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<2008 January>

More Links

# Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Reconstructing East German Records
Posted by Grace

East German citizens were aware the Staatssicherheit (Ministry for State Security) could know everything about their lives. At its peak, the Stasi, as it was familiarly known, employed 91,000 agents in the country of 16.4 million and had hundreds of thousands of informants. But it was not until the GDR began to crumble in 1989 that the concept became palpable, Andrew Curry reports in Wired magazine.

It was discovered that the Stasi had generated enough paper to fill 100 miles of shelves, and it indexed and cross-referenced 5.6 million names in its central card catalog. In the Stasi's final days, officials destroyed about 5 percent of its records before citizens stopped them. Truckloads of paper were taken to industrial shredders, and as the end neared, agents began ripping files by hand. They stored the scraps in paper bags in the archive.

In the mid '90s, a team started piecing the 45 million torn pages together manually, at a rate that would have led to completion in about 700 years. But a new scanning project looks like it will lead to the files being recreated—and shared with the public—much sooner.

Funded by the German government, the Fraunhofer Institute has created a method for double-sided scanning of the scraps and sorting the images by color of paper, type of paper and method of writing. If the pilot project for 400 bags of scraps is successful, it will get the go ahead for tackling the remaining 16,000 bags of paper. It's estimated to cost about $300 million, but the archivists say it's worth it. Wired reports:

Günter Bormann, the BStU's senior legal expert, says there's an overwhelming public demand for the catharsis people find in their files. "When we started in 1992, I thought we'd need five years and then close the office," Bormann says. Instead, the Records Office was flooded with half a million requests in the first year alone. Even in cases where files hadn't been destroyed, waiting times stretched to three years. In the past 15 years, 1.7 million people have asked to see what the Stasi knew about them.

To read the entire fascinating article, click here.

Libraries and Archives | Social History
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 13:13:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Changes for FindMyPast; FamilyLink
Posted by Diane

Two news bits on the genealogy biz:
  • Scotland Online, parent company of the genealogy data service ScotlandsPeople, has purchased the UK records site FindMyPast with plans to “establish a world-class online network of family history resources.”
ScotlandsPeople has birth records, censuses, vital registrations and wills from Scotland. FindMyPast (the former 1837Online) is known for its British vital registration, census and outgoing passenger records. Each company’s online resources will be unaffected by the merger and niether will relocate its headquarters, according to an announcement.
  • Back stateside, the genealogy database and social networking business World Vital Records is changing its name to FamilyLink. The renamed company will still call its database site World Vital Records, and its social networking site FamilyLink.

Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, 22 January 2008 08:39:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 21 January 2008
Sites About Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement
Posted by Diane

Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day—that’s today—by learning a bit about the man who received the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. These are some of my favorite Web sites about King and the history of the movement:

Civil Rights, 1954 to 1963
This timeline links to King's “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and John F. Kennedy’s June 11, 1963, speech supporting passage of the Civil Rights Act.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow
This Web site for PBS’ program explains the laws that enforced segregation from the end of Reconstruction through the 1960s.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home Tour
Take a virtual tour of the home at Atlanta’s 501 Auburn Avenue, King was born Jan. 15, 1929.

Civil Rights Walk of Fame
Meet other leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.

Social History
Monday, 21 January 2008 09:15:26 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 18 January 2008
Studying the States
Posted by Diane

You might notice I've been slightly quieter around here lately. That’s because I’m cramming for an appearance on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”

OK, that’s not actually true. But I feel like I am. I’ve been learning all kinds of interesting facts about US history and geography while editing Family Tree Magazine State Research Guides like crazy for a compilation CD we’re planning to put out this spring.

Oh, haven’t we mentioned that already? Yes, the CD will contain our research guides for all 50 states, plus bonus material including help tracing roots in Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. So I’m back to reading about Mississippi school censuses and the Vicksburg National Military Park, and you can bet we’ll keep you updated.

Have a great weekend!

Family Tree Magazine articles
Friday, 18 January 2008 17:00:33 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 17 January 2008
How not to Begin Your Family History
Posted by Grace

After an excruciatingly long absence, the Genealogue has returned to regular blogging, with a hilarious list of the 10 worst ways to begin your family history.

For example:

4. "My father, Mr. Smith, was probably between eighteen and forty-eight years of age when he met his future wife, Mary [--?--]." 

The list had Allison giggling in her cubicle like a schoolgirl. Click here to read the whole story.

Genealogy fun
Thursday, 17 January 2008 16:16:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 15 January 2008
A Photo Doctor That Makes House Calls
Posted by Allison

On this blog and in our January 2008 issue, we introduced you to some batch photo-scanning services that will quickly and affordably digitize hundreds and even thousands of family photos. The drawback with really old photographs, of course, is you'd have to let those irreplaceable images of your possession.

A Seattle company has the remedy to that dilemma: Memeria will actually bring a high-volume scanner to your house and scan your photos on site—accomplishing in a couple of hours what might take you weeks or months to do on your home scanner, says Memeria president Anthony Miller. "This gives people more time to work on their scrapbooks and genealogy instead of scanning."

The service costs 25 cents per photo, with minimum orders ranging from $50 to $200. Memeria currently serves only the Seattle area, but plans to expand. If you live nearby and are considering a photo digitization project, give the service a look.

Family Heirlooms
Tuesday, 15 January 2008 14:05:58 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 14 January 2008
Family Tree Firsts—Part Four
Posted by Grace

This weekend I made my first excursion to a Family History Center. Practically every article we publish in Family Tree Magazine recommends going to your local FHC, not only because you have access to the Family History Library’s massive collection of microfilm but also because the volunteers are so helpful!

I gathered my ever-growing file folder of notes and photocopies and headed to the FHC in Norwood, Ohio, to see what I could find. The center is only open for a few hours a day, and since it was a Saturday, there were researchers at nearly every microfilm and computer station.

I struck up a conversation with the volunteers and learned quite a bit about their holdings. The Norwood FHC has many rolls of microfilm on permanent hold from the FHL, and quite an impressive selection of Cincinnati-specific records. They've got most of their rolls of film indexed in the card catalog you see above. (The volunteers recommend asking before you request any roll of microfilm to double-check if it is available locally. You could save $5.50!)

Most of my family is in Northeastern Ohio, but I did find a roll of Cuyahoga County birth records in the local holdings. One of the volunteers retrieved it for me and helped me get set up at a microfilm reader, and I began poking around the index and the recorded births. My great-grandmother's birth record didn't appear to be on the roll, but the index for her year did not seem to be complete. An FHC volunteer told me that births in the early 1900s were often recorded months or even years after the fact, so there's no telling where my great-grandmother would show up.

I did make one big discovery while I was at the FHC—I found out that I get very queasy looking at microfilm. Will this be the end of my genealogy quest?

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Family Tree Firsts | FamilySearch | Libraries and Archives
Monday, 14 January 2008 13:12:02 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 11 January 2008 Tree Migrations Hit a Rough Patch
Posted by Diane

I was surfing around, seeing what’s going on, and came across an issue causing quite a stir.

A few weeks ago, The Generations Network announced it was shutting down the technologically ancient Online Family Trees system, which members have used since 1999 to store genealogical information online free.

The company will focus on the newer, also free Ancestry Family Trees system, introduced in 2006.

OFT users have until March 2008 to migrate their trees to AFT. It seems the migration process has been rife with problems, as you'll see on the blog (also see's 24/7 Family History Circle blog).

OFT users have complained of lost notes (notes are private in AWT, or take the form of stories and comments), data transfer errors and displeasure with the AWT system.

The Generations Network's blogger, Kenny Freestone, says a heretofore unknown GEDCOM format problem has caused errors in about 30 percent of the migrations from OFT to AFT, and that the problem will be fixed.

In the meantime, if you have a tree on OFT, don’t delete it (migrating your tree doesn't automatically delete it), and go ahead and export a GEDCOM and save it to your hard drive.

Note this doesn't affect the files in Ancestry World Tree, which contains the same files as RootsWeb's WorldConnect.

Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 11 January 2008 17:14:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 10 January 2008
Morse Adds One-Step Tools for Genetic Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Steve Morse, creator of the One-Step search tools Web site, has added genetic genealogy utilities to his site.

Rather than find matches in genetic genealogy databases (we’d love to see that utility), these free tools help you learn more about your DNA test results. Three of the tools work using data from the FamilyTreeDNA Web site, so customers of other companies will have to pass on those. The tools include:
  • FamilyTreeDNA Markers: Use this one to view your Y-chromosome test results from FamilyTreeDNA—just enter your kit and code numbers.
  • Haplogroups: Anyone who's taken a Y-DNA test can get a pretty good idea of his haplogroup by entering his STR marker values. (If you're a FamilyTreeDNA client, just enter your kit and code number.) As Morse explains, haplogroups are defined by SNP markers, but you usually don’t get SNP values in a Y-DNA test report. STR marker values, though, can predict a haplogroup.
  • Group Chart: Here, you can generate a DNA chart for a group of people for easier test results comparison. Each group member must have tested with FamilyTreeDNA.
  • Distances: FamilyTreeDNA clients can use their group chart (generated with the Group Chart tool) to compute the genetic distances among members of the group.   
  • Migration Details: Select your haplogroup from a dropdown menu to get a description of your ancient ancestors’ migrations across the globe. You’ll see shifts in haplogroups and the mutation numbers that defined the shifts, along with the geographic location and time range the mutation took place.
  • Migration Map: Select your haplogroup to generate a visual representation of the migration details described above.
See the DNA toolkit on for genetic genealogy advice, explanations and resources.

Steve Morse also has created One-Step Tools for searching online databases such as and (you must subscribe to to see search results from its databases). You'll find hints for using the tools in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, 10 January 2008 13:18:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
"No, not a gerontologist"
Posted by Grace

Schelly Talalay Dardashti has posted a question on her Tracing the Tribe blog: How do people react when you tell them you're a genealogist?

As Schelly writes:

Do they ask how many babies you've delivered—thinking you said gynecologist; what caves or oil fields you've discovered—confusing you with a geologist; or simply think you are strange for happily shlepping through cemeteries looking for dead people (which, you must admit, is a good place to find them)?

Read the whole hilarious post and post your own comments by clicking here.

Genealogy fun
Thursday, 10 January 2008 09:25:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]