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<2009 October>

More Links

# Friday, 30 October 2009 Cemetery Collection Free Through Nov. 5
Posted by Diane

This just in: is making its "creepiest collections"—records of cemeteries and gravestones free through next Thursday, Nov. 5. You will need to register for a free account to view details of your search results.

 Use the search box on this Halloween landing page to access the free databases.

Click here to see the list of cemetery indexes and inscriptions included in this offer. | Cemeteries
Friday, 30 October 2009 16:02:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral: October 26-30
Posted by Diane

Here are some genealogy news bits we've rounded up for you this week. Happy Halloween!
  • Familybuilder DNA has added Groups, a feature that let customers collaborate on genetic genealogy research. They’ll be able to create and join groups focusing on commonalities such as haplogroup, national origin, surname, birthplace, etc. read more on

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 30 October 2009 14:48:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 29 October 2009
Census Collection Q&A With Footnote
Posted by Diane

By now, you’ve probably heard the announcement that historical records site Footnote is adding indexes and images for the entire US census. Our Q&A with Footnote spokesperson Justin Schroepfer offers more information on the changes to come for the site:

1. Is Footnote creating new census images and indexes? How is this being done?

We are digitizing the microfilm and indexing the data ourselves the same way we have done the [1860 and 1930] censuses. The way we do the census records is different with the addition of what we call ‘sub documents.’

We create sub documents for each individual on the census. It features the indexed information, and allows users to click that they are related and add their own contributions in the form of stories, photos or other documents. Essentially, this creates what we term the Interactive Census Collection.

2. When will we start seeing the new censuses added to the site? What states will be first? When do you anticipate the collection will be complete?

We have already started on 1920, 1910 and 1900. We are starting with the most populous states from these decades. We anticipate the entire census collection to be completed by the end of next year. We created a page where users can check the status of each decade and sign up for a notification when content is added to a specific state from a specific decade.

3. Looking down the road, how will the census addition affect Footnote’s subscription pricing ($79.95 per year or $11.95 per month)?

We are always trying to keep the price of our membership manageable by operating lean and efficient. The pricing for Footnote memberships will not be affected by the addition of this specific collection. It is included in the Footnote membership fees as they stand now. We believe that we can cover our costs by providing significant increase in value to the current product. This, in turn, should help with conversion and retention.

4. Will changes to the workings of the site be necessary to accommodate the added data, searches and traffic?

Adding over 9 million images to the site with the indexes and the sub documents is not a small feat. Our engineering team has been working to ensure that the site experience, including the speed, remains optimal. The team has made some creative decisions to handle this new data and help ensure the customer experience is not negatively affected.

Thursday, 29 October 2009 11:53:34 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Last Week to Vote in the Family Tree 40!
Posted by Diane

Remember to cast your vote for your favorite genealogy blog—the top 40 will be in a May 2010 Family Tree Magazine article.

Click here to see more information on the voting categories.

And click here to vote. Thanks for taking part!

Watch for Family Tree 40 updates here and on Twitter (look for the hashtag #FT40).

Family Tree Magazine articles
Thursday, 29 October 2009 09:28:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Footnote To Add Entire US Census
Posted by Diane

Historical records subscription site Footnote announced early this morning that it will digitize and post online the entire US census, 1790 through 1930. (Footnote already has the 1860 and 1930 censuses.)

That'll add more than 9.5 million images and half a billion names to Footnote's databases.

That’s big news for two reasons:
  • It really ramps up competition in online genealogy. Right now, is the only site that offers the entire US census digitized and indexed. I wonder if/how this will affect’s IPO process—the census claim is probably a major selling point to potential investors.
  • Like Footnote's other historical records, its US census collection will be interactive. Members can add comments and insights to a census record, upload and attach photos or documents, create a Footnote Page and identify relatives found in the census by clicking an I’m Related button.’s new Member Connect features offer interactivity, but not quite to the same extent as Footnote.
Records for each state will be added as they're completed. Footnote has created a page where you can track the progress.

Footnote CEO Russ Wilding likens the census to a path linking to additional, less-used genealogical sources: “We see the census as a highway leading back to the 18th century. This ‘Census Highway’ provides off-ramps leading to additional records on the site such as naturalization records, historical newspapers, military records and more.”

He promises will keep adding unique record collections, not just the same records already on other sites.

“We will continue to move aggressively to add records to the site, specifically those that are requested by our members and others that are not otherwise available on the Internet.”

You can watch a free Webinar on how to use Footnote here (just enter your first and last names and e-mail address and click Register, and the Webinar player will open).

Update: Get more details on Footnote's forthcoming census collection in our Q&A with spokesperson Justin Schroepfer. | Footnote
Thursday, 29 October 2009 07:27:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Truths Behind History-Inspired Halloween Costumes
Posted by Diane

Even when you’re beyond the age of trick-or-treating (and I’m not saying any of you are!), it’s fun to dress up at Halloween to entertain the little ones or impress fellow partygoers.

You’ve might’ve donned one of these history-inspired costumes at one time or another. We dug up some hidden history not revealed in the Halloween costume clichés:
  • Uncle Sam isn’t just a character: During the War of 1812, Samuel Wilson of Troy, NY, provided the army with beef in barrels labeled U.S. The letters stood for United States, but people joked they referred to "Uncle Sam." The term came to mean the federal government; depictions of Uncle Sam appeared starting in 1852. In 1961, Congress officially saluted “Uncle Sam Wilson” as the “progenitor of America's national symbol."
  • You can morph into Rosie the Riveter with rolled-up sleeves and a red handkerchief in your hair. The name was popularized in a 1942 song, but there wasn’t any one Rosie. The most famous image we associate with Rosie the Riveter, J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster, isn’t her. Miller created the poster for the Westinghouse Co.’s War Production Coordinating Committee, and it was posted at the Michigan plant for only two weeks in February, 1942. He didn’t intend for it to portray Rosie.
Read more on the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Memorial Park website.
  • The witch of popular culture—black robe, pointy hat and warts a lá the Wicked Witch of the West—got her start in Shakespeare’s MacBeth and the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. But those accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials of 1692 and 1693 looked like anybody else. The series of trials resulted in the hangings of 14 women and five men. Another man was crushed to death under stones in an attempt to force him to enter a plea.
Learn more about the trials and see related historical documents in the Famous American Trials website.
  • Vampire costumes are big this year, thanks to the book Twilight and the movie based on it. The name of late 19th-century novelist Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire, Dracula, was inspired by a real historical figure: Vlad III (aka Vlad the Impaler), Prince of Wallachia, born in Transylvania in the 15th century. His Romanian surname, Dracula, meant “son of the dragon;” Vlad’s father had joined the Order of the Dragon.
  • Thanks to Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and other popular depictions, pirate costumes sport colorful bandanas, jewelry, an eye patch, a stuffed parrot and maybe a hook or wooden stump. Your typical early 18th-century pirate dressed for the most part like sailors did. The parrot cliché probably arose because many pirates benefited from the trade in exotic animals; the eye patch and hook/stump because of the risky profession. See more theories in this pirate Q&A.

Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 10:02:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The Norway Project on FamilySearch Community Trees
Posted by Diane

This update on FamilySearch’s Norway Project is from genealogy writer Sunny McClellan Morton:

The recent buzz on FamilySearch’s Community Trees has prompted questions from those who read about the Norway Project in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine. As explained in that article, the project will extract and link ancestral data from Norwegian bygdebøker (community books). Who wouldn’t be anxious to start searching a database that automatically links their ancestors to each other?

Data from the Norway Project now appears on the Community Trees site. But like anything on a beta site, the information isn’t quite complete. Only the Sør-Aurdal Clerical District of Oppland County is currently posted.

With 61,228 individuals from 18,428 families (12,276 unique surnames), the information is certainly useful, but limited in scope.

Even the posted data still need a little refining. According to project manager Roger Magneson, the following improvements are yet to come:
  • The current long list of six locality descriptors (small farm, large farm, parish, clerical district, county, country) will be reduced to four (large farm, clerical district, county and country).
  • The current list of only one or two locality descriptors for “move-ins” from other clerical districts will be expanded to three or four descriptors wherever possible.
  • Current errors regarding place names (caused by early extractors who couldn’t read the language) will be corrected in a later dataset.
  • Variants and diminutives of some names will be corrected and standardized in a later version.
  • Magneson hopes to post updated Sør-Aurdal data by the end of 2009. The next clerical district data to appear will likely be Nord-Fron, Sør-Fron, Norde Land and Søndre Land, beginning in early 2010.
Of course, Norway’s not the only country on FamilySearch’s Community Trees. Check the site for other datasets related to your pedigree. Choose “Advanced Search” to select the dataset you want to see.

(Note: The site doesn't work well in the Firefox browser.)

FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 14:53:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0] Plans Overnight Maintenance
Posted by Diane

In case you’re planning a late-night online research session tomorrow: Subscription site and its related international sites (,, etc.) will be down for about 3 hours of scheduled maintenance starting Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, at 1 am Mountain Time (3 am Eastern Time or 7 AM Greenwich Mean Time).
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 14:27:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 26 October 2009
DNA Tests in Ghana May Shed Light on African-American Origins
Posted by Diane

The Center for African-American Genealogical Research, Inc. (CAAGI), genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA, and the Public Records and Archives Administration Deartment of Ghana (PRAAD) are embarking on a project that may improve the ability of DNA tests to estimate African-Americans’ origins in Africa.

DNA tests designed to analyze origins in Africa often lead to more questions than answers because relatively little is known about the diverse genetics of African tribes. The tested person’s DNA is compared against a database of modern Africans' DNA—but because of historical migration in Africa, the DNA of a given area’s modern residents may not match its original inhabitants.

Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast), located in Western Africa, was the source of an estimated million-plus African slaves. FamilyTreeDNA will test several hundred members of the Nzema, Ga, Fante, Ewe and Asante tribes, all of which were part of the slave trade.

The DNA will be gathered at a workshop CAAGI is conducting this Friday at the PRAAD offices in Accra, Ghana, as part of its Sankofa project to use traditional genealogical sources and DNA to reconnect African families. Attendees will learn about online genealogy databases, preservation of song lyrics and photographs, transcription of family stories, and forensic genealogy.
Ghana was once a UK colony where British, Dutch and Danish merchants traded. PRAAD has a Slave Trade Archives project with microfilm on Danish activities in Ghana from 1658 to 1850; some of the film is digitized online.

Addition: Bennett Greenspan, president of FamilyTreeDNA, provided a bit more information on this project.

Greenspan believes the results, which should be available in three to four months, will “absolutely” help improve analysis of African-Americans’ origins in genetic genealogy tests.

“The results of this outreach will be to both increase the size of the FamilyTreeDNA/ comparative databases and the results will also be added to the permanent Hammer collection at the University of Arizona, who will publish on the results of these and other outreach missions to Africa," Greenspan says. "In that way, the data will be published and available to all researchers of Africa.”

The University of Arizona's Hammer Lab is managed by Michael Hammer, FamilyTreeDNA's chief scientist. is the African-American genealogy research firm of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.

African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 26 October 2009 12:33:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 October 2009
Genealogy News Corral: October 19-23
Posted by Diane

Here are some of the week's genealogy news tidbits:
  • We wrote about ethical wills (last statements concerning personal values rather than property) in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine. (Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the article here.)
Ready to get started on one? Personal historian Dan Curtis is offering a free, seven-part online course on writing an ethical will for your heirs.
Discover more resources for Chinese genealogy in these Genealogy Insider posts.
  • The new Amelia Earhart movie is getting tepid reviews (from what I’ve seen, anyway), but the real-life details of her 1937 disappearance might be more interesting.’s "Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad" collection contains a case file of correspondence concerning an investigation into the theory that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were imprisoned in Saipan. Find out more about the case on’s blog and on's “What really happened to Amerlia Earhart?” page.
  • Genetic genealogy company DNA Consultants has added a blog to its revamped website; posts review news and research on dna testing and popular genetics. That involves some complex scientific terms and concepts, so put on your genetic genealogist hat when you visit.

Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Events | Genetic Genealogy | Social History
Friday, 23 October 2009 16:08:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]