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# Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Perils of Paid Obits
Posted by Grace

Paid obituaries have the strange distinction of being considered matter of record even when the newspaper's editors have absolutely no power over their content. Editor & Publisher put up a humorous description of the errors that can be found when families write death notices. For example:

"One descendant's obit claimed his ancestry could be traced back to the Vikings (an honest mistake; I got suckered by that Web site too). Another claimed to be a descendant of George Washington—not good news to Martha, as she and George had no children."

Lesson learned: Take obituaries with a grain of salt. Click here to read the story.


Genealogy fun
Thursday, December 20, 2007 4:14:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
FHL and 13 FHCs Get Ancestry.com Back
Posted by Diane

After losing their free Ancestry.com access last spring, researchers at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library (FHL) and 13 largest Family History Centers (FHCs) will once again be able to search the subscription site's genealogy databases for free.

FamilySearch and The Generations Network (parent company of Ancestry.com) have reached an agreement that provides free on-site Ancestry.com access at the FHL in Salt Lake City and its regional FHCs in

•    Mesa, Ariz.
•    Los Angeles
•    Oakland, Calif.
•    Orange, Calif.
•    Sacramento, Calif.
•    San Diego
•    Idaho Falls, Idaho
•    Pocatello, Idaho
•    Las Vegas
•    Logan, Utah
•    Ogden, Utah
•    St. George, Utah
•    Hyde Park, London, England

The agreement takes effect immediately.

Providing access at these centers was a financial decision, says FamilySearch spokesperson Paul Nauta. "The money would be best spent right now focusing on those 13 centers that accommodate a significant amount of patron traffic. We do desire to provide expanded access to all of our centers in the future."

If your FHC isn't on the list, see if a public library near you offers Ancestry Library Edition, a version of Ancestry.com databases library patrons can use free at subscribing institutions.

Until April 1, the FHL and almost all FHCs had enjoyed free, unlicensed Ancestry.com access since 2000. When it was unable to negotiate a formal arrangement with the LDS Church, The Generations Network discontinued the service (except a few databases for which contracts did exist and which are still available at all FHCs). See the March 29 E-mail Update newsletter for more details.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Industry | Libraries and Archives
Thursday, December 20, 2007 8:43:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Just What Is Figgy Pudding, Anyway?
Posted by Diane

In the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” a crew of carolers demands to be served figgy pudding before they’ll leave—causing generations to wonder: What exactly is figgy pudding?

So I checked around. It’s a British-style pudding, actually resembling more of a cake, which reached its popularity peak as a Christmas dessert in the 1800s.

You can bake, steam or boil figgy pudding. It’s got figs, of course, plus apples, nuts, cinnamon, cloves, butter, sugar, bread crumbs, milk and eggs. Oh, yes—the recipe I found also calls for three strips of finely crushed bacon. Just what I love in a dessert.

The ancestor of figgy pudding (and plum pudding) is a medieval spiced porridge known as Frumenty.

Here’s a nontraditional figgy pudding with persimmons. Bon appetit!


Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 9:08:23 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Attention, Genealogical Librarians
Posted by Diane

…and friends of genealogical librarians. Family Tree Magazine editors are working on an article that will honor libraries across the United States with outstanding genealogical collections—and we need your help!

To learn more about libraries' resources and collections, we want to survey as many genealogical libraries as we can. Any type of genealogical library is eligible to participate: public or private, large or small, etc.—as long as it has a genealogical collection the public can use (for free or by paying an admission fee).

Librarians can get more details and download our questionnaire (as a Word document) from www.familytreemagazine.com/librarysurvey. Questions cover the types of materials, collection scope and size, online information, that type of thing.

We’ll need completed surveys e-mailed to us by Jan. 14, 2008. If you have questions about the survey, please post a comment here or e-mail our editorial staff.


Family Tree Magazine articles | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 4:54:50 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
Enter Your Odd Holiday Tradition in Our All in the Family Challenge
Posted by Diane

Amidst the holiday shopping, baking and get-togethering rush, does your family make time to send around a fruitcake that’s been aging since 1976? Wrap a lump of coal for Uncle Jim? Set an elaborate trap in the hearth for Santa?

We want to know about the unusual traditions that make your family’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year’s celebration complete.

Besides just being fun to hear, readers' off-the-wall holiday rituals are the topic for our January 2008 All in the Family Challenge. You have until Jan. 1 to e-mail your tradition to us.

Don’t forget to include your mailing address in the message or—so sorry—you won’t be eligible to win the subscription to Footnote’s online historical records database. We'll publish the winning (i.e., funniest) entries in the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine.

You also can mail entries (postmarked before Jan. 1) to All in the Family/January 2008, Family Tree Magazine, 4700 E. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236.


Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:28:54 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]