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<2008 March>

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# Monday, 31 March 2008
Does Genealogy Make You Smart?
Posted by Diane

American Mensa—the 50,000-member association for highly intelligent people—is making genealogy the focus of its Sept. 12-14 colloquium in Salt Lake City.

At Tracking Granny’s Granny: The Genealogy Quest, “Mensans” (who qualify for membership by scoring in the 98th percentile or higher on an intelligence test) will attend sessions on photos, genetic genealogy and online research. They'll also take a field trip to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library.

Registration is open to the public, so folks of humbler intellect are welcome, too. Me, I’d probably be unable to shake the feeling I’m back in sixth grade and just finished my long-division worksheet dead last. Maybe a Mensan, after completing his own family tree in record time, would help me defeat my brick walls.

On the other hand, I wonder which came first: the genius or the genealogy? All that ancestral research and reading and analysis is bound to prod your brain into forming new synapses and becoming sharper. Maybe even Mensa sharp.

If nothing else, perhaps sitting long enough in a roomful of certifiably smart people will make some of it rub off.

Genealogy Events
Monday, 31 March 2008 12:44:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 28 March 2008
Favorite Sites: Ohio Heritage, Tenement Tour, Animated History
Posted by Diane

I wish I had time to thoroughly examine all the cool sites I come across every day (or maybe I should say, I wish I were more resistant to the temptation to surf).

So instead of bookmarking and then forgetting about today’s finds (and later on, wondering why my Favorites list is so darn long), I’ll share a few:
  • Growth of a Nation: This 10-minute animated movie, complete with a voice-over reminiscent of my 7th-grade history teacher, nicely sums up the United States’ progress from 13 Colonies to a country with 50 states.
Now, to go clean out some of those Favorites ...

Genealogy Web Sites | Social History
Friday, 28 March 2008 15:45:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 27 March 2008
Lowcountry Slave Genealogies Released March 29
Posted by Diane

The Lowcountry Africana Web site will launch this Saturday with groundbreaking research on genealogies of slaves on Drayton family plantations in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Barbados.

Researchers from the University of South Florida Africana Heritage Project and descendants of slaves who lived on the plantations collaborated to compile and interpret the records. The Magnolia Plantation Foundation of Charleston, SC, sponsored the project and free genealogy wiki helped develop the site.

Many of the records came from Drayton Hall Plantation (shown below in about 1880), also in Charleston, which holds the family’s papers.

Lowcountry Africana will focus not only on Drayton plantation records, but also on those from throughout the former rice-growing areas of the coastal Southeast, which gave rise to the Gullah-Geechee culture.

African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 27 March 2008 08:12:08 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 26 March 2008
See Vietnam Wall Names Free on Footnote
Posted by Diane

Footnote’s latest addition lets you search—free—for those whose names are etched into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

The site has added an interactive exhibit with a database of names linked to photos of each engraved name. The images are from a 460-foot photograph of the wall, consisting of 6,301 separate images “stitched” together.

The Wall bears 58,320 names of armed forces members who died or went missing while serving in the Vietnam War. (Names may be added on Memorial Day each year as the Department of Veterans Affairs receives additional information.)

You can search for a name or browse by a category, such as branch of service and hometown. You'll see a photo of each matching name. Click a match for details, including the person's hometown, rank, specialty (such as maintenance or field artillery), decorations, religion, marital status, birth date and death date and cause.

You also can click View on the exhibit's main page to see the entire stitched-together photo—then zoom in and move around. (As you might expect, the image takes a l-o-o-o-o-ng time to load.) Hover over a name, and a window pops up you can click for details on that person.

The black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial was constructed in 1982 after its creator, 21-year-old architecture student Maya Ying Lin, won a competition to design it. A few years ago, I was one of its 3 million annual visitors. I most remember the solemn quiet—in contrast to the atmosphere around other memorials on the National Mall—and the sound of pencil scratchings as visitors made rubbings of names.

Most of Footnote's digitized historical records are available with a subscription or on a pay-per-view basis, but the virtual Wall exhibit is among the site's free offerings.

Update: Click Comments, below, for additional tips on searching the database and viewing the Wall.

Genealogy Web Sites | Military records
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 15:43:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
RIP Phone Book, 1878-20??
Posted by Grace

Phone books can be great resources for confirming locations of your recent ancestors, but those big yellow doorstoppers are dying a slow death, the online newsmagazine Slate reports.

They've come a long way since the first phone directory, a one-pager listing all 52 telephone subscribers in New Haven, Conn., debuted in 1878. (The Slate article describes many more mentionable moments in phone-book history.)

The hefty, floppy books were created as vehicles for companies to sell advertising, and last year, 615 million directories were printed in the US, creating revenues of $13.9 billion, according to the Yellow Pages Association. But more and more cell phones are unlisted, and many people turn to the Internet to find phone numbers—especially people under 30. (For example, the last time I used a phone book was when the electricity in my apartment went out and I couldn't find the number I needed by text messaging Google.)

For more phone fun, has many old pictures of telephone books, and some are listed for sale. You can browse by country, state and city.

Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 15:19:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 25 March 2008
And the Telly Goes to ...
Posted by Diane

The Roots Television show Psychic Roots—featuring Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sharon DeBartolo Carmack interviewing Psychic Roots author Hank Jones—has won a coveted Telly Award!

The Telly Awards, in case you hadn't heard, "honor the very best local, regional and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and work created for the Web."

Three other Roots Television shows won, too—a nice feat for the genealogy-focused online television channel’s first year. Today, on “Telly Tuesday,” you can watch them all.

Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 25 March 2008 15:05:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 24 March 2008
Donated DNA to SMGF? You Could Get a $19.50 Profile
Posted by Diane

If you've participated in the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation’s (SMGF) DNA study, you may be able to get your genetic genealogy test results for just $19.50.

SMGF’s collaboration with the DNA-enabled social networking site Genetree has provided an avenue for SMGF to release the DNA profiles in what study director Scott Woodward calls a “compelling, confidential” way.

To be eligible for the offer, you must have ordered an SMGF participation kit prior to Oct. 23, 2007, and returned the properly completed kit to SMGF postmarked no later than Dec. 31, 2007.

If that’s you, you’ll be able to access your mitochondrial (mt) DNA profile (with genetic information passed from mothers to their children), along with the pedigree information you submitted to SMGF, online through Genetree.

You’ll need a free Genetree basic membership to view your profile. It’ll take about two weeks for your request to be filled—get instructions for obtaining your results on Genetree's "unlock" page.

The SMGF study started in 2000 at Brigham Young University’s Center for Molecular Genealogy, with researchers collecting blood samples and pedigree charts at genealogy conferences. The goal? Build a database of DNA and corresponding genealogical information.

Several years ago, the project outgrew the university and moved to SMGF, where the database now contains nearly 100,000 DNA samples and more than 6 million corresponding genealogical records from people in 170 countries.

You can search SMGF databases and contact potential relatives through the site, but until now, participants didn’t receive their test results.

On Genetree, which launched in beta last October, you can create profiles for yourself and deceased relatives, add DNA test results or order an mtDNA test ($99 or $149), search for relatives, share memories, build a family tree, and invite relatives and friends to participate.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 24 March 2008 09:55:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 21 March 2008
Smithsonian Develops Photo Initiative
Posted by Grace

The Smithsonian possesses more than 13 million images in 19 museums and 700 collections, organized by discipline. In the past, it's been difficult for researchers—and even curators—to know where all the images pertinent to a topic might be found.

The Smithsonian Photography Initiative aims to change all that, making the institute's massive collection accessible for the general public and inviting history fans to get involved.

One facet of the initiative, click! photography changes everything, is a repository of essays on how the medium has altered the world we live in. Right now, 100 experts' musings can be found on the site; in the fall, click! will invite the public to submit images and comments. (Click here to read about our Photo Detective Maureen Taylor's translation of her own grandmother's wedding portrait and how it changed her perception of Nana from a static portrait to a living woman.)

Enter the Frame encourages Web site visitors to "tag" Smithsonian photographs to make them more easily searchable. When you tag a photo, you apply keywords that describe the image. This could include dates, locations, seasons, topics, descriptions of people in the photo, objects in the photo, etc. For example, the photo at right (from our Photo Detective blog) might get tagged with mourning, black dress, woman, gloves, seated, veil and hat.

Click here to see a list of all the Smithsonian Photography Initiative projects, including click! photography changes everything and Enter the Frame. You can read more about the benefits of tagging in Family Tree Magazine's May 2008 Toolkit article "Tagging Along."

Historic preservation | Libraries and Archives | Museums | Social History
Friday, 21 March 2008 15:29:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 20 March 2008
Many USGenWeb Sites Leave RootsWeb
Posted by Diane Genealogy blogger Kimberley Powell reports many USGenWeb project administrators are moving their sites off RootsWeb—a change she says has long been coming, but was hastened by The Generations Network’s (TGN) decision to transfer RootsWeb to’s domain (read more about that move in last week's blog post).

See which USGenWeb state and project sites are moving on Powell's blog. It looks like the relocated sites are adding redirects, and national and state administrators are keeping up with link updates.

A little background: USGenWeb is a network of free genealogy Web sites, one for each state and county. Each state and county site has a volunteer administrator who maintains it and adds information and links, which is why the sites look different. USGenWeb also hosts special projects on the national and state levels, such as the Family Group Sheet Project to post and link to online pedigree charts. National USGenWeb administrators link to the everything from the USGenWeb home page.

The national USGenWeb site and many of the local sites have long been hosted on RootsWeb, which TGN purchased in 2000 and has financially supported—and kept free—since then.

Powell says some USGenWeb administrators have been unhappy with slow RootsWeb servers and the lack of ability to add some of the bells and whistles today’s Web surfers are used to seeing.

Others are uncomfortable with the RootsWeb acceptable use policy—the legalese of which gives TGN license to use the data posted on RootsWeb servers (submitters retain copyright)—or feel the free, volunteer nature of USGenWeb is incompatible with a for-profit host. Of course, the connection was always there, but it's more obvious with ancestry in RootsWeb's URL.

The Family Group Sheet Project’s site, for example, has moved, and its redirect page bears a prominent message that "THIS SITE IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ANCESTRY."

Read more about what USGenWeb administrators have to say on Powell’s blog, and let us know what you think by clicking Comments below.

Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 20 March 2008 07:07:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Tuesday, 18 March 2008
News From the BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference
Posted by Diane

Family Tree Magazine’s contributing editor and technology guru Rick Crume crashed the Brigham Young University Computerized Genealogy Conference  last weekend in Provo, Utah.

He reports more than 700 attendees absorbed nearly 100 presentations and explored a large exhibit area. Here's what Rick had to say about developments he uncovered there:

FamilySearch makeover update
The revamped Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library Web site, still in the testing stage, is gradually being rolled out to the church’s temple districts around the world. It’ll be open to the general public once data security issues are addressed.

“New” FamilySearch offers collaboration, multimedia and improved searching. It’ll attempt to consolidate all the family information located in several databases on “old” FamilySearch.

As a shared database open for users to collaborate on, the new FamilySearch is fundamentally different from the current site, which doesn’t let you alter data someone else submitted. You’ll be able to submit information to the new site in GEDCOM format, but you can’t download data as a GEDCOM.

Working with other service providers is the new site’s strong suit. Several genealogy programs, including Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree and RootsMagic (but not Family Tree Maker or FamilySearch’s own Personal Ancestral File), will let you synchronize the family files on your computer with New FamilySearch. And you’ll be able to use these programs free at Family History Centers for three years.

Progeny’s Charting Companion utilities  will combine family information from the renewed site with photos from another site to create a photo family tree chart. And Generations Maps will let you order a chart made from names on the new FamilySearch.

Work is underway to digitize the Family History Library’s collection. FamilySearch Labs' Record Search already lets you search millions of indexed names.

How many searches was that?
Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of The Generations Network, rattled off a string of statistics on his company, whose divisions include, RootsWeb, and

Amazingly, still ranks as the third most popular genealogy Web site, even though TGN virtually abandoned the site after acquiring it several years ago.

Sullivan noted processes 20 million search requests a day. TGN has invested almost $69 million to digitize records over the past 10 years; $10 million a year now goes toward digitization. In the works: scanning some of the National Archives’ 9 billion undigitized documents.

Sullivan emphasized RootsWeb will remain free despite the change in its domain name to

From the genealogy social networking front ...
Genealogy social networking sites are multiplying like crazy. Geni now has a million registered users. A new entrant in the field, Family Pursuit, lets you and your relatives use a Web-based genealogy program to collaborate on family history research.’s upgraded online family tree, PedigreeSoft, will debut in two or three months with a new URL,

And some new products and services
  • Family Photoloom, which should be available this month, lets you tag faces in photos and link them to genealogical data
  • Heritage Collector lets you organize your digital photos, label people in them and create family history scrapbooks
  • is a wiki that accepts biographies of anyone, famous or not, but the person must be deceased
  •, coming in April, aims to make tracking down your ancestors’ descendants more efficient.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 18 March 2008 15:34:26 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]