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Tuesday, July 31, 2012
President Obama Related to American Colonies' First Documented African Slave
Posted by Diane
Ancestry.com researchers have linked the United States' first black
president to the earliest documented African permanent slave in
Historical evidence indicates Barack Obama is the 11th great-grandson of African slave John Punch. The connection is through the family of Obama's Caucasian mother—which isn't
surprising, as Obama's father, who died in 1982, was from Kenya.
(Update: After reading comments to this post, I'd like to clarify my above statement: Obama's paternal line came from Kenya and its members were not enslaved in the United States.)
What does surprise me is that the slave ancestor is male:
Genealogists with African-American roots have become
accustomed to learning of male white slaveowners who fathered
children with enslaved women in their family trees, but not so much
the other way around.
Ancestry.com researchers used DNA analysis and property and marriage
records to find an African indentured servant named John Punch, who
attempted to escape his servitude in 1640 in Maryland. His
court-ordered punishment was a life sentence as a slave. This is the first
documented case of slavery for life in the American colonies,
decades before slavery laws were enacted in Virginia.
Punch eventually fathered children with a white woman, whose
children inherited her free status and became landowners in
Virginia. Their son John Bunch is Obama's
You can learn details about the research documents and conclusions
on Ancestry.com, where you can download a 44-page report by
researchers Anastasia Harman, Natalie Cotrill and Joseph Shumway;
a 51-page Bunch family descendancy report; and a family tree.
Ancestry.com was careful to back up its claims with an independent
review from researcher Elizabeth Shown Mills, an expert well-known
in genealogical circles, who says, “I weighed not only the actual
findings but also Virginia’s laws and social attitudes when John
Punch was living. A careful consideration of the evidence convinces
me that the Y-DNA evidence of African origin is indisputable, and
the surviving paper trail points solely to John Punch as the logical
"Genealogical research on individuals who lived hundreds
of years ago can never definitively prove that one man fathered
another, but this research meets the highest standards and can be
offered with confidence.”
Although the Obama research project has been underway for years, I imagine we'll see more on the 2012 presidential
candidates' family trees this year as genealogy companies try to capitalize
on election-related publicity opportunities.
Update: You also might want to read this article from The Root, by two Boston University professors who dispute John punch's status as the first documented permanent African slave.
Are you tracing African-American genealogy? Get research help from the expert how-to books, article downloads and classes available in ShopFamilyTree.com.
African-American roots | Ancestry.com | Celebrity Roots
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:43:30 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, July 27, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, July 23-27
Posted by Diane
- I wanted to point you to the Ancestry
Insider's interesting post about indexing errors on 1940 census
websites. The Ancestry Insider has seen more user complaints
about Ancestry.com's index than FamilySearch's, and I'd have to echo
that observation (mostly in blog comments and on Facebook). His post
includes Ancestry.com's answers to questions about its indexing
and auditing processes, and the index augmentation that helps
users find records despite indexing difficulties.
- This fall, the National Archives
will open its new New York City location in Lower Manhattan, in the
Alexander Hamilton US Custom House at One Bowling Green (the former
facility was on Varick Street in Greenwich Village). The new
location will expand the facilitiy's usefulness for research and
education, with a welcome center, research center, learning center
for school groups, exhibition space and public programs area. Read
more about the new location here.
- Military records subscription site Fold3 has released a new
collection of Navy
Casualty Reports, 1776-1941, documenting deaths of US Navy
personnel in wartime and in accidents outside of war.
reports include records of those who were killed, injured, wounded,
diseased or imprisoned, but most report only deaths.The records
include four titles: Deaths Due to Enemy Action (includes deaths
during the Civil War aboard the Cincinnati and in Andersonville
prison, and more), Drowning Casualties (1885-1939), Lost and Wrecked
Ships, Explosions and Steam Casualties (1801-1941), and Ordnance
Accidents, Aviation Accidents, and Miscellaneous Records. This
collection is currently free to search.
Ancestry.com | census records | Female ancestors | Fold3 | Genealogy books | Military records | NARA
Friday, July 27, 2012 2:36:03 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Ancestry.com Adds 12 States to Its 1940 Census Index
Posted by Diane
Ancestry.com has just announced the addition of 12 more states to its free 1940 US census
index, bringing the total of states you can search by name on
Ancestry.com to 37 plus Washington DC.
The newly added states are:
here to see our post listing the states already indexed in
Ancestry.com's 1940 census database, as well as the states indexed
on FamilySearch.org and its 1940 Census Community Project
partners, and on MyHeritage.com.
The 1940 census is free to search on all these sites.
Ancestry.com | Archives.com | census records | FamilySearch | MyHeritage
Thursday, July 26, 2012 12:17:54 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Learn How to Digitize and Archive Your Genealogy Documents, Photos and Heirlooms
Posted by Diane
Antiques Roadshow last weekend has definitely put me in the
mindset of figuring out what family heirlooms we have and where they
came from, and how to preserve and share their stories with family.
My sisters and I, for example, didn't know about our
great-grandmother's bride's basket until I asked my mom if she had
something she'd like me to take to the show for appraisal.
So I'm glad to see us doing a webinar called Digitize
Your Family History: How to Preserve Precious Photos, Documents
and Heirlooms. It's on Thursday, Aug. 9, presented by Denise Levenick, known
as the Family Curator
and author of
to Archive Family Keepsakes (Family Tree Books).
If you register early, you'll be able to submit a
scanned photo or document, or a picture of an heirloom that Denise
might use as an example during the webinar.
That means you could get preservation and digitization advice
specific to your family treasure. ("Early" is the key word.)
Here's what else you'll learn in the Digitize
Your Family History webinar:
Registrants will also get a free preview chapter of Denise's
book How to Archive Family Keepsakes, and a coupon for the
- What items you should digitize
- How to deal with fragile and oversized items, as well as
heirlooms you can’t scan (like our bridal basket)
- Tips for creating digital copies of your photos and documents
- How to archive and organize digital copies for your own
research and for posterity
- Key terms and online resources for digitizing heirlooms
And as in every webinar, they'll receive copies of the
presentation slides, as well as access to view the webinar again as
often as they like (that goes even if you register but for some
reason miss the webinar).
Your Family History takes place Thursday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m.
Eastern time (that's 6 p.m. Central, 5 p.m. Mountain and 4 p.m.
here to learn more and register!
Family Heirlooms | Photos | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, July 25, 2012 2:15:02 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Findmypast.com Officially Launches into US Genealogy Market
Posted by Diane
The findmypast.com website, part of British genealogy company
brightsolid, has been online for awhile now with US census records
including 1940, but brightsolid today announced the official launch of
In today's press release, brightsolid positioned itself as David to
market leader Ancestry.com's Goliath. From the release (you can read
the whole thing here):
“We’re not used to thinking of ourselves as small”, says
Chris van der Kuyl, CEO of brightsolid, the world’s second largest
genealogy company. “Our ambitions are big and the launch of findmypast.com is a major
market entry. The truth is that it’s a growing market, with plenty
of room for both of us.”
“We aim to become the go-to family history site, first for
Americans of British and Irish descent, and eventually for all
Americans”, says van der Kuyl.
Brightsolid's first product for the US market, the pay-per-view census site censusrecords.com, launched in February
in conjunction with FamilySearch's RootsTech conference.
Now brightsolid's US focus is on Findmypast.com, which will
offer family tree
building plus subscription or pay-as-you-go access to US
census, vital and military records; plus records from the UK,
Ireland and Australia.
Those overseas records will include UK censuses, English and Welsh
vital records, local parish records, UK passenger departure lists,
British military records, Irish vital records and British
about records coming to findmypast.com here.
Update: Findmypast.com has an introductory subscription offer of $4.95 per month for a World Subscription (normally $249.95 per year), which gives you access to all the aforementioned content.
Brightsolid, which has
18 million registered users across all its websites and more than a
billion genealogical records, boasted a growth rate last year of 75
percent. Last year, the British-focused findmypast.co.uk saw 4.5
million visits from outside Britain, with US residents supplying the
largest portion of those visits.
Following up on last
month's reports that Ancestry.com is seeking buyers,
brightsolid also used today's press release to squash any rumors
that it wants to acquire Ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com | Genealogy Industry | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 1:49:12 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, July 23, 2012
Behind the Scenes at "Antiques Roadshow"
Posted by Diane
The PBS series "Antiques Roadshow" was filming in Family Tree Magazine's hometown of Cincinnati on Saturday, and I
and our intern Jen were lucky enough to see what goes on behind the
Something like 37,000 people entered the lottery for
3,000 pairs of free tickets for the Cincinnati event—a show record, from
what I understand.
I'll write about the experience and my interview with "Antiques
Roadshow" producer Marsha Bemko in an upcoming Family Tree Magazine,
but we won't have room for all the photos I took. So I'm sharing some
of them here (you can see several on Facebook, too).
First, an overview: Here's the line of folks waiting for the
"triage" area, where each person got a ticket to see the pottery
or prints or folk art or other appraiser. The triage folks
would spot unique items and decide whether an item's appraisal
would be filmed. The person who brought it was sent directly to
the Green Room (off limits to press) until the appraisal took place.
Here's where those lines for various types of items converged.
Appraisals and filming happened in the screened area.
A big part of the day for guests was waiting in line.
These crew members are setting up to film an appraisal.
Here Wes Cowan, who's been with the show for years and also stars on
PBS' "History Detectives," examines a framed
photograph. Cowan is from Cincinnati, but appraisers came from
everywhere for the event.
We were invited to bring items for appraisal, too (and even lucky
enough to bypass the line in my first photo above), so I wrapped up this
glass bowl in plenty of bubble wrap. It was a
wedding gift to my great-grandparents in 1908, and I don't want to
be the one to break it.
The glassware appraiser told me it's called
a bride's basket, and this one's style actually dates it to earlier than 1908, from the
Victorian era. So it may have already been an heirloom when my great-grandmother received it. It's not worth much money, which is fine with my mom
and me—we want it to stay in our family forever. The appraisal was
over in a few minutes. I got the feeling the appraiser has seen a
lot of these.
Do want to make sure your family heirlooms are preserved for posterity? Here are some resources for you:
Family Heirlooms | Genealogy fun | saving and sharing family history
Monday, July 23, 2012 9:21:36 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, July 20, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, July 16-20
Posted by Diane
- Archives.com is sharing another one of its neat
infographics—this one about California in the 1940 census.
You'll learn interesting tidbits such as: The state had a
population of 6.9 million, Betty White was an 18-year-old in Los
Angeles, and a new Plymouth Coupe cost $645. You
can see the infographic on the Archives.com blog.
- An online name index is now available for the service records
of 320,000 WWI airmen in Britain's Royal Air Force (formed in
1918) and its forebears, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal
Naval Air Service. Read about
the index here and in
this post on the archives' blog.
I didn't find any search
instructions, so the method I discovered by trial and error is going
to the archives' catalog and selecting the All Collections
tab. Click the More Options link, then scroll down in that
window and check the Air Force box under Military. Type a
name into the search box and click the magnifying glass. You
might need to use the filters on the left to limit your results
to the AIR (Air Ministry and Royal Air Force) collection.
To browse, go to this
page on the British national archives website. Officers'
records are arranged by name; airmen records are arranged by
service number. Also see this
guide to finding records of airmen in the Royal Air Force.
Archives.com | census records | FamilySearch | UK and Irish roots
Friday, July 20, 2012 2:19:09 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Find Genealogy Research Bargains in our Summer Sizzler Sale
Posted by Diane
What to do while you're inside trying to beat the summer heat?
Why not learn more about how to do family history research? We'll
make it easier with our ShopFamilyTree.com
Summer Sizzler Sale: Now through Monday, July 23, you'll save
40 percent or more on genealogy how-to books, CDs, digital download
guides and video classes.
For example, you can pick up:
to check out these and other genealogy how-to bargains in our ShopFamilyTree.com
Summer Sizzler Sale.
Editor's Pick | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Thursday, July 19, 2012 9:51:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Latest FREE Family Tree Magazine Podcast Focuses on American Ancestors
Posted by Diane
Tune in to the July 2012 Family Tree Magazine Podcast for tips on
researching the genealogy of your American ancestors. Host Lisa Louise Cooke and Family Tree Magazine experts
You can listen to the free Family Tree Magazine Podcast through iTunes or
census records | immigration records | Military records | Podcasts | Research Tips
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 9:24:40 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, July 16, 2012
Finding Female Ancestors, Cloud Back-ups and Going to the Library: Tips From Our Online Genealogy Records Workshop
Posted by Diane
Participants in last week's How to
Research in Genealogy Records online workshop shared tips and
asked questions in daily chats about everything from researching
in libraries to backing up genealogy data.
Just for you, I smuggled out a bunch of tips on finding women ancestors, backing up your data in the cloud and preparing for a library research trip:
Finding female ancestors
For a hard-to-find female ancestor, go sideways by researching her children, husband, siblings and
Family Tree Magazine editor Allison Dolan
DeBartolo Carmack's advice from way back in our April 2001 issue:
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese said that the 'history of women cannot be
written without attention to women's relations with men in
general and with 'their' men in particular, nor without
attention to the other women of their society.' ... Those who successfully find the maiden
names and parents' names of female ancestors aren't focusing
their research efforts on just the woman in question."
Allison also shared her favorite
websites about women's history and genealogy:
Backing up your computer "in the cloud"
Online community editor Tyler Moss and Sunday chatters exchanged
ideas for cloud back-ups. He uses Dropbox, which offers 2GB of
free storeage plus more if you can get others to join the service.
Subscriptions start at 100GB for $9.99 per
To use Carbonite,
you pay a subscription fee (starting at $59
per year per computer) to have your computer automatically sync
with your backup on the cloud.
is a backup service that lets you start with a free 5GB account.
Google has some
storage options starting with 5GB of free space.
Tyler also shared this
on cloud storage systems from tech site Gizmodo.
Preparing for library research
In the chat I facilitated on genealogy research at
libraries and archives, folks shared what they bring with them to the
change for copiers, $1s or $5s in case I need to buy copy cards, a flash drive
for saving digital images if the library is
so equipped, notepad, pen, a snack (to be consumed
where permitted), catalog printouts for materials I want and any necessary
family tree info.
Others recommend a personal scanner or phone with a camera, laptop, sweater and sticky notes. Tyler even comes
prepared for long research sessions with a chair cushion.
Some libraries don't permit scanners, cameras, sticky notes or other items, so check the website or call ahead.
We were all impressed with one chatter's description of her master
genealogy to-do list: She keeps a spreadsheet with columns for
... and more. She can easily sort the list by library
name and priority. I need to try this!
- title of the item needed
- holding library
- catalog number
- format (book, microfilm, etc.)
- priority level
(high, medium, low)
Fall 2012 Virtual Conference
You, too, can take online genealogy classes from experts and be part of exclusive chats and message board discussions with other researchers—it'll all be part of Family Tree University’s Fall 2012 Virtual Conference, Sept. 14-16.
Learn more about the Virtual Conference on FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Female ancestors | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Monday, July 16, 2012 3:34:38 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)