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# Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Inside an Ancestry.com Remote Scanning Facility
Posted by Diane

At the genealogy media event Ancestry.com sponsored last week, our group got a virtual glimpse at the Silver Spring, Md., digitization facility where Ancestry.com scans records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Of its 9 billion textual records, 1 percent of the holdings in NARA’s Washington, DC, research center have been digitized, according to Ancestry.com's Todd Jensen.

In a quest to "go where the records are," Ancestry.com has opened 15 remote scanning operations in the in the United States. Jensen, who oversees the digitization efforts, emphasized the seriousness of the undertaking. Though he didn’t get into specifics, he said costs for the process and insurance are as expensive "as you might imagine."

Pages and pages of government directives regulate the removal of records from NARA’s building:
  • A NARA monitor—subsidized by Ancestry.com—must accompany the documents at all times. When employees go on break or leave for the day, the records are locked in a secure room.
  • The transport vehicle must have a full gas tank and a specially trained driver who follows approved routes (avoiding highways and other roads that permit vehicles carrying hazardous materials) for the 10-mile trip from NARA to the scanning facility.  
  • The documents must be inside when transitioned between the vehicle and the facility.
  • The scanning and secure storage rooms can’t be in a basement or on the top floors of a building.
  • The facility must have approved surfaces. Some paints, rubbers, carpets and other materials can “off-gass,” or emit vapors that harm documents.  
  • The scanning facility must duplicate the conditions of a NARA reading room. Ink pens are banned, for example, and the temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.
  • NARA’s security director reviewed the scanning facility and required some changes, such as hardening the entry points.


Ancestry.com | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 9:04:02 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, January 11, 2010
"New" New Search Coming to Ancestry.com
Posted by Diane

You might be happy to learn about some changes in store for Ancestry.com's New Search, particularly if you’re using the Old Search in hopes something better than New Search will come along.

During last week’s Ancestry.com press junket, Tony Macklin, manager of the search experience, gave members of the genealogy media (listed at the end of this post) a sneak peek of the updates:

The global basic search form will keep the first and middle name field and last name field. The place field will ask “Where did your ancestor live?” A pop-up calculator helps you estimate the birth year. Options let you add family members’ names and life events.

The global advanced search form is where you’ll see most changes. For the above-mentioned name fields, you'll be able check boxes for filters that let you customize the types of matches you get: records with just initials for the name, just Soundex matches (a feature the professional researchers in our group sorely miss in the New Search), and names with similar meanings or spellings to what you entered.

For the location, filters will let you restrict matches to records associated with just the county or place you entered, or also from adjacent counties/places.

You’ll be able to click boxes that let you restrict matches to just the historical records databases, just family trees or just photos and maps—effectively doing the same thing as the tabs in the Old search. You’ll be able to limit your results to US sources, too.

The updates will be introduced gradually in the New Search over the next weeks and months. The Old Search will stick around for now, but it won’t get these changes.

Individual collection pages also will get updated searches, but this'll take longer because of the customization required. Redesigned collection home pages will feature links to collection categories, easier ways to browse by location or date, and an “Explore by Location” click-through map that lets you see record groups associated with your ancestors’ places of residence.

For more news and analysis from this Ancestry.com-sponsored media event, watch the Genealogy Insider and these genealogy blogs:


Ancestry.com
Monday, January 11, 2010 10:34:11 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, January 08, 2010
Genealogy News Corral, Jan 4 to 8
Posted by Diane

Welcome to our first news roundup of 2010!

  • The 2010 National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference April 28 to May 1 in Salt Lake City, will highlight genealogy technology with a GENTECH Hall sponsored by FamilySearch. (GENTECH is a technology-focused genealogical society that merged with NGS in 2005.) There, nearly 100 technology-oriented exhibitors will feature software, gadgets, social collaboration sites, 60 computers for attendees’ use, and more. A GENTECH lecture track will cover cloud computing, blogs, data storage, social networking, photo editing and other tech topics. Learn more on the conference website.
  • Genealogy Gems podcaster Lisa Louise Cooke has released the first-ever genealogy podcast app for iPhone and iTouch. The Genealogy Gems Podcast app provides users with streaming genealogy audio and video, and exclusive bonus content including Cooke’s 20 page e-book 5 Fabulous Google Research Strategies for the Family Historian. You can get the app at the iTunes app store
  • Ancestry.com and the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) will sponsor a Family History Day event Saturday, Feb. 20, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Westin Copley Place in Boston. The day will include six classes, a Q&A with Ancestry.com experts, one-on-one consultations with NEHGS genealogists, and the chance to have your photos and documents scanned on professional scanners. Attendance costs $30; click here to register.

  • The 55,000-member Civil War Preservation Trust announced it helped permanently protect 2,777 acres at 20 Civil War battlefields in five states during 2009. The trust's lifetime total comes to more than 29,000 acres of protected battlefield land at 109 sites in 20 states.

Ancestry.com | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites | Historic preservation
Friday, January 08, 2010 10:44:41 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Series Explores "What Made America?" Through Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose "African-American Lives" series have been popular on PBS, is working on another genealogy documentary series to air in February and March.

"Faces of America" uses genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 11 famous Americans, using their ancestors’ experiences to draw a picture of American history.

"The many stories [Gates] uncovers—of displacement and homecoming, of material success and dispossession, of assimilation and discrimination—illuminate the American experience," states PBS' announcement.

Four episodes look progressively further back in history. They cover America’s complicated relationship with new immigrants in the 20th century, the “Century of Immigration” and industrialization from the 1820s to 1924 (the year quotas sharply curtailed US immigration), the early settlement of the New World, and how DNA evidence links us to early geographical origins.

The ancestral origins of the show's "cast” span the globe. Gates researches the family trees of poet Elizabeth Alexander (she composed and read the poem at President Obama’s inauguration), chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, film director Mike Nichols, Queen Noor of Jordan, actresses Eva Longoria Parker and Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

The series airs 8 to 9 pm Wednesdays from Feb. 10 to March 3, but you can catch a few glimpses now:

See more "Faces of America" clips on PBS’ YouTube channel.


Celebrity Roots | Genealogy Events | Genetic Genealogy | Social History
Wednesday, January 06, 2010 2:01:43 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
May We Suggest Some Genealogy Resolutions for 2010?
Posted by Diane

Studies show (well, at least one study shows) that 66 percent of adults have ever made a New Year’s resolution.

So maybe I risk losing a third of you when I suggest making a genealogy-oriented resolution or two. But wait! If you stick around for the rest of this post, I’ll give you some ideas and link to articles that might be helpful in achieving your family history goals:
  • Back up your digitized photos, too (in the May 2010 Family Tree Magazine, we’ll recommend several photo-sharing websites for backing up family photos).
Resolve to rent one title a month through a nearby Family History Center. You can get more advice on using FamilySearch in our FamilySearch Essentials Webinar recording.
  • Go through your attic and closets and catalog your family heirlooms. You can use our heirloom recording forms to note the items' original owner, provenance, and other important information. 
  • Commit an hour or so a week to volunteering for a records indexing project. Try FamilySearch Indexing or Ancestry.com’s World Archives Project, or see if your local library or historical society could use your indexing assistance.
  • If you’re a beginning family historian, resolve to search the 1930 census (the most recent one available) for every relative who was alive at the time. See our census search tips, and visit a large library to use census microfilm, HeritageQuest Online or Ancestry Library Edition.


Family Heirlooms | Oral History | Photos | Research Tips
Wednesday, January 06, 2010 12:29:49 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, January 05, 2010
NY Museum Offers Digitized National Guard Records
Posted by Diane

Got a New Yorker who served in the state’s National Guard? The New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs has released of 53,671 pages of New York National Guard records, according to a Dec. 29 announcement.

The digitized records in PDF format include 197 issues of the New York National Guardsman magazine (published monthly from August 1924 to August 1940) and National Guard annual reports from the Adjutant General from 1858 to 1955

Many years of the Adjutant General records have a name index. Otherwise, there’s no search of the digitized records, so you’ll need to browse files for the years you’re interested in. Some of the files are pretty big and take a few minutes to download.

The center’s library also has rich genealogical resources offline, including 2,000 volumes of military and New York State history, more than 5,000 unit and soldier photographs, unit histories (some of this material is online), scrapbooks, letters, maps and more.


Free Databases | Military records | Museums
Tuesday, January 05, 2010 9:02:09 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 04, 2010
Ancestry.com Improves Wildcard Searching
Posted by Diane

Ancestry.com made some changes to wildcard searching, which might just add enough flexibility to help you finally find an elusive ancestor in the census.

You can now use a wildcard at the beginning of a name you’re searching for, but if you do, the name can’t end in a wildcard. The name must contain at least three non-wildcards.

The two wildcards are ? to stand in for exactly one letter and * to stand in for any number of letters.

See more details and examples on Ancestry.com’s blog.


Ancestry.com
Monday, January 04, 2010 2:55:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Ohio Probate Court Posts Online Records Archive
Posted by Diane

The probate court  for Hamilton County, Ohio—location of our hometown of Cincinnati—launched an Archived Record Search for records from 1791 to 1994.

It's not a database search where you type in a name. Instead, you open image files (PDFs or TIFs) of index books and/or record books for records including:
  • Estates, 1791 to 1984
  • Wills, 1791 to 1973
  • Trusts, 1791 to 1984
  • Guardianships, 1791 to 1984
  • Marriages, 1808 to 1983 
  • Minister's Licenses, 1963 to 1975 (index books only)
  • Birth Records, 1863 to 1908
  • Birth Registrations and Corrections, 1941 to 1994
  • Death Records, 1881 to 1908
  • Probate Court Journal Entries, 1791 to 1837 (no index; you must browse by volume and page number)
  • Physician Certificates, 1919 to 1987 (no index; you must browse by volume and page number)
I spent most of the Bengals' game last night opening and looking through the digitized books. I found a few people who may be relatives—giving me something to add to my 2010 to-do list.

Start by going to the Archive Record Search page and clicking the link for the type of record you’re interested in. On the next page, read the information: it’ll tell you whether the website has the index and/or the record volumes, whether the court has additional index or record volumes that aren’t online, years of coverage, and how complete the records are. 

If an index book is online, click the name of the record at the top of the page. Click on the alphabetical range for the surname you want, which opens the file (it may take awhile). You might have to check several index books if you're not sure of the year you need.

You also might have to scroll through the entire index: In some cases, surnames aren't alphabetized beyond the first letter, or all S surnames with E first names (for example) might be grouped.

Once you find a suspected relative in the index book, note the volume and page number. Then, if the record book is online, go back to the main page for that record and search for a volume and page number to see the record. Otherwise—assuming the record book still exists—you can request photocopies from the court or see if it's on FHL microfilm.

If there's no index book, check the information on the site to see which volumes cover which years. Then type in your best guess of a volume and page number, and start browsing.


court records | Free Databases | Vital Records
Monday, January 04, 2010 9:04:44 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, December 22, 2009
How Your Ancestors' Christmases Looked
Posted by Diane

I went into some of our favorite historical photo archives and found images of Christmases past. Each link will open in a new window:
Posting will be spotty over the next couple of weeks as we spend time with friends and family. We wish warm and happy holidays to all of you!


Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy fun | Photos
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 3:41:15 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, December 21, 2009
Last-Minute Family History Gifts
Posted by Diane

If you’re scrambling to find just the right presents or you’ve finally faced the fact that the family history book you planned to give the year won’t be ready in time for Christmas, consider one of these ideas for a quick, family history-themed gift:

A framed family photo showing ancestors or an old family home. You also could use ephemera, such as a letter (scan and print color copies for framing). My aunt did this with a handwritten poem my great-aunt wrote about relatives who went to fight in World War II.

Write a few of Grandma’s recipes on pretty recipe cards, and give them with a recipe box, a wooden rolling pin or a baking dish.

A filled-in decorative family tree chart. I like this fan chart from MarthaStewart.com or try one of the charts you can fill in and print from The Family ChArtist or MyHeritage.

A photo CD with digitized family photos and documents.

These photo blocks, which Family Archivist columnist Sunny McClellan Morton created for our December 2009 issue. Purchase the wooden blocks at a craft store and cut photos to fit. Use Mod Podge to attach the photos to the blocks.


To make these refrigerator magnets, use clear-drying glue such as Aleene's Clear Gel Tacky Glue to adhere pictures to the backs of glass gems. Let dry, then trim the photo and glue a magnet to the back of the picture.

Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy fun
Monday, December 21, 2009 10:56:03 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]