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<2009 May>

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# Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Blog Reports From the NGS Conference
Posted by Diane

In case you missed one of our posts from last week's National Genealogical Society conference in Raleigh, NC, here's a list. I've added reports from other bloggers, too:
Several folks were Tweeting, too. Read many of the 140-or-fewer-characters-at-a-time updates here.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 15:52:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Ellis Island Hosts Stars, Expands Museum
Posted by Diane

Our lucky New York-based colleague Guy LeCharles Gonzalez attended the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards yesterday. He got the scoop on the latest Ellis Island exhibits and rubbed elbows with the stars (well, at least he was in the same room).

Here’s Guy’s report:

Emilio and Gloria Estefan (below) accepted the inaugural B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award in a star-studded 8th Annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards ceremony yesterday, hosted by actress Candice Bergen in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island.

The awards celebrate the lives and work of individuals who immigrated to America and their descendants; with the Forbes honor going to those who arrived through a port other than Ellis Island. It reminds us that America continues to be the destination for those seeking freedom, hope and opportunity.

Accepting the award alongside her husband, musician Gloria Estefan noted the common denominator shared with the day’s other honorees—Joe Namath, Eric Kandel and Jerry Seinfeld—that no matter where they or their families had come from, or when, they all sought to escape some form of tyranny. In America, they’d found a home where they could live freely and pursue their dreams.

Sponsored by the Forbes family in honor of patriarch B.C. "Bertie" Forbes, the Peopling of America award is also named for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation's newest project: the Peopling of America Center.  

The center will expand the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to include the entire panorama of the American immigrant experience—from native American groups to today's New Americans, whose numbers are growing exponentially.

The new center is an ambitious $20 million effort to make Ellis Island even more compelling and relevant for the coming decades, with the goal of telling all of our stories about being and becoming Americans.

Its precursor, the Peopling of America exhibit, is in the Great Hall's former Railroad Ticket Office, where immigrants could make travel arrangements to their final destinations in the United States. Several displays visually chronicle the more than 60 million people who’ve come to the United States, voluntarily and by force, since 1600.

This map details sources and destinations of the Atlantic slave trade:

This exhibit compares immigration (blue arrows) to emigration (red arrows) by decade:

Other displays include an interactive Map of Diversity, which can show the number of people in each state who claim a certain race or ancestry (based on US census data); maps and charts of historical immigration patterns; and the American Flag of Faces, a "living and interactive exhibit" to which anyone can add a photo (names and captions are searchable online).

See more photos of the ceremony and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum here.

Celebrating your heritage | immigration records | Museums | Social History
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 11:16:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Where to Find a Genealogist-for-Hire
Posted by Diane

When it starts accepting clients in June,’s ExpertConnect service (read our post about it) will be just one option for hiring people to do research tasks, such as photographing a gravestone or photocopying a record. Here are a few others:
  • Genealogy Freelancers: This site lets you post your project details and get bids from professionals around the world.
  • Genlighten: Here, you also can collect bids for research tasks. The focus here is on lookups, record retrieval and similar services.
  • Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness: These volunteers have signed on to do simple research favors for free (except expenses such as mileage and photocopying fees). You’re encouraged to return the favor by helping out someone else. | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:59:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4] to Launch Professional Genealogy Service
Posted by Diane

You may have heard mentions of a soon-to-come service called ExpertConnect. It’s designed to let people who need research services—anything from simply getting a record or taking a gravestone photo to a full-scale research project—gather bids from people who can offer them.

After a bid is accepted and the service completed, gets a cut of the fee.

Anyone can register to offer lookups and other simple research services, but those offering services for more-involved research projects have to register as a professional with ExpertConnect.

That’s the source of some controversy, since there’s no industry standard for what makes someone a professional genealogy researcher. (See the Genea-Musings blog post on the Association of Professional Genealogists discussions last month.) settled on a series of qualifications; those offering professional-level services on ExpertConnect must satisfy several.

Other points of contention: Under the ExpertConnect contract, the client owns the copyright for any research reports the expert generates. And a ranking system similar to eBay’s lets clients rate the experts, leaving reputations vulnerable to clients who don’t understand the uncertain nature of genealogy research. says that experts will be able to request reviews of questionable rankings, and that the ExpertConnect system can head off problems by letting experts and clients renegotiate projects as they progress.

ExpertConnect will start accepting clients in June. You can check out the types of services available here; click Join to register as a service provider.

My next post will give you other options for hiring out your research tasks.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:38:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 18 May 2009
New Podcast Episode Has Census Tips and More
Posted by Diane

The latest episode of the free Family Tree Magazine podcast delivers census records help, genealogy social networking tips and more.

In this May 2009 episode, Curt Witcher, who manages the renowned genealogy department at the Allen County Public Library, chats with host Lisa Louise Cooke about special “non-population” census records and how to glean important genealogical information from them. Contributing editor David A. Fryxell serves up creative tips for using the census. And Justin Schroepfer, marketing director for historical records subscription site Footnote talks about I Remember, a brand new Facebook application just launched this month.

Listen now at or in iTunes. Click below for RSS subscriptions options: 

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

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census records | Podcasts | Social Networking
Monday, 18 May 2009 14:02:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Saturday, 16 May 2009
Genline Updates Mean More Swedish Records
Posted by Diane

Swedish records subscription site Genline has added a bunch of records, made some user-friendly upgrades and formed a partnership that’ll help you discover free and low-cost photos and documents from all over Sweden.

Yesterday, I got a tour of the updates from Peter Wallenskog from Genline’s board of directors. Here's an overview:

  • Record additions underway include birth, marriage and death records through 1920. Coming soon: parish books and vital records up to 1937.
  • Household examination books (akin to censuses), which you currently find by browsing, are being indexed by farm name. Many farms were owned by the same family for generations. About 40 percent are already indexed; that’ll probably be 90 percent by the end of the year.
  • Genline is adding very high-resolution, clear images, with tools so you can enhance them by increasing contrast, remove specks, and more.
  • A transcription feature, introduced just a few days ago, lets users build a personal name index to Genline records by transcribing names as they find them. Other users can search on those names, vote for one or another transcription, and contribute their own version of a transcription. 
  • Familjeband is a Swedish family history site where users build family trees, upload photos and communicate on a message board. Through an agreement with local groups in the Sverges Hembygdsforbund (Swedish Local Heritage Movement), Genline is helping develop a section of Familjeband called Bygdeband (now in beta), where these local groups are uploading photos, letters, probate papers, deeds and other records. Related records are linked, and a map shows places associated with records in the database.

Familjeband is accessible through a free registration and is in Swedish. Later this year, it’ll get an English interface, and records in Genline will be linked to related records in Familjeband. Eventually, it’ll cost a little—maybe $4 a month, says Wallenskog—to access records in Familjeband.

  • Genline also hopes to partner with Swedish heritage groups on this side of the pond to add records and photos to Familjeband. So far, groups from Kansas are uploading documents from Swedish schools and churches. 

Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy
Saturday, 16 May 2009 10:25:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 15 May 2009
Sir Walter Raleigh and North Carolina Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Raleigh, NC, is named for Sir Walter Raleigh. He’s the English explorer whose royal charter to colonize “the Colony and Dominion of Virginia” (which at the time extended far beyond present-day Virginia) resulted in the lost colony of Roanoke Island in 1591—but also paved the way for later colonization in the New World.

Sir Walter’s statue outside the convention center looks like he’s surveying his dominion.

The area’s first permanent European settlers came south from the colony of Virginia around 1650. The Province of Carolina was established in 1660. In 1712, North Carolina split off’ it became a royal colony in 1729 and was the 12th state to ratify the US constitution in 1789.

Here are some North Carolina genealogy links:

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 15 May 2009 11:41:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0] New Search and International Updates
Posted by Diane

In yesterday’s bloggers meeting, held at the National Genealogical Society conference, leaders of several parts of the company talked about what the company’s been up to and goals for this year.

A lot of numbers were tossed out, which the company uses to understand which databases and features you use most. For example, after member-to-member messaging was moved onto the site (so instead of just sending an e-mail to another user, you send a message that’s stored in the person’s in-box on the site), members sent 25 percent more messages. Responses increased 35 percent.

Some interesting stats involved the new search interface vs. the old one. Use of the two is evenly split, with longer-time members sticking with the old interface and newer members favoring the new interface (I have to wonder if they just haven’t discovered the old search yet). “Old-search searchers” do an average of 37 searches a day, and “new-search searchers” do an average of 21 searches per day.

The guy in charge of developing a newer new search, Tony Macklin, was frank about what’s wrong with the new search (this is from my scribbled notes, so it’s not a direct quote): queries don’t always return consistent results between the two platforms, you get too many irrelevant results, browsing by place is too difficult, and the individual database search templates aren’t as customized (Macklin uses the old search for individual databases). His examples were coupled with user comments.

He said changing the search interface without changing the actual search was a mistake, and the goal is to eventually bring together the best parts of both platforms. 

Content-wise, has grown to 8 billion names. Family trees recently passed the census as the most-used data set.

Some upcoming additions include the WWII “Old Man’s Draft” for Illinois, newspapers from 30 new cities, Jewish records with two new yet-to-be-announced partners, Navy cruise books, pre-1850 city directories and vital records.

In a large reception held last night for conference attendees, senior VP Andrew Waite said the company is aiming for a balance of 30 percent upgrading current collections and 70 percent adding new ones—but that this figure has been more like 50/50 during the last few months.

Ruth Daniels from the UK office talked about negotiating digitization agreements in other countries, where records may be widely dispersed at state and local repositories, and laws and cultural attitudes differ around who should have access to records. For example, public access laws make UK records easier to acquire; Italy’s decentralized archives make things more challenging there. The just-released German telephone directories and records from the London Metropolitan Archives, launched in March and still being added, are two successes. | Genealogy Events
Friday, 15 May 2009 09:28:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Photos From the NGS Conference
Posted by Diane

Here are a few photos of the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh, NC:

FamilySearch (above),, Footnote, ProQuest and other genealogical data providers do demos in the exhibit hall.

Here's a bird's eye view of the exhibit hall (it's toward the end of the day, so not as many folks are browsing around).

Here's another angle. You can see's booth at the top center of the photo.

Book vendors often bring boxes and boxes of county and family histories, how-to books, maps and other sources.

Genealogy Events
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 18:52:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
News From the National Genealogical Society Conference
Posted by Diane

This morning we had tons of booth visitors, fresh from the opening presentation by actor Ira David Wood III. He’s played Sir Walter and Old Tom in The Lost Colony, an outdoor show since 1937 produced by Roanoke Island Historical Association.

A few news bits so far:
  • Look for subscription historical records site Footnote to make its 1930 US census free for a limited time later this summer. The site also will come out with a collection of American Indian records within the next few months.
  • Swedish church records subscription site Genline is introducing a transcription feature. Once you find an ancestor’s record, you can easily transcribe the name and make it available to other users. As names are transcribed, they’ll be available for searching. Right now, you browse Genline by parish, but this means that eventually, you’ll be able to find ancestors without knowing their parish first.
  • We heard about some changes coming soon for genealogy resources catalog directory site Live Roots. One sounds really useful: A way to save online searches to a “project” so you’ll know which sites you’ve checked, when, and how many results were returned, and you could easily repeat searches. You could create as many projects as you want—one for each county, say, or each surname.

FamilySearch | Footnote | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:22:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]