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<2014 October>

More Links

# Wednesday, 01 October 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Traces Family Trees of Athletes Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King, Rebecca Lobo
Posted by Diane

Titled "Born Champions," last night's episode of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." examined the ancestries of recently retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (above, during the show), tennis legend Billie Jean King and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo.

Throughout the show, Gates emphasized how past generations' character and decisions may have contributed to their descendants' success.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter was on a kind of surname roller coaster when he first learned that the last name he's carried all his life came from a slaveowner, then learned that the slaveowner was his third-great-grandfather—so he had a genetic connection to his name, after all. (Our African-American Slave Genealogy Guide can help you research your own black ancestors before the end of slavery.)

Gates pointed out how common it is for black Americans to have European ancestry. It's not hard to see why, under an institution that gave one person absolute power over another. DNA testing of Jeter and known descendants of the slaveowner confirmed the relationship.

Jeter said during the show that he thought he was Black and Irish. (Note: This is updated. I originally thought I heard him say "Black Irish," and a reader corrected me.) It turned out Jeter has a female ancestor from Ireland, whom the show mentioned in passing, and she married an Englishman.

Billie Jean King
King's "Gammy," her dad's mom, was adopted as a baby. An aunt had a family Bible that recorded Gammy's birth name, enabling Gates' team to find her birth record and learn Gammy's mother's name.

King's DNA test revealed no American Indian heritage, squashing King's mother's closely held belief that her family line included Seminole Indians.

Rebecca Lobo
Lobo has Spanish heritage on her father's side. Her great-grandmother Amelia Gutierrez left a diary, which a cousin had, that told how her father Antonio escaped to Tangier after fighting to establish the first Spanish republic in 1873. When the family decided to emigrate in 1896, they arrived too late to catch their ship to Argentina, so they went to North America instead. (Find a guide to research in Spain, Portugal and the Basque region in our December 2011 Family Tree Magazine.)

Her DNA test revealed that she had just over 10 percent Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, which Gates said suggests a great-grandparent (based on the fact that you inherit approximately 12.5 percent of your autosomal DNA from each great-grandparent). Then through chromosome analysis, the research team could learn which of Lobos' grandmothers contributed the Jewish DNA. Because there was no paper evidence of Jewish ancestry for that grandmother's mother, Gates said it's likely that the father—as yet unidentified—was Jewish.

I tell you what, I could really use a message or two from a sponsor in this show. As irritating as commercial interruptions can be, it's hard to keep up (or go switch the laundry) when you don't have any breaks.  

You can watch the full "Finding Your Roots" episode with Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo online.

Here, you can read genetic genealogy consultant CeCe Moore's post about the DNA testing done for last week's "Finding Your Roots" episode—including more on that loose end regarding the identity of Courtney Vance's grandfather.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 10:50:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Find Ancestors' Old Birth, Marriage & Death Records FREE on Through Oct. 6
Posted by Diane is opening up its birth, marriage and death records for free access through Oct. 6 to mark the new season of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." ( is a sponsor.)

You'll need to sign up for a free account with (or log into the account you already have) in order to see the details of your search results.

Start searching the birth, marriage and death records on this page, which also has more information about "Finding Your Roots."

You can enter only a name and birth year here, but once you have your results, click Edit Search on the left to add more details to your search (dates and places of of marriage, death and other life events, parents' names, etc.).

Tonight's "Finding Your Roots" features athletes Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo. The show airs at 8/7 Central on PBS, and you can watch a short preview here. | Celebrity Roots | Free Databases | Genealogy TV | Vital Records
Tuesday, 30 September 2014 10:30:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genealogists Celebrate German-American Heritage Month
Posted by Diane

In addition to being Family History Month, October also is German American Heritage Month—or at least the second half of it. The commemoration actually runs Sept. 15 to October 15, roughly corresponding with Oktoberfest.

German is America’s largest ancestry group. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 50,000,000 Americans claim German ancestry.

Do you fit into that group? I certainly do. My Germans arrived in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area mostly in the early to mid-1800s. They were near the beginning of the era that saw the largest influx of German immigrants, between 1820 and World War I, when nearly 6 million of their countrymen immigrated to the United States.

The first significant groups of Germans arrived much earlier, in the 1670s, and they settled primarily in New York and Pennsylvania. A wave of political refugees called the “Forty-Eighters” arrived after 1848 revolutions in the German states.

Immigrants before 1850 were mostly farmers. After 1840, many headed for cities and established "Germania," or German-speaking districts.

This 1872 map, part of the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, shows America’s German population from the 1870 census. Note the dark shading over the northeast and southwest corners of Ohio, along Lake Michigan, and in New Jersey. By 1900, the populations of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Hoboken were more than 40 percent German.

We can thank our German ancestors for the Christmas tree, chicken fried steak (whose origins are supposedly in wiener schnitzel), the hot dog, “Here Comes the Bride” (composed in 1850 by Richard Wagner) and of course, a variety of beers.

Are you interested in tracing your German ancestors, finding their old records in the US and Germany, and discovering where they fit into this history? Our German Genealogy Premium Collection has the guides you’ll need:
  • Our popular Family Tree German Genealogy Guide—signed by author James M. Beidler
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your German Ancestors e-book, a classic by S. Chris Anderson and Ernest Thode
  • Find Your German Roots Family Tree University Independent Study Course download
  • German Genealogy Cheat Sheet download
  • German Genealogy Crash Course on-demand webinar
  • 2015 German Genealogy Calendar
Learn more about the German Genealogy Premium Collection now in

German roots | International Genealogy | Sales
Tuesday, 30 September 2014 09:49:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 26 September 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Sept. 22-26
Posted by Diane

  • FamilySearch has kicked off a "Meet My Grandma" campaign to gather 10,000 stories about people's grandmas in 10 days. You can share your favorite story about your grandmother by signing in to your FamilySearch account (or registering if you don't yet have an account). Once you add a story, you also can add a photo, tag people named in the story, and attach the story to someone in the FamilySearch Family Tree. | Canadian roots | Cemeteries | FamilySearch | Free Databases | Military records | World War One Genealogy | Australian/New Zealand roots
Friday, 26 September 2014 10:20:05 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]