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Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Polish Genealogy Research Challenges and Tips
Posted by Diane
If you have Polish ancestors, the country's historical partitions
and border changes have probably presented some genealogy research
challenges. Here's an example of why:
- If your ancestors lived in eastern Poland, records from 1868
to 1917 will be in Russian. Records from 1808 to 1868 generally
should be in Polish.
- As for western Poland, controlled by Germany while Russia
ruled the east, records generally will be in German or Latin
(the language used by the Catholic Church), although you may
find some in Polish.
- In Galicia, the part of the partition ruled by Austria, most
records will be in Latin, although some will be in German and
- The present is almost as confusing: Poland had 49 wojewodztwo,
or provinces, until a January 1999 reorganization. There now are
16. The old provinces frequently had a city with the same name
as the province.
In our Polish
Genealogy Crash Course webinar on Thursday, April 24,
Eastern European genealogy expert Lisa A. Alzo will show you US
records to help you locate your immigrant ancestor's town or
village in Poland, what Polish records you should look for, and
the leading websites and library resources for tracing Polish
You can learn
more about the Polish Genealogy Crash Course and register at
You'll also want to explore
the Polish genealogy websites on this list, and bookmark
this chart of Polish-language genealogy terms.
International Genealogy | Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 2:18:18 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Cigars and Sewing Machines: Finding My Ancestor's Estate Inventory in Old Court records
Posted by Diane
So this was exciting: I found the estate inventory for my
great-great-grandfather H.A. Seeger, who died Aug. 18, 1923, in Hamilton
County, Ohio, court records digitized on FamilySearch.org.
This collection isn't yet indexed and can't be searched, so I've been browsing. I'm
still trying to figure out how the records are organized, which
according to our upcoming Mastering
Genealogy Research in Court Records online course, can vary by
county and time period.
Many of the volumes have indexes in the front (usually grouped by
first letter of the last name, and then sometimes by first letter
of the first name). In slowly clicking through volumes around
dates of family marriages, deaths and other events, I found H.A.
named in the index of an inventory record volume for 1923. I went to
the page number listed.
The estate inventory separates the contents of H.A.'s cigar
store, which one of his sons took over, from the household goods
in the residence above the store.
He owned $230 in store inventory and equipment, including "2 doz.
Lucky Strike," "14. pkg. Old Va. cheroots," "lot miscellaneous
stogies" and $15 in penny candies.
In the house was a chiffonier (I had to look this up—it's a high
chest of drawers, which may be the one now in my uncle's house), a
sewing machine (probably belonging to H.A.'s wife, who died in
1916, or one of their daughters) and other goods, totaling $54.25
The inventory also listed bank accounts worth $110.58 and $210.70
(about $4,411.14 in today's money, according to the CPI inflation
The inventory was notarized Oct. 1, 1923, and filed the next day.
Now I'm looking for a will and other probate documents, and I'll
use the information in the four-week Mastering
Genealogy Research in Courthouse Records online course to
help speed up my search. The course isn't just about finding
records online, but also what you can find at the courthouse in nondigitized
records. It's great for starting your foray into these richly
detailed, but often intimidating, genealogical records.
For expert advice on using the free collections at FamilySearch.org—including the unindexed, not-searchable ones—check out our webinar 10 Simple Strategies for Using FamilySearch.org, happening Wednesday, April 16.
court records | Family Tree University | FamilySearch | Research Tips
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 2:14:35 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, April 04, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, March 31-April 4
Posted by Diane
- Genealogy website MyHeritage
has added the Jewish Chronicle, the world's oldest continuously
published Jewish newspaper, to its SuperSearch subscription
collections. MyHeritage has more than 200,000 digitized pages of
the London-based newspaper, dating back to 1841.
Additional Jewish records now being added include the
Israel Genealogy Research Association databases (1860-1890) and
Avelim (Israel death notices). Read
more about these additions on the MyHeritage blog.
- The Statue
of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation (SOL-EIF) said in a
fundraising email that it will expand its collection of free
ships' passenger lists on
the EllisIsland.org website, with help from FamilySearch.
The site will add records from 1925 to 1957 to its current
collection, which spans 1892 to 1924. Ellis Island was open from
1892 until 1954, but immigration plummeted in 1924 due to the National
Origins Act. The site now holds 25 million names; about 11
million are immigrants and others are ships' crew members and
Americans returning from abroad.
- If I could go back to my youth, I would totally beg my
parents to let me do this: The National Archives building in
Washington, DC, will host summer and fall sleepovers
for children ages 8 to 12. Kids will have fun learning about
historical records, then spend the night in the National
Archives Rotunda. Registration opens in mid-May. Learn more
immigration records | Jewish roots | MyHeritage | NARA
Friday, April 04, 2014 11:40:23 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
View and "Warp" Old Maps Using NYPL's New, Free Map Warper
Posted by Diane
The New York Public Library (NYPL) has launched a new online tool called the Map Warper, which lets you
overlay an old map onto a modern map and digitally rectify the two.
The Map Warper gives you access to more than 20,000 digitized historical
maps depicting places around the world. You don't need to log in to
view maps, overlay them, or see already-rectified versions. With an account, you
can add your own "control points," which are points that match up on
the old map and the corresponding modern map. A map must have at
least three control points to be rectified.
I searched for a map of Cincinnati and found one from 1860.
I created an NYPL account and used the Rectify tab to add a control
point where my Ladenkotter third-great-grandparents lived in 1860.
The map already had other control points, so I added only the one.
Then I clicked Warp Image, let the Warper finished working, and
clicked Preview Rectified Map:
You can zoom in and adjust the transparency. Here's a closeup of
where the Ladenkotters lived, at Abigail (spelled "Abagail" here;
it's now E. 12th) and Spring. It's just below and to the right of the 9.
You can click the Export tab to download a copy of the original or warped map.
The Map Warper website also has a four-minute video
tutorial on using the Warper.
Libraries and Archives | Maps
Friday, April 04, 2014 10:30:27 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
8 Ways To Know It's Time To Start Writing Your Family History
Posted by Diane
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
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
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.
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)
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)
Family Tree Magazine's Skimpiest Issue Ever!
Posted by Diane
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 7:25:42 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
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
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
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)
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
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
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)
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
What Does Your Last Name Mean? How to Find Out
Posted by Diane
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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.
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)