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# Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Do You Believe in Ghosts?
Posted by Diane

Looking for a scare this Halloween—and not the kind provided by the cute ghosts and goblins who come to the door for candy?

Try reading fellow researchers’ spooky ancestor stories at the Creative Gene blog and Gettysburg Ghost Stories. Or, for a more close-up encounter with the supernatural, visit one of the places listed at or Haunted Cemeteries.

If you suspect specters have taken up residence in your home, advises making sure it’s not just creaky stairs or a drafty window. Then you can hire a professional ghost researcher to find out whether and why spirits are hanging around, and help you make peace with them.

According to a survey by movie rental company Blockbuster, two-thirds of people either believe in ghosts or are willing to entertain the possibility they're real.

No doubt genealogists the world over fervently hope ghosts exist. I know if my ancestors' souls ever show up in my living room, there's  a thing or two I plan to clear up with them.

Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 31 October 2007 08:11:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Research Ancestors' Accidents and Calamities at GenDisasters
Posted by Diane

You may want to skip this post if you’re one of those people who believe in worst case scenarios.

On the other hand, if you can’t keep yourself from rubbernecking at freeway fenderbenders, set aside a few hours for—a rather pessimistic Web site recommended in the Genealogy Tips column of our local Cincinnati Post.

The free provides excerpts from historical newspaper articles describing calamitous events across America. They're divided into uplifting categories such as Fires, Floods, Train Wrecks, Building Collapses, Mining Disasters . . . you get the idea.

You can search the site by name and state, or browse by disaster type and state. Accounts describe the damage and many name witnesses and those killed.

According to a lengthy report on a 1916 train wreck near Cleveland, Ohio, “Mrs. J. M. Grau, Jerry City, Ohio, Wednesday night guest at the home of Mrs. George E. Reiter, W. Market St., received word that Dr. J. M. Grau was among the number of identified dead of the Amherst catastrophe. Dr. Grau, 51, was on his way to Cleveland aboard the first section of the train, No 86, to visit his brother Frederick.”

Some good news did come out of that accident: Immediately afterward, a Mrs. Mary Maiston gave birth in one of the cars.

Not far away in Alliance, Ohio, June 2, 1886, the Marchand Opera House collapsed in a shower of bricks. Mr. Marchand and a lawyer named Harvey Laughlin escaped by the skin of their teeth, and no lives were lost.

You can help add articles to; see the Help Wanted page for details. And now that I've brightened your day, I'm going out to buy a helmet.

Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 30 October 2007 14:28:34 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 29 October 2007
StoryCorps: Capturing Oral History
Posted by Allison

You've probably heard of StoryCorps, a national project to record Americans' oral histories for the benefit of future generations. When a StoryCorps MobileBooth stopped in Indianapolis late this summer, Bryn Mooth, editor of our sister magazine HOW, took the opportunity to interview her grandmother. Here she reports on her experiences:

When my grandmother asked if I’d interview her for a project that the public radio station was hosting in her hometown of Indianapolis, I knew she meant StoryCorps. Naturally, I said yes.

I routinely linger in my car, listening to the StoryCorps excerpts aired weekly on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition”—day-brightening audio clips of ordinary people reminiscing about their lives. While I’d often thought it would be neat to visit a StoryCorps recording booth with my 86-year-old grandmother, it seemed unlikely we’d get to the permanent studio in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. That is, until a StoryCorps MobileBooth rolled into town.

The gleaming Airstream trailer, one of two that travel the United States, was a surprisingly comfortable spot for our 40-minute conversation about Grandma’s life. We sat at a table with two large microphones in front of us; StoryCorps staffer Yuki Aizawa ran a sound check, and then we began.

As with any oral history project, the key is asking the right questions to engage the storyteller. So before our interview, I consulted StoryCorps’ online Question Generator. I typed in our names and our relationship to each other, and the site produced a list of questions about growing up, marriage and raising children, working, war experiences and more. I checked off a dozen questions, then edited and rearranged them. I shared them with Grandma in advance, so we were both comfortable with the direction of our chat.

We talked about her parents, her upbringing, her marriage, her three children. We talked about how she supported herself after my grandfather died. And we talked about her experiences as a “celebrity”: You may know my grandmother as Dave’s Mom, who puts her son firmly in his place during segments on “Late Show with David Letterman.” She described her trips to the Winter Olympic Games in Norway and Japan as a “Late Show correspondent, and her annual Thanksgiving Day appearances on the program.

Grandma couldn’t have imagined her life would take the unusual turns it has. And this 40-minute capsule hardly seems to capture her 86 years. But our StoryCorps session was an important way for us to connect and share. When our interview ended, we received a CD recording, a copy of which will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. What we really walked away with, though, was another fond memory.

Interested in learning more? The StoryCorps Web site offers great resources for gathering oral histories, including a do-it-yourself guide. The site’s Question Generator is helpful, even if you don’t participate. You also can find dates and locations for both MobileBooths.

Want to hear a snippet of the conversation with Dave's Mom? Bryn shares this clip:

story corps piece mengering.mp3 (1.48 MB)

You can hear more of the intriguing, inspiring and often touching interviews captured by StoryCorps on the project Web site or by subscribing to its podcast. Get more oral history tips at and in our March 2008 issue.

Oral History | Social History
Monday, 29 October 2007 09:14:44 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 26 October 2007
Social Networking Meets Genetic Genealogy
Posted by Diane

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) is combining two of the latest genealogical developments—DNA testing and online social networking—in its partnership with the GeneTree beta Web site.

Users can sign up for a free GeneTree account and create home pages with photos, family trees, multimedia and DNA results. All named ancestors automatically get pages, too, which families can add to. A niftily named tool called DNAvigator searches the SMGF mitochondrial (mt) DNA test results database for matches to yours, then compares the associated lineages and locations, and presents the results “in an intuitive visual representation” like the one here. Matching people can get in touch through GeneTree.

You also can order mtDNA tests, which both men and women can take, through GeneTree. Y-DNA tests will soon be available for men.

Some who contributed DNA samples to the SMGF databases—those who requested test kits before Oct. 22 of this year, and send in their samples before Nov. 22—are eligible to receive their test results for a processing fee. That includes participants back in the early days of the project, when it was hosted by Brigham Young University, says SMGF spokesperson Peggy Hayes. Learn more by calling (800) 344-7643 or e-mailing SMGF.

SMGF, the nonprofit arm of Sorenson Companies, has been collecting researchers’ DNA samples and associated family tree information for years to build its free Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA databases. GeneTree used to offer paternity testing, but now Sorenson's IdentiGene division has taken over that business.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, 26 October 2007 14:11:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 25 October 2007
Find WWII Ancestors in Just-Opened Records
Posted by Diane

It just got easier to find information on your ancestor who served in World War II. This week, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) opened Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) of Army, Army Air Corps, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel who were discharged, retired or died in the service prior to 1946.

That’s more than six million records documenting assignments, evaluations, awards and decorations, training, demographics, medical information and disciplinary actions. Some files also contain photos of the individual and official correspondence.

You can access your relative’s records by visiting or writing the NPRC in St. Louis, submitting Standard Form 180, or (if you're next of kin) using eVetRecs online ordering. See the NPRC announcement for more details.

The NPRC, a National Archives facility, holds service records of military personnel discharged after 1917. It plans to eventually open its entire collection 57 million OMPFs, with more available to the public each year through 2067.

Libraries and Archives | Military records
Thursday, 25 October 2007 08:43:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century, in pictures
Posted by Grace

In our Internet journeys last week, we stumbed across a very fun blog: Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century.

It's exactly what you think it is: lots of old-timey pictures of men with impressive mustaches. The photos come from the collections of the University of Kentucky Archives.

This site could be a great resource for putting a date range on your forefather's facial hair, but unfortunately, the dates of the photos aren't included in the daily blog posts. They are, however, categorized with humorous descriptions, like "Business Mustache," "Faceshelf," "Perfect Specimens" and "Battle Mustache."

Click here to visit the Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century blog:

Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, 24 October 2007 09:09:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Civil War Widows' Pension Files to be Digitized
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and FamilySearch have announced a partnership to digitize case files of approved pension applications from widows of Civil War Union soldiers.

The agreement will kick off with a pilot project to digitize, index and provide access to 3,150 pension files. When that’s done, FamilySearch, along with records site, plans to digitize and index all 1,280,000 pensions in the series.

Oh, happy day!

That’s a huge step toward easing genealogists’ research and restoring their good will toward NARA, which recently doubled pension file ordering fees to $75. Pensions aren’t microfilmed, so paying the fee, visiting NARA in Washington, DC, or hiring an on-site researcher are currently your only options.

Widows' pension application files often include supporting documents such as affidavits, witnesses’ depositions, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, and pages from family Bibles.

According to the announcement, the digitized records will be free at Family History Centers, with an index free on the FamilySearch Web site. Images also may be available for a fee on a commercial site.

The digitized pension records also will be free at NARA facilities, and NARA will get gratis copies of the record images and associated indexes.

This is part of a broader partnership announced today, in which FamilySearch staff will camp out at NARA five days a week with high-speed digitization cameras. Ultimately, it'll mean you have ready access, through FamilySearch and Family History Centers, to court, military, land, and other government records dating as early as 1754.

FamilySearch | Footnote | Genealogy Industry | Military records
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 12:20:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 22 October 2007, Offer Joint Discount
Posted by Diane

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and The Generations Network (TGN) are are tying up a loose end left over from the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in August.

The two organizations announced a partnership at the conference, but until now, didn’t say what their partnership meant for you.

Here’s the answer: You can join both TGN's and NEHGS’ for a special annual price of $155.40, a savings of $75. ($155.40 is the regular price of’s US Deluxe records collection.)

The price, which gets you access to’s US records as well as NEHGS' vital, church, court and other New England records, is good until Dec. 31 and isn't open to those who already belong to both groups.

Additionally, members of can join NEHGS for $60 (a $15 discount), and members of NEHGS can join for $99.95.

Another part of the agreement: databases will include  indexes to NEHGS’ New England Historical and Genealogical Register from 1847 to 2002.

Genealogy Industry | Genealogy societies
Monday, 22 October 2007 13:39:17 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 19 October 2007
Resources for African-Americans, British Researchers and Facebook Fans
Posted by Diane

To get your weekend started right, here are a few updates from the genealogy world:
  • Starting next year, African-Americans will be able to research their ancestors free in an online genealogy database called AfriQuest.
The genealogy wiki WeRelate and the University of Southern Florida Africana Heritage Project (USAF) are among those behind the project. Researchers will be able to add images and records to the database, too.
According to the press release, "Every record readers add to the database will not only be preserved, but will be available to anyone for free, now and in years to come."
Look for a beta release early next spring. You can help get things off the ground by volunteering to add or index records and manage data. Contact USAF’s Toni Carrier or Dallan Quass of WeRelate.
Members can customize their home pages by picking a layout and adding a photograph and caption, along with information about their research interests. Uploaded photos go into a gallery, which can be public, private or available to family and friends. Users also can make announcements public or private.
Those services are free. For its records, FamilyRelatives offers subscription ($75 per year) and pay-per-view options.
You can use the new app, called We’re Related (no relation to WeRelate), to search your Facebook friends for your relatives. If those relatives also use We’re Related, it'll suggest who among their Facebook friends might be related to you. We’re Related also lets you upload your GEDCOM to your facebook profile.

You can get a little more info on the application and instructions for adding We're Related to your Facebook profile on the World Vital Records blog. It’s the 153rd most popular application on Facebook out of more than 5,000—not too shabby.

Friday, 19 October 2007 16:32:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 18 October 2007
Interview with's CEO Tim Sullivan
Posted by Diane

After yesterday’s announcement that Spectrum Equity Investors had purchased The Generations Network (TGN), parent company of, TGN CEO Tim Sullivan was busy working the phones talking to the media—including myself. The major points of our conversation:
• Your experience as an subscriber won’t change as a direct result of the sale, Sullivan states, “Other than the very rapid pace of innovation we’ve built into our cycle in the past year, and we hope to maintain that, even to accelerate it.” That innovation includes the Ancestry Press and DNA Ancestry services, international sites such as the Swedish, and a Web 2.0 platform for
“The firm that’s buying our company is buying our vision. They like what we’re doing and they want us to keep doing that,” Sullivan says.
• Sullivan said RootsWeb—the free, grassroots site TGN (then purchased in 2000—"is absolutely not going away. We will never charge for what’s on RootsWeb. We’re proud to be supporters of RootsWeb.”

He adds there’s only about a 20 percent overlap between RootsWeb users and users, a number his company would like to increase.
Spectrum Equity’s investment in TGN likely won’t change anything at (anyone remember that site?), which TGN purchased in 2003 and allowed to languish. “We continue to support, but we did make a decision that in a world of limited resources and limited hours in the day, that the best thing we could do was focus our resources as completely as we could on”
• TGN is focused on incorporating new technology, such as wireless photo uploads, into its services, and on globalizing genealogy research. “We just sent someone to China to open an office there and build a Web site for people in China,” Sullivan says.
• A few other upcoming changes to include a “pretty major” overhaul of the search interface, improved tree-building experience, and of course, more digitized records.
• Sullivan wouldn’t say whether TGN would go public, just that the company’s future holds many possibilities and his staff is taking things one step at a time.
Its domination of the genealogy industry often means TGN is the company people love to hate. Sullivan’s aware of that and says “I promise we don’t sit around thinking of ways to make people angry.”

I asked about his pre-TGN genealogical interest. He knew some oral history, including an ancestor who worked with Thomas Edison. “I, like probably everybody, was enamored and fascinated by the stories of those who preceded me,” he says, but he hadn’t yet done research.

Back when he ran the online dating service, Sullivan knew TGN’s then-CEO Tom Stockham and thought he’d check out “Before I knew it, it was 2:30 in the morning, and I had my laptop in bed showing my wife documents I discovered.”

“It was an instantaneous and very strong fascination, but like a lot of people, I didn’t have a lot of time and I didn’t follow up and get engaged right away.” His company’s challenge, he says, is engaging people like himself at that time, who face busy schedules and many choices for spending spare moments.

“We’re never going to make it easy, push-button genealogy. But we’re getting close to that tipping point, where the investment and the effort people put in, they see a return very quickly in terms of satisfaction.”

Update: What do you think of what Sullivan had to say? Join the discussion in the Hot Topics Forum.

Genealogy Industry
Thursday, 18 October 2007 08:40:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 17 October 2007
The Generations Network Bought for $300 Million
Posted by Diane

A private equity firm has purchased a majority interest in The Generations Network (TGN, formerly, parent company of, DNA Ancestry,, RootsWeb and others.

Spectrum Equity Investors, already a partial stakeholder in TGN, will pay $300 million for its majority interest. Two of its partners will join TGN president and CEO Tim Sullivan on the new board of directors. Other terms of the purchase weren't disclosed.

Private equity firms buy companies hoping to make money off them, and that’s probably a good bet here. The Generations Network online properties have 900,000 paying subscribers, and receive 8.2 million unique visitors and more than 429 million page views a month. According to the Internet news site TechCrunch, TGN rakes in around $150 million in revenue annually.

Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, 17 October 2007 08:28:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 16 October 2007
DNA Ancestry Emerges From Beta
Posted by Diane’s DNA Ancestry site has emerged from beta offering Y-DNA and mitochondrial tests (ranging from $149 to $199) and promising Ancestry Member Tree users will soon be able to add their test results to the information in their trees.

Public trees are searchable, so theoretically, you could find the name of a candidate for your great-grandfather, take a DNA test and see if you’re a match to his descendant.

DNA Ancestry seems user-friendly, with streamlined test ordering, and genetic genealogy information (including sample test result reports) linked on the right side of the home page. You also can listen to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak,’s chief family historian and co-author (with Ann Turner) of Trace Your Roots With DNA (Rodale, $14.95), talk about genetic genealogy on NPR.

People who get tested with DNA Ancestry are automatically notified of matches in its DNA database. You’ll be able to enter results from other labs in the database, which isn’t yet available but will be free.

Of course, you’ll want to take the site’s marketing with a grain of salt. An ad on says “Looking for your ancestors? Just say ‘aah.’” Kind of gives the impression you take a test and boom, you know your missing ancestor’s name and place of birth.

Yes, you might take a test and immediately learn you unquestionably match a cousin who knows your family history back to the Dark Ages. But we’re not to the point where that’s possible for all. You’ll probably need to plug your test results into several databases before finding a match, and those matches may be iffy enough that you have to do more genealogical research before you can say for sure whether and how you’re related.

You can get more details on DNA Ancestry on its FAQ page and blog. Look in an upcoming Family Tree Magazine for our article featuring  answers to genealogists' pressing genetic genealogy questions.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 16 October 2007 11:15:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 15 October 2007
Batch Photo Scanning Services
Posted by Allison

For our January 2008 issue, contributing editor Rick Crume wrote an article about methods for scanning family photographs—a process that often can be tedious and time-consuming. One option Rick describes in the article is batch photo-scanning services. You ship off your pictures to the company, which then scans and delivers your digital images and originals in just a few days. These services are economical, too; you can get up to 1,000 photos digitized for as little as $50.

The catch, of course, is you have to let your pictures out of your possession. If you’re like me, you might not feel so comfortable entrusting your precious memories to UPS or the postal service. So this type of service might not be the best choice for irreplaceable historical photos.

On the other hand, if you don’t scan or otherwise copy your favorite photos—from yesterday and today—you risk losing them should they become victims of a flood, fire or even the family dog. If you have duplicates of photos, batch scanning seems like an ideal solution for getting them digititzed.

In addition to photographic prints, many services will also scan 35 mm slides and negatives. Depending on the service, you can get your scans on a CD, DVD, USB drive or even have them stored online.

Here’s a sampling of the services we’ve found. Know of any others? Post a comment.

30 Minute Photos Etc.


Digital Pickle


Larsen Digital



Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, 15 October 2007 14:03:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Friday, 12 October 2007
Our Photo Detective in the Wall Street Journal!
Posted by Diane

Family Tree Magazine’s very own Photo Detective, Maureen A. Taylor, is featured in today’s Wall Street Journal, right there on the front of its Weekend Journal section.

The article tells the stories of several families whose photos Maureen has used to fill in a missing piece of the past. Several of the pictures, such as this one showing three young ladies, have been featured in Maureen’s Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine and her Photo Detective blog on

You also get a sense of the research that goes into each photo analysis. Maureen draws on her burgeoning library of obscure reference books; guides to historical uniforms, clothing, accessories, fraternal insignia, artifacts and other items that show up in our ancestors’ photographs; a closetful of antique photos; other historians' insights; and a store of knowledge that comes from studying history and analyzing thousands of images over the years.

See a portion of the article on the Wall Street Journal Web site.

In Family Tree Magazine and her Family Tree Books, Maureen shares tips you can use to glean family history clues from your own clan's photos. Here are some links to get you started:

Photo Detective blog
Here, Maureen analyzes readers' photos, gives advice on preserving old images and more.

Photo Detective Online Archive
Maureen has been identifying images on for years! Access those articles here.

Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs, 2nd edition
In this book, Maureen offers in-depth advice and examples to help you analyze your own family's photographs.

Dating 20th-Century Photographs: Links
Maureen recommended these Web sites in a June 2006 Family Tree Magazine article on analyzing and preserving more-recent images.

Photographic Mystery—Solved!
Another photo success story, showing the value of consulting your relatives when researching family photos.

Now What? Online: Dating Foreign Photos
Some things to look for in images taken overseas.

Software for Organizing and Editing Photos
Maureen and other Family Tree Magazine authors recommend these programs for fixing up and storing digitized images.

The Photo Detective
Maureen's Web site, where you can submit photos and ask questions and find out where to see her presentations.

Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree Magazine articles
Friday, 12 October 2007 13:25:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Family Tree Maker and Ancestry Press
Posted by Diane

News from The Generations Network about its Family Tree Maker software and AncestryPress service:

The company still plans to release a Family Tree Maker 2008 update this month, calling it a “top priority.” It’ll include fixes for program crashes, data corruption, import and merge bugs, Internet corruption issues, and report complaints (version 2008 lacked some reports, including the all-in-one Genealogy Report, from previous versions).

Ancestry’s blog also has a long list of users’ desired features and their status (for example, in the October update, being considered for future updates, not being considered). Take a look and let us know if your most fervently wished-for update is there!

We’ve heard speculation that some reports were missing from the software because manufacturers were releasing the AncestryPress self-publishing service.

It takes information from your Ancestry Family Tree (which you can create free) or your Family Tree Maker 2008 data (choose to keep it personal if you don’t want it publicly viewable in Ancestry Trees) and creates pages that include illustrated family tree charts, timelines and family group sheets. Then you customize the book with text, images, backgrounds and more.

You can print the book from home, making the service free, or have Ancestry print a book up to 100 pages on nice, glossy paper and bind it with a professional-looking cover. The AncestryPress site was irritatingly unhelpful, though, in giving no discernible prices for ordering a book through AncestryPress. I’ve sent off an e-mailed question; I’ll let you know when I hear.

You also can keep your book project stored in AncestryPress and invite others to view it online. There’s no way to download it, though.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 10 October 2007 13:36:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 09 October 2007
Utah Brand Books and Software Try-outs
Posted by Diane

Things just haven’t felt the same lately without a new announcement from FamilySearch, so I was glad to hear these updates:

• As part of its records digitization program, FamilySearch has digitized Utah’s historic brand books. You can access the images free at the state archives’ Web site.

City slickers may or may not know brand books show the identifying symbols more than 42,000 Utah ranchers branded onto their livestock (ouch!). Ranchers had to register their brands and ear marks with the state agriculture department.

Books from about 1849 to 1930 are digitized, with images linked to a full text search and name index. Each entry in the brand book can include an illustration of the brand, the name and county of the person registering it, registration date, and the location on the animal’s body.

• At your next Family History Center (FHC) visit, you can log your finds on its computers using the same commercial software or utility you have at home. Or, you can try out a new program—free. Here are the programs newly available on FHC computers:

Genealogy software
  • Ancestral Quest
  • RootsMagic
  • Legacy Family Tree
Genealogy utilities
  • Personal Historian (helps you write about your family)
  • Family Atlas (creates maps based on your family data)
  • Map My Family Tree (creates maps based on your family data)
  • Genelines (helps you create ancestral timelines)
  • Pedigree Analysis (submit your family file for research advice)
  • PAFWiz 2.0 (add-on tools for for Personal Ancestral File)
  • PAF Insight (performs advanced functions for LDS church members using Personal Ancestral File)
  • PAF Companion 5.2 (generates reports for Personal Ancestral File)
Check out the January 2008 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands Nov. 13, for our software panel test results of four popular programs.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 09 October 2007 09:17:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 05 October 2007
The Museum of Online Museums
Posted by Grace

Got a few hours to blow? Take a gander at the Museum of Online Museums, a Web repository of collections ranging from the banal to the bizarre.

Browsing through the list, I'm learning about things I never even knew I was interested in. Among the gems:

The Penny Postcard Archive has hundreds of scans of pre-1940 postcards, organized by state and county.

The Lost Formats Preservation Society documents data storage methods gone by the wayside. (You surely know the eight-track, but do you know the four-track?)

• In the Pre-and-Post War American Advertising Galleries you can view more than 7,000 ads from 1911-1955 divided into the categories of beauty and hygiene, radio, television, transportation, and World War II.

The WPA Calendar Project shows off the gorgeous 1939 calendar created by the Federal Art Project.

• And just for fun, the Condiment Packet Gallery.

Click here to visit the Museum of Online Museums.

Genealogy fun | Social History
Friday, 05 October 2007 17:24:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 04 October 2007
Hear WWII Stories from Veterans History Project
Posted by Diane

The Library of Congress, which houses the Veterans History Project (VHP), has created Experiencing the War, a companion Web site to the PBS series The War. That series, created by Ken Burns, tells the story of World War II through footage, photos and recollections of people who lived it. (It’s had me glued to the television for the past two weeks.)

The interviews cataloged on Experiencing the War don’t appear in The War, but they’ll add to what you see on TV. The site groups WWII vets’ interviews to correspond to the series’ seven episodes. You get a photo and vital stats for each veteran, then you can watch the whole interview or selected clips.

If you're more of a page turner than a clicker, WWII stories from the VHP also appear in the new Library of Congress World War II Companion by Margaret E Wagner, Linda Barrett Osborne and Susan Reyburn (Simon & Schuster, $45), along with narrative, photos, maps and charts.

See the VHP Web site to browse stories from other wars back to World War I. You also can get information on participating in the VHP by contributing your own wartime experiences, interviewing a veteran or donating war-related letters and journals.

Genealogy Web Sites | Military records | Social History
Thursday, 04 October 2007 16:15:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 03 October 2007 Automates Web Searches
Posted by Diane

Minnesota genealogist Doug Barry has created a service that searches the Internet for your ancestors and e-mails you a monthly report on its findings. This could make it easier to monitor ever-changing Web sites for ancestral information. searches message boards, family Web sites,'s public Member Trees, GenCircles, FamilySearch and other sites. (It’d be nice to see a list of all the sites the “agents” search for you.)

You can have look for two ancestors free for a year. Each additional Ancestor Monitor costs $14.60 annually.

To set up a monitor, first register, then enter your ancestor’s basic information: name (maiden for women), nicknames, and birth and death years (you can choose a range). After saving this to your account, add places and family members’ names.

Each monthly report shows the sites searched, search terms used, and any changes related to those terms since the last search. As with any online search, there's no guarantee the results reported pertain to your ancestors.

Results for sites without search functions (for example, family sites that may list ancestors’ names and dates right on their pages) show up in a Web Page Monitor section. “The email goes on to explain how to log into to see the changes,” says Barry.

Results for sites that have searchable data (such as FamilySearch and Member Trees) are in a Searchable Site Monitor section. To see full search results, you click a link that takes you to the site to execute the search yourself. You may need to register with some sites to see results, and of course, this won't get you around subscription fees in any paid sites.

How the service works can be difficult to grasp, so if you’re considering it, you’ll want to take the site tour and set up your two free monitors. I’ve created one for a "difficult" ancestor and the other for someone more cooperative. I’ll let you know if anything turns up.

A few other free tools from the same webmaster:

Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 03 October 2007 14:17:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 02 October 2007
SMGF DNA Database About to Balloon
Posted by Diane

If you've taken a DNA test to learn more about your ancestry, have you searched the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation DNA database lately?

The nonprofit Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) just announced it’s on course to collect more than 30,000 DNA samples by the end of this year, for a total of more than 100,000 samples and corresponding genealogical records. Mitochondrial DNA (passed from mothers to their children) makes up the bulk of the additions.

The growth is partly due to SMGF’s efforts to collect DNA internationally, including in Panama, Mongolia, Thailand and Africa.

The new DNA and genealogies will pad SMGF's test results database, which contains information about more than six million ancestors from 172 countries. You can search it for free.

You also can contribute your DNA and pedigree by requesting a test kit. Note you won’t get test results—for that, you’ll need to use a commercial service. (Sorenson Genomics no longer offers commercial tests through Relative Genetics. Back in June, The Generations Network acquired Relative Genetics and its Y-Match results database.)

See SMGF’s FAQ for more details on contributing DNA, and watch upcoming Family Tree Magazines for our answers to your genetic genealogy questions.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 02 October 2007 14:57:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]