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<2009 August>

More Links

# Wednesday, 12 August 2009
UGOs (Unidentified Genealogical Objects)
Posted by Diane

Yesterday evening, our company had a trade show, wherein each community (genealogy, writing, woodworking, crafts, etc.) displayed its latest how-to publications and resources.

The Family Tree Magazine staff enjoyed showing off our CDs, webinars and forthcoming Family Tree Legacies book, and sharing genealogy tips with coworkers. I think one guy is searching the free 1911 Irish census as I type this.

The best part was our guessing game. For a chance to win a prize, our colleagues guessed the identity of this object, commonly used in the course of genealogy research:

Here were some of their guesses (obviously, we’re dealing with some wise guys here):
  • “toddler’s crayon”
  • “fossilized chocolate cake”
  • “worry stone” (over those unsolved brick walls, we presume)
  • “paper weight”
  • “scrubber to get your pen started” (huh?)
  • “thumbprinter thingie”
  • “It’s used to help you separate papers. You rub your fingers on it so you can easily rifle through your records”
  • "a secret listening device"
  • “a template for drawing circles for names on your family tree”
  • “a starter for the center of your family tree”
What’s your guess?

The correct answer is tombstone rubbing wax, used for making impressions of tombstones. The astute Holly Davis, an editor over at The Artist’s Magazine, is the winner of a scrapbook album kit!

For step-by-step instructions on making tombstone rubbings (including ensuring the stone is sound), see this article.

And to avoid arrest while making said tombstone rubbing, read our Now What? blog post.

Cemeteries | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:05:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Access WorldVitalRecords Free Through Aug. 13
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site World Vital is offering free access to celebrate the addition of the most records in a single day since the site’s 2006 launch.

Get free access from August 11 (that’s today!) through August 13. You’ll still need a free registration, so type your info into the pop-up window you get when you first visit the hope page. (If you accidentally close that window and try a search and then click on a match, you’ll be asked to subscribe, so just go back to the home page and reload it.)

New records include
  • US newspapers dating from 1759 through 1923, including the New York Times and titles from the West and Midwest
  • immigration records of more than 150,000 passengers who arrived on nearly 8,000 ships at the port of New York from 1820 to 1832
  • university yearbooks from the late 1800 to mid 1950 from
  • Vital records, military records and tax lists from New England and Atlantic states
See World Vital Record's announcement for more details.

Look for our World Vital Records Web guide in the November 2009 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands Sept. 8. The guide also will be available as a digital download from

Update: World Vital Records has expanded the free access until midnight Aug. 18.

FamilyLink | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:59:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Playing Heirloom Detective
Posted by Grace

I just finished writing a super-comprehensive article on heirloom preservation for our December issue. We asked our coworkers if they had any particularly interesting heirlooms to show off, and got some great items to photograph for the magazine.

An item we didn't use was very intriguing, though. Kelly wrote:
Let me know if you guys ever do an article on gruesome heirlooms—my family has this shirt that my great-great grandfather was wearing when he was shot and murdered. (Gross! And weird—who keeps that kind of stuff?)
Genealogists do! I wanted more details.
Basically, all I know is my great-great grandfather was a pig farmer who had a farm in Lockville, Ohio. According to the story, my great-great-grandpa turned to go back into the house after refusing to sell land to this guy, and when he did, the guy shot him in the back. Yikes! And that's how my grandpa ended up with a bloody shirt in a trunk in his basement.
All I knew was her grandpa's last name, Boyer, and that the murder took place in Lockville, Ohio. Surely there would have been newspaper articles about the fracas, but I couldn't search GenealogyBank until I had a specific name. I decided to do an old-fashioned Google search, for Lockville Ohio murder.

One of the very first results was a Google Books excerpt of a tome of Ohio penitentiary pardon petitions. Bingo! A John L. Tisdale pleading for clemency after serving eight years for the murder of a George L. Boyer in 1890. With that name, I searched GenealogyBank and found this article in the June 24, 1890, Cleveland Plain Dealer:

It reads:
Murder at Lockville.
LANCASTER, June 23.—[Special.]—George (sic) Tisdale, a farm laborer, shot George L. Boyer, a prominent famrer, at Lockville, this county, this morning. As the two sons of Tisdale were quarreling with a son of Boyer about hogs that had trespassed on Boyer's farm, he came up to protect his son, when Tisdale came out of his house and shot Boyer in the right breast, Boyer dying in five minutes after.
The Google Books result gives a little more insight into Tisdale's side of the story. He says Boyer was "a coarse, passionate man, of cruel heart" and was "a quarrelsome man and possessed a violent temper." (If you were trying to suss out your ancestor's personality, what a find! Read the September 2009 issue for more on ancestral psychoanalysis.)

With a little searching on, I found the Boyer family in the 1880 census:

(Click to enlarge)

And going back, the family appeared in the same spot in every census going back to 1850. Amazing, what one bloody shirt can do for a family's research!

Learn more:

Family Heirlooms | Family Tree Magazine articles | Free Databases | Newspapers
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 10:51:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 10 August 2009
Google Quadruples Historical Newspaper Archive
Posted by Diane

Google announced last week that it has quadrupled its searchable archive of historical news articles, many of which are free to access.

Additions include the Halifax Gazette (dating as far back as 1753, as shown below), Sydney Morning Herald, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Village Voice, the Manila Standard, The Nation (from Thailand) and others.

When you search, you can specify keywords  or phrases (such as an ancestor's name or an event) to include or exclude, provide a date range, and opt to get articles written a particular language or from a certain newspaper.

You also can choose whether to see only articles that are free to access. (For matching articles in subscription-based sites, you'll usually get to see the first few sentences.)

If you do a timeline search, you’ll get a timeline at the top of your results showing the numbers of matching articles by year. Adjust the timeline to see articles from a different time span.

Google doesn't offer the option to download or save articles, but you can generate a link to share the article with friends.

Read more on the Google News Blog and Techcrunch.

Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers
Monday, 10 August 2009 10:54:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Friday, 07 August 2009
Genealogy News Corral: August 3-7
Posted by Diane

Got a few updates for this week’s news roundup:
Read a report on the event and watch a video on the Lansing State Journal Web site.
  • The Family History Expo in Sandy, Utah, is right around the corner, Aug. 28 and 29. Hone your genealogy skills in classes on everything from Google to formulating a research strategy, and browse dozens of exhibitors (say hi to Family Tree Magazine editor Allison Stacy in booth 202!). Get more details and register at

Genealogy Events | Jewish roots | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 07 August 2009 12:43:17 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 06 August 2009
Merger Creates Britain’s Leading Genealogy Company
Posted by Diane

UK-based Brightsolid, owner of British subscription and pay-per-view genealogy site, is acquiring the Friends Reunited Group for 25 million pounds (about $42 million).

The completion of the deal is still subject to clearance by British competition authorities. Besides and its microsites and, Brightsolid also operates

Friends Reunited is a 20.6 million-member British social network launched in 2000. Its sister site Genes Reunited, the UK’s largest genealogy site with 9 million members and 650 million names in records, was launched in 2003. The group also has a Friends Reunited Dating site.

See Brightsolid's announcement about the acquisition here.

Genealogy Industry | UK and Irish roots
Thursday, 06 August 2009 08:53:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 04 August 2009 Plans to Go Public
Posted by Diane filed with the SEC yesterday for a $75 million IPO, indicating its decision to go from a firm funded by private equity investors to a publicly traded company.

Its ticker symbol will be ACOM.

“Our revenues have increased from $122.6 million in 2004 to $197.6 million in 2008,” reads's SEC filing. The Provo, Utah,-based company  reports just under 1 million subscribers, about 45 percent of whom have been subscribing continuously for more than two years as of June 30.

The filing gives more stats, an overview of the business, its growth strategies (more content, more features that let members collaborate, more international growth) and associated risks (dependence on subscriptions, a tight focus on family history, and competitors, “some of which provide access to records free of charge”). You can read it here.

This article nicely sums up information from the filing. | Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, 04 August 2009 14:20:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 03 August 2009
1930 Census Is Free on Footnote In August!
Posted by Diane

Historical records subscription site Footnote is making its 1930 census records free during August (you’ll need to sign up for a free Footnote registration).

If you’re a newbie genealogist, this is a great opportunity to jump in with the most recent federal census open to the public (1940 census records will be available in 2012).

If you’ve been doing genealogy for awhile, use this chance to try Footnote’s search and record viewer. Footnote uses a keyword search that filters your results with each term you add.

I like the "Refine Your Search" panel on the results page, which lets you select from available terms. For example, if you’ve entered the last name Wagner, age 43, in Cincinnati, you’ll be able to choose from first names of people who fit those criteria.

When you view the record in Footnote, you can see notes other users have added to the record (you can toggle this option on and off).

You can learn more about using Footnote from our eight-page Web guide—it just happens to be on sale for $3 at

The guide has an overview of Footnote, a navigation guide, step-by-step search demos, quick links, and hacks and shortcuts. It’s a PDF, so you can download it on the spot, open it with the free Adobe Reader on a PC or a Mac, click through to the recommended links, and print it if you so choose.

PS: Footnote also has extended its $59.95 subscription offer for another week, until Aug. 10.

census records | Footnote | Free Databases
Monday, 03 August 2009 11:44:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3] Expands Jewish Records Collection
Posted by Diane

Subscription Web site is adding to its Jewish records collection thanks to new partnerships with two Jewish heritage organizations.’s partnership arrangements keep most of its Jewish Family History Collection free. You can see a list of gratis databases using the Free Collections link on the Jewish records landing page.

Additions from the American Jewish Historical Society include:
  • Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records (1878 to 1934): admission applications and discharge ledgers

  • Selected Naturalization Records, New York City (1816 to 1845): declarations of intention for New York County

  • New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records (1860 to 1934): admission applications and discharge ledgers

  • Industrial Removal Office Records (1899 to 1922): records of Jews who were assisted in relocating from various countries for safety

  • Selected Insolvent Debtor’s Cases (1787 to 1861): about 2,000 cases

  • Selected Mayor’s Court Cases, New York (1674 to 1860): 6,000 briefs that include summons, complaints, affidavits and jury lists
The Eastern European Archival Database comes from professional genealogist Miriam Weiner’s Routes to Roots Foundation (RTR), a firm specializing in Jewish research in Eastern Europe. Learn more about this database, which has references to records from Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine, on RTR’s Web site (which also has the same searchable database).

Other additions come from JewishGen, a partner that helped launch’s Jewish collection last year. Those include an 1848 Jewish census from Hungary and the HaMagid Hebrew newspaper’s list of donors to Persian Famine victims in 1871 and 1872. | Jewish roots
Monday, 03 August 2009 09:39:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 31 July 2009
Crimes of Your Great-Grandfathers
Posted by Diane

A couple of months ago, when I was editing an article criminal ancestors for the forthcoming November 2009 Family Tree Magazine, I asked Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter readers about murders and other crimes in their family history.

Dozens of you responded with stories—some are fascinating (in a can't-look-away kind of way), some are amusing (in a gallows-humor kind of way) and some are sad. Here's a sampling of them:
  • Carol Clemens' family legend was that her great-grandfather Martin Franchetti was accidentally shot and killed by a stray bullet from a saloon brawl in 1902.
After finding references to seven newspaper articles within a couple of months, she discovered her ancestor was shot during an argument with a former boarder who’d developed a crush on Franchetti’s wife. Clemens says help from the Schenectady County Clerk’s office was invaluable in locating the perpetrator's criminal trial records.
  • Cheri Adams couldn’t find anything about her the family of her great-great-grandmother’s second husband. A Google search brought up a New York Times article stating that the husband, Elijah Godfrey, was killed while handling dynamite in his cabin. Another article revealed that the medical examiner thought it was murder. “It seems Elijah had been speaking with authorities regarding stills in the area," writes Adams, "and undoubtedly due to his loose lips, the owners of the stills took revenge.”
  • Tom Neel of the Ohio Genealogical Society found an account in a 1915 county history about John Gately, his fourth-great-grandfather from North Carolina. “Sometime after the year 1793,” Gately’s father-in-law, thinking the younger man had stolen his money, killed him.
Neel found corroboration in court records while at this year’s National Genealogical Society conference in Raleigh, NC. Turns out the aging father-in-law had misplaced his stash.
  • Domenic Parenty, great-grandfather to Janice Gianotti-Zakis, was "gunned down in the street, defending a woman" in Chicago in 1894. In 2002, she confirmed the story in police records from microfiche at Northeastern Illinois University. Now, her ancestor’s case is chronicled on the site Homicide in Chicago: 1870-1930.
  • Kathleen Anders wasn’t interested in genealogy when she found a tombstone in a Nebraska cemetery with the names of two young people who died on the same day. On a return trip, the caretaker furnished a file of newspaper clippings: Anders' great-grandfather had taken the lives of his brother and sister-in-law in 1903. Over the next two years, she found the trial transcript and interviewed people who remembered her family.
With the mystery solved, she’s turned to ancestors whose less sensational lives still deserve to be known. “I now focus on the other lines of the family that have, in their own right, great stories to be researched and written about.”
  • Carol Heap’s grandfather Frederick Hirsch, a Nassau County, NY, police officer, was killed in the line of duty May 6, 1931, by a 19-year-old nicknamed "Two Gun Crowley." Crowley was convicted and sent to Sing Sing prison in New York, where he was executed in the electric chair in 1932. Hirsch's wife raised four young children alone; Heap remembers her father saying he really missed having a Dad.
  • Connie Parott received a copy of a relative's 1970s school essay detailing her third-great grandfather's efforts to track down the murderer of his brother Thomas at a Sylamore, Ark., Christmas Eve dance in 1877.

    She found several news articles, “but to my amazement,” she writes, “the stories favored excessive details about the murderer, but nothing about the victim. The murderer had accidentally shot himself in the leg while hiding in the woods. His leg was amputated, so the newspapers had a field day describing a one-legged man hanging from the gallows.”
Forum members also posted stories and tips for researching ancestral crimes here. You'll also find advice in the previously mentioned November 2009 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands Sept. 8.

court records | Family Tree Magazine articles | Newspapers | Social History
Friday, 31 July 2009 15:47:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]