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<2008 June>

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# Thursday, 12 June 2008
Would You Read a Digital Magazine?
Posted by Diane

Right on the heels of Dick Eastman’s blog post about the disappearance of print newsletters and magazines, Everton’s Genealogical Helper announced the debut of its digital edition.

Everton’s is still doing its print edition, too. Ancestry (published by’s owner, The Generations Network) also publishes both on paper and digitally, as does Internet Genealogy. Digital Genealogist is available only online.

I was proud to see Dick’s description of Family Tree Magazine as a “combined online and offline magazine." That’s what we’re going for: We’ve found readers are accustomed to getting information in a variety of ways, so we’re responding with extra online content, our weekly E-mail Update newsletter, back issues and special editions on CD, digital downloads of our State Research Guides, our blogs and online Forum, online videos and our recently launched podcast.

The entire publishing industry is caught up in the “digital vs. print” discussion, with some swearing it's just a matter of time before all print publications go away, and others insisting people always will want to curl up with a paper magazine or book.

Many who commented on Dick’s post said they’d rather read paper. What about you all—would you read a digital version of your favorite genealogy magazine?

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Industry
Thursday, 12 June 2008 15:59:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Conference Wrap-up: New Zealand Genealogical Society
Posted by Diane

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists recently wrapped up a big conference, From Coast to Coast 2008, held May 30 to June 2 in Christchurch.

Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sharon DeBartolo Carmack and professional genealogist Jim Warren were the annual event’s first American keynote and banquet speakers. “We felt quite honored,” Sharon told us, and she added these notes about the conference:
More than 350 genealogists, “traders” (vendors), and volunteers traveled from all over New Zealand, Australia and the United States to attend the conference. We were impressed not only with the good humor and friendliness of all the attendees, but also the overall level of sophistication regarding genealogical research.
Besides us, 23 speakers lectured on topics geared to New Zealand research, which covered a broad range of ethnic groups representing New Zealand’s melting pot: Irish, Scottish, English, Maori (indigenous peoples) and Chinese.

If you have New Zealand ancestors, the society has a great online overview of resources. Also check out New Zealand GenWeb.

At the banquet Saturday evening, Jim and I presented “Primetime’s 20/20 Dateline: Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Interviews the World’s Oldest Living Genealogist, Ole Smirnoff Bernatelli” featuring Jim as Ole, and it met with uproarious laughter. For Sunday’s dinner, conference organizers Philip Worthington and Fiona Brooker, along with the genealogical society's executive officer, Peter Nash, treated us all to a hilarious version of “It's In the Bag,” a popular game show in New Zealand. I was even one of the contestants, electing to take what was in the bag instead of the money—I won a calculator!
We thoroughly enjoyed the conference and meeting all the attendees. We even got to travel around the South Island of New Zealand in a pre-conference “holiday” with my newly married daughter, Laurie, and her husband, Dash.

Genealogy Events | International Genealogy
Wednesday, 11 June 2008 09:37:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 10 June 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 for some of our interview with Morse.

Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Tuesday, 10 June 2008 14:21:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 09 June 2008
Borders Concept Stores Feature
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

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 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

Of course, and Borders are hoping visitors also will buy the “Subscription in a Box,” a one-month membership to, 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, 09 June 2008 14:12:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, 06 June 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, 06 June 2008 09:42:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 05 June 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, 05 June 2008 16:31:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 04 June 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, 04 June 2008 14:27:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 03 June 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, Yad Vashem Shoah victims, AfriGeneas Surnames, DeadFred and (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, 03 June 2008 08:23:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 02 June 2008
Preview’s New Search
Posted by Diane

The subscription database 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, 02 June 2008 12:17:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Friday, 30 May 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, 30 May 2008 14:33:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]