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# Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Haunting Holocaust Albums Online
Posted by Grace

Tracing the Tribe pointed us in the direction of a US Holocaust Memorial Museum online exhibit of haunting scrapbooks from the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. Very few photos of Auschwitz during wartime exist, and what makes these even rarer is the subject matter.

"Auschwitz through the lens of the SS" shows the Nazi leadership's daily life at the camp: eating blueberries, dancing to accordion music and taking day trips to recreation areas. The scrapbook, donated to the museum last January, was likely created by SS-Obersturmführer Karl Höcker, was stationed at Auschwitz from May 1944 until January 1945.

One section of the online exhibit compares the SS-centric album with the only other known album from Auschwitz, which contains haunting photos of prisoners. Höcker's album contains no pictures of prisoners at all.

On a somewhat related note, I saw "The Counterfeiters" recently, which is a fictionalized retelling of Operation Bernhard. The Nazis used prisoners at Sachsenhausen to forge British banknotes, eventually producing nearly 9 million of them. The movie, which won Best Foreign Film at this year's Oscars, takes some liberties but is really interesting. Read more about Operation Bernhard here.

Update: Click Comments for the Tracing the Tribe blogger's news about Yad Vashem's May 1 online photo archives debut.

Museums | Social History
Wednesday, 30 April 2008 09:37:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 28 April 2008
Green Genealogy Tips
Posted by Diane

I was out of town for Earth Day (April 22), but since any day is a good day to be green, here are some ideas for environmentally friendly genealogy research:

Kill lots of birds with one stone (figuratively, of course). If you’re headed to a repository or Family History Center, search the facility’s Web site ahead of time to see what resources it has. Then plan to complete as much of your genealogical to-do list as possible—thus saving a second fossil-fuel-burning trip.

Make it a road trip. Grab a few fellow society members and carpool to libraries and cemeteries. It’ll be more fun that way, too.

Pack out recyclables. If you’re doing research where recycling isn’t available, take home your plastic water bottles and empty soda cans. Or get a reusable bottle and fill it at the drinking fountain.

BYO mug. Instead of taking foam cups, bring a reusable travel mug for coffee. Some shops give you a small discount for using your own mug.

Don’t waste juice. Turn off your desktop or laptop between research sessions—computers draw energy even in sleep mode.

Recharge it. Power your digital camera and other handheld devices with rechargeable batteries. And don’t throw out spent batteries with your regular garbage: They’re considered hazardous waste. Drop them off at a local collection center (click for help finding one, or check with your community's department of environmental services).

Use less paper. Genealogy by nature involves accumulating paper. Many printer manufacturers recommend against printing on the back of used paper (though we’ve done this successfully on our home inkjet printers). You can use scrap paper for taking notes at the library, or recycle it.

Go for paperless copiers. At some repositories, you can use copiers to scan a record and e-mail it to yourself or burn it to a CD. Ask at the information desk, and have someone show you the equipment.

Recycle printer cartridges. Many office supply stores discount new cartridges if you bring in used ones. Some charities take them, too, for fundraising purposes.

Save trees and your back. Attending a genealogy conference? If possible, opt to get the syllabus on CD or as a PDF. The upcoming National Genealogical Society conference (May 14-17), for example, will make the syllabus available to attendees as a PDF.

Isn’t it cool how doing greener research also can save you time and money? Click Comments (below) to add your own tips.

Research Tips
Monday, 28 April 2008 11:24:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
Delving into DNA
Posted by Allison

No matter how much experience you have in genealogy, you're always a beginner with some type of research or resource. Right now, I'm a newbie at genetic genealogy: I took my first DNA test last week. If you're contemplating diving into your own gene pool, watch this video of my experience to learn what you're in for:

Genetic Genealogy | Videos
Monday, 28 April 2008 10:15:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 25 April 2008
We're Famous!
Posted by Grace

Family Tree Magazine's gotten some mentions in the blogosphere lately:

The Genealogue mentions our partnership with Tamagotchi.

• The anonymous Ancestry Insider did a profile on us—unprovoked!—in which things we do are described as being endearing and a rearranged Simpsonized staff photo is included! The Ancestry Insider's obviously got crazy good Photoshop skills. If anyone knows how to make Tamagotchized portraits, please let us know.

Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 25 April 2008 15:44:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 24 April 2008
Six Hints for Google Books Search
Posted by Allison

In our July issue, we have a Toolkit article on Google Books Search: a functionality within Google to comb the contents of all kinds of books the company has digitized in conjunction with libraries, publishers and authors.

I've been playing around with Books Search to create a video demonstration of how it can help genealogists (watch it on our You Tube channel), and decided to share a few hints I picked up:

  1. For best results, limit your search to books only: From the Google home page, click the more link in the top frame, then select Books.

  2. Type a surname plus subject:genealogy in the search box to look for published family histories. Not that your results will also include books authored by people with that surname, even if that family isn't the primary focus. By searching for genealogy as the subject, you'll avoid lots of hits on books where the word genealogy just happens to appear in the text.

  3. Search by county and local history books by typing the state, county or city name (use quotation marks around an exact phrase) and the word history in the search box. For example: ohio "wood county" history.

  4. On the results page, look at the end of each listing for Full View, Limited Preview, Snippet View or No Preview Available. This tells you how much of the actual book you'll get to see.

  5. If the book is too big or takes too long to download, an alternative is to save it to a personal Google library you create. You have sign up for a free Google account to use this feature.

  6. For books with limited or no viewable pages, use the Find This Book in a Library link to go to WorldCat, where you can enter your ZIP code to locate it in a library near you or where you can get it on interlibrary loan.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Thursday, 24 April 2008 10:03:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Family Tree Firsts—Part Five
Posted by Grace

This weekend I reached another milestone: attending my first genealogy conference, hosted by the Ohio Genealogical Society.

It was seriously awesome to meet so many Family Tree Magazine readers (especially the one who said her favorite part of the mag is "Preserving Memories").

Although I spent most of the weekend helping out at our exhibitor table (see below), I also got to attend a few of the sessions. I sat in on "Pig Blood in the Snow: Court Records Can Solve Problems" mostly because of the name—but also because our upcoming September issue includes an article on court records. I also really enjoyed Jeffrey Alan Bockman's "Using Maps in Genealogical Research." I now know better than to believe Grandma's story about having to walk 4 miles to school each way.

Kenny Burck, first vice president of OGS and German research aficionado, was certainly the most decorated genealogist I met last weekend.

All his various badges, medals and pins denote memberships and lineages. (This would be a great picture to try out photo tagging on!) Can anyone top Kenny?

Later, I struck up a conversation with Hans-Friedrich Coordes, who was at the conference representing the KfTN, which tracks down relatives and ancestors in Europe. (I'm a fluent German speaker and like to practice every chance I get!) He was in Cincinnati only for the weekend, but he made an incredible genealogical discovery in the little time he had.

Another exhibitor told him she had ancestors with his surname—from the same town in Ostfriesland Hans-Friedrich is from, even. After comparing some names, they determined they were not-so-distant cousins. He was blown away.

Have any of you made great connections at a conference?

Earlier in Family Tree Firsts:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Family Tree Firsts | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, 22 April 2008 17:24:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Saturday, 19 April 2008
More From the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference
Posted by Diane

We’re hearing about 600 genealogists have gathered here in Cincinnati for the Ohio Genealogical Society annual conference, yesterday and today at the Sharonville Sheraton hotel.


Genealogical societies from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky are here, as well as book vendors and exhibitors including RootsMagic, WorldVitalRecords and the Godfrey Memorial Library. Thursday night, the revamped genealogy department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County stayed open late for night-owl researchers.


One first-time conference attendee just told me he couldn’t wait to get home—after learning in a class about FamilySearch Labs’ Ohio death certificates collection, he spent hours finding new ancestral information. Now he’s chomping at the bit to enter everything in his software.


A psychic convention is happening in the convention center right across the street from this conference. We thought about organizing a field trip, or sending a contingent to persuade them to open a booth here in the OGS exhibit hall. Imagine the brick wall-breaking potential.

We’ve been taking photos we’ll post early next week in a little slideshow, including one showing the most-decorated genealogist we know. You’ll see what we mean.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites
Saturday, 19 April 2008 11:14:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 18 April 2008
Shaking Things up at OGS
Posted by Diane

Genealogy can rock your world. At least around here it does: Cincinnati welcomed attendees of the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) annual conference with an earthquake, unusual for our area. The 5.4 quake was centered west of us near Olney, Ill., which is north of Evansville, In., and it woke me up just before the alarm about 5:45 (I had to walk the dog).

More to come from OGS …

Genealogy Events
Friday, 18 April 2008 08:19:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 17 April 2008
Terrific Family Tree Teamwork Contest
Posted by Allison

We all know genealogy brings families together—and we’d like to recognize families who’ve embraced that collaborative spirit to make genealogical breakthroughs. Has your clan worked together to solve a family mystery? Taken a teamwork approach to writing or documenting your family history?

Tell us your story! Explain who was involved, how the collaboration came about and what you achieved in 500 words or less.

We’ll select several true tales of family teamwork to feature in our November issue. It’s a chance to not only trumpet your collaborative triumph to the genealogy world, but also win prizes for your feat: We’ll pick one featured family at random to receive a grand-prize package designed to facilitate further collaboration. The package includes:
  • Family Reunion Organizer software from RootsMagic
  • Free scanning of about 1,600 4x6 prints—or as many as you can fit in the prepaid box—from
  • An interactive family Web site with one year of free hosting from
Plus, each featured family will receive a copy of our State Research Guides CD.

To enter, post your story in the Terrific Family Tree Teamwork Contest section of our forum—near the top of the site under Exclusives for Registered Users. If you aren’t already a registered user, you’ll need to sign up to view the contest area and post. Don’t delay! The deadline is May 15.

Family Tree Magazine articles
Thursday, 17 April 2008 11:06:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Let's Hope They Don't All Bring Potato Salad ...
Posted by Diane

Here’s one family reunion that’ll be easy to crash. More than 50,000 Minerd-Miner family members from across the United States are invited to the clan's 22nd annual reunion June 27-29 in Pittsburgh.

The event averages crowds of 100-plus people bearing the surnames Minerd, Miner, Minor, Minard and others.

Pittsburgh, near where the Minerds first put down roots, is hosting this year's Minerd-Miner reunion as part of its 250th anniversary. The family patriarchs, Revolutionary War veteran Jacob Minerd Sr. and his wife, Maria Nein, settled near Mill Run in Pennsylvania’s Fayette County in 1791. They had 12 known children, 87 grandchildren, 469 great-grandchildren and 1,344 great-great grandchildren.

And we can say knew them when: Family Tree Magazine named  to its list of Top 10 Family Web Sites back in April 2003.

At the time, the site had 850 ancestor profiles and 2,700 images; today there are 1,175 bios and 5,000 pictures. More than a million have visited since its May 2000 launch.

My favorite part, Connectedness, takes a look at Minerds who ran in the Oklahoma 1889 land rush, fought in wars, worked (and died) in steel mills, served on Pittsburgh's city council and more. Check it out, especially if you’re planning to crash the reunion—you’ll have to blend in somehow.

Family Reunions | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 16 April 2008 15:47:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Federal Tax Records on
Posted by Diane

April 15, while you all were desperately punching calculator buttons, the subscription site announced its new database of IRS tax assessment lists “for several U.S. states covering the years 1862-1918.”

I'm not sure I'd say “covering.” Of the 39 states (plus Washington, DC) in the database, records from three-quarters of them don’t go past 1866. Two states have records as late as 1917 and two have them from 1918, but none has uninterrupted coverage for the entire span. does have most of the records available from the National Archives, but I have to admit being a little disappointed when I got to the relatively skimpy list of years.

OK, word quibbles aside. You can get an idea of your ancestor’s financial position if he's in these lists of people and businesses who had to pay early federal taxes. (People who didn't have to pay aren't named.)

Congress created the Bureau of Internal Revenue July 1, 1862, to “provide Internal Revenue to support the Government and to pay interest on the Public Debt”—which at the time primarily consisted of Civil War expenses.

Most Confederate states weren’t taxed until after the war.

A variety of laws over the years determined which goods and services were taxable. People and businesses submitted to their collection district a form showing annual income, articles subject to taxes and the quantity of taxable goods made or sold.

Each district assessor compiled lists of taxpayers living in his division and taxpayers living outside but owning property inside his division—these are the lists in's collection (originals are on microfilm in record group 58 of the National Archives and Records Administration).

They show taxpayers’ names, locations (sometimes an address), taxable articles and valuations. Then some lucky assessor would take the list around to collect the cash.'s 24/7 blog has some good tips on using this database.

Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 16 April 2008 14:23:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Googling Names
Posted by Diane

You’ve probably Googled your ancestors and either found information or found out how common their names were (or wondered how the heck some page ended up in your search results).

But have you Googled yourself? According to one study, 47 percent of Americans have done what's called an ego search.

Jim Killeen went so far as to track down and interview seven of the same-named people he found. The resulting documentary, Google Me, premieres April 25 on You Tube. One of the Jims is from the filmmaker’s ancestral home in Ireland—maybe a DNA study is in order?

Another way to find out haw many other people share your name is, which bases its findings on census records. Turns out 13 people in the United States have my name.

Now, a few tips to aid your genealogical Googling and weed out some of those same-named nonrelatives:
  • Search on spelling variations of your ancestor's name.
  • Experiment with entering the last name first, first name last, with and without the middle name, with nickname, first initial plus last name, etc.
  • Use quotation marks around the name (as in "fred flintstone") to eliminate pages that show the first and last names far apart.
  • Add a place your ancestor lived to narrow results.
  • Adding the unusual name of your ancestor's spouse or child also can narrow your results.
  • Are matches on a famous figure with your ancestor’s surname clogging up your results? Use a (minus sign) to eliminate a word associated with the celebrity, for example, “fred flintstone” -bedrock.

Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Tuesday, 15 April 2008 08:27:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 11 April 2008
Edit Your Photos Online!
Posted by Grace

When it comes to image editing, the gold standard is Photoshop. Even if you haven't used the full-blown version, you've likely come across its less expensive sibling, Photoshop Elements.

Now, a free version of the software is available online—with 2 GB of storage thrown in. Adobe Photoshop Express offers many of the features included with Elements, such as cropping, color correction and some fun filter and distortion options. (Be aware, though, that agreeing to the terms of service gives other users the rights to display, print and distribute your shared images. If you don't want your pictures to go public, don't opt to share them through the site.)

Photo sharing site Flickr also recently rolled out photo editing abilities in partnership with Picnik. All Flickr users can access the basic editing options, and becoming a premium member unlocks more features. Both Picnik and Photoshop Express have some integrated functionality with other websites, like Facebook and Picasa.

Although the sites don't offer a lot in the way of restoration and delicate touchups, both Photoshop Express and Flickr are good options for people who don't want to pay a lot for a program they'll use only to resize or crop their pictures.

Family Heirlooms | Photos
Friday, 11 April 2008 10:46:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 10 April 2008
British Colonial Slave Records Cover 1812 to 1834
Posted by Diane

Those with African ancestors from the Caribbean, Sri Lanka or other former British colonies, take note: Slave registers of former British colonial dependencies, covering 1812 to 1834, are now part of subscription database sites (which also has a pay-per-view option) and

The registers name 2.7 million slaves and 280,000 slave owners in 17 former dependencies: Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Berbice (part of what's now Guyana), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Dominica, Grenada, British Honduras (now Belize), Jamaica, St. Christopher, Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Tobago, St. Vincent and Mauritius (an island off the coast of Africa).

Other information includes parish, age of slave, and sometimes, birthplace. Often, a slave used the surname of his owner, and ages were generally guessed.

Hundreds of thousands of African slaves worked on sugar, tea and tobacco plantations in British colonies. Britain made the slave trade illegal in 1807 and outlawed owning slaves in 1834.

Starting in 1812, slave owners had to complete slave registers every three years so the government could stem illegal trading.

Not all of the paper registers are part of the or collection, including some from Jamaica, St. Christopher, Grenada, Dominica, Nevis, St Lucia, Demerara, Berbice, Montserrat, Bermuda, St. Vincent, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope. The originals are at the British national archives.

You can find more on researching British Colonial-era slaves at the national archives Web site. offers tips and resources for finding Caribbean ancestors.

African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 10 April 2008 08:26:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 09 April 2008
Mark Your Calendar: Upcoming Genealogy Classes
Posted by Diane

What some people call "spring" and "summer," genealogists refer to as "conference season." Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Head over to our self-serve events calendar and add your society’s annual meeting, your library's workshop, your family history cruise or other genealogy-related event. (If you need 'em, posting instructions are on the Forum.)

Whether your family history travels take you across town or across the country, use our online research trip packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything. Here are just a few of the upcoming genealogical goings-on:
  • Besides going to classes at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, June 27-29 in Burbank, Calif., you can attend a genealogy blogger summit, sit in on ethnic research roundtables or access several genealogy databases free in the TechZone. If you’re a Southern California Genealogical Society member, you can register for $65; nonmembers pay $80. Day rates also are available.
  • Swing down to Philadelphia Sept. 3-6 for the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. Hear about regional topics such as Colonial and Mennonite research, as well as broader subjects including tracing women and finding wills. Register for the whole shebang for $175, or a day for $95.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Wednesday, 09 April 2008 10:35:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 08 April 2008
Video: Making Genealogy Fun for Kids
Posted by Diane

So last week I took a quick trip out to San Diego to talk on the morning news about genealogy for kids and Family Tree Magazine’s partnership with Tamagotchi.

With the latest version of Tamagotchi's digital pets, kids can raise “Tama” families and trace their pets' family trees—which presented an excellent opportunity to help kids learn about their own family trees in a fun way. They can get human genealogy tips in Tama Generations’ Family Center and on our Family Tree Kids! site.

For more on Tamagotchi trees and how kids can research their own families, watch the video (remember, I woke up before the crack of dawn) on San Diego's NBC affiliate Web site.

Genealogy for kids | Genealogy fun | Videos
Tuesday, 08 April 2008 08:49:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 03 April 2008
We're Honored
Posted by Allison

When it comes to recognizing useful genealogical tools and services, we're used to doling out the honors—from our annual 101 Best Web Sites roundup to our "Libbys" libraries awards, coming in the July issue—rather than receiving them. But this week, we've gotten news that two awards have been bestowed upon Family Tree Magazine:
  • In a study of online traffic rankings, Utah-based professional research firm ProGenealogists found to be one of the 50 most popular genealogical Web sites for 2008. Not surprisingly, heavy-hitting data providers and RootsWeb (both owned by The Generations Network) topped the list. Some of the other rankings might surprise you—see the full list.
  • customers selected this blog as the Best Genealogy Reference Tool and Family Tree Magazine as the Most Popular Genealogy Publication in the 2008 Artistry of Genealogy Awards. You can read about all the winners at’s online Photo Preservation Center.
It’s nice to know that genealogists find our tools, tips and information so useful. We’d love to hear your feedback, too (both compliments and critiques): Tell us how you think we can make our magazine, blogs and Web site even better by posting a comment.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 03 April 2008 10:51:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 02 April 2008
Announcing Family Tree Kids!
Posted by Diane

Got a kids or grandkids who are interested in family history? Need to put together a genealogy project for students or a scouting group? We created Family Tree Kids! just for you.

The site, designed for children ages 8 through 12, has family history-related games and crafts; activities that’ll help kids build their family detective skills and learn about their families; and a fun family tree kids can download, fill in with ancestors' names, and print.

A grownups’ section offers a resource toolkit for parents and teachers who are helping kids with genealogy projects.

Our partnership with Tamagotchi, makers of the popular digital pets, inspired Family Tree Kids! Familitchi, the newest version of Tamagotchi’s pets, encourages kids to learn about family history.

Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites | Genealogy for kids
Wednesday, 02 April 2008 07:22:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Free Site Has Lowcountry Slave Records
Posted by Diane

Tidal marshes in the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and extreme northeast Florida lent themselves to rice cultivation. Plantation owners would seek out slaves from Africa’s Windward Coast—Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia—where rice was indigenous.

The traditions of these Africans make up the rich Gullah-Geechee culture, and their lives are the focus of Lowcountry Africana, a free Web site that launched last Saturday with research guidance and records.

Its Lowcountry Lives link serves up life stories (hosted on project partner We Relate, a genealogy wiki) of Lowcountry ancestors. Right now, stories cover slaves from Drayton family plantations and their descendants.

An online Research Library has a reading room (which links to off-site articles), resources for teachers, and links to free African-American databases on the historical records site Footnote, another Lowcountry Africana partner (most of Footnote’s records are by subscription or pay-per-view).

The Search Records link takes you to the Lowcountry Africana Community in the AfriQuest database (also hosted by We Relate, AfriQuest will launch June 19 with a range of user-contributed records).

There, you can browse records or search by name, place and/or keyword. Matches link to source information and images or transcriptions. For example, the 1871 Freedman's Savings and Trust Record listing for Ceasar Smith linked to a transcription showing his birthplace, residence, age, occupation, family members’ names and more (naturally, you still want to find the original record).

The records also include bounty claims (shown below) and other documents from Freedmen’s Bureau field reports, as well as wills, estate inventories, Southern Claims Commission records and papers from Drayton family records.

You can submit your own records to Lowcountry Africana, too (click Help on the Submit Items page for instructions).

African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 02 April 2008 07:15:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 01 April 2008
Our Latest Issue ...
Posted by Diane

This special Family Tree Magazine edition is for display only today:

Genealogy fun
Tuesday, 01 April 2008 08:37:26 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [11]