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# Monday, December 17, 2007
Family Tree Firsts—Part Three
Posted by Grace

When I arrived home from work Friday evening, a large envelope from the Social Security Administration awaited me in my mailbox. My first thought was that it was a notification of my retirement date being pushed back to 2070.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the letter to find photocopies of the Social Security applications I requested less than six weeks ago!

The photocopies have a little information I didn't know before. The place of work at the time of application is good to know, although only one of my great-grandparents was employed at the time he applied. Their addresses, signatures and self-reported birthdates are invaluable.

The part I was most excited about—the names of their parents—is included, but I was saddened to see the names were Anglicized. In the case of my great-grandfather Wasyl, it seems someone else filled out the form for him: The handwriting doesn't match his signature, and the printed name says William instead.

One great-grandparent was born in Ohio, and another lists only "Russia" his birthplace. But one lists "Sushicka, Austria," so I've been fiddling around with ShtetlSeeker to see if there are any close matches for towns in what's been the general area of Austria, Poland and Russia in the last century. In the meantime, I've found the Social Security number of my last great-grandparent on my father's side, so I'll send away for that one knowing the wait won't be too excruciating.

Any suggestions for my next step?

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One
Part Two


Family Tree Firsts
Monday, December 17, 2007 2:40:13 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
Footnote Tests Advanced Search
Posted by Diane

If you’re a member of Footnote, the online database of digitized historical and genealogical records, you’re probably anticipating its addition of an advanced search. (The catchall name-place-date-topic search field doesn’t really do it for us, either.)

Your wish in the process of being granted: Footnote webmasters are beta testing an advanced search. It has fields for First Name, Last Name, Place, Year and Keyword, and you can use a pulldown menu to select one records collection or search them all at once.

Then you can narrow matches by name, collection, year or place.

Give the advanced search a whirl and click the feedback link to tell webmasters what you thought. If you’re not a member of Footnote, you can search and get limited information. To view a document image, though, you’ll either need to pay $1.95 per view, or sign on at $59.95 per year or $7.95 per month.

Once you access a record image, the viewing experience is pretty slick, with a “film strip” showing the pages in the file, details about the record on the right side of the screen and links to members’ annotations and comments below that.

See for yourself:


Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, December 17, 2007 11:15:29 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Online exhibit reveals lives left behind
Posted by Grace

Until the 1960s, being institutionalized for psychiatric reasons was often a life sentence. Willard Asylum in Upstate New York, which opened in 1869, housed more than 50,000 patients during its operation, and nearly half of those died there.

After Willard Psychiatric Center, as it was later named, closed in 1995, staffers found hundreds of abandoned suitcases and trunks belonging to former residents. A state museum curator arranged to have the trove of trunks and artifacts moved to a warehouse, where Darby Penney and Peter Stastny encountered them in 1999. Along with a photographer, they selected a few of the suitcase owners to research, and the results became a major New York State Archives exhibit, now available to view online at www.suitcaseexhibit.org.

Using the contents of the trunks, including photographs, immigration papers, newspaper clippings and other ephemera, as starting points, Penney and Stastny were able to create comprehensive biographies of nine suitcase owners, which you can read on the Suitcase Exhibit Web site. The profiles are deeply moving. Many of the stories of how the suitcase owners came to be institutionalized are shocking. One patient was committed because her employers described her as "odd, tactless and domineering."

"The Lives They Left Behind" exhibit is on display through Jan. 31, 2008, at the Science, Industry and Business Library in New York City. Visit the library’s Web site for more information. (The exhibit travels to Auburn, NY, and Flint, Mich., next year. Visit the Suitcase Exhibit Web site for details.) The accompanying book, The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic, is being released in January.

P.S.: If you have an ancestor who was institutionalized, you might find our Now What? Blog post on finding records from state hospitals useful.


Museums | Social History
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 3:24:02 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
PC Magazine Reviews Family Tree Maker 2008
Posted by Diane

Not to beat a dead horse, but has anyone seen PC Magazine’s review of Family Tree Maker 2008?

The reviewer, Lisa Reufenacht, gave it four out of five stars (or circles, or whatever those are). You can kinda tell she doesn’t do a lot of genealogy research. The word GEDCOM is nowhere to be found, and she makes no mention of genealogists' uproar over the software’s functionality problems and missing reports. She also notes Family Tree Maker 2008 is the only genealogy program she knows of offering automatic Ancestry.com searching, apparently unaware that’s because both products come from the same company.

Of course the PC Magazine review is intended for a general audience, one not necessarily composed of genealogical enthusiasts. “Within 10 minutes, I had a family history … going back to my great-grandparents on my dad's side,” Reufenacht says. “I didn't have to search for any of the information—Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.com did everything for me.”

Makes us a little sad to think about users who’ll be at a loss for what to do when Ancestry.com runs out of records (or doesn’t have any) on their ancestors.

Though her review focused heavily on the auto-searching, Reufenacht did hit the nail on the head with this one: Used without a $155.40-per-year Ancestry.com subscription, Family Tree Maker loses some its shine.

Look for Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Rick Crume’s Family Tree Maker 2008 review—from a genealogist’s perspective—in our March 2008 issue, on newsstands mid-January (note our magazine is not affiliated with the software).

You can join the Family Tree Maker 2008 discussion in our Product News and Reviews Forum.


Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Software
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 2:29:34 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
New Research Helps on FamilyTreeMagazine.com
Posted by Diane

I wanted to let you know about a few goodies we’ve recently added to our Web site.

First is a group of free research guides—let’s call them “kits.” Each kit is a collection of tips, background information, Web sites, books and CDs to help you with these research topics:
At the top of each page in the kit, you’ll see an In This Article list of what’s on that page. At the bottom of each page, use the More on This Topic section to link to other pages in the kit.

For your researching convenience, we’ve also put together a free PDF guide to locations and contact information for FamilySearch’s Family History Centers in the United States and Canada. You can download that from www.familytreemagazine.com/fhcs.


Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Oral History | Research Tips
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 10:12:22 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Looking for one's own Peeps
Posted by Grace

The Birmingham Public Library posted this too-cute video about a little guy's genealogy quest:


Genealogy fun | Libraries and Archives | Videos
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 4:37:39 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, December 10, 2007
A Happy Holiday Field Trip
Posted by Allison

Few aspects of our Family Tree Magazine editor jobs are as enjoyable as getting out into the genealogical community and meeting the readers of the magazine—particularly our friends at the Anderson (Ohio) Senior Center Genealogy Group.

The group’s fearless leader, Bill Warden, invited our staff to speak to the group at Christmastime in 2004. Thus began our now-traditional “Editors and Cookies” visit each December, wherein the group members bring their favorite cookies to share, including some from heirloom recipes. (Yum!)

So we were delighted to learn that Bill brought take-out boxes to today’s session so we could bring some back to the office! Check out the spread:



But the cookies weren’t the best part of our visit. Far better is the opportunity to interact with people who are passionate about family history—and in many cases, Family Tree Magazine. It’s truly gratifying to hear how the work we do every day helps people, and to know that we make their hobby more enjoyable.

I think everyone had fun today taking the genealogy personality quiz that will appear in our March 2008 issue. Here is everyone concentrating on selecting their answers…



Although we can’t visit every genealogy group personally, of course, we’d love to hear what you like (or don’t like) about Family Tree Magazine. Post your feedback in our Talk to Us Forum.


Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy societies
Monday, December 10, 2007 6:19:15 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
DNA Tests Verify Pets' Pedigrees, Too
Posted by Diane

Now four-legged family members can get in on the genetic genealogy act, too. That’s right—owners of mixed-breed pooches can learn about their pets’ pedigrees so they can confidently answer the question, “So what kind of dog is that?”

Fern Glazer, our writer who got genetic genealogy experts to answer readers’ common DNA quandaries for the March 2008 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands mid-January), uncovered a couple of companies that do doggy DNA testing:
  • Last August, DNA Print Genomics launched Doggie DNAPrint 1.0, a test costing about $100 that examines 204 canine markers obtained from a cheek swab to reveal your dog’s ancestry population (its relationship to four ancient ancestral breeds). The company is also building a purebred database that eventually will let you compare your dog's DNA for accurate breed identification.
  • Mars Veterinary recently rolled out The Wisdom Panel MX test. Using a blood sample your veterinarian takes, the test detects specific combinations of genetic markers that can reveal the breed heritage of your dog.


Genealogy fun | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, December 10, 2007 5:21:44 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# 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]