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# Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Exploring the Genealogically Improbable
Posted by Diane

Sometimes to break a genealogy brick wall, you have to break a rule by considering an improbable ancestral scenario. Unusual circumstances did occasionally occur.

That’s the idea behind this week’s “Best of” entry—one of contributing editor David A. Fryxells’ 31 brick wall-busting tips from the October 2004 Family Tree Magazine.
As Sherlock Holmes liked to lecture Dr. Watson, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So consider even the most unlikely possibilities when confronting your brick walls: Could there have been two men by the same name in the county at that time? Might your third-great-grandfather have married his cousin? Maybe your great-grandmother remarried in between censuses, thus changing her name.
Admitting to the improbable—but not impossible—is how I finally broke through the brick wall of my frustrating Ekstroms. I had found Olof Ekstrom's widow, Mary A., in an 1892 Rock Island and Moline, Ill., city directory. She matched my great-great-grandmother Anna Maja Pehrsdotter, who'd married Olof back in Sweden—Anna Maja easily could have been flipped and Americanized to Mary A.

I also found her, already a widow, in an 1885 city directory. But where was she—or Olof, for that matter—in the 1880 census, if she'd emigrated in 1873, as Swedish records indicated? The only Mary in the census who seemed to fit was married to a Bernard Vankirkhoon (actually Van Kirkhove, I later learned), a Belgian gent! Looking closer, I saw that the household included several children named not Vankirkhoon, but Ekstrom—with roughly the right first names and ages.
I kept going back to that census page. It didn't fit any of my assumptions, but it did fit the facts, if I looked at them in a completely different way:
• What if Olof had died soon after immigrating and never made it to Illinois—where I couldn't find any record of his death?
• What if Anna Maja, now Mary A., had then married this Belgian guy?
• And what if the Belgian also had died—between 1880 and that 1885 city directory—and Mary decided to return to her previous married name?
• What if the 1880 Olof Ekstrom in the Vankirkhoon household was the same person as the Oliver Eckstrom I'd found at the same address as the widow Ekstrom in the 1892 city directory—making him my great-great-uncle?
Once I was willing to consider this alternate explanation, I soon found obituaries, passenger manifests and loads of other records that matched the scenario. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place. All I had to do, if you will, was try looking at the picture upside-down.
Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:


Family Tree Magazine articles | Research Tips
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 12:58:04 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Family Tree DNA Introduces "Family Finder" Test
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy company Family Tree DNA is launching a new DNA test called Family Finder that’ll let you connect with family members across all ancestral lines.

While Y-DNA tests match men with a specific paternal line and mitochondrial DNA tests finds potential relatives along only the maternal line, Family Finder—an autosomal DNA test—can look for close relationships along all ancestral lines.

But rather than simply helping you confirm potential relationships with specific individuals, Family Finder is intended to match you with new relatives. Test results include a list of matching people in Family Tree DNA’s databases.

Men and women can take the test and match the results to male and female cousins from any of their family lines in the past five generations.

Family Finder is available now to current Family Tree DNA clients for $249, and will be offered to everyone in mid-March. Family Tree DNA CEO Bennett Greenspan called the new test the company’s “most exciting genetic genealogy breakthrough” since launching its Y-DNA test.

Read more about Family Finder on Family Tree DNA's website.

Related Resources from Family Tree Magazine:

See our DNA category for articles—both free and Plus—on using genetic genealogy in your family history research. (PS: Family Tree Magazine isn't affiliated with Family Tree DNA.)


Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:55:02 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Live Roots Adds Access to FamilySearch Record Search Results
Posted by Diane

Live Roots, a genealogy tool that helps you organize your research and find genealogy resources by searching the internet, now lets you view search results from the free FamilySearch Record Search pilot site from within Live Roots.

To get started, go to the Live Roots partner site search page, scroll down to FamilySearch Record Search and type your search term (click the blue plus sign for advanced search options), then click the Search FamilySearch.org button.  

In your search results, click on a name to see details from the record. If an image is available, click the View Image link (located below the record details) to see the record.

Why search through Live Roots instead of just going to the Record Search pilot? On your Live Roots search results page, you’ll be able to click to try the same search on other sites such as Ancestry.com, Footnote, GenForum, Flickr and more (to see search results from subscription sites, you'll need a subscription to that site).

Live Roots also lets registered members (membership is free) keep track of searches and results, and add resources to a personal library. (See this article for more information on managing genealogy projects in Live Roots.)

Also new: You can add the Live Roots search engine to the search provider box in the upper right corner of your web browser, letting you use Live Roots no matter what web site you’re on. Just click the link in this Live Roots blog post.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:12:08 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 12, 2010
In "Who Do You Think You Are?" News ...
Posted by Diane

Genealogy Gems podcaster Lisa Louise Cooke scored an interview with Lisa Kudrow, producer (and cast member) of the upcoming “Who Do You Think You Are?” tv show, premiering March 5 at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Their conversation will be in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 81, available starting this Sunday, Feb. 14, on the Genealogy Gems website.

Ancestry.com, a partner in the show, created a webpage to encourage you to spread the word about it with downloadable flyers, an e-mail you can forward to friends, wallpaper for your computer and more.

Kudrow addresses genealogy enthusiasts in this video, which also contains the “Who Do You Think You Are?” trailer you may have seen.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Ancestry.com | Genealogy Events | Podcasts | Videos
Friday, February 12, 2010 12:12:05 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genealogy News Corral: February 8-12
Posted by Diane

  • Neat website alert: The Ministry of Food goes with an Imperial War Museum London exhibit about the British public’s adaption to food shortages during World War II. You can see photos from the exhibit, check out Ministry of Food publications on gardening and cooking, and watch video clips.
And here’s a blog by a woman who’s living for a month on a 1940s British ration diet
  • Ancestry.com has improved Collection Filters in the New Search. When you’re in the Advanced Search, a pull-down menu lets you give priority to matches associated with various countries or ethnic backgrounds. See how it works on the Ancestry.com blog.


Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy fun | Museums | Social History | UK and Irish roots
Friday, February 12, 2010 12:07:06 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Awww . . . ! Love Letters From History
Posted by Diane

In 1797, a British publisher printed The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which suggested sentimental verses for wooing the ladies. Need similar inspiration this Valentine’s Day? Here are a few swoon-inducing quotes from love letters of the past, and where you can read the rest.

Revolutionary War Gen. Nathanael Greene to his wife, Catharine
"There is not a day or night, nay not an hour, but I wish to fold you to my heart.”
I couldn’t find the full letter online, but you can read more about the correspondence of this couple and their contemporaries in Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts.

Poet Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning, Jan. 10, 1846
“It seems to me, to myself, that no man was ever before to any woman what you are to me.”
Samual Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) to Olivia Langdon, Dec. 31, 1868, transcribed at the Mark Twain Project Online
"The Old Year is passing. … It found me careless of the here & the [hereafter]—it leaves me with faith in the one & hope for the [other. It] found [me. my ] heart scorched, bitter, barren, loveless—& leaves it filled with softening, humanizing, elevating love for the dearest girl on earth, Livy—& I, the homeless then, have on this last day of the [die dying] year, a home that is [pre priceless], a refuge from all the cares & ills of life, in that warm heart of yours, & am supremely happy! And so with grateful benediction I give [Godspeed] to this good Old Year that is passing away. If I forget all else it has done for me I shall still remember that it gave me your love, Livy, ..."
Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah, July 14, 1861, a week before he was killed in the Battle of Bull Run (this letter was made famous in Ken Burns’ documentary "The Civil War")
"… something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. ... How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness ..."
Harry Truman to his wife, Bess, May 7, 1933
“I still believe that my sweetheart is the ideal woman…”


Genealogy fun | Social History
Friday, February 12, 2010 9:42:42 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 11, 2010
Valentine Sale! Take 20% Off Your ShopFamilyTree.com Order
Posted by Diane


Genealogy and Valentine’s Day go together like . . . well . . . doesn't genealogy go with just about everything?

We’re offering a sweetheart of a deal on the how-to family history books, CDs, Family Tree Magazine back issues, digital downloads and webinar recordings in ShopFamilyTree.com: Save 20 percent off your order by entering the code FAMLOVE at checkout.

That’s on top of already-discounted items, such as those in our 10th anniversary sale, making for some pretty inexpensive stuff. And you still get free shipping on US orders over $25.

(Note the Valentine sale doesn’t apply to Family Tree Magazine print subscriptions, the VIP membership or registration for our Feb. 23 Search Engine Tips & Tricks webinar.)

Need shopping ideas? May I suggest:
  • This is the perfect time to finally pick up the State Research Guides compilation CD or book

Editor's Pick | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Thursday, February 11, 2010 11:00:38 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Family History TV: Faces of America
Posted by Diane

Did you watch "Faces of America" last night on PBS?

Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates, who’s hosting the four-part series, describes it as a show about immigration in the United States. (See clips in our previous blog  post.)



If you missed it, you can watch it here.

You don’t see genealogical research happening, but that’s not really what this show is about. Instead, you see how family history shapes the lives of several well-known Americans of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Mario Batali became a chef after growing up on his Italian grandmother’s oxtail ravioli (which Gates prepares with Batali). Yo-yo Ma’s parents were struggling musicians from China. Louise Erdrich, who’s already researched her family tree, incorporates her maternal Chippewa heritage into her novels.

In last night’s episode, focused on immigrants in 20th-century America, Gates asks each person what they knew about their ancestors, and what family history means to them. He presents cast members with an article, photograph or record, sometimes revealing surprising information.

Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi learned that her maternal grandfather was the only Asian in the 100th Infantry Division during World War II, and was decorated as the unit’s best soldier—while his wife and relatives were being imprisoned with other Japanese-Americans in internment camps.

My ears perked up during the previews for next week’s episode, about the “century of immigration,” when Gates tells Queen Noor of Jordan how her great-grandfather immigrated to America in 1891 from Damascus, Syria—where my paternal ancestors came from.

Read more about the cast and their family trees on the Faces of America website. You also can comment on the profiles and add stories from your own family history.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:

Genealogy Events | immigration records | Social History
Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:36:13 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Using Genealogy Resources at State Libraries and Archives
Posted by Diane

One of my favorite pieces of advice for genealogists who aren't sure of their next research step or don't know where to find a particular record is to browse around the website for the state library, archive or historical society, and just see what's there. My "Best of" pick for 2003—Rick Crume's article from the August 2003 Family Tree Magazine— explains why:
At libraries and archives on the state level, you'll find birth, marriage and death records, plus state censuses, tax records, business records, county records, maps, family papers, and photographs and oral histories. Most state archives also have programs to microfilm newspapers dating back to the first issues published in the state.

While they usually focus on their own states, many of these libraries and archives also have important holdings for other states. The Sutro branch of the California State Library, for example, and the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) house two of the nation's largest collections of genealogical books. WHS also boasts one of the largest collections of newspapers in the United States and extensive holdings of African-American and American Indian newspapers.

Every state has at least one organization in charge of preserving its heritage. Sometimes, a state library houses books, while a separate state archive stores records and artifacts. Other states preserve all these resources in a single facility, often called a state historical society. In addition to official state-run archives, some states, especially in the East, have other repositories operated by private, nonprofit organizations.

To take the best advantage of state libraries and archives, you'll want to visit in person. But even if you can't, you can still access many of these resources from a distance through interlibrary loan, the Internet and the library's reference services.

Almost every state library and archives has a website packed with useful genealogical information. Some sites, such as the Library of Virginia and the Florida State Archives, feature searchable databases and document images—with just a few clicks, you might find an abstract of your ancestor's will or digitized pages from the family Bible.

Before making a trip to the state capital, check the online library catalog for family histories, local histories and manuscripts. The site also may have a listing of newspaper holdings organized by county and town.

Many state libraries and archives make microfilmed newspapers and some books available for a small fee via interlibrary loan. Read the lending policies on the facility's website, then print the references to items you want to borrow and request them at your local public library.

Just like local public libraries, state libraries and archives offer a range of reference services. Staff may accept research requests by phone, mail or e-mail. Usually, there's no charge to answer a simple question, such as “Do you have Clay County court records from the 1880s?” But you may have to pay a fee to get an archivist to check indexes and make photocopies. Keep your question brief, and be sure to include a name, place and date, for example: “Can you check the index to the book Old Tioga Point and Early Athens by Louise Welles Murray for the name William Parry, and copy the pages where he's mentioned? He lived in Athens from 1822 until the 1850s.”

Some state library websites have a form for submitting research questions. If you need more-extensive research than staff can handle, they may have a list of area researchers for hire.

Faced with budget cuts, many state libraries and archives are reducing their services and need your support. Let your elected officials know that you value these services and want them to continue. Of course, the best way to support state libraries is to use them.
Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:


Family Tree Magazine articles | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 9:45:31 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Boston Groups Launch African-American Genealogy Initiative
Posted by Diane

Tom Champoux of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) sent more information on the society’s new African-American genealogy website, which I blogged about last week.

Turns out AfricanAmericanAncestors.org is part of a joint initiative to bridge the gap between New England’s rich regional history and the stories of African-American families rooted there. Besides NEHGS, partners include Boston’s Museum of African American History (MAAH) and the New England Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS-NE).

The site’s launch celebration was attended by nearly 100 people, including Black Roots author Tony Burroughs, MAAH director Beverly Morgan-Welch, AAHGS-NE president Leona Martin, and Association of Professional Genealogists vice president Kenyatta Berry.

In the coming months, the three organizations will plan new programs, education opportunities, and other special events to highlight each group's areas of expertise while providing researchers of African-American family history with access to content, tools and resources.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:


African-American roots | Genealogy societies
Tuesday, February 09, 2010 12:07:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]