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# Tuesday, June 10, 2008
New One-Step Search Tools Promise Better Results
Posted by Diane

Over at Tracing the Tribe, Schelly Talalay Dardashti blogged about new features on Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step Web Pages.

If you’re not familiar with him, Steve Morse is a kind of genealogical folk hero who creates handy Web tools including highly flexible search forms for third-party genealogical databases.

His newest database search tools include phonetic name matching, which finds variant surname spellings based on how a name is pronounced rather than how it’s spelled, so you get fewer false hits. Dardashti says Morse's Ellis Island Gold form passenger search  and the Dachau concentration camp search will soon feature phonetic matching.

Morse has a long list of tools on his home page, so here, I'm linking directly to several of the new ones:
Stop by the One-Step site to see more database searches, language transliterators, date converters and other goodies. You can learn more about the tools and how to use them in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine, and see FamilyTreeMagazine.com for some of our interview with Morse.


Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Tuesday, June 10, 2008 2:21:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, June 09, 2008
Borders Concept Stores Feature Ancestry.com
Posted by Diane

One feature of Border’s fancy new “concept” stores—now open in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Las Vegas; Noblesville, Ind.; Panama City Beach, Fla.; and National City, Calif.—is a Borders Genealogy Services kiosk where customers can search Ancestry.com.



A kiosk (shown) is part of each concept store’s digital center, which has staff to help customers download books and music, self-publish their writing—and research their family history.

The free Ancestry.com access is a big draw, which is why Borders is offering it, says spokesperson Kolleen O’Meara. “It allows our customers to also experiment and try new things with experts available to help them. This is a great introduction to genealogy research showing customers how easy it can be.” She adds that digital center staff will be trained in searching Ancestry.com.

Of course, Ancestry.com and Borders are hoping visitors also will buy the “Subscription in a Box,” a one-month membership to Ancestry.com, Family Tree Maker software and/or an “Our Name in History" book

Lucky us… one of these new Borders will open close to Family Tree Magazine headquarters by late November.

Genealogy Industry
Monday, June 09, 2008 2:12:16 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, June 06, 2008
48 Hours in Washington, DC
Posted by Grace

While planning a trip to our nation's capital to see friends, I focused mainly on coordinating schedules and figuring out where to eat. But the day I left, I suddenly got really excited about all the museums there are in the District.

Although 48 hours doesn't give you a lot of time to explore, I managed to spend time in two great museums: the Newseum and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Newseum, a museum dedicated to the history of news and journalism, just opened its impressive new building at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. in April. That's the First Amendment inscribed into the front of the building.

Its six levels are packed with interactive exhibits and small theaters. My friends and I spent about four hours looking at everything, but I could have spent another day there easily. Especially in the area full of historical front pages (as seen at right). Declarations of war, unthinkable events and tragic assassinations are displayed alongside incredible achievements, joyous milestones and other turning points in our world's history.

The same hall is lined with mini-exhibits of various aspects of journalism, such as the contributions of black Americans, women and others to the field, and the changing face of the news business. (The Palm Pilot of blogger Jim Romenesko is on display, for example.)

The section devoted to coverage of Sept. 11, 2001, was also really impressive. What looks like a sculpture is a twisted chunk of the radio tower formerly atop the World Trade Center. The walls are lined by front pages from Sept. 12, and videos show news coverage from the day.

Although journalism nerds like myself will probably appreciate the Newseum most, anyone with a taste for history will enjoy spending a few hours there.

The National Portrait Gallery is an absolute powerhouse and a must-see museum even if you're not well-versed in art history. With free admission, there's no reason not to stop in when you're in Washington. The newly reopened atrium (above) is pleasantly cool and quiet even on sweltering summer days.

One big highlight of the collection is the permanent "America's Presidents" gallery. My personal favorite was Norman Rockwell's depiction of Richard Nixon. And it's interesting to see John F. Kennedy's portrait is the only openly abstract painting in the bunch.

It's incredible to think the building, which originally housed the US Patent Office, was almost demolished in the mid-1900s. Its endless corridors and galleries are absolutely gorgeous, and the art it contains is a true national treasure.

If I'd had a little more time to spend in DC, I would have visited the National Archives, Cooper-Hewitt and the Natural History Museum. Next time!

Museums | Social History
Friday, June 06, 2008 9:42:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]