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<2009 September>

More Links

# Thursday, 10 September 2009
More on the Family Tree 40
Posted by Diane

Thanks to the genealogy blogging community for helping spread the word about our Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs, an article scheduled for the May 2010 issue. We hope it will draw readers’ attention to the great work being done on genealogy blogs.

We wanted to get readers involved in the article for a few reasons:
  • To encourage people to check out more blogs, including ones they might not be aware of
  • To make the selection process more of a bottom-up effort, not just our editors’ choices
  • To get genealogists’ help and input in selecting from the huge blogging universe
We chose to do this through a nomination period, followed by a voting period. Genealogy blogger FootnoteMaven raised some questions about the process in her recent “Hmmmmmm” post, so I wanted to clarify some points here. I apologize in advance for the long post!

We’d planned to explain more about voting once we saw how nominations went. Not having done this before, we didn’t know what kind of response to expect, which is why we weren’t more explicit about judging and criteria from the outset—it wasn’t a secret; we just weren’t sure how our criteria would work, based on the number and quality of nominations we might receive.

Voting is intended to make the process participatory, but voting alone won’t determine which blogs are featured in the article. When the voting concludes—assuming we receive adequate nominations—the top 80 vote-getting blogs will make it through to a “final” round, and then our editorial staff will select 40 blogs from that list.

Narrowing the list of nominees
There’s no predetermined limit to how many nominees will be included in voting. But we do anticipate a need to eliminate some nominations from consideration. Criteria that would disqualify a blog:
  • It isn’t primarily about genealogy.
  • The blogger doesn’t post original content (for example, if he/she simply aggregates feeds from other blogs).
  • The blog is no longer updated, or does not post new content on a regular basis (say, at least once a week).
In narrowing remaining nominees, we’ll look at the quality of the posts—rampant misspellings (beyond typos—those happen to everyone) and poor language can make posts hard to follow. We’ll look hard at blogs associated with paid services—such a blog might be helpful to readers, or it might be primarily a marketing tool. Those made up strictly of advertising content would likely be eliminated.

If a blog gets just one or a few nominations, that won’t keep it out of the voting. If one blog is nominated many times, though, we’ll note that it’s probably a blog many people are reading.

We thought we’d divide nominees into categories because it’ll be easier for readers to choose from, say, a list of 20 similar blogs than one huge list of all 500 or 1,000 (or however many) nominees. We feel it’s important to see the nominees before setting categories in stone, so we can make sure we have categories that account for all the blogs in the running. We also don’t want to end up with categories containing only two or three nominees, or 100 nominees, which would be unmanageable for voters.

FootnoteMaven asked specifically about categorizing wide-ranging, very frequently updated genealogy blogs such as Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings. We’ll come up with a broad, all-encompassing category for such “super bloggers.”

She also wondered whether the “excellent genealogy advice,” “offer insight,” etc. qualities mentioned in our first Family Tree 40 post might hint at the voting categories. They’re not meant to. Instead, we just wanted to get nominators thinking about why they’d want to take the step to nominate a particular blog.

Finally, FootnoteMaven also wanted a Family Tree 40 badge that encourages blog visitors to vote for their favorite genealogy blog, not just her own. Here’s an alternate version of the badge she and other bloggers can use:

and the original, which blogger also could choose:

If you have a comment or question, please click Comments and let us know.

Family Tree Magazine articles
Thursday, 10 September 2009 13:21:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, 09 September 2009
2009 FGS Conference Roundup
Posted by Diane

Last week's Federation of Genealogical Societies conference was light on news, but still heavy on genealogical enthusiasm and camaraderie. We heard there were about 700 registered attendees, though FGS hasn't shared official numbers. Here's a roundup of conference news, plus links to postings on other blogs:
  • Subscription family tree site One Great Family exhibited this year as part of a new marketing effort to reach the genealogy community.
One Great Family automatically merges trees when it finds the identical person on both, which sounds a bit scary—but where the trees differ, the site maintains the differences and each member sees the version of the tree he believes is correct. President Rob Armstrong says no one can change your view of your tree, but everyone can see your version and accept your view if they choose. A subscription costs $59.95 annually; a free one-week trial offer is available.
  • A new company called Geneartogy uses your ancestors’ names and photos to create frameable, decorative trees on canvas (you also can get the designs on smaller plaques). Prices range from a $98 extra-small plaque to a $408 extra-large canvas, with an additional cost for framing.
(The 2010 National Genealogical Society conference, by the way, is in Salt Lake City, so you could double up on a trip to the Family History Library.)
  • If you’re new to genealogy conferences, you might be curious about the long panel of ribbons dangling from some attendees’ name badges, like so:

(This is podcast host Dear Myrtle’s badge.) Ribbons designate society memberships, honors and more. All registrants got an “ member” ribbon (whether or not they actually were members) and first-time attendees got “First FGS Conference.” FGS board members, speakers and  genealogical societies delegates received ribbons. I got “Podcast Fan” and “Keeping up With Blogs” at a social networking forum. Some highly involved folks had to take special measures to secure their ribbons:

Click to see our earlier posts on the partnership, FamilySearch announcement about Arkansas marriage records and Library of Michigan news.

For more from the conference, check out posts by Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver and Dear Myrtle (scroll down). Feel free to click Comments and add a link to your FGS 2009 conference post. | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 11:31:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Help Save Library of Michigan Genealogy Collections
Posted by Diane

Michigan Genealogical Council (MGC) members stopped by our booth at FGS last week to share news about the Library of Michigan, which was dissolved July 13 by an executive order that goes into effect Oct. 1.

To save an estimated $2 million in the cash-strapped state, Gov. Jennifer Granholm assigned the library collections to the Department of Education and ordered the department’s director to cut expenses by considering measures such as eliminating participation in interlibrary loan.

MGC is circling an online petition in support of keeping the library’s Michigan collection intact, free and within state jurisdiction.

State senators have introduced bills to transfer all Department of History, Arts and Libraries functions to the Michigan Department of State, with separate funding from the state's general fund. MGC president Cynthia Grostick says the measures have passed the state senate, but fears they may languish in the house. See the council’s Web site for updates and information on how to help.

Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 10:02:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 04 September 2009
Searching Microfilmed Newspapers
Posted by Diane

This Federation of Genealogical Societies conference  is the first confab outside Ohio where I’ve been able to research ancestors. As soon as I got to Little Rock Wednesday, I checked into the hotel and ran off to the state archives.

I didn’t have a specific article to find—rather, I wanted any news item about my great-grandfather’s criminal trial for bootlegging. There wasn’t a name index, so I knew I was in for some heavy-duty scrolling. I had the conviction and incarceration dates, but not a date of arrest, so I had several months to cover in 1913.

First thing when I arrived, I got my very own research card. The archivist had me double-check holdings for the newspapers I wanted. I’d neglected to bring singles or a $5 bill for a copy card, so I also ran to the concession and bought a soda to get change.

Next, I requested a couple years’ worth of microfilm and started scrolling. I started with the dates I knew and scrolled backward through earlier papers, then forward, looking for headlines on the faded pages.

Bootlegging arrests filled the news--apparently the sheriff was really cracking down. The few items mentioning my ancestor’s name told when he was arrested, how he filed for a writ of habeas corpus, and how two others arrested at the same time jumped bail.

Though not the play-by-play trial accounts I was hoping for, the articles also gave me a clue to what might’ve happened to his missing court records. He served his prison sentence in Texas and his case is indexed in Bowie County, Texas, records, but a batch of files that includes his case number is missing.

According to the newspaper articles, some witnesses lived on the Arkansas side of Texarkana, and Bowie County officials traveled to the courthouse in Miller County, Ark., for a pretrial motion. So maybe his case file ended up in Arkansas.

Miller County court records for the years I need aren’t on Family History Library microfilm, so I’ll send a request to the circuit court clerk the minute I get home. Fingers crossed.

court records | Libraries and Archives | Newspapers
Friday, 04 September 2009 22:23:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Search Arkansas Marriages Free on FamilySearch
Posted by Diane

To coincide with the ongoing Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Little Rock, Ark., FamilySearch released the first installment of a collection of Arkansas marriage records on its free Record Search Pilot site.

Volunteer indexers from the Arkansas Genealogical Society have completed a quarter of the project so far--that’s 442,058 records linked to 199,431 digital images of original marriage certificates from the counties of Ashley, Baxter, Boone, Chicot, Clay, Crittenden,Desha, Drew, Fulton, Jackson, Johnson, Lee, Logan, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Nevada, Perry and Pike.

FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | Vital Records
Friday, 04 September 2009 13:01:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1] Review at Blogger Summit
Posted by Diane

I put a “back at 3” sign in Federation of Genealogical Societies conference booth yesterday and headed to’s “blogger summit.”

It turned out the meeting was more review than news, the company's lawyers having nixed any “forward thinking statements” in anticipation of its IPO.

But I guess a review couldn’t hurt once in awhile, especially with, as content manager Gary Gibb conceded, just-released databases quickly overshadowing ones released just before them, significant additionsbeing termed mere “updates” on the list of recently added content, and some collections (such as audio recordings of oral histories) drowning in the sea of databases.

Key improvements for this year have been:

  • An enhanced image viewer, which lets you view the record image and the index on the same page. This is available in preview mode for some censuses, including the 1880 US census. It also lets members build a better index by adding alternate information for most fields. The additions are viewable immediately to other people, and they’re searchable within about three weeks.
  • Ancestry member trees have a new person and tree viewer that are easier to navigate
  • The lifespan search filter, which has eliminated some irrelevant results. A lot still needs to be improved, says VP of product Eric Shoup. He says won’t “kill” the old search, but wants to create a search experience that combines what works about both the old and new searches. Potential improvements include more control over searches on a place and name, improving the search for an individual collection, making it easier to browse records and changing the search algorithm to deliver relevant results.
Friday, 04 September 2009 09:20:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 03 September 2009
Nominate a Genealogy Blog for the Family Tree 40
Posted by Diane

Do you have a favorite few genealogy blogs that you read regularly? Maybe the blogger offers excellent genealogy advice, insightful analysis or a unique point of view. Or the writing especially creative or humorous.

If so, we want to know about it. In the May 2010 issue, we’ll be naming the Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs (“Family Tree 40” for short).

First, we’re asking the genealogy community to nominate the genealogy blogs they read most. Later, family historians will vote on their favorite blogs in several categories.

Click here to nominate your favorite blogs by filling out our online form.

The nomination period is from Sept. 3 to 30. You can nominate as many blogs as you want (one at a time), your own included, as long as each blog is related to family history in some way.

Voting will take place from Oct. 5 to Nov. 5. We’ll let you know here and in the Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter when voting is open.

You also can follow us on Twitter for contest updates (we’ll use the hashtag #FT40).

The Family Tree 40 will be announced in the newsletter and in the May 2010 Family Tree Magazine. Start nominating and stay tuned!

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 03 September 2009 09:15:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 02 September 2009 to Partner with NEHGS
Posted by Diane

At a reception it hosted tonight at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, CEO Tim Sullivan and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) marketing director Tom Champoux announced a new partnership.

NEHGS’ historical records, which Champoux says date back up to 400 years, will be part of’s World Archives Project . The digitized records and their indexes will be accessible to subscribers of or (NEHGS’ Web site). Update: The indexes will be free.

The records to be digitized are as yet unspecified. (Sullivan was tight-lipped in general due to’s pending IPO filing with the SEC.)

We'll keep keeping you updated with conference news. | Genealogy Events
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 22:27:06 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
If Your Ancestor Was an Alien
Posted by Diane

I got a letter from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Friday. For a split second I was worried—like if you get an unexpected letter from the IRS. But then I remembered that way back in May I'd requested the case file number for my great-grandfather’s alien registration.

I was inspired to put in my request back in May, when I was editing our November 2009 article on getting federal government records. (This issue goes on sale next week at newsstands and

In the paragraphs on the USCIS genealogy service, David A. Fryxell explained how the Smith Act of 1940 required non-citizens age 14 or older to register as aliens. I remember putting what seemed like dozens of semicolons in the long list of what the "AR-2" form asked of registrants:
  • biographical information such as name, name at arrival and occupation
  • relatives' names
  • physical description
  • arrival date, place and ship name
  • membership in clubs and organizations
  • whether and where citizenship papers had been filed
  • any arrests
... and more. AR-2 forms date from August 1940 to March 31, 1944. I put together the pieces and realized that my great-grandfather, who immigrated in 1900 and declared his intention to become a citizen in 1942, would've had to register. Maybe I'd get some clues for stretches of time when I can’t find records on the family.

I stopped my editing immediately and took four minutes to send my online Genealogy Program request. (A benefit of this job is that doing a little research counts as verifying information.)

USCIS staff are working through a request backlog. As soon as I got the AR-2 file number Friday, I sent off my request for a copy of the form. (Because I’m moving, I'm having it sent to my parents. I told them not to worry if they get a letter from the USCIS with my name on it.)

I wish you could order both the number and the record at the same time, but alas, it’s a two-step process that takes a total of $55 and about six months.

Besides AR-2 forms, the Genealogy Program also gives you access—for a fee—to naturalization certificate files (Sept. 27, 1906, to March 31, 1956), visa files (July 1, 1924, to March 31, 1944), registry files (March 2, 1929, to March 31, 1944) and immigrant files (April 1, 1944, to May 1, 1951; these are being transferred to the National Archives 100 years after the birth of the immigrant named). See the USCIS genealogy page for more on making your request.

immigration records | Research Tips
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 12:57:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 01 September 2009
Special All in the Family Challenge: Ancestral Anniversaries
Posted by Diane

For the All in the Family department in the 10th anniversary issue of Family Tree Magazine, we thought it would be fun to go with the theme by including readers’ stories of ancestral anniversaries.

Tell us about your family's longest-wedded couple: who they are, when they were married, how they met or how they celebrated a milestone anniversary, and maybe even their secret for a long, happy union.

If we publish your story in the January 2010 issue, we'll send you one of our genealogy how-to CDs.

Things to remember before you enter:
  • Post your entry to the Ancestral Anniversaries thread in the Talk to Us Forum. (To help combat spammers, forum registration is required for posting. You can register by clicking here.)

  • Please keep your entry under 125 words, so we can include more stories in the magazine.

  • Please add your city and state to your entry for publication in the magazine.

  • We'll contact you for your mailing address and possibly for a photo of your anniversary couple, so please keep an eye on your e-mail account.

  • By submitting, you give Family Tree Magazine permission to feature your contribution in all print and electronic media.
We'll need your entry for this All in the Family challenge on or before September 15. Thanks for sharing your family's stories!

Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun
Tuesday, 01 September 2009 13:18:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]