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<2014 September>

More Links

# Friday, 05 September 2014
First Look: Relauched Ellis Island Immigration Passenger Search Website
Posted by Diane

The free Ellis Island passenger search website has undergone a dramatic makeover. The old, early 2000s site has been replaced by a modern, slick-looking site with lots of graphics and photos. now redirects to, which combines the contents of the former Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, Wall of Honor and Flag of Faces websites.

The site, in beta, also is adding new passenger records from the years 1925 through 1957. The previous site stopped at 1924, when immigration slowed due to restrictive quotas. About two-thirds of the later records are already searchable on the site, with the rest coming closer to the end of the year.

Registered users of the old will need to select a new password by clicking the login link in the top right corner and choosing Forgot Password, or you can opt to log in with Facebook.

You'll find the passenger and ship records search under Ellis Island in the navigation menu (or at <>).

Here, you'll see a basic search, with name search options below the search box.

The "last name as first" option is new (I think), and awesome—on my great-grandfather's manifest, the ship's clerk went from last-name-first to first-name-first, causing his name to be switched in some indexes (though as I remember, the Ellis Island indexer got it right).

The results look like this:

Use these icons at the top right to switch between grid view and list view.

The options at the top let you sort your results by first name, last name or arrival date. You can use the Filter button to select or deselect exact matches, close matches, sounds like matches, etc., or click on one of those labels to view only close matches, sounds like matches, etc.

The link you'll probably want to use first though, is Narrow Your Search.

That's where you'll find options to narrow results by
  • gender
  • marital status
  • year of birth
  • current age (at immigration)
  • age range at arrival
  • year of arrival (I personally would like to see this option get more prominence, perhaps moved to the basic search)
  • month of arrival
  • day of arrival
  • name of town
  • ship name
  • port of departure
  • arrival port (I'm not sure why this one's here, because the only possible port for Ellis Island records should be New York, right? I tried typing a few other ports into the space provided, and got "no results found." Makes me wonder if this is a placeholder and the site plans to add records of other ports?)
  • passenger ID
  • companion's first name
  • place of  birth
  • ethnicity
For the options before Name of Town, you click a button or move a slider to set your parameters. The options from Name of Town to Place of Birth are type-in fields. For Ethnicity, you click the plus sign and check boxes.

Click Passenger Record, Ship Image, or Ship manifest below a passenger's name to see a summary of his passenger record, a picture of the ship, or the manifest itself.

You also can use the tabs at the top of this page to see the manifest, ship information and more. As with the old site, you can view manifest images online, but you must pay for copies of them.

Read more about the updated Ellis Island website here. I'm looking forward spending more time getting used to the new site. What do you think?

PS: The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation tweaked some of the new site's features and posted an update about the tweaks to its Facebook page.

Free Databases | immigration records
Friday, 05 September 2014 16:47:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
Genealogy News Corral: Sept. 1-5
Posted by Diane

  • The International Society of Family History Writers & Editors (ISFHWE) has announced the 2014 winners of the Excellence in Writing competition. Can I just brag that several have been featured in the pages of Family Tree Magazine?

    Shelley K. Bishop and Schelly Talalay Dardashti took first place in the Columns and Articles categories, respectively (Shelley Bishop also took second in the articles category); James M. Beidler placed second in Newsletters; and Shannon Combs-Bennett earned honorable mention in Columns. Congratulations to all the winners—they're all listed at GeneaPress.

  • has relaunched the Ancestry App on version 6.0 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. New features include a section for viewing all your hints for a given tree from a single place, the ability to comment on shared photos and stories right from the app, a list view for your family tree (in addition to the existing family and pedigree views), and more. Read more about the Ancestry App here. | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Historic preservation
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:19:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 04 September 2014
Ways to Celebrate Grandparents Day This Sunday, Sept. 7
Posted by Diane

This Sunday, Sept. 7, is National Grandparents Day in the United States. Do something to honor your grandparents—and if you are a grandparent, to honor your bond with your grandchildren.

My two rugrats with my grandma, their great-grandma.

Here are a few National Grandparents Day ideas:
  • Pass down old family stories to your grandchild. You could fill a notebook, record yourself talking, or fill in a book of prompts such as Stories From My Grandparent.
  • You might know a lot about the lives of your own grandparents, a relatively recent generation, genealogically speaking. Even so, you could focus on fleshing out what you know with newspaper research and local histories, and/or sum up your research and your memories about your grandparent in an essay.
  • Create a "generations" photo like this one, with a member of your family's oldest generation holding a photo of his or her child, who's holding a photo of his or her child. In most cases, the photo is "faked": You take a picture of each person holding an empty frame, then use photo-editing software to add a picture into the frame. Lots of tutorials are available online; here's one.
How will you celebrate Grandparents' Day?

saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 04 September 2014 09:50:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 03 September 2014
12 Tips to Have an Awesome Family Tree University Virtual Conference
Posted by Diane

Our Family Tree University Virtual Conference is coming up Sept. 19-21! Some booth visitors at last week's Federation of Genealogical Societies conference saw our Virtual Conference sign and asked how it works. For anyone wondering the same thing, here's the lowdown:
  • Once you complete your registration, you'll receive an email with instructions on logging in to participate. When you log in, you'll see the Welcome page with links to each track of video classes (Genealogy Technology, Research Strategies, and Ethnic Research), live chats, the discussion board, the exhibit hall, and FAQs. Click on a link to visit that area of the conference.
  • The video classes are recorded, so you can watch them whenever you want during the conference, and/or download them to your computer to watch later. You also can visit the discussion board any time during the conference. Live chats do happen at scheduled times, although we post chat transcripts to the discussion board for anyone who missed them—valuable genealogy tips emerge from these chats!
Thinking about registering? Here are some Virtual Conference tips I've gathered over the years of participating in these:
  • You can log in any time over the weekend to access videos or the discussion board—even in the middle of the night. If you have kids, you might need to call Dora the Explorer and Little Einsteins into service when you attend the scheduled live chats.
  • You can download videos to watch later, but if you're especially interested in one, try to watch it during the conference so you can post any follow-up questions to the message board.

  • To download a video or a PDF directly from a link, right-click on the link and choose Save As, Save Target As or Save Link As (depending on your browser). Choose to save to your desktop, allow a minute for downloading, then open directly from your computer.

  • Print out a PDF of the presentation slides before sitting down to watch a video. Then, if there is a particular part of the video that you want to revisit, you can jot down the time signature next to the corresponding slide so that you can go back and re-watch later.
  • The message board is great for posting brick walls and research questions, and getting to know people. We also usually have threads for introductions, surnames (I'll post names with places, such as "Depenbrock: Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Ky."), favorite genealogy books and websites, old family recipes, and more. Feel free to start a thread.
  • Since you'll be spending a little time in front of the computer, keep your favorite snacks handy. Break out your comfy slippers, too.
  • Live chats can be fast-paced. Usually, the moderator opens things by asking a question of the group. Don't be shy about jumping in—that breaks the ice and makes it easier later in the chat, when you want to ask a research question or comment on someone else's question.

  • Write out some questions you have about the topic before entering a live chat. That way you’ll feel less pressure to come up with questions on the fly, and you can engage in the conversation instead of racking your brain to make sure you ask everything you need to.
  • In a busy live chat, if you respond to another person's comment, it helps to start with their name: "Diane, I hear passport records are..." Other comments will appear between the original comment and your response, so this helps connect the two.
  • Don't worry about typos in chats. If you think your typo will confuse people, just post another comment "Oops, that should be ..." (Once I was in a chat while holding a baby, and his foot rested on the Return key for a few seconds. I just typed a quick "Sorry about that" to explain my 14 blank comments, and no one minded.)
  • No need to scribble notes during a chat—we'll make the transcript available on the message board.
See the Virtual Conference program of video classes and live chats on Family Tree

Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Research Tips
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 13:58:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Four Pointers to Preserve Your Family Heirlooms in a Disaster
Posted by Diane

As a natural worrier, I do my share of worst-case-scenario thinking—natural disasters, economic ruin, environmental destruction, etc. Uplifting, I know. 

But the good thing about National Preparedness Month, which happens each September in the United States, is the abundance of information about how to minimize harm to your family and your stuff if one of those scary scenarios should happen.

When it comes to stuff, genealogists often prize heirlooms above all else. What would happen to your family treasures in a fire or a natural disaster? Prepare them for the worst with these four tips from Family Curator Denise Levenick, author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes:

  • Inventory: Create an heirloom inventory with pictures of each item and information about it, including its location in your home. You can do this in a document to keep digitally (store the photo files along with the document) or on paper in a binder. However you do this, keep a copy of the inventory in an off-site location.
  • Prioritize: If you have several heirlooms, prioritize them in order of what to save in an emergency—say, if you had to evacuate your home or escape a fire. (Obviously, after any family members or friends in your home at the time.) Make a list of priority items and where they are.
  • Insure: Talk to your insurance agent, especially about valuable heirlooms. Would loss or damage be covered in a cases of fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, theft or accident? You may need to purchase additional coverage.
  • Plan: Make sure your wishes for heirlooms are known in case something happens to you. Put this information in your will or give it to a trusted friend or family member. Along with this, list login details for any family tree or photo storage accounts. 
Find more disaster preparation help for the genealogist in our Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists on-demand webinar, presented by Levenick.

Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 12:40:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Internet Archive Uploads Giant Collection of Old Photos & Images to Flickr
Posted by Diane

Genealogists know the Internet Archive as a free online repository of digitized books (as well as the home of the Wayback Machine archive of cached websites). 

Now, Internet Archive has made itself a resource for old photos, too. The site recently posted several million images from digitized books to Flickr.

If you click on an image in the photo stream and scroll down a little, you'll see the publication title and page number where the image came from,  in addition to links to the book page on Internet Archive, the book's catalog listing on Internet Archive, and the rest of the images from that book.

You'll also find tags that other Flickr viewers have added for the book year, century (1800, 1900), subjects, etc. If you click a tag, you'll see other images with the same tag.

To search the Internet Archive collection, type your terms into the search box at the top right. As you type, a dropdown menu will appear with options to search all photo streams or just Internet Archives' photo stream. Choose that one.

(With subsequent searches, I found that I had to return to the Internet Archive collection home to get the option to limit my results to that collection.)

Here are some of my results from my Cincinnati Germans search:

The image below is St. John's Evangelical German Protestant Church, from page 197 of the 1892 Centennial Anniversary of the City of Hamilton, Ohio.

I can see this collection being useful for finding images related to your family history, such as the places your family lived or their jobs and activities. It's also another entry to search and view the digitized pages at Internet Archive. Read more about the Internet Archive collection on the Flickr blog.

Access the Internet Archive Book Images collection here.

Free Databases | Photos
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 09:53:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 28 August 2014 Free Access Weekend Through Sept. 1
Posted by Diane free access weekend

We hear that subscription genealogy website is having a free access weekend!

You can search and view a billion new genealogy records from 67 countries around the world, from now through Sept. 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET. You’ll need to register for a free basic account (if you don’t already have one) to view records.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:20:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Registration Opens for FGS 2015 Conference Feb. 11-14 in Salt Lake City
Posted by Diane

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), whose 2014 annual conference is going on now in San Antonio, just opened registration for the 2015 FGS conference.

What's special about the FGS 2015 conference, and the reason that registration is already open, is that it'll be held in conjunction with FamilySearch's 2015 RootsTech conference Feb. 11-14 in Salt Lake City. 

The two conferences will have joint general sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings, and will share an exhibit hall. They'll have separate classes. See the FGS 2015 program here.

You can take advantage of a special early bird registration fee for FGS 2015 of $139, which expires Sept. 12. Add on a pass to the RootsTech conference for $39.

Separate Rootstech registration will open Aug. 29.

Genealogy Events
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 22:53:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Interview With "Who Do You Think You Are?" Producer Dan Bucatinsky
Posted by Diane

I had the chance recently to interview Dan Bucatinsky, coproducer (with Lisa Kudrow) of TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Is or Isn't Entertainment

We talked about why the show researches celebrities instead of average-Joe genealogists, how casting and filming happen, and his wish list. My questions were inspired by comments we've heard from many of you on social media, by my own impressions of the show, and by the conversation.

You can listen to the whole thing by clicking here, and/or you can read the synopsis below. If you listen, know a few things first:

  • It's about a half hour, so get comfy.

  • You can barely hear me ask my questions (stupid recording device) (it’s probably something I did), but Bucatinsky comes through loud and clear, so I don't think that harms what you can learn about the show. I hate my voice in recordings anyway.

  • His kids run into the room about halfway through, which I thought was cute (much more so than when my kids do this to me).

  • You can tell this was just after the Jesse Tyler Ferguson episode, because he talks about the upcoming shows with the McAdamses, Valerie Bertinelli and Kelsey Grammer. Yes, it took me awhile to get this together for you.

If you can’t listen, or you just want to know what you’re in for, here’s the gist:

Why profile just celebrities?
The comment/question we at Family Tree Magazine most often hear about "Who Do You Think You Are?" is "Why doesn't the show trace the roots of someone who isn't famous?" ("Like me?" is usually implied.) So I asked.

Basically, the explanation is what I thought it would be: In order to stay on TV, the show needs to attract a general audience—not just a genealogical one. To do that, it needs the celebrity "hook."

While the show certainly is meant to inspire, Bucatinsky says, "There is a reality about television ... in order to get the high volume of viewership on any network or any website, you need to find a very, very high level of public interest, one that crosses many circles of demographics."

"The casting process is extremely intense, and if we didn't have the well-known ‘tour guides,’ we would have probably a very difficult time getting people to engage, even though it doesn't mean the stories would be any less interesting. Even if you get maybe 100,000 people who are interested in genealogy, which is a big number, it's not a big number for television."

He said the producers’ ratings research bears out this statement: The higher the profile of the celebrity featured, the higher the ratings numbers.

How are the celebrities selected?
Casting the celebrity guests can be surprisingly difficult. In the first couple of years, Bucatinsky and Kudrow reached out to people they knew personally. Now that word is out in celebrity circles, stars' representatives tell producers they're willing to participate, and they go on a list.

"Any celebrity who has done the show has raved about their experience on it," Bucatinsky says.

But that’s not all: Although it’s hard to tell when research begins where an ancestral story will go, producers aim for variety. TLC gets a say, too. “One thing we do, when we have control over it, is try to create as much diversity as possible,” Bucatinsky says. “We'll try to see if the preliminary research makes the story feel like it will be diverse. We get approval from the network ... [the talent] has to coincide with what they know their viewership wants to see.” 

The guest’s schedule also has to mesh with the show’s production schedule. “I can't even imagine another show that's as complicated to produce. The Rubik's cube of getting the talent approved, getting a story that actually feels like it's gonna break and be interesting enough to shoot, and getting a celebrity's schedule to tie in with our production schedule and the release dates is—I can't begin to tell you how complicated it is.”

How was the transition to TLC?
I also asked Bucatinsky about the show’s move from NBC to TLC before last season, and whether he feels it fits on a network that’s also home to shows like "Honey Boo Boo." (No offense to "Honey Boo Boo" fans out there—it's just a different kind of show from "Who Do You Think You Are?")

He thinks family history has a broad enough appeal that “Who Do You Think You Are?” is interesting to a range of audiences. "We certainly had our trepidation about 'hmm, I wonder if the audience for those shows is the same as our audience?' But there's no question there's a very wide audience for ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’” 

He added that TLC has been supportive of the show, and hasn’t asked for changes in the formula.

What’s the most popular kind of story?
I’ve seen a lot of “types” of “Who Do You Think You Are?” episodes. Some focus on one ancestor; some cover two or more. Some stay in the United States; some globe-trot. I like stories that stick with one person, but others might think that slows the pace too much. I wondered which approach is most popular with viewers. 

All of the above, Bucatinsky says. It’s the emotional connection that matters. "I feel like we've had really good success with stories where there's an emotional tie to the protagonist. Christina Applegate's episode last season was quite popular. It was partly because Christina herself has a wide audience, and partly because she was making the journey for her father, who never really knew his mother. And to come to so many amazing conclusions about his mother, and be able to bring her father to the gravesite of his mother—it’s hugely cathartic stuff. "

“I love an episode that really is emotional and bring insight into somebody's grandparents, who they remember as a kid but didn't know anything about," he adds. "And I also love the stories that take you back and you don't even realize that you had relatives that are part of the Mayflower or the Civil War or the Gold Rush—things you only learn about in history books, and the context makes it much more relevant.” 

“It's some combination of the popularity of the celebrity and the strength of the story.” He also pointed out that how engaged the celebrity guest is plays a role.

Are the celebrity guests coached to do or say certain things?
Sometimes, I think, the celebrity seems to ask just the right question to segue into the surprise discovery—almost as if the person was told what to say. That's not the case, says Bucatinsky. "They may be prodded to find the information that we need them to find. We know that they need to hit a page of a particular document that they're wearing gloves to look at, so they will get guided to it, but the discovery itself is always organic and authentic. There's very little coaching in the moment.” 

The celebrity doesn’t know what he’ll find or where he’s going next, but the archivists usually does. "Our archivist is someone who we've spoken to and found out information from ... they're there ready to meet our celebrity, and when the celebrity arrives, they will never have met before. ... Every bit of it that films our subject is filmed originally and in the order of the journey. It's not rehearsed. It's a documentary."

How long does it take to film an episode?
“A whole journey would be anywhere between 8 and 23 days, but that includes travel days,” Bucatinsky says. “We've had episodes that could probably have made really good two-hour episodes. We try to do the best we can. If we think the season's going to wind up on DVD, we'll put the scenes [there].”

Interestingly, an entire story line from Gwenyth Paltrow's episode didn't even make it on the show.

Who’s your dream guest? (and other things he’d love to do with the show)
“I don't really focus on the person, I focus on plans and stories that we haven't told before. I really want to tell a Latin American story.” (His family is from Argentina.) 

“We haven't been to Asia, and it looks as though we're going to this season,” he added. (Although the season finale is tonight, with Minnie Driver, and they stay in England. Did I miss a trip to Asia?)

Although it seemed like he was going to evade the question, he later added, “If one of the Obamas wanted to do it, that would be dreamy.”

I also asked about the possibility of a follow-up show that would tie up some of the loose ends—such as what happened to the former spouses of Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s great-grandfather. Bucatinsky mentioned the scheduling difficulties as an obstacle, but added, “What I would want to try to do down the line is just start with one: One person who wants to come back and revisit a story and see how it goes. There are other stories to be explored, and it would be fun to have someone that people love come back.”

You can listen to my interview with “Who Do You Think You Are?” co-producer Dan Bucantinsky here

Want to hear more? Here are a couple of Bucatinsy's interviews with other bloggers:

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 15:06:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 25 August 2014
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Season Finale: Minnie Driver Traces English Roots
Posted by Diane

This week's season finale of TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" features English actor Minnie Driver (fun fact—her real name is Amelia Fiona).

Photo: TLC

Driver was on the British "Who Do You Think You Are?" (which inspired the US version); I imagine this is the same show, perhaps re-edited. (You can see a clip from the BBC show here.)

If you're hoping for a look at 20th-century English research, you're in luck. Driver will learn about her father's career in the Royal Air Force during World War II, of which he hardly spoke. She researches back to his parents, and then forward to discover a relative who becomes the first paternal relative she's ever met. 

Among places viewers will visit are the Royal Air Force Museum, Rockside Hall (once a Royal Air Force psychiatric hospital), and several local libraries.

Watch "Who Do You Think You Are?" at 9/8 Central on TLC. Past episodes are available on the TLC website.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Monday, 25 August 2014 16:45:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]