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<2014 July>

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# Thursday, 24 July 2014
Genealogy Tips From the “Who Do You Think You Are?” Premiere With Cynthia Nixon
Posted by Diane

Who watched the season premiere of "Who Do You Think You Are?" last night? (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

The show followed Cynthia Nixon's search along her paternal line and this discovery: Her third-great-grandmother Martha Curnutt killed her abusive husband in 1843. Only the second woman held in the Missouri state penitentiary in Jefferson City, Martha gave birth in prison more than a year after entering, suggesting she was raped. The prison's mistreatment of Martha and her baby inspired a long list of people, including prominent local politicians, to petition for her pardon. It was granted two years into her sentence.

You can see part of Cynthia Nixon's visit to the old prison on the site of the building where Martha was held in this clip. Check back on the "Who Do You Think You Are?" website for the full episode.

As is typical for celebrity guests on "Who Do You Think You Are?" Nixon crisscrossed the country to visit archives, and benefited from the extensive legwork and expertise of researchers. Yes, it would be great if we all could get these perks! But the rare, priceless publicity the featured archives and researchers receive is good for those archives and people, which is good for all of us genealogists.

It takes a little longer to do this type of research on your own, but it is possible. Here are a few of the genealogy takeaways I picked up from the show:
  • Use a variety of genealogical records together: Researchers started with censuses and moved back and forth between death certificates, marriage records, military pensions, court records, county and local histories, newspapers and pardon records.
  • Look to military records in the mid-1800s: When Nixon wonders why Martha appears in the 1850 census husbandless and with three children who have her maiden name, a New York state archives researcher says he always considers military records during this time period.

    Martha’s son Noah (who isn't in Nixon's direct line—cluster research at work!) was the right age to serve in the Civil War, and a pension record based on his service could be rich in family details. A Civil War pension index on lists a pension Martha filed as a parent dependent upon her son's support. Civil War pensions aren’t microfilmed or digitized (except for a small number on, so Nixon went to the National Archives in Washington, DC, to get the record. (The rest of us might hire an on-site researcher or order copies for $80.) Sure enough, she learns that Noah died in the war, and his father died in 1842.
  • Use local histories and contemporary accounts: Local history books and newspapers provided several clues. A county history said Martha had killed her husband, and a newspaper article described the circumstances of the husband's "unnatural" treatment of her and his statement one morning that she'd be dead by sunset. A book by another prisoner at that time describes Martha's experience.

    Such books and newspapers might be at a state archives (the Missouri State Archives in this case) or historical society, a public or genealogical library, or even online at sites such as Google Books or Chronicling America
  • Ask for help: You don't have to be a celebrity or a film crew to get expert advice from librarians and archivists. They probably won't do extensive research for you, but if you succinctly explain your problem, they can direct you to resources and get you started using them. 
What did you think of this episode? Did you pick up any genealogy research tips? You'll find a ton of help getting your genealogy research started in our new summer 2014 Discover Your Roots guide—learn more about it in

Update: You can find out more about the genealogy research conducted for this episode on's blog.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Civil War | Research Tips
Thursday, 24 July 2014 10:09:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Monday, 21 July 2014
"Who Do You Think You Are?" (US) Premieres This Wednesday
Posted by Diane

It's my turn to take over the TV at our house this Wednesday at 9 p.m. (Eastern), when the new season of the US series "Who Do You Think You Are?" (WDYTYA?) premieres on TLC.

The first episode features the family tree of actor Cynthia Nixon, known for her role as Miranda in "Sex and the City." I never got into "Sex and the City," but you can bet I'll tune in to "WDYTYA?" for the genealogy.

Watch a trailer for the episode below. In it, Nixon views court records and visits a prison where it sounds like one of her female ancestors was incarcerated.

Other celebrities featured this season include Valerie Bertinelli, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Lauren Graham, Kelsey Grammer, and sisters Rachel and Kayleen McAdams. We'll also see some older episodes, from the show's run on NBC. sponsors the show (which you'll likely gather from its prominent positioning in each episode).  

If you can't watch on Wednesday or you don't have cable, most episodes are posted to the "Who Do You Think You Are?" website after airing. Anybody know if they'll be on Hulu? I searched, but found only clips, not full episodes, from last year.

We'll post a recap here on the Genealogy Insider blog, too.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy TV
Monday, 21 July 2014 10:38:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Apply to Have Your Family Mystery Solved on "Genealogy Roadshow" Season 2
Posted by Diane

Here's some good news: We have official word that "Genealogy Roadshow" is coming back to PBS for a second season. It'll premiere in winter 2015 with season one experts D. Joshua Taylor and Kenyatta Berry, plus Mary Tedesco, founder of the Origins Italy research firm.

If you didn't see "Genealogy Roadshow" last year, it applies the idea behind "Antiques Roadshow" to genealogy: An audiences line up outside a local historic venue, and a lucky few get to share a family mystery with the show's experts. The expert uses family heirlooms, documents, photos and online research to investigate the truth behind the family story.

This season will feature  participants and stories from three American regions: St. Louis, New Orleans and Philadelphia. Here's the "Genealogy Roadshow" website where you can apply to participate at each site.

Looks like there'll be a genealogy fair around filming at each site, too: The producers also are looking for genealogy societies, vendors and research firms to exhibit their products and services at the events. Tables and exhibit space are free. Dates (all Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) are:
  • St. Louis: Aug. 23 and 24
  • New Orleans: Sept. 6 and 7
  • Philadelphia: Sept. 13 and 14
The announcement instructs interested "Genealogy Roadshow" filming event exhibitors to contact a Lisa Hope.

Genealogy TV
Monday, 21 July 2014 10:01:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 18 July 2014
Genealogy News Corral: July 14-18
Posted by Diane

  • The UK-based genealogy company Findmypast and Wall-to-Wall, the "Who Do You Think You Are?" TV show production company,  are working together on Who Do You Think You Are? Story,  a website to help you "produce" your family story. You'll enter information about your immediate family and upload photos, and the site will play an "animated retelling" of your family story, including events that may have affected your family. It will draw from historical records and British newspaper articles at FindMyPast. You can be notified when the site launches by entering your email address on the Who Do You think You Are? Story website. Read more about the service on the Findmypast blog.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | MyHeritage | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 18 July 2014 09:48:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 17 July 2014
FamilySearch Releases Tree & Memories Apps for Your FamilySearch Family Tree
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has introduced two new mobile apps for working with your family tree on
  • FamilySearch Tree lets you view your family tree on the website; add photos, stories and audio recordings; and search for photos, documents and stories about your family. The app doesn't yet let you add and update ancestor details such as names, life dates and relationships, but this is coming soon. FamilySearch Tree is available for iOS 7 and higher and Android 2.3 and higher.
  • FamilySearch Memories lets you use your phone to capture images of old documents, old photos, and family events; audio recordings; and written stories, tag them, and add them to your FamilySearch family tree. FamilySearch Memories is available for iOS 7 (there's no Android version, and FamilySearch hasn't said whether one is in the works).
You can click through to these apps in the Apple App Store or Google Play from this post on the FamilySearch Blog.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Apps
Thursday, 17 July 2014 08:56:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 14 July 2014
WWI Genealogy Records Free on MyHeritage Through July
Posted by Diane

WWI began 100 years ago July 28, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Serbia. All of Europe and countries beyond were drawn into the conflict—including the United States in 1918.  You can see our timeline of war declarations in World War I here.

More than 70 million military personnel worldwide were mobilized and 9 million were killed over the course of the war. Up to 8 million civilians died as a result of the war.

To commemorate the centennial, MyHeritage is making WWI genealogy records free to access from now through the end of July. The collection includes 11 WWI records databases, mostly for European soldiers. Check out the list on the MyHeritage Blog.

For resources and strategies to trace your World War I ancestors—both soldiers and the women who volunteered in the war or stayed on the home front—see the July/August 2014 Family Tree Magazine.

Military records | MyHeritage
Monday, 14 July 2014 10:22:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Time-Saving Genealogy Tips: How I Keep My Research Log
Posted by Diane

I'm on a pause in my genealogy research. Aside from the usual running after the kiddos, trying to keep up at work, and summertime family events, we're packing up and moving our house.

One thing I've been doing that I hope will help me pick up my research after this short (fingers crossed!) break is recommended in our upcoming Time-Saving Tools and Techniques for Genealogists weeklong online workshop: I've been keeping my genealogy to-do list in a research log on Google Drive. Here's what it looks like:

I include columns for the 
  • Status: I can mark this to do, in progress or done

  • Research Task: a description of what needs doing

  • Repository/Site: I'll include the name of the repository or website I need to visit or send a request to

  • Name: the name of the main person(s) named in the record, plus anyone else who should be included

  • Place: the city or town where the repository is located

  • Notes: any details that will help me find the record I need, such as places I've already looked, volume and page numbers found in an index, the repository website, etc.

  • Prep Work Needed: Anything I should do before I visit a repository or request a record goes here

  • Findings: Once a task is done, I can record whether my search was successful
I can access my research log on Google Drive from my home or work computer, as well as my phone. It's sortable by any column, so if I'm visiting the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's (PLCH) well-known genealogy collection, for example, I can sort by the Repository/Site column and gather all the tasks that need to be done at PLCH—saving myself some time in the long run. Or if I want to see what needs to be done for my second-great-granduncle Frank Thoss, a Civil War veteran, I can sort by Name.

The Time-Saving Tools and Techniques for Genealogists weeklong online workshop, happening July 24-31, has a video class called Research Logs for the Rest of Us, which helps you set up and use a research log.

Another video class from this workshop that I'm excited about is Source Citations for Regular People. It shows you how to break down creating source citations into chunks, so crafting them and inputting them into your software doesn't take forever.

You can get details on the rest of the week-long workshop classes, which cover online searching, genealogy goal-setting, time management and more, on

Because genealogists are often inspired by each other, Time-Saving Tools and Techniques for Genealogists workshop participants also can share tips, best practices and questions on a conference message board.

Register here for the Time-Saving Tools and Techniques for Genealogists online workshop.

Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 15:41:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]