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# Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Three Ways to Recharge Your Genealogy Research
Posted by Diane

Seeing results can motivate you to work harder at everything from getting in shape to learning a new skill. Maybe that’s why my genealogy efforts tend to flag when I haven’t made any new discoveries recently.

So a I was browsing my Family Tree Magazines for our “Best of 2008” installment, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack’s “Recharge Your Research” article from the July 2008 edition jumped out at me.

Here are three of her 12 techniques for injecting new energy into your genealogy search:
Write a report. After writing dozens of family histories and a zillion research reports, I firmly believe there's no better way to see the holes and faulty logic in your research than by stringing together those facts into sentences. As you start writing—both to tell the ancestor's life story and explain why you think your Miles Johnson in Allamakee County, Iowa, is the same Miles Johnson in Whiteside County, Ill.—you'll surprise yourself by how much you know (or how much you don't).
Think of it as writing yourself a report on your research. This is often why professional genealogists can solve some sticky research problems. As they explain their thought processes and theories to a client, they're also analyzing their research. When you start writing a report, you'll realize, “Gee, I missed checking the such-and-such record” or “That Wallace surname is cropping up a lot in the ancestor's records.” Savvy professionals write reports as they're researching, because it helps them sort what they're gathering and keeps them on the right track.
Consult county and local histories. You've looked at county and local histories for places your ancestor lived, but have you gone back for a second look after doing more-extensive ancestor research? On your first pass through these histories, you might've been skimming for a mention of your forebear. This time, look at what was happening when your family lived in the area.
Sarah Collins' son Rodalphus, died in Tyringham, Mass., March 2, 1783, at age 13. His death record didn't reveal the cause. When I looked at a local history, I discovered the town suffered several smallpox epidemics after infected soldiers brought the disease there in 1777. The community was still battling the disease in 1785. Even though the book didn't mention Rodalphus Collins, it helped me understand what might've taken his life. This made me take a closer look at other family members in the area who died during that time.
Read a state or county guide. Maybe ancestral answers lie in some place-specific record you didn't know to check. How to learn the secrets of your kin's locale? Family Tree Magazine published State Research Guides for each state from 2005 to 2009. You can buy a compilation CD or download individual state guides from ShopFamilyTree.com. Another helpful reference is The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists (Family Tree Books), which provides county-by-county records information for the United States.

Look for locality-specific guidebooks, too, such as Virginia Genealogy: Sources & Resources by Carol McGinnis (Genealogical Publishing Co.) and Chicago and Cook County: A Guide to Research by Loretto Denis Szucs (Ancestry).
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the entire "Recharge Your research" article here.
  • Related resources from ShopFamilyTree.com:
  • State Research Guides compilation CD or book



Tuesday, March 16, 2010 8:45:22 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, March 15, 2010
Editor's Pick: HeritageQuest Online Web Guide
Posted by Diane


In Family Tree Magazine, we often recommend HeritageQuest Online—a database service offered through many public libraries—as a free alternative for finding US census records, family and local history books, Revolutionary War service records and Freedmen’s Bank records.

Not all of the census records on HeritageQuest Online are indexed, though, and the databases can be tricky to search.

Enter our HeritageQuest Online Web Guide.



It’s available from ShopFamilyTree.com in a few forms:
In this Web Guide, genealogy technology guru Rick Crume explains how to access HeritageQuest Online, what records are in its databases, and the best ways to search each database.

Like our Web Guides to other popular genealogy sites, the HeritageQuest Online guide has
  • an in-depth description of how to use the site and its collections
  • a quick-start guide and need-to-know statistics (such as the site’s contact information, major content areas and any fees)
  • step-by-step search demos
  • a cheat sheet of quick links, resources, hacks and shortcuts
  • hyperlinked URLs so you can click through to all the websites recommended in the guide
Remember, Family Tree Magazine VIP members get 10 percent off ShopFamilyTree.com purchases!


Editor's Pick | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, March 15, 2010 12:10:16 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Behind the Scenes of "WDYTYA?": Researching Emmitt Smith's Roots
Posted by Grace

Ancestry.com's PR and events manager Anastasia Tyler offers this behind-the-scenes look at the second episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?":
Seasoned researchers know that discovering the slavery roots in a family tree can be time consuming and difficult -- perhaps even seemingly impossible. But, as Emmitt Smith's story shows on this week's episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?," African-Americans can discover their heritage. The genealogy team who worked on Emmitt's tree shares a behind-the-scenes look at how they made the jump from post-1870 records to pre-Civil War records as they documented Emmitt's enslaved ancestors.
 
Post-1870 Research
Vital records, census records and other primary sources allowed the research team to document Emmitt's family tree back to great-great-grandparents -- William Watson and Victoria Puryear. A 1900 census record from Monroe County, Ala., indicated William and Victoria were both born in Alabama during the Civil War. These facts suggested that William and Victoria could have been born slaves, and perhaps their parents as well.
 
Since Victoria and William were born in the early 1860s, it was likely that records created post-1870 could shed some light on their parents. Vital records were especially helpful here; Victoria's death certificate included the names of her parents, Prince Puryear and Annie McMillian.
 
The 1870 census added clues: Prince Puryear and his family (including young Victoria) were listed in Monroe County, Alabama. Additional Puryear households were also found on the same census page. The ages for the heads of the Puryear households made them potential brothers of Prince. These heads of households also had the same racial designation as Prince -- mulatto. Finally, one of the households listed a 55-year-old mulatto woman born in Virginia named Mariah Puryear. "Our first thought was 'Could Mariah be Prince's mother?'" says genealogist Joseph Shumway of ProGenealogists. If the answer was yes, if Mariah was Prince"s mother, then Mariah would be Emmitt's fourth great-grandmother.

Pre-Civil War Documentation
The research team needed to establish whether Mariah Puryear from the 1870 census was Prince Puryear's mother. Slave research involves looking at records pertaining to the slave-holding families. Vital records were not kept for slaves, but slaves may be mentioned in records created when the slave owner dies and in records pertaining to deeded transactions. So the research team first had to determine the identity of the slave-holding family. Once found, the family's records could reveal further information about Prince Puryear's family and his potential connection to the woman named Mariah.
 
Emancipated slaves, in general, didn't stray too far from their most recent owner's property. In addition, many former slaves retained the surname of the former slave holders. So the researchers turned back to the 1870 census, looking for white families in the same vicinity as Emmitt's Puryear ancestors. Interestingly enough, there was a white Puryear family living in Monroe County, Ala. This family, potentially, could have been the slave-holding family.
 
The Puryears, like many slave owners, had extensive real estate, so the team looked for the family's land records, deeds, and probate records. In the Monroe County probate records (on microfilm at the Family History Library), the researchers found probate records pertaining to the 1850-51 estate of Mary Puryear. The inventory of Mary's property was a key document. In it she listed Mariah and her children, by name: "Mariah and children Henry, Mary, McTom, Victoria and Prince Albert." Henry and Thomas were the names of two potential Puryear brothers who appeared on the same 1870 census page with Prince and Mariah. The inventory "matched the information we"d found in the census," says Joseph. "With the combination of names and location, there was no doubt."

Further records showed that Mary Puryear was the widow of slave owner Alexander Puryear and helped to solidify the connection between Prince, Mariah and the Puryear slave-holding family. "There are records out there," Joseph concludes. "Just be persistent."


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 15, 2010 8:48:21 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
'Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode Two Recap
Posted by Grace

As I settle in with some popcorn to watch the show, I'm really interested to see if Emmitt Smith can make the jump from America to Africa like he's hoping.

Emmitt Smith gets a DNA test done and goes home to Florida to talk to his family. His dad mentions a cousin with a genealogy website -- that's real luck! Emmitt's next stop is Burnt Corn, Ala., where he stops at a general store and runs into a cousin.

It's so nice to see Emmitt taking notes -- it felt like all the info just fell into SJP's lap. We're getting into some heavy history at the Monroe County Courthouse as Emmitt encounters segregated turn-of-the-century vital records. The archivist says Emmitt's ancestor Bill Watson was born into slavery; another researcher determines Bill's wife's maiden name.

Now we're tracking down the name Prince Puryear -- was it the surname of a slave owner? We hope to find out by digging into the 1870 census, the first to list African-Americans by name, researcher Marjorie Sholes tells Emmitt.

Emmitt finds a slave-owning family named Puryear in the 1850 census. Letters reveal the man was a slave trader, even. Emmitt finds Prince Puryear in a will -- with a price. It's clear Emmitt is totally blown away by this. The researcher points out that the cemetery they're sitting in is only for white people -- Emmitt's black ancestors' graves are grown over and forgotten in the woods.

Going into Virginia to track down the Puryears seems like it's going to bear lots of fruit. Mecklenburg County, Va., was built by the Puryears, a historian says, and the slave trade was big business. They dig into the local records, and pull out deed book No. 22, which freaks Emmitt out! (His football jersey number was 22 through his entire career.)

Historian says the slave owners raised and bred their slaves like horses -- but they treated the horses better. His ancestor Mariah appears on a deed at just 11 years old. It seems that slave trader Samuel Puryear is Emmitt's fifth-great grandfather.

It seems that Mariah is as far back as Emmitt can go, as earlier records are difficult to find. But then Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak comes to the rescute with the results of Emmitt's DNA test. She says Emmitt's ancestry is about 81 percent African, 7 percent Native American and 12 percent European. She never sees people with 100% African ancestry, and his background is very strongly African.

Emmitt is going to Africa! Benin, specifically, part of West Africa's former "Slave Coast." But the past is drawn into the present -- he's told that trafficking of children is still happening in Benin. The orphans he's meeting were sold by their parents for money.

Emmitt visits the courtyard where Africans were held before the strong ones were loaded onto slave ships. He has a teary reunion with his wife on the beach, where he tells her what he's discovered. It's an amazing example of how bringing history to light can change your life. Emmitt says, "History is my story right now." That's a wrap!


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 15, 2010 8:44:11 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, March 12, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: March 8 to 12
Posted by Diane


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy Events | Vital Records
Friday, March 12, 2010 9:24:28 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, March 11, 2010
Footnote's Census Records: Free for a Limited Time
Posted by Diane

Historical records subscription site Footnote is making its US census records free for a limited time.

Footnote spokesperson Justin Schroepfer says there’s not yet a firm ending date, but the records will be free at least through the end of this month. You’ll need to register as a free member to view the records. 

Footnote is  carrying out plans to host the complete US census back to 1790. Here are the census records on the site so far:
  • the complete 1860 census
  • 5 percent of 1900
  • 3 percent of 1910
  • 3 percent of 1920
  • 98 percent of 1930
When you find a relative’s record, click the “I’m Related” button for a name on the document to identify yourself as a relative and see others who’ve done the same. You also can see others’ photos, stories and comments related to the record. (See Footnote’s tips for starting family history and making the most of its interactive census collection.)

The offer will help Footnote capture the family history interest stirred up by network television programs such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Faces of America.” The getting-started page bills Footnote as the “unofficial, affordable and premiere resource for Who Do You Think You Are?”

Footnote also has launched its improved record viewer, which I blogged about yesterday.


census records | Footnote | Free Databases
Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:46:50 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
10-Years of Family Tree Magazine on DVD (in a Pretty Box)
Posted by Diane


Just look at the packaging for our 10 Years of Family Tree Magazine 2000-2009 DVD. It’s so pretty, you might not want to open it.

But go ahead. Here’s what you’ll find:


A DVD with the past decade’s worth of Family Tree Magazine issues. All our genealogy research guides, tips, tools and tutorials—more than 4,700 pages, Allison declared after one-on-one time with a calculator—on a convenient, space-saving DVD.

A Family Tree Magazine library, if you will.

All the issues are PDF files; open them with the free Adobe Reader on a Mac or a PC. You can click to browse each issue from the Start page, or search (also from the Start page) for topics of interest to you.

The enhanced files let you click through to recommended websites. Bookmarks make it easy to navigate to your favorite stories and sections of the magazine.

Stop by ShopFamilyTree.com for more details and highlights of the issues it contains. The DVD is available for pre-order now at 20 percent off the regular price (the estimated shipping date is March 31).

Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles
Thursday, March 11, 2010 9:02:55 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Finding Immigration Records With One-Step Search Forms
Posted by Diane

Finding an ancestor’s immigration record is the goal of many a genealogist, which is why I’m selecting an excerpt from Rick Crume’s February 2007 Family Tree Magazine article on Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step search site for this week's “Best of” installment.

Morse has searches for many sites, but his Ellis Island search forms are among the most popular. I have a soft spot for them: I found one of my ancestors by using the Gold form to search passenger lists month-by-month around the arrival date given on a naturalization record.

Just before the issue was printed, Morse's Gold form replaced the old Blue and Gray forms. That's about the only time we've had to say "Stop the presses!" 
When Ellis Island launched its database of New York City passenger arrivals from 1892 to 1924, genealogists viewed it as the greatest advancement since pedigree charts. The ability to freely search records of 22 million immigrants, passengers and crew—and view digital images of the lists—was a huge research boon. But as great as the site was, people became frustrated with its limitations: Searching on just first name, last name and gender wasn’t adequate for finding everyone’s immigrant ancestors.
Those limitations inspired the first One-Step tools. Although EllisIsland.org has since expanded its search options (they now include features that debuted on the One-Step site, such as name-spelling flexibility, birth year, ship name, town of origin and ethnicity), Morse’s White and Gold Ellis Island search forms still offer extra options for ferreting out hard-to-find immigrant ancestors. For instance, the Gold Form lets you search for town names that sound like your search term; both forms let you search on port of departure and age.
By default, both forms hunt for matches that start with your search term. That way, if you search on Glasgow in the town field, you'll catch both Glasgow and Glasgow, Scotland—whichever way it was recorded.
A key distinction between the forms: The White Form employs the same search engine as the Ellis Island site. The Gold Form uses a different search engine, which works faster when you search on name fragments.

Morse advises using the Gold Form for most searches, and the White Form when you need a “fresh perspective” for your search.
Morse unveiled the Gold Form to provide maximum flexibility in searching all 25 million people in the Ellis Island database. It melds the best of his old Blue and Gray forms, offering added parameters for searching all the records—including traveling companion, exact arrival date and marital status. Want to search for everyone from a particular village? Specify the town, but leave the name fields blank.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the entire article, which covers many of Morse's other One-Step searches, on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:


Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 1:42:11 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Footnote Debuts Enhanced Record Viewer
Posted by Diane

I just saw on Twitter that subscription genealogy site Footnote’s new image viewer is now live. (We told you last month how to get a sneak preview of the “Newer Viewer.”)  

This is what it looks like (that's my great-grandfather's Petition for Naturalization):



The viewer controls are better organized by function, and it’s easier to navigate within the collection and to other records. More specifically, the changes include:
  • The source information panel has moved from the right to the left side of the page (you can click an arrow to close the panel).
  • The filmstrip of record images at the bottom of the viewer defaults to closed (use the Open filmstrip link to open it).
  • A Find pop-up box lets you search for a name or other word in the record.
  • Controls to manipulate the record image (such as magnifying and rotating it) were separated from out and moved from above the image to the vertical toolbar on the left.
  • Sharing features (such as adding a note to the image and—new in the viewer—posting it to your Facebook page) are above the image.

  • The breadcrumb trail showing you which collection you’re in, and letting you navigate within it, is above the sharing features. (Previously, this breadcrumb trail was located inconspicuously above the filmstrip.)

Footnote | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, March 09, 2010 12:25:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Roots Television to Stay Online
Posted by Diane

Good news for fans of genealogy video site Roots Television: After being flooded with e-mails and tweets in response to her announcement of the site’s shutdown, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak will keep Roots Television going.

"I honestly had no clue how valued it was by the genealogical community, and I agree with the many of you who pointed out that it serves a somewhat different purpose than the prime time programming that's on TV at present," she says in an e-mailed message to the site’s newsletter subscribers.

Roots Television videos will soon feature commercials to help defray hosting and streaming expenses. "Unfortunately, I don't have the resources to customize [the commercials], but I'll experiment with ways to make them as painless as possible," Smolenyak says.

She’s also seeking advertising for the site. Smolenyak reported that at least 20 organizations or individuals expressed interest in adopting the site.


Genealogy Web Sites | Videos
Tuesday, March 09, 2010 8:57:24 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]