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<2008 May>

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# Thursday, 15 May 2008
Seen and Heard at NGS …
Posted by Diane

There are the big National Genealogical Society conference announcements, then there are the news tidbits you pick up around the exhibit hall. Here are some of those:


Look for Genetree, the genetic genealogy-meets-social-networking Web site, to add Y-DNA testing to its mitochondrial DNA testing services in the not-too-distant future.


Arphax Publishing has put out the first three books (each covering one county) of its Texas Land Survey Maps series (another book will come out each week). You may find them extra helpful because Texas, a state-land state, didn’t follow the same survey methods you’re used to seeing in public-land states.


The new is kind of like eBay for genealogical research services: If you need someone to go to a courthouse or get a birth certificate for you, post a request. If you can provide the service, submit a bid. A rating system lets researchers rank how you did.


The New England Historic Genealogical Society has launched, a portal to the organization’s Empire State resources. Spokesperson Tom Champoux says the group wants people to know resources cover more than just New England.


The Oregon-California Trails Association created Paper Trail (I love a good pun), a database of names and other information from thousands of 19th-century trail-related documents.


Irish researchers can find a helpful Irish Roots Cafe podcast at


Next week, and NARA will hold a press conference to announce a new, large-scale digitization partnership.

Genealogy Events
Thursday, 15 May 2008 18:03:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Sneak Peek: New Midwest Genealogy Center
Posted by Diane

Last night, the not-quite-finished MidContinent Public Library’s Midwest Genealogy Center (which tried very hard to be open in time for the conference) hosted a recption to give National Genealogical Society conference attendees a chance to preview the new facility.


At 52,000 square feet, it’s more than four times the size of the current Genealogy and Local History Branch. That library was already a tremendous resource—in our July 2008 issue, we designate it one of the nine genealogy libraries to visit before you die—but the spacious new digs will make it’s materials and staff even more accessible and useful.


Tuesday, editor Allison Stacy and I took a look at the current genealogy branch (it’s truly bursting at the seams) and got our own hard-hat tour of the in-progress Midwest Genealogy Center. We’re putting together a video for you, but in the meantime, here are some pictures from last night’s reception.


A light-filled atrium is the first thing Midwest Genealogy Center patrons will see.



Here you can see the curved circulation desk and future public lounge (lower level). The upper level will be mostly open stacks.



These reception attendees stand in the future periodicals area.



Researchers can get staff help in two consultation rooms (right); a large classroom will host public programs.


Other rooms will house rare books, a computer lab (with equipment for digitizing your family photos or video tapes), microfilm cabinets and a microfilm reading room.

Genealogy Events | Libraries and Archives
Thursday, 15 May 2008 10:44:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Breaking News From the National Genealogical Society Conference
Posted by Diane

The National Genealogical Society Conference just got underway here in Kansas City, Mo., and already the announcements are flowing:

  • FamilySearch and subscription records site Footnote announced they’ve reached an agreement for FamilySearch to provide free access to the Civil War Pensions index and the 1860 US census. You’ll be able to search indexes for both collections on FamilySearch as the project is completed, users will be able to search. Footnote subscribers can view the record images on Footnote ($59.95 per year) ; anyone can access them free at the 4,500 worldwide FamilySearch Family History Centers (FHCs).
  • FamilyLink (which brings you the World Vital Records subscription databases) is helping FamilySearch improve the usability of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Library Catalog by adding Web 2.0 functionality and enhancements.

The catalog is a listing of the genealogical resources in the Family History Library, including millions of microfilms, microfichfiche and books from more than 110 countries. You can borrow film and fiche (books don’t circulate) by visiting an FHC.


Improvements include making the catalog searchable by major online search engines (such as Google) and letting users to annotate descriptions in the catalog. You'll be able to conduct a “guided search” with tools that will help you decide what you want to learn about your family, point you to relevant records, and help you get and use them.


You’ll also be able to browse the catalog, sort search results and perform multiple searches at once. A nifty tool will search your online family tree to determine which lines have the highest likelihood of success based on known sources (and maybe there’ll be a “pep talk” tool for those other lines).

  •  The Generations Network (that’s’s parent company) CEO Tim Sullivan has written a “letter to the public,” basically a review of newdatabases and services (such as DNA testing and Ancestry Press). He also offered news about upcoming features such as a historical newspaper collection doubled in size, more than 6,000 school yearbooks and new US city directories containing 50 million names. 

Ancestry Hints will send you automatic notifications when finds matches between people in your tree and its record databases. More user-friendly member profile pages also are in the works. You can read the whole thing on the Web site


International sites on the way include China (with Chinese family histories from the Shanghai library) and a Spanish-language sites.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 14 May 2008 13:53:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
I believe in genealogy miracles
Posted by Grace

Seattle resident Jan Burak Schwert and her husband traveled to Konstanz, Germany, to trace his ancestry. They hoped to find Schwerts in cemeteries, but they ended up snagging a live one. Read her story of serendipitous genealogy finds here, and add your own in our comments!

Via Tracing the Tribe

Family Reunions | Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 14 May 2008 11:09:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Looking for a job?
Posted by Grace

The Department of the Interior seeks a full-time genealogist to research American Indian ancestry in its Office of Federal Acknowledgement. (Meaning: determining if groups should be granted federally recognized tribal status.) The job pays to the tune of $82,961 to $107,854 a year. Boy, I got into the wrong line of work.

(Via Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter)

Genealogy fun
Tuesday, 13 May 2008 12:22:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 12 May 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, 12 May 2008 16:03:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 08 May 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, 08 May 2008 13:12:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 07 May 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, 07 May 2008 12:10:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [27]
# Tuesday, 06 May 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, 06 May 2008 09:46:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 05 May 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, 05 May 2008 17:21:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]