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<2011 February>

More Links

# Monday, 14 February 2011
Oprah Winfrey Network Features Genealogy Reality Show
Posted by jamie

Pam Slaton is living her dream. She tracked down her birth parents, volunteered her sleuthing skills to other adoptees, became a professional investigative genealogist and landed a reality show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, sharing her story.

Her journey into family history got off to a rocky start with the search for her birth mother. She hired an investigator to help her; after she located her mother, Slaton was quickly rejected and absolutely devastated. "I never dreamed my birth mother didn't want to know me," Slaton said.

She then set out to find her father. The only information she had was that he was a 6-foot-5-inch Italian mortician living in the Bronx. She later found him, using the little information she had as a jumping off point.

Because of her success, Slaton suggests gathering all the facts you can find before doing any research, even if you think they aren't relevant. Any details could end up being important information. Do a Google search with the information you have, and see where that leads you. "Peel back one layer, then the next, then the next, like an onion," Slaton said.

But don't let the facts you have limit you. "Sometimes the more information you put into a search engine, the less you get back," Slaton said. Names can change or be misspelled, handwritten records are hard to read and and maybe indexed incorrectly, or information you think is right could be wrong. Try removing some information and using a wild card search to yield more results.

While researching for her clients, Slaton utilizes military, census and other records to find birth families. She often uses the information found in those records to trace the ancestral lines forward to locate other living relatives.

If a client is trying to locate a living relative or birth parent, Slaton advises them to make sure you are emotionally ready. The reunion could be a very joyful or upsetting experience for everyone.

She also tells her clients to be respectful and confidential. Don't call everyone with in the phone book the same name as a birth parent.

And it is this sort of knowledge and compassion that leads clients to Slaton. "When I speak to clients, they know I totally get it," she said. "It makes me feel good that I'm that support to them."

"Searching For …" starring Pam Slaton premieres tonight at 9 p.m., on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Monday, 14 February 2011 17:18:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [6]
Our Second Discover Who You Are Sweepstakes Winner
Posted by jamie

We're celebrating the return of NBC’s "Who Do You Think You Are?" with a giveaway. 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!

Each week in February we will announce a lucky winner on our Facebook fan page and the Genealogy Insider blog. Our second winner:

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. 

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

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy fun
Monday, 14 February 2011 15:23:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [7]
Celebrate Valentine's Day With Love-inspired Names
Posted by jamie searched its collection of records for the most amorous Canadian names. Some of the results are romantic while others are downright strange, but one thing is clear — these Canadians' parents were smitten with these monikers.

In the 1861 Canada census, found these romantic results:
  • Love Bully, a 20-year-old woman born in Upper Canada, living in Dover, Kent, Canada West.
  • Cupid Martin, a 35-year-old man originally from the United States, working as a yeoman in Raleigh County, Ontario.
  • Amor Moran, a 24-year-old Irish-born woman found living with her siblings in a Montreal house with four other families.
  • Venus Antahia, a 60-year-old widower who lived alone in Laprairie, Canada East.
  • The first name of Valentine shows up 580 times. One hundred people have Valentine as a surname.
  • Fourteen people have Amor as first name, while 18 have Amor as a surname.
  • Nine people were named after Paris, the city of love.

Other lovely names:
  • Love Burns, 13, can be found living in Harbourville, Nova Scotia, in 1871 Canada census.
  • Lover Woo can be found at 91 Elgin St. in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, in the 1911 Canada census.
  • Bad Heart Lasuisse, a 70-year-old Sioux widower, can be found living with five family members in the Territories in the 1901 Canada census.
  • Romance Turrell married John Obrien on Christmas Day 1878, according to Ontario marriage records.
Have a happy Valentine's Day! Spoil your sweetie with a gift from, or treat yourself.

census records | Genealogy fun
Monday, 14 February 2011 11:08:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode 2 Recap
Posted by jamie

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

Country singer Tim McGraw, after looking at his birth certificate as a teenager,  discovered the man he thought was his father was not his biological father. His birth certificate named baseball star Tug McGraw as his father, who he then forged a relationship with as an adult. Tug passed on without revealing much about the McGraw family tree, so Tim explored the paternal line of his ancestry on "Who Do You Think You Are?"

After gathering a few clues from his uncle, McGraw travels to Kansas City, Mo., to find out more about his great-grandparents Andrew and Ellie Mae McGraw. He views Ellie's death certificate and discovered she was a member of the Chrisman family, who settled that area of Missouri.

This led him to Virginia, researching sixth-great-grandfather Isaac Chrisman. Using surveying records and historical maps, McGraw discovers Chrisman lived on the boarder of Indian territory in colonial Virginia. Through a report made by a militiaman, McGraw discovers Chrisman was attacked by Indians and died.

Issac Chrisman's grandfather is Jost Hite, a German immigrant. He traveled to the colonies as an indentured servant with the Pressler family — ancestors of Elvis Presley. Hite quickly worked his way out of servitude and was awarded a massive land grant in Virginia. McGraw views Hite's deeds, and heads to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley to see his land.

The Hite trail then leads McGraw to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. There an archivist shows him George Washington's teenage journal, which indicates Washington lodged at the Hite family home. McGraw also reads a letter written by Washington to his ne'er-do-well neighbor, in which he praises the Hites as a prime example of how one should live his life.

While McGraw had professional researchers to help him navigate land plats and Virginia records, our Family Tree University Land Records 101 course and our Virginia research guides to help you find your ancestors on your own.

"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?" | German roots | Land records
Monday, 14 February 2011 10:07:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Friday, 11 February 2011
Genealogy News Corral: Feb. 11
Posted by jamie

The General Registrar Office of Scotland will release 1911 census records April 5. This enumeration contains the names, addresses, ages, occupations, birthplaces and marital statuses of more than 4.7 million Scots. Subscription website ScotlandsPeople will have the data available online in full color.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies has scheduled its annual conference for Sep. 7–10, in Springfield, Il. This year's theme is Pathways to the Heartland, and David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States, is scheduled as the keynote speaker. Click here to read more about the conference or to register.

Facebook application We're Related will integrate with a FarmVille-like application to create an online game for players to explore their family trees and build an online community. While players construct houses, start businesses, immigrate family members and assign jobs, Family Village matches inputted data with relevant real-world documents—such as census records, newspaper articles and marriage records—about the user's living and deceased relatives. Players can then examine the records, print them, or store them in their personal game library. Click here to play Family Village on Facebook.

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies has acquired, a social networking website for genealogists. As a result, the site will gain new features, like allowing users to sit in on live meetings digitally. announced two January winners for it's new monthly grant program. Columbia County, Pa., Historical & Genealogical Society will use its grant to transcribe marriage license dockets 1921 to 1939—an estimated 9,000 bride and groom names. Myron McGhee will use his grant to travel to Alabama to interview residents, review deed transcriptions and scan photographs to test a hypothesis that his black ancestors roots are related to a white family in the area with the same name. Each recipient will receive $1,000 for their genealogy project.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a digital copy of a map used by Abraham Lincoln to coordinate military operations with his emancipation policies. The map illustrates the slave population density in 1860 America geographically, and is available for view here.

African-American roots | census records | Civil War | Historic preservation | International Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 11 February 2011 15:43:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 09 February 2011
New "Life in Civil War America" Book
Posted by jamie

Whether your fourth-great-grandfather served in the Civil War or your ancestors watched from the sidelines, gain insight into their experiences with Life in Civil War America by historian Michael O. Varhola.

His new book takes readers back to the war between the states, illuminating the sweeping changes and cultural norms that shaped the everyday lives of soldiers and civilians. Discover what it was like to sit around the campfire cooking hellfire stew and "throwing the papers" with fellow soldiers. Or see how it was on the home front, passing the time with war worries at a starvation party, where the only refreshment served was water.

Inside the cover you'll find:
  • a look at the social and economic realities of daily life in the Union and Confederacy, from big cities and small towns to plantations and communes
  • an explanation of military life in the army and navy, from rankings and regiments to duties and dress
  • the typical diets of soldiers and civilians, including period recipes, food preparation and the impact of shortages and inflation on rations
  • definitions of common terms, slang and idioms of the era
  • dozens of Civil War photographs and illustrations plus an appendix on the role photography played during the war
  • a quick-reference timeline detailing the events of the war
  • tips for researching ancestors who fought in the Civil War
  • information on Civil War resources, books, periodicals, websites and historic sites
Life in Civil War America is now available on at a special 33 percent discount.

Civil War | Sales
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 14:53:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
RootsTech Will Broadcast Select Conference Sessions Online
Posted by jamie

RootsTech, a family history and technology conference organized by FamilySearch, starts Thursday in Salt Lake City. If you can't make it to RootsTech in person, you're in luck — eight of the sessions will be broadcast free online.

The digital sessions include some of the keynote speakers and a sampling of technology and family history presentations. The available sessions are:
Thursday, Feb. 10:
  • 8:30-9:00 a.m (MST): A world of Information, presented by Shane Robison, chief technology officer of Hewlett Packard
  • 9:00-9:30 a.m. (MST): Turning Roots, Branches, Trees into Nodes, Links, Graphs, presented Jay L. Verkler, chief executive officer of FamilySearch International
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m. (MST): Digitally Preserving Your Family Heritage, presented by Barry Ewell, founder of
Friday, Feb. 11:
  • 8:30-9:30 a.m. (MST): The Changing Face of Genealogy, presented by Curt Witcher, manager of the Historical Genealogy Department of Allen County Public Library
  • 9:45-10:45 a.m. (MST): Cloud Computing: What is it and How it has Been Used to Create the Next, presented by Brian Pugh, senior engineer at FamilySearch International              
Saturday, Feb. 12:
  • 8:30-9:30 a.m. (MST): Personal Archiving and Primary Documents, presented by Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archives
  • 1:45-2:45 p.m. (MST): Virtual Presentations Round Table and Collaborative Panel Discussion, presented by Thomas MacEntee, professional genealogist and technology specialist
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m. (MST): The Power of PDF: Tools for Every Genealogist, presented by D. Josh Taylor, director of Education and Programs at New England Historical Genealogical Society.  
Interested viewers can watch the live presentations at

Our very own Lisa Louise Cook will be at RootsTech. Check back here for her updates from the weekend.

Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 13:20:56 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
Last Call for African-American Ancestors FTU Course Discount
Posted by jamie

Family Tree University's next session commences Feb. 14. That means there's only a few days left to register for 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, for Black History Month.

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.

Sign up for the class on Family Tree University's website.

African-American roots | Family Tree University
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 10:45:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Library Utilizes Online Gaming to Digitize Records
Posted by jamie

The National Library of Finland has launched Digitalkoot (digital volunteers), an online crowdsourcing project to digitize the nation's historical records. 

“We have millions and millions of pages of historically and culturally valuable magazines, newspapers and journals online. The challenge is that the optical character recognition often contains errors and omissions, which hamper for example searches,” said Kai Ekholm, director of the National Library of Finland. “Manual correction is needed to weed out these mistakes so that the texts become machine readable, enabling scholars and archivists to search the material for the information they need.”

The program currently consists of two online games developed by Microtask. In Mole Hunt (Myyräjahti), the player is shown two different words, and he must determine as quickly as possible if the words are the same. This uncovers erroneous words in archived material. In Mole Bridge (Myyräsilta), players have to correctly spell the words appearing on the screen. Correct answers help beavers build a bridge across a river.

The online gaming experience enables anyone to contribute to the conversion portions of Finnish cultural heritage into a lasting format. The aim is to crowdsource thousands of volunteers to participate online utilizing modern technology developed in Finland.

“In the Digitalkoot program, participants can do as much, or as little, work they want, where they want and when they want." says Harri Holopainen, Microtask managing director. "We help turn routine work into fun, almost a parlor game.”

Click here to participate in the project.

Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 09:31:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 08 February 2011
Behind the Scenes of Rosie O'Donnell's "Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode
Posted by jamie

Exploring ancestry can be a difficult experience, especially if the researcher's family history is riddled with hardships and pain. Actress and comedian Rosie O'Donnell's genealogical journey on season two of NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" is no exception.

Her mother died of breast cancer when O'Donnell was still a child. After her death, the family never really spoke of her mother again, resulting in emotional pain and disharmony between O'Donnell's siblings. This led O'Donnell to focus on her mother's side of the family while filming "WDYTYA?" because she didn't know much about them.

She enlisted her brother Ed, the one sibling with whom O'Donnell is in contact, to help search for her family history. The experience of "WDYTYA?" was not only therapeutic and healed their relationship, but also gave her insight into her own life. "It definitely changed the view of my own history, my own childhood, and it also helped explain to my children where their grandmother was from and what she was about," O'Donnell said. "They have never met her, because she died when I was 10, and they often ask questions about her. It was nice to be able to fill in some of those blanks."

The information found in records about her mother is somewhat limited. O'Donnell really wants to know more about her adult life, so she is working with playwright Dick Scanlan to produce a one woman show about her. To find out more about her, Scanlan tracked down a few of O'Donnell's mother's friends and her classmates at Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School. "I’ve been able to sit down and talk with some of them and that’s been really interesting see my mother through adult eyes as opposed to a child’s eyes," O'Donnell said.

With the aid of professional genealogists, O'Donnell utilized photographs, work records, censuses, baptismal certificates and newspaper articles in her research. "It was a pretty intensive research project, and I was very impressed with the staff [at] and what they were able to find—things that I couldn’t believe that they found," O'Donnell said. "It was pretty intense and pretty surprising for me to know that many details still exist."

On the show, O'Donnell was also able to explore her Irish heritage. She compared her Irish ancestors living conditions to that of Frank McCourt's in his memoir Angela's Ashes. The extreme poverty and hardships endured by her family shocked O'Donnell, changing the view of her own history and completely reframing her life.

"I didn’t know the history of my family and the struggles that brought them to the United States and what they had to endure," O'Donnell said. "You take your own reality and put the frame around it as the most difficult thing that anyone can survive, when you come to find out that your life is pretty blessed comparatively."

O'Donnell's episode of "WDYTYA" airs Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. 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?" | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 08 February 2011 14:53:43 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [6]