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Thursday, February 13, 2014
8 "Next Steps" For Starting Your Genealogy
Posted by Diane
This week, I had the pleasure of Skyping with a class of sixth
graders working on a genealogy project. Here's a photo their teacher Tweeted:
They'd already interviewed family members and done some research
into census records, so after talking a little bit about how I got
interested in genealogy and answering their questions, I suggested
some "next steps" they could take.
We had to stop before I could really unleash my inner genealogy geek
(lucky for my captive young audience!). I'll add to the list here for you
with tips from our Family
History Starter Kit.
I think these tips work for all ages, whether
you're starting from scratch or you've done a little genealogy and you want to
make sure you covered these steps:
- Look around your house (or your parents' or another relative's
house, with permission) for "home sources": old photos, letters,
yearbooks, military discharge papers, etc.
- Try to find a relative in World War I draft registration
records. This draft captured about 23 percent of the US
population in 1917 and 1918; all men living in the United States
between the ages of roughly 18 and 45 had to apply. That means
if you had relatives in the United States at that time, there's
a good chance you'll find someone. WWI
draft records are free on FamilySearch.org. (And with the
centennial of the start of World War I coming up, it's a good
time to learn about the experiences of ancestors of that era.)
- Find an old map of the place your family lived, and see if you
can locate their home and where they went to school or work. It
gives you a picture of the neighborhood and helps you see how
it's changed. The David
Rumsey website has a huge collection of maps you can
search by place and download for free (registration is required
for very high-resolution versions).
- Go to the library in your ancestor's hometown or visit the
website and browse the local history and genealogy collection.
All libraries are different, but you might find old city
directories (which are like telephone books, not that today's
grade schoolers remember those), newspapers, books about the
area, surname files of papers related to particular families,
indexes to local records and more.
In the general genealogy advice category, I would add:
- Search for relatives' graves in sites like Find A Grave, Interment.net and BillionGraves. Also look
for death information in the Social Security Death Index, also
free on FamilySearch.
- Run a place search of the FamilySearch
online catalog so you an see what type of records are
available for the places your family lived. See what's digitized
for free at FamilySearch.org
for those places, too. Continue your place-based research by
exploring the USGenWeb Project
state and county pages for places your family lived.
- Make a family tree chart so you can see how everyone in your
family fits together. You can do this on paper on a
five-generation pedigree chart, in a genealogy software
program, or on a family tree-building website. There are many
websites where you can build a family tree (usually, for free),
Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, Geni, and Tribal Pages. Find other
options listed at
- Start a research log with your genealogy to-do list of records
you want to look up and databases you want to search. A
spreadsheet works well for this, and you can note the record,
ancestor's name, repository or website, and other pertinent
- Gather information not only on parents, grandparents,
great-grandparents, etc. (your ancestors), but also on aunts,
uncles and cousins (your collateral relatives). Collateral
relatives' records could have information about your ancestors,
and they'll help you find distant relatives who are still
- Keep track of where you found each piece of new genealogy information. Write down the type of record; title of the microfilm, book, or online collection and website where you found it; author and publisher (a person and/or an organization); date and place of publication; the page number with the information; and date you accessed the website (if applicable).
What "next steps" and general advice would you suggest for a beginning genealogist?
History Starter Kit is great for folks who want to start
researching their family history or who've done a little genealogy
and aren't sure what to do next. The collection of how-to books,
downloads and printed lessons have a friendly approach that guides
you through those first steps—they're full of tips you can start
using right away to discover your family history. Learn
more about it here.
Genealogy for kids | Research Tips | Social Networking
Thursday, February 13, 2014 9:46:08 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Free Black History Records on Fold3 & More African-American Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane
In honor of Black
History Month this month, genealogy website Fold3 is offering
free access to its Black History Collection of records through the
end of February. That includes:
You'll need to register
for a Basic Fold3 membership in order to view records. Here's the
Fold3 blog post about this offer.
- Washington, DC court slave and emancipation records
- South Carolina estate inventories and bills of sale (1732-1872)
- US Colored Troops Civil War service records
- Southern Claims Commission records (which also mention
nonAfrican-Americans who made claims against the federal
government for property lost during the Civil War)
- War Department Military Intelligence Division records on
- ... and more titles.
Looking for other resources and records for tracing African-American
ancestors? Here are several other sites we like (the last three are
more how-to focused; the ones before that are more records-focused):
Learn how to research African-American roots during and after
slavery in Family Tree University's Finding
African-Americans in Newspapers four-week online course with
instructor Tim Pinnick. It starts Feb. 24—learn
You'll find our African-American genealogy guides in ShopFamilyTree.com.
African-American roots | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 1:22:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, February 07, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: RootsTech 2014 Edition
Posted by Diane
FamilySearch's RootsTech conference, going on through Saturday in
Salt Lake City, kicked off its Friday with a dynamic keynote
address by the Legal Genealogist Judy Russell. She started with an
archivist's statement that oral family history can be lost in just
three generations, because it isn't purposely and accurately passed
the exact quote on Judy's blog). The recording isn't yet
available on the RootsTech website, but it will be.
Remember that you can watch live streamed presentations on the RootsTech.org home page, too. (Try switching browsers if you just see a black screen. I had to switch to Chrome from my usual Firefox.)
Yesterday, I posted news
from FamilySearch, including a new obituary indexing
initiative and free access to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage and
findmypast.com at Family History Centers (and, for members of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from home).
Here are a few more news items:
- Subscription/pay-per-view website findmypast.com is
restructuring its subscription offerings to include a one-month
option. A one-month US subscription for $9.95, which includes
all records from the USA. A one month World subscription costs
$19.95, which includes access to records from around the world.
- Subscription genealogy site MyHeritage
has added 815 million US public records of US residents to its
SuperSearch. This compilation was assembled from telephone
directories, property tax assessments, credit applications,
voter registration lists and other records available to the
public. The information spans the last five decades, making it
helpful for finding living relatives. Read
more on the MyHeritage blog.
- Mocavo has added 20,000 new
databases, bringing its database count to more than 250,000.
They're free to access if you search one database at a time (find them listed here).
To view match details when you run a search across all
databases, you must be a premium member ($7 or $9 per month).
One thing you can do is search all databases for an ancestor,
view the match "snippets" for promising-looking records, note
the databases they're in, then go to the database listings and
search the ones you need.
If you want to see what it's like to be at RootsTech, Randy
Seaver at Genea-Musings is posting detailed daily reports
(including links to posts by other bloggers who are at the
conference), as is Miriam
Robbins at AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors.
- In a low-fanfare breakfast with a small group of bloggers and
media, representatives from subscription site Ancestry.com said that records
of Mexico and Germany are an area of content focus, among other
plans. I'll once again send you the extremely thorough Ancestry
Insider for additional details.
- RootsMagic, maker of RootsMagic software, just launched a
RootsMagic app for Android devices. You can access your
RootsMagic files, explore your tree, view all your RootsMagic
data and more. Read about
the RootsMagic app here, and download it here.
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | MyHeritage
Friday, February 07, 2014 4:20:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, February 06, 2014
FamilySearch Launches Obituary Indexing Effort & More News From RootsTech
Posted by Diane
FamilySearch held a media dinner last night before the start of the
RootsTech conference. The
Ancestry Insider has a great report on the key points. A few I'd like to highlight:
- This fourth-annual RootsTech has about 8,000
registrants. After the conference, 622 locations around the
world will hold events featuring recorded RootsTech sessions.
- FamilySearch is launching an effort to index 100 million
newspaper obituaries this year. A pirate named Capt. Jack Starling is
apparently roaming around the conference in promotion of this
effort, so don't be surprised if you see him popping up in your
Facebook news feeds.
Salt Lake Tribune has an article here with more on FamilySearch's
- Ancestry.com, findmypast and MyHeritage, each of which has
strategic partnerships with FamilySearch, will be free to use at
FamilySearch Centers. Each website also has plans to let users
transfer information between a tree on that site and a
FamilySearch family tree.
Update: According to blogger Dick Eastman, members of the LDS church (which operates FamilySearch) will receive free in-home access to these commercial sites.
In other RootsTech news, FamilySearch announced the winners of its
annual developer challenge, which rewards the most
innovative new concepts to family history. They are Genealogy
Systems LLC's Find-A-Record,
a searchable index of record collections (so far, mostly on
from Eclipse Identity Recognition Corp.; and the Saving Memories Forever
story-saving app. Read
more about the winners here.
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | findmypast | Genealogy Events | MyHeritage
Thursday, February 06, 2014 11:15:04 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Findmypast.com Adds PERSI Genealogical Index
Posted by Diane
Was it really more than six months ago that
subscription/pay-per-view genealogy website findmypast.com
announced it planned to add the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) to
its databases—and better yet, link each entry to an image of
the original article it refers to? Time flies!
now can search PERSI on findmypast.com. If you hover over the Search Records tab and choose Newspapers & Periodicals, then select PERiodical Source Index (or just click here), you'll see:
PERSI, created by librarians at the Allen County
(Ind.) Public Library Genealogy Center, is an index to
thousands of historical, genealogical and ethnic journals and
magazines. Most cover the United States and Canada, but some cover
Britain, Ireland and Australia.
The database on findmypast.com includes 2.5 million index
entries, and it will be updated on a quarterly basis. Some
entries link to the digitized articles, including the New
York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 1871-1920,
and more will be added over time. A partnership
with the Federation of Genealogical Societies to preserve
society publications is making this effort possible.
When I've searched PERSI in teh past, I've found it difficult to determine if
the source article was about my relative or someone else, and what
type of information the article contained. How great would it be to
just click and read the full article online?
You can search PERSI on findmypast.com by last name, place and/or keyword, and matches include
the article title, periodical title and year the article was published.
You can click for more information or the digitized article, if you're a
findmypast.com subscriber or have pay-as-you-go credits.
Don't limit yourself to name searches, because genealogical society
publications often contain descriptions of unique local resources, but not necessarily indexes.
Try searching PERSI just by place and/or with a keyword, such as a
church your family attended or a place a relative worked.
For PERSI entries that don't link to source articles, you can order copies from
the Genealogy Center (click the Services tab).
the full PERSI press release on findmypast.com.
findmypast | Genealogy societies | Research Tips
Wednesday, February 05, 2014 11:51:46 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Genealogy Tip: Check the 1900 and 1910 Censuses for Clues to Unknown Children
Posted by Diane
Sometimes the best we can do for a “date night” at our house is hanging out in the living room while my husband watches a game and I do genealogy on the laptop.
On one of these thrilling evenings, I was using the Cincinnati Birth and Death Records (1865-1912) database, a card index created long ago from city vital registers. I kept remarking on the death records of infants I'd come across. Each one made me more grateful for my two healthy (I’m crossing my fingers and knocking on wood right now) little ones.
Greg was feeling the same way. He wondered how a genealogist today could even know to look for a baby who died at a few hours, days or weeks old before official birth and death records began.
You could form a hunch based on long gaps between children, or maybe oral tradition, a tiny headstone, a letter or another home source would be a clue. There’s also the census: The 1900 and 1910 censuses had columns for women indicating “mother of how many children” and “number of those children living.”
I realized then that I’d always assumed my great-great-grandmother Frances (Ladenkotter) Seeger hadn’t lost any of her children. I hadn’t found any records indicating that was the case, and no infant’s headstone is in the family plot.
Sure enough, when I looked again at her listings in the censuses for 1900
those two columns showed a nine and a seven. Two of her babies had died. (Of the 12 mothers on the 1900 page, only two had the same number in both columns.)
I looked for them in the Cincinnati database of births and deaths. Joseph Heinrich died in 1877 at 29 days old of “pyaemia result of dorsal abscess” (septicemia related to an abscess on his back). I also found his cemetery burial record (which had his name).
I found the birth of the second baby, Mary, on Aug. 2, 1878.
I may have found the death: This card, for a baby who died of premature birth at two hours old, has the right address, date (“8-3-78,” which would mean a birth shortly before midnight), and a close last name (Suger), but the baby’s name is Herman instead of Mary.
Either the birth or death card could have an error carried over from the original registers (which still exist, apparently, but are fragile and not available for research), or one made in transcription. I haven’t had any luck searching cemetery records, either.
Details about a relative who died as a newborn more than a century ago might or might not provide leads to additional genealogical information. Either way, putting these babies on the family tree matters to me, as I’m guessing it does to other genealogists. It creates a truer picture of your ancestral family, and more important, it keeps a brief little life from remaining unknown.
Research Tips | Vital Records
Tuesday, February 04, 2014 2:55:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, February 03, 2014
Tips for Tracing Russian Roots
Posted by Diane
This morning's news had me excited about the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics this week
in Sochi, Russia.
Sochi is in Western Russia, on the Black Sea. Western Russia, including areas that are now independent
countries, was the source of significant immigration to the United
States in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Tracing Russian roots isn't easy, but it's also less of an Olympian
task than it used to be. These Russian genealogy tips are from our
guide to tracing Russian roots in the January/February
2014 Family Tree Magazine (you
can get just the Russian guide as a digital download from
ShopFamilyTree.com). Or if you're also researching genealogy
elsewhere in Europe, you might want the collection of guides in The
Family Tree Guidebook to Europe.
- “Russian roots” encompasses more than the present-day country.
"Russian" is often used for heritage in places once part
of the Russian Empire or the USSR, such as Ukraine and Belarus.
- The largest influx
of Russian immigrants came during the “great migration” of the
late 19th and early 20th centuries. More than 2.3 million
immigrants from czarist Russia entered the United States between
1871 and 1910, most from western areas of the empire (outside
Russia's current borders) including nearly 750,000 Jews from the
Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians transliterated their names
from the Cyrillic to the Roman alphabet, resulting in numerous
website gives the example of the common surname Муравьёв,
which has more than 15 English variants including Muravyov,
Muravev, Muravjev and Mouravief. Immigrants might have further
Americanized their transliterated names.
list of terms for administrative divisions (province,
district, village, etc.) in Russia and areas once part of it.
You'll find other key terms for
Russian genealogy here.
International Genealogy | Jewish roots | Research Tips
Monday, February 03, 2014 10:52:27 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, January 31, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, Jan. 27-31
Posted by Diane
- Arphax Publishing has updated its HistoryGeo online historical maps
subscription service with new map-viewing tools and new
content, including The First Landowners Project (nearly 8 million
original landowners) and the Antique Maps Project (more than 4,000
maps from around the United States). HistoryGeo also has a new blog, training videos,
and a surname search
to help people use the site. (Anyone can run a surname search to see
if your family surnames occur on any of the site's maps, though you
must subscribe to view details on the matches.)
- A new website that combines family history mapping and social media,
Place My Past, has made
updates including easier finding historical maps for a place you're
viewing, ability to embed maps onto your blog or website, and the
ability to overlay data (such as historical boundaries) onto your
maps. You can upload a GEDCOM and view the main map as a free
member. Subscribers can upload and annotate maps, connect with other
members and more. See
a comparison of member and subscriber benefits here.
- If you have a tree on MyHeritage and you find a MyHeritage record
for a relative not yet in your tree, you now can add the relative to
your tree directly from the record (instead of going to your tree,
adding the relative, then going back to the record and extracting
information into the new profile). See
how to do this on the MyHeritage Blog.
- Do you plan to attend and blog about the National Genealogical
Society (NGS) 2014 Family History Conference, May 7-10 in Richmond,
Va.? NGS has opened its Official
Blogger and Social Media Press registration. Accepted social
media press will receive a press kit at registration, access to the
Press table, and limited license to use the conference official
social media designation and logo. Social Media Press Registration
closes Feb. 21, and those accepted will be notified by March 1.
Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | MyHeritage | UK and Irish roots
Friday, January 31, 2014 10:45:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Free: Watch 15 RootsTech Conference Sessions Live From Home
Posted by Diane
genealogy conference happening Thursday through Saturday
of next week in Salt Lake City, has announced the 15 sessions you
can watch online for free.
I won't reprint the entire live-stream session schedule here because
it's already on the
FamilySearch website, but below are some that I especially
want to watch from my desk, and why. (I'll be here at the office
while my intrepid colleagues Allison Dolan and Tyler Moss represent
Family Tree University
in booth #927.)
Thursday, 10:30 -11:30 a.m. MT, Top 10 Things I Learned
About My Family from My Couch by Tammy Hepps, because who
doesn't want to be able to do genealogy from the sofa?
- Friday, Feb. 7, 1-2 p.m. MT, Tweets, Links, Pins, and
Posts: Break Down Genealogical Brick Walls with Social Media
by Lisa A. Alzo. Social media is a resource I don't use much for
genealogy, but it's a great way to crowdsource questions.
- Saturday, Feb. 8, 10:30-11:30 a.m. MT, Become an iPad
Power User by Lisa Louise Cooke. Although I don't have an
iPad (we're an Android family), I'd love to increase my app
- Saturday, Feb. 8, 1-2 p.m. MT, Information Overload:
Managing Online Searches and Their Results by Josh Taylor,
because sometimes the problem isn't how to search, it's how to
work through all those results, decide which ones merit further
evaluation, and know when to stop looking at them.
I'm a little disappointed the keynotes aren't on the list. I wanted
to see Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer
Woman, so you all will have to tell me about her talk.
- Saturday, 5-6 p.m. MT, Five Ways to Do Genealogy in Your
Sleep by Deborah Gamble. Funny how my list starts with the
couch and ends with sleep.
You can watch the sessions at RootsTech.org;
the video player will be right on the home page. All the session
times are Mountain time, and because you're watching live, you need
to translate them into your own time zone.
I'll be keeping a close eye on the RootsTech conference and
reporting the news from here, so stay tuned!
FamilySearch | Genealogy Events
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 2:32:23 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Free and Low-Cost Software to Retouch Damaged Family Photos
Posted by Diane
If you're looking to scan and digitally repair old, faded and
torn family photos, we
have a webinar coming up that'll show you how to do it.
But first, you'll need photo-editing software so you can make the
repairs. Good news: You can find good software for free.
See what photo-editing software might be already on your computer. Windows
Live Photo Gallery, for example, lets you do basic retouching
and adjust exposure and color.
If you want to see what else is out there, look for free photo-editing software you can download. According to Gizmodo, Adobe
is giving away an older version of its Photoshop software along
with the Adobe Creative Suite (CS) 2. This version is suitable for
most genealogy needs with tools
such as Clone, Brightness/Contrast, and color balance. You do have to sign up for an Adobe account to
download it, and Macs will need OSX 10.2.8 to 10.3.8, or the
"translator" program Rosetta.
Update: Unfortunately, it sounds like this offer is only for
previous Photoshop owners. Thanks to the commenters who created an Adobe
account, made this discovery and reported back here. (One also recommended Irfanview.)
Want other options for retouching old photos? Gizmodo lists
10 free photo-editors here. One of them is Google's Picasa, which we used for our
step-by-step guide to fixing faded, spotted and creased pictures and for the photo above.
A relatively low-cost photo-editing software option that gives you a
lot of functionality is Photoshop
Elements, a "light" version of Photoshop.
and Retouching for Genealogists webinar, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. ET
(6 p.m. CT, 5 p.m. MT, 4 p.m. PT) will show you what apps and
programs are available for photo-editing on your computer and mobile
device, how to retouch photos, and more. Check
it out in ShopFamilyTree.com.
Photos | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | Webinars
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 1:25:24 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)