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# Friday, June 27, 2008
MidContinent Public Library Open for Research
Posted by Diane

The new Midwest Genealogy Center—one of the country's largest public library genealogy collections—is now open in Independence, Mo. (just outside Kansas City).

Genealogists were deep into research within minutes of the June 21 ribbon cutting, the beginning of a daylong celebration featuring historical re-enactors, musicians and genealogy classes.

At 52,000 square feet, the new center is four times the size of its predecessor, the Mid-Continent Public Library Genealogy and Local History Branch. (The marked difference in the two facilities stands out in our May video tour.)

The space allows plenty of room for resources including a circulating collection, almost completely open stacks, microfilm reader-printers, self-digitization stations, classrooms and research consultation rooms.


Libraries and Archives
Friday, June 27, 2008 2:24:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, June 26, 2008
FamilyLink Launches "Revolutionary" WebTree Service
Posted by Diane

FamilyLink just announced a service called WebTree, billing it as "the most revolutionary family tree publishing site on the Internet."

It’s a free site where you can post and share your family tree, and create heirloom-quality charts to print at home. In the future, you’ll be able to order printed charts, according to FamilyLink founder Paul Allen.

The site hasn’t launched yet, but you can become a charter member now by registering and entering family information. Charter members also will be able to preview new features.

WebTree's pre-launch home page promises an "amazing number of revolutionary features designed to help you with your genealogy."

It also says the service “will never sell your data or burn it to CD,” a vow likely aimed to those who've accused Allen's former employer, Ancestry.com, of reselling user-submitted data.

WebTree states that "you own your data," too, which is a bit of an oversimplification: Nobody owns facts such as names and dates. Additionally, just about anywhere you post your data, you still can use the information however you like—the sticking point is what rights the site claims for using the data you submit.

If it's OK with you, WebTree will make some use of your data. “With permission of the submitters," Allen says, "We will index the files and make them searchable on WorldVitalRecords (as well as on Webtree.com itself)."

World Vital Records is FamilyLink’s fee-based genealogy database service. "As more and more visitors do free searches in this tree collection, we'll be able to let them know about other premium records and databases as well," says Allen.


Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, June 26, 2008 8:57:14 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Civil War Research and Events Updates
Posted by Diane

A few Civil War research and history news items to start your day:
  • The Western Maryland Regional Library has put the Antietam National Cemetery payroll for 1866-1867 online. The digitized and transcribed book bears names and wages of laborers who built the wall around the cemetery. You can browse or search (the search is in the upper right; choose the payroll database from the pulldown menu).
Entry is via the CWPT’s Flickr site. The deadline is Aug. 31, with prizes in four categories ranging from certificates of recognition to free Civil War conference registrations.
  • This year marks the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Gettyburg, and more than 10,000 participants will stage a battle re-enactment July 4-6. Tickets range from $24 per adult for a day to $57 for three days, with lower prices for kids. Get ‘em at the Gettyburg Re-enactment Web site.

Celebrating your heritage | Military records | Social History
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 9:55:23 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
The Difficulty of Divvying Up Family Heirlooms
Posted by Diane

We get a fair number of questions from Family Tree Magazine readers trying to split up family heirlooms—or just get a chance to copy old photos—after a relative’s death. It's an already-difficult situation that can get worse when old tensions resurface.

They’re not alone. CNN.com posted an article today about rifts over inheritances and why they’re so common.

The article also offers tips for avoiding problems, such as making sure loved ones have wills, talking ahead of time about who gets what, and getting a neutral third party involved.

See FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum members’ advice and stories about passing down heirlooms, too.


Family Heirlooms
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 8:50:49 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 23, 2008
Familybuilder Turns One With Millions Of Profiles
Posted by Diane

It's just one year old, but it has some big numbers: Familybuilder announced that members of social networking Web sites have used its Family Tree application to create more than 16 million family profiles. They add another 2 million per month.

Members of sites including Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Hi5 and Orkut can download the free Family Tree app to their online profiles, set up family profiles and connect with other relatives who're members of the same site.

With around 22 percent of Americans using social networking Web sites (says the Pew Research Center), piggybacking off them is a particularly effective way to market a product.

More than 3.5 million people currently use Family Tree. According to Familybuilder spokesperson Myles Weissleder, Internet traffic information provider Comscore rated Familybuilder's site the 4th-most-trafficked online genealogy service in March. (Other top sites were The Generations Network sites, MyHeritage, Genes Reunited and FamilySearch.)

“As we enter into our second year, we'll be offering more tools and services to make researching family history fun," says Familybuilder CEO Ilya Nikolayev.

That includes a way to link up with family members across social networks, so a Facebook fan, say, could add a Bebo-using cousin to her family profile.


Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, June 23, 2008 4:56:14 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, June 20, 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, June 20, 2008 10:32:30 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Thursday, June 19, 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, June 19, 2008 5:18:59 PM (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 FamilyTreeMagazine.com).

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 Ancestry.com, Footnote, EllisIsland.org 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 Ancestry.com, 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, June 19, 2008 10:39:50 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Ancestry.com Starts Volunteer Indexing Project
Posted by Diane

The subscription service Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com’s digitized records using an online tool. Then Ancestry.com will publish the index free. The record images will be part of Ancestry.com’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 Ancestry.com—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 Ancestry.com currently offers?

Click here to sign up for Ancestry.com's e-mail notifications about the World Archives Project.


Ancestry.com | Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 4:14:48 PM (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 FamilyRelatives.com’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 FamilyRelatives.com 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, June 18, 2008 2:02:14 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]