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<2009 March>

More Links

# Monday, 09 March 2009
Q&A With Beta-Free GeneTree
Posted by Diane

The family networking and genetic genealogy site GeneTree has shed its beta skin and emerged, as the company’s announcement describes, “a simple, intuitive way to regularly communicate with extended family, and to securely share and store family contact information, personal profiles, photos, video and ancestry documents.”

You also can order both mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA genetic genealogy tests, add the results to your profile and search for people who match.

GeneTree president and COO Matt Cupal and I had a quick Q&A over the phone today:
GI: What would you consider GeneTree’s greatest strength?
MC: Probably the positioning that we’ve had along, which is that it’s a family social network, but it has this unique twist of using DNA to extend your concept of family.
GI: Could you give me a quick rundown of GeneTree’s post-beta features?
MC: We’ve improved a lot of the components of the social network, so it’s easier to invite people and stay connected. For example, the page you land on now is a news feed that tells you everything that’s going on in your networks—that could be more DNA connections, or another family member has added a photo or updated the family tree with more people. That's also e-mailed to you once as week as a digest.

We’ve made some dramatic improvements in our family tree building software. It’s intuitive and easy to use. We’ve also added a GEDCOM upload. We’re working on improving it, always, but right now you can have up to 2,000 people inside your GEDCOM.

One of the really cool things about the site is that you can do collaborative family tree work, so you and your cousins and all your other relatives can be on at the same time and make things happen.

GI: Do many people who haven’t ordered a DNA test from GeneTree have their family information on the site?
MC: About 5 percent of the people who come on the site have actually taken DNA tests. It’s a no-cost system to be a member and have your family information there, and that's by far the majority of members.

GI: How many members are there?
MC: We’re moving toward 100,000, and we’ve got about 1.5 million profiles right now—that’s people on trees.
GI: Now that beta’s over, what developments are you planning?
MC: Surname studies are fairly high on the list. We’re also looking at ways we can expand this to the rest of the world. We’re intrigued by the idea of allowing people from multiple sites to come into the system. Maybe they’re a member of Geni or TGN [The Generations Network, owner of] or any number of systems—we’d like to enable them to use the DNA facilities.

We want to make DNA more understandable to the general population—those who are strongly interested in genealogy and those who are more passively interested—to help them better understand how they can use DNA.

We’re starting with an educational component. We’re also designing some new DNA tests to be a little more understandable—still based on the same principles, but tests that can grab the imagination of the general populace more than, say, the particular values of your Y-markers.

GI: What’s your take on the genetic genealogy market right now?
MC: Clearly it’s going to be a challenging time this year. Something we’re working on to help offset that is some lower-priced alternatives, so people can get in the game at a lower number and get their feet wet.
We'll keep you updated on these developments. See the genetic genealogy toolkit on' for more DNA answers.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 09 March 2009 16:04:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Tips From Genealogy Geniuses
Posted by Diane

Shout out to the Green County (Ohio) Genealogical Society, which hosted us at Saturday’s meeting. We administered a light-hearted genealogy IQ test and had a great conversation about preserving photos, reading gravestones and putting family information online.

The tips flowed in both directions. A couple from this enthusiastic group:
  • Newsletter editor Diana Nelson suggests checking what’s behind old framed photos (not to be confused with encased photos such as daguerreotypes, which shouldn’t be taken apart). Someone might’ve enclosed a written identification or more photos inside the frame.
  • A person whose name I didn’t catch (I’m sorry!) uses aluminum foil to safely capture impressions of gravestone transcriptions. After making sure the stone is sturdy and secure in the ground, she’ll mold a sheet of foil onto the stone. You can reuse the foil, or save and frame the impression the same way you can a wax rubbing.
Here’s the group pondering our quiz (there were some smart cookies in the room!).

I vigilantly made sure all kept their eyes on their own papers.

Genealogy fun | Genealogy societies
Monday, 09 March 2009 11:24:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 06 March 2009
It's Friday—Time to Round up the Genealogy News
Posted by Diane

Here are some genealogical happenings that perked up our ears up this week:
  • Roots Television posted a video about Chris Haley—nephew of Roots author Alex Haley—and his first meeting with newfound cousin June Baff Black at last weekend’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live! family history show. Haley learned through DNA testing that he has Scottish Ancestry; the video shows how the test led him to Black.
  • News site SwissInfo launched We Shall Not Stay Long, a section for those whose ancestors left Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland for better lives in the Americas and Australia. You’ll find articles from expert historians and “witnesses to history,” photos and more.
  • Remember watching “Daniel Boone” on TV in the 60s? In the current Genealogy Gems Podcast, host Lisa Louise Cooke interviews Darby Hinton, who played Daniel Boone’s son, Israel.
  • FamilySearch’s volunteer indexing program recently completed a bunch of projects for the free FamilySearch record search pilot site, including church records for Cheshire, England (1538 to 1907). Indexes for the 1920 Washington, DC, US census; 1865 Massachusetts state census; and 1885 and 1935 Florida censuses are still being double-checked, but you can browse the Florida census images now.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | International Genealogy
Friday, 06 March 2009 14:59:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 05 March 2009
Cologne Archive Collapse: All is Not Lost!
Posted by Grace

When the Stadtarchiv Köln—or City Archive of Cologne—collapsed Tuesday afternoon, two people died, surrounding buildings were irretrievably damaged, and more than a thousand years of records were buried in the rubble.

The archive contained 65,000 documents, the oldest coming from the year 922. The archive's holdings—more than 16 miles of files—included tens of thousands of maps, photos, posters and one-of-a-kind artifacts from the Middle Ages. The collection was valued at $500 million, according to Welt.

The city archive, which first found a place in Cologne city hall in 1406, withstood World War II with no losses. Officials say the building fell into a crater created by work on a nearby subway line. The building that collapsed was built in 1971. According to Wikipedia, it was built with an estimated service life of only 30 years. The archive reached its holding capacity in 1996; some material has been removed for storage elsewhere.

While emergency workers attempted to stabilize the building with concrete, about 100 volunteers have pitched in to save valuable documents from the rubble since Tuesday night, according to a city press release. A small portion of the archives was in an unharmed area of the building. Rain is expected over the next few days, so a temporary roof will be set up over the collapse site to attempt to save more documents.

Hamburg genealogist Andrea Bentschneider did research at the Cologne archive once and describes its holdings as "gigantic."

The collapse comes at an especially bad time, she says, because German privacy law recently changed to allow easier access to civil records. The city archive of Cologne had announced that as of this month, all death records up to 1978, marriage records before 1928 and birth records before 1898 would be available for research without restriction.

"We can only hope that these civil records as well as all other records were secured and saved on microfilm or a similar medium. Otherwise 1,000 years of Cologne's history may be lost forever," Bentschneider says.

It seems that much of the archive's content may be safe. Welt reports that former city archive head says a large part of the archive’s pre-1945 files were microfilmed; the backups are stored in the Barbarastollen archive in the Black Forest.

And FamilySearch filmed 171 rolls of film from the Cologne archive in 1984, says public affairs manager Paul Nauta. The library has been able to help other archives before by providing copies of the lost documents. FamilySearch’s holdings include these items from the Cologne archive:
  • Genealogy and coast of arms 1350-1880
  • Tax lists 1487-1703
  • Orphans house registers 1592-1788
  • Soldier pay records 1552-1613
  • Court records, inheritance and land 1220-1798
  • Court minutes 1413-1652
  • Town council minutes 1440-1653
"This is one of the clarion calls for why preservation services offered by FamilySearch and other like organizations can be so critical. Most genealogy consumers are aware of the convenient access value, but the tragedy of the Cologne archive reiterates the value for preservation," Nauta says.

Historic preservation | Libraries and Archives | Public Records | Vital Records
Thursday, 05 March 2009 09:39:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
RootsMagic 4 Public Beta Test Launched
Posted by Diane

RootsMagic has announced a public beta test of RootsMagic 4 genealogy software (for Windows). During the beta period, which until March 31, you can download and try out the software free.

RootsMagic president Bruce Buzbee calls version 4 “the biggest release in our 20-year history of making genealogy software.”

New features include integrated web searching, improved source citation, sharing events among multiple persons, creating pre-defined groups of persons, person and place mapping, recording DNA tests and improved navigation and data entry.

RootsMagic 4 includes RootsMagic To-Go, which lets you install the program onto a USB drive, transfer data between it and your computer, and take your data with you anywhere. (Look for our article on running genealogy software from a flash drive in the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine.)

The program can directly import data from Personal Ancestral File, Family Tree Maker (through version 2006), Family Origins and Legacy Family Tree. It’s certified to work with “New FamilySearch,” FamilySearch’s Web-based program that’s being rolled out to LDS churches and will eventually be publicly available.

See an in-depth rundown of new features on the RootsMagic blog. Click here to register for the beta version; you'll get an e-mail with a link and registration key.

Addition: I asked Buzbee what happens when your RootsMagic 4 beta version expires. After March 31, the beta version reverts to a trial version, which has some disabled features and limits the amount of information you can enter. If you want to save what you entered in the beta version, you should export a GEDCOM before March 31.

Genealogy Software
Thursday, 05 March 2009 08:30:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 04 March 2009
Genetic Genealogy Company Shuts Down
Posted by Diane

DNAPrint Genomics, a Florida-based genetic genealogy testing company known for its AncestryByDNA test, has ceased operations, according to a notice on its home page.

My call to the company went to voice mail, then was cut off.

Read more on the Genetic Genealogist and GenomeWeb.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 12:50:09 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free Photo Detective Download with Newsletter Sign-up
Posted by Diane

Tell your friends about this one: We've got a free gift for those who sign up to receive our weekly E-mail Update newsletter (which, coincidentally, is also free).

What is it? Our Best of the Photo Detective 42-page digital download, containing photo historian Maureen A. Taylor’s best tips for identifying mystery family photographs.

After you submit your newsletter sign-up, you’ll get a link to download the booklet. It’s a PDF, so you’ll need the free Adobe Reader software to open it.

And yes, if you’re already a newsletter subscriber, you still can get the download. Go to the sign-up page, enter the same e-mail address where you already receive the newsletter, update any other preferences you want, and click Submit. We won’t send two newsletters to the same e-mail address.

Family Tree Magazine articles
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 10:43:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Cologne, Germany, Archives Building Collapses
Posted by Diane

Dick Eastman blogged that a six-story building housing the archives of Cologne, Germany, collapsed Tuesday. It’s believed everyone inside the building escaped safely, but the condition of the archives’ centuries-old records is unknown. describes the archives' holdings as "65,000 original documents dating from the year 922 as well as maps, films and photos and items left to the city by figures like composer Jacques Offenbach and Nobel Prize-winning author Heinrich Boell."

See CNN’s report here.

International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 08:51:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 03 March 2009
Free African-American Genealogy Records Site Launches
Posted by Diane

AfriQuest, the free African-American genealogy records-sharing site that’s been in the works for a year, launched over the weekend.

Use the search box on the home page to search or browse records (stored on the wiki including Freedman’s Bank and Freedmen’s Bureau documents, estate inventories, wills and more.

AfriQuest webmasters hope you’ll submit your digitized genealogical records. Register with the site and submit a document here.

You also can submit your family stories.

Look for guide to tracing slave ancestors in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands May 5).

African-American roots
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 15:17:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 02 March 2009
Superstitious Ancestors? Enter Our Challenge for a Chance to Win
Posted by Diane

It’s both 15 days till St. Patrick's Day and your last chance to get in on Family Tree Magazine’s March 2009 “Lucky Charms” All in the Family Challenge.

To enter, tell us about a lucky charm or superstition in your family. For example, when I was a kid, whenever someone was getting married or we had a soccer tournament or good weather was needed for some other reason, Mom would set a figurine of Mary in the kitchen window (facing outside, or it wouldn't work).

Maybe you’ve saved Grandpa’s lucky penny or you throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder while cooking, just like Grandma always did.

Cross your fingers and describe your family’s lucky charm or superstition for us. E-mail your entry before March 9, and be sure to include your name and hometown.

If we select your entry to publish in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine (knock on wood), you’ll win our Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy digital download.

Celebrating your heritage | Family Heirlooms | Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, 02 March 2009 16:25:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]