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<2008 June>

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# Friday, 20 June 2008
Family Tree Who?
Posted by Diane

How did anyone find out stuff before the Ancestry Insider? The anonymous blogger posted yesterday that The Generations Network (TGN) is suing Millennia Software and Utah design firm BTH2 over similarities between the packaging of TGN’s Family Tree Maker 2008 and Millennia’s Legacy Family Tree 7.0. BTH2 designed both packages.

See a side-by-side comparison and more details from the complaint filed with the US District Court in Utah on the Ancestry Insider blog. (And don't miss the Genealogue's version.)

I’ve gotta say, in an industry where everything is called family tree something-or-other, it’s hard to differentiate yourself.

At last month’s National Genealogical Society conference, I can’t tell you how many people came to Family Tree Magazine’s booth (that's us) asking questions about “our” Family Tree Maker software. We also sent some folks over to Family Tree DNA.

That’s life when product names that say “genealogy” are rare (family tree, family history, ancestry, roots, progeny, gene—all taken). We just hope if you don’t remember which “family tree” we are, you’ll recall that really cool genealogy magazine or Web site you saw once, and recognize it when you find it.

Genealogy Industry
Friday, 20 June 2008 10:32:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Thursday, 19 June 2008
Will California's Letters to Genetic Testing Companies Affect Genealogists?
Posted by Diane

California's attempt to regulate genetic testing has raised a bit of a stir in the genealogical community, but it's unclear whether genetic genealogy tests will be affected.

Wired reports that the state department of public health sent sternly worded cease-and-desist letters to 13 DNA testing companies warning they’re in violation of California law.

California requires labs that are located in the state or process biological samples originating there to get a state laboratory license, and it also prohibits direct-to-consumer clinical lab tests without a doctor’s order.

One warning letter, linked in Wired’s article, specifically states genetic tests are not exempt. But it doesn’t distinguish between genetic genealogy tests (such as Y-DNA tests) and disease-related genetic tests (such as 23andMe’s genotyping services).

Genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA didn’t receive a letter, spokesperson Bennett Greenspan told me, but the company’s disease-related testing business called DNA Traits got one (now posted on Wired). And from the letter's wording, it looks like the state’s concern is tests that reveal medical information without involving the consumer’s physician.

The California Department of Health hasn’t yet returned my call seeking clarification. Meanwhile, the letter demands recipients cease and desist offering genetic tests to California citizens.

Update (June 20): Californians won't need a doctor's note to learn their haplogroups. Lea Brooks of the California Department of Public Health told me that "Genetic testing used for ancestor tracking or forensic purposes is not covered by California clinical laboratory law standards." That means the state is limiting its investigations to companies that do medical-related genetic testing.

Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, 19 June 2008 17:18:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Search Tips for Online Genealogy Databases
Posted by Diane

The following tips will help you target your ancestor searches in genealogy databases. Try them out on our 2008 list of the 101 Best Web Sites for genealogy—you’ll find these sites in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine (look for it July 15 on newsstands and on

Read a site's search instructions. They'll reveal tricks such as omitting a given name or including wildcards.

• On Web sites with multiple databases, search individual databases one at a time. Those customized search engines often include fields you won’t get with the site’s global search.

Make sure the collection covers the right time and place. Go to the page for the individual database and look for background information. You might learn the collection doesn't contain records for all years, or that your ancestor's county didn't keep those particular records—then you can move on to a more-promising resource.

• Database searches call up your ancestor’s record only if an indexer entered the same information you’re searching on—so try different approaches. Start by entering all you know about the person. If you don’t get results, search on fewer terms and combinations of terms (such as the person’s name and residence, or his name and birthplace, or even just his birthplace and year of immigration).

Seek alternate name spellings. Check the search tips to see whether a search automatically looks for similar names. Even if it does, try odd spellings: A census taker or an indexer might’ve interpreted the name so outlandishly that a “sounds like” search wouldn’t pick up on the misspelling.

Use One-Step Search Tools, which offer more-flexible searching of several databases in, Footnote, and other sites (to view results from a fee-based site, you need a subscription to the site). For example, the One-Step tools might let you search on a name fragment, more year ranges, or more combinations of terms.

• When all else fails, try browsing (on some sites, such as, you'll need to go to the page for the individual database). Start with the records for the most-probable date or place. Keep written track of which records you've already examined in case you have to stop and come back later.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Thursday, 19 June 2008 10:39:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 18 June 2008 Starts Volunteer Indexing Project
Posted by Diane

The subscription service is launching a volunteer indexing project that looks to compete with FamilySearch’s records indexing project.

The Ancestry 24/7 Family Circle Blog announced in March that was planning a volunteer indexing initiative. The anonymous Ancestry Insider blogger  recently reported that the just-launched-in-beta World Archives Project will recruit volunteers to index’s digitized records using an online tool. Then will publish the index free. The record images will be part of’s subscription services.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ FamilySearch was first to start a large-scale project for volunteers to index records using an online tool. FamilySearch Indexing is producing both indexes and record images that will be available free (you can access some now at FamilySearch Labs).

Other FamilySearch indexing initiatives will make indexes free online, with record images available free at FamilySearch research centers, or for a fee from record repositories or third-party database sites.

I’m curious how you all feel about—a for-profit business—using volunteer labor. Does the free index make the idea palatable? What about the possibility that actual genealogists will create a better-quality index than currently offers?

Click here to sign up for's e-mail notifications about the World Archives Project. | Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, 18 June 2008 16:14:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [12]
New Database Shows You English Ancestors' Jobs
Posted by Diane

You might be able to learn whether your English ancestor was a clergyman, cowkeeper, winemaker, woolstapler or other tradesperson using the British subscription service’s latest addition. Pigot’s Trade directories of town and occupational information cover 27 counties back to the 1830’s (so, before official civil registration began).

Records added to date cover 27 counties from 1830 to 1839. Directories contain  descriptions of towns with population numbers, parishes and main trades and industries. They also list residents’ names and addresses by occupation.

Search the directories by name or occupation, or browse by page. A subscription to costs 37.50 pounds—that's about $73.50.

You can browse a name index to a few Pigot's Trade directories free from this RootsWeb-hosted site (there’s a search here, but it didn’t seem to be working).

I dug up a few links to help you learn more about some of those archaic trades your UK and other ancestors practiced:

Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Social History
Wednesday, 18 June 2008 14:02:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Time Puts Genealogy Site in "50 Best" List
Posted by Diane

Congratulations to our friends over at Geni! The venerable Time magazine picked the genealogy-family networking site as one of the top 50 Web sites of 2008

Time’s writer said Geni turns what can be a lonely pursuit into a collaborative effort with its information-sharing tools.  “Geni makes it easier — and more fun — than ever to create and share your family tree.”

Click here to read the Genealogy Insider blog posts about Geni (and a few random posts a geni search of this blog picks up).

Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 12:59:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 16 June 2008
Free Online Historical Newspapers Through June 19
Posted by Diane

The subscription genealogy database service is making its entire historical newspapers collection free through June 19 to mark the expansion of its newspaper database by 20 million images.

You need to register with and provide your e-mail address to access the collection, but you don’t have to give your credit card number.

This addition doubles the size of the newspaper collection with pages from large- and small-town papers, including The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.), Modesto Bee and Herald News (Modesto, Calif.), Raleigh Register (Raleigh, NC) Xenia Daily Gazette (Xenia, Ohio), and more. Coverage varies by title.

Search the collection by a name and a keyword. You can add a year range and place, but that didn’t seem to affect my search—even though I checked the Exact boxes, results came from everywhere and all years.

Matches are categorized by newspaper title; click a title to see results for that paper. You'll see a snippet of the page containing your search term (some image links, including those in my El Paso Herald matches, seem to be broken), with the publication year on the right. It would be cool if the results were arranged by year, so you could scroll to the time your ancestor lived in that area, but you’ll have to evaluate each match.

The Refine Your Search options aren’t available for this collection, since the article content isn’t indexed by birth or death information, or family members’ names (makes sense, since not all newspaper articles would have that information).

If you’re looking for news of a specific event, try browsing individual papers by date. Go to the newspapers collection listings in the card catalog and enter your ancestors’ hometown in the "Filter by a keyword" box. Select a newspaper title, then scroll down to the Browse by Date option. You also can search the individual title from that page.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Monday, 16 June 2008 09:40:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]