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<2009 April>

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# Thursday, 30 April 2009
Overcoming Genealogical Malaise and Canine Sabotage
Posted by Diane

Funny how when my research is humming along and I’m finding all kinds of new genealogy information, my excitement percolates over and I can’t wait to write about it here.

But when there’s nothing on the microfilm and my online searches come up empty, I keep quiet. I fade into a kind of genealogical malaise.

My dog enjoys shredding paper. (Once I caught her slinking away from my purse with a $10 bill in her teeth.) Soon after my ancestors failed to appear in city directory microfilm, Janie got hold of a research request sitting on the bookshelf waiting to be mailed to the Louisiana state archives. I found it in two pieces on the living room floor.

I still haven’t done anything about those two pieces. Malaise.

They say that when you’re trying to get into shape, the best motivation is seeing the dieting and exercise pay off. That principle applies to genealogy: The best inspiration to do more research is getting results.

So when you keep not finding new information despite your best efforts, you’re in danger of embarking on a downward spiral—lack of motivation to look for records followed by (wonder of wonders) not finding your ancestors.

That’s when you need outside motivation. I’ll throw out a few suggestions, and I hope you’ll click Comments to add your own:
  • Take a genealogy class, attend an event, go to a society meeting or read a magazine (hey! I know one you might like!). Let others help you see the possibilities. Plus, it’ll be inspiring to talk to people who are in a more excited state of doing genealogy than you're stuck in.
  • Help a genealogy newbie. You could go with a friend to a Family History Center, be a library volunteer or answer questions online in forums such as ours. You’ll gain confidence in your research skills and be inspired by your helpee’s successes—a little like watching a wide-eyed toddler discover the world.   
  • Bask in the glow of past bingo! moments. Go through your research and remember the time you finally discovered Great-grandpa, his last name mangled, in the 1900 census. That feeling of triumph will be yours again.
  • Power through. Our sister publication Writer’s Digest says the best way to get over writer’s block is to make yourself sit down and write. It’s like that. Force yourself to do some research (try moving to an environment, such as the library, where you won’t be tempted to clean the kitchen or turn on the TV).
  • Accept the lows with the highs. You can’t be on all time, and neither can your family tree. Instead of feeling guilty, let yourself enjoy a short research vacation. Then jump back in refreshed.

Research Tips
Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:37:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
Happy Jewish-American Heritage Month!
Posted by Diane

Jewish American Heritage Month, which starts with the first day of May (that's tomorrow), brings you opportunities to learn about Jewish history.

President Bush announced the first monthlong commemoration of American Jewish roots in 2006. May was chosen to mark successful celebration of the 350th anniversary of American Jewish history in May 2004.
Check with your library, synagogue and Jewish community center to find events near you. You can learn more about Jewish-American Heritage Month and see online exhibits by clicking here, through this site's events calendar still lists 2008 celebrations.

For tips and resources on researching Jewish roots, see our research toolkit and look for Schelly Talalay Dardashti’s seven search strategies in the September 2009 Family Tree Magazine (which mails to subscribers mid-June and goes on sale July 7).

Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Events | Jewish roots
Thursday, 30 April 2009 10:32:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 29 April 2009 Promises More-Relevant Results Starting Today
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site has embarked on its quest to improve the relevance of your search results by starting with dates.

It’s not unusual to give a death date in, say, 1910, but still get search results from the 1930 census. But after today, that’ll be a rarer occurrence.

On the blog, search product manager Anne Mitchell promises we’ll start to see changes in search results around noon EDT.

Based on experience with census and vital records, Mitchell’s team has chosen “fudge factors” of five years for birth and two years for death. Searches also assume someone lived about 100 years.

I haven’t tried the adjusted search yet (it's only 9 a.m. here), but here’s what should happen:
  • If you’re searching for someone and you know he was born in 1880, but you don’t know when he died, matching records will fall between 1875 and 1982.
  • If you know the death date was 1926 but you don’t know the birth year, matches will fall between 1821 and 1928.
  • If you enter the birth year and the death year, matches will fall between the birth year minus 5 and the death year plus 2.
  • If you pick a range for the birth or death year, the fudge factor will come in at the outside end of the range. For example, for a birth you enter 1843 with a two-year range. Search results will start in 1836.
If you give the 1902 death a five-year range, results will end in 1909.
  • You can still choose Exact to eliminate the fudge factor. If you choose Exact for a birth of 1843 with a two-year range, matching records will have birth dates between 1841 and 1845. If you specify Exactly 1843 with no range, matching records will have birth dates in 1843.
Unless you’re specifically looking for a death record, It’s best to avoid choosing Exact for a death date. Checking Exact for any search term means matching records must contain that term. But few genealogy records have death information (most of your ancestor’s records were created while he was alive).
A caveat: Mitchell says 95 percent of records are covered with this search update. The rest will be added, but if you search a data set in that five percent, you won’t notice these updates.

She answers more questions on the blog.
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 08:50:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 28 April 2009
FamilySearch Adds Brazil Genealogy Records
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch launched its first Portuguese records collection, Rio de Janeiro Civil Registrations.

The 4.5 million digital images comprise birth (1889 to 1930), marriage (1889 to 1950) and death (1889 to 2006) records from all cities in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The index isn’t completed yet; you’ll need to browse the record images by place in the free Record Search Pilot.

PS: And if you get stuck while trying to climb any language barriers, consult FamilySearch's Portuguese Genealogical Word List. (Which is actually more than just a list. Don't miss the links at the top to different parts of the guide).

FamilySearch | Free Databases | International Genealogy
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 13:09:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Scare Tactics Throughout History
Posted by Grace

This swine flu is nothing new—and neither is the panic. A 1976 outbreak was described as "the epidemic that never was." The flu itself killed only one person, but hundreds were injured or killed by a vaccine the government came up with. (Read the whole story here.) About a third of the US population was vaccinated, perhaps thanks to scaremongering public service announcements like these:

Click here for answers to all your swine flu questions. Thanks to Sally Jacobs for the video link!

Social History | Videos
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 12:40:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Year's Most-Endangered Historic Sites Span History
Posted by Diane

History doesn’t always mean ages ago, if you look at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2009 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

It names threatened historic sites as ancient as New Mexico’s Mount Taylor, sacred to American Indian tribes, and as modern as the Century Plaza Hotel, the distinctive curved building opened in Los Angeles in 1966.

The list, which has identified 211 sites since it started in 1988, serves as an alarm to raise awareness of threats facing historic treasures. And it’s been remarkably successful: Only six of the 211 sites have been lost. That makes us hopeful for Cincinnati’s historic Over the Rhine neighborhood (where my grandfather lived as a child), which made the endangered list in 2006.

For its 22nd annual list, the National Trust wants to raise the alarm for these places. See the National Trust’s blog for details about each site below (and follow @PresNation on Twitter for tweets from the 11 Most Endangered press conference).
  • Ames Shovel Shops, a 19th-century industrial village in Easton, Mass.
  • Cast-Iron Architecture (below, in a National Trust photo) in the 12-block Strand/Mechanic National Historic Landmark District of Galveston, Texas

  • Century Plaza Hotel, opened in 1966 in Los Angeles

  • Dorchester Academy, once a school for former slaves and later, voting registration center during the Civil Rights era, in Midway, Ga.

  • Human Services Center, the former South Dakota Hospital for the Insane, in Yankton, SD

  • Lāna‘i City, Hawai‘i, built by pineapple baron James Dole in the 1920s

  • The Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar, Wendover Airfield, Utah

  • Memorial Bridge, the first major lift bridge in the eastern US, connecting Portsmouth, NH, to Kittery, Maine

  • Miami Marine Stadium, a landmark and icon of modern design completed in 1963 in Virginia Key, Fla.

  • Mount Taylor, in the San Mateo Mountains near Grants, NM

  • Unity Temple, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Oak Park, Ill.

Historic preservation
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 09:16:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 27 April 2009
Some Databases Malfunctioning
Posted by Diane is working on the site issues that are causing some data sets not to return search results, search product manager Anne Mitchell reports on teh blog thought the problems, which apparently began over the weekend, had been fixed, but Mitchell's team is focused on databases blog commenters report still aren't working. Those include several from Ontario, Canada, as well as Historic Newspapers and Alabama Marriage Collection, 1800-1969. 

Commenters also complained about the lack of earlier notification, such as an alert on's home page.
Monday, 27 April 2009 15:07:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Be First to Try FamilyTeller Online Community
Posted by Diane

We first met Matt Unger over the Internet when associate editor Grace Dobush covered his Papa’s Diary Project blog—where he transcribes and annotates his grandfather’s diary one day’s entry at a time—for the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine.

Unger sent us a note this week—seems he heard from a lot of people asking for advice on creating similar projects with their own family materials. They inspired him to put his Web development and publishing background to work on an online community called FamilyTeller.

In Unger's own words, FamilyTeller “will allow people to more easily scan, organize, annotate and share family artifacts on the Web.”

Can you beta test this new service? For a discounted subscription rate, you’d get assistance digitizing and uploading documents and photos, automatically catalog and organize them, try a few transcriptions, create a blog-style Web site to share with your family, and more—as well as, of course, provide feedback on your experiences with the site.

Benefits include lifetime discounts on subscription and service fees, plus the chance to influence what the site will be like.

Wanna try it? Fill out this online form and Unger will contact you.

Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Web Sites | Social Networking
Monday, 27 April 2009 09:20:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 24 April 2009
Attention Googlers: Workshop is Tuesday
Posted by Allison

How many times a day do you search Google? Today, I'm up to only 7. But some days—when I'm not away from my desk so much—I'm searching the Web 20 or 30 times.

Because so much of my job is about finding and sharing information, I'm constantly seeking new and better ways to search. On Tuesday, I'm going to share the secrets I've learned in an online workshop called Googling Your Genealogy: 7 Essential Strategies.

If you've never attended an online workshop (or "webinar") before, it's kind of like attending a in-person genealogy seminar--only "cozier," because you can do it from the comfort of your own computer. You'll be able to listen, view the presentation slides, even ask questions. Learn more about the experience on our Online Workshops page.

The workshop is at 7 p.m. EDT and registration costs $49.99. I hope you'll join me!

We'll be doing more online workshops in the future, so if there's a topic you'd like us to offer, go ahead and e-mail me.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 24 April 2009 16:26:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral, April 20-24
Posted by Diane

Here's our roundup of the week's genealogy news bits:
  • The New England Regional Genealogy Conference is now underway in Manchester, NH. If you're in the area, stop by today or tomorrow to take classes, check out the exhibitors and participate in the Ancestors Road show.
  • Subscription records site enhanced its record image viewer to let you view newspaper images at up to 200 percent (before the most you could get was 100 percent). You also can print the zoomed record, save images to your computer and share images with friends and family.
  • Roots Television (genealogy tv you watch online) is bringing back the Down Under series, which has genealogists discovering intriguing stories about tombstones and those who’ve passed on.
  • FamilySearch online indexing volunteers reached a big milestone this week, transcribing their 250 millionth historical record. Record #250 million was part of Nicaragua civil registrations, extracted by three online indexers from Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras.
FamilySearch Indexing, begun in January 2006, now has more than 100,000 volunteers worldwide typing away.
  • This also from FamilySearch: Its expanded the Knowles Collection, a free database of Jewish records from Britain, to 40,000 names. You can download the database in GEDCOM or Personal Ancestral File format from FamilySearch’s Jewish resources page.

  • Update: has change its blog to disable commenting on posts once they've reached two weeks old. That's so staff can "track all comments in a more timely manner and reply as needed." See more on the blog.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Videos
Friday, 24 April 2009 15:06:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]