5 miles.

So you could get from Salt Lake City nearly to Pocatello, Idaho, on the FHL's microfilm boxes. Or from Indianapolis to Gary, Ind., or if they were in Texas, from Fort Worth to Abilene.

Photo from The Queen's University Library.

FamilySearch | Genealogy fun
Friday, November 30, 2007 3:49:17 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Thursday, November 29, 2007
Holiday Gift Ideas for Genealogists
Posted by Diane

When it comes to holiday presents, genealogists don’t seem hard to please—anyone who’d crawl around a weedy cemetery in search of a tombstone can’t be that high-maintenance. But if you’re at a loss for what to give the genealogist in your life, try one of these suggestions:
  • a set of Family Tree Magazine CDs: the International Genealogical Passport ($12.95), the 2006 compilation ($24) and 2007 compilation ($20)
  • a GPS, which traveling researchers can use to locate cemeteries, libraries, the old family homestead or a place to eat lunch
  • a prepaid gasoline card to help fund those research trips
  • a cemetery research kit with non-fusible interfacing (for tombstone rubbings), rubbing wax (you can get it from stores such as FunStuffforGenealogists), masking tape, gardener’s shears and knee pads, bug spray, and an “I brake for cemeteries” bumper sticker
  • a genetic genealogy test
  • a research favor, especially if a fellow genealogist has a hard time getting around. Maybe do lookups for her at a Family History Center, drive him to a conference or help scan a load of photos.
If you've gotten a great genealogical present—or are hoping for one this year—click Comment and tell us what it is.


Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy fun
Thursday, November 29, 2007 8:45:21 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Family Tree Firsts—Part Two
Posted by Grace

If you remember reading my first post in the Family Tree Firsts series, you may recall I was excited for the next visit with my dad's parents so I could pick their brains. My trip back up to Cleveland for Thanksgiving did not disappoint.

Showing my grandma and grandpa the WWII draft cards, passenger records and census schedules I found were enough to get them talking about their parents and grandparents. I got a lot of names, dates and other interesting information, which I typed as fast as I could on my laptop, and when it ran out of batteries, I switched to a notebook.

My grandma told me her father, Stanley, was sad he couldn't go back home to visit his mother because he had ran away from the Russian army. He had only an elementary school education, so my grandma would teach him spelling and writing and give him tests. My grandmother's grandmother's first husband, whom she had her children with, died while they were still in Europe, and she married again when she got to the US. (Her second husband, Edmund, is on the far right in the picture at right, next to my grandmother during her first communion. Her father, Stanley, is on the left.)

My grandfather never knew his grandparents, but he could tell me a little about his parents. (That's them, Tanka and Wasyl, in the picture at right.) Wasyl's brother came to the US, but he had two sisters who continued on to Argentina and were never heard from again. I'll be interested to see what I can find out about that. I also never knew before last week that my grandfather was a twin; his sister died when she was just a baby.

After my grandmother accused me of using unethical interrogation techniques (totally untrue), she had me help her get some photo albums from the closet. They were in practically pristine condition, and my mom and I took them home so we could scan some into the computer. (For more on scanning, see our January issue's story on photo digitization.)

What I'm most thankful for is having had so much time with my grandparents. Being 25, I'm probably in the minority having all four still around. I'm pretty surprised how much information about my family's past I was able to get in a conversation over Chinese takeout. (Having read our March 2008 issue's story on oral history helped!)

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One


Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, November 28, 2007 3:50:25 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Family History-Themed Gift Ideas
Posted by Diane

Wondering what to give your son, daughter, brother or mother-in-law for the holidays? Everyone loves a warm-and-fuzzy tribute to family history. Let these present ideas set your gift-giving gears spinning:
  • Digital photo frames are ubiquitous this year, and more affordable than in the past. Load the memory card with images, and keep them coming all year. They start as low as $70, and you can get digital photo keychains and tiny desktop frames for less than that. Check big retailers and electronics stores for these.
  • Make copies of your family’s favorite vintage photos and put them in a mini-album (available from scrapbooking and crafts stores) or a collage frame.
  • Order decorative family tree wall charts from a site such as The Family History Store, or find one free online (Martha Stewart has a nice fan chart). Then polish up your penmanship and fill out a tree for everyone. You also may be able to produce wall-worthy charts using your genealogy software.
  • Put together a family story-and-photo book using AncestryPress. You can print it yourself for free and put it in a binder, or have it spiral-bound at a copy shop. Or, order a hardbound copy through AncestryPress for around $30 and up.
  • For parents or grandparents, how about one of those fill-in-the-blank memory books that encourages them to share thoughts and stories in writing? One is Memories for My Grandchild by Annie Decker and Nicole Stephenson (Chronicle Books, $19.95). The family cook might enjoy a recipe journal such as Cook's Recipe Collection by Iona Hoyle (Ryland Peters & Small, $19.95).
  • If you have a lot of relatives on your list, make a CD of photos and give everyone a copy. You can dress it up (but you don't have to) by designing a nice insert.
Are you giving family history-themed gifts this year? Or have you gotten a great one in the past? Click comment and tell us about it—you just might help someone finish his gift list.

Celebrating your heritage
Wednesday, November 28, 2007 3:27:48 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
Research Your Tree in Just-Updated PERSI
Posted by Diane

The Allen County (Ind.) Public Library genealogy staff has beefed up its Periodical Source Index (PERSI) with references to another 132,000 history and genealogy articles published in journals and magazines during 2006 and 2007.

HeritageQuest Online, the genealogy database you can search free in many public libraries, has included the updates in its searchable version of PERSI.

That brings PERSI's total article citations to more than 2 million. They reference 6,600-plus periodicals published in the United States, Canada and abroad since 1800. It’s the most extensive periodical index available for local history and genealogy research.

You can search the updated PERSI at libraries offering HeritageQuest Online and at Allen County, Ind., public libraries. The subscription site Ancestry.com offers an older version of PERSI, dating from 1985.

Search PERSI on a name, place or subject, and you’ll get citations for journal and magazine articles that mention your term. Then, request the full article from your library, borrow it through interlibrary loan or order copies from the Allen County library ($7.50 for up to six articles, plus the cost of photocopies).

Read more about the formation of PERSI and about the Allen County library on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.


Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Wednesday, November 28, 2007 9:17:06 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 27, 2007
NY Times Asks "How Helpful is Ethnic DNA Testing?"
Posted by Diane

Did everyone read the article on ethnic genetic genealogy testing in Sunday’s New York Times?

It was somewhat critical of the industry with regard to DNA tests for African origins. Reporter Ron Nixon said test results are often conflicting and confusing, and testing companies focus more on marketing than on communicating the limitations of ethnic DNA testing.

Nixon sent his own DNA to five companies for a mitochondrial (mt) DNA test and got strikingly different results: Reports named from two to 12 ethnic groups, for a total of 25 possibilities.

Nixon also interviewed representatives of several test companies, as well as Harvard historian and "African-American Lives" host Henry Louis Gates. Gates’ first mtDNA test in 2000 reported Egyptian roots; one from another company in 2005 concluded he had European, not Egyptian, ancestry.

One reason for mixed results is testing companies’ proprietary comparison databases of DNA profiles from modern people. Databases may be skewed toward particular ethnic groups and not represent other groups.

Furthermore, people have been moving around Africa for eons. Your DNA could match someone who lives in a particular area today, but whose ancestors came from elsewhere.

Another issue is that there’s still so much to learn. In our November 2007 Family Tree Magazine African-American research guide, Roots Project director Bruce Jackson, PhD, said “We have a poor understanding of the genetics of African groups ... Identical genetic markers or signatures (called haplotypes) are found among different African ethnic groups for reasons that are not clear.”

Jackson went on to note scientists have studied only 1 percent of African ethnic groups, which doesn’t even include all those who were sources of the slave trade to North America.

Gates is attempting to address these issues by partnering with FamilyTreeDNA on AfricanDNA, a project offering DNA tests paired with genealogy research services for $888 to $1,077.

If that's not in your budget, do this: Research "on paper" as much as you can before turning to DNA. More African-American resources are out there than many people realize. (See our online toolkit and updates on this blog for tips.)

Then decide what you want DNA testing to tell you and carefully research your options to pick the best test. Make sure you understand the limitations of DNA testing: As you see here, results can be inconclusive, and you don’t learn where specific ancestors came from. If you don’t understand your results, ask your testing company for help and consult sources such as Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner (Rodale, $16.95).

Share your thoughts on the Times' article in the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Hot Topics Forum.


African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:16:37 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]