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<2010 October>

More Links

# Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Putting the Ha! in Halloween
Posted by Diane

Put a little ha-ha in your Halloween with the funny tombstone photos in our book Grave Humor, by M.T. Coffin. To quote the book reviewer: “It’ll delight you with its witty jokes, quirky gothic illustrations and funny photos.” Aw, shucks.

This is my favorite stone—we found this unfortunately named lady in a local cemetery.

(See more funny tombstones from the book—and pictures other folks have submitted—at 

And I love our skull-people alter-egos (that's me, fourth from left):

You can get even more skull people in our 2011 Grave Humor Desk Calendar

Grave Humor is available from (Until October 31, you can use the code HISTORY10 to save 15 percent.)

Cemeteries | Editor's Pick | Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 27 October 2010 10:00:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Finding Genealogy Clues in Historical Books
Posted by Diane

Why are historical books important to your research? Because your family didn’t live in a vacuum, says Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Nancy Hendrickson.

I got a sneak peek today at her Historical Books on the Web webinar (taking place tomorrow, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. Eastern time). She says that clues you’ll find in books about the history of the places your ancestors lived include the big events that impacted their lives, what their everyday lives were like and, when you lose their trail, why or where they might've moved.

Some examples of local events you might learn about in historical books:
  • 1848 to 1849 cholera epidemic, which killed 4,000 in New York City
  • 1888 Children’s Blizzard in the Great Plains (so-called because many children were caught unaware in schoolhouses on what had been a relatively warm day)
  • 1869 Indian Raids in Kansas
  • Order No. 11 (a Union Army decree that forced the evacuation of rural areas in four western Missouri counties in 1863)
  • Great Fire of 1846 in Nantucket

You can get started looking for historical books about your ancestral locales by Googling history of [insert the town name], visiting county pages at USGenWeb, searching library catalogs (WorldCat is a good site for doing this) and searching for period books at sites such as Internet Archive and Making of America.

Nancy will get into detail about what you can find in historical books, and where and how to find them, in tomorrow’s webinar, Historical Books on the Web: Millions of Tomes at Your Fingertips. You can register to attend at (you'll receive our new Discover Your Roots guide with your registration)—and use the code HISTORY10 for 15 percent off with our Family History Month storewide sale. Sales | Social History | Webinars
Tuesday, 26 October 2010 15:47:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Update on Family History Library and FamilySearch Centers
Posted by Diane

Before there was, there was the Family History Library and its network of FamilySearch Centers (as the library is starting to call its local Family History Centers). Patron Services director Don Anderson gave an update on the network during last week's Blogger's Day.

The Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City, started in 1894 with 11 donated volumes. Today it has the largest genealogy collection in the world, with 330,000 annual visitors and a staff of 700 employees and volunteers.

The library has begun surveying visitors to gauge their satisfaction with their visit. About 63 percent discover an ancestor they set out to find, and 86 percent would recommend visiting the library to a friend. The scores are better for patrons who have more genealogical experience and stay longer in the library—making the biggest area of opportunity, says Anderson, in helping new researchers.

You can borrow the library’s microfilm and microfiche by going to one of the 4,600 volunteer-run FamilySearch Centers around the country, which receive 6 million visits a year.

About 100 FamilySearch Centers are added every year, mostly in Latin America (few are being added in North America). Anderson says FamilySearch is working on a system that’ll let you go online—rather than visiting an FamilySearch Center to fill out a request form—to order microfilm for delivery to your FamilySearch Center (folks in Europe already can do this).

Because the centers are volunteer-run and have different kinds of facilities and resources, visitors will have varied experiences depending where they live. Anderson says he'd like to standardize the services offered in various types of FamilySearch Centers.

Also in the works is a plan to give FamilySearch Centers space on—perhaps the Research Wiki—to list hours, classes and what’s in their permanent collections.

Click here to learn more about visiting your local FamilySearch Center.

See my Blogger’s Day disclosure in this post.

FamilySearch | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 26 October 2010 14:24:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 25 October 2010
Inside FamilySearch's "Renovation Project"
Posted by Diane

One of the most interesting parts of the FamilySearch Blogger Day was a talk by Dan Lawyer, the guy in charge of what he termed the “big renovation project” that is the makeover.

“Genealogy is hard” is a conclusion his team reached after studying how genealogists were using FamilySearch. Which isn't news to family historians who've done some research, but Lawyer pointed out three factors that can make it difficult:

  • Life circumstances may not allow people the time or other resources needed to do genealogy.
  • Logistic and technical hurdles, such as getting online and knowing how to use a computer.
  • The way genealogy is often presented to a newcomer can make it appear not-so-engaging.

Do you agree with these findings? Click Comments at the end of this post to let us know.

So the goal for the renovated FamilySearch site—which FamilySearch Beta will become—are:

  • Make genealogy easier.

  • Make the site suitable for beginners and advanced researchers—so you don’t have to be a genealogist to use it, but even advanced researchers will find it useful.

  • Facilitate giving and getting research help on the site, as well as learning how to research.

Though researchers have been using the beta site for months (as of earlier this week, it had 35,000 visitors from 17 countries in October alone), it’s still being tweaked.

User input into the site is spurring improvements in features such as, to name some minor ones: the hard-to-find arrows that let you expand search results (see the tiny gray triangles on the right side of the screen shot below) and the loooooong Advanced search panel on the left side of the search results (it continues beyond this screen shot).

Within the next three to six months, Lawer says, updates will include adjusting search forms, adding browsing filters, boosting the quality of results, and adding how-to content. (Interestingly, but not surprising to me, was the finding that new genealogists don’t look around the site at that how-to content until after they’ve used the search function.)

The Pedigree Resource File from the current will be added to the beta site's Family Trees search, which already contains the Ancestral File.

The beta site will probably become the official FamilySearch site sometime between December and February, Lawyer said. “New” FamilySearch, the online tree-building software available to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, likely won’t become part of the site for some time, as developers work out a way to handle conflicts among different users' trees for the same lines. 

See my Bloggers Day disclosure in this post.

Learn more about "classic" FamilySearch and other popular genealogy websites in our Web Guides digital downloads, available from

FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 25 October 2010 12:29:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Sunday, 24 October 2010
FamilySearch Research Wiki
Posted by Diane

Another Diane—FamilySearch genealogical community services manager Diane Loosle—talked about the FamilySearch Research Wiki at last week's blogger day. The wiki is where where FamilySearch consultants and other genealogists have contributed articles about genealogy research topics and related Family History Library holdings (a wiki is a site to which anyone can add or edit an article).

The wiki, available in Spanish and Swedish in addition to English, has had 5.5 million page views and 1.25 million unique visitors since its launch in 2008.

Loosle talked about a few special projects, including:

  • Tennessee genealogists beefed up the Tennessee pages before the summer’s Federation of Genealogical Conference in Knoxville 

See more projects here

You can use the wiki by typing a search term—such as a place you’re researching, a war your ancestor fought in, or a type of genealogical record—into the search box on the home page. You also can use the Browse by Country link to find articles about your ancestral homeland; many articles link to related records on the FamilySearch Beta site or listings in the Family History Library Catalog.

For help getting started, click the Tour link on the wiki home page.

(See my blogger's day disclosure in this post.)

Sunday, 24 October 2010 16:30:05 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 22 October 2010
Inside FamilySearch Online Records
Posted by Diane

You’ve probably used the record search on FamilySearch Beta, the site where Familysearch is putting digitized records and volunteer-created indexes to those records. At the FamilySearch blogger’s day yesterday, I got a look inside this process.

In 1998, FamilySearch started digitizing the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and 1 million microfiche in its Granite Mountain vault (where film and fiche masters are preserved). More than a third of those records have been digitized.

Of the records in the vault, 1.1 percent have been published as online images at the FamilySearch beta site. Beta site indexes cover 2.6 percent of the records in the vault. 

Why the gap between the number of records FamilySearch has and the number published online? Copyright.

FamilySearch doesn’t own the vast majority of all those records, but has negotiated agreements with each record-holding repository to microfilm and provide access to the records through the Family History Library. Once technology opened up the possibility of online access, FamilySearch began renegotiating with all those repositories for digital rights.

The initiative to index the digitized records began in 2006. So far, more than 375,000 volunteers have indexed 300 million names.

Depending on the agreement FamilySearch can negotiate, you may get free online access to both the record images and indexes, to just the indexes with links to the original repository to see the record (sometimes for a fee), or to just the images. If you need the records that fall into one of the latter groups, see if you can get broader access by using the computers at a Family History Center.

Besides the vault, other sources of records include genealogical societies and archives who can provide both access to the records and volunteers to index them, as well as agreements with commercial entities such as and

The indexing goal for 2010 is 200 million names, with 148 million indexed so far. (Last year, 139 million names were indexed.) One of the biggest challenges is a need for more indexers who read non-English languages.

To provide records access as quickly as possibly, FamilySearch often will add record images to the beta site, even if the index isn’t completed. You can browse those record images by date and place.

You can learn more about being a volunteer indexer and see what projects are underway at the FamilySearch Indexing site.

(See my blogger's day disclosure in this post.)

FamilySearch | Free Databases
Friday, 22 October 2010 09:52:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 21 October 2010
FamilySearch Bloggers' Day
Posted by Diane

You might’ve read on the blogosphere that FamilySearch is hosting a bloggers’ day at its Salt Lake City headquarters, with about a dozen genealogy bloggers in attendance and one on the phone (you can see their tweets on Twitter with hashtag #FSBlogDay).

Most of what was covered was context: a look at the changes in FamilySearch products and services over the last few years, and what direction future developments might take. Over the next few days, I’ll share what I’ve learned that'll be especially helpful to you.

Sometimes it’s helpful to have an overview. You might be using parts of the FamilySearch website in your research right now, but not know that other parts exist. Eventually, all the parts will be integrated into one site where it’s easier to move from one to another, but for now, here are the parts and where to find them:

  • “Classic” FamilySearch: This familiar site has Ancestor File, the International Genealogical Index and other pedigree databases, the Social Security Death Index, the Family History Library Catalog, research outlines, and more.
  • FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site: For a few years, this is where Familysearch was publishing its digitized records and volunteer-created searchable indexes. The site is still there and will remain for awhile, but new records are no longer being added. Instead, those new digitized records are being added to …
  • FamilySearch Beta: This is where new FamilySearch features are being incorporated, and it’ll be the main FamilySearch site in the future. Right now, it has all of FamilySearch’s digitized records and the volunteer-created searchable indexes, searchable family trees, plus links to FamilySearch online classes, the Research Wiki (with articles you can search for genealogy advice), a new version of the Family History Library Catalog, a Family History Center search and a FamilySearch news blog.
  • Forums: I just learned about this resource--post your research questions here, and genealogists (including Family History Library or Family History Center consultants) lend their expertise. No need to register if you don’t want to.
  • FamilySearch Indexing: FamilySearch has mobilized volunteers around the world to help index its digitized genealogy records. Here is where you can join the volunteer effort and see what projects are in the works.
  • “New” FamilySearch: This is a place (eventually to be called FamilySearch Family Trees) where users can post and collaborate on family trees. It’s currently available only to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as kinks are worked out. We got a look at some of the kinks, which include how to reconcile differences in trees for the same family.

Of course, FamilySearch also has the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the branch Family History Centers (also called FamilySearch Centers).

In the interest of full disclosure: FamilySearch covered travel expenses and meals for participants in the bloggers’ day. There were no agreements regarding whether or how any bloggers would cover the event.

Thursday, 21 October 2010 23:25:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1] Deal Closes
Posted by Diane

I just wanted to point you to this blog post from Footnote about the official closure of's purchase of Footnote's parent company, iArchives. From the post:
"You may be curious about how this deal affects members of The plan is to continue to run the way we have always run—continuing to do what we believe is best for our brand, our customers, and our business."
That'll be reassuring to those concerned about the effects of the deal on Footnote. The post adds that "we are excited to leverage some of’s resources and expertise to take to the next level."

You can read the full post on Footnote's blog. | Footnote | Genealogy Industry
Thursday, 21 October 2010 09:59:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Fun Facts From the December 2010 Family Tree Magazine
Posted by Diane

Here are a few of the things you’ll learn from the December 2010 Family Tree Magazine, just out on newsstands (it’s available from both in print and as a digital download):

  • In the early 1900s, lamination—now an archival no-no—was a celebrated new tool at repositories nationwide. Thousands of historical documents were laminated, including the Emancipation Proclamation. Find out how archives are working with these documents in the December 2010 Genealogy Insider column. 
  • About 125,000 US troops, both Army regulars and new volunteers, served in the Philippine Insurrection from 1899 to 1902. The 1900 US census has information on military personnel stationed in the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

    Read more in our December 2010 guide to records from America’s lesser-known military conflicts. 
  • The Washington State Digital Archives holds more than 90 million records, with 28 million searchable online. Find more state genealogy resources in our guide to 75 of the best state sites for genealogy research (also online). 
  • The Irish National Museum has a firkin of butter buried in a peat bog (once a common storage practice) in the late-17th or eary-18th century. The grayish substance no longer resembles butter. Brush up on butter in the December 2010 History Matters column. 
  • To help kids learn about your family’s genealogy, you can get Hearth Song’s stick-on family tree wall mural to personalize with relatives’ names and photos. Get more kid-friendly genealogy ideas in the December 2010 article Legacy Lessons.
  • Some 250,000 Scots-Irish are thought to have arrived in the United States between 1717 and the American Revolution, with later waves in the 1740s, around 1754, and between 1771 and 1775. Many headed for central Pennsylvania, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and the Carolinas, eventually migrating into and across the Appalachians.
Learn how to trace these ancestors (also called Ulster Scots) in our December 2010 guide to Scots-Irish Roots.
  • Most PCs come with Window Movie Maker, which makes it easy to turn digital photos and videos into family movies. See a tutorial in the December 2010 Toolkit.

Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy for kids | Genealogy Web Sites | Historic preservation | Military records | Social History | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 12:15:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0] Launches Ancestry Labs, Person View
Posted by Diane has launched a new section of its site called Ancestry Labs, a website similar to FamilySearch Labs and Google Labs, where can test ideas and gather your feedback on them.

You can see a demo of how Ancestry Labs works here. Leave feedback by using the green Feedback tab on the left side of the Ancestry Labs site.

“The projects we place in this area are likely to be early prototypes, and although some of them may make their way into the main site, some may not,” reads’s announcement.

The first idea at Ancestry Labs, called “Person View,” includes two components: 

  • Web Records: This feature searches for your ancestor on the internet, shows you basic information (name, date and place) from web pages mentioning your ancestor, and links you to those pages. Sites searched include free databases such as the Western States Marriage Record Index. In a demo in August, project manager Brian Hansen said is attempting to avoid duplication by not searching the same collections that are already included in databases.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because offered a similar search in the maligned Internet Biographical Collection, which was pulled down shortly after its introduction in August 2007 amid copyright and other concerns. The difference is that the Internet Biographical Collection actually cached web pages’ content and displayed the results on, so traffic wasn’t directed to the site and the content’s creator wasn’t credited. is hoping to avoid the same mistakes with the new Web Records view. “In providing access to these, it’s very important to us that we are respectful to the publishers of these websites,” the announcements says. “We will always strive to follow web industry standards for website crawling permissions ... We will put in place processes to remove the content from our search if the website/content owner requests, with the goal of doing this as quickly as possible. We will clearly publish how to contact our team to do this.”

  • Person Consolidation: This way of viewing search results groups matches by person, rather than just listing each result. The search algorithm decides whether records are for one person, and your results show a person’s name with links to categories of records—Ancestry Records, Family Trees (with no living people included) and Web Records—for that person. Click one of those links to see more links to view each record in that category. The search results also list a person’s family members, and you can click these names to see that family member’s records. 

Person View gives you just the first 10 matches to your search. The advantage is that it Person View simplifies your search results, but the algorithm can make mistakes by grouping together records for two different people, or displaying one person as two different people.

Here’s my first PersonView search for Henry Seeger:

And the first match, which consolidates content about Henry Seeger from 15 family trees (no Ancestry Records or Web Records were found for this Henry). It lists people the search engine believes to be in Henry's family (I'd have to look at each tree and decide whether I think they're all really related to Henry). Clicking on a name, such as Henry’s son Charles, will perform a new search for that person.

Clicking on Henry’s name brings up a timeline of events from those trees, with a little map showing places mentioned in the trees: 

Links on the right bring up information about each tree and let you save the event to your tree:

If your matches contain Ancestry Records, the timeline will link to information from the record (a WWI Draft Registration card, in the case below, was the source for a February, 1873 birth date): 

Web Record matches bring up similar basic information, with a link to the site that has the record (you can't yet save Web Records to your Ancestry tree): 

Click Comments to let us know what you think of Ancestry Labs and Person View.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 08:06:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]