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# Monday, May 12, 2008
Geni Adds GEDCOM Uploads
Posted by Diane

Genealogists everywhere are cheering: Geni, the free family networking site, has announced that you can now upload your GEDCOM to create a Geni tree. (GEDCOM, if you’re wondering, is the standard file format for genealogy applications.) Before, Geni users could download, but not upload, GEDCOMs.

Uploading a GEDCOM will start a new tree, not add to your existing tree—something Geni webmasters plan to change in the future. Read more on the Geni blog.


Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, May 12, 2008 4:03:16 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, May 08, 2008
Footnote Adds 1860 Census
Posted by Diane

The historical records subscription site Footnote has branched into census territory by adding 1860 US census schedules to its collection.

Footnote took a different angle with this addition—not surprising, since census records are widely available on the Web.

The site, which divides its collections by historical era rather than record type, has grouped the 1860 census with its Civil War collection and made the database interactive. That means subscribers can attach stories, photos and comments to entries in the census.

You also can use Footnote’s records viewer to adjust the brightness and contrast of digitized records and invert images (so they appear as white print on a black background instead of the other way around).

The viewer actually is pretty cool: You hover over an entry and a pop-up window tells you the person’s name. You click for other information, and to see other users’ comments (or add yours). At the bottom of the viewer is a "film strip" you use to navigate to other pages. Here's a look:



The Civil War collection also includes a pension index, Confederate soldiers’ service records and Southern Claims Commission files. Footnote is working with FamilySearch and the National Archives on a pilot project to digitize Union widows’ pension applications.

Annual subscriptions to Footnote cost $59.95.

census records | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, May 08, 2008 1:12:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Catholic Churches Told To Keep Records From FamilySearch Digitizers
Posted by Diane

You may already have heard the Catholic News Service reports that the Vatican has directed Catholic dioceses throughout the world not to allow FamilySearch to digitize or index parish registers.

Father James Massa, executive director of the US bishops' Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, told the Catholic News Service that the directive, issued in an April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, aims to prevent Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) members, or Mormons, from using the records to baptize the dead.

The LDS Church operates the FamilySearch genealogy Web site.

The letter reads in part, "The congregation requests that the conference notifies each diocesan bishop in order to ensure that such a detrimental practice is not permitted in his territory, due to the confidentiality of the faithful and so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Posthumous baptism by proxy is central to the LDS faith: Mormons can offer baptism to their ancestors so families can be united in the afterlife. That’s why the LDS Church digitizes and microfilms records. Generally, FamilySearch negotiates contracts with churches to film their records.

The LDS Church makes the records available to members of all religions for use in genealogical research. And microfilmed Catholic Church registers are the major resource for finding ancestors in Europe before civil (government) registration began, usually during the 1800s.

Jewish groups also have criticized posthumous baptism, especially for Holocaust victims. The LDS Church agreed in 1995 to stop the practice of baptizing Holocaust victims, but some say it continues.

What do you think of the Vatican's directive? Click Comments to post here, or post to our Hot Topics Forum.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, May 07, 2008 12:10:30 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [27]
# Tuesday, May 06, 2008
200 Years of Children's Books on Display
Posted by Grace

Before Webkinz and Tamagotchis, children had to find amusement in analog activities, such as rolling hoops, kicking cans and—gasp!—reading books.

I recently stumbled across the University of Delaware's online exhibit "World of the Child: 200 Years of Children's Books," which gives an in-depth look at what kids read as well as the education philosophies behind the often dry books.

You can view sample pages of instructional books, primers and poetry collections, as well as more modern pop-ups and storybooks. The explanations can give you a whole new perspective on your ancestors' childhoods:
"Until the middle of the nineteenth century, all books for children were religious books in the sense that all literature was seen as requiring a stated moral perspective. Since fairy and folk tales, beloved by children in both oral and written form, were seen as threatening to the established moral order, a body of literature was developed to ensure that children's reading would reflect the conservative Protestantism of the time. The high infant mortality rate and large numbers of women dying in childbirth, also contributed to the focus in children's stories on pious lives and early deaths."
Sure is a far cry from Pokemon. Click here to browse the collection.

Genealogy for kids | Libraries and Archives | Social History
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 9:46:30 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, May 05, 2008
Eyewitness Report: UK's Biggest Family History Show
Posted by Diane

A giant family history show called Who Do You Think You Are? Live just wrapped up in London. Thirty-year British family history veteran Richard Heaton, who volunteered there, sent us this eyewitness account and some action shots:
Who Do You Think You Are is the biggest event of its kind in the UK, with attendance last year of 13,000 visitors. This year the numbers were probably higher still.

But it’s not just the numbers that make this show stand head and shoulders above the rest—it’s the scope of what’s available for visitors. It has representation from many UK local family local history societies, the online research database companies such as FindMyPast, software suppliers and expert lectures.

But it’s also attended by major archives in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland; experts on local history, military history, archeology, conservation, the History Channel; even the London Times digital newspaper archive (below). All under one roof for three days.

Making available a great variety of resources and knowledge—some not immediately connected to family history as we’ve known it—gives the show appeal to a wide audience. The common theme? All exhibitors and visitors share a passion for history.
Over the two days I attended, I had the chance to hold (and of course feel the weight) of a Brown Bess rifle. Chatted to two enthusiasts dressed as Polish Lancers. Sampled lectures covering topics as diverse as Stonehenge, the Battle of Britain 1940, and Jewish family history research.

I also had a good look at the display of military vehicles, including a British WWI tank. I looked at historical objects (below)—coins, bells, buckles, clay pipe bowls and colourful fragments of medieval pottery—once discarded by our ancestors and since recovered from the mud of the Thames River in London. 


But I spent most of my time volunteering to help visitors with research queries, both in the Guild of One-Name Studies booth (below) and as an expert advisor for the Society of Genealogists (both are leading family history societies in the UK). Most visitors I saw came from the UK, but there were a noticeable number of visitors from Canada, Australia, the United States and Ireland.

Visitors’ knowledge levels were equally varied. The success of the UK television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” has clearly encouraged a lot of people to take an interest in their family history. Some were absolute beginners, excited to find ancestors in the UK censuses. Other seasoned researchers were equally pleased to get advice on new sources for 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century research. 
I finished on Sunday, a little tired and a little hoarse, but very satisfied, having had the opportunity in some way or another to assist over 50 fellow family historians.

Genealogy Events
Monday, May 05, 2008 5:21:51 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, May 02, 2008
FamilySearch and British Partners to Digitize UK Records
Posted by Diane

A partnership among FamilySearch, British family history subscription/pay-per-view database site FindMyPast, and The National Archives of Britain will give genealogists access to millions of names of British soldiers and seamen from the 18th to the 20th century. The records include:
The records may include each ex-serviceman's name, age, birthplace and service history, physical appearance, conduct sheet, previous occupation, and in some cases, the reason for discharge. After 1883, details of marriages and children may also appear.
  • Merchant Seamen records from 1835 to 1844 and 1918 to 1941, which will provide the name and the date and place of birth. Many 20th-century records include photographs of the sailors and details of their voyages. Nearly a third of UK families have ancestors who were merchant seaman, according to FamilySearch's announcement.
For this three-year project, FamilySearch staffers will digitize the records at the UK National Archives, and FindMyPast will create indexes and transcriptions. When they're through, the indexes and images will be searchable at FindMyPast and FamilySearch.

I can hear you wondering, “Will they be free?” FamilySearch’s announcement didn’t say one way or the other, but in previously announced partnerships, records are to be free on FamilySearch and partner organizations have the option to provide fee-based access.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Friday, May 02, 2008 5:07:14 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
San Francisco's Historic Mission Dolores Cemetery
Posted by Diane

Last week after talking about kids’ genealogy in Sacramento, Calif., I met up with my sister in San Francisco for a couple of days (she lives 20 minutes from me here in Cincinnati, but was also out West on business).

One of my favorite sights was Mission Dolores, the popular name for the Misión San Francisco de Asís since it was founded June 29, 1776. The present mission chapel, built in 1791, is a block and a half away from the first location.



Still home to an active parish, it’s the oldest intact building in San Francisco—the thick adobe walls survived the 1906 earthquake. Next door is the Mission Dolores Basilica, first built around 1876 and rebuilt after suffering severe quake damage.

The walled Mission Cemetery, final resting place for Ohlone, Miwok and other indigenous peoples as well as notable pioneers, is the only cemetery left within city limits.






The cemetery is smaller today than it once was, but has been restored with native plantings.



You can find known Mission Dolores burials listed at FindaGrave. Read a bit more about the cemetery’s past in the transcribed historical newspaper articles on SFGenealogy.com.

Cemeteries | Historic preservation | Social History
Friday, May 02, 2008 9:03:39 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Thursday, May 01, 2008
Missouri Opens Digitized Records Site
Posted by Diane

Missouri has launched a kind of one-stop shop for finding digitized historical records, abstracts and indexes from the state archives as well as libraries, universities, historical societies and other repositories throughout the state.

The Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative divides collections by subject area (some record sets appear under multiple topics). Genealogical material is mostly in the Family and Faith category, but you’ll also want to explore Military Records, Newspapers, Sports and Recreation and other topics. (To see a lineup of all the record sets, click All Collections at the bottom of the Collections main page.)

What will you see? Photos, maps, birth and death records, naturalization records, coroner’s inquest abstracts, a state supreme court case index, newspapers, Civil War letters and more. Here’s an ad page from an early 1900s Hannibal, Mo., city directory:

A few collections, including penitentiary and some land records, are still in progress. Some items are hosted on Missouri Digital Heritage; for other collections, you’ll be taken to partner sites. All the records are accessible free.

The Missouri Digital Heritage Exhibits section links to online exhibits about the Missouri State Lunatic Asylum, the state fair, Lamar, Mo.-born Harry Truman’s Whistle Stop Campaign, and more.

Another feature you won’t want to miss: The link to Missouri’s Local Records Inventory Database, where you can search inventories of local government records located primarily in county and municipal offices. You won’t find information about your ancestors in this particular database, but you can find out what office holds the records you need and what years are available. Search on a county name and keyword such as birth or probate.

Genealogy Web Sites | Public Records | Social History
Thursday, May 01, 2008 9:59:12 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Haunting Holocaust Albums Online
Posted by Grace

Tracing the Tribe pointed us in the direction of a US Holocaust Memorial Museum online exhibit of haunting scrapbooks from the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. Very few photos of Auschwitz during wartime exist, and what makes these even rarer is the subject matter.

"Auschwitz through the lens of the SS" shows the Nazi leadership's daily life at the camp: eating blueberries, dancing to accordion music and taking day trips to recreation areas. The scrapbook, donated to the museum last January, was likely created by SS-Obersturmführer Karl Höcker, was stationed at Auschwitz from May 1944 until January 1945.

One section of the online exhibit compares the SS-centric album with the only other known album from Auschwitz, which contains haunting photos of prisoners. Höcker's album contains no pictures of prisoners at all.

On a somewhat related note, I saw "The Counterfeiters" recently, which is a fictionalized retelling of Operation Bernhard. The Nazis used prisoners at Sachsenhausen to forge British banknotes, eventually producing nearly 9 million of them. The movie, which won Best Foreign Film at this year's Oscars, takes some liberties but is really interesting. Read more about Operation Bernhard here.

Update: Click Comments for the Tracing the Tribe blogger's news about Yad Vashem's May 1 online photo archives debut.

Museums | Social History
Wednesday, April 30, 2008 9:37:49 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, April 28, 2008
Green Genealogy Tips
Posted by Diane

I was out of town for Earth Day (April 22), but since any day is a good day to be green, here are some ideas for environmentally friendly genealogy research:

Kill lots of birds with one stone (figuratively, of course). If you’re headed to a repository or Family History Center, search the facility’s Web site ahead of time to see what resources it has. Then plan to complete as much of your genealogical to-do list as possible—thus saving a second fossil-fuel-burning trip.

Make it a road trip. Grab a few fellow society members and carpool to libraries and cemeteries. It’ll be more fun that way, too.

Pack out recyclables. If you’re doing research where recycling isn’t available, take home your plastic water bottles and empty soda cans. Or get a reusable bottle and fill it at the drinking fountain.

BYO mug. Instead of taking foam cups, bring a reusable travel mug for coffee. Some shops give you a small discount for using your own mug.

Don’t waste juice. Turn off your desktop or laptop between research sessions—computers draw energy even in sleep mode.

Recharge it. Power your digital camera and other handheld devices with rechargeable batteries. And don’t throw out spent batteries with your regular garbage: They’re considered hazardous waste. Drop them off at a local collection center (click for help finding one, or check with your community's department of environmental services).

Use less paper. Genealogy by nature involves accumulating paper. Many printer manufacturers recommend against printing on the back of used paper (though we’ve done this successfully on our home inkjet printers). You can use scrap paper for taking notes at the library, or recycle it.

Go for paperless copiers. At some repositories, you can use copiers to scan a record and e-mail it to yourself or burn it to a CD. Ask at the information desk, and have someone show you the equipment.

Recycle printer cartridges. Many office supply stores discount new cartridges if you bring in used ones. Some charities take them, too, for fundraising purposes.

Save trees and your back. Attending a genealogy conference? If possible, opt to get the syllabus on CD or as a PDF. The upcoming National Genealogical Society conference (May 14-17), for example, will make the syllabus available to attendees as a PDF.

Isn’t it cool how doing greener research also can save you time and money? Click Comments (below) to add your own tips.


Research Tips
Monday, April 28, 2008 11:24:23 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]