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# Thursday, August 19, 2010
NEHGS Launches AmericanAncestors.org Website
Posted by Diane

The New England Historic Genealogy (NEHGS) has launched a new website, AmericanAncestors.org to reflect the society’s broad range of genealogical resources, announced  NEHGS president  D. Brenton Simons.

AmericanAncestors.org includes NEHGS’ New England and New York content, features, articles, and resources, as well as weekly updates and databases in a variety of regional and ethnic specialties, such as sources for mid-Atlantic, Irish, and African-American research. The site has a new image viewer
for genealogical records, an enhanced search engine, faster navigation and search results time, and social networking-type profiles for NEHGS members.

Most records databases  and indexes on the site are available to NEHGS members ($75 per year); but the site also has a few free indexes, an array of how-to articles, a genealogy question of the day, the NEHGS library catalog and more.

Though its scope has broadened, Simons says NEHGS will remain committed to its core strength: New England genealogical scholarship. “New England will always be our greatest strength and primary focus, as well as our cherished institutional name. We have much New England material to bring to the public and the new website will add 25 million additional New England names to search.”

For more information on AmericanAncestors.org, see this NEHGS press release.


Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:20:25 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
FamilySearch News From FGS
Posted by Diane

Day one of our Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Knoxville, Tenn., started off bright and early with a FamilySearch-hosted breakfast to update the genealogy media on recent and upcoming changes to FamilySearch.

Most exciting are the developments on the FamilySearch beta site. Eventually, this site will seamlessly integrate all the FamilySearch tools that now live on different sites: the Record Search Pilot, Family History Library catalog, pedigree databases, FamilySearch Wiki, FamilySearch blog, online videos and other learning tools, “new” Family Search (the family tree feature that’s currently available to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and others.

The Record Search Pilot and library catalog search (already on the beta site) are far more sophisticated than those on the Record Search Pilot site and FamilySearch, respectively.

According to FamilySearch product manager Robert Kehrer, all the records now on the pilot site will be searchable on the beta site within a month. FamilySearch isn’t big on giving launch dates, but Kehrer says some major updates to the beta site will take place by the end of the year, others will be ongoing.

FamilySearch beta eventually will replace the current FamilySearch site, whose technology doesn’t allow it to host all these useful tools. You can see what’s on the beta site so far at beta.familysearch.org.

In other FamilySearch news, FamilySearch is hosting a Rootstech conference Feb. 10-12 in Salt Lake City to bring together “technologists” and genealogists. The goal is to encourage innovation in genealogy. Ancestry.com, the New England Historic Genealogical Society and Brigham Young University also are sponsoring the conference.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events
Thursday, August 19, 2010 11:42:38 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, August 17, 2010
See you in Knoxville!
Posted by Grace

We're looking forward to seeing many of you at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference tomorrow through Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. For those staying home, we'll be doing our best to bring you the conference news and happenings here on the blog.

If you're going, be sure to visit us in booth 316. We'll have magazines and other handouts (while supplies last) and our newest books, CDs and other products for sale. The exhibit hall, which is free to the public, is open Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can also meet some of our Family Tree University instructors from noon to 12:30 p.m. Friday at our booth!

If you haven't registered yet for the conference, you can do so on-site. The cost is $235 for the full four days or $125 for one day. (And again -- you can visit the exhibit hall even if you're not a registered conference attendee!)

Visit the FGS website for the conference program, exhibit hall map and special events information. The conference news blog has updates, handy advice and insider information from event organizers. Read our earlier post about local research opportunities, including extended research hours at the East Tennessee Historical Society.

See you at the show!


Family Tree University | Genealogy Events
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 1:08:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
New Class: Exploring City Directories
Posted by Grace

The August round of Family Tree University courses began yesterday, but there's still time to sign up for this session! Of particular interest is Exploring City Directories: How to Trace Your Family in Yesterday's Yellow Pages. Course instructor Patricia Van Skaik is a genealogy librarian, so she really knows her stuff. Read this excerpt of a case study from the class to see for yourself:
An 1846 Cincinnati city directory reveals that photographer Charles Fontayne operated a business in Cincinnati in 1845. In fact, in the 1840s and early 1850s he did not live in Cincinnati, but instead one mile across the river in Newport, Ky. However, he did not appear in any US census schedules until 1860. 

William S. Porter's family knew he moved to Cincinnati by 1850, but knew little about him before then, including his reason for migrating to Cincinnati. The 1849 directory reveals Porter's arrival about a year after Fontayne's, and shows Porter becoming Fontayne's business partner in a photography studio.

The photographic method of the time, the daguerreotype, was extraordinarily expensive and could only be supported by a large and prosperous city. Cincinnati was the sixth largest city in the United States, just behind Baltimore, and very cosmopolitan as revealed through the wide range of products, including luxury goods, advertised in the directories. Photographers were an elite group with only eight listed in the 1850 Cincinnati directory.

Applying the cluster strategy to the business associates led to looking for connections between Fontayne and Porter before their partnership in Cincinnati. Baltimore city directories from the early 1840s show Fontayne and Porter as business partners there. We can conclude that Porter followed Fontayne to continue the business, a successful endeavor as demonstrated by their ornate advertisement.

The Fontayne and Porter case study illustrates several of key concepts of delving deeper into city directories:
  • Use the cluster strategy with co-workers. Business associates may have worked together elsewhere prior to their arrival in their current city.
  • Chain migration—one individual traveling ahead to be joined later by another—can apply to occupational groups.

  • Business location is important and strategically chosen.

  • Business owners may have lived in a different city or state.

  • Read between the years and compare information about the industry and your ancestor.

  • Look to advertisements for further information about the ancestor or company, including its target audience and prosperity.

  • Identification in a city directory points to new leads for genealogical sources.
You can see the Exploring City Directories syllabus here, and sign up for the course here! (Note: If you use the coupon code SCHOOL20, you'll get $20 off this course or any other this month!)

Family Tree University | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 9:53:40 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, August 13, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 9-13
Posted by Diane

The New England Historic Genealogical Society and Ancestry.com will hold a Family History Day Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center Boston. The day includes lectures, consultations and document scanning. Attendance costs $38. Learn more and register here.

GenealogyBank has updated more than 1,800 newspapers and added new titles. In addition, the site will add 400,000 digital newspaper pages (11,633 issues from 48 newspapers) in September. You can get a peek at the list on the GenealogyBank blog.

Aug. 14 marks the 75th anniversary of Social Security, the federal program that gave us the Social Security Death Index and the SS-5 (Social Security application). On FamilyTreeMagazine.com, you can learn how to access these two great genealogical resources. You also can view the Social Security Administration’s history pages.

Ready to share your family history knowledge? Geneabloggers blogger and High-Definition Genealogy founder Thomas MacEntee has published an e-book called Approaching the Lectern: How to Become a Genealogy Speaker that will help you become a more-effective speaker at conferences, society meetings and other venues. You can download it as a PDF for $8.99, or order it in print form for $12.99.

The Genealogy Gems Podcast is among the first 1,000 shows available through the new BlackBerry Podcasts, a free app that lets BlackBerry users (running BlackBerry OS v4.6 or higher) listen to free audio and video. You can get the app at BlackBerry App World.

If you missed NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” this past spring—or you just want to relive the thrill of seeing celebrities do genealogy on prime-time network television—you can watch the reruns Friday nights from Aug. 13 to Sept. 3 at 8/7c on NBC.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers | Podcasts
Friday, August 13, 2010 12:08:23 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Friday the 13th Trivia
Posted by Diane

While you're avoiding ladders and black cats today, you can brush up on some Friday the 13th fun facts:
  • Friday the 13th is a relatively recent phenomenon: The earliest known documented reference is in an 1869 biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini: “If it be true that, like so many other Italians, he regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died.”
  • In 1907, Thomas W. Lawson published a novel called Friday the Thirteenth about a stockbroker who orchestrates a financial panic on Wall Street by preying on people's superstitions.
  • Many consider Friday a bad day to begin a project or a journey. In Scandinavia, Friday was known as "Witches' Sabbath." Author Charles Panati writes that the Norse goddess of love and fertility, Frigga, was banished and called a witch when Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity. Every Friday, she met with eleven other witches and the devil (for a total of 13) to plan the next week’s misdeeds.
  • In numerology, the number 12 symbolizes completeness, whereas 13 is an irregular number that ruins the completeness.
  • Every month that begins on a Sunday will contain a Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th occurs at least once but no more than three times per year on the Gregorian calendar.
  • The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia.
  • Spanish-speaking cultures fear Martes Trece, Tuesday the 13th. In Greek culture, too, Tuesday the 13th is a day of bad luck.


Genealogy fun
Friday, August 13, 2010 11:04:32 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
New in Store: Family Tree Magazine Web Guides CD
Posted by Diane


Our new Web Guides CD, which delivers user guides to 11 of the most popular genealogy sites on the internet, is available for pre-order from ShopFamilyTree.com.



Each guide has a how-to article, screen-by-screen search techniques, and a cheat sheet with quick links, hints and hacks from online genealogy experts.

The CD is a great way to catch up on guides in the magazine you may have missed, or just keep them handy in an easy-to-store, searchable format with clickable links.

With the CD, you also get a bonus guide to Google, a handy web search tracker, and free access to new or updated Web Guides for one year. Click here to learn more and to order.

Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice
Friday, August 13, 2010 8:58:46 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, August 12, 2010
Genealogy Q&A From Our Ask the Editors Webinar
Posted by Diane

Thanks to everyone who attended last night's free “Ask the Editors” webinar! We had a blast, and we hope to do it again.

I wanted to share the questions attendees asked—and our answers, of course, enhanced with links to resources we mentioned and a few new ones. But first, because Allison, Grace, Lindsay and I started the webinar with an introduction, blog readers can “meet” most of us on our FamilyTreeMagazine.com staff page. Get to know Lindsay here. And now for the main event:

Q. How would I find a 1905 death certificate from Mexico?

A. Civil registrations in Mexico (akin to vital records in the United States) started in the mid- to late-1860s, though records may not be complete. In most cases, records were kept on the municipio level and you can request copies from the local civil registry (addresses are in FamilySearch’s Mexico research outline). Older records may have been transferred to a local or state archive.

Before writing, see if the record is in an online index or on microfilm. Many Mexican death records are indexed on the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site. Search the Family History Library online catalog for microfilmed civil registration records or indexes, as well.

You’ll find more advice in our Mexico Research Guide digital download, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.

Q. I can't find my ancestor’s birthplace. Different censuses give different locations, and I don’t know his parents’ names. Where should I look?

A. It’s not unusual for a person’s birthplace to be inconsistent from one census to the next. The trick is to go beyond census records. Many sources will give a place of birth, so continue researching the person in any record you can get your hands on. Bibles, baptismal records, newspaper birth announcements, military records, passports, naturalizations and death records are a few sources that often name a person’s birthplace.

See which places are mentioned most often, and focus there. You may find online birth indexes such as those for Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri or South Dakota. Websites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch often have vital records indexes, too.

Get in-depth information and online search demos in our recorded webinar Vital Records: Researching Your US Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.

Q. How do you trace a child named Jane Doe who was a foundling, and was adopted?

A. Adoptions weren’t always formalized in courts—sometimes a relative or neighbor would take in the child. For a formalized adoption, look into guardianship records (court records of hearings to determine who would care for a minor). Also look for an amended birth certificate, changed to reflect the child’s adoptive rather than biological parents.

Another good resource is newspapers. Finding an abandoned child would be a newsworthy event and may have received press coverage and follow-up articles. Also see the resources in our adoption toolkit and the “Early Adopters” article in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital issue).

Q. How do you find a grave site when the cemetery doesn’t know where the stone is?

A. Try looking in the cemetery for plots of relatives and those of the same last name, since family members are often buried together. Also search for burial indexes, many of which were created years ago—perhaps before the cemetery lost track of the burial record or the stone was overgrown. In the 1930s and early ‘40s, the Works Progress Administration indexed cemeteries in many communities; you’ll find a free WPA cemetery database at Access Genealogy and printed indexes at public libraries and the Family History Library. The Daughters of the American Revolution also has collected cemetery and other records for years.

A webinar attendee suggested the researcher look for burial permits, which many counties would issue before a grave could be dug, as well as funeral home records. Just this week, I got a letter from a reader who found a permit that a deceased’s relative's second husband had obtained to have the remains moved to his own family plot.

Q. Several of my lines have “daughtered out.” What is your advice for researching women?

A. Our female ancestors just don’t show up in as many records as our male ancestors did, so sometimes you get to a point where you can’t trace a family line back past a woman. Allison emphasized the importance of not focusing just on the female ancestor, but also researching her husband, children, siblings, parents and neighbors. Records of these people may lead you to a maiden name and other information about the woman. Because people often married those who lived nearby, researching the husband’s family may lead to records of interactions, such as land transactions, with your female ancestor’s family.

See our list of records that often reveal details about female ancestors.

Q. What will increase my chances of success in your photo calls?

A. As Allison explained in the webinar, which photos end up in the magazine or another project is partly luck, for example, say we need a wintry photo for a January calendar page, and you’ve sent in a photo of kids sled-riding on a snowy day. Or sometimes a project calls for a vertical or horizontal orientation.

Another thing we look for is a photo with a clear focal point to draw the viewer’s eye. “Compelling” is a good word to describe a photo that makes someone want to pick it up and look at it longer. (We’re always happy when someone picks up the magazine!) Pleasant, open expressions on faces (we know outright smiles are rare in old pictures), a steady gaze, or cute kids are often compelling. Photos with unusual or surprising subject matter also can be compelling.

If we’ll be reprinting the photo at a relatively small size, we’ll want to make sure viewers can still easily discern the subject matter in the pictures (in this respect, photos of large groups of people might be at a disadvantage). But we hope you’ll upload your photos to our Flickr pools regardless—we love seeing them, as do others.


Cemeteries | census records | Female ancestors | International Genealogy | Photos | Vital Records
Thursday, August 12, 2010 3:30:10 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Ancestry.co.uk Adds 6 Million Names From Probate Records
Posted by Diane

British genealogy subscription site Ancestry.co.uk has added a database called the National Probate Calendar, 1861-1941, which has 6 million names and other information from wills and probate records created in England and Wales during those years. (This database also is available on Canadian subscription site Ancestry.ca and on Ancestry.com.)

In England, the Principal Probate Registry has been responsible for the probate process since 1858. Cases were summarized in the registry’s National Probate Calendar.

“There’s an entry for the vast majority of people who died in that period,” says Ancestry.co.uk spokesperson Russell James. The calendar may provide the deceased person’s full name, date and place of death, executor of his or her will (often another family member) and value of the estate.

You can use the information in the database to write the Principal Probate Registry for copies of the deceased’s will and probate records.

Related resource from Family Tree Magazine:


Ancestry.com | court records | UK and Irish roots
Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:20:23 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, August 11, 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 EllisIsland.org). 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, August 11, 2010 5:32:10 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]