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<2010 April>

More Links

# Thursday, 01 April 2010
April Fool's Pranks From History
Posted by Diane

Last month, in a bid to receive free internet connections from Google, the mayor of Topeka, Kan., announced his city would change its name to Google for a month.

With an expression of gratitude, Google today announced its name change to Topeka.

April Fools!

Read about Google’s past April Fool’s Day hoaxes here.

One of our favorite genealogy jokes has been around for awhile. Go to Steve Morse’s One-Step Web Pages and click “Where’s Grandpa? Finding your great-grandfather in one step” under Births, Deaths and Vital Records.

(Or if you don’t want to play, just click here.)

For history’s best pranks, see The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time from the Museum of Hoaxes.

Genealogy fun
Thursday, 01 April 2010 12:09:44 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Spring Cleaning at!
Posted by Diane

We’re doing some spring cleaning at our warehouse, which means you can clean up on how-to genealogy CDs, books and Family Tree Magazine back issues. A few examples:
and there’s more. As always, qualifying orders totaling more than $25 get free standard shipping in the United States.

Editor's Pick
Thursday, 01 April 2010 07:58:07 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 31 March 2010
New GeneTree Research Services Help You Understand DNA Results
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy company GeneTree is offering new research services to help you make the best use of DNA testing in your family history search.

In addition to ordering a mitochondrial DNA or Y-DNA test, you can access two levels of service:
  • a $49.95, one-hour self-service consultation to help you understand your DNA test results and work up a plan for using them in your search—for example, which relative to test next for comparison. GeneTree CEO Jeff Wells compares this to “teaching people how to fish.”
  • a full-service report, in which GeneTree staff will analyze your DNA results, use the company's resources to find genetic matches, and analyze pedigrees of potential relatives for family connections. The consultant also will use other, non-GeneTree resources. The cost is $49.95 per hour, with a five-hour minimum.
GeneTree resources include the databases of its parent, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which has been gathering DNA data coupled with pedigree charts for years.  The relationship "enables GeneTree to combine sophisticated DNA analysis with traditional genealogical research to provide our customers with the most complete picture of human identity available anywhere in the world," Wells says.

See descriptions of GeneTree’s new services on its website.

In addition, GeneTree's redesigned website features more educational information including DNA tutorials, explanations of mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA and a Live Chat option.

What Wells calls a “reorientation” comes after his observation of customers’ experiences. “After I came on as CEO last summer, I went to conferences and talked to people about GeneTree experience,” he says. “I asked ‘What do you do with test results?’”

He found that many people were confused by DNA test results and how to use them. “Although we were providing a great products I like the idea of drilling down into the research and helping people not be confused by process,” Wells says.

The full-service approach is becoming more popular among genealogy companies. In 2007, African DNA launched to couple African-American family history research services with genetic testing, and started its Expert Connect service last year.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 09:09:06 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Tips for Researching Orphaned Ancestors
Posted by Diane

One thing that jumped out at me during last Friday’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” was when Matthew Broderick discovered his grandmother grew up in an orphanage.

I knew that my grandfather grew up in an orphanage from letters he wrote as an adult seeking his birth records, but through research I've been able to find out a lot more. His parents weren’t dead; rather, his father had gone to prison and I’m still trying to find out what happened to his mother (the family later reunited).

Fortunately, my grandfather seems to have had a positive experience. I’ve found newspaper articles about his hard-working ways and awards he won. Soon after his father retrieved him from the home, he returned to finish high school there.

Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for researching ancestors in orphanages:
  • Search census records. You may see an orphanage resident referred to as “inmate” in the census. The name of the institution is usually written at the top of the schedule that lists the residents. Typically, the census taker didn’t talk to each child. Instead, he’d transcribe names from the home’s records (which is why residents may be listed in alphabetical order).
If your orphan ancestor was around during the 1880 census, he or she may have been listed in the special schedule of “Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes.” You can download a PDF guide to finding these records from
  • Run a Google search on the name of the institution. My grandfather lived in the Corsicana State Home in Texas. From the online Handbook of Texas, I learned which entity has authority over the home—the Texas Youth Commission—so I visited the commission’s website and found out how to request records related to my grandfather. If you find the state home where your ancestor lived has been shut down, chances are any surviving records were sent to the state archives.
For an orphanage run by a religious group, search online for denominational archives. You also may find historical records of homes affiliated with churches or other private organizations at state and local historical societies, local libraries, or on Family History Library microfilm.
  • Follow request instructions. Orphanage records may be considered sensitive and more-recent records may be restricted. I included with my request copies of my grandfather’s death certificate and my driver’s license. I also provided his name, his parents’ names, and the years I believed he lived there. Months later, I received an envelope with his admission records.
  • Explore orphan trains. If you think your ancestor was on one of the trains that transported orphaned children from Eastern cities to adoptive families in the West, try these sites listed on Genealinks.
Related resources from Family Tree Magazine

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Research Tips
Tuesday, 30 March 2010 10:19:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 29 March 2010
Behind the Scenes of WDYTYA?: Matthew Broderick Episode
Posted by Diane

Last week’s episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” started with Matthew Broderick talking to his sister about their grandfather, but that didn’t actually happen until researchers had already begun their search.

A “behind the scenes” e-mail from’s Anastasia Tyler said researchers started with only information the actor himself knew knew, and had a hard time at first pinpointing the right James Joseph Broderick in records., a subscription genealogy website, partnered with NBC to create the series.

Here’s Tyler's full e-mail about researching Broderick’s family tree:
Matthew Broderick’s first step in this week’s episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" was to talk to his sister, who shared details about his paternal grandparents and started him on his journey. Information from family members can be priceless when researching family trees, but what happens when family members aren’t immediately accessible? That’s the scenario the research team faced when they started researching Matthew Broderick’s tree.
 One of the fantastic things about the format of Who Do You Think You Are? is that the celebrities really are starting out with what they know. We watch them on screen learning information from their families or from records for the first time. Likewise, the research team started out only with the information that the celebrity knew.
A Common Ancestor
For Matthew Broderick’s tree, the researchers had the name of his paternal grandfather, Joseph Broderick, and a few other clues about Joseph’s life. Using these facts, the researchers set out to discover more about Joseph Broderick.
They quickly ran into somewhat of a brick wall. “When we started the research for Matthew’s tree, all we knew was that his paternal grandparents were Joseph Broderick and May Martindale,” says genealogist Krysten Baca of “We were quickly stuck; there were many Joseph Brodericks and not enough information to determine who the correct ancestral Joseph was.”
Don’t Overlook Anything
But Matthew was able to provide the research team additional clues – his grandfather Joseph Broderick was a postman in New Hampshire. The occupation was a small, perhaps seemingly insignificant detail, but in this case it broke down the brick wall. Immediately after learning this information, the team found a record for a James Joseph Broderick working in the Post Office in Manchester, NH.
This record matched Matthew’s tree in three ways: (1) the name Joseph Broderick, (2) the location of New Hampshire, (3) the occupation of postal worker. In addition, Matthew’s father was named James Broderick. Based on these pieces of information, the team hypothesized that James Joseph Broderick was the ancestral Joseph Broderick, Matthew’s grandfather.
Breaking through the Brick Walls
Focusing on this hunch, the researchers looked for additional records about James Joseph Broderick of Manchester, New Hampshire. The records they found matched the few additional details known about the ancestral Joseph Broderick and allowed the researchers to confirm that James Joseph Broderick was indeed Matthew’s paternal grandfather.
The records gave the team another brick-wall-breaking clue—an alternate name for Joseph’s wife. Previously the researchers knew her only as May; the additional records listed her as Mary. This information allowed further discoveries about Mary and her life before she married James Joseph Broderick.
Of course, Matthew’s sister held some of this information all along. But similar to many researchers’ experiences, sometimes research begins before family members can be consulted. “If this case proves anything,” says Krysten, “it’s that even the smallest clue could be the key to unlocking a family tree.”  
If you missed this week’s episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?", you can watch it online.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Monday, 29 March 2010 08:01:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, 26 March 2010
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode 4 Recap
Posted by Diane

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t yet seen the Matthew Broderick episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and you don’t want to know what happens, stop reading.

Matthew Broderick start the episode with his dad’s line, and he visits his sister Janet to learn the basics. Their grandfather James Joseph Broderick (“Joe”), he finds out, was in the First World War. Janet had heard he received money because he’d breathed in poisonous gas during the war.

Broderick goes to the National Archives facility in New York City to research military records. Joe was in the 106th infantry, 26th division in France in March 1918. “I’m dying to know what happened,” Broderick says. Who among us hasn’t uttered those words?

He goes to France, to the battlefield where Joe, fought. A historian is describing the battle, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (also called the Battle of the Argonne Forest). Joe was the first responder to injured soldiers on the field. Joe received a Purple Heart for being wounded on Oct. 27, 1918.

Broderick and the historian visit the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, where more than 14,000 American soldiers are buried. He pays respects to those from his grandfather’s division, some of whom died the day Joe was injured.

Joe received a commendation for performing his duties with bravery. Good quote: “It’s because of his service and all of these men that our family has the life we do today…. It’s like learning there’s something different in your being than what you always thought.”

We switch to Joe’s wife Mary Martindale’s at the Connecticut State Archives. Broderick seems to be covering more branches than those in the other episodes—I like it.

It’s an census search lesson. She lives in an orphanage in the 1910 census, which it looks like Matthew never realized. They go into the vault—I wonder how many real-life people get to do that.

Coroner’s records show Mary’s mother had died and her father was killed in 1908 in an accident while working for a railroad company.

Next we look at Mary’s father William in an 1870 census book for New Haven. William’s father isn’t listed with the rest of the family. They go to the 1850 census and find a 27-year-old Robert Martindale, William’s father. Matthew Broderick has found his great-great-great-grandfather. They’re all missing from the 1860 census. A logical explanation? The Civil War.

The archivist and Broderick look in a card index—in an old-fashioned library card catalog drawer—of those who served in the Civil War by town. On to enlistment records. He volunteered in 1862. There’s a physical description. The archivist seems concerned for Broderick. “It’s a lot to take in,” he says.

We see a shot of Broderick as Robert Gould Shaw in Glory, a movie I love. The archivist brings muster rolls, showing that his ancestor fought at Gettysburg, and survived. Broderick traces the regiment to Atlanta and the battle of Peachtree Creek in July 1864. He meets a Civil War historian on the field and learns Robert Martindale died July 23, 1864, with a musket ball to the head—a bloody but quick and painless death, the historian reassures him.

Another historian, Brad Quinlin (who, incidentally, appeared as an extra in Glory) meets with Broderick. They find the makeshift cemetery where the soldiers from the battle were buried.

After the war, many of the soldiers were reinterred in newly established national cemeteries. We visit Marietta National Cemetery, where 10,000 Union soldiers were buried. 3,000 of the graves are numbered but unidentified. Quinlan is able to study records for the entire regiment and figure out which numbered stone is Martindales: 2469.

Broderick is “gobsmacked.” I’m amazed they can track him nearly 150 years later. Quinlan is going to send the paperwork to the VA and the grave will be identified.

You can search burials in national cemeteries with the Nationwide Gravesite Locator.

I like that we heard so many stories in this episode, but it feels a little fast-paced to me, like the emotion hasn’t had time to sink in. Maybe it’s because last week’s episode was so emotional, and I’m typing the whole time and the dog is whining because I’m ignoring her. But I like how Broderick sums it up: “We’re all related to the generations that happened before us. What they went through shaped our time.”
"Who Do You Think You Are?"
Friday, 26 March 2010 20:28:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genealogy News Corral: March 22-26
Posted by Diane

Tonight is Matthew Broderick’s big night on “Who Do You Think You Are?” Looks like we’ll see some parallels between Broderick’s character, Robert Gould Shaw, in the 1989 movie Glory (which I love) and the actor’s real-life Civil War ancestors. Tune in at 8 pm/7 pm central.

You can follow the National Archives' upcoming Civil War sesquicentennial (I love that word!) exhibit on Twitter. Tweets will highlight people and stories of the Civil War and link to images of items in the exhibition. Part I will be open April 30 to Sept. 6; Part II will be open Sept. 10 to April 11 of next year.

The Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society is holding its 27th annual Gene-O-Rama Conference—themed Researching Your Female Ancestors—this weekend. You can register at the door for $40 (members) or $45 (non members). Get more information on the society’s website.

Ancestor Seekers, a company that provides research services and organizes genealogy trips to Salt Lake City, has started a fundraiser program for genealogical societies. Guests attending a trip can request to have 5 percent of the fee go to a participating society. Interested societies can contact Ancestor Seekers for more information.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Canadian roots | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 26 March 2010 13:09:56 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 25 March 2010
$3 Back Issue Sale
Posted by Diane

This week’s Editor’s Pick is short and very sweet: All the print Family Tree Magazine back issues from 2004 to 2007 are 50 percent off—just $3—at (Tip: Start browsing on page 3 of our back issues store.)

It’s great for filling in holes in your collection or getting that research guide you need. Get them while they last!

Remember that Family Tree Magazine VIP members get an additional 10 percent off purchases, including sales.

Editor's Pick
Thursday, 25 March 2010 08:16:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Special Censuses: Veterans Schedules
Posted by Diane

Our “Best of Family Tree Magazine” series, which delivered advice from our pages back to our inaugural year in 2000, draws to a close with this week's guidance about a lesser-known genealogical resource: special censuses.

These extra enumerations, usually taken at the same as the regular federal census, focused on certain segments of the population, from the “defective, dependent and delinquent” (1880) to farmers (1850 through 1880 records survive).

This excerpt from our July 2009 article by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack tells you about special censuses relating to veterans:
The US and state governments counted veterans a number of times, both during and between regular censuses.
Revolutionary War pensioners: Names and ages of these pensioners were recorded on the backs of 1840 population census sheets. Their names are in A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services, available free through Google Books.
1890 veterans schedule: Although the bulk of the 1890 census was destroyed, the schedules of Union veterans and surviving widows survived for half of Kentucky and the states alphabetically following it. Check this census even if your ancestor fought for the Confederacy. Although enumerators were supposed to count Union veterans, some also recorded those who fought for the South. Officials who reviewed the schedules in Washington, DC, simply drew lines through the Confederates’ names, leaving them still readable. The schedules are online at and on microfilm at the Family History Library (FHL) and National Archives facilities, as well as large genealogical libraries.
What can you learn from this enumeration? The name of the veteran or his widow, rank, company, regiment or vessel, dates of enlistment and discharge, length of service, disabilities and remarks such as whether the veteran received a pension. As with population schedules, you don’t know whether James or someone else supplied the information, so look for a military service record to corroborate the data.
Special military schedules: During the 1900, 1910 and 1920 federal population censuses, enumerators created separate schedules for military personnel, including those stationed on naval vessels and at US bases overseas. For 1900, these are on National Archives microfilm T623, rolls 1,838 to 1,842 (find a Soundex index on film T1081, rolls 1 to 32). For 1910, military and naval enumerations are on film T624, roll 1,784; there’s no Soundex. The 1920 schedules for overseas military and naval forces are on film T625, rolls 2,040 to 2,041; the Soundex is on film M1600, rolls 1 to 18.
The 1930 population census included servicemen, but you’ll find special schedules for merchant seamen serving on vessels. Search them on, or browse them on microfilm at the FHL and National Archives.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the rest of the special censuses article on our website.

Related resources from

census records | Family Tree Magazine articles | Military records
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 10:07:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Massachusetts Bill Threatens Vital Records Back to 1841
Posted by Diane

The National Genealogical Society UpFront blog is reporting on another threat to vital records access, which could make it harder for genealogists to learn about their Massachusetts ancestors.

Massachusetts Senate Bill 820 would close the state’s birth and marriage records dated after 1841, the year statewide record keeping began, so only the person named in the record or his parent, guardian or attorney could see it or get a copy.

From the UpFront blog: “The bill's text eliminates the current section that closes out-of-wedlock births and replaces the entire section with text that closes all births and marriages ... the last sentence states, ‘The provisions of this section shall not apply to such records, returns or notices recorded or filed prior to January first, eighteen hundred and forty-one or to such copies thereof.’”

Right now, you can order certified copies of vital records dated 1841 to 1915 from the Massachusetts State Archives—it's unclear how Senate Bill 820, if passed, might affect that service.

Some post-1841 Massachusetts vital records and indexes are available at sites such as the subscription databases and in the free FamilySearch Record Search pilot, as well as on Family History Library microfilm.

Many states restrict records for up to 100 years—after which the person in the record is likely to be deceased—but closing 169-year-old records seems unnecessary. See the UpFront blog for information on to whom you can address your concerns regarding the legislation.

Public Records | Vital Records
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 09:02:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]