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# Tuesday, April 01, 2014
8 Ways To Know It's Time To Start Writing Your Family History
Posted by Diane

genealogy stories wedding photo

We research our ancestors for lots of reasons. For me, it's so they'll be known and remembered—not just by me, but also by my family.

Lots of us genealogists have a goal to write our family history. It's one of the best ways to organize research finds, draw conclusions, and neatly package our family history (instead of delivering it in a pile of records, notes and sources).

But we can't wait until we're "finished" researching to start writing. All genealogists know you never finish researching: There are always more relatives to discover and brick walls in the way. So how do you know when it's time to start writing? Here are eight tipoffs:

1. People are curious. For me, it was when people in my dad's family started asking about my research. I brought my binder of records (this was before I kept most documents digitally) to a family gathering. I promised copies to my aunts, and it occurred to me that I should add some context. Their paternal line was small enough that I could write a simple narrative in a Word document (here's more on that), put it on CDs with PDFs and JPGs of records, and hand them out at Christmas. 


2. An important anniversary is coming up. Your parents' Golden wedding anniversary, or a 25th annual family reunion, is a great occasion to put together some form of a family history book. Or consider current events: The upcoming WWI centennial is an opportunity to share the stories of ancestors of that era.

You don't have to write a complete family history—you could undertake one of these smaller, more manageable family history projects. Just give yourself enough time for whatever you plan to do.

3. You've found a story that wants to be told. Maybe your Civil War ancestor's pension record is a windfall of information about his experiences, your father or grandfather told you about surviving the Great Depression, or you strongly identify with your pioneer great-grandmother. My grandfather who died before I was born grew up in an orphanage and put himself through college. These stories hold important lessons.

4. You're at a brick wall. You might think you have to break through the brick wall first, but this is actually one of the best times to start writing. Writing about a research problem will help you analyze what you've found and come up with new ideas. Plus, if you wait until you solve every question, you might never start writing. You might even invoke Murphy's Law of Genealogy: The moment you finish writing your family story, you'll find the record you've been after for years.

5. You solved a brick wall or achieved a research goal. If you finally found your immigrant ancestor's passenger record or identified a mystery photo, celebrate by writing that story and how you solved the problem. It'll help you take stock of your research and figure out your next goal.

6. You need a break. If you're feeling burned out on doing research, or you need to refocus, stop looking for new information. Instead, look through everything you already have and start writing.

7. You feel like you should be writing this stuff down. If you have a nagging feeling that you should be writing about the family history you've learned, there's a reason for it. Obey the voice in your head!

8. You've done some research. You can start writing a story at any point—no need to wait until your family tree is yay big. If you've only gotten to your grandparents, write about them. Or go closer to home and write how your parents met, or how you met your spouse.

In fact, this may be the best way to do it. As you continue researching, connect these smaller stories together and you'll have an ongoing narrative of your family history.

Our Write Your Family History Value Pack has books and lessons to help you plan out and work on your family history book writing project.
 
And if you need guidance on managing source information and citations in your research and writing project, look into our Family Tree University Source Analysis one-week online genealogy workshop, April 18-25, with professional genealogist Michael Hait.



Family Tree University | saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 10:14:32 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
6 April Fool's Day Pranks From History
Posted by Diane

Tales of April Fool's Day origins vary. Some say the tradition of playing pranks began about 1562 in France. Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian Calendar, with the year starting on Jan 1 instead of April 1, but some hadn't heard of or didn't believe the date change. When they still celebrated the new year on April 1, their more enlightened countrymen played tricks on them and called them April Fools.

Today we might set all the clocks ahead two hours or put confetti in a spouse's umbrella (or create an imaginative magazine cover). On a grand scale, some of my favorite April Fool's Day pranks from history include:

1933: The Madison Capital-Times newspaper reported that the state capitol collapsed due to explosions from gases produced by the debates of state politicians. The article was complete with a doctored photo showing the capitol dome askew.

1949: New Zealand radio announcer Phil Shone told listeners a mile-wide wasp swarm was headed for Auckland. He urged them to take precautions such as wearing socks over their pants and leaving traps outside their doors. Hundreds complied. 

1957: The BBC news show Panorama announced a bumper spaghetti crop in Switzerland, with footage of farmers pulling spaghetti strands from trees. Viewers who called the BBC asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees were advised to "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

1976: An astronomer said during a BBC Radio 2 interview that at 9:47 a.m., Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, causing a phenomenon that would reduce the Earth's gravity. Anyone who jumped at the exact moment of the planetary alignment would feel a floating sensation. Hundreds claimed to have felt this sensation.

1977: This one is close to my editor's heart: Britain's Guardian newspaper published a seven-page supplement about an Indian Ocean holiday spot called San Serriffe. The two main islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, resembled a semicolon, with towns such as Bodoni and Garamondo, a leader named Gen. Maria-Jesu Pica, and a national bird called the Kwote. Guinness, Texaco and Kodak ran ads. Readers called the paper's offices all day for more information, and travel agencies and airlines complained that customers were insisting on vacationing in the islands. The San Serriffe Liberation Front even wrote the Guardian editor protesting the paper's pro-government slant.

1996: Taco Bell took out full-page ads in major newspapers, announcing the company had bought the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. The Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, which houses the Liberty Bell, was flooded with angry calls.

I don't have any stories of pranksters in my family. How about you?


Genealogy fun | Social History
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 8:18:26 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
Family Tree Magazine's Skimpiest Issue Ever!
Posted by Diane


Genealogy fun
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 7:25:42 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 28, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, March 24-28
Posted by Diane

Online registration is now open for the 2014 Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) Conference, happening Aug. 27-30  in San Antonio. Register by July 1 for the early-bird discount. I'm especially excited for this one because my dad's dad's family lived for a time in Texas, although conference sessions—taught by many of the experts whose books, blogs and Family Tree Magazine articles you read—will cover topics to help you research across the United States and abroad. Learn more about the FGS 2014 conference, read the conference blog and register here.

Registration also is open for the Indiana Historical Society's 2014 Midwestern Roots conference, Aug. 1-2 in Indianapolis, Ind. Coincidentally, my dad's mom's family is from the Hoosier State. Among the speakers will be Genealogy Gems' Lisa Louise Cooke (who is presenting a pre-conference Great Google Earth Game Show on July 31), Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center Director Curt Witcher, professional genealogist Amy Johnson Crow and other experts. Learn more about the Midwestern Roots 2014 conference and register here.

The Archivist at Pennsylvania's Bethany Children's home, which was established in 1867 and remains in operation today, emailed to let me know that MOcavo has digitized and indexed the home's early records. They're in three collections called Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, Bethany Children's Home Book of Children One Index, Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, Bethany Children's Home Book of Children Two Index, and Bethany Children's Home Book of Life Index. On Mocavo, you can search and view records in one collection at a time for free. With a subscription, you can  search and view records from multiple collections simultaneously. Learn more about the Bethany Children's Home records on Mocavo's blog.

The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is launching a portal to give you access to photos from residential schools dating from 1885 to 1996. The LAC notes that 150,000 Aboriginal children attended more than 130 residential schools around the country. You already can see 65 photos from schools in Alberta, and you'll be able to find more photos by province or territory as they become available. Descriptions are included with dates, school names and locations when available (so far I haven't found any names of students shown in photos).


Canadian roots | Free Databases | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, March 28, 2014 10:24:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, March 27, 2014
Findmypast to Digitize 1939 Register of England and Wales
Posted by Diane

Findmypast.co.uk website owners DC Thomson Family History today announced plans to digitize the 1939 Register of England and Wales over the next two years.

The British government created the register to record information about citizens as of Sept. 29, 1939, as WWII broke out in Europe. It was used to issue identity cards and ration books, and later formed the basis of National Health Service records.

The register contains an individuals' full name, addresses, date of birth, sex, marital status and occupation, and also notes changes of name.

The 1.2 million digital images in the 1939 Register collection will become searchable on findmypast.co.uk within the next two years. Information about living individuals, however, will be kept closed for 100 years from their year of birth, or until proof of death has been authenticated.

You can read more about this project and register to get updates here.

Learn how to locate the place your English ancestors came from with our video class Hedgerow Genealogy: A Three-Step Strategy for Finding English Origins, presented by English genealogy expert J. H. Fonkert.


findmypast | UK and Irish roots
Thursday, March 27, 2014 9:52:17 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, March 25, 2014
What Does Your Last Name Mean? How to Find Out
Posted by Diane



Our Unpuzzling Ancestral Names Value Pack made me curious about my family surnames and whether things I heard growing up about where a name is from or what it means are true. Here's how I checked out a few of the names I'm researching:
  • Haddad: My maiden name, inherited from my great-grandparents who immigrated in 1900, is the Lebanese equivalent to Smith. I Googled surname Haddad and one of the results was this Wikipedia page.
  • Seeger: I looked up this name, which comes from my German ancestor H.A. Seeger, in the last name search on Ancestry.com, which uses surname meanings and origins from the Oxford Dictionary of American Family Names (a reference you also might be able to find in a library). It also maps where in the United States most people with that name lived. The name is German and Dutch, "from the Germanic personal name Sigiheri." 
  • Norris: This name, which belonged to my Irish third-great-grandfather Edward Norris, is a place-based name for someone from the North or who lived on the north side of a settlement. It also could be a French occupational name for a nurse. According to the Irish Times' mid-1800s surname distribution search, most Norrises lived in County Waterford, with next-door Tipperary and Kilkenny as runners-up. Family lore says Edward came from County Cork, which also is on the list and borders Waterford.
  • Frost: This surname, from my English third-great-grandfather, gives me fits in online searches. Besides all the weather reports, it's a pretty common name. It helps to add place names, genealogy and -weather or -winter to my searches. The name could be English, German, Danish or Swedish, and it's based on a nickname for someone "of an icy and unbending disposition or who had white hair."
  • Reuter: Google wants to show me Reuters news reports if I forget quotation marks (as in "Reuter") when searching for this name online. It's a German name, possibly for "someone who lived in a clearing or an occupational name for a clearer of woodland." 
  • Ladenkotter/Ladenkoetter: Does anyone have ideas about this German name? It's not in the Oxford Dictionary of American Family Names or on surname sites, and web searches turn up mostly my own posts. I even tried typing the name into Google translate to see if it means anything in German (it doesn't). On the plus side, it's unusual, and just about any Ladenkoetter records I find are for a relative. Update: If you have German roots, the comments about this name's origins (including one from A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Germanic Ancestors coauthor Ernest Thode) are insightful. Thank you to Mr. Thode, K. Hewett and Fawn!

Here are seven more surname research tips from FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

The Unpuzzling Ancestral Names Value Pack has resources for searching names, understanding naming patterns, figuring out how surnames changed over time, and discovering surname origins and meanings. Learn more about it in ShopFamilyTree.com.


Ancestry.com | German roots | Research Tips
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 2:57:22 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Genealogy Tips for Tracing Female Ancestors
Posted by Diane



March is Women's History Month, so it seems a good time to share tips and facts from Legal Genealogist Judy G. Russell's "Female Ancestors and the Law" chat for our Family Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference last month.

You can get in-depth advice on researching women in your family in our Finding Female Ancestors Family Tree University course, which starts Monday, March 24. We also have a Discover Your Female Ancestors value pack with an Independent Study version of that course, plus a video class, a cheat sheet and more. 
  • Judy opened the chat with this interesting tidbit: Under common law, a girl could be betrothed at age 7. She was entitled to dower at age 9. She couldn’t choose a guardian until she was 14 or serve as executrix until 17, and wasn’t of full age until 21. But she could be married off at age 12.
  • A married woman was called a feme covert, which literally means a woman hidden behind the identity of her husband.

  • Judy recommended Black's Law Dictionary as a good resource for finding out what laws governed women's lives in the places your ancestors lived. It was first published in 1891, and you can see the 2nd edition, published in 1910, for free here. Look for printed editions at large libraries and law libraries.

  • A widowed woman would have to be named guardian of her own children in a probate court, or the court might name a male relative to look after the children's inherited property (even if they still lived with their mother).
  • An underage woman usually had to have a male guardian's permission to marry. Look for a record with the couple's marriage record.

  • Early divorces often had to be approved by state legislatures; look for these records in legislative records (usually at a state archive).

  • Prenuptial agreements, often found with deeds or court records, weren't uncommon, even early on.
  • Land records are excellent for researching women. A husband had to sell land, even if the wife had inherited it from her father, but the wife had to sign off on it. That's called her "dower" right (not to be confused with a dowry), and it was intended to provide some means of support for a woman whose husband had died.

  • "Property" transfers of slaves, usually in chancery or equity courts, also can be a source of information on female heirs.
  • Chat participants have had luck finding maiden names in children's birth, marriage and death records; and in male ancestors' wills. Several said that sons in their families received the mother's maiden name as a middle name.
  • One chatter reminded us not to assume that someone listed by initials in a record (such as M.A. Smith) is male.
I also wanted to share this post from the New York History Blog, about a New York law, in effect until March 20, 1860, that kept married women from having any legal control over money they earned.

PS: Here's where you can find out about our Fall 2014 Virtual Genealogy Conference, happening Sept. 19-21.


Female ancestors | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 3:31:53 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
New Genealogy Webinars: Make Evernote Effortless & Using DNA To Solve Family Mysteries
Posted by Diane

I wanted to make sure you know about two webinar learning opportunities we have coming up, on using Evernote for family history and on genetic genealogy:

     

The first one, this Thursday, is Making Evernote Effortless with Lisa Louise Cooke. An expert on using Evernote to organize research and streamline workflow, Lisa will talk about
  • creating source citations in Evernote
  • accessing your Evernote notes faster with tools like shortcuts and quick keys
  • setting reminders
  • sharing notes
  • hacking the mobile version to add the web clipper to your tablet's web browser

You'll learn how to use Evernote to stop researching haphazardly and start organizing your approach and your findings. Click here to register.



Next Thursday, March 27, we have Using DNA To Solve Family Mysteries with the Genetic Genealogist blogger, Blaine Bettinger. He'll help you
  • understand more about genetic genealogy
  • figure out which test to take to solve which types of research problems
  • how to interpret your test results
Blaine has written on genetic genealogy for Family Tree Magazine, and I have to say he's a very good explainer of things—great at turning complicated genetic genealogy information into concepts my brain can wrap itself around.

Click here to find out more and register.


Genealogy Apps | Genetic Genealogy | Webinars
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 1:37:54 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 17, 2014
Talking in German Genealogy, Digital Libraries & More in Our Free March Podcast
Posted by Diane

In the March 2014 free Family Tree Magazine podcast, host Lisa Louise Cooke talks with German genealogy expert James M. Beidler about tracing German-speaking ancestors. Jim shares tips from his new book, The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide.

Podcast listeners also can tour of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) website with DPLA executive director Dan Cohen, and get tips on unpuzzling US county boundary changes with Family Tree Magazine contributing editor David A. Fryxell.

Lisa also chats with Family Tree Magazine publisher Allison Dolan and myself about solving genealogy research problems.

This Family Tree Magazine Podcast episode is sponsored by EpiGenealogy, a research service for tracing family health history. Host Lisa Louise Cooke is the founder of the Genealogy Gems website and podcast.

You can listen in iTunes or on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

Click here for show notes, which include handy links to the websites mentioned.

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

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Genealogy Web Sites | German roots | Research Tips
Monday, March 17, 2014 10:38:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 14, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, March 10-14
Posted by Diane

  • Orders for FamilySearch microfilm and microfiche numbered above 1,881,705 will be restricted for a two-week period in early April. Half a million rolls of film plus numerous microfiche cabinets at the Granite Mountain vault will be relocated into newly renovated space. As a result, the Family History Library won't be able to order the affected film and fiche. Film and fiche numbered below 1,881,705 can be ordered as usual. Read the notice on the FamilySearch blog.
  • Planning research at the National Archives in Washington, DC, or College Park, Md., in April? You might be able to plan your itinerary around one of the archives' free genealogy programs, such as an introduction to research in the archives' records (April 2), nonpopulation censuses (April 16),  tracing immigrants from the West Indies (April 17), or a "Help! I'm Stuck" consultation (April 26). Find times and locations on the National Archives' website.


FamilySearch | Free Databases | NARA
Friday, March 14, 2014 1:34:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]