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<2010 April>

More Links

# Saturday, 24 April 2010
NARA Social Media Scavenger Hunt Starts Monday
Posted by Diane

Get your game face on for the National Archives and Records Administration’s Civil War–themed social media scavenger hunt, starting at noon next Monday, April 26.

The hunt celebrates the new Discovering the Civil War exhibit opening April 30 at NARA’s Washington, DC headquarters. It’ll send participants scouting for answers across the National Archives' social media sites, including more than a dozen Facebook pages and Flickr, YouTube and Twitter sites.

Visit NARA’s main Facebook page Monday for the scavenger hunt kickoff.  Those who complete the hunt and submit their answers will be entered into a drawing for four Discovering the Civil War t-shirts from the NARA gift shop.

For more details and rules, see NARA's facebook page.

Genealogy fun | Libraries and Archives | Social Networking
Saturday, 24 April 2010 17:00:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 April 2010
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Recap: Susan Sarandon Episode
Posted by Diane

I’ve missed my little Friday night get-togethers with WDYTYA?, so I was excited about watching actress Susan Sarandon’s search for her roots.

She was already into family history, but faces a mystery: What happened to her grandmother Anita, who disappeared when Sarandon’s mom Lenora was 2? Family rumors paint Anita as a bad mother who spent time running numbers and hanging out in jazz clubs. Susan—the self-identified “black sheep of the family”—feels a connection to this “colorful character.”

Sarandon visits her mom, who’s been hesitant to try to find Anita. Lenora says her mother was a “showgirl” at a nightclub, and produces a fuzzy newspaper photo. Lenora found out when she was 9 or 10 that her mom was alive and eventually met her; both are in a photo taken in a funhouse mirror. But that was the extent of their relationship.

We go to New York City, where Sarandon knows Anita lived around 1929, to meet with genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. We see Anita’s birth certificate naming her mother Angelina and her father Mansueto Rigali, whose occupation was “statues.” The couple was from Italy, and they had nine children before Anita—but only two of them were still living when Anita was born.

Their mother had died by the time Anita was 12. Smolenyak presents a marriage certificate for Anita. The groom was 21 and the bride was 15—no, wait, make that 13! She claimed to be older, but doing the math from Anita’s birthday puts her at barely teenaged. Sarandon recalls that Anita must have been pregnant, because her uncle was born six months after the wedding.

Sarandon meets Italian immigration historian Mary Brown at St. Joseph church. The Rigalis lived at 35 Madison Street in a crowded Lower East Side tenement neighborhood Brown calls a “death trap.” I llike the interwoven history lessons.

Cut to Sarandon and her son Miles at the New York Public Library, where they search an Italian website for Anita’s surname. I love that her son’s getting involved! They’re from Tuscany, so of course, this is Hollywood and that’s where they go.

Ahhh, Florence. Genealogist Cinzia Rossello produces records of the family, including a military conscription document showing Mansueto was from a small town, Coreglia, and owned land.

Sarandon goes to Coreglia, where Rossello shows her the family’s baptismal records. Mansueto’s record has his father’s and grandfather’s name. We can get back 10 generations, to 1640, just in this church’s baptismal register. “I’m from Tuscany,” Sarandon says. “It’s gone from being something abstract to being very concrete.”

Next she meets Gabriello Cabrese at Coreglia’s statue museum—the town was famous for its figuremaking. We learn that in 1888, at age 32, Mansueto was one of the first sculptors to go to the United States. That year, 98 figuremakers left.

Back in New York, Sarandon visits the cemetery where Mansueto is buried. He died at 72. He and his children—except Anita—are on the burial register, but they have no markers.

Still in search of Anita’s story, Sarandon meets Burton Pereti, an expert on New York nightclubs. He suggests she was active at speakeasies in New York, which were magnets for young women who worked as dancers and singers. There’s little documentation of Anita in nightclubs, he says, but he presents an October 1932 marriage license showing Anita’s marriage at age 25 to a Ben Kahn. The document reports no previous marriages. “Nothing seems to add up,” Sarandon says.

Pereti tells her the show’s researchers were unable to find a record of a divorce from Sarandon’s grandfather, the man Anita married at 13. After a commercial, Sarandon says her grandfather didn’t divorce Anita until after that photo in the funhouse.

Sarandon and Miles visit the New York library to use city directories. They find Anita on West 78th Street and a possible Ben on 74th. Were they already separated the year after they married?

Next, they search for Anita's death record. It’s not under Kahn, so Miles suggests not using a last name. Clever kid! They find an Anita Fiorentini who died in 1984—wrong name, but everything else fits.

At the library in Rockland County, NY, where Anita Fiorentini died, Sarandon finds her obituary. The details fit, down to the parents’ names, except that Anita’s birth date makes her younger. Anita had married a man named Dominick.

Sarandon goes knocking on doors in her grandmother’s neighborhood, and learned a lot about what she was like from a neighbor who didn’t want to talk on camera. Sarandon next visits Dominick’s nieces. “If you can tell me anything…” Sarandon says, and the nieces say “We can!” They tell her Anita and Dom were happy and show pictures of them.

This was the least tearful WDYTYA?, but still touching. “As this journey unfolded, I became more and more compassionate to her and more forgiving and my heart went out to her,” Sarandon says. “Now my mom has some closure.”
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Friday, 23 April 2010 21:26:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
A Look at's New Search Filters
Posted by Diane activated new search filters in its New Search, giving you more options for what kind of matches you want—and, the site's developers hope, appease those who’ve stayed steadfastly loyal to the Old Search.

The filters replace the Exact search boxes for the first name, last name and location fields. You can choose the exact filter (same as checking the Exact box) and a number of other options that differ depending on what goes into the search field. Here’s a look:

• The First and Middle name filter offers these options:

If you choose "Restrict to Exact Matches," you also can choose one or more of the filters below it, but you don't have to. The default setting searches as though you checked all the filters, and it returns records without matching first names but with strong matches on other information.

• The Last name filter offers these options:

Previously, a Soundex-only search option was missing from the New Search (causing many members to stick with the Old Search). The default setting here searches as though you checked all the filters.

• When the location field is empty, its filter offers these options:

The default setting applies no filters for the location field.

• When you type a place in the location field, the filter changes to let you search for results in adjacent counties or states:

Here, too, the default setting applies no filter, and results are ranked according to how closely they match your location.

The filters haven't been added to the Old Search, so make sure you're in the New Search if you want to use them. Once you get a chance to try them out, let us know what you think.
Friday, 23 April 2010 17:01:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genealogy News Corral: April 19 to 23
Posted by Diane

This week certainly flew by, and it's already time for another roundup:
  • Tonight is the first new episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” in a couple of weeks. Tune in to NBC at 8/7 Central for actress Susan Sarandon’s family history journey. (Check your local listings—we’re hearing the show’s airing at different times in some areas.)
  • A call to action is circling the blogosphere regarding the possible closure of the Boston Public Library’s Microtext Department and Newspaper Room. The contents would be distributed to alternate locations within and outside of the city’s Central Library. Blogger Dick Eastman, who’s based not far from the library, has more details and suggestions for taking action.
We'll post next week's news corral from the National Genealogical Society conference in Salt Lake City. Typically, genealogy companies save juicy announcements for a conference, so stay tuned right here.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 23 April 2010 16:29:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 22 April 2010
Get Help Tracing Your Roots Online
Posted by Diane

When it’s time to search out a new genealogical resource, many family history researchers (myself included) turn to the web first—whether to search online databases of records, Google for distant cousins or find out which library has the microfilm or book with the right ancestral answers.

The best online search secrets and strategies Family Tree Magazine experts have shared over the years are gathered in one of our newest CDs, Trace Your Roots Online

The CD covers top genealogy websites for the United States and abroad, online tools and utilities that will help you save time, search tips for getting the most relevant matches, guides to help you find a variety of online records, using social networking sites for genealogy, protecting your online privacy, and more.

Every one of the hundreds of recommended websites is hyperlinked for one-click access. Better yet, Trace Your Roots Online is part of a special on CDs—just type in FTCD10 at checkout. (Family Tree VIPs get an additional 10 percent off.)

Learn more about the Trace Your Roots Online CD on

Editor's Pick | Sales
Thursday, 22 April 2010 10:43:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Wear Comfy Shoes and Other Tips for Attending a Genealogy Conference
Posted by Diane

Whether you’re attending a national genealogy conference (such as the National Genealogical Society or other events next week in Salt Lake City) or your state or local society’s conference, these tips will help you get the most from the experience:
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking to classes (I've even seen tardy folks running), through the exhibit hall, to a lunch locale and to the car or your hotel.

  • Dress in layers and bring a sweater in case the rooms are too hot or cold.

  • Carry a water bottle and a snack. Bottled water is pricey, as are concessions can be pretty expensive, too.

  • You’ll meet a lot of people you want to keep in touch with. Bring business cards with your e-mail address, Facebook username and other contact information. Add the surnames and places you’re researching, too.

  • Bring extra address labels, too, so you can stick them on entry forms for drawings in the exhibit hall.

  • If you’re attending the conference alone and everybody else seems to know somebody, remember that genealogists are a friendly bunch. Just say hi and introduce yourself. Another great opener is “Where are your ancestors from?”

  • Take some time before the day’s classes start to learn where the classrooms are. That way, you won't miss the first 10 minutes because you couldn't find the room.

  • Try to get to classes a few minutes early to find a seat and get settled. Sessions may fill up fast.

  • Not sure which class to attend? Ask fellow conference goers, who may have seen the same speakers or lectures you’re considering.

  • Plan ahead for any genealogy research you want to do and be sure to pack all the charts and records you need, whether on paper or in digital form.

  • In the exhibit hall, first take a reconnaissance walk and mark on your booth map all the exhibitor tables you want to return to. Check off each one as you visit it, but be sure to leave time for browsing. If you have a bunch of questions for a vendor, plan to stop by when everyone else is in class so you'll get the most personalized attention.

  • A good question to ask when you visit a vendor booth: "What's your show special?" If you got a goody bag when you registered, look through the contents for coupons.
  • Some exhibitors pack up early on the last day to catch flights or hit the road, so don't leave important business or must-have purchases for the very end of the event.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 13:55:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
It's a Genealogy Constellation!
Posted by Diane

Next week, a constellation of genealogy events will take place in Salt Lake City as four conferences roll out the red carpet for family historians. Click the links below for more information on each event:
  • The main event is the National Genealogical Society annual conference—where your friends at Family Tree Magazine will be in booth 510—is April 28 to May 1. Advance registration is now closed, but you can register at the door, and the exhibit hall is free. The conference will feature a special Gentech exhibit hall focused on genealogy technology, workshops for beginners and international researchers a Saturday kids camp and more.
There’s also a Celebration of Family History Concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Thursday, April 29 at 7 pm, and the Family History Library will extend its hours throughout the conference.
  • The university’s Family History Technology Workshop, scheduled for April 28, is a daylong forum for discussing current and emerging research on technology in genealogy.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 13:37:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 20 April 2010's “New” New Search Coming Soon
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site announced on its blog that it’ll soon be upgrading the site's “New Search.” ( introduced the New Search in 2008, but kept the old search around because many subscribers preferred it.)

Keep your eyes on in the next few days for a guided tour that’ll give you a preview of the changes. They're the result of member feedback in usability studies, focus groups, the site’s blog and message boards, home visits with members and more. They include
  • A new search home page that includes a clickable map, links to content categories, and other features to help you find the databases you're looking for.
  • Changes to the basic and advanced search forms that should give you more control over your search results. According to the announcement, some changes will be introduced this week and others are in development.
  • A way to browse for databases by country, state or county.
  • New ways to track your recent searches and recently browsed collections.
These changes won’t be made in the Old Search, but, writes search team manager Tony Macklin on the blog, “We’ve paid special attention to feedback from users of “old search” and hope you’ll find this reflected in the upcoming changes [to New Search].”
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 15:25:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 16 April 2010
Genealogy News Corral: April 12 to 16
Posted by Diane

  • Going to the National Genealogical Society conference starting April 28 in Salt Lake City? Stop by the Generation Maps exhibit hall booth Wednesday, April 28, from 2 to 5 p.m., for a Family ChArtist debut party. They’ll have refreshments, discounts, drawings, and demos of this online service for creating family trees.
  • (formerly GenealogyArchives) released a free internet search feature that scours several online genealogy resources, such as FamilySearch. To use this search, go to and run a search on the homepage (if you’re a member of the site, you must be logged out). Web results will be listed below a summary of results.
  • You can get a seven-day free trial membership to search’s own collection of 1.2 billion records and create a family tree on the site. Regular subscriptions cost $39.95 per year.
  • British subscription and pay-per-view genealogy site released a new batch of school and clergy records. School records might range from student registers to mini-biographies. Clergy lists name 200,000 members of Anglican and Catholic clergy for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
  • The Library of Congress will preserving every public tweet since Twitter’s inception in March 2006—that’s billions and billions of Tweets. See the library’s announcement for more details and some interesting discussion.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Social Networking | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 16 April 2010 13:05:26 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 15 April 2010
Help for Busting Genealogy Brick Walls
Posted by Diane

Your family history research is humming along just fine. Then a brick wall stops you cold: You can't find the record you need. Your great-grandmother's maiden name eludes you. You don't know your immigrant ancestor's birthplace.

Our newest book has Family Tree Magazine experts' best answers to your toughest genealogy questions. 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges is now available for pre-order.

Solutions for beginning and veteran genealogists cover formulating research strategies; finding occupational, census, military and other records; pinpointing places; organizing your research; doing online genealogy; working around “burned” records and other losses; figuring out kinship; researching your ethnic heritage; and more.

You also can use the book’s exclusive Records Checklist and Brick Wall Worksheet to help you come up with your plan of attack.

In this excerpt from the introduction to 101 Brick Wall Busters, we share nine ways to confront a dead end in your research:

1. Assess the problem. Review your records one by one to re-evaluate what you know and note the information you’re missing. Identify specifically what you want to learn—a birthplace? A maiden name?

2. Do the first thing first. Don’t try to skip steps by, for example, jumping back to your ancestral homeland before you’ve checked every available US record. Have you searched for your ancestor in every census during his life? Have you looked for his birth, marriage and death dates?

3. Create a timeline. Note your ancestor’s life dates, marriages, children’s births, migrations, jobs and so forth. Add wars, epidemics, mass migrations and other major events that occurred during his life. Look at the timeline with an eye for historical records those events might’ve generated (Civil War service papers? A WWI draft registration card?).

4. Identify potential sources. Make a list of sources in which the information you need might appear. For example, if your ancestor was born before the onset of official vital-record keeping, you might find birth information in church records, newspaper announcements, censuses, naturalization papers, and more. Try running a place search of the Family History Library catalog for your ancestor’s county to get a list of microfilmed records associated with that place—some might mention your ancestor.

5. Use search tricks. If you can’t find your ancestor in an online database, seek out search help. Broaden your search to include alternate spellings of the name (try switching the first and last name, too) and a wider range of dates and places. Use wildcards. Browse the records by place.

6. Research sideways. Research your ancestor’s neighbors, friends, in-laws and the people who served as witnesses on his records. The records of these people might mention your family.

7. Toss out your assumptions. Sometimes the unlikeliest scenario is the right one. Begin exploring theories other than what you thought you knew: Perhaps Great-great-grandpa immigrated through a port other than Ellis island. Maybe Great-grandma did get divorced, marry a second (or third) time and have children at a relatively old age.

8. Ask for help. Sometimes, a second set of eyes with a fresh perspective is just the thing. Ask one of your genealogy friends to review the problem and develop some theories or make suggestions.

9. Brush up. A genealogy how-to book will help you understand alternate sources and strategies for overcoming common challenges. Learn about your ancestor’s life, too. Go back to that chronology and find books related to his experiences: Wedding of the Waters, the Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation by Peter L. Bernstein, for an ancestor who worked on the Erie Canal, or for your Upstate New York LaRosa line, Family and Community, Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930 by Virginia Yans-McLaughlin. You’ll find more potential sources and formulate additional theories about what your ancestor was up to.

Editor's Pick | Research Tips
Thursday, 15 April 2010 10:18:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]