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<2009 August>

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# Monday, 17 August 2009
All About FamilySearch
Posted by Allison

A few weeks ago, I was talking with Family Tree Magazine’s art director, Christy, about German genealogy. We both have Deutsch roots, and I was telling her how I’d traced my one family branch in 18th-century Bavaria on a trip to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Christy hadn’t known that it’s fairly easy to get historical records from Germany—and many other places—through the FHL and local centers, which act like FHL branches.

I’ve had a lot of similar encounters, and it always surprises me how many genealogy buffs don’t know the depth and breadth of resources available from FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Even Family Tree Magazine readers!) That’s why I decided to make FamilySearch the topic of this month’s Family Tree Magazine webinar:

FamilySearch Essentials: How to Access Records From 100 Countries Without Leaving Town

This hourlong session will be hosted by yours truly Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Central/5 p.m. Mountain/4 p.m. Pacific. In it, I’ll walk through FamilySearch’s offline and online genealogy resources, show you how to find records relevant to your own genealogy search, and demonstrate different tools on the FamilySearch Web site.

Registration costs $49.99, and you can sign up using the link above. If you’re new to webinars and wonder how they work, see our FAQ.

P.S. If it’s German genealogy you want to learn more about, watch for an article about Germany’s historical regions in the December 2009 issue of Family Tree Magazine, coming to subscribers’ mailboxes in late October.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Research Tips | Webinars
Monday, 17 August 2009 17:40:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Help Choose the Genealogy Difference Maker of the Year!
Posted by Diane

From the unofficial town historian who helps out at the library three days a week to the legions of people doing FamilySearch Indexing, your average genealogist wouldn’t get very far without relying on the work of volunteers.

If you’ve used USGenWeb, RootsWeb, a local genealogical society, the databases on FamilySearch records search pilot, the Ellis Island passenger database, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, cemetery inscriptions on Find-A-Grave, or innumerable other resources and organizations, you’ve been helped by a stranger who just wanted other people to be able to find their ancestors.

We started our Difference Maker series to highlight the efforts of all these unknown people. Family Tree Magazine readers nominated volunteers throughout the year. We selected a nominee to profile in each 2009 issue—they are
  • Ellen Thompson, for collecting history of local schools
  • Robin Dickson, for volunteering and indexing records at her library
  • John Jackson, for creating a virtual cemetery for Civil War soldiers
  • Gail Reynolds, for being a library volunteer and genealogy teacher
  • Susan Steele, for preserving historical records
  • Bennie W. White, for compiling records and posting resources free online
Now it’s up to you to help choose a Difference Maker of the Year. That person will win a year of Family Tree Magazine and $100 toward his or her genealogy cause.

Click here to learn more about the work of these six volunteers, then hit the voting link on that page to cast your vote.

Voting closes Sept. 16 at midnight EDT. One vote is permitted per computer.

Congratulations to these six people, and thanks to all the genealogy volunteers out there who make it easier for us to research our roots.

Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, 17 August 2009 13:03:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 14 August 2009
Jamie's flea market finds
Posted by Jamie


Recently I was on vacation in western New York and visited a small-town flea market. While there were only 15 to 20 booths set up, many of them had genealogical treasures abound including old letters, photos and World War II ration books scattered across tables among the costume jewelry and used board games.

Of course my first thoughts as I saw these items outdoors and uncovered were, “Get these things out of the sun and into acid-free tissue paper!” These are someone’s family heirlooms after all. I scoured piles of unmarked pictures, scrutinizing each one and lamenting that they did not have a home. All the while I am sure the sun took a disastrous toll on them.

If you come across a similar situation, Dead Fred allows users to upload found photos, search identified photo databases, and help identify and find mates for unidentified photos. Flickr’s Found Photographs group features mostly unidentified photos picked up at garage sales, flea markets or your grandmother’s attic.

Also at the flea market I found a bag full of WWII ration cards, and I was amazed at the genealogical information available on them. Some just had name and address, but others went further supplying age, sex, weight, height and occupation. The books for sale were from the third and fourth series, both issued in 1943. The names on two of the books at the flea market were Kenneth and Hazel E. Valk. To search for your ancestors in a war ration book database of over 9,000 names click here.

While these were all great finds, the letters were most intriguing. Some sellers at least put them in plastic baggies, but still others let them bake in the sun – folded up at that! There were unopened letters, letters in envelops, envelops without letters, greeting cards, postcards, wedding invitations, governmental correspondence – even a few marked “passed by censor” sent from an infantry unit postmarked “JY. 15, 18”

Most of the letters were sent to Leroy Elder, but many are either unsigned or are signed with a nickname. They are postmarked from 1909 to 1922. One of the funnier postcards was from a pastor sternly urging Edler to pay him a visit to discuss the state of Elder's Christianity.

Among the stack of letters was a folded poem of sorts titled “The Charming Young Widow In The Train.” The paper is yellowed and ripping along the folds; the ink is disappearing. It wasn’t dated and it was not in an envelope. The top has some sort of imprint or watermark and the end says, “Written B. Mollie E.V.”

I did a Google search of the title and an old song pops up, written in the mid-1800s according to most accounts. The poem roughly follows the song, although some lines and words are different, the main ideas are the same. How the lyrics got among the letters is a mystery.

Overall, the trip to the flea market was eye opening. I didn’t realize how readily family history was for sale. And if sellers don’t use the modern flea market of eBay many people won’t be reunited with their relative’s items.

Family Heirlooms | Photos
Friday, 14 August 2009 13:57:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
World Vital Records Extends Free Access
Posted by Diane

Looks like subscription genealogy site World Vital Records has extended its free access another five days, until midnight on August 18, so go get a free registration and have yourself a search. Now you get the weekend!

For more information on World Vital Records' content partners—what records the site has from each partner, compared to what's on the partner site itself—see our free online article.

FamilyLink | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 14 August 2009 12:56:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genealogy News Corral: August 10-14
Posted by Diane

A summary of news bits we heard about this week:
  • Summit Memory, an online scrapbook from the Akron-Summit County Public Library in Ohio, now has several digitized historical atlases and maps from the 1800s and early 1900s. Access them in the site’s online map room. Check out the photos and other resources while you're there.

  • British subscription and pay-per-view site has completed a new transcription and added higher-quality images for its 1901 census for England and Wales. Images for the 1881 census are next on the site's to-do list.

  • A New York Times article on the transfer of early- to mid-century Alien Case Files to the National Archives quoted Schelly Tallalay Dardahsti, Tracing the Tribe blogger and author of our September 2009 Jewish research guide, about the importance of using original documents. Read the article here.

  • Subscription family tree site is publishing its free newsletter as a weekly genealogy blog you can subscribe to vis RSS. It’ll include research tips, helpful Web sites and suggestions for using

  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has launched a blog called NARAtions, which focuses on the future of online public access to records at NARA.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 14 August 2009 11:40:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 13 August 2009
Free Genealogy Software Adds Maps, Albums and More
Posted by Diane

Family and genealogy Web site released an updated version of its free, downloadable of Family Tree Builder software that lets users create maps, chat with relatives and organize multimedia albums.

According to MyHeritage, Family Builder is the world’s most popular free family tree software, with more than 5 million downloads. It's available in 35 languages, which certainly makes it attractive to a worldwide audience.

Key features in the new release include:
  • a map module that lets you display where your family lived over the years, map relatives’ addresses and quickly find your photos associated with a particular place

  • a new toolbar that provides direct access to family Web sites on MyHeritage; birthday reminders; and a text, audio and video chat system called Family Chat

  • an improved album lets you organize photos, videos and documents, and adds slide shows
Family Builder runs on Windows. If you've used it, click Comments and let us know what you think.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 13 August 2009 09:17:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]