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# Thursday, June 05, 2008
RootsTelevision Show Helps Solve Unclaimed Person Mystery
Posted by Diane

Last week, we blogged about RootsTelevision’s “Unclaimed Persons” show, about genealogists working with coroners to find the families of unclaimed bodies at morgues across the United States.

Part of the show outlined the story of John Finch, a man from Kansas who died in Scranton, Pa., in 1999.  Mysteriously, in his home was the family Bible of an unrelated woman (whose daughter professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak was able to locate).

In 2003, Finch was listed as a survivor in his brother’s newspaper obituary. Smolenyak figured out he had 9 siblings, but none of the phone numbers she dug up panned out. Well, a tip from About Genealogy’s Kimberly Powell has cracked the case.

Powell spotted a brief newspaper snippet about a car break-in, and she thought the automobile’s owner was a likely niece of Finch’s. More research uncovered several possible addresses and she passed them on to the Lackawanna County Coroner's Office in Pennsylvania. Yesterday, John Finch's brother called the coroner's office. John Finch is no longer an unclaimed person.


Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, June 05, 2008 4:31:55 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Search for English Ancestors on FamilySearch Test Site
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has added 24 million names from microfilmed English baptism and marriage records to its free pilot Record Search collection. The records aren’t yet linked to digitized images.

You’ll also find other records there, too, including state and federal censuses, vital records and parish records from Germany, Spain and elsewhere.

FamilySearch is testing the Record Search and image viewer; eventually, it’ll be part of the familiar FamilySearch Web site and let you access even more records. Use the Record Search in Internet  Explorer, Netscape or Firefox.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, June 04, 2008 2:27:53 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, June 03, 2008
MyHeritage Expands Genealogy Metasearch Tool
Posted by Diane

Genealogy Web site MyHeritage, which offers family Web sites, free Family Builder software, and a fun celebrity look-alike photo search, has upgraded another of its features: a genealogy metasearch tool.

MyHeritage Research is a search engine that looks for results in up to 1,350 genealogy Web sites and databases such as EllisIsland.org, Yad Vashem Shoah victims, AfriGeneas Surnames, DeadFred and Ancestry.com (in paid databases, your results show names but you won’t get other details unless you subscribe).

MyHeritage Research is free, though you'll be prompted to register when you use it.

With such a broad search, unless you have a really unusual name, start by clicking Advanced Search and entering as many search terms (birth year and place, death year and place) as possible. You also can specify types of records to look for.

One neat thing: The tool searches on multiple name variations at once. After submitting your search, you’ll get a checklist of alternate spellings—just check up to five you’d like to search on.

You may be prompted to install a “java applet,” a piece of code that enables the search to work, which just took a couple of seconds.

Then go make yourself a snack, since it may take awhile to get results. And the number of matches can be overwhelming—I got 39,510. You're likely to get a lot of false matches. Good thing registered MyHeritage users can save results to wade through gradually.

You’ll be sent to each database site to see its matches. Even on free sites, you’ll often click a match and be told you must register first, which gets annoying and seems risky when you’re unfamiliar with the site. And since you go right to the page with the match, you have little context for where the names came from.

If your research is at a point where you need to cast a wide net, here’s a good way to do it. But you may be better served by targeting specific genealogy databases that make sense for when and where your family lived.

See MyHeritage’s FAQ page to learn more about how the search works. For more on Family Builder software, check out Randy Seaver’s detailed blog post at Genea-Musings.


Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Tuesday, June 03, 2008 8:23:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 02, 2008
Preview Ancestry.com’s New Search
Posted by Diane

The subscription database Ancestry.com has opened the preview for its new search to all members. (You can go back to the old search using the “Switch Back” link on results pages.)

I’ve been using the new search for awhile. It’s a redesigned search interface, rather than a new search engine: The search forms and results pages look cleaner and are arranged more logically and conveniently, so they’re easier to use. The search itself doesn't work differently, but the user-friendly improvements may net you better results.

Using the advanced search, you can click “Tell us More” to add spouse’s and childrens’ names, among other details. You can designate Exact Match for each term, too.

In particular, I like how the search box stays on the left of the results screen, so you can change your search terms at any time without clicking back through all the pages of matches. If you searched in more than one database, another menu on the left lefts you view results from certain ones.

Try it out and click Comments to let us know what you think.


Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, June 02, 2008 12:17:08 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Friday, May 30, 2008
Legislators Discuss Copyright Reform
Posted by Grace

Ever been hassled by a clerk who demands you have permission from the photographer before making copies of a 100-year-old portrait? Under current copyright law, you'll likely lose the fight with Wal-Mart's photo department. (Read more about copyright quandaries here.)

Legislation working its way through the House and the Senate focuses on so-called "orphan works"—creations whose copyright owners cannot be identified or located. When someone wants to use or reproduce a work that is likely copyrighted, they risk being held liable for infringement; this reform aims to free up orphan works for public use.

Although artists have concerns about the current legislation, copyright reform would be a boon for family historians, museums, libraries and educational institutions. You can read more about the legislation on the website of our sister publication The Artist's Magazine here.


Family Heirlooms | Historic preservation | Public Records
Friday, May 30, 2008 2:33:18 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, May 29, 2008
"Last Doughboy" Honored on Memorial Day
Posted by Diane

This week, Photo Detective blogger Maureen A. Taylor posted about visiting the National World War One Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

Missouri also is the birth state of the last known Doughboy—the last living American-born soldier of the 4,734,991 who fought in World War I.  In 1917, Frank Woodruff Buckles convinced an Army recruiter he was 18 and went to England as a casualty retriever.

Spending Memorial Day in Kansas City, the 107-year-old Buckles toured the WWI museum and received a medal from the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Washington Post syndicated columnist Gorge Will’s recent article tells more about Buckles’ extraordinary life story.


Social History
Thursday, May 29, 2008 4:38:32 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Go Behind the Scenes As Genealogist Searches for Next-of-Kin
Posted by Diane

Roots Television has launched a new show about the role genealogists can play in finding the families of unclaimed bodies at morgues across the United States.

“Unclaimed Persons” is a genealogical "CSI." It follows professional researcher Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak’s work on the case of one deceased man, presenting clues through interviews with his acquaintances and coroner’s office staff. No plot spoilers here; you’ll have to see for yourself how it ends.

A separate video gives more information on Smolenyak’s research.

"Unclaimed Persons" also shows you the beginning of another case you might be able to help solve—and maybe we’ll see how that one ends in a future episode.


Genealogy Web Sites | Videos
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 9:13:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
National Archives Opens Online Digital Vault
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is even more than a repository for the census, military and immigration records naming individuals.

NARA also holds pieces of our nation’s collective history—and it just launched a new Web site to display them. Digital Vaults hosts historical photographs, maps, posters and document images from NARA’s file drawers.



You start with an array of small images. Click one and it swirls to the center (above). Click the magnifying glass under it for a closer look and details about it (below).



Then click another document or photo and the screen starts swimming again until that selection surfaces in the middle. If you like an image, more clicks add it to your Collection or link you to related resources at NARA.

Look to the left to see the Filter window, which lets you filter records by time frame, media type (such as Photo or document) and other parameters. Tags lets you view items tagged with certain topics.

Click Pathways at the bottom of the screen to create a challenge for others to follow: You choose records or photos, and use the details about them to write clues about how your picks are related. Click Create to make a poster or movie using records from your collection or from preselected records, then save it or e-mail it to people.

You also can click Search and find, say, all the immigration-, World War II- or Elvis-related items.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Social History
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 8:21:53 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Can You Identify This Object?
Posted by Diane



Gold star to anyone who said “the remains of a wooden vessel in Florida’s Hillsborough River thought to be a Confederate blockade runner.”

After two years of searching, underwater archaeologists from the Florida Aquarium have identified the object as the Kate Dale—one of three blockade runners owned by then-Tampa mayor James McKay.

Confederate blockade runners stocked with goods snuck past Union blockades to trade with foreign countries. During the Battle of Fort Brooke in October 1863, troops from Union gunboats traveled up the Hillsborough River and burned the Kate Dale at her moorings, along with fellow blockade runner Scottish Chief.

Read more about the discovery in the St. Petersburg Times.

Historic preservation | Social History
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 4:09:04 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, May 23, 2008
USCIS Genealogy Service to Handle Citizenship Record Requests
Posted by Diane

A rule published in last Thursday’s Federal Register announces the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the INS) will set up a fee-based Genealogy Program for responding to historical naturalization records requests. The rule takes effect Aug. 13.

Currently, requests are processed through the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) program, which according to the agency, delays fulfillment.

The new program's fees will be $20 for an index search, $20 for record copies from microfilm, and $35 for copies of paper records.

USCIS initially proposed charging $16 to $45 in April 2006. During the ensuing public comment period, the agency received 33 comments, 28 of them positive and many addressing fee levels. You can see a comments summary in the Federal Register announcement.

Records you can request through this program include:
  • Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files) dated Sept. 27, 1906, to April 1, 1956
  • Alien Registration Forms on microfilm from Aug. 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944.
  • Visa Files from July 1, 1924, to March 31, 1944
  • Registry Files, from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944. These records document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could be found later.
  • Alien-Files (A-Files) numbered below 8 million (as in A8000000). A–files were the official file for all immigration records after April 1, 1944. A–numbers ranging up to approximately 6 million correspond to aliens and immigrants who were in or entered the country between 1940 and 1945. A-numbers from 6 to 7 million date from about 1944 to May 1, 1951.
Documents dated after May 1, 1951, even if they’re in an A–File numbered below 8 million, are still subject to FOIA/PA restrictions.
Starting Aug. 13, you’ll be able to submit requests and credit card fee payments through the USGIS Web site on Form G–1041. For records naming someone born less than 100 years ago, you’ll have to prove the person is deceased.

To request an index search, you’ll need to supply the immigrant’s full name and date and place of birth (at least as specific as a year). To request copies of records, you’ll need to provide a file number.

Before the naturalization process was centralized under INS Sept. 27, 1906, local and federal courts kept citizenship records. See the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine and FamilyTreeMagazine.com for tips on finding pre- and post-1906 naturalization records.


Family Tree Magazine articles | immigration records | Public Records
Friday, May 23, 2008 1:26:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]