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<2017 March>

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# Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Keep Calm and Carrigan On: Using Collateral Research to Find Irish Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Collateral research—studying the siblings and cousins of your ancestors—can help you overcome some of the hardest genealogy roadblocks. In this case study from Claire Santry's new book The Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide, Editor and Content Producer Andrew Koch uses collateral research to discover his Irish immigrant ancestors in records from the Emerald Isle:

I’ve always been enchanted by Irish culture: the lyrical names (Saoirse, Liam, Siobhan), the beauty of a well-played fiddle, the vibrance of St. Patrick’s Day. Despite my decidedly German last name, I always hoped I had some Irish blood in me.

Sure enough, tracing census returns back generations revealed my great-great-great-grandfather, James Carrigan. Carrigan! An Irish name if I’ve ever heard one. Kiss me, I’m 1/32 Irish!

So what could I learn about the Carrigan line and where it came from? I started by researching James in US sources. From census records, online cemetery indexes, an Ohio death index, James’ declaration of intention, a New York passenger list and a Social Security death index entry for his daughter (my great-great-grandmother), I learned that James (born in Ireland about 1856) married, had his first son in England, and immigrated to the United States all in the same year: 1880.

His English-born wife, Rose Flynn, and infant son, James Thomas, joined him in Cincinnati within the next couple years. The couple had six more children (including my ancestor, Mayme) before Rose died in 1899 and James in 1914.

This was a great start, but I still had unanswered questions: Where in Ireland was James from, and what were his parents’ names? A distant relative on told me that James and his ancestors came from Dublin, but she didn’t have concrete proof. She did, however, have James and Rose’s marriage certificate and James Thomas’ birth certificate. The documents revealed that James Thomas was born less than nine months after his parents’ wedding (oops!), but the only other new information was the name of James’ father: Patrick.

Likewise, my own research in Irish records was mostly fruitless. Civil registration didn’t begin until a few years after James’ birth, and I couldn’t definitively find parish records with a potential hometown as broad as “Dublin.” With help from Claire Santry (the author of The Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide), I had a lead—a clump of baptism records for “Corrigans” in St. Andrew’s parish in Dublin. Each Corrigan had a Patrick and a Catherine as parents, and among the entries were a James, baptized in 1854 (relatively close to my James), and a Mary, baptized in 1853. But without more proof, I couldn’t draw any conclusions.

Remembering the principle of collateral research, I knew it was time to search more broadly. I started researching James and Rose’s six children who weren’t my direct-line ancestors: James Thomas (b. 1880), Patrick (b. 1882), William (b. 1886), Thomas (b. 1888), Rose Ann (b. 1889), and Catharine (b. 1892).

For weeks, I searched WWI draft registration, federal census records, death certificates, Social Security claims, marriage records and all the birth records I could find online. But none provided new information about my main line of Carrigans. I was losing hope, and came close to giving up.

But then came a breakthrough in the 1930 census (see image above): James Thomas and his wife, Lillian, lived in the household of a “cousin,” a man named Thomas Hessian. Hessian? I’d never heard the name before, but I focused my research on the newcomer. Using his name and birth year, I found him with his brother and widowed mother (Irish-born Margaret Hessian) in the 1920 census. Skimming the record image, I was surprised to find James Thomas Carrigan and Lillian Carter listed on the same page, then unmarried and living in separate homes. James Thomas, Lillian and the Hessians were neighbors. But could the relationship run deeper? Could the Hessians be Carrigans? And if so, could they provide the connection to the old country that I’ve been looking for?

Determined, I searched high and low for records that might give me Margaret Hessian’s maiden name. But her 1910 and 1920 census entries were inconsistent, giving different years for her immigration and birth. Without concrete dates, I couldn’t identify her in passenger lists, declarations of intention or vital records.

Then I located a Find A Grave entry for Thomas Hessian, who died in 1945 and was buried in St. Joseph’s New Cemetery in Cincinnati.

And that was my long-awaited pot of gold. Following a hunch, I found Thomas in the cemetery’s online index of graves. His parents’ names? Patrick Hessian and Margaret Carrigan. A match! But it gets even better: Margaret’s burial entry revealed her parents’ names as Patrick Carrigan and “X Haley.”

With this in mind, I jumped back to Irish research and revisited the “Corrigan” lead. In 1880s-era Dublin, we have Catholic, Irish-born James (baptized in 1854) and Mary (baptized in 1853) who share Patrick Corrigan and Catherine (unknown maiden name) as parents. Across the pond, we have Catholic, Irish-born James (born about 1856) and Margaret (born about 1854) who share a Patrick Carrigan and (unknown first name) Haley as parents.

So are my Carrigans the Corrigans from St. Andrew’s in Dublin? My research so far suggests that is a possibility. The discrepancies in names and vital information aren’t unusual. Mary and Margaret were similar (even interchangeable) names at the time, and birth years were less concrete in the 1800s than they are today.

But I shouldn’t start calling myself a Dubliner yet. Only more research can prove or disprove my theory. Finding the maiden name of Patrick Corrigan’s wife is a priority, as is searching Margaret’s marriage, immigration, and naturalization records for any evidence of a hometown. But with a lack of other supporting evidence, this is my best find yet, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t researched my distant Hessian cousin.

Learn more about researching your ancestors from the Emerald Isle in The Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide.

Posted by Family Tree Books Editor and Content Producer Andrew Koch.

Celebrating your heritage | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 13:24:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 09 March 2017
9 Timesaving Hacks for Ancestry, FamilySearch & Other Top Genealogy Websites
Posted by Diane

These quick tricks for some of the genealogy websites you use most often will help you get to the records you want faster. You'll find even more genealogy website hacks in the March/April 2017 Family Tree Magazine, our special genealogy websites issue. Contributing editor David A. Fryxell shared these hacks:

Map your family tree locations in MyHeritage.
In the menu on the left side of your MyHeritage home page, select PedigreeMap, and the site generates an interactive world map of events in your online tree. Read more about PedigreeMap in this blog post.

Search GenealogyBank for all newspapers in a city.
Searching the entire site when you really want hits only from one place can flood you with useless results. To search all the newspapers from a single city, click on the state (on the map or text link) on the GenealogyBank home page. You’ll see a page with a map and list of links by city. Select a city, and the next page lets you search all the applicable titles.


See what’s new at your favorite genealogy websites.
It’s good to repeat searches to find recently added records, but annoying to slog through the same matches you’ve already seen. Here's how to check out the latest additions on several sites:

Find free records on Findmypast.
By registering for a guest membership at Findmypast, you can access 850 million free records, including US censuses, US and Canadian public records, family trees and Irish Catholic parish records—without paying a cent. You’ll find the Findmypast freebies listed here.

Review search results faster.

Once you’ve got some search hits on or FamilySearch, you can save time by not clicking through to review every possible result:
  • On your results list, hover your pointer over the blue, underlined collection title (such as “1940 United States Federal Census”). A window pops up showing key data from that record, so you can decide whether to investigate further.

  • On your FamilySearch results list, click in the area below the person's name and database name.

SaveSave | FamilySearch | findmypast | Fold3 | MyHeritage | Newspapers
Thursday, 09 March 2017 13:04:28 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, 06 March 2017
Foreshadowing and Courteney Cox’s Royal Roots on “Who Do You Think You Are?”
Posted by Diane

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

Courteney Cox's lengthy family tree is unfurled.

Whenever a WDYTYA? celebrity says at the beginning of the episode “I hope I don’t find X in my family tree,” it’s foreshadowing. You know the person is going to find X in a BIG way. 

It happened twice in the Courteney Cox season premiere, last night at 10 Eastern (hello, tired genealogists!) on TLC. Joking about possibly finding rich royal ancestors, Cox said, “I hope I’m from Buckingham Palace … No, I’m sure I’m not.” Then she worried about finding a murderer.

Um, yes, on both counts. She comes from a long line of English royalty, dating back to her 26th-great-grandfather William the Conquerer in 1066.

See the resemblance?

Cox's 18th-great-grandfather Thomas de Berkeley owned the castle where King Edward II was imprisoned and then killed (probably gruesomely) after being forced to abdicate the throne in a coup led by Roger Mortimer (who was de Berkeley’s father-in-law, so Cox’s 19th-great-grandfather).

Cox visits the chamber where Edward II was held.

Mortimer was later executed for his crimes, and de Berkeley was acquitted. Cox descends from de Berkeley’s son, Maurice, and Elizabeth Despenser, granddaughter of King Edward I and daughter of Hugh Despenser, an ally of Edward II who was killed in the coup.

The drama was fascinating once we got into it, but I’ve liked other episodes more. Partly because I don’t enjoy immediately zooming back 10 generations, partly because the Medieval period isn’t my favorite historical era, and partly because I relate better to stories more like those of my ancestors (mostly everyday Germans whom I’ve researched only as far back as 1800). But if you're one of the millions descended from English monarchs, Courteney Cox's story might also be yours.

Got English roots? Check out our e-book A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors.

I also found a neat blog about Edward II, subtitled "Why almost everything you think you know about Edward II is wrong; welcome to the site which examines the events, issues and personalities of Edward II's reign, 1307-1327."

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Monday, 06 March 2017 10:59:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Family Tree DNA accepting DNA results from other companies
Posted by Diane

One of the major DNA testing companies announced it’s bringing back a useful feature to make DNA analysis between testing companies easier. Family Tree DNA will once again accept autosomal test results from rival testing companies 23andMe and AncestryDNA via its autosomal transfer tool.

The returning feature will allow users to upload raw data from 23andMe and AncestryDNA tests to Family Tree DNA database for free, giving AncestryDNA and 23andMe customers access to DNA matches and relationship estimates through the Family Finder—Matrix. For a $19 fee, 23andMe and AncestryDNA users can also unlock additional analysis tools, including a chromosome browser.

Until now, test-takers seeking DNA matches were mostly limited to the company they tested with. For example, if you tested with AncestryDNA, you would only receive DNA matches who also tested with AncestryDNA (and not with 23andMe, MyHeritage or Family Tree DNA). But with Family Tree DNA’s autosomal transfer, test-takers from 23andMe and AncestryDNA can now access another database of potential DNA matches, opening up new research possibilities.

While Family Tree DNA's autosomal transfer is a useful tool, sharing DNA results between testing companies isn't a new concept. MyHeritage, which launched its own DNA test in November, is also compatible with raw data from other companies, though it lacks some of Family Tree DNA's more robust analysis tools. Third-party websites like Gedmatch also already allow you to compare results from multiple companies, but Family Tree DNA’s autosomal transfer works directly with the testing company and captures all its autosomal DNA test-takers (rather than just those who also uploaded their data to Gedmatch).

See the company’s website for more about the feature, and check out Judy Russell’s post on The Legal Genealogist. Learn more about DNA analysis tools in our book The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger.

» by Andrew Koch

Genealogy Industry | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 21 February 2017 12:38:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]