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<2008 July>

More Links

# Monday, 14 July 2008
Free Chicago Vital Records Search Goes Online
Posted by Diane

In the March 2008 Family Tree Magazine Branching Out news column, we reported the clerk’s office in Cook County, Illinois—home to Chicago—was digitizing vital records for an online index.

The project is finally finished, and you can search the index at the county's Genealogy Online Web site. Records date back to the 1880s (the Great Chicago Fire destroyed Cook County vital records from before 1871).

First, you’ll need a free site registration. Then you can search birth and death certificates (older than 75 and 50 years, respectively), and marriage licenses (older than 50 years) by name and optional year range, or year and file number.

Online genealogy guru Steve Morse has created an online form that gives you a sounds-like option for names.

Matches show the person’s name, the record date and file number, with an option to download a copy of the record from the clerk's office for $15.

You also could use the index information to order the microfilmed records from the Family History Library (run a keyword search of the online catalog on cook county and birth, marriage or death). The rental fee runs about $5 per roll; visit your local Family History Center to put in your request.

(Update: Click Comments below for expert tips on finding microfilmed Cook County vital records. Also, as a Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter reader pointed out, records are still being added to the CookCountyGenealogy database.)

Genealogy Web Sites | Public Records
Monday, 14 July 2008 09:20:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 11 July 2008
New Source for British Parish Records
Posted by Diane

The UK fee-based data site is adding baptism, marriage and burial records from more than 1,000 parishes across Britain.

The records date as far back as 1538, making them valuable sources for research before civil registration began in 1837. You can search by surname across all the records without knowing where your ancestor lived.

Starting today, you can view more than over 15 million parish burial records and memorial inscriptions. A total of 7 million baptism, marriage and probate records will become available later this year.

The parish records are available with an Explorer subscription to, which costs 54.95 pounds ($109) for 6 months or 89.95 pounds ($178) for a year.

You also can search some English baptism and marriages through FamilySearch Labs' Record Search (scroll down and look under Vital Records).

Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 11 July 2008 09:13:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 10 July 2008
New Blog Series: 101 Best Web Sites Profiles
Posted by Diane

I’ll be highlighting two of our 101 Best Web Sites for genealogy (selected at random) each week right here. My math skills aren’t the greatest, but I figure at this rate, we’ll finish up in time to start next year’s list.
  • Let’s start with Documenting the American South, where the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill library publishes digitized texts, images and audio files.
We called this site one of the “Best for African-American Researchers” because of its strong African-American collections, including information on slavery, biographies and Southern black churches. But it covers a wide range of Southern history topics, including literature, North Carolinians in World War I, and southerners’ letters and other writings.
You’ll need to register with the site to search the name index. You see limited results for free; the cost to view full record entries starts at 5 pounds (that's about $10).
The September 2008 Family Tree Magazine (which hits newsstands next week) has the full 101 Best Web Sites list, or click through to them all from

And you can visit our Forum to nominate your favorite family history site for honors in 2009.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 10 July 2008 08:20:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 09 July 2008 Plays up New Search Experience
Posted by Diane 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,’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's new search experience on DearMyrtle’s July 1 podcast. | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 09 July 2008 14:43:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Tuesday, 08 July 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, 08 July 2008 16:02:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Sunday, 06 July 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, 06 July 2008 16:42:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Thursday, 03 July 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, 03 July 2008 17:29:48 (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
Click Comments (below) to add your own favorite Revolutionary War-era research resources.

Genealogy Web Sites | Military records | Research Tips
Thursday, 03 July 2008 08:39:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 02 July 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, 02 July 2008 16:26:01 (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, 02 July 2008 09:08:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]