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<2008 March>

More Links

# Wednesday, 05 March 2008
Maps of historic London
Posted by Grace

If your family hails from London (or you just like cartography), you'll love this site: the British Library's virtual exhibition of historical maps of the city.

The 40 historic plats are organized on a Google map, making it easy to determine what areas they represent. The maps and images are also divided by time period, and you can access a zoomable version to see them up close. I especially like the map from 1653 with the lengthy title "A guide for Cuntrey men In the famous Cittey of LONDON by the helpe of wich plot they shall be able to know how farr it is to any Street."

For more resources for researching your English roots, you can always refer to our Ethnic Toolkit. The University of Texas also has a large collection of historic British maps in its Perry-Castañeda Map Collection.

International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 05 March 2008 16:25:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
What Is Census Soundex Microfilm?
Posted by Diane

In a recent Two-Second Survey, we asked Forum members whether they've looked up someone in a microfilmed census soundex index. Of the 351 respondents, 211 have. Another 46 said they've never needed to, and 83 weren't quite sure what it's for. (The rest picked “other.”)

For the 83 folks in that last group—and everyone else out there nodding their heads in curiosity—we’ve put together this little overview:

The Soundex system is a way of coding similar-sounding surnames to help you find ancestors whose names were misspelled in census records or indexes. You can use's online Soundex generator to figure out the code for your surname—mine is H-330.

Once upon a time, genealogists would look through an actual card catalog, organized by state and then by Soundex code, for index cards with their family’s name. The cards looked like this (click to see one), and told you which census volume and sheet listed your family.

Eventually, the index cards were microfilmed. The National Archives and Records Administration and the Family History Library have Soundex film for all the states; many state archives, large public libraries and genealogical societies have Soundex film for their states, too.

Nowadays, census databases such as’s ($155.40 per year) and HeritageQuest Online’s (free through many libraries) automatically search for surname spelling variations—that's why so many modern researchers haven't used Soundex.

But many genealogists swear by Soundex microfilm indexes for locating especially hard-to-find ancestors in census records. One of our Two-Second survey respondents commented that he or she never uses any other form of census index. There’s an endorsement!

Research Tips
Wednesday, 05 March 2008 16:00:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 04 March 2008
NARA Posts Free Passenger Indexes Online
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has added passenger lists of Russian, German and Italian immigrants to its free Access to Archival Databases (AAD) service. (Irish passenger lists already were available here.)

Each collection consists mostly of immigrants who identified their nationality as Russian, German or Italian and arrived at the ports of New York, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans or Philadelphia during the 19th century.

The database for each nationality also contains some names of immigrants from other places. For example, 90 percent of people in the German records said they were from Germany or a “German” area—the other 10 percent came from elsewhere.

The data are from passenger list indexes created by the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. Keep in mind they’re not complete listings of all Russian, German, Italian or Irish immigrants.

For each collection, you'll see a Manifest Header Data File and a Passenger Data File. The search isn't the most intuitive we've ever seen, so get started with these tips:
1. From AAD, click Passenger Lists under Genealogy/Personal History. Then, click the Search button to the right of a Passenger Data File to look for an ancestor. (NARA calls the search terms you enter “values.”)
2. In your results, click View Record on the left to see first and last name, age, sex, occupation, last residence, destination and other information.
3. Use the ship manifest identification number to determine the port of arrival. Click View the FAQs and scroll to the chart showing ports and the range of manifest numbers assigned to each port’s records.
If you think you've found an ancestor, you can search the database for his or her passenger manifest identification number. That lets you see all passenger records from that ship—handy for finding traveling companions.
In the Manifest Header Data File, you can search for all ships with a particular manifest identification number, ship name, departure port or arrival date. For example, say you know your German ancestor arrived March 16, 1846. Click the Search button next to the German Manifest Header Data file and enter 03/16/1846 in the Arrival field. You'll get all the ships included in this database that arrived that day. Then you can go back to the Passenger Data File and search for the passengers on each ship.

I highly, highly recommend reading the FAQ document—each database has its own, linked at the top of the search screen. It’ll help you search the databases and understand your ancestor’s record.

Some places of origin or other data are difficult to interpret. You’ll want to see your ancestor’s orginal passenger list, which you can do on microfilm at major genealogy libraries, NARA facilities and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library. You can view records online through the subscription Web site

Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 04 March 2008 10:21:37 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 29 February 2008
Making a Protective Book Box
Posted by Grace

If you're lucky enough to have inherited a family bible or diary from one of your ancestors, you've probably wondered just where you should keep it. You can read all about how best to keep old diaries and books in the May issue's "Preserving Memories" column.

The article includes many resources for purchasing archival materials, but for the crafting-inclined, we've created a demonstration of how to make a built-to-order protective book box. Click here to download a PDF with instructions, and you can watch a step-by-step demonstration on our YouTube channel!

Genealogy fun | Historic preservation | Videos
Friday, 29 February 2008 10:51:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 28 February 2008
We Want Your Comments
Posted by Diane

One thing we love about blogs is they’re a two-way street. As much as our own thoughts fascinate us, what we really long for is to hear what’s going on in your head when you read the Genealogy Insider blog. Do you agree? Disagree? Want to add a related resource or tip?
To leave a comment in response to a blog post, click the word “Comments” in red below that post and scroll to the bottom of any already-existing comments. Type your name (or a name), and your e-mail address if you want (it’s not required). Type in your comment, then click Save Comment. You’ll have to go through the security rigamarole of entering a code word displayed in a graphic (you may have to do that twice), then your comment will appear in all its glory.
Some guidelines to what kind of posts are permissible:
1. Naturally, no cursing, personal insults or other offensive language is allowed.
2. Your comment must be related to the post you’re commenting on.
3. We may remove comments we deem to be advertising your own commercial product or service. Mentioning your product or service is fine, if it’s directly related to the post you’re commenting on and you’re up front that it’s your product.

4. Family Tree Magazine editors reserve the right to remove comments we judge to be inappropriate.
Have questions? Post 'em here, or send us an e-mail.

Thursday, 28 February 2008 13:18:33 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
Get a Taste of MacFamily Tree
Posted by Diane

Synium Software has released a beta version of MacFamily Tree 5.1,
which you can download as a demo. It’ll be available as a final version in early March.

MacFamily Tree 5 debuted in late 2007 for $49. The 5.1 update adds a customizable fan chart, a Media Browser photo gallery, and a more user-friendly interface in the Person, Family, Source and Event edit modes.”

Look for our article on Mac genealogy programs in the July 2008 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands and May 13.

Genealogy Software
Thursday, 28 February 2008 10:09:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Are You Smarter Than a Teenager?
Posted by Diane

It’s time to repeat the annual hand-wringing over how little US students know about history. In a January phone survey, 1,200 17-year-olds were asked 33 basic multiple-choice questions in history and literature. The results:
  • Fewer than half could place the American Civil War in the correct half-century.
  • Half didn’t know what the Renaissance is.
  • More than a quarter thought Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World sometime after 1750.
  • About a quarter were unable to correctly identify Adolf Hitler as Germany's chancellor during World War II.
Though what the students didn’t know is appalling, they answered right on 67 percent of the history questions, earning a C overall. (But they got an F in literature.) On the bright side, 97 percent of the teens correctly picked Martin Luther King Jr. as the man who declared, "I have a dream;" 88 percent knew the bombing of Pearl Harbor led us into World War II.

An educational advocacy group called Common Core conducted the survey. Its report claims the results are evidence current education laws lead schools to focus too narrowly on the reading and math skills measured in accountability tests, at the expense of other subjects.

The report (where you can see a breakdown of all the questions) also shows kids with at least one college-educated parent performed better on the test.

I think genealogy is an antidote—you learn about history by exploring your family’s history. Click Comments (below) to let us know what you think, and see our resource listings for “junior” genealogists (and their adult teachers) at

Social History
Thursday, 28 February 2008 09:33:17 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Family Tree Magazine Editor on Roots Television
Posted by Diane

Our very own Allison Stacy is appearing now in a video on Roots Television.

At the recent Family History Expo in St. George, Utah, Dick Eastman (of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter fame) asked Allison, Family Tree Magazine's editor-in-chief, for the scoop on what to expect in upcoming issues.

Click to find out what we're up to!

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Events
Wednesday, 27 February 2008 13:39:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 25 February 2008
How to Find Research Guides on FamilySearch
Posted by Diane

If you have ancestors from Finland, you’ll want to download the free Finnish genealogy research guide FamilySearch has just added to its Web site.

FamilySearch’s excellent online research outlines are among our go-to resources when editing Family Tree Magazine articles about tracing ancestors in this or that place, and we often recommend the guides in our articles. They cover how to do research, historical background, genealogy terms to know, writing request letters, and much more.

But the guides are linked in different places on FamilySearch, so sometimes it's hard to find the right one. Here’s our quick guide to finding FamilySearch guides:
  • Start by clicking the Search tab at the top of the page. Then look in the blue bar under “Search”:

  • Now, for an alphabetical index to the FHL’s research outlines, letter-writing guides, word lists, beginners’ guides, census worksheets and more, click Research Helps. This index is sorted by place, but you can use the links on the left to sort it by title, subject or document type.

Click a document title to access the guide’s content online. Or, click PDF to download a PDF with the information, or click the item number (in the right-hand column) to order a copy mailed to you. Not all the guides have all three options.

  • To get steps for finding the FHL’s microfilmed birth, marriage and death information by place and year, click Research Guidance, then click on a place.

On the next page, choose a tab for historical background, advice for beginners, and research strategies for various records. This information is drawn from the above-mentioned research guides.

  • For in-depth, full-color PDF guides to a selection of ancestries, look on the home page under "Get Started With Family History" and click the word guides. From here, you also can follow links to separate directories of the word lists, letter-writing guides, forms and more.

Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Research Tips
Monday, 25 February 2008 17:47:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 21 February 2008
The Five Ws of Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Researching ancestors in Canada?

Lisa A. Alzo, who wrote a guide to Canadian genealogy research for the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine (on sale March 18), sent these five questions you should ask yourself (though we think they’d be helpful for research all over the globe):

Canadian research has much in common with research elsewhere—your best chances for success will come from having laid a solid foundation. That means being able to answer the genealogical version of the Five W’s:
1. Whom are you researching? Be equipped with all the names your relatives were known by, and all the possible spellings.

2. What do you want to learn? This will give you some insight into what record you need to locate.

3. Where should you look? Canada’s a big country and records were mostly created and stored locally, and under an area’s geographic name at the time.

4. When did it happen? As in other places, different types of Canadian records were kept starting at different times. If your research starts before certain records were kept, you’ll need to find an alternate record to study. And what’s more, the way variousrecord groups were created and stored changed over time.

5. Why do you need a particular record? For example, maybe you want that marriage registration to learn the names of the couple’s parents. Knowing that can help keep you focused and open up possibilities for research in other records.
Look for Alzo’s advice to finding and using genealogical records in the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Research Tips
Thursday, 21 February 2008 16:01:49 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]