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# Monday, 30 June 2008
The Importance of Enunciation in Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Reason No. 437 why you can't always believe oral history ...

One of our coworkers just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary. The other day, she told her husband that after this year’s family reunion in New England, she wants to go up to Prince Edward Island to see where her dad came from, and taste the nearly golf ball-sized blueberries and swim in the Gulf Stream-warmed water he always talked about.

"Prince Edward Island?" my coworker told me her husband answered. "I thought your dad was from Ireland."

True story. He confessed that throughout their half-century of marriage, he's also told people her mom was born in Scotland (it was Massachusetts).

My coworker wonders what else they don’t know about each other after 50 years together. At least they kept a sense of mystery, I say.

This is just one example of how family stories can get altered over the years—and why it's a good idea to look for records that confirm what Great-grandma or -grandpa told you.

Genealogy fun | Research Tips
Monday, 30 June 2008 15:51:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 27 June 2008
MidContinent Public Library Open for Research
Posted by Diane

The new Midwest Genealogy Center—one of the country's largest public library genealogy collections—is now open in Independence, Mo. (just outside Kansas City).

Genealogists were deep into research within minutes of the June 21 ribbon cutting, the beginning of a daylong celebration featuring historical re-enactors, musicians and genealogy classes.

At 52,000 square feet, the new center is four times the size of its predecessor, the Mid-Continent Public Library Genealogy and Local History Branch. (The marked difference in the two facilities stands out in our May video tour.)

The space allows plenty of room for resources including a circulating collection, almost completely open stacks, microfilm reader-printers, self-digitization stations, classrooms and research consultation rooms.

Libraries and Archives
Friday, 27 June 2008 14:24:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 26 June 2008
FamilyLink Launches "Revolutionary" WebTree Service
Posted by Diane

FamilyLink just announced a service called WebTree, billing it as "the most revolutionary family tree publishing site on the Internet."

It’s a free site where you can post and share your family tree, and create heirloom-quality charts to print at home. In the future, you’ll be able to order printed charts, according to FamilyLink founder Paul Allen.

The site hasn’t launched yet, but you can become a charter member now by registering and entering family information. Charter members also will be able to preview new features.

WebTree's pre-launch home page promises an "amazing number of revolutionary features designed to help you with your genealogy."

It also says the service “will never sell your data or burn it to CD,” a vow likely aimed to those who've accused Allen's former employer,, of reselling user-submitted data.

WebTree states that "you own your data," too, which is a bit of an oversimplification: Nobody owns facts such as names and dates. Additionally, just about anywhere you post your data, you still can use the information however you like—the sticking point is what rights the site claims for using the data you submit.

If it's OK with you, WebTree will make some use of your data. “With permission of the submitters," Allen says, "We will index the files and make them searchable on WorldVitalRecords (as well as on itself)."

World Vital Records is FamilyLink’s fee-based genealogy database service. "As more and more visitors do free searches in this tree collection, we'll be able to let them know about other premium records and databases as well," says Allen.

Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 26 June 2008 08:57:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Civil War Research and Events Updates
Posted by Diane

A few Civil War research and history news items to start your day:
  • The Western Maryland Regional Library has put the Antietam National Cemetery payroll for 1866-1867 online. The digitized and transcribed book bears names and wages of laborers who built the wall around the cemetery. You can browse or search (the search is in the upper right; choose the payroll database from the pulldown menu).
Entry is via the CWPT’s Flickr site. The deadline is Aug. 31, with prizes in four categories ranging from certificates of recognition to free Civil War conference registrations.
  • This year marks the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Gettyburg, and more than 10,000 participants will stage a battle re-enactment July 4-6. Tickets range from $24 per adult for a day to $57 for three days, with lower prices for kids. Get ‘em at the Gettyburg Re-enactment Web site.

Celebrating your heritage | Military records | Social History
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 09:55:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
The Difficulty of Divvying Up Family Heirlooms
Posted by Diane

We get a fair number of questions from Family Tree Magazine readers trying to split up family heirlooms—or just get a chance to copy old photos—after a relative’s death. It's an already-difficult situation that can get worse when old tensions resurface.

They’re not alone. posted an article today about rifts over inheritances and why they’re so common.

The article also offers tips for avoiding problems, such as making sure loved ones have wills, talking ahead of time about who gets what, and getting a neutral third party involved.

See Forum members’ advice and stories about passing down heirlooms, too.

Family Heirlooms
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 08:50:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 23 June 2008
Familybuilder Turns One With Millions Of Profiles
Posted by Diane

It's just one year old, but it has some big numbers: Familybuilder announced that members of social networking Web sites have used its Family Tree application to create more than 16 million family profiles. They add another 2 million per month.

Members of sites including Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Hi5 and Orkut can download the free Family Tree app to their online profiles, set up family profiles and connect with other relatives who're members of the same site.

With around 22 percent of Americans using social networking Web sites (says the Pew Research Center), piggybacking off them is a particularly effective way to market a product.

More than 3.5 million people currently use Family Tree. According to Familybuilder spokesperson Myles Weissleder, Internet traffic information provider Comscore rated Familybuilder's site the 4th-most-trafficked online genealogy service in March. (Other top sites were The Generations Network sites, MyHeritage, Genes Reunited and FamilySearch.)

“As we enter into our second year, we'll be offering more tools and services to make researching family history fun," says Familybuilder CEO Ilya Nikolayev.

That includes a way to link up with family members across social networks, so a Facebook fan, say, could add a Bebo-using cousin to her family profile.

Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 23 June 2008 16:56:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 20 June 2008
Family Tree Who?
Posted by Diane

How did anyone find out stuff before the Ancestry Insider? The anonymous blogger posted yesterday that The Generations Network (TGN) is suing Millennia Software and Utah design firm BTH2 over similarities between the packaging of TGN’s Family Tree Maker 2008 and Millennia’s Legacy Family Tree 7.0. BTH2 designed both packages.

See a side-by-side comparison and more details from the complaint filed with the US District Court in Utah on the Ancestry Insider blog. (And don't miss the Genealogue's version.)

I’ve gotta say, in an industry where everything is called family tree something-or-other, it’s hard to differentiate yourself.

At last month’s National Genealogical Society conference, I can’t tell you how many people came to Family Tree Magazine’s booth (that's us) asking questions about “our” Family Tree Maker software. We also sent some folks over to Family Tree DNA.

That’s life when product names that say “genealogy” are rare (family tree, family history, ancestry, roots, progeny, gene—all taken). We just hope if you don’t remember which “family tree” we are, you’ll recall that really cool genealogy magazine or Web site you saw once, and recognize it when you find it.

Genealogy Industry
Friday, 20 June 2008 10:32:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Thursday, 19 June 2008
Will California's Letters to Genetic Testing Companies Affect Genealogists?
Posted by Diane

California's attempt to regulate genetic testing has raised a bit of a stir in the genealogical community, but it's unclear whether genetic genealogy tests will be affected.

Wired reports that the state department of public health sent sternly worded cease-and-desist letters to 13 DNA testing companies warning they’re in violation of California law.

California requires labs that are located in the state or process biological samples originating there to get a state laboratory license, and it also prohibits direct-to-consumer clinical lab tests without a doctor’s order.

One warning letter, linked in Wired’s article, specifically states genetic tests are not exempt. But it doesn’t distinguish between genetic genealogy tests (such as Y-DNA tests) and disease-related genetic tests (such as 23andMe’s genotyping services).

Genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA didn’t receive a letter, spokesperson Bennett Greenspan told me, but the company’s disease-related testing business called DNA Traits got one (now posted on Wired). And from the letter's wording, it looks like the state’s concern is tests that reveal medical information without involving the consumer’s physician.

The California Department of Health hasn’t yet returned my call seeking clarification. Meanwhile, the letter demands recipients cease and desist offering genetic tests to California citizens.

Update (June 20): Californians won't need a doctor's note to learn their haplogroups. Lea Brooks of the California Department of Public Health told me that "Genetic testing used for ancestor tracking or forensic purposes is not covered by California clinical laboratory law standards." That means the state is limiting its investigations to companies that do medical-related genetic testing.

Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, 19 June 2008 17:18:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Search Tips for Online Genealogy Databases
Posted by Diane

The following tips will help you target your ancestor searches in genealogy databases. Try them out on our 2008 list of the 101 Best Web Sites for genealogy—you’ll find these sites in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine (look for it July 15 on newsstands and on

Read a site's search instructions. They'll reveal tricks such as omitting a given name or including wildcards.

• On Web sites with multiple databases, search individual databases one at a time. Those customized search engines often include fields you won’t get with the site’s global search.

Make sure the collection covers the right time and place. Go to the page for the individual database and look for background information. You might learn the collection doesn't contain records for all years, or that your ancestor's county didn't keep those particular records—then you can move on to a more-promising resource.

• Database searches call up your ancestor’s record only if an indexer entered the same information you’re searching on—so try different approaches. Start by entering all you know about the person. If you don’t get results, search on fewer terms and combinations of terms (such as the person’s name and residence, or his name and birthplace, or even just his birthplace and year of immigration).

Seek alternate name spellings. Check the search tips to see whether a search automatically looks for similar names. Even if it does, try odd spellings: A census taker or an indexer might’ve interpreted the name so outlandishly that a “sounds like” search wouldn’t pick up on the misspelling.

Use One-Step Search Tools, which offer more-flexible searching of several databases in, Footnote, and other sites (to view results from a fee-based site, you need a subscription to the site). For example, the One-Step tools might let you search on a name fragment, more year ranges, or more combinations of terms.

• When all else fails, try browsing (on some sites, such as, you'll need to go to the page for the individual database). Start with the records for the most-probable date or place. Keep written track of which records you've already examined in case you have to stop and come back later.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Thursday, 19 June 2008 10:39:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 18 June 2008 Starts Volunteer Indexing Project
Posted by Diane

The subscription service is launching a volunteer indexing project that looks to compete with FamilySearch’s records indexing project.

The Ancestry 24/7 Family Circle Blog announced in March that was planning a volunteer indexing initiative. The anonymous Ancestry Insider blogger  recently reported that the just-launched-in-beta World Archives Project will recruit volunteers to index’s digitized records using an online tool. Then will publish the index free. The record images will be part of’s subscription services.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ FamilySearch was first to start a large-scale project for volunteers to index records using an online tool. FamilySearch Indexing is producing both indexes and record images that will be available free (you can access some now at FamilySearch Labs).

Other FamilySearch indexing initiatives will make indexes free online, with record images available free at FamilySearch research centers, or for a fee from record repositories or third-party database sites.

I’m curious how you all feel about—a for-profit business—using volunteer labor. Does the free index make the idea palatable? What about the possibility that actual genealogists will create a better-quality index than currently offers?

Click here to sign up for's e-mail notifications about the World Archives Project. | Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, 18 June 2008 16:14:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [12]
New Database Shows You English Ancestors' Jobs
Posted by Diane

You might be able to learn whether your English ancestor was a clergyman, cowkeeper, winemaker, woolstapler or other tradesperson using the British subscription service’s latest addition. Pigot’s Trade directories of town and occupational information cover 27 counties back to the 1830’s (so, before official civil registration began).

Records added to date cover 27 counties from 1830 to 1839. Directories contain  descriptions of towns with population numbers, parishes and main trades and industries. They also list residents’ names and addresses by occupation.

Search the directories by name or occupation, or browse by page. A subscription to costs 37.50 pounds—that's about $73.50.

You can browse a name index to a few Pigot's Trade directories free from this RootsWeb-hosted site (there’s a search here, but it didn’t seem to be working).

I dug up a few links to help you learn more about some of those archaic trades your UK and other ancestors practiced:

Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Social History
Wednesday, 18 June 2008 14:02:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Time Puts Genealogy Site in "50 Best" List
Posted by Diane

Congratulations to our friends over at Geni! The venerable Time magazine picked the genealogy-family networking site as one of the top 50 Web sites of 2008

Time’s writer said Geni turns what can be a lonely pursuit into a collaborative effort with its information-sharing tools.  “Geni makes it easier — and more fun — than ever to create and share your family tree.”

Click here to read the Genealogy Insider blog posts about Geni (and a few random posts a geni search of this blog picks up).

Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 12:59:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 16 June 2008
Free Online Historical Newspapers Through June 19
Posted by Diane

The subscription genealogy database service is making its entire historical newspapers collection free through June 19 to mark the expansion of its newspaper database by 20 million images.

You need to register with and provide your e-mail address to access the collection, but you don’t have to give your credit card number.

This addition doubles the size of the newspaper collection with pages from large- and small-town papers, including The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.), Modesto Bee and Herald News (Modesto, Calif.), Raleigh Register (Raleigh, NC) Xenia Daily Gazette (Xenia, Ohio), and more. Coverage varies by title.

Search the collection by a name and a keyword. You can add a year range and place, but that didn’t seem to affect my search—even though I checked the Exact boxes, results came from everywhere and all years.

Matches are categorized by newspaper title; click a title to see results for that paper. You'll see a snippet of the page containing your search term (some image links, including those in my El Paso Herald matches, seem to be broken), with the publication year on the right. It would be cool if the results were arranged by year, so you could scroll to the time your ancestor lived in that area, but you’ll have to evaluate each match.

The Refine Your Search options aren’t available for this collection, since the article content isn’t indexed by birth or death information, or family members’ names (makes sense, since not all newspaper articles would have that information).

If you’re looking for news of a specific event, try browsing individual papers by date. Go to the newspapers collection listings in the card catalog and enter your ancestors’ hometown in the "Filter by a keyword" box. Select a newspaper title, then scroll down to the Browse by Date option. You also can search the individual title from that page.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Monday, 16 June 2008 09:40:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 12 June 2008
Would You Read a Digital Magazine?
Posted by Diane

Right on the heels of Dick Eastman’s blog post about the disappearance of print newsletters and magazines, Everton’s Genealogical Helper announced the debut of its digital edition.

Everton’s is still doing its print edition, too. Ancestry (published by’s owner, The Generations Network) also publishes both on paper and digitally, as does Internet Genealogy. Digital Genealogist is available only online.

I was proud to see Dick’s description of Family Tree Magazine as a “combined online and offline magazine." That’s what we’re going for: We’ve found readers are accustomed to getting information in a variety of ways, so we’re responding with extra online content, our weekly E-mail Update newsletter, back issues and special editions on CD, digital downloads of our State Research Guides, our blogs and online Forum, online videos and our recently launched podcast.

The entire publishing industry is caught up in the “digital vs. print” discussion, with some swearing it's just a matter of time before all print publications go away, and others insisting people always will want to curl up with a paper magazine or book.

Many who commented on Dick’s post said they’d rather read paper. What about you all—would you read a digital version of your favorite genealogy magazine?

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Industry
Thursday, 12 June 2008 15:59:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Conference Wrap-up: New Zealand Genealogical Society
Posted by Diane

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists recently wrapped up a big conference, From Coast to Coast 2008, held May 30 to June 2 in Christchurch.

Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sharon DeBartolo Carmack and professional genealogist Jim Warren were the annual event’s first American keynote and banquet speakers. “We felt quite honored,” Sharon told us, and she added these notes about the conference:
More than 350 genealogists, “traders” (vendors), and volunteers traveled from all over New Zealand, Australia and the United States to attend the conference. We were impressed not only with the good humor and friendliness of all the attendees, but also the overall level of sophistication regarding genealogical research.
Besides us, 23 speakers lectured on topics geared to New Zealand research, which covered a broad range of ethnic groups representing New Zealand’s melting pot: Irish, Scottish, English, Maori (indigenous peoples) and Chinese.

If you have New Zealand ancestors, the society has a great online overview of resources. Also check out New Zealand GenWeb.

At the banquet Saturday evening, Jim and I presented “Primetime’s 20/20 Dateline: Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Interviews the World’s Oldest Living Genealogist, Ole Smirnoff Bernatelli” featuring Jim as Ole, and it met with uproarious laughter. For Sunday’s dinner, conference organizers Philip Worthington and Fiona Brooker, along with the genealogical society's executive officer, Peter Nash, treated us all to a hilarious version of “It's In the Bag,” a popular game show in New Zealand. I was even one of the contestants, electing to take what was in the bag instead of the money—I won a calculator!
We thoroughly enjoyed the conference and meeting all the attendees. We even got to travel around the South Island of New Zealand in a pre-conference “holiday” with my newly married daughter, Laurie, and her husband, Dash.

Genealogy Events | International Genealogy
Wednesday, 11 June 2008 09:37:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 10 June 2008
New One-Step Search Tools Promise Better Results
Posted by Diane

Over at Tracing the Tribe, Schelly Talalay Dardashti blogged about new features on Stephen P. Morse’s One-Step Web Pages.

If you’re not familiar with him, Steve Morse is a kind of genealogical folk hero who creates handy Web tools including highly flexible search forms for third-party genealogical databases.

His newest database search tools include phonetic name matching, which finds variant surname spellings based on how a name is pronounced rather than how it’s spelled, so you get fewer false hits. Dardashti says Morse's Ellis Island Gold form passenger search  and the Dachau concentration camp search will soon feature phonetic matching.

Morse has a long list of tools on his home page, so here, I'm linking directly to several of the new ones:
Stop by the One-Step site to see more database searches, language transliterators, date converters and other goodies. You can learn more about the tools and how to use them in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine, and see for some of our interview with Morse.

Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Tuesday, 10 June 2008 14:21:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 09 June 2008
Borders Concept Stores Feature
Posted by Diane

One feature of Border’s fancy new “concept” stores—now open in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Las Vegas; Noblesville, Ind.; Panama City Beach, Fla.; and National City, Calif.—is a Borders Genealogy Services kiosk where customers can search

A kiosk (shown) is part of each concept store’s digital center, which has staff to help customers download books and music, self-publish their writing—and research their family history.

The free access is a big draw, which is why Borders is offering it, says spokesperson Kolleen O’Meara. “It allows our customers to also experiment and try new things with experts available to help them. This is a great introduction to genealogy research showing customers how easy it can be.” She adds that digital center staff will be trained in searching

Of course, and Borders are hoping visitors also will buy the “Subscription in a Box,” a one-month membership to, Family Tree Maker software and/or an “Our Name in History" book

Lucky us… one of these new Borders will open close to Family Tree Magazine headquarters by late November.

Genealogy Industry
Monday, 09 June 2008 14:12:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, 06 June 2008
48 Hours in Washington, DC
Posted by Grace

While planning a trip to our nation's capital to see friends, I focused mainly on coordinating schedules and figuring out where to eat. But the day I left, I suddenly got really excited about all the museums there are in the District.

Although 48 hours doesn't give you a lot of time to explore, I managed to spend time in two great museums: the Newseum and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Newseum, a museum dedicated to the history of news and journalism, just opened its impressive new building at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. in April. That's the First Amendment inscribed into the front of the building.

Its six levels are packed with interactive exhibits and small theaters. My friends and I spent about four hours looking at everything, but I could have spent another day there easily. Especially in the area full of historical front pages (as seen at right). Declarations of war, unthinkable events and tragic assassinations are displayed alongside incredible achievements, joyous milestones and other turning points in our world's history.

The same hall is lined with mini-exhibits of various aspects of journalism, such as the contributions of black Americans, women and others to the field, and the changing face of the news business. (The Palm Pilot of blogger Jim Romenesko is on display, for example.)

The section devoted to coverage of Sept. 11, 2001, was also really impressive. What looks like a sculpture is a twisted chunk of the radio tower formerly atop the World Trade Center. The walls are lined by front pages from Sept. 12, and videos show news coverage from the day.

Although journalism nerds like myself will probably appreciate the Newseum most, anyone with a taste for history will enjoy spending a few hours there.

The National Portrait Gallery is an absolute powerhouse and a must-see museum even if you're not well-versed in art history. With free admission, there's no reason not to stop in when you're in Washington. The newly reopened atrium (above) is pleasantly cool and quiet even on sweltering summer days.

One big highlight of the collection is the permanent "America's Presidents" gallery. My personal favorite was Norman Rockwell's depiction of Richard Nixon. And it's interesting to see John F. Kennedy's portrait is the only openly abstract painting in the bunch.

It's incredible to think the building, which originally housed the US Patent Office, was almost demolished in the mid-1900s. Its endless corridors and galleries are absolutely gorgeous, and the art it contains is a true national treasure.

If I'd had a little more time to spend in DC, I would have visited the National Archives, Cooper-Hewitt and the Natural History Museum. Next time!

Museums | Social History
Friday, 06 June 2008 09:42:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 05 June 2008
RootsTelevision Show Helps Solve Unclaimed Person Mystery
Posted by Diane

Last week, we blogged about RootsTelevision’s “Unclaimed Persons” show, about genealogists working with coroners to find the families of unclaimed bodies at morgues across the United States.

Part of the show outlined the story of John Finch, a man from Kansas who died in Scranton, Pa., in 1999.  Mysteriously, in his home was the family Bible of an unrelated woman (whose daughter professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak was able to locate).

In 2003, Finch was listed as a survivor in his brother’s newspaper obituary. Smolenyak figured out he had 9 siblings, but none of the phone numbers she dug up panned out. Well, a tip from About Genealogy’s Kimberly Powell has cracked the case.

Powell spotted a brief newspaper snippet about a car break-in, and she thought the automobile’s owner was a likely niece of Finch’s. More research uncovered several possible addresses and she passed them on to the Lackawanna County Coroner's Office in Pennsylvania. Yesterday, John Finch's brother called the coroner's office. John Finch is no longer an unclaimed person.

Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 05 June 2008 16:31:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 04 June 2008
Search for English Ancestors on FamilySearch Test Site
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has added 24 million names from microfilmed English baptism and marriage records to its free pilot Record Search collection. The records aren’t yet linked to digitized images.

You’ll also find other records there, too, including state and federal censuses, vital records and parish records from Germany, Spain and elsewhere.

FamilySearch is testing the Record Search and image viewer; eventually, it’ll be part of the familiar FamilySearch Web site and let you access even more records. Use the Record Search in Internet  Explorer, Netscape or Firefox.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 04 June 2008 14:27:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 03 June 2008
MyHeritage Expands Genealogy Metasearch Tool
Posted by Diane

Genealogy Web site MyHeritage, which offers family Web sites, free Family Builder software, and a fun celebrity look-alike photo search, has upgraded another of its features: a genealogy metasearch tool.

MyHeritage Research is a search engine that looks for results in up to 1,350 genealogy Web sites and databases such as, Yad Vashem Shoah victims, AfriGeneas Surnames, DeadFred and (in paid databases, your results show names but you won’t get other details unless you subscribe).

MyHeritage Research is free, though you'll be prompted to register when you use it.

With such a broad search, unless you have a really unusual name, start by clicking Advanced Search and entering as many search terms (birth year and place, death year and place) as possible. You also can specify types of records to look for.

One neat thing: The tool searches on multiple name variations at once. After submitting your search, you’ll get a checklist of alternate spellings—just check up to five you’d like to search on.

You may be prompted to install a “java applet,” a piece of code that enables the search to work, which just took a couple of seconds.

Then go make yourself a snack, since it may take awhile to get results. And the number of matches can be overwhelming—I got 39,510. You're likely to get a lot of false matches. Good thing registered MyHeritage users can save results to wade through gradually.

You’ll be sent to each database site to see its matches. Even on free sites, you’ll often click a match and be told you must register first, which gets annoying and seems risky when you’re unfamiliar with the site. And since you go right to the page with the match, you have little context for where the names came from.

If your research is at a point where you need to cast a wide net, here’s a good way to do it. But you may be better served by targeting specific genealogy databases that make sense for when and where your family lived.

See MyHeritage’s FAQ page to learn more about how the search works. For more on Family Builder software, check out Randy Seaver’s detailed blog post at Genea-Musings.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Tuesday, 03 June 2008 08:23:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 02 June 2008
Preview’s New Search
Posted by Diane

The subscription database has opened the preview for its new search to all members. (You can go back to the old search using the “Switch Back” link on results pages.)

I’ve been using the new search for awhile. It’s a redesigned search interface, rather than a new search engine: The search forms and results pages look cleaner and are arranged more logically and conveniently, so they’re easier to use. The search itself doesn't work differently, but the user-friendly improvements may net you better results.

Using the advanced search, you can click “Tell us More” to add spouse’s and childrens’ names, among other details. You can designate Exact Match for each term, too.

In particular, I like how the search box stays on the left of the results screen, so you can change your search terms at any time without clicking back through all the pages of matches. If you searched in more than one database, another menu on the left lefts you view results from certain ones.

Try it out and click Comments to let us know what you think.

Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 02 June 2008 12:17:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]