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# Monday, December 06, 2010
Sneak Peek at the National Archives' New Website
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)—the agency that houses federal records including censuses, passenger lists, military service papers and more—will launch its redesigned Archives.gov website next Monday, Dec. 13.

You can preview the new site now at <archives.gov/open/redesign/preview> (click on the image for the new site). Note that the search on the preview site won’t work.

NARA developed the new site with help from users through surveys, voting, card sorts (a way of figuring out how users would organize the site) and usability testing. It’ll feature:

  • A new home page, selected by public vote in July
  • A new interactive map of NARA’s facilities nationwide
  • Historical documents and streamlined access to military service records (turns out that 81 percent of Archives.gov visitors are looking for this information)
  • Topically organized sections focused on the needs of both casual browsers and professional researchers (the current site divides articles for genealogists, researchers, members of the general public, etc., leading to multiple sections on the same topic)
  • Easy links to NARA's social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and blogs.

Read more about the redesign process on NARA’s website.


Genealogy Web Sites | NARA
Monday, December 06, 2010 3:51:36 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, December 03, 2010
Genealogy News Corral Nov. 30-Dec. 3
Posted by Diane

Registration for the full event ranges from $175 to $245, depending whether you’re an NGS member, whether you make the early bird deadline (March 11), and whether you want a printed syllabus. You also can register for a single day of the conference, which costs $95 to $115.
  • Family networking site MyHeritage.com has launched Family Tree Builder 5.0, the latest version of its free genealogy software. New features include to-do lists, a Tree Consistency Checker (helps find mistakes in your family tree data by automatically identifying errors and inconsistencies in 40 categories), improved privacy settings, support for your DNA test results, custom reports, and the customizable family tree charts announced recently.

Learn more about Family Tree Builder at MyHeritage.com.

  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society, which announced its new AmericanAncestors.org site in August, has officially deactivated the NewEnglandAncestors.org website (the old URL redirects to the new site). You can get a tutorial on searching the AmericanAncestors.org databases in the March 2011 Family Tree Magazine, on sale Jan. 11.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, December 03, 2010 2:08:44 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Organize Your Photos with Nancy Hendrickson
Posted by Grace

The next round of Family Tree University classes start Monday, Dec. 6, including a new one from instructor Nancy Hendrickson: Organize Your Photos: Preserve Your Family's Pictorial Legacy.

In this course, Nancy (who also teaches our popular course Organize Your Genealogy) will offer advice on sorting through massive amounts of photos, creating a log to keep track of your images, and devising a system that can grow with your collection.

Here's what she has to say about determining what photos to keep and what to give away or trash:
By nature, genealogists are hoarders. The thought of getting rid of any old photos could very well send shivers down your spine. But the truth is, most of us have photos that aren’t worth keeping. Your first task is to do a rough pass through all the photos. You’re not organizing them yet. This time, you’re just making piles of images you want to…
  • keep and organize
  • scan and organize
  • discard
  • give away
  • or use in a scrapbook
As you sort into piles, you may find yourself torn between keeping something and throwing it away. For example, one image I have is very poor quality, and couldn’t be improved upon even with expert photo editing.

Did I keep it? Yes. Why? Because it’s the only photo I have of my grandfather with all of his children and their spouses. This is why considering the content of a photo is important when it comes to a culling your collection. Even if a picture is of poor quality, it may be the only one you have of a certain person or place.

NOTE: I want to stop here and point out that keeping or discarding an image is a matter of personal preference. Your choice may be to never discard an image, regardless of quality or subject matter. When it comes to editing photographs, you have to decide what’s right for you.
If you register with the coupon code FTU111, and you'll get 20% off your December classes plus a free 2011 calendar! Learn more about Organize Your Photos: Preserve Your Family's Pictorial Legacy and sign up here.

Family Tree University | Photos
Friday, December 03, 2010 10:10:37 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, December 02, 2010
Archives.com Adds Millions of Records
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site Archives.com has added more than 40 million new digital records and 110 million scanned newspaper pages dating back to 1753.

The new record collections now available on Archives.com include:

  • 40 million indexed vital records from states including Texas, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and Utah. These represent a 25 percent increase in the site’s US vital records. Information you’ll get varies by state, but generally includes the child’s name, sex, birth date and place, and parents’ names.
  • 110 million newspaper pages from Newspaper Archive, dating back to 1753 and containing billions of indexed names.
  • 300,000 indexed burial records through a partnership with cemetery mapping company Names In Stone. In the search results, users can view burial information and click the View Full Record link to see supplementary fields and a cemetery map on NamesInStone.com (no additional payment or membership required).

Since its July 2009 launch, Archives.com users have spent more than 2 million hours on the site and performed 50 million searches. Users can search all records, search by record type (such as marriage) or state, or search by collection name. A subscription costs $39.95 per year; a seven-day free trial is available.


Cemeteries | Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers | Vital Records
Thursday, December 02, 2010 8:38:48 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Find New York Ancestors With Our Genealogy Crash Course
Posted by Diane

Editors Pick

Did your ancestors spend time in the Empire State? Plenty of our forebears did, including many immigrants who arrived at New York City’s Ellis Island (and Castle Garden before that) and ports on the Great Lakes.

Our next webinar, New York Genealogy Crash Course: Find Your Empire State Ancestors, will help you pick out your kin from the hustle and bustle of cities and rural farmlands. It takes place Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. Eastern time (that’s 6 p.m. Central, 5 p.m. Mountain and 4 p.m. Pacific)

New York Genealogy Crash Course

The state’s stages of development—early days under Dutch rule, an English Colonial era dominated by large landowners, a time as a pathway for people leaving New England, and the era as home to the nation's busiest port of entry—can make research here difficult.

Presenter James M. Beidler, a New York genealogy expert and frequent contributor to Family Tree Magazine, will offer advice on finding vital, land, court and other records. He’ll also discuss ethnicity-based records your immigrant ancestor may have left, as well as the best websites for New York research.

Your webinar registration includes: 

  • Participation in the live presentation and Q&A session
  • Access to the webinar recording to view again as many times as you like
  • A PDF of the presentation slides
  • A PDF of our New York State Research Guide

Through Dec. 3, you can save $10 on your registration with our early-bird discount. Learn more about the New York Genealogy Crash Course webinar and register at ShopFamilyTree.com.


Editor's Pick | Webinars
Wednesday, December 01, 2010 5:09:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy Clues in Ancestry.com's Sears Catalog Database
Posted by Diane

The polyester bow-tie blouses. The high-waisted pants. The corduroy jumpsuits?


In subscription site Ancestry.com’s new database of Sears catalogs from 1896 to 1993, I couldn’t resist browsing the early 1980s doorstoppers of my childhood. As a kid, I’d "shop," choosing one item per page, and use the toy sections to create impossibly optimistic Christmas lists.

But for genealogical purposes, you’ll probably want to look at catalogs further back in time. Of course, you won’t find ancestors. But if your family farmed in the 1940s, for example, you can keyword-search catalogs from that era for equipment they might’ve used. If you fondly remember Grandma making cakes with her rotary egg beater, you can learn when she might've bought it and see an illustration. This one cost 30 cents in the Fall 1929 edition:

Need to date a photo? Search the catalog database for the dress style or an object in the photo. I entered shirtwaist, and among the results was this illustration from the Spring 1905 catalog:

Your searches find keywords in the catalogs’ product descriptions, so you may have to experiment with search terms to find a drawing that matches what’s in your photograph.

The Ancestry.com blog suggests using the catalog pages to spark stories and reminisce with relatives—another handy way to gather family clues. 

You can learn about the history of the Sears catalog, which began as a simple mailer in 1888 and has been called one of the most-commonly read books in rural areas, on the Sears website.


Ancestry.com | Research Tips | Social History
Wednesday, December 01, 2010 9:19:26 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Using Reverse Genealogy to Overcome Brick Walls
Posted by Diane

This advice for doing reverse genealogy—a great technique for dealing with a genealogy brick wall—is from Lisa Louise Cooke’s Reverse Genealogy course, part of Family Tree University’s December session. (The December session starts Dec. 6 and runs five weeks to give you extra time over the holidays.) 

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when researching an ancestor. But your research is best served by considering your focus ancestor as part of a community. (Emily Anne Croom, author of the best selling genealogy guide Unpuzzling Your Past, call this "cluster genealogy.")

Not only is your great-grandfather a member of his nuclear family, but also of an extended family. When you do reverse genealogy, you go a step beyond him and then research forward, broadening your search to his relatives and even friends. Any of the folks in your ancestor’s “cluster” could have provided him with housing, worked for him, asked him to witness a document or attended his funeral.

Here’s how this can work in a real-life research situation:

Several years ago, I was trying to locate my great-grandfather in the 1880 US census on microfilm without success. I found his parents and his siblings who were still living at home. Since Great-grandpa was 17 at the time, I expected to find him there, too. I searched for his future wife thinking perhaps they married younger than I thought. But she was living with her parents. Great-grandpa was nowhere to be found.

In an attempt to find him, I traced great-grandfather’s father back to the 1860 census, where he was listed in the household with his parents. I noted everyone in the household. Then I systematically researched forward, locating each sibling in the 1870 and 1880 censuses.

Sure enough, in 1880, I found my then-17-year-old great-grandfather living with his uncle (his father’s brother) in a neighboring town. Because of a variation in his name spelling, I probably never would’ve found him in online censuses.

Take a look at this picture of an ancestor’s potential family “cluster.” Every one of these relatives has the potential to help you make progress on researching that ancestor.

Click here to search or browse all the Family Tree University December course offerings


Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 3:54:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, November 29, 2010
Cyber Monday Genealogy Deals
Posted by Diane

Today, Nov. 29, is Cyber Monday, a day known for the last several years as a great time to shop online. You can get deals on genealogy stuff, too. A few we found:
  • Today at our own ShopFamilyTree.com, offer code SFT133 gets you 20 percent off your ShopFamilyTree.com order (some exclusions apply, including VIP membership, subscriptions, and products that ship directly from our retail partners). You also can choose a FREE digital download with your purchase. Choose from:
1. Beginner's Guide to Genealogy download
2. Discover Your Roots download
3. 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges download
  • Subscription records site Footnote is offering 50 percent off an annual all-access membership today only, for a total of $39.95. Click here to get started
  • Genetic testing service 23andMe is offering a $99 DNA test sale (normally $499) that ends today. Details at 23andMe.com
  • Through tomorrow, Nov. 30, the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) is giving a free UGA membership to registrants for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (taking place Jan. 10-14). Learn more on Renee’s Genealogy Blog.
  • On Cyber Monday, you’ll receive 15 percent off Elyse Doerflinger’s e-books Conquering The Paper Monster Once and For All and A Mini-Guide to Being a Part-Time Genealogist. Details at Elyse’s Genealogy Blog.

Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | Tech Advice
Monday, November 29, 2010 9:20:04 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Why Turkey?
Posted by Diane

You’ve probably heard that Turkey may or may not have been on the menu when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians sat down to their harvest feast in 1621.

Venison and wild fowl are the only two foods historians know for certain were consumed at the meal. And the men sent to capture fowl could’ve snagged small, seasonal birds such as quail, pheasant and duck, instead of the harder-to-catch wild turkey.

So why do we make such a big deal out of the Thanksgiving turkey? Why doesn't Grandma serve up venison on her best platter every November?

I did some googling. The pilgrims’ countrymen in England would dine on goose at special meals. Americans who later took up the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving may have substituted one big bird for another, because wild turkeys were more abundant here than geese.

In addition, large birds were a lot more affordable than giving everyone steaks or butchering all the laying hens. This quote about how the turkey became popular at Thanksgiving, from an article by Michelle Tsai, explains it well:

Among the big birds, turkey was ideal for a fall feast. Turkeys born in the spring would spend about seven months eating insects and worms on the farm, growing to about 10 pounds by Thanksgiving. They were cheaper than geese, which were more difficult to raise, and cheaper by the pound than chickens.

Americans started eating turkey for Thanksgiving in the mid-1800s, after Godey’s Lady’s Book editor Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. At the time, the holiday was celebrated mostly in New England on a different day in each state.

Hale published editorials and wrote to several presidents. Finally, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln—hoping to boost the war-weary country's morale—supported legislation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Supposedly, Hale popularized a holiday menu of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. But nostalgic images of the Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a huge feast didn’t enter popular consciousness until later in the century.

Turns out the pilgrims and Wampanoag didn’t eat pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce in 1621, either. Not much about our modern Thanksgiving has to do with how the Pilgrims actually celebrated their first harvest—except the most important part, gathering with loved ones to be grateful for what we have.


Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 9:18:37 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Thanksgiving, Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals at ShopFamilyTree.com!
Posted by Diane


This is for all you deal seekers! Here are the specials we’re running this week on Family Tree Magazine how-to genealogy books, CDs, back issues, webinars and more at ShopFamilyTree.com.
  • Thursday, Nov. 25: Thanksgiving Day only, you’ll get free shipping on any ShopFamilyTree.com US order. Even orders less than $25, and even products shipped from our retail partners that normally incur additional shipping charges. 
  • Friday, Nov. 26 to Monday, Nov. 29: On Black Friday, you’ll receive 20 percent off your ShopFamilyTree.com order when you enter offer code is SFT133 at checkout. Some exclusions apply, including VIP membership, subscriptions, and products that ship directly from our retail partners.
  • Monday, Nov. 29: On Cyber Monday, in addition to the 20 percent off your ShopFamilyTree.com order mentioned above, offer code SFT133 enables you to choose a FREE digital download with your purchase (this also doesn’t apply to VIP memberships, subscriptions or products that ship directly from our retail partners). Choose from: 
  1. Beginner's Guide to Genealogy download
  2. Discover Your Roots download
  3. 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges download
Start your holiday shopping at ShopFamilyTree.com.

If your gift list also has woodworkers, writers, artists, gardeners, fabric and yarn crafters, collectors, graphic designers, old car enthusiasts or hunters, you’ll want to take advantage of the F+W Media Friends and Family Free Shipping Special. (F+W is the publishing company that brings you Family Tree Magazine.)

This Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25 and 26, my friends and family (you qualify as one or the other!) can shop at any F+W online bookstore and get free shipping on US orders by using the offer code on this page.

Editor's Pick | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Tuesday, November 23, 2010 10:10:52 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]