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# Thursday, September 18, 2008
Footnote to Digitize Homesteaders' Case Files
Posted by Diane

Historical records subscription service Footnote is embarking upon a project to post hundreds of thousands of US homesteading records online.

Those records comprise land entry case files of people who claimed land under the Homestead Act of 1862, which opened the door for Americans to own government land in exchange for making improvements (such as residency, raising crops and planting trees).

A land entry case file might include an application for land, witnesses’ testimonials, military records, citizenship papers and more.

Footnote already contains 1,824 case files for people who registered homesteads at the Broken Bow, Neb., land office between 1890 and 1908. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had microfilmed these; the rest of the General Land Office (GLO) records are still on paper.

You can search land patents at the Bureau of Land Management’s GLO records site, but until your ancestor’s full land entry case file is digitized, you’ll need to order copies of it from NARA. If your ancestor applied for a land claim but didn’t “prove up,” the GLO database won’t contain a patent for him.

NARA, the National Parks Service, the University of Nebraska—Lincoln and FamilySearch are partners in the digitization project.


Footnote | Public Records | Research Tips
Thursday, September 18, 2008 4:17:44 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
I *Heart* Awards!
Posted by Diane

A great big thank-you to Renee Zamora over at Renee’s Genealogy Blog, who honored us with the I Heart Your Blog award!

Now it’s my turn to nominate seven—only seven!—blogs I heart. (I tried to avoid any repeats.) Here are my picks:

Geneablogie
I’ll forgive lawyer Craig Manson for coming up with this blog title before we could. He offers thoughtful takes on topics you don’t see covered many other places.

The Genealogue
I love me some irreverent genealogy humor. Chris Dunham probably spent half his grade school career writing on the blackboard (I’m half afraid of what he’ll say about getting an I Heart Your Blog award.)

Granite in My Blood
I can definitely appreciate someone who appreciates a cemetery. Midge Frazel (who’s related to none other than Isaac Denison) posts a potpourri of intriguing gravestone photos, family photos and research updates.

Library of Congress Today in History Blog
The library's director of communications Matt Raymond researches  blog-worthy historical events and then tells us about them . . . not a job I'd love at all.

Photo Detective
Besides writing our Photo Detective blog, Maureen A. Taylor keeps a photo news and research blog on her own site. It’s the first place I heard of a photosynth.

The Practical Archivist
Archivist Sally Jacobs has sound photo-preservation advice with titles like “The Chemical Sandwich of Doom.” And I couldn’t not like her blog description.

Q&Q Blog
I’m a writer, and Brian Klems of our sister magazine Writer’s Digest eloquently answers writers’ questions.

Here are the rules for award recipients:
1. Can put the logo on his/her blog
2. Must link to the person who gave the award
3. Must nominate seven other blogs and link to them
4. Must leave a comment on each of the nominated blogs

Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, September 18, 2008 12:56:07 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
A Tale of Two Indexing Projects: Comparing FamilySearch Indexing and the World Archives Project
Posted by Diane

With two biggest organizations in genealogy seeking volunteers and historical records for their indexing programs, comparisons and questions about competition are inevitable.

Nonprofit FamilySearch began rolling out FamilySearch Indexing in 2006. Volunteers around the world use an online application to view and index digitized records.

Subscription data service Ancestry.com launched a similar program, the World Archives Project, this year. A recently announced partnership with the Federation of Genealogical Societies has societies providing volunteer indexers.

FamilySearch released a statement last week about the two programs. Though it started by welcoming all efforts “that provide more economical access to more genealogical and historically significant records,” subsequent claims that FamilySearch produces “More quality indexes, faster” and offers “Greater free public access to images” (among other assertions) struck a defensive note.

Read the whole statement on Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.

A little competition would make sense: If FamilySearch makes genealogical records free, wouldn’t Ancestry.com lose customers? Will FamilySearch lose indexing volunteers to the World Archives Project?

No, both organizations insist. When I questioned FamilySearch, spokesperson Paul Nauta replied “FamilySearch believes the introduction of records access initiatives will only serve to improve progress toward making the world’s genealogical and historical records more available economically—an underlying goal of FamilySearch Indexing.”

World Archives Project manager Christopher Tracy also downplayed any competition and emphasized the shared goal of increasing records access. “There’s plenty of work. Billions and billions of records out there haven’t been indexed,” he says.

“They have a great community and they’re bringing more and more people into the [genealogy] space,” he adds of FamilySearch. Ancestry.com reiterated his points in its own written statement.

The organizations collaborate on indexing the US census, and they’re avoiding indexing the same records. “Each company has strategic relations representatives that speak or meet regularly to help accomplish these goals,” Nauta says.

So, now that the air is clear, how do the two programs compare? We’ll break it down:

Records access for the public
  • FamilySearch Indexing: All record indexes and many record images will be free to anyone through the FamilySearch Web site. If FamilySearch isn't able to secure permission to put certain images on FamilySearch's public site, you can access them at a local Family History Center.
  • World Archives Project: All record indexes will be searchable free on Ancestry.com. Images of those records will be available to Ancestry.com’s paid subscribers, and they'll be free at public libraries that offer their patrons Ancestry Library Edition.

Benefits to volunteers (aside from the warm fuzzies of helping genealogists)
  • FamilySearch Indexing: Qualified volunteers (those who’ve keyed 900 names within a 90-day period) will receive free access to all record images, even those not on FamilySearch's public site.
  • World Archives Project: Active indexers (who've keyed at least 900 records a quarter) will get free access to all record images, and can vote on which records the project should index. Active indexers who subscribe to Ancestry.com will receive a 10 to 15 percent discount on renewals.

Benefits to partnering organizations
  • FamilySearch Indexing: Organizations that provide records for digitizing and indexing receive free copies of the record images and indexes.
  • Ancestry.com: Genealogical societies that index a record set receive a copy of the images and indexes, as well as free advertising from Ancestry.com (I'm not sure what form the advertising will take).

Other comparisons
Both programs have each record indexed twice, with an arbitrator to resolve differences. Having been around longer, FamilySearch Indexing has more record sets you can choose to index. Its indexing utility is Mac-compatible; Ancestry.com’s is PC-only.

The two programs’ indexing utilities work differently, and you might try both and decide you prefer one over the other. We’d love to hear about your experiences using the utilities—click Comments to post.


Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy Industry
Thursday, September 18, 2008 9:07:03 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Spitting Becomes Fashionable
Posted by Diane

Fashionistas have found a new accessory for their Marchesa and Derek Lam: little plastic tubes of, well, spit.

The founders of genome profiling service 23andMe (one of Ancestry.com’s latest business partners) put a creative and chic spin on DNA test marketing by hosting a “spit party” during New York’s Fashion Week.

Well-dressed celebrities including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, film producer Harvey Weinstein (both of whom have financially backed 23andMe) and designer Diane von Furstenberg were in attendance. Between cocktails, guests could spit into tiny tubes to have their genomes profiled.

23andMe, whose test can tell you about genetic traits (such as whether you like broccoli), health risks and your ancient ancestry, was looking to promote its new $399 price (down from $999) and the online community it recently added.

The party went on despite a warning letter the State of New York sent 23andMe for performing medical testing without required licensing. (The company is negotiating a resolution.)

All I can say is it's a good thing I wasn't invited. I'd have to blow a few months' salary on something decent to wear, then I'd probably miss the spitting tube and ruin my new dress. Read more about the spit party in the New York Times.


Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 4:01:23 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Congrats to Family Tree Magazine's FGS Door Prize Winner!
Posted by Diane

Congratulations to Noreen Manzella, of West Haven, Conn., who won Family Tree Magazine’s Federation of Genealogical Societies conference door prize. (Here's Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family Tree Magazine Podcast host Lisa Louise Cooke about to draw her name.)


 
And here’s Noreen's loot: a Family Tree Magazine tote bag stuffed with our State Research Guides CD, International Passport CD, The Family Tree Guide to Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors, Your Guide to Cemetery Research and The Genealogist’s Question & Answer Book.


Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 9:24:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, September 15, 2008
Cast Your Vote for the Genealogy Difference Maker of the Year!
Posted by Diane

We've been profiling an unsung genealogy volunteer in our Difference Makers section of each 2008 Family Tree Magazine issue.

Now you can help choose one of these volunteers as our 2008 Difference Maker of the Year. That person will win $100 toward his or her pet genealogy project, plus a free year of Family Tree Magazine.

Visit FamilyTreeMagazine.com to meet all six of this year's Difference Makers and cast your vote for the Difference Maker of the Year. Hurry! Voting ends at midnight Sept. 24.

You also can see names of all the hard-working volunteers Family Tree Magazine readers have nominated as genealogy Difference Makers.

We're so inspired by these folks that we're continuing the Difference Makers series for 2008. Nominate someone you know who's made a difference in genealogy (scroll to the bottom of the linked page to make a nomination).


Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, September 15, 2008 1:55:55 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Another SSDI-Based Obituary Site
Posted by Diane

Yesterday’s high winds in Cincinnati cut off power to Family Tree Magazine’s offices, closing us down for the day.

But I’m one of the lucky 10 percent of people in the area who haven't lost electricity, so I thought I’d blog (from the comfort of home) about a new Web site that’ll compete with Footnote’s just-launched Footnote Pages

Yesterday’s New York Times had an article about a memorial site called Tributes, started by the same guy who founded the job-hunting site Monster.com. Tributes' “soft launch” was this summer; the official launch is set for Sept. 23.

Like Footnote Pages, Tributes uses the Social Security Death Index as a foundation for online profiles of the deceased. You can link profiles together social networking-style and enhance them with words and multimedia.

According to the Times, Tributes members can sign up to get e-mail alerts when a person has died based on the person’s last name, school, military unit or ZIP code. “Eventually, users will be able to download their address book to the site to keep abreast of the passing of friends and relatives.” (Though this "death watch" tool  might seem a little macabre, it could be useful, say, if you've been unsuccessfully searching for your dad's WWII Army comrades.)  

You can create 300-word Tributes obituaries free; elaborate multimedia obituaries costs $80 per year or $300 for an unlimited time period.

Just by comparison, building profiles on Footnote Pages is free. It’s also a little more genealogy-oriented: if you have a subscription to Footnote’s historical records database, you can search it for records related to a deceased person and link them to his or her profile.

Of course, both sites hold the possibility you'll fill in blanks on your pedigree chart by finding an existing, tricked-out profile for an ancestor. 

Have you used either Footnote Pages or Tributes, or another memorial site? What did you think? Click Comments to post here, or post in our Web Watch Forum.


Footnote | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, September 15, 2008 1:10:09 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, September 12, 2008
101 Best Web Sites: Norwegian Roots and Maps Galore
Posted by Diane

Here's our weekly (roughly; I got thrown off schedule last week) look at two of Family Tree Magazine's 101 Best Web Sites for 2008.
  • Digitalarkivet was originally home to 1801, 1865, 1875 and 1900 Norwegian censuses, this national archives site is expanding to also encompass parish records—the most important family research tool in Norway.
Click Database Selector to find databases by county or year, or choose the Search in All the Database link (note this page doesn’t seem to have an English translation, but you can get a serviceable one by pasting the text into Google’s translator and selecting Norwegian as the language to translate from).
  • The Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection brings digitized historical maps from around the world straight to your computer screen. They’re sorted by category, so first scroll down and click Historical Maps, then a continent or country. From there, you can choose maps of cities, military maps and maps showing historical eras, territorial growth, populations and more.


Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy
Friday, September 12, 2008 3:28:11 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, September 11, 2008
Familybuilder Announces Low-Cost DNA Tests; Global Network
Posted by Diane

Two big announcements from Familybuilder, the company that created the Family Tree genealogy application for social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
  • First, Familybuilder’s new Global Network brings the Family Tree application outside of social networking sites.
Anyone can create a Family Tree profile on Familybuilder and link it to Family Tree profiles on social networking sites. (More than 20 million Family Tree profiles exist on such sites.) You’ll need a free registration to build a tree or access existing ones. 
  • Second, starting Oct. 15, Familybuilder will offer low-cost DNA tests, focusing on the social networking market. According to a written announcement, “No genealogy service caters to the 300 to 400 million people who use social networks to research their family trees.”
The offerings include a 17-marker Y-DNA test and a mitochondrial (mt) DNA test; both cost $59.95.

FamilyBuilder does have others beat: Compare its 17-marker test with FamilyTreeDNA’s 12-marker test ($149); DNA Testing Systems’ 13-marker test ($200); Chromosomal Labs’ 19-marker test is $260.

A 17-marker test is usually enough to tell you if you’re related to someone, but higher-resolution tests (those that test more markers) are more accurate. For example, it’s possible a 17-marker test may match on 15 of the 17 markers, where a 45-marker test of the same two people might match on 30 out of the 45 markers.

Note that a Y-DNA test doesn’t tell you how you’re related to someone; but it estimates how long ago a common ancestor may have lived.

Many genealogists go straight for the higher-marker tests (my guess is that's the market most traditional genetic genealogy companies concentrate on). Familybuilder says it plans to expand its DNA lineup and is “committed to continuously driving the costs of these tests down over time.”

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, September 11, 2008 5:27:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Footnote Launches "Facebook for the Deceased"
Posted by Diane

Russ Wilding, CEO of subscription historical records service Footnote appeared at TechCrunch50 (an annual technology conference) to launch Footnote Pages, what CEO Russ Wilder described as "Facebook for the deceased."

 

The product would contain profiles of deceased individuals, populated with the 80 million names from the SSDI. Survivors and friends can find their loved one or start a new page. Then they add information and stories about the person; upload photos; and link profiles of people who went to the same school, worked together, were related or were otherwise associated during life.

 

Here’s where Footnote’s existing historical records collections come into play: You can search Footnote for records related to the deceased person and attach them to his profile.

 

Using the example of a friend who’d died in a motorcycle accident, Wilding added to his profile a map with the accident location, uploaded a high school photo, and linked him to another student at the school.

 

You’ll need a free Footnote membership to create a Footnote Page. To access Footnote’s historical records, you’d need a Footnote subscription ($11.95 per month and $69.95 per year).

 

Marketing director Justin Schroepfer says Footnote was one of 52 applicants selected  from more than 1,000 to present at the TechCrunch50 conference. He and his colleagues had to keep a lid on the news due to an agreement with TechCrunch. 

 

After Wilding’s presentation, TechCrunch50 judges critiqued the idea. One suggested the idea of building an online profile for a deceased person might be disturbing.


Similar memorials are already on other Web sites such as Legacy.com; but Footnote takes it a step further by starting with the SSDI and incorporating historical records.

 

Here’s what Footnote had to say about Footnote Pages in an announcement:

• Even for an audience that might not be as familiar with social networking, these pages allow multiple users to easily contribute content and insights helping to create a more complete picture of the people we care about.

• Maps, timelines, and photo galleries bring these pages to life and add context.

• Footnote Pages helps associate and link pages to others besides the immediate family; such as friends, prominent figures, etc.

• Footnote pages can be used to create tribute pages for family & friends, memorial pages for ancestors or research pages to gather information.

• Pages can also be created to document and discuss historical events, places and organizations (for example, the Vietnam War, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy or the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.


Footnote | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 6:13:51 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]