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Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Genealogy Tips for Tracing Your Colonial and Early American Ancestors
Posted by Diane
Were your ancestors in America to witness the signing of the
Declaration of Independence or the first shots of the American
Revolution—or even before then?
Lindsay Fulton, a staff genealogist
at the New
England Historic Genealogical Society, researches Colonial and
Early American ancestors for a living. In this Q&A, she was kind enough share her go-to resources for overcoming the
challenges of tracing ancestors from this era:
What's a genealogist's biggest challenge in tracing Colonial-era
and early Americans?
The most common challenges are
- The identity of an ancestor’s mother and father (especially if
trying to determine the maiden name of the mother). So often,
genealogists are able to discover the first name of their female
ancestors but cannot identify a maiden name. The solution often
involves intense “cluster study” research with original records.
- The place of birth or origin of an individual’s earliest
known ancestor. Because 17th and 18th century passenger lists
rarely survived, researchers are often forced to use alternative
records to identify an ancestor’s country of origin.
How can a genealogist confirm that a relative served in the
If you suspect your ancestor served in the American Revolution,
you must first determine the possible town (or state) from which
he may have served. If a Revolutionary War record exists for your
ancestor, it will be filed under the state of service. Next, you
should examine record collections specific to the Revolutionary
War. Some of these
What are some great resources for researching Colonial-era and
Because 17th-century New Englanders are one of the most-studied
ancestry groups, a multitude of resources are available at NEHGS
and beyond. My top 10 include:
- The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634-1635 (7
vols. to date, NEHGS) by by Robert Charles Anderson
Englanders in the 1600s: A Guide to Genealogical Research
Published Between 1980 and 2010 by Martin E.A.
- Founders of Early American Families: Emigrants from Europe,
1607-1657 by Meredith B.Colket: This book is annotated
list of the known immigrants who settled on the East coast
within the first 50 years of English settlement (beginning with
the establishment of Jamestown in 1607).
- A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New
England, Showing Three Generations of Those Who Came Before
May 1692, on the Basis of Farmer’s Register (Little,
Brown, 1860-62) by James Savage: This is one of the principal
sources of information on some of the more obscure 17th-century
New England families.
- New England Marriages Prior to 1700 by Clarence Almon
Torrey: This annotated list (including sources) of approximately
38,000 marriages of New Englanders prior to 1700 is also
available to NEHGS members.
- A Genealogical Register of the First Settlers of New
England (1829, Genealogical Publishing Co., reprinted
1964) by John Farmer: An all-inclusive dictionary of the
earliest settlers of New England
- American Genealogical-Biographical Index to American
Genealogical, Biographical, and Local History Materials (Godfrey
Memorial Library, 206 volumes, plus a 20-volume supplement):
This every-name index to printed New England family genealogies,
genealogical queries and answers from the Boston Evening
Transcript, published Revolutionary War rolls, and the
1790 census is searchable on
Ancestry.com or request a search
through the Godfrey Memorial Library.
New England Historical and Genealogical Register
(1847-present): This scholarly genealogical journal presents
articles such as compiled genealogies of Colonial New England
families, transcriptions of records, and how-to articles. The
text is available online to NEHGS members.
- The American
Genealogist (1922-present): Genealogical articles
that focus primarily on New England families. Volumes 1 to 82
are available online to NEHGS members
Where can people trace immigrants who arrived before 1820,
when federally mandated passenger lists of arriving ships begin?
Passenger lists as we know them today were a result of the Act of
March 2, 1819, which required passenger lists for ships from
foreign ports. These records often provide the name of the
immigrant, age, country of origin, and ship name.
Passenger records prior to 1819 rarely survived, and failed to
provide such specific information. Alternative records for 17th-
and 18th-century immigrant ancestors include loyalty oaths, new
settlement charters, and published passenger lists, which can
provide an exact year of immigration. Other records, such as
freeman records or town meeting minutes, provide an approximate
immigration year. Sometimes an estimated year is the closest a
researcher will come to locating information about an ancestor’s
arrival in Colonial America.
In addition to the Great Migration series mentioned above, some
popular published immigration resources (and alterative resources)
- Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900 by
William P. Filby
- The Original Lists of Persons of Quality, 1600-1700
by John Camden Hotten, available
free on Internet Archive
- The Founders of New England by Samuel G. Drake
- Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original
Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727-1808
(3 volumes) by Ralph B. Strassburger and William J. Hinke
What substitute sources can help with missing censuses and
those head-of-household-only pre-1850 census records?
Several record collections can be used to identify members of a
family. Commonly, researchers in New England use vital record
collections in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New
Hampshire, and Rhode Island to identify the children of a
particular mother and father.
When vital records are unavailable, as is often the case with New
York, Mid-Atlantic and Southern states, probate records, land
deeds, court records, pension files, and city directories may
provide more specific information about a family dynamic. For
example, a probated will may identify the name of the deceased’s
spouse, children, and (sometimes) grandchildren.
To locate these alterative records, you could examine the probate
and deed record collections available (browseable only) at FamilySearch.org (go
here and filter by state), or the American Revolutionary War
and the War of 1812 pension records at Fold3. Also try
Ancestry.com's US City Directories, 1821-1989 database.
Thanks again to Lindsay Fulton and NEHGS for providing these tips! Need more guidance for researching Colonial-era ancestors?
See Family Tree University's Top
25 Tips for Finding Your Colonial Ancestors on-demand webinar
and our Researching
Revolutionary War Ancestors video class.
Libraries and Archives | Military records | Research Tips
Tuesday, July 01, 2014 4:42:11 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Retirement Date Extended for MyFamily.com, MyCanvas, Mundia, Ancestry DNA and mtDNA
Posted by Diane
Due to recent site outages during Ancestry.com's
recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack two weeks
ago, the company has pushed back the shutdown
dates for MyFamily.com, MyCanvas, Mundia, and Y-DNA and
mtDNA: These sites will now be available until Sept. 30, 2014,
instead of the originally announced Sept. 5.
During the DDoS attack, users of the to-be-retired services couldn't
get into the sites to retrieve
Here's another retirement-related update: To the disappointment of some
Y-DNA and mtDNA customers, Ancestry.com will not release DNA samples
submitted for those tests, and will destroy those samples (or
perhaps already has done so). On
Ancestry.com's blog, Senior Vice President and General Manager
for Ancestry.com DNA says that "the legal framework used to collect
these samples does not allow us to retest or transfer those
samples." He adds that many of the samples are no longer usable. See
the full explanation here.
Ancestry.com | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, July 01, 2014 11:28:46 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, June 30, 2014
Ancestry.com and ProQuest Expand Partnership to Provide Genealogy Databases at Libraries
Posted by Diane
Subscription genealogy website Ancestry.com
and library database service ProQuest
their partnership to deliver genealogy resources to libraries
Under the companies' new, multi-year agreement, ProQuest will
distribute both Ancestry Library Edition and future Ancestry.com
ProQuest already distributes Ancestry Library Edition, a version
of Ancestry.com patrons can use for free on-site at subscribing
libraries. Ancestry Library Edition has most of the
collections found on Ancestry.com; exceptions include the
Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, family and local history
books, and Freedman's Bank records. (Click
here for a rundown of differences between Ancestry.com and
Ancestry Library Edition.)
In addition, Ancestry.com will "power" an improved HeritageQuest
Online, which is ProQuest's libraries-only database that
offers census records, an
older version of the Periodical
Source Index, the Genealogy & Local History book
collection, selected Revolutionary War pension and bounty land
warrant applications, Freedman's Bank Records, and more. A potential area for improvement: Except for 1940, HeritageQuest Online's searchable census indexes are head-of-household only; and 1830 through 1850, 1880 and most of 1930 aren't searchable by name.
Patrons of libraries that subscribe to HeritageQuest Online can
access the databases free through the library's website (usually by
entering a valid library card number).
the announcement about the Ancestry.com-ProQuest expanded
Ancestry.com | Genealogy Industry | Libraries and Archives
Monday, June 30, 2014 9:04:11 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, June 27, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: June 23-27
Posted by Diane
- In happier news, the Arkansas
History Commission will relaunch its online digital
archive with new collections, including maps, postcards, WWI
materials and state constitutions. More material will be added,
too, including Civil War documents and oral history interviews
with veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The online
archive will be available through the Arkansas History Commission
- FamilySearch this week announced the online publication of its
one billionth historical record image at the free
FamilySearch.org website. It took seven years to reach the
one billion mark; FamilySearch Records Division director Rod
DeGiulio estimates the next billion record images will be
published within three to five years. Read
more about this milestone on the FamilySearch blog.
FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Friday, June 27, 2014 9:51:49 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Free Canadian Genealogy Records on Ancestry.ca Through July 1
Posted by Diane
Are you researching roots in Canada? Ancestry.ca,
the Canadian sister site to Ancestry.com, is offering free Canadian
genealogy records now through July 1 at 11:59 p.m. to
That includes Canadian censuses, voter lists, vital records,
military records, passenger lists and more. Some of the site's
records, such as border-crossing records and the US and Canada
Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, also pertain to
those tracing US ancestors.
Once you run a search and click on a result, you'll be prompted to
sign up for a free account in order to view the matching record.
Click here to
search the free Ancestry.ca Canadian genealogy collections.
Canadian roots | Free Databases
Thursday, June 26, 2014 2:39:14 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, June 25, 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.
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
- 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.
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.
- City directories: Use the listings by street in the back of some
books to learn neighbors' names.
Family Tree University | Research Tips
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 10:02:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, June 23, 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 Mocavo.com,
a genealogy search engine, records and family tree website. Mocavo
will become a fully owned subsidiary of Findmypast.
from Findmypast is here. You can read Mocavo's statement about
the acquisition on its home page
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
“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 Genealogy.com (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 Origins.net.
findmypast | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, June 23, 2014 12:16:42 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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 Ancestry.com, 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, June 23, 2014 10:05:24 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, June 20, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: June 16-20
Posted by Diane
- FamilySearch has added more than 4.9 million indexed records
and images to collections from Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Costa
Rica, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland, United States and
Venezuela, with especially notable collections form Costa Rica,
Portugal and Venezuela. You can see the list
of updated collections and click through to search or brose
them, on the FamilySearch blog.
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 FamilySearch.org
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
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, June 20, 2014 11:08:18 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Best Facebook Comments Re: Ancestry.com DDoS Attack
Posted by Diane
In case you haven't heard, Ancestry.com 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
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,
Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com Facebook page
ancestry deleted their cookies and emptied their cache?
Old Search is exacting its revenge.
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
MyFamily, MyCanvas, Genealogy.com, Mundia and the Y-DNA
and mtDNA tests, and the internet gods retire you!
can't get on the site. What am I supposed to do, actually
get some sleep or something?
am I supposed to discover which vastly wealthy relative
I'm related to now?
And this is the winner, which West
in New England blogger Bill West posted on his own Facebook
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,
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Ancestry.com | Social Networking
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 2:15:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)