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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.
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).
Translation Digital Toolkit contains:
- 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.
on sale now (at 50 percent off!) in ShopFamilyTree.com.
- video class on how to use Google Translate for family history
- Resource Roundup of translation websites
- Genealogist's Instant Translation Guide: At-a-Glance
Glossaries for 22 Languages
International Genealogy | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 14:01:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
"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
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
- King was surprised to learn he had Southern roots; his
ancestors moved North and served for the Union during the Civil
- 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.
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.
- 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
DNA to Solve Family Mysteries webinar.
African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 10:58:05 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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."
premiere reveals the family histories of author Stephen King
and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney B. Vance. Here's a quick
Other guests on this season's 10 episodes include
provides funding for the show along with other businesses and
foundations. The Your
Genetic Genealogist blogger CeCe Moore serves as genetic
- 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
On the Finding
Your Roots website, you can read profiles of the show's
guests; read blogs by Gates
and the show's researchers
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)
Friday, 19 September 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Sept. 15-19
Posted by Diane
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
(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
- 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
- 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
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)
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
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!
- 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
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)
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
- 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
- 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 ShopFamilyTree.com),
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
it out today in ShopFamilyTree.com.
- 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
Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:29:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, 12 September 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Sept. 8-12
Posted by Diane
- Subscription site Findmypast.com
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 Amazon.com. 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.
Ancestry.com | Celebrity Roots | findmypast | Genealogy books | Genealogy TV | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 12 September 2014 10:01:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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:
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
- 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
- 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 Interment.net.
- 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.
out more about the Weekend Genealogy Breakthroughs webinar and get
registered on ShopFamilyTree.com.
- formulating a research plan
- finding and ordering Family History Library microfilm
- searching free online books and newspapers
- and more
Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 14:34:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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.
EllisIsland.org now redirects to www.libertyellisfoundation.org,
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 EllisIsland.org 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 <www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger>).
Here, you'll see a basic search, with name search options below the
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
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
The link you'll probably want to use first though, is Narrow Your
That's where you'll find options to narrow results by
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.
- 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
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)
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.
- Ancestry.com 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.
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Historic preservation
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:19:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)