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# Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Finding Your Ancestors' Probate Records
Posted by Diane


If you have dead ancestors, you should learn about probate records, it's been said. Probate files can be rich sources of genealogical information, and even poor folks might've left them.

So I hear, anyway. I haven't actually used probate records. Like many genealogists, I'm not quite sure how to approach them. And I need to get my act together fast, because I'm headed to the Cuyahoga County Probate Court this month

Good thing our Using Probate Records live webinar, presented by professional researcher Marian Pierre-Louis, is Thursday, April 5 at 8 p.m. ET.

Using Probate Records webinar

Marian will show you: 

  • What probate records are
  • How to find probate records
  • Different types of probate records
  • What you'll find in a typical probate record
  • How to make it easier to access probate records
  • Why probate records are critical to your genealogical success

Here's the basic info on the Using Probate Records webinar:

  • Date: Thursday, April 5, 2012
  • Starting time: 8 p.m. Eastern (7 Central/ 6 Mountain/ 5 Pacific)
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Price: $49.99 ($39.99 special if you register before April 2)
As usual, registered attendees will be able to download the presentation and slides to view again whenever they want. Click here to register for the Using Probate Records webinar in ShopFamilyTree.com.
 
court records | Editor's Pick | Webinars
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 12:09:38 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 26, 2012
Eight Excuses to Tell Your Spouse, Kids, Coworkers and Friends So You Can Search the 1940 Census in Peace
Posted by Diane

Start memorizing these excuses now! You'll need them to roll right off your tongue next week when you're forgetting about dinner, ignoring the house and putting off work in order to search the 1940 census:

Your spouse:

  • "I'm just trying to deal with some schedule problems. Sorry it's taking so long."

  • “Can it wait? I’m busy doing taxes.”

Your kids:

  • “I was on the internet ordering you presents just for being so good. Now go do your homework before I change my mind.”

Your coworkers:

  • “___ , hold my calls. I’m going to be tied up with the Washington account all day.”

Your boss:

  • "I was just pulling together those names—er, I mean numbers—you requested." (Important: Have a spreadsheet open you can click to if your boss pops up over your shoulder.)

Your friends:

  • “Can’t make it to choir practice/book club/happy hour on Monday—I’ve got a nasty case of enumeritis.”

  • “I can’t talk right now. I'm spending time with relatives.”

  • “Tonight’s not good. I have a date with Steve Morse.”

Want to speed up your census search? Get tips and watch our free video on finding family in the 1940 census at FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

Check out our upcoming Family Tree University course Finding Ancestors in the US Census: Online and Offline Strategies. This genealogy course is just $39.99 for the April 30 session only—a $60 savings off the regular price!


census records | Genealogy fun
Monday, March 26, 2012 3:40:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates: Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis
Posted by Diane

I guess you can feel good about plopping down on the couch for another hour of TV-watching if it’s for work. And if it’s history-related.

Last night’s "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.," traced several ancestors of Harry Connick, Jr., and Branford Marsalis. (Watch it here if you missed it or look for a rebroadcast this week on PBS.)

The show spent quite a bit of time on the two men's childhoods and friendship in New Orleans. I was especially excited to see them at the Musician’s Village, a Habitat for Humanity community the two sponsor and where I got to help build houses several years ago. The show also has Connick and Marsalis playing at Preservation Hall, which I visited on the same trip.

Back to the genealogy: Gates presented Harry and Branford each with a “Book of Life,” basically, a scrapbook of the records the show’s researchers found.

Researchers discovered that Marsalis’ surname came from a white Dutch slave owner in Mississippi. A son of that man's slave married Marsalis’ great-great-grandmother Lizzie—but her son Simion, Marsalis great-grandfather, was three years old when that marriage took place. Simion’s father was likely Lizzie's previous husband, a man named Isaac Black.

I was glad we saw an archivist looking... and looking ... and looking for records of one of Marsalis' ancestors at the New Orleans Public Library and in cemeteries before he finally found something. That's reality.

Connick was relieved to learn his Irish ancestor, a famine immigrant named James Connick, didn’t own slaves—but was disappointed that he fought for the Confederacy for three years.

Gates explains that it wasn't necessarily because James supported slavery. His work would've dried up during the war, and there may have been no other way to make a living. The researchers found a military pension record for James, though it doesn't seem to indicate what kind of injury he might've suffered.

Connick's fifth-great-grandfather, David McCullough from Pennsylvania, was an infamous privateer on the ship Rattlesnake. He captured ships in the West Indies and would send the bounties back to the United States. The British crown had a 5,000-guinea reward on McCullough's head.

To demonstrate how varied our heritage is, Gates had black friends from his local barbershop guess their percentages of African, White and Indian heritage, then had them take DNA tests (the show didn’t explain margins of error). Most weren't too far on their white and black percentages, but had overestimated their American Indian blood. 

Immediately after the Harry Connick Jr./Branford Marsalis episode was another featuring Newark, NJ, mayor Cory Booker and US Rep. John Lewis. I had to get to bed at that point. You can watch this one online, too.

"Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." is airing Sunday nights at 8 ET on PBS.


African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 26, 2012 11:18:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Helen Hunt
Posted by Diane

In Friday’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” Helen Hunt explored her father’s side of the family tree. I caught parts of it between severe weather updates, and finally yesterday I was able to see the whole thing on Hulu (shortly before watching "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.").

Hunt's family tree seemed full of distinguished ancestors. She starts with her great-grandmother Florence Rothenburg—a name later changed to Roberts, which a historian explains would’ve made life easier for the Jewish-American family—in New York City in 1900.

After her husband died, Florence took her four small children to Pasadena, Calif., a move that seemed strange for a newly widowed woman. But it turned out that California was home for Florence.

Florence’s father was one of the Scholle brothers, clothiers who started out in New York. Florence’s father (Hunt's great-great-grandfather) William Scholle opened a branch in San Francisco to serve the Gold Rush pioneers.

He built the business to the point he was listed in a newspaper article about local millionaires. In 1890, he was an investor, along with Isaias Hellman, Levi Strauss and others, in the Nevada Bank (it merged with Wells Fargo in 1905).

That was Hunt’s dad’s mother’s family. Next, in Portland, Maine, she learns about the paternal side. Her great-great-grandmother was Augusta Hunt, a local leader in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Hunt was almost reluctant to learn more—her impression of the WCTU was that of a group of teetotalers who wanted to restrict everyone else’s freedoms. But a historian explained the extent of alcohol abuse at the time and the suffering it caused, particularly for women and children.

As part of the WCTU, Augusta supported a variety of causes, including female suffrage—and she lived long enough to see the 19th amendment passed. An obituary stated she was the first woman in Portland to cast her vote.

I noticed Hunt's voice-overs in this episode would say “I’m meeting so-and-so, whom I’ve asked to research my ancestor so-and-so.” Past episodes have been presented more as a collaboration between the celebrity and researcher (whether or not that was actually the case), with the celebrity doing more active searching. I wonder if this is a new approach?

I appreciated all the history in this episode and the lesson to learn historical context before making assumptions about your ancestors. Ironically, early on we learned that Hunt’s grandmother—Augusta’s daughter-in-law—was killed by a drunk driver when Hunt’s dad was 5 years old.

The scene in which Hunt goes home to share everything she learned with her dad didn’t make the final episode. For those who love this part of the show, here’s the deleted scene:

If you have New York City ancestors, check out our New York City Research Guide, a digital download in ShopFamilyTree.com.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 26, 2012 9:52:20 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, March 23, 2012
1940 Census, Simplified: What You Really Need to Know, in 7 Key Points
Posted by Diane

You've been hearing about the 1940 census from several organizations that'll be hosting the records, and all that information coming at you from various sources might seem confusing.

To help you digest all those details, I'm summarizing and simplifying them here into what you really need to know about where the 1940 census records and indexes will be. Here it is:

1. On April 2 at 9 a.m., the only place you'll be able to find online 1940 census records for the entire country is 1940census.archives.gov. This website was made possible through the National Archives' contract with genealogy company Archives.com.

2. Shortly after the initial release, other websites will begin adding the records as fast as they can. Those include:

3. For the first week to several weeks after April 2, the only way to find your ancestor's 1940 census record will be to browse by enumeration district.

You can find out what an enumeration district is and how to pinpoint the right one by watching our free video on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

4. Three separate projects to index these census records by name will begin ASAP after the records are released:

The 1940 Census Community Project is recruiting volunteers to do the indexing; Ancestry.com and MyHeritage are using paid contractors to do their indexing work.

5. Each site will add its index one state at a time, as states are completed. No site has specified the order in which states will be indexed, so at this time there's no telling when a particular site will add your ancestor's state. It could be weeks or months before a given site posts the index you need (so you'll want to check all the above sites periodically).

6. Ancestry.com is completing its index in two phases: a basic name index to be released first on a state-by-state basis, then a more-detailed index with additional information to follow. This means you may have access to a searchable basic name index for your ancestral state earlier on Ancestry.com than on another site.

7. Watch out for sites that try to charge for access to 1940 census records. There is no need to pay for 1940 census records. They'll be available online, free, at the sites mentioned in No. 2.


Get help finding your ancestors in the US census with these resources from Family Tree Magazine:


Ancestry.com | Archives.com | census records | FamilySearch | MyHeritage
Friday, March 23, 2012 3:07:17 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
Genealogy News Corral, March 19-23
Posted by Diane

  • Looks like I'll be parked in front of the TV for a fair portion of the weekend. Tonight on "Who Do You Think You Are?" watch actress Helen Hunt explore her roots. Here's a video preview:

  • Archives.com has hired genealogist Megan Smolenyak as its Family History Advisor. She'll start immediately, talking about the 1940 census. Smolenyak was formerly chief genealogist at Archives.com competitor Ancestry.com.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Ancestry.com | Archives.com | Celebrity Roots | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events
Friday, March 23, 2012 9:09:23 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Coming to MyHeritage: More Historical Records, Sophisticated Searching
Posted by Diane

Hosting the 1940 US census is the start of big changes at genealogy site and family network MyHeritage. Those changes will include more records and more-sophisticated searching.

In an interview yesterday, MyHeritage founder and CEO Gilad Japhet called the 1940 census announcement “the first serious signal from MyHeritage that it is strongly entering the historical records market."

"MyHeritage has always been about family trees and photos.”

For at least a year, plans have been underway to change that.

MyHeritage.com has invested half a million dollars into new hardware and a data center to build its new SuperSearch system, which will be released with the site’s 1940 census collection in April. It also will be available on FamilyLink and WorldVitalRecords.com, which MyHeritage acquired in November 2011.

The company also made a personnel acquisition I’m not free to go into detail about, but you’ll hear more soon.

MyHeritage has used SmartMatching, which Japhet says is a good way to search trees for matches, but less effective when it comes to searching on a last name "in any direction the user wants to go."

The new search system will do a better job of matching trees to records by employing data in approximately 1 billion profiles in MyHeritage.com family trees from around the world.

The SuperSearch will first compare your tree to other trees, find matches and “imply” information from those trees—but not add it to your tree, Japhet emphasized. But the search will include that implied information to find historical records that match your ancestors.

For example, if your ancestor’s profile lacks a death date, SuperSearch could find the same ancestor in someone else’s tree—using other details such as children’s names to make the match—and use the death date from the other person’s tree to locate the ancestor’s will in MyHeritage collections.

“This has a low false positive rate. It’s a match Ancestry never could have done. Their technology doesn't use the knowledge of all its trees,” Japhet said. He described the Ancestry.com “shaky leaf” technology as “a bit naïve” because it requires more similar information, such as name spellings or birth and death dates—information the tree owner might not know—to find matches.

“Whenever new data are added, we compare them to all the MyHeritage trees, so you can sit back and do nothing,” Japhet says. “If you have a person’s family tree, you can do a lot of research on behalf of the person.”

Due to the resource investment, using the new SuperSearch engine will require a subscription, says Japhet. But current MyHeritage Premium and PremiumPlus subscribers, who’ve purchased subscriptions to build enhanced trees on the site, won’t need to purchase an additional subscription to use the search engine for finding trees, photos and free collections (including the 1940 census and the SSDI). Pay-as-you credits also will be available for those who want to view only a few records or just dip a toe into genealogy research.

The 1940 census index also will be free to search via SuperSearch.

Trees will remain an important part of MyHeritage.

“We think family trees are the most important thing. They’re the core of family history. We would love for users to grow their trees on MyHeritage, so we have invested many resources in building tools and services that work with the trees.” Those include the MyHeritage mobile app, printable family trees, family calendars and more.

“Other sites focus on research,” Japhet says, but added that users might give it up when it becomes too time-consuming. “Users discontinue [a subscription] when they can’t use it,” he says, “but they’ll maintain a tree for life.”

Trees also have been helpful in making MyHeritage a site that supports multiple languages—38, to be exact. Because trees can be bilingual, developers have been able to build a store of information about name equivalents in a range of languages.

“You can type in a Russian name and get an English match,” Japhet says. “Or you could type in Alex and the site ‘knows’ Sascha is the translated Russian nickname, and it pulls up a newspaper article in Russian,” he says.

The site translates between alphabets, too, such as the Latin alphabet English uses and the Cyrillic alphabet Russian uses.

To encourage the site’s internationalism, MyHeritage focuses on hiring bilingual individuals. They maintain blogs and provide customer service in several languages.

The 1940 census is just the beginning of new content for MyHeritage. Japhet didn’t name any specific collections coming to the site, but he emphasized the global nature of records to be added and said the site would employ crowdsourcing to acquire content. Those who assist with crowdsourcing efforts will gain SuperSearch privileges.



Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites | MyHeritage
Friday, March 23, 2012 7:54:52 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, March 22, 2012
Exclusive! MyHeritage to Offer 1940 Census Free
Posted by Diane

In an exclusive interview today (about 12 minutes ago, actually), MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet told me that genealogy site and family network MyHeritage.com will offer the 1940 US census for free after the National Archives releases the records April 2.

MyHeritage, a company based in Israel and with a US office in Provo, Utah, will provide the 1940 census free at myheritage.com/1940census, www.worldvitalrecords.com/1940census and www.familylink.com/1940census.

(MyHeritage acquired FamilyLink and its WorldVitalRecords site last November.)

As on other websites planning to offer the 1940 census, you'll be able to browse the record images by place as soon as they're added to the site.

A searchable index will be added throughout the year, as data from each state are transcribed. The MyHeritage 1940 census index will be created separately from both the FamilySearch/Archives.com/brightsolid 1940 Census Community Project and the Ancestry.com index. A company that specializes in historical transcription will develop the index, which Japhet says will be highly accurate. 

Once MyHeritage has launched the index for a given state, you'll be able to search it by multiple criteria using the MyHeritage SuperSearch, a fast and sophisticated new search engine to be released in April. All searches will take less than half a second, Japhet told me.

The search engine will support 38 languages, the only 1940 census site to offer this feature. You'll also be able to search the records using the MyHeritage mobile app.

If you have a family tree on MyHeritage.com, the site will automatically match it to 1940 census data as indexes are added and notify you about relevant results. This reduces the need to constantly repeat your searches to see if the index for your ancestor's state has been added.

The 1940 census is the first of additional historical content to come on MyHeritage. "This is the first serious signal from MyHeritage that it is strongly entering the historical records market," Japhet says.

Japhet shared a lot of detail with me, so I'll write another post about MyHeritage's plans for introducing new, global content and a sophisticated way to search it.

For more 1940 census information, including a free video on using Stephen Morse's One-Step tool for determining your ancestor's 1940 enumeration district, see FamilyTreeMagazine.com/info/1940census.


census records | Genealogy Web Sites | MyHeritage
Thursday, March 22, 2012 1:30:51 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
Getting Ready for the 1940 Census: Nine Absolute Must-Haves
Posted by Diane

Part two in our series on getting ready for the release of the 1940 census is a guest post from census preparedness expert Ida Searcher:

I was inspired to become a census preparedness expert 10 years ago, after seeing woefully underprepared genealogists try to use the 1930 census.

Why, so many of them were waiting in line at the library without basics like tents, Bunsen burners or crossword puzzles. And watching them scroll microfilm without Dramamine—well, it was downright painful.

 
You'll need different supplies for the 1940 census, as this release is entirely digital and you'll be examining the records on a computer.

Under no circumstances should you start your 1940 census research without these nine absolute must-haves:

1. An atomic clock to precisely signal the 9 a.m. ET release of the 1940 census records.



2. Extra batteries for your mouse. Be sure to practice changing them fast, the way they change the tires on race cars. You don't want to lose census time on silly things like dead batteries.

3. A Netflix account for the kids. You can get 99 episodes of Sponge Bob on Netflix. That's 99 half-hours of uninterrupted census work. You can always smarten them back up later with some books or something.

4. A cardboard cutout of yourself to keep your spouse company while you’re spending quality time with your computer. This is the kind thing to do.

5. A hands-free helmet hydration system. No need to pause in your scrolling to pick up a glass of water.

6. Peanut m&ms for sustenance (peanuts = protein).

7. An alarm clock to remind you to eat the m&ms.

8. No-Doze (it's not just for college students anymore). Stock up now before your local drugstore is overrun with census-checking grannies. You don't want to have to knock over those grannies.

9. Vitamin D pills. Let's face it: You're not going to be seeing the sun anytime soon. That's okay, though. Vampires are very "in" these days. You're like a census vampire.

Um, thank you, Ida. I'm sure readers are rushing to the store right now.

Next up, we offer phrases you'll want to memorize in case your boss catches you searching the 1940 census at work.

And visit FamilyTreeMagazine.com for serious tips on finding your ancestors in the 1940 census—including a free video on using Steve Morse's One-Step 1940 ED tool.


census records | Genealogy fun
Thursday, March 22, 2012 8:53:03 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Wednesday, March 21, 2012
FREE Webinar: Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner for Fabulous Family Photos
Posted by Diane

Free Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Webinar

We're hosting a free webinar next Tuesday about one of the most talked-about photo-preservation tools in genealogy: the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.

Presenters Thomas MacEntee and Diane Miller will show you:

  • tips for using Flip-Pal in your genealogy work
  • hints for archiving family photos with Flip-Pal
  • how Flip-Pal can help you share photos with your family
  • how to download the webinar presentation and slides for your future reference

Registered attendees will get access to the webinar to view again as many times as they like (we'll e-mail instructions after the webinar).

Plus, all registrants will receive a special product offer!

The free Flip-Pal webinar is Tuesday, March 27, at 2 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Central, noon Mountain, 11 a.m. Pacific).

The presentation is about 45 minutes, plus 10 minutes for Q&A.

Click here to register for our free webinar Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner for Fabulous Family Photos.


Photos | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 8:33:39 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]