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# Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Ancestry.com Plays up New Search Experience
Posted by Diane

Ancestry.com staffers have been working the PR circuit lately to promote the new "search experience" opened to the public this spring. Makes you wonder whether the old search will be shut down soon—after all, the company wouldn’t run the two searches side-by-side forever.

In an interview last week, product development manager Kendall Hulet told me about 90 percent of people still were using the old search. And on blogs including our own, Ancestry.com’s and the Ancestry Insider, most seem to prefer the old search.

Part of the issue may just be getting used to a new way of doing things, but Hulet knows there still room for improvement.
 
"There are bugs," he admitted, but emphasized you can use the Tell Us What You Think button to send feedback (comments specifically describing a problem are most helpful). The Ancestry Insider quizzed him about two bugs, including one that causes more false matches with the new search than the old.

I asked Hulet about that bar in the new search results that basically says you’ll be wasting your time if you continue looking at results. Why even include those far-fetched matches?

The warning is an attempt to help people who otherwise would spend hours clicking every single result, Hulet says, while also giving more-experienced users access to any record that has the remotest chance of being an ancestor. “What I suggest to people who don’t want to see all those results is to use more Exact terms in their search,” he added.

Something else to watch out for: In the advanced search, if you click the Exact box for one of your terms, the search won’t find records that don’t include that information. (Sorry for the double negative—say you choose Exact for a birth date. Your search won't pull up a newspaper engagement announcement that lacks birth information.)

Hulet couldn't say when the old search might go away. He did say something you'll be happy to hear—an improved search engine is in the works (though he cautioned the upgrade would take some time).
  
Hear more from Hulet about Ancestry.com's new search experience on DearMyrtle’s July 1 podcast.


Ancestry.com | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, July 09, 2008 2:43:22 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Tuesday, July 08, 2008
It's Getting Crowded In Here ...
Posted by Diane

There’s another Insider in the genealogy blogging world: Bruce Buzbee of the genealogy software company RootsMagic started his blog with a post called "The RootsMagic 'Insider.'"

He also announces "RootsMagic 4 is coming," which we didn’t doubt, but he sorta leaves us hanging on when. He does promise it’ll be the biggest upgrade ever, and all the changes will be revealed on the RootsMagic blog—in reverse order of magnitude.

The marketing brilliance is blinding! We'll be paying attention. He also included a good video about how to subscribe to blogs using a blog reader.


Genealogy Software
Tuesday, July 08, 2008 4:02:44 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Sunday, July 06, 2008
Iowa's Libraries and Museums Assess Flood Damage
Posted by Diane

Freelance writer Dana Schmidt, of Ames, Iowa (you may remember her as a former Family Tree Magazine staffer), sent us this report about how the recent recording-setting floods have impacted libraries in her state:

Now that it’s been a couple weeks since rivers flooded parts of Iowa, we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of how devastating damages are in some libraries, and how other libraries escaped the worst.

In hard-hit Cedar Rapids, where the Cedar River crested at about 31 feet—nearly 20 feet over flood stage, beating the former high set in June 1851—nearly 5 feet of water submerged theground floor of the Cedar Rapids Public Library. According to a State Library of Iowa report, floodwaters rose three bookshelves high and humid conditions have contributed to the loss of the library’s entire adult book collection. The Cedar Rapids Gazette also reports magazines, journals and reference books, which were housed on the ground floor, are likely ruined, and the library may remain closed for a year

The Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids also suffered. Ten feet of water surrounded the building and rose to the ceiling inside. According to the state library, about 20 percent of the museum’s artifacts were removed before the flood, but little of the remaining collection will be salvageable. Museum staff continues to update the Web site with recover news.

Inside Iowa’s New Hartford Public Library (near Waterloo), 18 inches of water covered the floor; it’s expected the building will need to be gutted. The library lost 82 percent of its collection.

In Iowa City, the University of Iowa’s Main Library managed to keep its collection dry, despite basement flooding. Cedar Rapids’ African-American Museum also was affected, but more than 90 percent of its collection is expected to survive. The museum's online flood timeline tells about the museum’s collection preservation efforts.

Do you live in Iowa? click Comments (below) to tell us what you saw.


Libraries and Archives | Museums
Sunday, July 06, 2008 4:42:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Thursday, July 03, 2008
No Sign of a Cherry Tree
Posted by Diane

Archaeologists believe they've discovered George Washington’s boyhood home on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia.

For three years, they’ve been excavating foundations, stone-lined cellars and other remains of what’s likely an eight-room, one-and-a-half story residence.

Those characteristics, as well as artifacts—wine bottles, figurines, wig curlers, a clay pipe with a Masonic crest (the first president was a Mason), and more—led to the conclusion the house is indeed that of Washington’s family.

One thing missing: Any hint of the cherry tree young George supposedly confessed to whacking down.

Read the full story in the New York Times.


Social History
Thursday, July 03, 2008 5:29:48 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Quick Look: Resources for Revolutionary War Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Happy Fourth of July! To celebrate the birthday of the United States, here’s a quick look at resources for learning about ancestors who witnessed our country’s struggle into existence:
  • Revolutionary War veterans’ pension files are digitized on HeritageQuest Online, available free through many public libraries. (For pension files longer than 10 pages, this collection contains just the genealogically significant documents.)
  • In Footnote’s Revolutionary Era Collection, you’ll find the full pension files, plus Revolutionary War muster rolls and service records. You’ll need a subscription to access those, but many historical documents here are free, including Constitutional Convention records and George Washington’s correspondence.
Many of these warrants awarded land in what’s now Kentucky and Ohio; the Kentucky Land Office made its records free online.
  • Check out these genealogy and history Web sites, too:
Archiving Early America
(Documents and maps from 18th-century America)
The Battle of Bunker Hill

Charters of Freedom: Declaration of Independence

GenealogyGems Fourth of July Podcast
(A special episode filled with historic speeches and nostalgic patriotic tunes)

Hargrett Rare Map Collection: Revolutionary America

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

NewEnglandAncestors.org
Click Comments (below) to add your own favorite Revolutionary War-era research resources.


Genealogy Web Sites | Military records | Research Tips
Thursday, July 03, 2008 8:39:02 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Fourth of July Sale!
Posted by Grace

Want to experience some genealogical fireworks? Our State Research Guides CD will spark your US research—and for a limited time, get 20% off, plus free shipping! You can save on any Family Tree Magazine CD with this special offer, good only through Wednesday, July 9. Take advantage of the Fourth of July Sale by visiting our store and entering the coupon code FAM4TH when indicated during the order process; the discount will be applied at checkout.

Here's what you'll save:

State Research Guides CD
Retail: $49.99 Sale: $39.99
Contains how-to guides and recommended resources for genealogy in all 50 US states, plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.

2006 Annual CD
Retail: $24 Sale: $19.20
Includes all six regular issues plus the Genealogy Guidebook special issue.

2007 Annual CD
Retail: $20 Sale: $16
Contains five issues plus a bonus family tree chart and directory.

International Genealogy Passport
Retail: $12.95 Sale: $10.36
Features a region-by-region directory of resources to trace your roots anywhere in the world, plus our 2005 Sourcebook special issue.

Click here to visit the shop.


Family Tree Magazine articles | Research Tips
Wednesday, July 02, 2008 4:26:01 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
A Match Made in History
Posted by Diane

How cute is this story? Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross—or rather, two people who impersonate them in Philadelphia—have fallen in love, and they’re getting hitched the day before the Fourth of July.


J. Smith for GPTMC

The lovebirds beneath the costumes are Ralph Archbold, a nationally recognized Ben Franklin re-enactor, and Linda Wilde, who often appears as Betsy Ross.

What better place for Ben and Betsy to wed than Independence Hall? The couple will dress in Colonial attire and exchange vows in a public ceremony there. Then they’ll head to a private reception at the old City Tavern, one of Benjamin Franklin's favorite restaurants.

The pair met last Sept. 1, when Wilde begged Archbold to give a friend’s wedding toast as Franklin. They talked history at the event, and Archbold later called Wilde in search of a last-minute Betsy Ross.

The rest is history.


Genealogy fun
Wednesday, July 02, 2008 9:08:04 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Listen Up: Podcast Episode 2 is Live!
Posted by Grace

Have you already checked out the Family Tree Magazine Podcast? Episode 2 is live today, and features a sneak peek at the September issue, news from the blogosphere, an inside look at our 101 Best Web Sites awards with David A. Fryxell, plus news about WeRelate, genealogy "wikis" and the Mid-Continent Public Library's new Midwest Genealogy Center.

New to podcasts? It's easy peasy! Click the "Listen to this episode" link following the episode summary. Your browser will open a new window or tab displaying a bar that allows you to pause, play, fast-forward and rewind through the episode. (You can also read our Podcast Primer for step-by-step instructions.) Watch for a new episode every month!

In related news, we're thrilled that DearMYRTLE featured the premiere episode of our podcast in the latest installment of her Best of the Internet for Genealogists awards. If you haven't listened to episode 1, just follow this link to listen. And we can't help but give a plug to DearMYRTLE's own podcast—check it out on her Web site.


Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, July 01, 2008 4:28:06 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 30, 2008
The Importance of Enunciation in Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Reason No. 437 why you can't always believe oral history ...

One of our coworkers just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary. The other day, she told her husband that after this year’s family reunion in New England, she wants to go up to Prince Edward Island to see where her dad came from, and taste the nearly golf ball-sized blueberries and swim in the Gulf Stream-warmed water he always talked about.

"Prince Edward Island?" my coworker told me her husband answered. "I thought your dad was from Ireland."

True story. He confessed that throughout their half-century of marriage, he's also told people her mom was born in Scotland (it was Massachusetts).

My coworker wonders what else they don’t know about each other after 50 years together. At least they kept a sense of mystery, I say.

This is just one example of how family stories can get altered over the years—and why it's a good idea to look for records that confirm what Great-grandma or -grandpa told you.


Genealogy fun | Research Tips
Monday, June 30, 2008 3:51:42 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# 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]