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<2011 February>

More Links

# Saturday, 05 February 2011
“Who Do You Think You Are?” Episode 1 Recap
Posted by Grace

Spoiler Alert: If you don't already know what happened during Vanessa Williams’ episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” you are about to find out.

Actress Vanessa Williams’ ancestors’ lives make for an interesting episode of NBC’s “WDYTYA.” She traces her roots back to two of her great-great-grandfathers, exploring their remarkable lives.

Williams starts her research by visiting her father’s grave in Oyster Bay, NY. She jots down information she finds on the headstones of her father’s family, including that of David Carll, her great-great-grandfather and a member of the 26th New York Colored Infantry in the Civil War.

According to the 1870 census, Carll was a free mulatto married to a white woman named Louisa. Williams is absolutely amazed that her ancestors were an interracial couple in the post-Civil War era.

Her research then jumps to National Archives in Washington, DC, where Williams gets her hands on Carll’s Compiled Military Service Record. National Archives researcher Vonnie Zullo pulls out an original tintype from Carll’s CMSR, saying it's the only one she's come across in her 20-plus years at the depository.

From Carll’s pension record, Williams learns he was never a slave and that he worked as a crew member on steamships. Zullo then explains that he was taking a big risk enlisting in the Union Army, as the Confederacy would put a captured black Union soldiers in slavery.

Carll was deployed in Beaufort, S.C. Williams continues her search there, meeting with Hari Jones, curator of the African American Civil War Museum. They tour the site of the Battle of Bloody Bridge, where Williams is shocked to hear her great-great-grandfather’s regiment enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, liberating slaves in the South.

Williams then heads to Baltimore to visit her Uncle Earl, looking for more clues about her father’s side of her family. He directs her to Tennessee to pursue John Hill Williams, her great-grandfather.

In the 1910 census, Williams finds her great-grandfather’s wife’s name, Mary Williams. She then reads Mary’s obituary, which reveals her father’s name -- William A. Fields. The 1880 census indicates Fields was a “mulatto” schoolteacher.

Heading to Nashville Williams meets with Kathy Lauder, archivist at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Lauder shows Williams a bust in state legislature building devoted to early African American legislators, and Williams is shocked to find Field’s name engraved on it.

Fields served in the Tennessee legislature from 1885 to 1886, drafting an education bill that would require all children age 7 to 16 to attend school. That bill, and bills similar to it, died in committee. Lauder also shows her Fields’ photo in the legislature composite and where he sat in the chamber.

Williams wonders how Fields could have been elected so soon after the Civil war. Lauder explains that slaves made up about 40 percent of the population of Tennessee; once they were freed, some districts had more black residents than white, and they elected black politicians.

“And here they come, right out of slavery, no one even believes they are human yet -- there are people who don’t think that they’re people.” Lauder said to Williams. “It was a spectacular thing to have black people in the legislature.”

Fields was one of the last black lawmakers in Tennessee, as white men composed the legislature from 1888 to 1965. Tennessee changed its constitution to make it more difficult for blacks to vote with poll taxes, literacy tests and residency requirements.

Through court records, Williams later discovers that Fields was born a slave. Williams finds Fields’ story to be similar to her father’s she breaks down in tears before traveling home to relay her new-found roots to her family.

"WDYTYA" airs Fridays at 8pm EST on NBC. Check the Genealogy Insider blog for a brief recap of each episode, and post a comment to be entered to win in our Discover Who You Are Sweepstakes!

"Who Do You Think You Are?"
Saturday, 05 February 2011 09:06:58 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Friday, 04 February 2011
Discover Who You Are Sweepstakes Opens Tonight!
Posted by Grace

You're watching NBC’s new episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" tonight, right? While celebrities explore their genealogy on the show, we want to give you the opportunity to explore your own genealogical history with our Discover Who You Are Sweepstakes!

So what's the prize? Four lucky winners will get Discover Your Roots Kits, which include a bookazine for genealogy beginners, a Family Tree University course, a subscription to Family Tree Magazine, our State Research Guides CD and the Family Tree Pocket Reference eBook -- a $205 value!

You can enter each week in February, by doing one or both of the following things:

  1. Comment here on the blog during "WDYTYA." You could write about a technique or resource you learned about from the show, or (if you missed the show) something you're looking forward to learning about your own genealogy.
  2. "Like" Family Tree Magazine on Facebook, and comment on or "like" our statuses about "WDYTYA."

We'll pick a winner each Monday and post their name here and on Facebook. Good luck, and happy watching!

This contest will run until Feb. 27, 2011. Official rules can be found here.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy fun

Friday, 04 February 2011 14:13:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [59]
Genealogy News Corral: Feb. 4
Posted by Grace

  • In honor of Black History Month, launched five new historical collections containing details about the lives of African-Americans who fought in the Civil War, the transportation of slaves to and from the prominent slave ports of New Orleans and Savannah, GA, and first-person accounts from former slaves. Click here to access these collections.

  • The former Oregon state mental hospital, where the Jack Nicholson flick One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was filmed, is trying to match cremated the remains of 3,500 former patients and inmates with surviving relatives. The remains were discovered in 2004 in corroding copper canisters, and officials have been able to identify all but four of the canisters. The names, birthdays and dates of death for the former patients and prison inmates have been published online.

  • The Library of Congress will display, starting in early spring, one of the few existing copies of the first map printed in North America. The map depicts the boundaries of the new American nation -- read about it here.

  • has created a synthesized report of online history trends illustrated in a fun infographic. The findings:

    • by far has the most website visitors, clocking in at more than 7 million per year. and come in a distant second and third.
    • Google has digitized nearly 15 million books since 2004.
    • indexed 160 million records in 2010.
    • Sixty-two percent of members are over 45; by comparison, 41 percent of internet users are over 45.

    Read over the entire report on the blog.

African-American roots | Genealogy Industry | Historic preservation
Friday, 04 February 2011 13:29:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 03 February 2011
Tech Tips with Lisa Louise Cooke
Posted by jamie

If "Who Do You Think You Are?" had aired 20 years ago, I probably would have missed half the episodes because I never did figure out how to set the clock and timer on my VCR!

Technology can sometimes be as frustrating as it is helpful. But one thing is for sure—technology will continue to change. For the next eight weeks I guest blog for new mommy Diane Haddad, bringing you Tech Tips that I hope will keep you from pulling out your hair in frustration and lead you to more ancestors.

The technology bug bit me about 10 years ago, much the same way the genealogy bug did years before—hard. An online search delivered up a database that held the answers to years of questions about my Prussian ancestors, and I was hooked. There’s nothing like having a need and seeing the direct application of technology to meet that need to give you “gumption,” as Grandma used to say, to pursue it further.

The Pursuit of Answers

In the end it’s not really technology we are pursuing, but rather answers to questions and problems that plague our family history research. In my keynote presentation at the recent Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ, I tried to drive home the concept that if you focus on your needs, and then look for and find answers in the technology arena, you will also find the motivation to learn how to use that technology. And as you learn what is technologically possible, you can pursue it when a need arises.

That’s sort of how I fell into podcasting. In 2006, I visited my local Family History Center and shared a discovery I made. The center’s director was so excited she took a photocopy of the pages in my hand and posted them on the office bulletin board. “What a genealogy gem that is!” she squealed. I stood there looking at the paper held in place with a pushpin and thought to myself: There’s got to be a better way to share something like this. It could help so many more people than just those who visit this center.

Fast forward to February 2007, when I received an iPod from my daughters for a birthday present. I immediately went snooping around the iTunes store to see if there was anything free I could download and quickly came across podcasts, which had only come in to being about a year and a half before—talk about new technology! I downloaded a couple of podcasts on a variety of topics and really enjoyed them. Then I remembered that paper stuck to the bulletin board. A quick search for “how to podcast” led me to a great little show, and a month later the Genealogy Gems Podcast was born. I’ve been posting genealogy gems ever since for listeners around the world in over 80 countries.

Not long after I began hosting the Family Tree Magazine Podcast. The budding new RSS technology filled a need and solved a problem. I wondered what else might be out there that could help the genealogist.

A prime example of technology power boosting the family historian’s research is the big daddy of them all—Google. Let’s wrap up this first installment of Tech Tips with a search tip from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (Lulu Press, 2011) that consistently delivers excellent results: the suspension point better known as “dot dot dot.” (...)

In search terms, a suspension point is used to indicate a range of numbers.

Problem: When did my ancestor die? I know it was sometime between 1790 and 1830.

Answer: The suspension point

Search Query: “Jehu Burkhart” 1790...1830

Here’s the results page:

The beauty of the suspension point (...) is that it tells the search engine to retrieve webpages that mention Jehu Burkhart (the quotation marks indicate we want the exact phrase) between the years of 1790 and 1830. And Google takes the added step of bolding the year mentioned on the webpage so that you can quickly assess from the results list if the page is the result you need. This tip has limitless genealogical search applications, and can thin that massive list of results you often get saddled with down to a manageable lot.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more tips with you as well as bringing you the latest from such conferences as "Who Do You Think You Are?" LIVE in London, and the brand new Roots Tech conference in Salt Lake City. It’s an exciting time for genealogists as technology and family history merge!

—Lisa Louise Cook

Tech Advice
Thursday, 03 February 2011 14:28:34 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 02 February 2011
Ultimate African-American Genealogy Collection
Posted by jamie

We’re excited to announce our new Ultimate Collection program. Each month we’ll release a new collection of carefully selected, discounted products to help you achieve your genealogy goals. A limited number of copies of each collection will be available, so get ‘em while the getting’s good.

For February, we've put together the Ultimate African-American Genealogy Collection in honor of Black History Month. This multimedia collection brings you our most invaluable advice from African-American genealogy experts at an unbeatable value.

The Ultimate African American Genealogy Collection contains:

• Family Tree University independent study course Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers CD
• African-American Genealogy Guide digital download
• July 2009 Family Tree Magazine digital issue with a primer on African-American research
• Georgia Genealogy Crash Course on-demand webinar with resources and advice for slave ancestry
Family Tree Magazine 2011 Genealogy Desk Calendar

If all the items were purchased separately, the price would add up to $212.95, but we've bundled them together for $49.99. Save more than $120.00 by purchasing the Ultimate African-American Genealogy Collection on

African-American roots | Editor's Pick | Sales
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 10:57:45 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
African-American Ancestors FTU Course 75 Percent Off
Posted by jamie

As a celebration of Black History Month, Family Tree University is offering the Finding Your African-American Ancestors in Newspapers course for $24.99—75 percent off the regular price of $99.99.

This deep discount is made possible through a partnership with GenealogyBank, a subscription website with one of the largest online collections of historical African-American newspapers.

The Finding Your African-American Ancestors in Newspapers course will equip students with key background information for newspaper research, expose myths pertaining to the use of white newspapers, give students the skill and confidence to seek out and utilize African-American newspapers, and provide invaluable tips and strategies designed to optimize search success.

The session starts Feb. 14. Sign up for the class on Family Tree University's website.

African-American roots | Family Tree University | Sales
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 09:31:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 31 January 2011
"Who Do You Think Are?" Returns Friday
Posted by jamie

The second season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" debuts Friday, and the first episode features Vanessa Williams exploring her father's ancestry.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Rosie O'Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie and Ashley Judd will also add new branches to their family tree this season. Through these celebrities' ancestries, "WDYTYA?" will tell the stories of a slave liberator, a colonist, a bigamist, a miracle baby and a Civil War prisoner, to name a few.

Before you watch the show, check out our "WDYTYA?" episode one sneak peek, and our Q&A with Williams and show producer Lisa Kudrow. After the episodes, join the discussion on our "WDYTYA?" forum.

"WDYTYA?" premieres Friday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m. EST on NBC. Check the Genealogy Insider blog for a brief recap of each episode.

"Who Do You Think You Are?"
Monday, 31 January 2011 16:11:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Black History Month Genealogy Resources
Posted by jamie

Black History Month is celebration of the role African Americans played in shaping U.S. history. The annual event started as “Negro History Week” in 1926, and blossomed into a month-long commemoration marked by every U.S. president in office since 1976.

Festivities kick off Feb. 1, and we'd like to help you celebrate your heritage. Discover your black history with some of our genealogy resources:

Look for a guide to tracing black ancestors using African American newspapers in our May issue, on newsstands March 8.

African-American roots
Monday, 31 January 2011 13:31:43 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral
Posted by jamie

Planning to attend the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) April 6-10 in Springfield, Mass.? Register soon: The deadline for early bird savings is Feb. 15—after that, the full-conference fee goes from $110 to $135. Learn more on the NERGC website.

Here’s another money-saving tip for you: If you’ve been thinking about joining subscription historical records site Footnote, we got an e-mail about a $49.95 membership sale going on through Jan. 31 (the normal annual membership costs $79.95). Click here to see the offer.

Starting Feb. 12, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis is hosting an exhibition called Red/Black: Related Through History about the interwoven history of African-Americans and American Indians. It gathers personal narratives, paintings, baskets, pottery, photographs and other rare items from across the country to tell the story of the two groups’ shared experiences. (You can read more about “Black Indians” here.)

The National Archives has launched a free mobile app called Today’s Document. It helps you learn what happened on a specific date, search for a document by keyword, or browse historical highlights from the archives’ holdings. You can view photos and documents, and read background information on the selection.  Learn more from this video, and download the app from the Android marketplace or the Apple iTunes Store.

African-American roots | American Indian roots | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Monday, 31 January 2011 09:39:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 27 January 2011
FamilySearch Adds Naturalization, Border-Crossing Records
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch’s latest records update includes 3 million new U.S. naturalization records and’s indexes for US border crossings from Canada to the United States  and Mexico to the United States. Previously, these collections were available online only through subscription-based sites. (You can find the records on microfilm at National Archives facilities, the Family History Library and many large genealogy libraries.)

See the FamilySearch website for a list of the rest of its recently added records. If you don’t want to search all the records on the site using the search form on the home page, here’s how to find the individual databases:

  1. Scroll down on the FamilySearch home page to Browse By Location and click the world region of interest.

  2. In the filter links on the left side of the page, click the country. (That’s as narrow as you can get when it comes to places at this time.) In the center of the page, you'll see an alphabetical list of all databases pertaining to that country.

  3. Below the place filters, you can use other filters to narrow the database list by year range and type of record.

  4. Once you’ve narrowed as much as you can, look for the database title in the alphabetical list in the center of the page. (Most US naturalization records are separated into databases for the relevant states, so they're alphabetized under state names for those.)

Using your browser’s Find function (Control+F or Apple+F) to search for a word in the title of the database you need will help you sidestep some inconsistent titling that can make a few collections hard to find.

For example, Revolutionary War pension records are in the database “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications Files,” listed with the Rs, but Revolutionary War service records are in the database titled “United States, Revolutionary War Compiled Service Records, 1775-1783”—listed with the Us.

Also, “United States, Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918” isn’t listed near the naturalization records from US District Courts, which are alphabetized by the name of the state the records are from, or with the WWII records in “United States, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942.”

I noticed those WWI soldier naturalizations don’t show up when you use the Migration & Naturalization or Military Records filter (but they are included in the Court Records). I sent a comment about it; if you find a categorization or other quirk, you can comment using the orange Feedback tab on the right side of the site's pages.

FamilySearch | Free Databases | immigration records | Military records
Thursday, 27 January 2011 10:15:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]