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<2014 September>

More Links

# Wednesday, 24 September 2014
3 Terrific, Free Online Translation Tools for Genealogists
Posted by Diane

Lots of genealogists have a goal to research immigrant ancestors back to their homelands, find old records there, and maybe even travel there one day. All this usually means working with foreign-language records, websites and organizations.

Our Genealogist's Translation Digital Toolkit includes at-a-glance genealogy word lists in 22 languages, as well as information about online translation tools like these: 
  • Google Translate: Translate words, passages and web pages from 80 languages. Google automatically detects the language of text you enter, or you can specify languages to translate from and to. The suggested translations at the bottom of the screen have helped me, too, when I'm working on an obituary in German Gothic type, and finding it hard to make out some of the letters.
You also can upload a document to translate, see a virtual keyboard with characters from that language, and hear your translation pronounced. There's a smartphone app, too. Just remember that because the process is automated, not all translations will be perfect. Learn more on the Google Translate blog.
  • One-Step Web Pages: Characters in Foreign Alphabets: If you're working with records in foreign alphabets such as Hebrew or Greek, the tools here help you convert from cursive to print and vice versa, transliterate. These are helpful, for example, if you want to type a name into a database search that uses a foreign alphabet, or you need to sound out names from vital records or tombstones in the Cyrillic alphabet, in order to match them to names in the Latin alphabet.
There’s also a Virtual Keyboard for typing characters of any Latin-based alphabet in one step—simply use the keyboard displayed on the screen to click the characters you want to type, then copy and paste the text into your application (such as an online family tree or blog post, where you want to correctly show the spelling of a name that includes diacriticals or characters such as ǽ).
  • Livemocha: This site is essentially a social networking site for language learning. Register with a user name and password to access free and premium lessons, as well as a free global community to help with translations in 35 languages. This site is great if you want to become more familiar with your ancestors' native tongue.
Our Genealogist's Translation Digital Toolkit contains:
  • video class on how to use Google Translate for family history records
  • Resource Roundup of translation websites
  • Genealogist's Instant Translation Guide: At-a-Glance Glossaries for 22 Languages
It's on sale now (at 50 percent off!) in

International Genealogy | Research Tips | Sales
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 14:01:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
"Finding Your Roots" Episode 1 Focuses on Fathers' Family Histories
Posted by Diane

Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." tied together the family histories of three well-known Americans—author Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney Vance—with the theme of fathers. Missing fathers, to be more specific.

All three lost their fathers before they could learn anything about their history. King was 2 when his father walked out; Reuben's father died when she was 12; and Vance was 30 when he lost his father to suicide.

The message that hit home for me, which I think is the message that host Henry Louis Gates wanted to get across, is that some empty part of you is filled when you can discover these missing parts of your family's past. King said you "see that there's a foundation underneath you."

Last night's surprises for the three guests included:
  • King's father, who joined the Navy after abandoning his family, changed his last name at some point from Pollack to King. The show's researchers could find no legal record of a name change, though—he just started using the new name as a young man.
  • King was surprised to learn he had Southern roots; his ancestors moved North and served for the Union during the Civil War.
  • The show's researchers also were able to identify her earliest African ancestor in the Western Hemisphere, who was transported as a slave via the Middle Passage. Gates pointed out how hard this is to do, a dream for many African-American genealogists.
  • Courtney Vance's father grew up in foster care. Vance learned the identity of his father's mother, as well as some painful aspects of her life.
  • Through Y-DNA testing of himself and a male-line descendant of the minister his grandmother had named as the father of her child, Vance learned that the minister was not the father. More importantly, the test identified a Y-DNA match—a relative along Vance's paternal line. With further research in that man's family tree, Vance could possibly learn who his grandfather was. I wonder if the show's researchers attempted this and for some reason it didn't make the show? Talk about loose ends.

    If you want to use DNA to solve family mysteries, you can learn how in our Genetic Genealogy 101 Family Tree University online course and our Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries webinar.
The full "In Search of Our Fathers" episode is available to view on the "Finding Your Roots" website. The show will air on most PBS stations on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 10:58:05 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 22 September 2014
Genealogy TV: "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr" Premieres Tomorrow
Posted by Diane

Clear your calendars and set your DVRs tomorrow night (Sept. 23) to watch the premiere of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr." at 8 p.m. Eastern on PBS.

In this series, Harvard African-American history professor, author and documentary filmmaker Henry Louis Gates escorts well-known Americans on a journey into their family history. Each episode features three guests whose family histories share " an intimate, sometimes hidden link."

Tomorrow's premiere reveals the family histories of author Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney B. Vance. Here's a quick preview:

Other guests on this season's 10 episodes include
  • actors Ben Affleck, Anna Deavere Smith, Khandi Alexander, Angela Basset, Tina Fey and Sally Field
  • journalists Anderson Cooper and George Stephanopolous
  • authors Deepak Chokra and David Sedaris
  • athletes Billie Jean King (tennis), Derek Jeter (baseball) and Rebecca Lobo (basketball)
  • musicians Nas, Carole King and Sting
  • filmmaker Ken Burns
  • civil rights activist Benjamin Todd Jealous
  • chefs Aaron Sanchez, Ming Tsai and Tom Colicchio
  • presidential adviser Valerie B. Jarrett
  • playwright Tony Kushner
  • civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz
  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick provides funding for the show along with other businesses and foundations. The Your Genetic Genealogist blogger CeCe Moore serves as genetic genealogy consultant.

On the Finding Your Roots website, you can read profiles of the show's guests; read blogs by Gates and the show's researchers and producerssubmit stories from your family history research (as well as reading others' stories); and watch full episodes from Season 1.

To tide you over until tomorrow, see how Henry Louis Gates Jr. answered Family Tree Magazine's inquisitive "5 Questions" reporter.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 22 September 2014 10:08:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 19 September 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Sept. 15-19
Posted by Diane

  • The Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections blogger is revealing the results of the annual Rock Star Genealogist voting—genealogists whose public appearances, lectures and written works are musts for family historians. Winning Rock Stars are grouped into overall "Gold Medalists," as well as winners for Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, England/Scotland/Wales, USA, and DNA (countries refer to the voters' reported nationalities, not necessarily to the nationalities of the winners).

    Congratulations to the Rock Stars for their contributions to genealogy education! You can read, listen to and hear several of the winners—including Judy G. Russell,  D. Joshua Taylor, Lisa A. Alzo and Blaine Bettinger—through Family Tree Magazine and Family Tree University articles and webinars.

  • Findmypast has announced the start of weekly Findmypast Fridays, when the subscription genealogy website will add thousands of new, "often exclusive" records to the site. You can view the latest additions on the Findmypast Fridays page.
  • Findmypast also has added new digital images to its Periodical Source Index (PERSI) collection, the index (leased from the Allen County Public Library, which compiles it) to information in genealogy and local history publications from the United States, Canada and other countries. Last year, Findmypast announced an initiative to start linking its PERSI index entries to digitized images of the articles from which the entry was created—meaning you no longer have to send away for copies of articles (sometimes only to discover it's not about your ancestor, after all). See a list of publications that were added on the Findmypast blog.
  • If you're a blogger, writer, editor or social media enthusiast, the Federation of Genealogical Societies invites you to be an ambassador—basically, a spreader of news—for the 2015 FGS conference, Feb. 11-14 in Salt Lake City (held in combination with FamilySearch's RootsTech conference). Benefits include direct contact with the FGS 2015 Marketing committee, advance notice of press releases, and a meet-up at the conference. See the announcement on the FGS Voice blog, which also links to ambassador guidelines and registration instructions.

findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Friday, 19 September 2014 13:33:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 17 September 2014
New Website Helps You Research Irish Genealogy in 34 Archives of Ireland
Posted by Diane

If you're researching your family history in Ireland, you might be interested in the Irish Archives Resource. It's a new, searchable database containing archival descriptions of manuscripts at 34 repositories and Archive Services throughout Ireland, including the National Archives of Ireland and Public Record office of Northern Ireland.

The site started as a pilot project with four repositories in 2008. It doesn't contain historical records, but it does help you find repositories holding those records.

According to the Family History/Genealogy page, the Irish Archives Resource portal is "suitable for family researchers who have already discovered some facts about their family history"—such as where and when your family lived, historical events they were part of, businesses they worked for, churches they attended, etc.

You can run a basic keyword search from the home page. An advanced search lets you search with a year, location (townland, county, province, etc.), collection type and more.

One example of the holdings you can learn about is the "Papers of Robert Erskine Childers and of his wife Mary Alden Childers " at Trinity College Dublin. The description gives
  • an archive reference number
  • dates the records were created
  • size of the collection
  • creators' names
  • historical background
  • a description of the information in the collection
  • how the collection is organized
  • subject keywords the collection is categorized under
  • how to access the collection
  • related collections you might want to research
Because manuscript collections often aren't indexed and must be explored in person, if you can't visit the holding repository, you could hire a local researcher to search the documents for information relevant to your family. (Try checking the Association of Professional Genealogists online directory for a researcher for hire.) Update: You also could find an Irish researcher through the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland. Thanks to the commenter who pointed this out!

Got Irish roots? Family Tree University's next Irish Research 201 course, designed to guide you in researching the genealogical records of Ireland, starts Oct. 6. See the course syllabus and get registered at

Libraries and Archives | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 13:58:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
What If Someone Asked for Your Best Genealogy Advice? (My Top Tips)
Posted by Diane

If someone asked you for your best genealogy advice, what tips would you give?

Having worked on a lot of genealogy articles and guides over the years—many of which are gathered in our Ultimate Genealogy Toolkit—I might have a few tips to offer up.

Here's what I would say (of course after first asking the inquisitive person all about his or her research):
  • Use all the family information you've heard as clues to start your research, but know that it could be wrong. You might waste a lot of time trying to find an immigrant who Grandma said arrived at Ellis Island in 1898, when instead the person came through Baltimore in 1897.

  • Go back one generation at a time; don't leap back. It's tempting to start with that immigrant, or with the great-great-grandfather rumored to be American Indian, or whomever you've heard some interesting tidbit about. But it'll be a lot easier to research someone if you've gotten to know about his children, spouse and later life.
  • If you can't find a particular record for someone, keep researching him or her in whatever other records you can find. You might learn that you've already located the record you want—you just didn't know enough about the person to identify the record as his. Or you might never find the missing record, but you'll discover the information you want in some other document.
  • You might make a bunch of exciting discoveries about your family all at once, or you might find nothing much for awhile despite your efforts. Stay patient and keep trying.

  • Don't automatically believe all the online trees you find with your ancestors' names. The trees could be wrong, or it could be someone else of the same name and age. We tend to think people were few and far between back then, so it can be surprising how many folks in the same place had the same names.

  • There's nothing like looking at an old record with your ancestor's name, or standing in front of the old house where she lived, to help you imagine life when those papers and buildings weren't so old.

  • If you think you're going to stick with genealogy, find a way to organize your family information that works for you. It'll pay off later when you can keep track of records you've found and those you still need to look for, and you can retrieve the source for each detail about your ancestors' lives. Use magazines (such as Family Tree Magazine), books and webinars (find some in, and other genealogists you know to learn about software, online tools, family tree sites and other options.
  • Make sure you spell it genealogy (not geneology).

I could go on, but I'll stop here and ask you: What would you say if someone asked you for your best genealogy advice?

Tools in the Ultimate Genealogy Toolkit include
  • our 10 Years of Family Tree Magazine back issues DVD
  • the Essential Family Tree Forms CD of 75 forms you can type into and save on your computer
  • our Genealogy Source Citation Cheat Sheet
  • and more
Check it out today in

Research Tips
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:29:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 12 September 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Sept. 8-12
Posted by Diane

  • Subscription site  has added more than 240,000 parish records to its marriage and burial records for Surrey, Middlesex and Eastebourne parishes in Britain. (And I didn't know that genealogical socities that transcribe these records for Findmypast get a royalty each time the records are viewed.) The site also has added an "Attach a Tree" button to its images and transcriptions, so you can attach records to your ancestors' profiles in your Findmypast family tree.
  • Here's an alarming heads up from genealogy author Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak: Someone is selling a fake Kindle book with her name on it on Add it to the list of scams that writers and genealogy consumers have to watch out for. Visit Megan's Roots World blog to see the warning and make sure you don't fall for this one. | Celebrity Roots | findmypast | Genealogy books | Genealogy TV | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 12 September 2014 10:01:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 10 September 2014
17 Genealogy Things To Do If You Have Only a Few Minutes
Posted by Diane

Sometimes life gets in the way, and you can't find a decent stretch of time to sit at your computer or go to the library and do some genealogy. Our Sept. 30 webinar Weekend Genealogy Breakthroughs will show you 13 shorter projects you can accomplish in an evening or on a weekend.

In the mean time: 5 or 15 minutes might not be enough to delve into the life and times of your most stubborn brick wall ancestor, but it is enough time to do one of these quick genealogy tasks:
  • Check your tree and make sure you have a 1940 census entry for everyone alive at the time. For the missing ones, you can search the 1940 census for free.

  • Search the Social Security Death Index for US folks who died after 1962.

  • Run a Google Books search for an ancestor you don't have much on.

  • Open mystery genealogy files on your computer, see what they are, and rename them according to a system. Now you know what the file is without opening it.

  • File the loose genealogy files on your computer desktop, or the papers on your actual desktop.

  • Write two paragraphs about an ancestor's life.

  • Any relative you don't have burial information for, search for him or her on Find A Grave, BillionGraves and/or

  • Transcribe a record into your family tree software (or wherever you keep record transcriptions).

  • Add to Great-grandma's or another relative's life timeline, using your family tree software or our free, downloadable Biographical Outline.

  • Read a few pages of a county or family history.

  • Check your favorite genealogy blogs for the latest news.

  • Call an older relative and make an appointment to visit and talk about family history.

  • Scan several photos.

  • Write a journal entry or blog post.

  • Share a genealogy find with your family on Facebook.

  • Think of all the crazy ways last names in your family could be spelled, and write them all down so you can try them when you search genealogy websites. We have a free Surname Variants chart you can download, print and fill out.

  • Tag photos in your photo-organizing software.
In Weekend Genealogy Breakthroughs: 13 Things You Can Accomplish in Two Days, Gena Philibert-Ortega will show you time-saving strategies to complete 13 essential genealogy projects, such as
  • formulating a research plan
  • finding and ordering Family History Library microfilm
  • searching free online books and newspapers
  • and more
Find out more about the Weekend Genealogy Breakthroughs webinar and get registered on

Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 14:34:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# 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]