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Thursday, July 24, 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
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 Ancestry.com 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 Fold3.com), 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
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.
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
- 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.
Update: You can find out more about the genealogy research conducted for this episode on Ancestry.com's blog.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Civil War | Research Tips
Thursday, July 24, 2014 10:09:38 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, July 21, 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.
Ancestry.com 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, July 21, 2014 10:38:23 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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
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
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:
The announcement instructs interested "Genealogy Roadshow" filming
event exhibitors to contact a
- St. Louis: Aug. 23 and 24
- New Orleans: Sept. 6 and 7
- Philadelphia: Sept. 13 and 14
Monday, July 21, 2014 10:01:31 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, July 18, 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?" | Ancestry.com | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | MyHeritage | saving and sharing family history
Friday, July 18, 2014 9:48:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, July 17, 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
FamilySearch.org 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.
You can click through to these apps in the Apple App Store or Google
Play from this
post on the FamilySearch Blog.
- 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).
FamilySearch | Genealogy Apps
Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:56:32 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, July 14, 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, July 14, 2014 10:22:32 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, July 08, 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
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
- 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
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 FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
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
Register here for the Time-Saving
Tools and Techniques for Genealogists online workshop.
Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, July 08, 2014 3:41:55 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, July 07, 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
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
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.
the full announcement from FGS and BillionGraves here.
Visit the Preserve the
Pensions project website for more information about making a
Cemeteries | Genealogy Web Sites | Military records
Monday, July 07, 2014 10:47:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Search the US Census Free on Ancestry.com Through July 6
Posted by Diane
Ancestry.com has opened up its collection of census records for free access this Fourth of July holiday. You can search Ancestry.com'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 Ancestry.com account or create an account.
Ancestry.com | census records | Free Databases
Tuesday, July 01, 2014 9:53:55 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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)