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# Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Your Ancestor's Immigration Experience and the Ellis Island Myth
Posted by Diane

Many of the guests on last night's "Genealogy Roadshow," filmed in Detroit, had done their own research into family history claims. I love to see all that genealogical interest, and the impact that family history knowledge can have on someone.

The young woman at the center of my favorite story was adopted as part of an open adoption. She knew a lot about her white birth mother's family tree, and little about her African-American birth father's family. All four parents were with her as Kenyatta Berry took her back in time along her paternal line. 

Among the other stories was a woman whose English ancestors founded a royal bookstore that still exists today—but later in that line, a physician ancestor went to jail for murder. The final guest learned she was in fact related to Ponce de Leon.

One thing that surprised me in this episode was the show's handling of a guest's tale of his family name change at Ellis Island, a common belief.

Taylor told the man (I'm paraphrasing) that Ellis Island arrivals were brought into a room with a clerk at a desk, and the clerk may not have spoken the languages of the immigrants. When the clerk asked the passenger's name, he would write down what he'd heard, which often wasn't the spelling the passenger used.

He made it pretty clear that Ellis Island officials didn't deliberately change passenger names because they were hard to pronounce or not American enough.

I've always read, though, that passenger lists were created by shipping line agents at ports of departure, and turned over to US officials after arrival here. US immigrant inspectors would then check off the passengers' names on those lists—they didn't write down any names. Ellis Island also employed translators in a wide range of languages to speak with immigrants. TV shows are often heavily edited, so what was actually said could've been quite different from what ended up on screen.

You can read more about the Ellis Island name-change myth in this article by Marian L. Smith, a historian at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the Citizenship and Immigration Service). The New York Public Library has a similar article, with details about how passenger lists were created.

Update: Here's a statement from Josh clarifying his comments on the show.

Many immigrants, like the one in question on last night's show, changed their own names after arrival. Someone could do this legally, but more often, people would just start using the new name.

Two good resources for learning about your ancestor's immigration experience are
Also keep an eye out for the December 2013 Family Tree Magazine, which will have a workbook to help you find your ancestors on passenger lists. Also check out these immigration research resources.

You can watch last night's "Genealogy Roadshow" here. Next week's episode takes us to San Francisco. I'm hoping to see some Gold Rush stories!


Genealogy TV | immigration records
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 2:34:56 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
How the Government Shutdown Impacts Genealogists
Posted by Diane

The government shutdown means that some of you who had big genealogy research or historical travel plans are up a creek:
US mail will still be delivered, so research requests sent to non-federal repositories won't be affected.

For the sake of those more profoundly affected and for genealogists' sake, let's hope this gets resolved soon.


Land records | Libraries and Archives | Museums | NARA
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 9:09:51 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Monday, September 30, 2013
Ancestry.com Acquires Find A Grave
Posted by Diane

We just received an announcement that online genealogy company Ancestry.com has purchased Find A Grave, the site with the largest database of free burial information and photos contributed by volunteers.

Find A Grave will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ancestry.com, and will continue to be managed by its founder, Jim Tipton.

I already hear people asking if the site will remain free. Yes, says Ancestry.com president Tim Sullivan. From the press release:
"We will maintain Find A Grave as a free website, will retain its existing policies and mode of operation, and look forward to working with Jim Tipton and the entire Find A Grave team to accelerate the development of tools designed to make it even easier for the Find A Grave community to fulfill its original mission to capture every tombstone on Earth.”
I've found family tombstone photos on Find A Grave, and you probably have, too. The 18-year-old site has 100 million memorials to deceased people, and 75 million photos, a significant addition to Ancestry.com's content.

Ancestry.com plans for Find A Grave include a mobile app for uploading cemetery photos (Billion Graves, another cemetery website, has one), improved customer support, an easier editing of already-submitted memorials and foreign-language support.

This isn't the first time Ancestry.com has acquired a free, grassroots genealogy site: You may remember back in 2000, when the company (then called MyFamily.com) purchased RootsWeb. In 2008, RootsWeb was moved onto Ancestry.com servers.

We'll bring you more details as we learn them.
 
 Update: Here's an FAQ on the acquisition from Tipton, who says he realized "Find A Grave had gotten too big to run it as I always have and I also realized that I might not be around some day ... and I wanted to make sure it had a stable home, while still retaining control over how it evolves. But ... I'm hoping this gives me the opportunity to do so many of the things that I've always wanted to do with the site now that I have some real resources behind me."
 


Ancestry.com | Cemeteries
Monday, September 30, 2013 4:27:50 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Friday, September 27, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Sept. 23-27
Posted by Diane

  • Origins.net and the Devon Wills Project have compiled a free index of pre-1858 Devon wills, administrations and inventories. Most of the records indexed here were destroyed during World War II in 1942, according to the site, so "the overall aim of this index is to create a finding-aid to enable the researcher to determine what probate materials were originally recorded." You'll get source information for any surviving documents that match your search.  The Devon Wills Project, 1312-1891 is searchable free at Origins.net
  • The free FamilySearch.org records collection has grown by 192 million indexed records and record images from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, the United States and Wales. Notable US additions include Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933. See the full list of new and updated collections and click through to search or browse them from the FamilySearch News and Press Blog.
  • Subscription genealogy site findmypast.com has launched an Irish Newspaper Collection of nearly 2 million searchable Irish newspaper articles dating as far back as the early-to-mid 1800s . The papers come from the British Library and include The Belfast Morning News, The Belfast Newsletter, The Cork Examiner, The Dublin Evening Mail, The Freeman’s Journal and The Sligo Champion. The collection is available on findmypast.com and with a World subscription on findmypast.com international sites.


Canadian roots | FamilySearch | Free Databases | International Genealogy | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, September 27, 2013 2:29:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Why We Celebrate Oktoberfest in September
Posted by Diane


It's a question that burns inside my brain this time every year: Why is Oktoberfest celebrated in September?

Here in "Zinzinnati," where German roots run deep, we've already had our Oktoberfest. Our neighbors across the river in Kentucky have one this weekend. In Munich, Germany, home of the first and largest Oktoberfest, the two-week party wraps up the first weekend in October.

The first Oktoberfest celebrated the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810.

So why September? I finally decided to look it up. In turns out the informal roots of Oktoberfest started back in the 15th century, with beer, according to the German Beer Institute.

The brewing season in Bavaria ran from October to March. Beer brewed during the hot season tasted bad, so in late winter, brewers would work extra hard to make enough beer to last all summer. The high alcohol content and storage in casks in cool cellars and caves would preserve it. (You can get all the technical details on the German Beer Institute's site.)

After the summer's grain was harvested, brewers needed to empty those casks to make room for the October start of the brewing season. People were happy to help.

In 1810, by the date the royal wedding made Oktoberfest official, there wasn't much beer left. Horse racing was the main event there, and Prince Ludwig repeated the races every year on his anniversary. Over the years, the festival was extended and combined with finishing off the March beers, evolving into today's party attended by millions around the world.

Proud of your German heritage? Learn more about those roots with our Boost Your German Genealogy Value Pack, on sale for more than 20 percent off in ShopFamilyTree.com.


German roots | Social History
Friday, September 27, 2013 10:06:59 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, September 26, 2013
Unpuzzling Your Ancestors' County Boundary Changes
Posted by Diane



Figuring out your US ancestors' county boundaries can be like doing a puzzle with pieces that keep changing size and shape.

If one of your ancestral families settled early in what's now Morrow county in central Ohio, for example, they conceivably could've resided in—count 'em up—seven different counties without moving an inch: 
  • Morrow County was formed March 1, 1848, from Crawford, Knox, Marion, Delaware and Richland counties. (A small area went back to Richland County the next year.)

  • Marion County, formed April 1, 1820, from a "non-county" area that was attached to Delaware County (it remained attached to Delaware County for administrative purposes until 1924)

  • Delaware County, formed April 1, 1808, from part of Franklin County

  • Franklin County, formed April 30, 1803, from Ross and a non-county area; it overlapped Wayne county

  • Ross County, formed Aug. 20, 1798, from Adams, Hamilton and Washington counties

  • Adams County, formed July 10, 1797, from Hamilton and Washington counties

  • Hamilton County is one of Ohio's original counties, formed Jan. 2, 1790, from the Northwest Territory. It expanded in 1792 with more Northwest Territory and Washington County land.

That's seven different counties that could hold your family's genealogy records. And this isn't even the most convoluted example of how counties would annex land, get carved up, change their borders and switch county seats.

Our Unpuzzling County Boundary Changes webinar will show you how to figure out where your ancestor's records should be during what time periods, using tools such as the Newberry Library's Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, gazetteers, the Map Guide to the US Federal Censuses, 1790-1820, and more.

The Unpuzzling County Boundary Changes webinar takes place Thursday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. ET (6 CT, 5 MT, and 4 PT). Everyone who registers will receive a PDF of the presentation slides and access to view the webinar again as often as you want.

And if you register before  Oct. 10, you'll save $10. Learn more about the Unpuzzling County Boundary Changes webinar here.



court records | Research Tips | Webinars
Thursday, September 26, 2013 10:13:54 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Genealogy Roadshow Dispels Myths, Tells (Short) Stories
Posted by Diane

Did you watch "Genealogy Roadshow" on PBS last night?

It's easy to see the "Antiques Roadshow" styling: "Genealogy Roadshow" had the lines of people waiting to get in, the onlookers watching the expert consultations, a host, a break to take in a few minutes of local history (of the Belmont Mansion, where the episode was filmed), and the guests' surprised expressions.

I loved how the audience members leaned in to hear what genealogists D. Joshua Taylor and Kenyatta Berry had to say about the guests' family claims.

I loved how twice, another person related to the story emerged from the audience to meet the surprised guest.

And I loved how Taylor and Berry quickly dismissed several common family claims, such as being related to Davy Crockett, George Washington (who had no known descendants) or Jimmy Carter. They always offered a bright side: The husband of the woman who wasn't related to Davy Crockett had a Revolutionary War ancestor, for example, making their children eligible for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Here, we share six common genealogy myths you'll want to avoid as you trace your family tree.

A couple of wishes regarding "Genealogy Roadshow":
  • The show was fast-paced, so there were times I wanted more and slower visual aids to explain the connections researchers had uncovered. We saw family trees in some cases, but the show zoomed through them pretty quickly.
  • I wished to spend more time on some stories. An African-American woman learned from a letter discovered at an archive that she really is related to white Tennessee governor Austin Peay. But who wrote the letter, and why?

    And I just wanted to hear more about the African-American family who learned their enslaved ancestor, Dinah Bell, was brought from South Carolina to Tennessee. A dozen or so family members of all ages were hanging on Taylor's every word, and you could see how much the information meant to them.
That story; the one about the tender photo of Lafayette Cox, an African-American man, holding the little boy of the family he worked for; and the story of Sarah Jones, a young woman who had never met her father, were my favorites.

You can watch the Nashville episode of Genealogy Roadshow online.

I can't wait to see next week's show, set in Detroit!

Do your own genealogy detective work to sort out family stories with help from Family History Detective: A Step-By-Step Guide to Tracing Your Family History and  The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried and True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors.



African-American roots | Genealogy TV | Research Tips
Tuesday, September 24, 2013 12:04:03 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, September 20, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Sept. 16-20
Posted by Diane

  • The National Genealogical Society is conducting a survey for those who've attended one of its conferences, purchased one of its publications or signed up for one of its courses. Both members and nonmembers are invited to respond. You can take the survey here.


Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | MyHeritage
Friday, September 20, 2013 3:46:58 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, September 18, 2013
"Genealogy Roadshow" Sept. 23 Debut Investigates Family Stories in Nashville
Posted by Diane

I've already told my husband he's kicked out of the family room for Monday night football next week: That's when the new "Genealogy Roadshow" premieres on PBS.

This four-episode series has hosts Kenyatta Berry and D. Joshua Taylor revealing the truth behind participants' family stories in front of a live audience, which should bring a fun energy to the show. (I chuckled at this take on the Genealogy Roadshow format.)

Monday's episode was filmed at the Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Tenn. One guest is David Miles Vaughn, who's been doing genealogy for five years and wants to know if his family is really related to Davy Crockett—a tale he'd always heard growing up.

Genealogy Roadshow premieres Monday, Sept. 23, at 9/8 Central on PBS. Future episodes are set in San Francisco, Detroit, and Austin, Texas.


Genealogy TV
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 4:31:39 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Is Your Family History Archive Ready for a Disaster?
Posted by Diane

My current family disaster plan is this:
  1. Remember where in the house the kids are.
  2. Run to get them.
  3. Yell for husband and dog.
  4. Leave house (or run to basement, depending what's coming).
  5. Grab purse on the way out.
Notice there's no room for photos or genealogy in this procedure. Most of that stuff backed up online, although for a lot of it, I'd have to look up where to retrieve it. And it sure would be nice, once people and pets are safe, to be able to save our important family papers and photos.

But let's face it: "Do the dishes or we'll be forced to eat cereal with our fingers" trumps "Prepare family papers for a terrible disaster that with any luck won't ever happen" on my to-do list.



Seeing the recent devastating floods in Colorado and fires in California has made me reconsider this non-plan for my family history materials. Before the end of the year, I want to 
  • organize my paper research, documents and photos in one place (using these hints from our interview with Eric Pourchot of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works)

  • digitize everything that can be digitized (hear scanning tips from Family Curator Denise Levenick in this Family Tree Magazine Podcast)

  • make sure it's all backed up and easily accessible

  • share everything with family so multiple copies exist
Would you like to take similar steps to protect your family archive? Our Genealogist's Disaster Preparedness Kit can show you (and me) how to do it. It includes:
  • our Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists webinar with Denise Levenick (it takes place Sept. 25, and you'll receive the webinar recording even if you can't attend the Sept. 25 presentation)
  • How to Archive Family Keepsakes book by Denise Levenick
  • Genealogy in the Cloud how-to article
The Genealogist's Disaster Preparedness Kit is on sale for September, which is National Preparedness Month.

You also can just register for the Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists webinar here.


saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 4:07:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]