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<2014 June>

More Links

# Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Genealogy Brick Wall Busters: 10 Places to Find Your Ancestor's Family, Friends and Neighbors
Posted by Diane

Our ancestors tended to move with and marry into particular groups of people, and tracing those "clusters"—even if the people aren't in your direct lines or even related—is a key strategy to break through genealogy brick walls. It can help you discover maiden names, places of origin, and other documents mentioning your ancestor. 

Our Cluster and Collateral Research 101 Family Tree University online course, taking place July 7-Aug. 1, gives you a blueprint for solving genealogy problems with this type of research.
Where can you find names of those in your ancestor's cluster? Here are 10 places to start looking:
  • Home sources: Study old letters, diaries, address books, funeral cards, etc.
  • Census records: Check out household members and neighbors.

  • Witnesses to marriage certificates, wills and naturalization records, and those who provide testimony in court records and pension applications
  • Sponsors on baptism and confirmation records
  • Land records: Note who the neighbors are.

  • Traveling companions on passenger lists: Examine the entire list for people from the same place, or people who show up in other records as neighbors, witnesses, etc.
  • Rosters and newsletters of your ancestors' clubs. This example is a founding members list from a 1902 history of the Covington (Ky.) German Pioneer Society.

  • Newspapers: Look for names of family and friends in obituaries, wedding announcements and other articles.
  • School yearbooks
  • City directories: Use the listings by street in the back of some books to learn neighbors' names.
Ready to start finding clues among your ancestors' clusters and collateral relatives? Find a syllabus for our four-week Cluster and Collateral Research 101 course here, and register for the next session, starting July 7.

Family Tree University | Research Tips
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 10:02:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 23 June 2014
Findmypast Acquires Genealogy Website Mocavo
Posted by Diane

Another week, another acquisition for British genealogy company Findmypast: The company just announced that it has purchased, a genealogy search engine, records and family tree website. Mocavo will become a fully owned subsidiary of Findmypast.

The announcement from Findmypast is here. You can read Mocavo's statement about the acquisition on its home page and blog

As part of the acquisition, Findmypast's indexes to the US Census from 1790 to 1940 are now free at

On Mocavo, you can search and view results from individual datasets for free; subscribers can search across the site, access advanced search features and download records. (So to see full results from the census index for free, you should scroll down on the census search page and search one decade at a time, rather than the entire US census at once.)

In 2012, Mocavo acquired ReadyMicro, which specialized in digitizing historical records. That acquisition has led to encouraging development in software that can "read" handwritten records and make them searchable online.

“Our heritage and rich record collections coupled with Mocavo’s sophisticated technology will make for a powerful combination," says Findmypast director of family history D. Joshua Taylor.

"Expect Mocavo to grow stronger with Findmypast’s support and to continue to drive innovation in the family history category," says Cliff Shaw, who founded Mocavo in 2011.

Several of Shaw's earlier genealogy startups have been acquired by major companies. GenForum, which Shaw founded as a college student, was purchased by (and is soon to become read-only). Shaw also founded Pearl Street Software and BackUpMyTree, both of which were purchased by MyHeritage.

Last week, Findmypast acquired British and Irish genealogy site

findmypast | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 23 June 2014 12:16:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
An Interview With ACPL Genealogy Center Director Curt Witcher
Posted by Diane

What if you could go to work every day in the United States' largest public library genealogy collection?

Curt Witcher does: He's the director of the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Ind., which has collections covering the United States and beyond.

Witcher kindly took time to be interviewed for the July/August 2014 Family Tree Magazine, but we didn't have space to include the whole Q&A in the issue. Here's the rest of our enlightening conversation about the Genealogy Center and a unique family history resource that its librarians produce:

Q. How many visitors do you get on an average day?

A. It depends on the weather. We could see only a couple dozen on bad days, but we push 1,000 people some days. In 2013, we saw just over 96,000. Between May and August, about 80 percent of patrons come from out-of-county.

Q. How does The Genealogy Center continue to thrive in the public library setting?

A. Libraries have a lot of competing priorities these days. It can be really challenging for libraries to have a large and noted special collection like we have. We were born more than 50 years ago out of desire to serve the underserved genealogists. It was like throwing a match on dry wood: the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Indiana state library and others started donating historical materials to us. We now have north of 1.1 million physical items.

We’ve had some pretty consequential endowment gifts specifically for the Genealogy Center. But to be honest, the community loves the fact that we have this center. We account for $6.3 million in indirect economic impact, like hotels and restaurant business. This community also has a century-long love affair with the library. Its per-capita support is in top 10 percent. The library takes up an entire block and has 13 branches.

Q. You must be very proud to watch PERSI grow up.

A. PERSI [the Periodical Source Index to genealogy articles in US and Canadian magazines and journals] is the brainchild of my predecessor as manager, Michael Clegg. He wanted to do something consequential for genealogists worldwide, like a Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature but for genealogy and local history.

We’ve run a pretty modest operation but through our partners over the years we’ve done pretty great things. First PERSI came out in paper. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we had a partnership with what’s now FamilySearch International to put PERSI on microfiche, then broadcast it out to their Family History Centers. It was our first breakout from the traditional print library market—to make PERSI more mass distributed.

Then we worked with, then HeritageQuest, to get it online. Now we're over the moon to partner with FindMyPast and add digitized content. Customers today are not satisfied to find the indexed entry. Their expectation is to get to the article with a click. With keyword searching on Google, why do we still need PERSI? People are tired of huge datasets. We don’t want 31 million hits on a narrow topic.

The more-sophisticated searchers know that not everything most important is on the first five pages of Google search results. We’re so committed to having another way to find their family history. If you don’t use periodical literature, you risk missing 30 percent of the materials you need to move your research forward.

Q. What is your role with PERSI now at ACPL?

A. We continue to subject-index PERSI (it’s not an every-name index). We have the equivalent of 6 full-time staff on PERSI. We thumb through every page to make sure we don’t miss anything. Easily 25 percent of these publications have significant articles that just don’t make it to the title page. It’s not the most exciting job to index every article, but you understand you’re contributing to one-of-a-kind resource for the exciting family history world.

See the July/August 2014 Family Tree Magazine for more Q&A with Curt Witcher.

5 Questions Plus | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Monday, 23 June 2014 10:05:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 20 June 2014
Genealogy News Corral: June 16-20
Posted by Diane

In addition, to commemorate Juneteenth, FamilySearch has added to its collection of records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, or the Freedmen's Bureau. These document the post-Civil War era and include marriage records legalizing marriages of former slaves, labor contracts, military payment registers and more. Read more about the records in FamilySearch's announcement and link to the Freedmen's Bureau collections (which organizes by state) here.
  • The Civil War Trust is launching a fundraising campaign to save the North Anna area of the Jericho Mills battlefield in Virginia. Matching grants, donations from private foundations and other funding means the trust already has 90 percent of the purchase price needed to acquire the area. It likely will eventually be made part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. Learn more about North Anna and the campaign to save it on the Civil War Trust website.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Civil War | FamilySearch | Genealogy TV | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 20 June 2014 11:08:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Best Facebook Comments Re: DDoS Attack
Posted by Diane

In case you haven't heard, was down part of Monday and most of yesterday, and intermittently today, due to what the company says was a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. Find A Grave and RootsWeb also were affected.

In such an attack, multiple perpetrators use "bots" to bombard a website with traffic, so that the site can't respond to legitimate traffic. Both Evernote and Feedly were targets of DDoS attacks last week; their attackers demanded payment to stop the attacks.

On its Facebook page and in a statement, said the attack has been neutralized, but users may still experience intermittent outages or slowness while the site recovers. They should clear their cookies and cache before logging back on. Family Tree Maker users should switch the program's sync setting to manual until service is fully restored.

No members' family tree or personal data were compromised in the attack.

The site outage drew Facebook comments ranging from supportive to accusations of site mismanagement and demands for refunds or subscription extensions. There were lots of capital letters and exclamation marks.

Someone even suggested the real reason the site went down is all the dads taking advantage of the Father's Day subscription special. (Way to spoil it for the rest of us, dads!)

But I'll focus on the clever Facebook comments I saw. These appeared in response to Facebook page updates:
  • Has ancestry deleted their cookies and emptied their cache?
  • Karma. Old Search is exacting its revenge.
  • Day 2.5 of my captivity.. my captors torment me with comments about "intermittent" outages. Withdrawal symptoms are setting in ... eyes blurry from staring at screen, mouse hand shakey ... I have even tried gardening ... sorting my books alphabetically ... even cleaning shower recess ... family is getting concerned
  • Retire MyFamily, MyCanvas,, Mundia and the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, and the internet gods retire you!
  • Still can't get on the site. What am I supposed to do, actually get some sleep or something?
  • How am I supposed to discover which vastly wealthy relative I'm related to now?
And this:

And this is the winner, which West in New England blogger Bill West posted on his own Facebook page:
And lo, the servers of Ancestry were beset by the Plague of DDOS, and then were the genealogists locked out from the Realms of Ancestry. Neither could they work on their family trees, nor add photos nor memorials to Find A Grave. Then great were the lamentations of the genealogists, and many were beset with frustration, weeping and gnashing their teeth in the outer darkness as they waited for the servers of Ancestry to once more open unto them.

Meanwhile, others turned to worshiping the false idol, Television....

Subscribe to Family Tree Magazine.

Sign up for our free, weekly email newsletter full of genealogy news and tips. | Social Networking
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 14:15:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]
Reading Ancestors' Old Records: Problems to Watch Out For
Posted by Diane

When I look back at the letters my grandma wrote to me when I was in college, I'm in awe of her beautiful handwriting. Most of us would agree that handwriting isn't what it used to be. Thanks to computers and email, we're all out of practice.

But that doesn't mean all the old, handwritten records you've discovered through your genealogy research are a piece of cake to read. Old writing styles, unfamiliar characters and abbreviations, fading ink, and individual writers' idiosyncrasies can make the documents extremely difficult to understand. 

In our Tricks for Reading Old Handwriting webinar, taking place Thursday, June 26 at 7p.m. ET, professional genealogist D. Joshua Taylor will show you strategies for understanding those hard-to-read old records—including these letters and other characters to watch out for:
  • u, n, w and m; a, o and u; v and r: These letters that can look alike in lower-case form.
  • as, os, us: These letter combinations often appear similar in lowercase form.
  • i, t: Undotted is and uncrossed ts can resemble each other, or an e or an l. Also watch for misplaced crosses and dots (in the name below, Miller, the dot is over the e, making it look like an i).
  • I and J; M and N; S, L and T; T and F; U and V: These capital letter groupings may look alike.
  • ē: A double-letter formation may be abbreviated as a single letter below a horizontal line.  
  • do or ": These abbreviations for “ditto,” common in records formatted in rows (such as a census) mean “same as above.”     
  • Ƒ or ƒ: The s, especially in a double-s formation, may have a long flourish. This “long s” is easily confused with a p or an f. (This word is "blessing.")
  •   : This character, called a thorn, occurs in very old texts and looks like a y. It represents th, so the example here (from the 1620 Mayflower Compact), with an e over the thorn, means "the."
  • 3, 6, 8: These numerals may look alike. If the record has page numbers, copy pages one through 10 to use as reference samples. 
Got old, handwritten records you're having a hard time reading? Check out our Tricks for Reading Old Handwriting webinar in

Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 11:46:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 17 June 2014
British Genealogy Company Findmypast Buys
Posted by Diane

British family history company, part of DC Thomson Family History, announced today that it has bought, another genealogy site focused on British and Irish research., according to the announcement from, is the first company to set up a pay-as-you-go model for accessing online genealogy records. Its records include marriage indexes, poor law records and the National Wills Index. will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Findmypast and its founder Ian Galbraith will continue to work for the site on collection development. The site will continue to run as usual, though its records also will become part of Findmypast's offerings.

"This rich collection will help descendants of early North American settlers to bridge the gap to the old country, as well as anyone with UK ancestry looking to delve beyond 19th and 20th century records,” says Findmypast partnership director Elaine Collins.

Genealogy Industry | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 11:32:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 13 June 2014
Genealogy News Corral: June 9-13
Posted by Diane

  • Are you planning on attending the joint RootsTech/Federation of Genealogical Societies conference,  February 11-14, 2015, in Salt Lake City? Four Salt Lake City hotels are now taking reservations with reduced rates to conference attendees. I have a feeling hotels will be sold out, so book early. FamilySearch's announcement about conference hotels is here.
  • The Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) will hold its fourth annual Forensic Genealogy Institute (FGI) March 26-28, 2015, in Dallas. Intensive courses are designed for those interested in researching genealogical cases with legal implications (for example, to establish inheritance in court). You'll find details about the courses on the CAFG blog, and you can learn more about FGI here. Registration will open this summer.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Land records
Friday, 13 June 2014 12:48:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 12 June 2014
"Retirement" Tips for Ancestry Y-DNA & mtDNA, MyCanvas and Customers
Posted by Diane

By now you've probably heard's announcement about the retirement of Mundia,, Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, MyCanvas and

I haven't seen many expressions of sadness about (whose trees are duplicated in Ancestry Member Trees) and (whose forums, family sites and popular articles will remain online in read-only format). But users of the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, MyCanvas and have a lot to say.

If you're a member of one of these services, here are some tips and blog posts I've found to save your information and move it to another service.

AncestryDNA Y-DNA and mtDNA
  • You should receive an email with instructions for downloading your raw Y-DNA or mtDNA  data as a CSV file (which you an open in Excel).
  • Then you could upload to another photo service, though you may need to convert the files to JPG format first—this website has four ways to convert PDFs to JPG (click the "Four Methods" links at the top, not on the big green arrow). Of course, because the pages are images, you won't have the ability to edit them as you make new research discoveries.

  • If you want to save written text so you can update it and publish a photo book elsewhere, you can go into the edit mode for your project, copy what's inside each text box, and paste it into a Word document.
Thursday, 12 June 2014 10:54:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Tuesday, 10 June 2014
How to Use Your Tablet to Make Genealogy Research Trips Easier
Posted by Diane

I have to admit, I don't use my Android tablet much except to surf the internet or read in bed (when I really should be getting to sleep).

As a minimal tablet user, I wanted to try out the video classes planned for our Maximize Your iPad (or Tablet) for Genealogy one-week workshop, taking place online June 23-30. 

I watched "Using Your Tablet on a Research Trip" by workshop instructor and self-professed tablet-aholic Kerry Scott.

When she said that she no longer brings her laptop computer on research trips, I was hooked. Boy would I love to stop lugging that thing around at conferences, trying to use it half open on a plane when the guy in front of me reclines his seat, and getting possessive about the single electrical outlet within walking distance of wherever I am.

Kerry uses her tablet when planning a trip, while traveling, and while researching at the library or archive. Here are a few ways she does it:
  • She puts all her travel documents, confirmations and notes in Evernote and shares them with her husband.
  • Downloads reading material and music, as well as PDF versions of research guides for the place she's going
  • Makes a lookup list of records in Excel (which she likes for its sortability) and saves it to the cloud (Dropbox, in Kerry’s case; I’d keep mine in Google Drive). These are her newspaper lookups:

  • Downloads a flight-tracking app such as FlightTrack, plus the airline’s travel app (which usually lets travelers quickly rebook when flights are canceled or delayed)
  • Downloads traffic apps for states along the driving route, a restaurant-finding app, and news apps for big cities on the itinerary (you know, in case the place shuts down due to a grasshopper plague)
  • Uses Evernote's camera feature to capture record images (such as from microfilm) along with source information for easily pairing the record with its citation. Her video has a demo of how this works.
  • Uses a family tree app for quick lookups while at a repository
  • Downloads apps for libraries she's visiting (if available) for catalog searches
  • Downloads a note-taking app, which would be a biggie for me. Kerry uses a stylus to "write" notes on the tablet, like so:

The tips will work for both iPads and Android tablets—Kerry mentioned apps for both, and the course has videos for both. Now I can't wait to check out the rest of the video courses and chat about apps on the workshop message board.

Click here to see the course lineup and other features for our Maximize Your iPad (or Tablet) for Genealogy one-week workshop

Family Tree University | Genealogy Apps | Webinars
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 15:28:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]