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Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Chelsea Handler on "Who Do You Think You Are?": Tracing German Roots
Posted by Diane
From the beginning of last night's "Who Do You Think You Are?," Chelsea
Handler knew her mother's father had been a German soldier in
WWII. She just wanted to know the extent of his involvement. Her
Jewish heritage through her father's family heightened her
you missed the episode, you can watch it on the TLC website.
Leistungsbuch ("performance book") mentioned in yesterday's
post and seen here:
wasn't a military service record after all. Rather, it was a record
of the grandfather's scores in the Nazi party's Sports Badge Program, part of the
mandatory labor service program and a way to provide military-style
training without violating the Treaty of
A few things I liked about this episode:
Foreign archives and languages makes the
research in this episode more difficult for the average
person than Kelly Clarkson's Civil War research or Christina
Applegate's 20th-century research in New Jersey.
- It shows the importance of learning the historical context in
which your ancestors lived. Knowing about post-WWI life in Germany helped Handler understand why many Germans supported
Adolf Hitler when he first came to power. Finding out about her
grandfather's experience in the Camp Algona (Iowa) POW
camp revealed his likely motivation for later moving his family
- It showed a side of WWII history—the lives of ordinary Germans
during that era—that I didn't know much about.
- The WWII historian who met Handler on the beach, and who was there serving in the Army the day her grandfather was captured. I bet he could tell some stories!
But if your German ancestors, like mine, immigrated to America in the 1800s, church records will be your main source of information in Germany. Chances are you can find German church records yourself. I know this because the October/November 2013 Family Tree Magazine will have Rick Crume's step-by-step guide to German church records. I'll let you know when it's available.
Because so many Americans have German ancestry, we
have a number of German
genealogy guides in ShopFamilyTree.com:
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | German roots | Research Tips
Wednesday, August 07, 2013 11:29:12 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
New MyHeritage.com Website Helps You Treasure Old Family Photos
Posted by Diane
Family Tree Magazine's Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor has
partnered with MyHeritage on its Treasure Family
The site emphasizes the importance of preserving and sharing photos,
echoing the redesigned FamilySearch.org's focus on family photos.
From the MyHeritage Treasure Family Photos home page, you can:
You can see case studies of old
photos Maureen has researched for Family Tree Magazine
readers on our Photo Detective Blog.
- Search a database of photos attached to MyHeritage.com
members' family trees (you need a MyHeritage.com data
subscription or credits to see full details from the tree)
- Watch a video with tips from Maureen
- Start an online family tree to help you organize your photos
- Upload photos to MyHeritage.com
- Find links to websites with photo craft projects you can do
with your kids (one of these is our Family
Tree Kids photo magnet project)
- Get tips for preserving and scanning your photos (MyHeritage
also has partnered with batch scanning service ScanCafe, which is
offering 25 percent off to MyHeritage visitors)
And there's even more advice for identifying,
dating and preserving old photos in her book Family Photo
Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and
Solve Family Photo Mysteries.
Genealogy Web Sites | MyHeritage | Photos
Wednesday, August 07, 2013 9:08:04 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
FTU Virtual Genealogy Conference Early Bird Deadline Is Friday!
Posted by Diane
I've enjoyed the classes and interaction during previous Family Tree
University virtual genealogy conferences—not to mention that I can
"attend" from my desk chair at work, or the sofa at home.
can't wait for the next one, taking place Sept. 13-15 on a computer near you.
2013 Family Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference
brings together video classes from some of the most recognizable
names in genealogy—including Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, D.
Joshua Taylor of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and TV's upcoming
"Genealogy Roadshow," and Judy G. Russell of the Legal Genealogist
blog—with lively participant interaction via chats and a message
The early-bird registration deadline sure snuck up: Enter code
FALLVCEARLY to save $50 on your conference registration, but the
code is good only through Friday, Aug. 9.
Here's the list of video classes offered in three tracks. For
descriptions, chat schedule and more Virtual Genealogy Conference
information, see FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
- Finding Photos of Your Family History
by Nancy Hendrickson
Digital Filing for your Genealogy
by Denise May Levenick
Essential Apps for Genealogists
by Lisa Louise Cooke
Finding Passenger Lists Online
by Lisa A. Alzo
Timesaving Tools to Automate Your Genealogy Research
by Rick Crume
Cool Tools for Creating Timelines
by Gena Philibert-Ortega
Money-Saving Strategies for Frugal Family Historians
by Gena Philibert-Ortega
Same Name, Same Place: How to Tell It’s Your Ancestor
by D. Joshua Taylor
Evaluating Your Sources
by Sunny Jane Morton
Analyzing Ancestral Tombstones
by Diana Smith
Hints for Solving Migration Mysteries
by Sunny Jane Morton
Courthouse Research Tips and Tricks
by Judy G. Russell
Guide to German Church Records
by Rick Crume
Strategies for Tracing Colonial Immigrants
by D. Joshua Taylor
Seeking Your Scots-Irish Roots
by Donna Moughty
Find Your Irish Famine-Era Ancestors by Donna Moughty
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Videos
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 1:55:06 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tonight on "Who Do You Think You Are?": Chelsea Handler's Roots in Nazi Germany
Posted by Diane
This evening's "Who Do
You Think You Are?" promises to reveal more disturbing family
news from the not-too-distant past (we blogged last week about the
troubled life of Christina Applegate's grandmother).
This teaser for tonight's episode gives you a glimpse of actress and
talk show host Chelsea Handler's quest for information about
her German grandparents' involvement with the Nazi regime:
The booklet you see in the clip is titled Leistungsbuch, which
translates to "performance book." Possibly a German military record?
I guess we'll find out tonight.
Watch this season's "Who Do You Think You Are?" at 9/8 central on
TLC. (And if you have other plans or don't have cable, TLC has been
putting full episodes on the
show's website the next day.)
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | German roots
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 11:47:50 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, August 02, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, July 29-Aug. 2
Posted by Diane
- WikiTree, a free family tree
wiki, has added a new feature that helps you determine how genetic
genealogy could aid your research. It can be difficult to figure out
which test will best answer your genealogical question, and which
relatives need to take the test. Now on WikiTree, you can choose a
commercially available DNA test from a dropdown menu, and the wiki
shows you which ancestors you can learn about from taking that test.
The feature highlights when a genealogical puzzle could be solved by
taking a test, which test would help, and who should take it. See
the press release about WikiTree's new DNA feature here.
- FamilySearch has added more than 1.1 million index records and
record images to the free record search at FamilySearch.org. They
come from Belgium, Nicaragua, Spain and the United States. Those
with North Carolina ancestors will be particularly pleased to see
searchable estate files and marriages from that state. I also
thought the US National register of Scientific and Technical
Personnel Files (1954-1970) looked interesting, though I didn't find
any relatives in it.
can link to FamilySearch's new and updated databases from here.
Cemeteries | FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Friday, August 02, 2013 2:21:17 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Tips to Get Ready for a Genealogy Research Trip
Posted by Diane
Genealogists including yours truly are headed to Fort Wayne, Ind.,
Aug. 21-24 for the Federation
of Genealogical Societies (FGS) annual conference.
Fort Wayne's Allen
County Public Library Genealogy Center, of course, has
the top public library genealogy collection in the United States.
Its resources cover not only Indiana, but also the entire United
States and even beyond.
I'm not sure how much genealogy research I'll get to do there, with
getting into town at the last second and leaving as soon as the
conference concludes. But I'm doing a little prep work in case
I can sneak over to the library during the Genealogy
Center's extended research hours.
I'm using materials from our Genealogist's
Research Trip Value Pack for help getting ready:
- The Genealogist's Research Trip Planner ebook with guides to
visiting popular genealogy research destinations such as
courthouses, cemeteries, the Family History Library and
FamilySearch Centers, plus advice for packing, saving money and
- two of our popular pocket references: The Family Tree Pocket
Reference and The Genealogist's US History Pocket Reference
- the easily searchable, printable and portable Family Tree
Magazine 2012 Annual CD
Here's the binder
stuffed with my stuff; it will come to you with the notepad but
otherwise empty and ready for your stuff.
- a sturdy padded binder where I can keep my online catalog printouts of materials I want
to view, along with notes about the people I'm searching
for in each resource. There's an included notebook, plus pockets for
pens and pencils and my handy ruler/magnifier.
As a bonus, The Genealogist's
Research Trip Value Pack comes with a 25 percent off coupon to our
Organize Your Research With Evernote on-demand webinar.
The Genealogy Center is super-strong in its collection of family and
local histories, so I'll use the online catalog to find any I should
check while there (many
also are digitized at FamilySearch.org, for those of you
watching from home).
Another helpful tool is this
web page listing the Genealogy Center's resources by place,
with call numbers.
I hope to use the library computers to search PERSI. PERSI, aka
the Periodical Source Index, indexes genealogy and history
journals published in the US and Canada for the past 200 years.
Genealogy Center staff create PERSI from periodicals at the
library, so it'll be easy to request copies of articles while I'm
more about PERSI here, and how you'll soon be able to search it at
Will you be at FGS, too? Stop by to see us in booth 519! Get an exhibit hall
map and a directory of exhibitors here.
Editor's Pick | Research Tips
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 1:10:45 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Tips to Find the Genealogy Records Christina Applegate Used
Posted by Diane
Last's night's "Who Do You Think You Are?" with Christina Applegate
is a good example of how much you can learn even if you start with very
little information. All she had to begin her search for her
paternal grandmother was her father Robert's birth certificate and his
Robert thought he remembered a few other details, such as when his
mother died, but those vague memories turned out to be wrong. At one
point he even said "I thought I was older."
Yes, I teared up at the end of the show when Robert
appeared devastated to learn of the violence in his parents'
marriage and his mother's death caused by tuberculosis and
alcoholism. And then when Christina comforted him by pointing out how he's
had a positive life despite having every reason not to. And again when he left flowers at his
mother's grave, knowing she had wanted him buried by her side.
Genealogy can be healing.
Documents consulted in the episode include:
I liked how the archivists helped Applegate examine documents for clues beyond just
names and ages. In the 1940 census, for example, they looked at the
years of schooling for each household member as well as the months
out of work. They put those details into the context of the lingering
Great Depression and what that meant for the family.
- Birth, marriage and death certificates. Almost all states had mandated
keeping these by the early-to-mid-20th century. (A few leave
marriage records to counties.) They're generally available from
state vital records offices, but often access is limited to immediate family for
privacy reasons. Download
our free chart of statewide vital record-keeping dates from
If you missed the episode, keep
an eye on the "Who Do You Think You Are?" website for a link to
watch it online.
To find Family Tree Magazine guides and video classes for doing genealogy research in vital records, the census, newspapers and other records, visit ShopFamilyTree.com. You can use the search box at the top of the site or browse the Genealogy Records category.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | census records | court records | Newspapers | Research Tips | Vital Records
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 10:15:01 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
It's "Who Do You Think You Are?" Night!
Posted by Diane
Remember to sit yourself down in front of the TV or set your DVR
tonight for "Who
Do you Think You Are?" with actress Christina Applegate. It
airs at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central) on TLC (and it looks like each
episode will become available for viewing online).
I look forward to Tuesdays now not just because genealogy's on TV, but also because I get to pick what we watch. "It's for work" is a pretty good excuse.
In this preview video for the episode, Applegate is surprised to
learn her grandparents had a troubled relationship and separated
before her father was born.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Videos
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 9:29:59 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, July 29, 2013
The Mystery Men in the Family Plot: Turning Genealogy Clues Into Answers
Posted by Diane
More than a year ago, I visited my great-great-grandparents'
family cemetery plot in Cincinnati. I knew who would be buried there: besides my great-grandparents
H. A. and Frances Seeger and six of their children, there were
Frances' parents, Joseph and A. Marie Ladenkotter.
But when I got there, I also found these two guys:
Who were Joseph and John Dierkes?
My search for their identities involved using online and offline clues,
as Lisa Alzo suggests in our Turn
Online Clues Into Ancestor Answers webinar.
Clue No. 1
Lisa advises formulating a theory to explain a genealogical
problem. After comparing the Dierkes boys' birth years to those of
the Ladenkotter girls, I theorized that the boys were A. Marie's sons from a previous marriage. But they also could've been her much younger brothers, or nephews to her or Joseph Ladenkotter, or even nonrelatives.
I noted that a Joseph and a John Dierkes lived
in the Ladenkotter household in the 1850 and 1860 census. Besides
my great-great-grandmother Frances Ladenkotter (really Francisca), born in
1852, there was an Elizabeth Ladenkotter, born in 1846.
My census searches for other Dierkes in Cincinnati turned up
lots of results. I gave up looking at them; there was no way to
tell if any of them were related to John and Joseph.
Clue No. 2
I put on my big-girl genealogist pants and
searched the 1840 census. That census is scary because it names
only heads of household. Everyone else was counted within age ranges, so it's hard to tell if you've found the right family. (We have a video
class about how to research in the 1840 and earlier censuses.)
I found a household for a Joseph Dierkes, containing a male
aged 30-39 (that's Joseph) and a female age 30-39. A. Marie
was born in May 1812, according to her gravestone, so she would be
28 when the 1840 census was taken June 1. That and the faded
census return made this not a slam dunk.
Clue No. 3
Haphazard web searches led me to the Hamilton County Genealogical
Society's (HCGS) online marriage
index, with information found in newspaper notices, church
records, probate court records and reconstructed court records
(there was an 1884
riot at the courthouse). An Anna Maria Dirkers and a Joseph
Ladenkotter married between 1840 and 1849, according to church
The printed book from which the online index came gave the exact marriage date, May 4, 1845. If the Dierkes boys were A. Marie's sons from a previous
marriage, this marriage date would fall nicely into a gap between
the children's birth years.
Clue No. 4
If Dierkes (or Dirkers) was Anna Maria's maiden name, the boys were probably her relatives, not sons.
I requested the marriage record from the church.
A volunteer sent me the information from the record
(the books are too old and fragile to copy)—the marriage place and
date, the priest's name, and the names of two witnesses, Herman
Henrik Meyer and Maria Hinken. No name other than Dirkers for the bride, although those
witnesses could be related.
Clue No. 5
I felt stuck. There was more haphazard
searching. Then I found an entry for Anna Maria Ladenkötter
in HCGS online death
indexes from newspapers. I noticed a name several blank
columns away: Weyer. I held my breath and scrolled all the way up
the page. Yes, this was a maiden name column. I hadn't thought about a
death notice giving a maiden name.
The notice was from microfilmed German-language
newspapers. Through the HCGS website, I found a researcher
familiar with German and hired him to get a copy. Eight death notices (I got other
relatives' notices while I was at it) ended up
costing about $50, worth it for something that would've taken me all day and maybe then some. He could have translated
them, too, but I wanted to try it.
I'm still working on that, but it's easy to tell the notice gives the name as "Anna Maria
Ladenkötter geb. Weyer." Geb. is an abbreviation of the German word for "born."
betting that male witness to her 1845 marriage is really Herman
John and Joseph Dierkes are very likely Anna Maria Weyer's
sons from her first marriage. What would really clinch this—here's
where my strategy for turning
these online clues into ancestor answers comes in—is to find
her marriage record to Joseph Dierkes, death notices for Joseph
Dierkes (naming his survivors) or the boys (I have scoured
the HCGS index for these, to no avail), and/or baptismal records
for the Dierkes boys.
... And More Questions
I also want to learn why the boys died (just a few years before
Cincinnati birth and death registers began). Civil War, I thought,
but I can't find them in the Soldiers
and Sailors Database or other Civil War records. That's
another genealogical problem to tackle.
The recording of our Turning
Online Clues into Ancestor Answers webinar will be available soon in ShopFamilyTree.com.
You'll also find online genealogy research strategies in the book Discover Your Family History Online by Nancy Hendrickson.
Cemeteries | Research Tips | Webinars
Monday, July 29, 2013 11:36:43 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, July 26, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, July 22-26
Posted by Diane
- Royal genealogy has been a hot topic on the interwebs since
the birth of Prince George of Cambridge Monday bumped his Uncle
Prince Harry out of the No. 3 spot in the line
of successtion to the British throne. MyHeritage
has the Royal Family Tree here. I found the Modern View
easier to use; you can use the tabs at the bottom of the page to
toggle between this and the Classic View. Click on a person to
see details about him or her on the left.
- Ancestry.com has updated its free Shoebox Mobile App
(for Android and iPhone), acquired along with 1000memories in
2012. The photo "scanning" app lets you take high-quality photos
of your family photos and documents, map their location, and
edit, date, and tag them. If you have an Ancestry Member Tree,
you can then upload the images to the profile of someone in your
tree. Learn more about
the app here.
Ancestry.com | Celebrity Roots | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Jewish roots | MyHeritage | Photos
Friday, July 26, 2013 11:10:33 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)