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Thursday, 31 July 2014
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Jesse Tyler Ferguson's Black Sheep Ancestor + Old Newspaper Research Tips
Posted by Diane
In last night's "Who Do You Think You Are?" Jesse Tyler Ferguson's
great-grandfather Jess Uppercue—the father of Ferguson's paternal
grandmother, Jessie, with whom he was close—seemed to get into
trouble wherever he went.
It started when he was arrested for the
murder of an aunt he lived with at age 22. Although he had motive
(he stood to gain a tidy sum when she died, having just insisted
upon the rewriting of her will), the evidence was circumstantial.
The first trial ended in a hung jury; the second, in acquittal.
Uppercue later turns up in Evanston, Ill.; Fargo, ND; St. Louis; and
Philadelphia, each time being prosecuted for some money-related
charge and managing to evade punishment.
Then, as the promoter for an expedition to the Alaskan Klondike in
1898, he brought so many participants and provisions, and so much mining machinery, that the group couldn't use the
rugged trail. The expedition's secretary wrote letters to his
hometown paper describing the terrible conditions, one man's death,
and the early departure of nearly half the group, including
He again managed to bounce back, named in newspapers as a speaker at
political events, and married his third wife, Ferguson's
great-grandmother, who was some 30 years younger than he. The
couple later divorced and their daughters stayed with their
Ferguson worked pretty hard there at the end to see his
great-grandfather in a positive light, as someone who survived
multiple setbacks and "stepped up" to care for his girls. But from what
I saw as a viewer—which admittedly probably isn't as full a
picture as Ferguson got—Uppercue just wasn't a good guy.
I do think it's natural to want to believe the best about your own
family, especially when your closest link to that person was someone
you respected as much as Ferguson did his grandmother.
As you could see in this episode (and as
I've found in my own research), newspapers are a good source
for tracing ne'er-do-well ancestors. Old newspaper resources include:
A few resources from ShopFamilyTree.com to help you do genealogy
research in newspapers:
- subscription site
Newspapers.com , which was used on last night's episode (it's owned by
"WDYTYA?" sponsor Ancestry.com)
- subscription site GenealogyBank
- the free Chronicling
America, from the Library of Congress
- newspaper services your local library may offer its patrons (ask at the reference desk or check the website)
- Real genealogy gems may still be hidden in not-yet-digitized papers.
You can search the Chronicling
America newspaper directory to find titles of papers published
in your ancestor's hometown when he lived there. The directory also
tells you the names of libraries and archives that hold the paper on
microfilm, microfiche or paper.
If you're dying to watch "Who Do You Think You Are?" but your
Wednesdays are busy or you don't have TLC, you can
purchase full episodes for $1.99 each or buy the whole season for
$12.99 on the show's YouTube channel.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Newspapers | Research Tips
Thursday, 31 July 2014 10:35:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Jesse Tyler Ferguson Traces His Pioneer Ancestor's Expedition to Alaska
Posted by Diane
Tonight's "Who Do
You Think You Are?" (9/8 Central on TLC) focuses on the ancestors of "Modern Family"
actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
Especially if you have pioneer roots, this show might be of
interest to you: Jesse follows his great-grandfather's 1898
expedition to the Alaskan Klondike, a difficult journey by boat and
pack horse that resulted in the deaths of several men. The
Klondike saw a gold rush from 1896 to 1899, drawing not only gold seekers, but also
businessmen seeking to supply the prospectors.
Like last week's episode with Cynthia Nixon, we'll also learn about
a shocking crime in Ferguson's family history. (Scandal seems to be
common fodder for "Who Do You Think You Are?")
In this preview, Jesse Tyler Ferguson stands among snowcapped
mountains reading what looks like a transcription of a trail diary
from his great-grandfather's journey.
You can watch "Who Do You Think You Are?" with Jesse Tyler Ferguson
tonight (Wednesday, July 30) at 9/8 Central on TLC.
If you're tracing pioneer ancestors, download
our guide with seven genealogy research strategies to discover pioneer roots
comments about appearing in the episode in the Tyler's hometown Albuquerque
Journal newspaper (I had to answer a survey question
before I could see the article).
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 09:45:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, 28 July 2014
The 101 Best Websites for Genealogy in 2014
Posted by Diane
Funny that the release of Family Tree Magazine's milestone 15th
list of the 101 Best Sites for tracing family history
coincides with my milestone 40th birthday.
Both online genealogy and I have come a long way in 15 years. But
you care more about online genealogy, so let's talk about that: Our
first list of 101 Best Websites for genealogy, back in April 2000
(before I was on staff here, although I did write for the magazine
at the time), includes a number of websites that are no
longer around, a bunch of how-to sites, and lots of looooong URLs.
Nowadays, expectations are high: Genealogists want genealogy data,
a powerful yet easy-to-use search, and to see the records with our
ancestors' names. We want to be able to share records with family
members and connect with long-lost cousins. We want to find what
we're looking for in just a couple of clicks, and we want a bargain.
Whether we genealogists admit it or not, we can be hard to please,
and so my hat is off a dozen times to the businesses, organizations,
individuals and volunteers who manage the sites on the 101
Best Websites list for 2014.
can find links to all the 2014 101 Best Websites for Genealogy
sites and a little about each one—focusing on new features and
content—on FamilyTreeMagazine.com (a free article).
in the September 2014 Family Tree Magazine, which is now
mailing to subscribers and will be on newsstands and at ShopFamilyTree.com
Of course the best genealogy site for you is the one that has the
information you need, so don't stop with this list. Individuals and
organizations work hard to maintain
zillions of genealogy websites big and small. Use our list as a
springboard to other sites related to the surnames, places and
historical eras of interest to you. These
simple web search tips can help you find them.
We love to hear about great genealogy websites, so please comment on
this post, find us on Facebook
or Twitter, or email us about your favorite
websites for family history research.
Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 28 July 2014 16:19:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, 25 July 2014
Black Friday in July Sale on Genealogy Guides in ShopFamilyTree.com!
Posted by Diane
I just wanted to let you know that ShopFamilyTree.com
is having a Black Friday in July sale this weekend! You'll get 40
percent off your purchase when you enter offer code SUMMER40.
So if you've been wanting to
... now's the time! Do
your genealogy shopping at ShopFamilyTree.com and enter SUMMER40
when you check out. Hurry—this offer expires on Monday
at 11:59 p.m. Eastern!
(Note that this sale doesn't include magazine subscriptions,
VIP memberships, and products from other companies that ship
directly from those companies.)
ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | Webinars
Friday, 25 July 2014 10:47:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Genealogy News Corral: July 21-25
Posted by Diane
- This Sunday, July 27, the National World War One Museum in Kansas
City, Mo., will broadcast online a "One Century Later" panel
discussion about the ways World War I—which started 100 years
ago—continues to shape our world. The discussion takes place at 11
a.m. Central Time, so be sure to translate that into your local
time. You can watch at www.theworldwar.org.
more about this event here.
FamilySearch | Libraries and Archives | Military records | NARA
Friday, 25 July 2014 10:11:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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
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, 24 July 2014 10:09:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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.
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, 21 July 2014 10:38:23 (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, 21 July 2014 10:01:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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?" | Ancestry.com | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | MyHeritage | saving and sharing family history
Friday, 18 July 2014 09:48:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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
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, 17 July 2014 08:56:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)