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<2012 April>

More Links

# Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Digitized Lutheran Church Records Coming Soon to
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy website has formed a partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to digitize and index 1,000 reels of the church's microfilm containing millions of the church's baptism, confirmation, marriage, and funeral records.

The parish register ledger books document Lutheran congregations throughout the United States from 1793 to 1940.

The records will become available at later this year. I'm crossing my fingers it'll be in time for our guide to genealogy research in Lutheran records, which will be in the July/August 2012 Family Tree Magazine.

The guide is part of our new religious records series, which so far has covered Catholic (in the March/April 2012 Family Tree Magazine) and Jewish (in the May/June 2012 Family Tree Magazine) genealogy research.

See the full announcement about Lutheran records on here. | Church records
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 15:13:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Researching Genealogy in Land Records
Posted by Diane

Researching your genealogy using land records—deeds, patents, plats, etc.—is often considered advanced. But a genealogist of any level can find an ancestor's land records using the help in our Family Tree Land Records Research Value Pack.

The tools in this collection include:
  • Land Records 101 Family Tree University Independent Study Course download: Master the basics of US land records research, including what documents to look for and where to find them, online and offline

  • Platting Metes and Bounds Properties on-demand video class: If your ancestor's property was surveyed under the metes and bounds system, land records describe it in terms of trees, rocks, fenceposts, streams and roads along the boundaries. This lesson will help you make sense of those descriptions and map out what the property looked like.

  • Platting Rectangular Survey System Properties on-demand video class: Learn how to plat ancestral properties surveyed using the rectangular survey system, also known as the public land survey system.

  • Using Land Records article download: Our guide to land records explains land records from early headrights to claims under the Homestead Act. You'll also learn about property deeds and "dower rights," which can be informative about female ancestors.
The Family Tree Land Records Research Value Pack is deeply discounted this month only: just $49.99! (You'd pay $163.97 to buy each tool individually.)
Click here to get this deal.

Land records | Sales
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 11:02:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Tuesday, 17 April 2012
1940 Census Records and Indexes Update
Posted by Diane

Now that sites have completed their 1940 US census image collections and are working on indexing the records, census news is coming more slowly. Here's where to find 1940 census records and the indexes that are available so far:
  • Record images for all US states and territories are available free, as are searchable name indexes for Delaware and Nevada. An index for Washington, DC, is "in process." A chart on the 1940 census page lets you see indexing progress.
  • FamilySearch: Digitized records are available here for all US states and territories.

The name index for the state of Delaware is now completed and available to researchers. Search Delaware here.

You can use the map at FamilySearch's 1940 census site to see the indexing progress of the 1940 Census Community Project. The darker the state, the more records volunteers have indexed. The completed indexes will become searchable free on FamilySearch, as well as its commercial partners and

The 1940 census record images also are available on, which MyHeritage purchased last year. You'll need to register for a free account on the site (if you don't already have an account there) to view the records.

  • National Archives: Records for all states and territories are available here for free.
P.S. The Ancestry Insider blog has a good comparison of the census record image viewers on the four sites listed above. It might help you decide which site to use for your 1940 ancestor search. | census records | FamilySearch | MyHeritage | NARA
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 16:35:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 16 April 2012
Tips From My First Courthouse Research
Posted by Diane

This post would be more exciting if my courthouse research last week (right before I womanned our Family Tree Magazine booth at the Ohio Genealogical Society conference in Cleveland) had panned out.

But it was kind of a bust, genealogically speaking—no new information and some red tape.

I did learn a few things about courthouse research, though. If that’s what’s on your genealogy to-do list, these tips might help:

1. Ask a local. Cleveland genealogist and Family Tree University instructor Diana Crisman Smith gave me the lowdown on the Cuyahoga County courthouse, parking and other details. If you don't know someone knowledgeable about the place you’re headed, see if the local genealogical society has an online message board.

2. Have backup parking plans. The parking garage was full, so I drove around downtown and finally snagged the last space in a surface lot. Smaller towns might not have the same issues.

3. Be as prepared as possible. The Cuyahoga County probate court has an online docket you can search to find the case file numbers you need.

Other ways to be prepared: Call ahead and make sure there isn't a furlough day or special holiday on the day you plan to go. See if there are any restrictions on what you can bring (such as pens or backpacks). Bring cash for parking, copy fees and other expenses.

3. Don't be afraid to ask. I'm sure things work differently in every courthouse, but there was a procedure here. And there was no hand-holding, so I had to ask. I was told to write the case number on a request card for a clerk to retrieve the file. But for my relatively recent probate files (1980s and 90s), I was to use the computers to get microfilm numbers, then pull the film.

I thought all the microfilm readers were equally bad, but I should have asked about that too—a clerk walked by and showed me a better reader. Because the computerized docket didn't extend back as far as my great-grandfather's death, I had to ask about any earlier files, too (and unfortunately, I found out the court didn’t have anything for him).

4. Keep a smile on your face. Even if you think you’re bugging someone with your questions, a smile increases your chances of getting the help you need (as does a succinctly worded question).

5. Bring a camera. There was no place to photocopy the microfilmed records, so I photographed the reader’s screen with my cell phone.

I don't have a tip for this situation: The file I most wanted to look for, a 1924 commitment hearing for my great-grandmother to the Cleveland State Hospital, was confidential—if it exists. Disappointing.

I politely asked enough questions (is it possible to request a search just to see if there’s a file? how long are the records closed? what's the law declaring them closed? what's the procedure for having a file opened?) that I got to speak with a magistrate. He complimented my interest in genealogy, asked about my family history, and said that if the record exists—and chances are slim—the only way to have it opened would be a change in the law.

In the excellent book Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret, journalist Steve Luxenberg describes his quest to uncover 1940s-era institutional records in Michigan for an aunt he’d only recently learned he had. I don't think I want to let this drop quite yet, but I'm also not sure I'm ready for a struggle like Luxenberg's. I'll dig a little and maybe be able to offer tips in the future.

Get Family Tree Magazine's guide to courthouse research, a $4 download, from

court records
Monday, 16 April 2012 13:51:05 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Thursday, 12 April 2012
Free WWII, French Canadian Records
Posted by Diane

Free access is coming to two records collections:

The Fold3 (formerly Footnote) World War II Collection is free through April 30. Records include Old Man's Draft Registrations (so-called because men ages 43 to 62 had to register), Missing Air Crew Reports, European Theater Army Reports, photos and more., the Canadian sister site to, is offering free access to French Canadian records from April 17 through 22. Collections include the Drouin database of 37 million names in baptism, marriage and burial recordsfrom Quebec; the Tanguay collection on French-Canadian families; plus church records from Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New England.

Thursday, 12 April 2012 16:11:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 10 April 2012
1940 Census Update
Posted by Diane

  • Record images for all US states and territories are available free, as are searchable name indexes for Delaware and Nevada. An index for Washington, DC, is coming soon.
  • FamilySearch: Available record images are Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington

You can use the map at FamilySearch's 1940 census site to see the indexing progress of the 1940 Census Community Project. The darker the state, the more records volunteers have indexed. The completed indexes will become searchable free on FamilySearch, as well as its commercial partners and

The 1940 census record images also are available on, which MyHeritage purchased last year. You'll need to register for a free account on the site (if you don't already have an account there) to view the records.

  • National Archives: Records for all states and territories are available here for free. | census records | FamilySearch | MyHeritage | NARA
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 16:39:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Titanic 100th Anniversary: Genealogical and Historical Resources
Posted by Diane

This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Four days into her maiden Atlantic crossing, at 11:40 pm on April 14, the ship collided with an iceberg. She sank less than three hours later. Of the 2,223 passengers and crew on board, 1,517 died.

The 705 survivors were taken aboard the Carpathia, which docked in New York City April 18. (I've seen sources numbering survivors anywhere from 700 to 710, but I most often found 705.)

Several parts of the world are observing the anniversary: Belfast, where Titanic was constructed; Southampton, England, whence she departed and home to most of her crew; Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the dead were transported and 150 victims rest; and the United States, where the ship was to dock in New York.

This is a great time to learn more about the Titanic and those on board, especially if a passenger or crew member is on your family tree. These are some of our favorite Titanic genealogy and history resources:

  • Encyclopedia Titanica: Find lists of victims and survivors, crew, deck plans, research articles and more.

  • Partial Manifest of Titanic Survivors: These manifests, completed on the Carpathia, name survivors from second- and third-class cabins.

  • Sinking the Myths: Get the truth behind Titanic legends, including the “unsinkable” claim.

  • RMS Titanic: The companion website to traveling artifact exhibitions is from the company that has conducted seven research expeditions to the site of the disaster.

  • Sinking of the RMS Titanic: Get a play-by-play of the disaster, including iceberg warnings that never made it to Titanic’s bridge.

  • Titanic in Nova Scotia: Read about passenger burials in three Halifax cemeteries.

  • Titanic Stories: Learn about the ship’s construction in Belfast.

  • RMS Titanic records: This subscription sites have added Titanic fatality reports from the Halifax Coroner, a Titanic graves list, Titanic outward passengers, deaths at sea, and crew records. Better yet, the Titanic records are free through April 15.

  • Titanic records: This British subscription/pay-per-view site recently published a collection of maritime birth, marriage and death records, which name Titanic crew members and passengers who died at sea. Also new are the White Star Line officers' books containing service records of officers and commanders on the Titanic and other White Star Line vessels. | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | NARA | Social History | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 08:50:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
Direct Me NYC Helps You Find New Yorkers in the 1940 Census
Posted by Diane

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has developed an online tool to help you find New York City relatives in the 1940 census and find out more (or share what you know) about the places they lived.

Reading about it makes me wish I had family in New York City in 1940.

At the Direct Me NYC site, you can look up relatives by last name in digitized 1940 New York City phone books.

Then once you have the person's address, you can enter it into a search field to find the census enumeration district (ED) number. Clicking the ED links you to the census records on the National Archives 1940 Census site.

In addition, Direct Me NYC pins the address to both a 1940 map and a contemporary map, so you can see how the area has changed. You also can attach a note to the pin, such as memories, names of those who lived there, what the neighborhood was like, or questions for other researchers. Such a neat tool!

"As people use the site, we’ll build a cultural map of New York in 1940 that will assist both professional historians and laypeople alike," says NYPL spokesperson Kate Stober.

census records | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips | Social Networking
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 08:38:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 09 April 2012 to Release AncestryDNA Autosomal DNA Test
Posted by Diane

Before the 1940 census came out, genealogists on Facebook were buzzing about a new DNA test has been teasing but hasn't yet released.

Blaine Bettinger, who shares his expertise on on using genetic genealogy for family history research on his The Genetic Genealogist blog, tried out the new test for Family Tree Magazine. In this guest post, he explains what it can do for your family tree:

With each year, it seems, genealogists get new tools for examining their family trees. 2012 has already given us the 1940 census to spend countless hours with, and now plans to launch a new autosomal DNA test, AncestryDNA, later this year.

Autosomal DNA tests examine thousands of locations throughout your genome, and that information is used to estimate the percentage of the genome that's derived from regions around the world (called "admixture"). Test results also can help you identify genetic cousins by comparing your DNA to all other DNA in the company’s database.

AncestryDNA offers both admixture and matching, which they call “Genetic Ethnicity” and “Member DNA Matches:”

  • Genetic Ethnicity: This calculation is based on roughly 22 populations around the world from proprietary and public databases, with more likely to be added.

  • Member DNA Matches: This tool shows the individuals with whom you share DNA through a common ancestor. You also receive an estimate of the predicted relationship range (such as third cousin, fourth cousin). This tool also offers what I believe is the most interesting aspect of the AncestryDNA test: the automatic comparison of matches’ family trees.

    In other words, if John Doe and I share DNA, AncestryDNA will compare my family tree to his (if he has a public tree on to determine whether any surnames or even individuals overlap. If there are overlaps, both users will be notified.

    As someone who's spent many hours comparing family trees looking for common ancestors with genetic cousins, I believe this tool will prove to be very useful.

AncestryDNA is currently in beta and isn't yet available for purchase. No pricing information is available yet.

Disclaimer: This information is based on the beta version of the AncestryDNA test. Accordingly, results and features are subject to change before the full launch of the test. Further, I received a complimentary test from in order to evaluate the product. | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 09 April 2012 09:59:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Edie Falco
Posted by Diane

Actress Edie Falco straightened out some family stories on Friday's "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Her mom's cousin had made a family tree with Falco's great-grandfather George Megrath born in Wales; it said George's mother left his father there and took her son to America. Megrath was his mother's surname; his father's surname was Brown.

But at the New York Public Library, censuses show George was born in Wisconsin, with his father from England and mother from New York. Falco compares family stories being passed down to a game of telephone, in which the details get altered with every retelling.

Charles Brown was the "shadowy figure" referred to in episode promos. When an archivist at the Milwaukee County Historical Society helps Falco find "CC Brown" in an 1875 Minnesota census, Falco wisely asks "We don't know for sure this is him?" Brown is a common name.

But the archivist had done additional research in local histories to confirm it was the right man. Turned out he was a newspaper man who married and divorced several times.

Charles mother was a "Sister Katherine Brown," born "at sea" to a sea captain father based in Penzance in Cornwall, England. Unless I missed it, the show never did explain whether she became a nun or how the "sister" became part of her name.

My favorite part about this episode was Falco's search to figure out the truth about family stories. Here telephone game analogy is so true. You can watch it online at the "Who DO You Think You Are?" website.

This deleted scene shows more about another ancestral divorce in Falco's family:

Monday, 09 April 2012 09:29:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]