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<2014 July>

More Links

# Monday, 07 July 2014
New Genealogy Crowdsourcing Initiative: Digitizing War of 1812 Veterans' Gravestones
Posted by Diane

The Federation of Genealogical Societies and cemetery website BillionGraves are getting together on a project to photograph all existing gravestone markers for participants in the War of 1812.

“The images from these markers, coupled with the Federation’s current project to raise the funds to digitize the 7.2 million images of the pensions for those who participated in the War of 1812 are a natural fit,” said D. Joshua Taylor, President of FGS.

The partnership is part of FGS' Preserve the Pensions project, which is raising money to digitize military pension records of War of 1812 veterans. The digitized pensions will be accessible free on the Fold3 website.

An estimated 350,000 men may have served in the war. It's unknown how many have cemetery markers, but there could be as many as 50,000 to 80,000 markers for these veterans, according to the two organizations.

BillionGraves and The Federation of Genealogical Societies are asking anyone with knowledge of a cemetery marker for a War of 1812 veteran to upload an image of the marker to the BillionGraves website using the site's free mobile app (available for iPhone and Android devices). They also hope you'll post about any uploaded images on Facebook or Twitter using one or more of the hashtags #1812today, #warof1812 and #billiongraves.

Read the full announcement from FGS and BillionGraves here.

Visit the Preserve the Pensions project website for more information about making a donation

Cemeteries | Genealogy Web Sites | Military records
Monday, 07 July 2014 10:47:05 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 01 July 2014
Search the US Census Free on Through July 6
Posted by Diane has opened up its collection of census records for free access this Fourth of July holiday. You can search's US census records from 1790 through 1940 for free until July 6 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.

When you click to view a record in your search results, you'll be prompted to sign in to your free account or create an account. | census records | Free Databases
Tuesday, 01 July 2014 21:53:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
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 American Revolution?

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 are: 

What are some great resources for researching Colonial-era and early Americans?

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
  • New Englanders in the 1600s: A Guide to Genealogical Research Published Between 1980 and 2010 by Martin E.A. Hollick

  • 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 or request a search through the Godfrey Memorial Library.
  • The 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) include: 

  • 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 (go here and filter by state), or the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 pension records at Fold3. Also try'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, 01 July 2014 16:42:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Retirement Date Extended for, MyCanvas, Mundia, Ancestry DNA and mtDNA
Posted by Diane

Due to recent site outages during's recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack two weeks ago, the company has pushed back the shutdown dates for, 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 their data.

Here's another retirement-related update: To the disappointment of some Y-DNA and mtDNA customers, will not release DNA samples submitted for those tests, and will destroy those samples (or perhaps already has done so).  On's blog, Senior Vice President and General Manager for 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. | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 01 July 2014 11:28:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 30 June 2014 and ProQuest Expand Partnership to Provide Genealogy Databases at Libraries
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy website and library database service ProQuest have expanded their partnership to deliver genealogy resources to libraries worldwide.

Under the companies' new, multi-year agreement, ProQuest will distribute both Ancestry Library Edition and future products.

ProQuest already distributes Ancestry Library Edition, a version of patrons can use for free on-site at subscribing libraries. Ancestry Library Edition has most of the collections found on; 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 and Ancestry Library Edition.)

In addition, 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).

Read the announcement about the expanded partnership here. | Genealogy Industry | Libraries and Archives
Monday, 30 June 2014 09:04:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 27 June 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 website.
  • FamilySearch this week announced the online publication of its one billionth historical record image at the free 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, 27 June 2014 09:51:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 26 June 2014
Free Canadian Genealogy Records on Through July 1
Posted by Diane

Are you researching roots in Canada?, the Canadian sister site to, is offering free Canadian genealogy records now through July 1 at 11:59 p.m. to celebrate Canada Day.

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 Canadian genealogy collections.

Canadian roots | Free Databases
Thursday, 26 June 2014 14:39:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]