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<2010 August>

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# Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Lindsay the Intern Visits Ellis Island
Posted by Lindsay

The Family Tree Magazine staff had to do without their intern last Monday, as I spent the weekend in New York. Being the amateur genealogist that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Ellis Island. Here’s a tip for the tourist: don’t visit Ellis Island on a Saturday afternoon in late July. It took me no less than 3 hours to make it through the line (which has airport-style security) and onto the ferry. Luckily, it was a beautiful day—had it been 5 degrees warmer, I don’t think I would have made it.

I vaguely remember a visit to Ellis Island on my first trip to New York when I was ten years old. My grandpa showed me (I forget how or where) a record for “Frank Sena” (his grandpa’s name) from Italy. During my research at FTM however, I learned that all of my ancestors came to America before 1892—the year that Ellis Island actually opened. The “Frank Sena” my grandpa showed me could have been any number of people.

Ellis Island consists of a big, beautiful building (now the Ellis Island Immigration Museum) on an island surrounded by trees and gardens. Despite its physical beauty (and the hundreds of tourists running around), the building has an eerie quality. Maybe because of the “horror” stories I learned in school—of people waiting for weeks, being inspected in six seconds and turned away for seemingly silly reasons—I felt uneasy as I passed through the exhibits.

The Museum itself is somewhat scattered, and unless you do the audio tour for another $8 (I opted out of this), it may be difficult to know where to go. There are many unmarked, unlocked doors, so I had to suspend my usual fear of “breaking the rules” and be a bit adventurous. While searching for the exit, I wandered into a room and was asked if I was there to pick up a record (there’s a station where you can search for your ancestors and print the actual records—or you can order them from I didn’t see any original records though, which was disappointing.

(me in the Great Hall on the second floor)

The two parts of the Museum that were the most memorable were the “Barbie Dolls of the World” exhibit, and some lone “graffiti columns.” The Barbie Doll exhibit—which took up a large portion of space on the first floor—made part of me wonder, “What is this doing here? Don’t they know this is a historic site?” and the other part think, “This is such a brilliant idea.” If I was ten (okay—maybe five) years younger, and you asked me to wait in line for three hours, you better believe I was walking away with an Italian-themed Barbie.

After being a bit dumbfounded by the Barbie exhibit, I was relieved to see some genuine artifacts in the form of two or three graffiti columns, located in a dim hallway on the second floor. The columns had been stripped of paint to reveal original drawings and writing from immigrants who had been waiting (presumably, to be examined). I couldn’t read any of what had been written (it was faded and written in foreign languages), but the columns finally made me feel connected to the many people who had passed through Ellis Island.

In other news, my family tree search continues! Thank you for your comments on my past posts—your advice has been very helpful. I’m learning that genealogy is largely about the process—you can’t learn everything in a week! I have made some exciting discoveries on my mother’s maternal line, which is now traced back to colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut. I may not be a Mayflower descendent, but I’ve discovered some ancestors that journeyed to America shortly after the Mayflower landed, in the 1630s and 1640s. I will update with more details later this week.

Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 17:32:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers
Posted by Diane

The upcoming Family Tree University course Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers will help you use what instructor Tim Pinnick calls a neglected resource to trace your black ancestors.
Pinnick, author of the book Finding and Using African American Newspapers (read chapter 1, Making the Case for Newspaper Research, online as a PDF), emphasizes the importance of using both mainstream “white” newspapers and those written for a primarily African-American audience. Here’s why:
Mainstream newspapers carried a wide range of stories covering the African-American. A considerable number of white newspapers in both the North and South carried columns or special sections of news specifically for black readership. Stories ranged from items about local residents to those on a state or national scale. The Joliet Evening Herald News in April of 1926, for example, ran an article on the awarding of a charter to the first black Boy Scout troop in the city.
Obituaries or stories reporting the deaths of black community members can be found with regularity. Researchers report great success in finding items such as these on their ancestors. In most cases these ancestors have not lived a life of great acclaim, but have merely established themselves as amicable neighbors.
In general, it's not unusual to find obituaries in mainstream newspapers to be more extensive than those in African-American newspapers. I would guess that this is particularly true in cases when the white paper is published in town, while the black newspaper is national in scope and published elsewhere.

A case in point would be the death of African-American Nancy Greenly of Kankakee, Ill., in 1920. Her death notice in the Chicago Defender on January 17 consisted of one paragraph on page 7, compared to front-page coverage of the event in eight rich paragraphs in the Kankakee Daily Republican.
Pinnick recommends the N. W. Ayers & Son’s American Newspaper Annual, digitized on the Library of Congress website, to help you determine what newspapers were published in your ancestors’ area, and even the papers’ political leanings. Pinnick points out that before the Civil War until around the 1930s, elements of the Republican Party championed the rights of African-Americans. Newspapers supporting that party may have been more likely to cover African-Americans in the community.

Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers: Research Strategies for Success is a four-week course (one lesson per week) starting Aug. 16.

Click here to see a syllabus and learn more about the instructor.

Click here to register for the class.

African-American roots | Family Tree University | Newspapers | Research Tips
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 11:07:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Call for Photos!
Posted by Diane

Family Tree Magazine is putting out a call for photos for two projects featuring readers’ ancestors:
Stop by either Flickr pool to see photos and accompanying stories readers have already submitted. I especially like how George Washington Gaddy’s great-grandaughter relates standing on the Burnside Bridge—where G.W. was last seen before his death—on the Antietam battlefield.

Please submit your photos for either calendar on or before August 24. Include in the caption any details you know about the photo and who's in it, and tell us where you came across it it (for example, in your family's collection, at a historical society, etc.).

Note that you must have a Flickr membership (free or paid) to upload photos or add comments. Click here to learn more about Flickr.

If you have questions or wish to submit a photo by other means, you may e-mail your question or submission to us. Please attach a high-resolution image (at least 300 dpi).

You may submit as many photos as you like. There’s no need to post your real name if you prefer not to, but to be credited if your photo is selected, please provide your name and your city or town of residence.

By submitting photos and captions via Flickr or e-mail, you verify that no other party holds copyright to the image. You also grant F+W Media, Inc., permission to use your contribution in any and all print and electronic media.

Celebrating your heritage | Photos
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 09:18:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 09 August 2010
Sources for Free Online Family and Local Histories
Posted by Diane

I’ve been editing the Published Genealogies classes for Family Tree University, and I wanted to share these sources of free online family histories and local histories.

I've listed sources with broad geographic coverage first, followed by sources focusing on a particular state or locality. Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive—libraries and societies all over the place are putting books online. Click Comments below this post to add sources you know of.

Broad coverage

BYU Family History Archive: More than 17,000 items from the Family History Library, Allen County Public Library, Houston Public Library Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center, BYU Harold B. Lee Library, BYU Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library Find The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (aka the OR) and other mostly military titles

Google Books: Zillions of searchable books on all topics (many are free to read, especially older books, but books still covered by copyright may have limited or no preview)

HeritageQuest Online, accessible through public, state and university libraries that offer this service (ask at your library’s reference desk): More than 25,000 searchable family and local history books

Internet Archive: millions of books from libraries around the world

Library of Congress: Many books from the 1500s and 1600s about early explorations and world cultures, as well as US works including a farmer’s almanac with handwritten notes by George Washington

Making of America at and (different material is found on each site): Material covers Acadians, individuals and families, geographic areas and more

Project Gutenburg: Browse “bookshelves” on topics such as slavery, suffrage, witchcraft, bestsellers and more

State and local coverage

Digital Library of Georgia: The Anne Fannie Gorham Civil War diary, Living in Savannah scrapbook project, oral histories, titles from the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library and more

Historic Pittsburgh: City directories, local and church histories, University of Pittsburgh alumni directories and more

The Kansas Collection Books: Transcribed (rather than scanned) books from and about Kansas’ past

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Digital Library: The history and genealogy section includes county histories, city directories, ships’ log books, The Black Brigade of Cincinnati and more

Quinnipiac University Digitized Connecticut History Books: Biographies, regimental histories, local histories and more

Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collections: Pioneer memoirs and interviews, books on state history and more

The Family Tree University Published Genealogies course covers how to find and use genealogies in your research. The next course starts August 16—see for more information and to register.

Family Tree University | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Monday, 09 August 2010 13:37:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 06 August 2010 Acquires Research Firm ProGenealogists
Posted by Diane

Subscription site just announced it has acquired Salt Lake City-based professional genealogy research firm ProGenealogists.

The acquisition adds to the research services business launched last year with Expert Connect.

ProGenealogists has been operating for 15 years and employs a roster of more than 30 researchers including Natalie Cottrill, Kory L. Meyerink, Kyle J. Betit and Judith Wight. You may remember some of these names as the researchers who helped celebrities find their roots on the NBC television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”, a partner in the show, “will continue leveraging the expertise at ProGenealogists for similar initiatives in the future,” according to a press release.

The press release also stated that ProGenealogists will “continue to provide premier family history research to its existing clients while extending the reach across the genealogy value chain.”

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | | Genealogy Industry
Friday, 06 August 2010 14:37:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 2-6
Posted by Diane

  • Families is a new app for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that works in conjunction with  the windows-based family tree program Legacy Family Tree. You can transfer Legacy family files from your PC to your mobile device, then view and edit them. (You’ll need to download a free program called Families Sync to your PC in order to transfer the files.) Families is available at the Apple App store. Learn more on the Families website.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | UK and Irish roots | Vital Records
Friday, 06 August 2010 13:40:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 05 August 2010
How to Write Your Family's Story
Posted by Grace

In our upcoming August session, Family Tree University will teach you how to write right in the new class Writing Your Family Memoir: Create a Captivating Record of Your Family’s Story. Frequent Family Tree Magazine contributor Sunny McClellan Morton will teach the class, which includes advice like this to get your creative juices flowing:
In personal/family memoir or narrative family history, you, your family, and ancestors are now characters in a story. Obviously, you're not creating characters out of your imagination—you have real-life people to portray. But you can—and should—borrow the characterization techniques fiction writers use.

One of the first things a fiction writer learns is to reveal characters to the reader bit by bit, not all at once as can be seen in so many family histories:
"Felice Vallarelli was born on 28 March 1880 in Terlizzi, Bari, Italy."
When we meet someone in real life, no one stands there and reads us life statistics (or if he did, we would consider him a terrible bore). Why should we meet you or your family that way? Reveal your characters slowly—through their actions, how they dressed, their beliefs, and so on.
In four weeks, you'll develop a solid outline and structure for your family history book. (And when you've completed the book, check out Nancy Hendrickson's Creating a Family History Book, which goes into the self-publishing process.) The course starts August 16, so sign up today!

Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree University | Oral History
Thursday, 05 August 2010 10:51:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy Conferencing and Researching in Knoxville
Posted by Diane

Will we see you the week after next at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Knoxville, Tenn.? I hope so!

The conference takes place Aug. 18-21 at the Knoxville Convention Center. Besides taking classes—many of which will highlight local topics, such as research in the old frontier states and Cherokee Indian heritage—attending social events and capitalizing on local research opportunities, you can try genealogy resources and shop for books and supplies in the exhibit hall.

The exhibit hall (which has free admission) is open Thursday 9:30 am-5 pm, Friday noon-7 pm and Saturday 9 am-5 pm. Stop by booth 316 and say hi to Family Tree Magazine editors Grace Dobush, Allison Stacy and yours truly. Also check out our latest CDs and books, including the funny tombstone photos in Grave Humor (you might even get to meet author M.T. Coffin).

Click here for the full lineup of FGS events and here for a press release.
See the FGS Conference News Blog for updates.

My grandfather lived in Nashville around 1942, according to his father’s petition for naturalization, so I’ve been perusing the East Tennessee Historical Society website to see what resources I should use while in Knoxville.

The East Tennessee History Center at 601 S. Gay Street (about a mile from the convention center) houses the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knox County Public Library and the Knox County Archives, in addition to the Museum of East Tennessee History.

On the McClung Collection website, you can search indexes to local obituaries (1991-present), marriages (1901-1950) and delayed birth registrations (1861-1945). Search more digital materials here.

Microfilm in the McClung collection includes selected records from 31 counties in East Tennessee and six in Middle Tennessee, 1,500 volumes of county records transcribed by the WPA, land grant indexes, military records, 500 volumes of the Draper Manuscripts and more. You can acquaint yourself with the collection at the center’s open house, 2-8 pm on the Tuesday before the conference.

Update: The East Tennessee Historical Society is offering extended research hours during the conference:
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17: 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday-Friday, Aug. 18 - 20:  9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 21: 9 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Learn more about area research locales on the FGS conference blog.

Before you go, prepare to research your Tennessee ancestors with our Tennessee State Research Guide, available for $3 from (You can get all the state guides on CD or in book form.)

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Research Tips
Thursday, 05 August 2010 09:49:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 04 August 2010
Yearbooks Free on World Vital Records 'Til Aug. 12
Posted by Diane

I just got an e-mail from subscription site World Vital Records that its large collection of high school and college yearbooks is free until Aug. 12.

You can search the entire collection at once, or one yearbook at a time by choosing the first letter of the school name and scrolling (or using your web browser’s Find function) to find the yearbook you need.

In searching for my grandfather in the University of Texas at Austin Cactus yearbook (I didn’t find him), I noticed that some of the images are a little pixelly. Was it just me, or did others find this? Look for the Smooth button in the upper right corner of the image viewer, which helps a little. I was still able to make out the names.

Here’s a yearbook page before Smooth:

and after Smooth:

Need help searching World Vital Records databases? You'll find it in our World Vital Records Web Guide digital download, available from

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 11:30:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 03 August 2010
9 Things to Find Out About Your Family Heirlooms
Posted by Diane

There’s a family story on my mom's side about a dent in a silver pitcher Mom inherited from her dad’s mom. I don't remember how the story goes, but it has something to do with my grandpa and his brother arguing.

Luckily, I can go home tonight, call my mom and ask her to repeat the details (at which time I’ll write them down). But that opportunity won’t be around forever, so I’m planning to start keeping track of the specifics and stories about the heirlooms in our family.

If you want to do something similar, here are nine things to try to find out about each heirloom:
  • Who in your family first owned the heirloom
  • When and how it came into that person’s possession
  • When the heirloom was created and by whom
  • How the heirloom has been passed down in your family (in other words, its provenance)
  • Any stories associated with the heirloom
  • Who owns the heirloom now
  • Who will be the future owner of the heirloom (so generations to come don’t lose track of it)
  • The heirloom’s composition (so it can be properly cared for)
  • For an heirloom with monetary value, a professional appraisal amount (so it can be insured)
You can record your findings on our heirloom inventory form, downloadable free from Also try to take photos of the item and any manufacturer's or other identifying marks to keep with your records.

You'll find articles on preserving family photos and heirlooms on For more guidance, see these resources from

Family Heirlooms
Tuesday, 03 August 2010 16:31:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]