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<2017 February>

More Links

# Friday, 17 February 2017
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Returns to TLC March 5!
Posted by Diane

John Stamos on "Who Do You Think You Are?"

The family history TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" is returning to TLC Sunday, March 5, with a new host of celebrities ready to dive into their genealogy. The television show, which partners with, pairs celebrities with genealogists determined to uncover their family history.

The stars travel the globe hunting for family ties and often discover family secrets. The new season will feature Jessica Biel, Courteney Cox, Julie Bowen, Jennifer Grey, Smokey Robinson, Liv Tyler, Noah Wyle and John Stamos.

Jessica Biel

In a preview video at, Courteney Cox is shown blown away by a chart a genealogist shows her. Another surprise in the preview shows Jessica Biel finding out for the first time she has Jewish ancestors, something her father never mentioned to her. For a few more appetite-whetting details on what you'll see in each episode, see TLC's website.

Whether you've just dabbled in your family history research or consider yourself a seasoned genealogist, you will no doubt relate to the twists and turns of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Smokey Robinson

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Friday, 17 February 2017 16:50:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Monday, 13 February 2017
5 Can’t-Miss Sessions at the 2017 Winter Virtual Conference
Posted by Diane

RootsTech 2017 might be over, but you can still learn a lot from this season’s genealogy conference circuit. Family Tree University’s 2017 Winter Virtual Conference runs March 3–5, and you can’t afford to miss the weekend’s fifteen presentations from top-notch genealogists, with topics ranging from AncestryDNA to the Freedmen’s Bureau to WWI records.

Attendees will have access to all of the conference’s offerings, but here are Editor and Content Producer Andrew Koch’s top five Virtual Conference sessions not to miss:

  1. ”Make the Most of AncestryDNA Shared Matches” by Shannon Combs-Bennett: Genetic genealogy giant AncestryDNA just announced that its total number of test-takers has reached 3 million users. This session will teach you how to sift through all those test-takers and connect with matches who can help your research.
  2. ”Organization Strategies in 5, 10, and 30 Minutes” by Drew Smith: Whipping your genealogy into shape is no small task, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Genealogy Guy Drew Smith will show you how to break it down with nine practical organizing tasks that can be done in small chunks of time, giving you a way to work new habits into your everyday life.
  3. ”RootsMagic Essentials” by Diana Crisman Smith: With scuttling the widely used Family Tree Maker software, RootsMagic is poised to become the go-to program for genealogists. Diana will give you the top tools and techniques for using RootsMagic in a lecture that’s perfect for RootsMagic newbies, Family Tree Maker converts, and longtime desktop software users alike.
  4. ”Prussian Genealogy Research Methods” by James Beidler: Scratching your head while you try to find territory called “Prussia” on a modern map? German genealogy expert James Beidler is here to help, with strategies for finding your Prussian ancestors in records scattered across former Prussian lands in central and eastern Europe.
  5. ”Overlooked Federal Records and Repositories” by Gena Philibert Ortega: If you’ve burned out on record types to research, this session is for you. Gena outlines federal record resources that you may not have thought to check, giving you a roadmap to genealogical treasures.

In addition to the video presentations (which you can view as many times as you like), the conference also features a live speech from Genealogy Roadshow host D. Joshua Taylor, plus live chats with experts and other users throughout the weekend, daily prize drawings, and a swag bag of merch and coupons from Learn more about the conference and reserve your spot today. Use the coupon VCANDREW30 at checkout to save $30 off.

Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Tech Advice
Monday, 13 February 2017 16:37:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 10 February 2017
Breaking Genealogy News from the RootsTech Conference
Posted by Diane

If you’re watching RootsTech sessions online from afar like I am, or you’re there and so busy you can barely catch a breath, here’s a news digest to help you catch up quickly:
  • The Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott, shared family stories and photos during Thursday’s opening session. At the end of their talk, Family History Library director Diane Loosle shared details about the brothers’ Scottish ancestry.
  • Last night’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir event was a tribute to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, with show tunes from The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, South Pacific and others. It even featured Hammerstein grandson Andy Hammerstein. I’m sorry to have missed it!
  • Friday celebrates African-American heritage. Actor Levar Burton, known for his portrayal of Kunte Kinte in the original television series “Roots,” delivered a powerful talk about storytelling and the humanity that connects us. Thom Reed from FamilySearch shared family history about Burton’s grandmother and his second- and third-great-grandparents.

  • The Innovator Showdown Finals featured "Shark Tank"-style (though a little less intense) presentations and panel interviews from six entrpreneuers in genealogy technology, with impressive cash and in-kind prizes for top contenders. Prizes went to:
    • People's Choice: Kindex (searching documents won the award)
    • Third place: Double Match Triangulator (analyzing DNA)
    • Second place: QromaTag (adding stories to photos)
    • First prize: OldNews USA (mobile searching of online newspapers)
  • FindMyPast announced its Catholic Heritage Archive of records from Catholic churches around the world. Just released are 3 million records from the archdioceses of Philadelphia and Westminster and Birmingham in Britain. Also included are the Irish Catholic Church registers that were published last year.
  • MyHeritage unveiled its new Photo Discoveries feature today. Essentially, it presents users with a set of photographs of their relatives from family trees contributed by others. Premium Plus or Complete Subscribers can add up to 10 photos per Discovery to the matching profiles in their family tree, in a single click.
  • The Journal Nature Communications published a study by Ancestry DNA that "reveals post-colonial population structure of North America.” It identifies genetically related clusters of individuals and their migrations over time. This technology can make possible detailed historical portraits of the lives of Ancestry DNA customers.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | RootsTech
Friday, 10 February 2017 16:45:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 07 February 2017
Free Expo Hall Classes and 6 Other Must-dos at RootsTech
Posted by Diane

With everything going on at FamilySearch's RootsTech conference, happening this Wedensday through Saturday in Salt Lake City, it's easy to miss opportunities for genealogy learning and fun.

You've already picked the classes you want to go to. Here's what else to put on your list of RootsTech must-dos:  

1. Of course, stop by Family Tree Magazine's Expo Hall booth No. 1136 to check out our books, genealogy cheat sheets and other offerings; find out about Family Tree University's online courses and upcoming Virtual Conference; and pick up a free Family Tree Magazine issue (while they last). 

2. Also in the exhibit hall, watch one of the free 30-minute power sessions from our RootsTech neighbor Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems (booth 1039). We're joining with Lisa (that's her above, with Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sunny Jane Morton) to sponsor information-packed presentations on finding German ancestral villages, mastering and more.

The power sessions are right in the booth, with prize giveaways at each one. Plus, you can enter to win a grand prize on Saturday, Feb. 11 (must be present at the booth to win). See the Genealogy Gems website for details on RootsTech power sessions.

See what else the RootsTech Expo Hall has to offer here.

3. Walk through Temple Square. The square surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Salt Lake Temple is beautiful year-round. Thursday, the Conference Center at Temple Square features the the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at an event called "Music, It Runs in the Family." It's free but you do need tickets, which you can get here.

4. Research at the Family History Library. Yes, you can access many of the library's records online, but there are so many more in the building's sea of microfilm cabinets and bookshelves. Before you hop on the plane, try a place search of the online catalog and plan which films and books you'll look at. Click here to see the FHL's extended hours during RootsTech.

5. While at the FHL, go inside the new discovery experiences area on the main floor. You can use iPads, touchscreen monitors and computers to explore your family history through photos and maps (especially if you have a FamilySearch family tree), and use recording studios to preserve family stories on audio and video. See my photos of the pilot discovery experience during RootsTech 2015.

6. Take in a featured speaker. You can watch talks by HGTV's "Property Brothers," Drew and Jonathan Scott; TLC's "Cake Boss," Buddy Valastro (who's also judging a RootsTech cake decorating competition—see all the frosted entries on display Saturday); "Reading Rainbow"'s LeVar Burton and others.

7. Take a moment to relax. Pause in the main entrance of the Salt Palace Convention Center to listen to the wooden chimes, whose sound is created by windmills outside the center.

Remember, if you can't go to RootsTech, you can watch 19 presentations live for free online. And the Genealogy Gems Expo Hall Power Sessions will be streamed on Facebook Live and Periscope!  

What do you consider a "must-do" for visiting RootsTech?

Genealogy Events | RootsTech
Tuesday, 07 February 2017 09:33:54 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 01 February 2017
6 Keys to Success for African-American Genealogy Research
Posted by Diane

Library of Congress

National African-American History Month began in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History founded Negro History Week.

** Find out about our African-American Genealogy Research Essentials webinar on Feb. 16.**

The observation was expanded to a month in February 1976 with a declaration by President Gerald Ford. In 2017, you'll find commemorations

So let's talk genealogy. Those researching African-American ancestors often face a brick wall at slavery. These keys from Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sunny Jane Morton are important to give yourself yourself the best possible chance to find your family:

Library of Congress

1. It’s not impossible. Tracing relatives in slavery is difficult due to the scarcity of historical records naming slaves. But with persistence, many African-American genealogists have been able to identify their enslaved ancestors. 

2. Trace your family back to the Civil War using typical sources and methods, such as talking to relatives and searching censuses, vital records and newspapers. You may find that some records are segregated, such as a “colored” marriage register.

3. Study your family’s migrations. During the 20th century, millions of African-Americans in the rural South moved to cities in the north and west. If your family followed this pattern, ask relatives about your family’s moves and use censuses and city directories to track them.

4. Check the 1860 and 1850 censuses. About 90 percent of African-Americans were enslaved at the time of the Civil War, and weren’t named in censuses. Free blacks often do appear in censuses and other records. 

5. Identify slaveholding families. Enslaved people didn’t have legal surnames. Freed slaves sometimes (but not always) took the surname of a former slaveholder. If this was the case for your family, the name may lead you to their location during slavery. You may need to use records of the slaveholding families, such as wills and estate inventories, to trace your enslaved ancestors’ whereabouts.

6. Go offline. To learn about African-American ancestors before 1865, you'll probably need to research in records that aren’t online. 

Click here to download our free e-book Trace Your African-American Ancestry, with six guides from Family Tree Magazine to help you discover your African-American family history.

And this just in: Genealogy website Fold3 has announced that its African-American genealogy records collection will be free to access for the month of February. You may need to set up a free Fold3 registration to use the records.

African-American roots | Free Databases | Research Tips
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 08:45:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 31 January 2017
Watch 19 RootsTech Genealogy Conference Sessions Free Online
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch's giant RootsTech genealogy conference is almost upon us: It happens Feb. 8-11 in Salt Lake City, and you'll want to stick around for this blog post whether or not you're planning to go in person.
  • If you're not attending Rootstech in person: RootsTech will livestream 19 sessions so you can watch them online at home. Those include the Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott, Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, Diahan Southard on DNA, Judy Russell on tracing female ancestors, and lots more. The RootsTech livestreaming schedule is here; just be sure to translate the session times into your own time zone so you don't miss your favorite speaker.
Keep an eye on Family Tree Magazine's Facebook page and here on the blog, where we'll be sharing news from RootsTech.

You'll find a day-by-day list of RootsTech classes here. Click the day at the top of the page, then below that, click the type of pass you have. has a handy list of RootsTech exhibit hall booths—it's a great opportunity to learn about new genealogy websites, databases and products, and to ask questions about the sites and products you already use.

Conferences are fun, inspiring and educational, but they also can be exhausting, so here's a "pre-loved" blog post with some tips on preparing for a successful genealogy conference.

You'll also want to visit the spectacular Family History Library, where you can use FamilySarch microfilmed records that aren't digitized and consult print books (which don't circulate to local FamilySearch Centers). The place will be hopping, so search the FamilySearch online catalog ahead of time and decide which resources you'll use. Here are some tips on searching the FamilySearch online catalog.

Genealogy Events | RootsTech
Tuesday, 31 January 2017 12:53:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 24 January 2017
A New U.S. Budget Blueprint May Affect Genealogists
Posted by Diane

This blog is written by guest blogger and Associate Editor of Family Tree Magazine, Madge Maril

The new administration’s federal budget blueprint—a sort of planning document in the budgeting process—would eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities. If this line item manages to make it through to the final budget for fiscal year 2018, its genealogical impact might surprise you.

The National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) was created in 1965 as an independent federal agency funding humanities programs in the United States. NEH grants help fund many genealogy staples, such as museums, archives and libraries as well as public television and universities.

The NEH’s grants also support historical records digitization and access projects including the free Chronicling America newspaper search website. Chronicling America was sparked by The United States Newspaper Project, which microfilmed and cataloged 63.3 million pages of American newspapers. Chronicling America lets you search and view digitized American newspaper pages from 1789 to 1924, as well as a directory of all U.S. Newspapers published from 1690 to present.

Genealogists use newspapers to find key details about their ancestors. Diane Haddad wrote this article about her experience finding a 1924 article about her grandfather. She also shares how Chronicling America helps genealogists find old newspapers.

It’s early in the budgeting process. The blueprint isn’t an official proposal, just a starting point. You can give your input about the preservation of NEH funding by following the instructions on the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) website.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 14:09:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 12 January 2017
Findmypast Allowing Free Access to 1.9 Billion Genealogy Records
Posted by Diane

How does four days of free access to 1.9-billion genealogy records sound?

Findmypast announced today that they would be making all birth, marriage, census and death records free to access, starting today and ending January 15th, 2017. A happy weekend for genealogists, indeed!

If you have Irish ancestry, you will want to check out their collection: their free records include over 10 million Irish Catholic Parish registers. Many of their parish records are not available anywhere else.

Also available are 703 million United States and Canadian Census records, 538 million UK BMDs, over 338 million United States and Canadian BMDs, 140 million United States marriage records and millions of other documents.

If you haven’t used Findmypast before, download our Findmypast Web Guide. This easy-to-use instant download will show you how to search and use Findmypast with step-by-step guides. It also includes handy shortcuts and details about major records you will want to check out.

In their official statement, Findmypast explained why they were allowing free access to the genealogy records: "By providing four days of free access to these essential records, Findmypast hopes to encourage fledgling genealogists to start building their family tree and discover at least one new ancestor through their records. Researchers will also be provided with daily getting started guides, expert insights and useful how-to blogs over the course of the free weekend."

- Madge Maril, Associate Editor of Family Tree Magazine

Thursday, 12 January 2017 12:25:09 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 10 January 2017
How to Get Better at Genealogy Without Leaving Home
Posted by Diane

We're really looking forward to bringing you the Family Tree University Winter 2017 Virtual Conference, coming up March 3-5!

If you haven't been to one of our Virtual Conferences, here's what's terrific about it: It brings the learning and camaraderie of a genealogy conference right to you home.

No need to book a hotel, take time off work and spend your retirement fund on airline tickets and eating out. Your computer and all your research materials are right there, so you can immediately use the genealogy tricks you learn.

Your conference registration includes 15 video classes (yours to download and watch again and again), daily live chats with genealogy experts, networking via exclusive conference message boards, and a digital swag bag of genealogy goodies from

This year's Virtual Conference classes will
  • introduce you to genetic genealogy tools like DNALand
  • help you organize your research in manageable bursts
  • show you how to convert paper research to digital research in Evernote
  • provide strategies for researching World War I ancestors (this April 6 is the centennial of the United States' declaration of war against Germany)
  • help you find ancestors from Prussia
  • ... and more. You can see all the classes at
Participating is easy: Your emailed registration confirmation will give you instructions for setting up a Family Tree University account (if you don't already have one). Then, just log into your account anytime during the Virtual Conference weekend. Live chats happen at designated times, but the video classes and message boards are ready whenever you are.

Right now, there's an early bird discount that'll save you $40 on your Winter 2017 Virtual Conference registration--just enter EARLYVCWINTER when you check out at

Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, 10 January 2017 11:27:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 06 January 2017
Writing Your Life Story: How to Bring Back "Lost" Memories
Posted by Diane

Library of Congress

"Recording your own stories" is one of Family Tree Magazine’s list of 17 genealogy habits for success in 2017 (part of our hot-off-the-presses January/February issue). 

How many of us spend months or years tracking down every possible record of an ancestor’s life, the whole time wishing he or she had left a journal revealing personality, opinions, interests, hopes and pet peeves?
But then we neglect to record all those things about ourselves—whether for our own children or for children from other lines who may one day wish to really know us.

FamilySearch has launched the #52Stories Project encouraging you to write one brief story about your life each week. Find motivation, weekly writing prompts and links to others’ stories on the #52Stories home page.

Sunny Jane Morton's book Story of My Life has in-depth guidance on writing your life story, as well as fill-in forms and questions that help you organize and tell your stories. Her helpful tips and exercises for remembering the details of your life events, which will make your stories more meaningful to you and to others, include: 
  • Free associate. Start with a blank page and write a person, place or event at the top. Then begin with "I remember" and write anything that comes to mind, even if it’s not a complete thought. For example, if my page was titled “Grandma,” I'd might write “sewing” (she was a skilled seamstress), “potbelly bear” (she gave me one for Christmas when I was 6), “purple” (her favorite color) and “Wellesley” (the street where she lived). Keep going until you run out of memories.

  • Immerse yourself. Go to a place related to a time in your life you want to recall. Visit your childhood neighborhood, walk around your high school, have a drink at the dive bar where your friends gathered when you were young singles. Listen to the music and eat the food you liked.

  • Read about the places and times you want to remember. Books, contemporary news articles and photos detailing events and eras like the assassination of President Kennedy, Summer of Love and the turn of the millennium will bring back mental images and memory snippets of what you were doing at the time.

  • Reach out. Ask folks who knew you when what they remember about the junior high class trip to Washington, DC, or the day of your father’s funeral. Their memories might fill in where yours gets fuzzy.
Here's where to view all 17 habits for genealogy success in 2017, here's where to pick up the January/February issue, and here's where to get the book Story of My Life.
Genealogy books | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | Writing about your family history
Friday, 06 January 2017 08:41:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]