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<2009 January>

More Links

# Tuesday, 06 January 2009
Are Digitization Projects Skipping Your Ancestor?
Posted by Diane

Genea-Musings blogger Randy Seaver brings up a seldom-raised issue: the quality and completeness of records digitization projects between the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and its partners Footnote, FamilySearch and

His post stems from a discussion on a professional genealogists’ mailing list. A list member experienced with NARA records did a spot check: She noted the first 25 names on a NARA microfilm reel of Civil War pension index cards and searched for those names in’s pension index database. She found just one of the names. (I can hear you thinking "I knew it!")

The researcher said the cards that didn’t scan well from the microfilm were left out of the database (’s source information states 1 percent of the cards are “missing;” she puts the percentage higher).

The researcher also questioned the wisdom of scanning colored documents in black and white, pointing to Footnote's Civil War widows' pensions project.

A NARA staff member explained that partner digitization projects use original records or the highest-quality “master” microfilm and are subject to quality controls. Other, non-partner projects may have digitized records from second- or third-generation film, resulting in poorer images.

He also said NARA does make original records available, even after they’re digitized, to "researchers who need to see them."

A respondent from commented that the microfilmed Civil War pension index cards were particularly difficult to scan because some cards were on dark paper, and the technology available at the time was inferior to today's.

See Seaver’s entire post here. He raises good questions at the end.

It’s easy and comforting to assume genealogy databases have every surviving document in a particular record set. This is a reminder that’s not always the case.  

Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, 06 January 2009 12:52:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
Go to This Summer's Family Reunion on a Shoestring
Posted by Diane

Now’s the time to be thinking about this summer’s family reunion. You can glean a few tips from CNN’s article about holding reunions during tough times.

The March 2008 Family Tree Magazine (now mailing to subscribers) offers a special genealogy-on-a-budget section with professional researcher Maureen A. Taylor’s how-tos for genealogy travel on a shoestring. Here's a sneak preview:
  • Explore transportation, hotel and rental car options using a metasearch engine such as Farecast or Kayak, which search several travel sites at once. (Study the fine print for any added fees, though.)
  • Instead of putting up your whole group in a hotel, consider renting a residence through a site such as Cyberrentals.
  • Try to use public transportation instead of renting a car, especially in big cities. Ask your hotel or the visitors bureau Web site for information.
  • Scout out restaurants ahead of time and shop for gift certificates priced below face value at (note any restrictions on usage) and eBay.
Get more planning help in’s Reunions section and create kid-friendly get-togethers with advice from Family Tree Kids!

Family Reunions
Tuesday, 06 January 2009 09:54:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 05 January 2009
Family History Expo Podcast Interview
Posted by Allison

Family Tree Magazine is proud to be the media sponsor of Family History Expos, a series of two-day genealogy events happening in various Western cities throughout 2009. The next Expo is Feb. 27-28, in St. George, Utah.

DearMyrtle—whom you may know from her blog, Web site and Family History Hour podcast—recently interviewed yours truly for the Family History Expos Podcast. You can listen to our conversation by subscribing in iTunes or using the player on the show notes page.

Genealogy Events
Monday, 05 January 2009 11:44:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Popular Family Tree Sites Launch Pay Plans
Posted by Diane

Two family networking and genealogy sites have added fee-based premium plans to their popular free offerings:

MyHeritage, headquartered in Israel, introduced two premium plans to let users access the new features in its just-released Family Builder 3 Web-based genealogy software. Those features include SmartMatching, which compares new family trees to the MyHeritage database of more than 300 million profiles, to find matches so members can merge the information in overlapping trees. (You may remember SmartMatching from the GenCircles pedigree database site—whose creator, Pearl Street Software, MyHeritage purchased.)

Also new in Family Tree Builder 3 is automatic “Smart Search” searching of more than 100 online databases for names in your tree, easy family tree chart printing, and online publishing with videos and documents to your MyHeritage family Web site.
  • The Premium plan, at $3.95 per month (a holiday offer available through Jan. 15 costs $1.95 per month), 
nets you the above new features with an online tree of up to 2,500 people
 and 500 MB
 of online storage, along with priority support.
  • The PremiumPlus plan, which costs $9.95 per month, offers unlimited online trees and unlimited storage, plus the priority support.
  • With a free Basic plan, you can still use the gratis version of Family Tree Builder, with up to 500 people in your online tree and 100 MB
 of storage.
Los Angeles-based Geni introduced a new $5-per-month Pro plan with benefits including Enhanced Relationship Paths, which lets you discover your exact relationship to any blood relative on Geni. (The free Basic membership shows you relationship “pathways” to ancestors and close relatives—Enhanced Relationship Paths will be most interesting to those with large trees or who’ve who’ve merged their trees with others’.)

Additional Pro benefits include:
  • The ability to export your family tree and all connected trees as a single GEDCOM file (up to 100,000 total individual and family records).
  • A priority support team especially for Pro members.
  • A Geni Pro badge to sport on your profile and in your family tree.

Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 05 January 2009 10:46:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Operation Genealogy Resolution
Posted by Diane

Have you made your genealogy resolutions for 2009?

I’m staying away from vows to find specific information (such as the year my dad’s grandparents immigration to America) because, well, what if I don’t find it?

Instead, I’m resolving to take more steps.  

Resolution No. 1 is to look at my research papers and plan what to do next. Resolution No. 2 is to write at least one information request, order one microfilm, visit one library—do something that makes progress—per month.

Gulp. Now they’re out there and I can’t take them back.

If publicizing your own genealogy resolutions will help keep you honest and prevent procrastination, post them to’s Back Fence Forum. (Note you must register with the Forum to post.)

Here's more genealogy resolution inspiration from Canadian columnist Diana Lynn Tibert, Genealogy’s Kimberly Powell, and the Genealogy Reviews Online blogger.

Research Tips
Tuesday, 30 December 2008 13:35:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 29 December 2008
In Case You're Wondering (Genealogy FAQs)
Posted by Diane

At Family Tree Magazine, we hear many of the same family tree-related questions over and over. I thought I’d answer a few of them here.

You’ll find even more FAQs (and the answers) on our Web site.

Q. How am I related to … [insert description of relative]?

A. It depends who’s the most-recent shared ancestor between you and the relative in question, and how many generations lie between each of you and that ancestor. Find an explanation here and a chart to help you figure it all out here.

Q. We’ve always heard we’re related to [fill in the famous name—John Brown, Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln are common ones]. How do we know for sure?

A. Lots of families have stories like this, and they’re not all true. To find out about yours, carefully research your family tree using reliable sources. You’ll also need to find the family tree of the person you might be related to (link to several famous trees here) and compare the trees to find people common to both.

Q. Why can't I find my ancestor on the Ellis Island Web site?

A. Ellis Island, open from 1892 through 1924, was the busiest US port of immigration, but it wasn't the only one. Cities all along the coasts received immigrants, including Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Galveston, San Francisco and others. Your ancestor may have arrived at one of these ports, or before Ellis Island opened, or overland from Canada or Mexico. See a list of ports and existing records for each on the National Archives Web site.
Q. My daughter learned she and her fiancé share an ancestor. Can they still marry?

A. It’s common for spouses to share an ancestor somewhere back in time—in fact, all states allow marriage between second or more-distant cousins. See a summary of state laws governing cousin marriages at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Celebrity Roots | immigration records | Research Tips
Monday, 29 December 2008 10:48:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 19 December 2008
101 Best Sites: Castle Garden Arrivals and Online Trees
Posted by Diane

Two highlights from our 101 Best Web Sites listing for 2008:
  • Castle Garden: If your ancestors arrived in New York before Ellis Island opened in 1892, turn to this database on 10 million immigrants who entered through Ellis Island’s predecessor, Castle Garden. Castle Garden opened in 1855, but the records here start in 1830.
  • Tribal Pages: This innovative collaboration site hosts family Web sites with more than 175,000 pedigree files, plus a database of names in those family trees. You can keep track of birthdays and other events, and generate charts and reports right from the site. Free sites let you store an unlimited number of names in your tree and up to 50 photos; after that, you can upgrade for a fee.
Link to the rest of our 101 Best Sites on

Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 19 December 2008 14:57:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 18 December 2008
Florida State Censuses Now on
Posted by Diane

Take note if your ancestors lived in Florida: The subscription genealogy site has added a collection of several Sunshine State censuses: 1867, 1875, 1885, 1935 and 1945 (these last two can help fill in gaps after the latest federal census open to researchers in 1930).

These records total 3.8 million names—some of which may sound familiar, such as actress Faye Dunaway, a 4-year-old in 1945; former attorney general Janet Reno, who lived in Dade County at age 6 in 1945; and NASCAR founder William France, Sr., a Daytona auto mechanic in 1935.

Not all states took censuses, but where they're available, they're great for researching between federal censuses. State censuses taken around 1890 can substitute for that missing federal census.

Find a state-by-state list of state censuses here. Records are usually on microfilm at the state archives or library, as well as at the Family History Library (you can borrow the film through a Family History Center near you). has censuses from states besides Florida, including Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, New York and others.

census records
Thursday, 18 December 2008 09:16:58 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Test Your Civil War Knowledge
Posted by Diane

Need a quick coffee-break activity this morning or afternoon? Try your brain at the Civil War Preservation Trust’s 10-question Civil War quiz.

You’ll also learn a bit about the trust’s battlefield preservation activities this year, which include saving 49 more acres of the Brandy Station battlefield and 117 acres on Morris Island, and launching campaigns focused on Bentonville and Shiloh.

Historic preservation | Social History
Wednesday, 17 December 2008 15:11:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Search Burials and Cemetery Maps on New Site
Posted by Diane

This site is just getting off the ground, but it’ll be really cool if it takes off.

Names in Stone is a cemetery mapping site—you can search for a grave and get a map showing where it is in the cemetery and whose plots are nearby.

Only a handful of cemeteries are covered as yet, mostly in Utah, Idaho, Nevada and California.

You can encourage larger, managed cemeteries to participate, or map smaller, volunteer-run cemeteries yourself and upload the data. (Get instructions on the site. More mapping tips are on an associated blog called Grave Mappers.)

It’s free to search on a name and see available details from that person’s headstone—could be birth and death dates, burial date, parents’ names, military service, etc.—as well as the grave location (shown below), cemetery name, cemetery map, address, GPS coordinates and driving directions.

You can purchase virtual gravestone décor; you decorate the stone yourself by dragging and dropping images of flowers and swags.

Paying members ($7.95 per month, $39.99 per year) can save searches, save a “cemeteries of interest” list, be notified of matches to automated searches and receive discounts on gravestone décor.

Cemeteries | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 16 December 2008 09:10:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]