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# Friday, 30 January 2009
More African-American Records Coming to Footnote
Posted by Diane

The subscription records site Footnote announced the launch of its Black History collection this week.

Records currently in the collection have been on Footnote for some time, but expect to see more soon as webmasters add new digitized records from the National Archives and Records Administration. The new records will be free during February, spokesperson Justin Schroepfer tells me.

Here’s what you can look forward to:
  • Records of the US District Court for the District of Columbia Relating to Slaves, 1851-1863: These include slave schedules, manumission papers and case papers relating to fugitive slaves.
  • Records for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862-63: These meeting minutes, docket books and petitions pertain to slaves’ emancipation.

  • Registro Central de Esclavos 1872 (Slave Schedules): These registers of slaves in Puerto Rico list the enslaved person’s name, country of origin, name of parents, physical description and owner’s name.

  • Records Relating to the Suppression of the African Slave Trade and Negro Colonization, 1854-1872: These are letters, accounts and other documents.
  • Correspondence of the Military Intelligence Division (MID) Relation to "Negro Subversion," 1917-1941: These document the MID's monitoring of African-Americans involved in labor and other social movements.
The new records will join the Colored Troops service files, Amistad case files, Southern Claims Commission petitions and others already in the Black History collection. Some of these records (such as the Amistad case files) are free; others are available with a $69.95-per-year Footnote subscription.

African-American roots | Footnote
Friday, 30 January 2009 16:05:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 29 January 2009
Ellis Island Hospital Documentary Airs in February
Posted by Diane

Forgotten Ellis Island, a documentary based on film producer Lorie Conway’s book of the same name about the immigrant hospital at America’s busiest port of arrival, is set to air on many PBS stations Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. (It'll air Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. in some places.)

See the Forgotten Ellis Island Web site and check local TV listings for updates. (The online schedule for our PBS affiliate let me set up an automatic e-mail reminder.)

I interviewed Conway for the November 2008 Family Tree Magazine, and the Ellis Island hospital is among my favorite topics I’ve covered. Conway shared photos and stories of immigrants treated there, revealing the hospital’s history and how the staff handled patients' varying cultures, languages and illnesses—while trying to balance a mission of humanity with a duty to protect the US population from diseases.

As mentioned in the November 2008 article, patient records are missing except a few documents scattered in other files.  The hospital buildings are under the care of Save Ellis Island and awaiting restoration.

Family Tree Magazine articles | immigration records | Social History
Thursday, 29 January 2009 11:42:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy Reality Show Set for April Premiere
Posted by Diane

A genealogy-reality TV show-in-production we highlighted in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine has a premiere date: April 20 at 8 p.m., according to the Hollywood Reporter. It'll air on Mondays.

Modeled after Britain’s successful “Who Do You Think You Are” series, the show will have professional genealogists tracing the roots of celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon.

See a description on NBC’s Web site.

Celebrity Roots
Thursday, 29 January 2009 08:46:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Wednesday, 28 January 2009
We’re All Atwitter
Posted by Diane

… and by that I mean you can now follow Family Tree Magazine on Twitter

What’s Twitter, some of you might ask. It’s a free social network that lets people communicate via short messages (140 characters or fewer) called tweets.

Go here to see our Twitter page. Under “Following” on the right, click the icons to see Twitter pages we’re following.

To join Twitter, you first create a profile and search for others to follow. A genealogy search brings up bloggers, enthusiasts, libraries and publications, who tweet about news, their research, what they’re doing and random thoughts. When you log in to your profile, you can tweet and view the tweets of people you’re following.

This is just the basics. For more details, go to Twitter’s home page

Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 11:40:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Winter Wonderland
Posted by Diane

It’s a wintry wonderland here at Family Tree Magazine HQ. We’ve seen it all in the past day and a half—snow, sleet, ice, freezing rain, weird little white pellets.

The office is closed in honor of this layer cake of winter precipitation. My car is a Corolla-shaped white lump, but the backyard looks lovely and Janie’s thrilled.

Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 08:15:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Tuesday, 27 January 2009
$79 Can Buy You a 33-Marker Y-DNA Test
Posted by Diane

Ancestry DNA has lowered the price of its 33-marker Y-DNA test to $79 (down from $149).

Results from this test include marker values you can enter into a database to search for relatives and a map showing your haplogroup and other information about your family’s ancient origins. Results don’t include a breakdown of ethnic origins, a type of analysis that has become more controversial of late. has changed up the look of the DNA section as well.

For help deciding which DNA test is right for you, see's genetic genealogy toolkit. | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 11:10:49 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 26 January 2009
New Year, New Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane

Happy Chinese New Year! Today begins the Year of the Ox.

The subscription Web site has posted several databases for those researching Chinese roots, including Chinese Arrivals at Philadelphia, 1900 to 1923; US Chinese Immigration Case Files, 1883 to 1924; New York Chinese Exclusion Index; and a Chinese Surname Index for the Jiapu collection of Chinese family histories (which are recorded in Chinese).

Get details about these collections on the blog.

We put together some Chinese research resources and posted them here. | Asian roots | International Genealogy
Monday, 26 January 2009 08:27:50 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 January 2009
News from
Posted by Diane

We’ve gotten a few news items from the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), whose Web site is
The Nutmegger database will be released in stages, starting this week with issues from 1968 to 1973. Members of both organizations’ Web sites can search them.
  • Last, NEHGS did some math and announced it added 5 million names to the site last year, including a million Massachusetts records and more than 3 million Social Security Death Index records.
In 2009, Web site database development coordinator Sam Sturgis is shooting for one or two databases every week.

Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 23 January 2009 12:24:36 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
My Ancestral Homes Tour
Posted by Diane

This past Christmas Eve, my mom took me on a tour of the houses where her family lived just across the Ohio River in Bellevue, Ky.

It included my great-grandma Mamie’s home—an old photo made it into a book on Bellevue by Arcadia publishing. Google Book Search does it again:

The house my mom’s dad built on the same street has burned down, but Mom showed me where she babysat and where her best friend lived. A grocery store down the street is now a house. Mom said she’d stop after school, pick out what Grandma needed for dinner, and add it to the family's tab (try that at Super Target).

My Great-grandma and Great–grandpa Frost’s first home looks a lot smaller now than in this photo from around 1925 (Family Tree Magazine readers might remember the picture from our September 2008 house history research guide.)

I remember the house below (Google Maps does it again), situated right by the railroad tracks, where the same great-grandparents lived in their later years.

At Christmas, the whole family—their five kids, at least a dozen grandkids and several of us great-grandkids—would all squeeze inside. Some of those great-aunts and -uncles and second cousins I haven't seen since Christmases at Great-grandma's.

It's neat to be able to visit your ancestral homes in person, but you may not have to drive around to see them. Check out what a Forum member did with Google Maps.

Celebrating your heritage | Research Tips
Friday, 23 January 2009 10:44:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 22 January 2009
New Site Helps You Plan Heritage Travel
Posted by Diane

Are you hoping to one day see where your ancestors lived and walk where they walked?

Heritage Travel, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has pre-launched a Web site called, focused on heritage travel.

Registered users will be able to post travel reviews, stories and photos—or, if all you can do in these times is live vicariously through others' experiences, you can read their posts and dream about your own trip.

Registration is free. (Funny, the list of interests registrants can choose from doesn’t include "genealogy" or "family history.")

Early-bird registrants also can “participate in an exclusive pre-launch recognition program, and receive special, insider-only benefits.” Advertising and historic tourism organizations will help fund the site.

Celebrating your heritage
Thursday, 22 January 2009 08:12:54 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Free Database: San Francisco Mortuary Records
Posted by Diane

Mortuary records are among genealogy’s overlooked resources, and can provide new details about an ancestor’s death.

Those with San Francisco roots have a free, convenient way to access that city’s mortuary records thanks to an indexing project.

Webmasters Pamela Storm and Ron Filion, announced that their 60 volunteers have completed the first phase of indexing the Halsted Mortuary Records database.

The database includes digitized images of 45,000-plus mortuary records dating from 1923 to 1960, along with an index. (Earlier records are still being processed; later records are being indexed.)

You can search on name and date of death. For the surname, you can choose from search options including Soundex, Metaphone, Double Metaphone and NYSIIS. Read more about these on SFGenealogy.

Here's a shot of a record view page:

According to the webmasters, the Halsted mortuary was one of the oldest and largest in the City by the Bay. Some of its records include re-interments and military burials.

Free Databases | Vital Records
Wednesday, 21 January 2009 09:08:16 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Morphing the Presidents
Posted by Diane

If you want to see a cool blend of technology and history—or you want to remind yourself what Millard Fillmore looks like—watch this video.

It's kind of a visual representation of the transfer of power: The video seamlessly “morphs” images of the 44 presidents from George Washington all the way up to Barack Obama.  It's set to “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009 12:43:44 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 19 January 2009
Do You Know Your Inaugural History? Take Our Quiz!
Posted by Diane

In honor of tomorrow’s presidential inauguration, we’ve set up a a little quiz to test your knowledge of inaugural history trivia.

After you’re through, click Submit to access the answers on our Web site.

Click here to quiz yourself.

Genealogy fun
Monday, 19 January 2009 13:26:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
Climbing Down Santa's Tree
Posted by Grace

Cryptozoologists (people who study animals whose existence has not been proven) have traced the evolution of Santa Claus back to his ur-grandfather, Wildman. Santa Claus belongs to the Winterman branch of the family; Reindeer come from the Myth branch; Snow Queens and Elves are two branches of the Folklore crew. Click here to see the whole family tree.

Celebrity Roots | Genealogy fun
Monday, 19 January 2009 13:14:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 15 January 2009
Wrapping Up Our Look Inside
Posted by Diane

If you haven’t already read our series of behind-the-scenes posts about, here are the links:
Over at the Genealogy Blog, Leland Meitzler created links to posts from all the blogger day attendees.

Clearly, the day was designed to communicate a specific impression: one of a personable, open company. And despite’s reputation in some circles as a big, bad corporate monster, I gotta say, the people we met seemed to genuinely care about preserving historical records and making it easier for customers to research family history. They listened thoughtfully to the suggestions of folks in our group, answered questions honestly and were frank about saying when the company has messed up.

So the goal for the day was accomplished. Now to see whether delivers on the objectives that surfaced in all the presentations we saw. Here’s what to look for:
  • More new content and improved current content (for example, more accurate US census indexes and better images)
  • Technological improvements to both give you better search results and facilitate easier collaboration between users
  • More listening to customers
  • Marketing efforts focused on expanding the customer base and promoting the World Archives Project

  • Consumer education about how to do genealogy beyond using what's on
  • A happier Family Tree Maker user experience with updates including templates for various types of sources, the return of book building and new report formats
Thursday, 15 January 2009 08:29:08 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 14 January 2009
Closures Next Week at DC Repositories
Posted by Diane

A reminder if you're planning on doing genealogy research in the Washington, DC, area next week: Some repositories will close or change their hours on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 19, a federal holiday) or Inauguration Day (Tuesday, Jan. 20), or both.

For example, all National Archives and Records Administration research rooms will be closed Monday; Washington, DC-area research rooms also are closed Tuesday (but the museum will stay open). The Daughters of the American Revolution Library will close both days.

Call ahead to ask about special hours at the repository you plan to visit. Check Inauguration Day road and bridge closures, too.

Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 08:45:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Me vs. Court Records at the Family History Library
Posted by Diane

I got into it with some court records during last Saturday’s Family History Library research match. When the final bell rang, the judges put their heads together for a few minutes and declared the score … a tie.

Out of the two cases I was looking for, a criminal trial and a divorce petition, I found the petition.

After much scrolling of microfilm, I located both cases listed in a handwritten index (in multiple indexes, in fact, which was a bit confusing). In a roll of district court minutes, I learned the divorce was transferred to a special district court.

The special district minutes, on a different roll of microfilm, reported the case was dismissed with court costs to be paid by the plaintiff, my great-grandmother (that made me chuckle—she was destitute; I doubt they ever got their money), but didn’t say why.

On yet another roll of film, I scored a pretty good hit: The case file held the divorce petition with my great-grandmother’s accusations against her husband, as well as a court order for the sheriff to serve him. He’d pled guilty to violating local liquor laws and was a guest of the state penitentiary at the time.

His case was even more challenging. The index gave a minute book number and a page number, but neither seemed to match up with the content on any roll of the FHL’s court records microfilm for the county. The trial was in June 1913, yet the case file number in the index corresponded to cases in the 1880s, long before my great-grandfather was in the country.

On the recommendation of the information desk consultant, I checked the 1880s case file film to see if a long-ago court clerk had misfiled the records. A batch of files that would’ve included my great-grandfather’s case file number was missing. There must’ve been a blip in the numbering system at some point.

Then I scrolled through the case papers for 1913—maybe the indexer wrote down the wrong number. Nothing.

The consultant pointed out that keeping track of the papers a court action generated over a stretch of time was particularly difficult before computers. And of course it’s possible the records escaped microfilming or are just gone.

I once requested my great-grandfather’s case records from the county court, but at that time all I knew was the date, not the information from the index, and my letter was returned with the note “found nothing.” Now, having spent hours glued to a microfilm reader getting nauseous from the whirring images, I hope my request didn’t cost the clerk half a day’s work.

I’ll probably risk the clerk’s ire and send another, very polite, request for a search, along with a photocopy of the index page.

court records | Family Tree Firsts | FamilySearch
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 08:02:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Inside’s Top-Secret Data Center
Posted by Diane

Inside the unassuming building that is the data center for and other Generations Network properties, rows and rows of cabinets house the 5,328 servers that hold the Web site, all those indexes and digital images, and users’ family trees.

In all, it’s 2.5 petabytes of data (one petabyte is equivalent to 283,000 DVDs).

A lot of security protects that data. A guard watches cameras 24/7. Windows are bulletproof. Sensors monitor windows and doors. The guy walking us around had to swipe his badge at several doors, then lay his palm in a Mission: Impossible-like handprint reader to enter the server rooms.

I can’t disclose the location and photographs weren’t permitted (darn it, I forgot my hidden-camera lapel pin), but the folks at sent these approved images:

Some rows of server-filled cabinets:

Still more servers:

(This makes me feel insecure about the jumble of cords shoved behind my TV stand.)

There’s 807,000 Kw hours of power running through the cords per month—about the amount used by 1,076 average homes over the same time period. An elaborate air conditioning system keeps the servers from overheating.

If things do get too hot and the smoke detector sounds an alarm, all life forms have two minutes to scram before a fire-suppression chemical hisses into the room and starts to suck out the oxygen.

An automated system reroutes traffic around servers that are getting overheated or full, then alerts the techies who can replace those machines. Batteries can run the place for an hour should a power failure occur; huge generators can keep it going after that.

Regular disk backups are transferred to tape and whisked weekly to a Granite Mountain disaster-proof storage vault (near the one where FamilySearch keeps its master microfilms).’s monthly hosting costs run $300,000—$143,000 for the space, $112,000 for power and the rest for bandwidth. That’s part of what you’re paying for in your subscription. (A larger chunk of your subscription fee goes to adding new content and upgrading current content.)
Tuesday, 13 January 2009 12:30:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
1911 UK Census Goes Online
Posted by Diane

The 1911 UK census is online for the first time at, a site from the fee-based UK genealogy site

The scheduled release date wasn’t until 2012, but public demand got it moved up. But sensitive information relating to illnesses and to children of women prisoners will be held back until 2012.

The 1911 census covers England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, as well as those aboard Royal Naval and Merchant vessels at sea and in foreign ports. It’s also the first British census to include full details of British Army personnel and their families stationed overseas.

More than 27 million people's census entries—80 per cent of the English records—are available today. Over the coming months, 9 million records from the remaining counties of England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, as well as the naval and overseas military records, will be added.  

You can search by name, place and birth date (you’ll need a free registration). By summer, you’ll also be able to search on an address. Each record page view costs 30 credits; you can buy 60 credits for about $10.30.

The record images are color, scanned from the original census returns, which generally results in better images than scans from microfilm.

census records | Genealogy Web Sites | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 13 January 2009 08:20:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 12 January 2009
Online Searching: It’s Complicated
Posted by Diane

The search presentation of Friday’s meeting at shed some light on what happens after you hit the Submit button, and why your results sometimes don’t seem to make sense.

Not being a computer genius, I offer this layperson's interpretation:

Every variable your search contains—every date in a range, every place of residence, every keyword—computationally is a separate query that runs through the millions of records in’s servers.

The search engine operates on an algorithm that assigns each record points based on terms in your search that match data fields in the record. Some data fields, such as the name, are weighted more heavily than others (that is, a matching name would get more points than a matching place of origin).

The search engine also assumes some terms are the same, for example, Kathleen and Cathy (who knew there are 800 variations on the name Catherine?), Florida and Fla, Syria and Alssyria. And it tries to account for the variations in spellings, the roaming birth dates and other unexpected information in historical records. Search product manager Anne Mitchell calls this “fuzziness.”

That’s why some records in your search results seem far outside the realm of possibility for your ancestor—the date or place may have been off, but the other stuff was close enough to get the points necessary to make the list.

Frustratingly, sometimes records you know aren't your ancestor get more points than the ones that might be him. You could spend hours sifting through all the search results—it's hard to know when to stop (someone said after two or three pages of results, it's unlikely you'll find the record you're looking for).

Mitchell said that the search engine's algorithm will soon be adjusted to subtract points when a name or date in a record doesn’t match what you typed in. Before, this additional step in the search process would’ve taken too long and made the servers start smoking. But now that the engineers have almost figured it out, your search results should appear in a more logical order, with the best matches higher up on the list.

It’s entirely possible my ancestors’ passenger list has been destroyed and they hid from the 1920 census enumerators, but once the changes go live, I’m going to repeat these frustrating searches.

Something else to think about if you have an Ancestry Family Tree: Family trees product manager Kenny Freestone said the quality of a family tree search—the automated search that give you those “shaky leaf” hints next to individuals in your tree—is more precise than for a ranked search. That’s because the hints are based on several generations of your tree, rather than just one person.

(And, by the way, you now can hide a tree so it’s completely excluded from the index.) | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 12 January 2009 09:38:50 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Sunday, 11 January 2009
Secret Genealogy Blogger Revealed! (Partially)
Posted by Diane

Before I left for Salt Lake City, we Family Tree Magazine staffers were speculating whether I’d finally encounter the anonymous and well-informed Ancestry Insider blogger. 

And I did! Dear Myrtle and I were sitting across the table from him,  though silhouetted as he was against a bright window, I couldn’t really see him. But I did snap a photo:


Shoot. Well, he says to tell you that if Brad Pitt wore suspenders, they could be twins.

Genealogy fun
Sunday, 11 January 2009 00:04:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Saturday, 10 January 2009
From Paper (or Film) to the Web
Posted by Diane

Our tour included the corporate offices

and the digitization department. This is Laryn Brown, head of the Document Preservation department, in front of monitors tracking the scanning.


About a dozen people operated different kinds of scanners; one photographs books and automatically turns the pages. There was a flatbed scanner bigger than me.


In the works is a UV scanner, which can bring out ink on severely damaged and faded records (we saw an example of what this technology can do—it turned a nearly blank page into a readable document).

More and more often, though, will digitize paper records on-site at repositories, with digital images sent to headquarters for processing.

Yes, many records are indexed in China and Uganda. Indexers receive months of training in English and whatever language the records are in; they're asked to key exactly what they see, even when a word is misspelled. US employees do quality spot checks and occasionally send back batches of records for re-indexing.

Back in the USA, another team examines records and indexes to “normalize” those misspellings and aberrations in data fields. Say a set of records is from California. The clerks who created the records way back when may have written the state as CA, Cal., Calif. or Calfa. The staff will add “California” to the index for these records so they come up in customers' California searches.

More on searching later!

I was lucky enough Friday to be in the company of some wise bloggers and super-experienced genealogists. For their observations, see Dear MyrtleEastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, Genea-Musings, the Ancestry Insider and GenealogyGuys.
Saturday, 10 January 2009 23:54:07 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
New and Next at
Posted by Diane hosted a bunch of genealogy bloggers yesterday for a tour of its offices and top-secret data center, and a look at what’s coming up on the site. I’ll cover it in several posts over the next few days. First, a summary of the soon-to-come stuff:

  • Some search engine tweaks should get you better search results that appear in more logical order. Right now, the search engine “scores” how well records match your search by awarding points for each term that matches. Soon, the search engine also will dock points from records with names or dates that don’t closely match what you entered.

Another update will help keep records dated, say, 1930 out of your search for someone who died in 1900 (search engineers have had to find a way to do this without making your searches take forever).

  • A wiki-like tool will make it easier for to add corrections to’s indexes. (Senior vice president Andrew Wait admits the current mechanism isn’t the best.)

  • Upcoming DNA test price cuts will include a $79 33-marker Y-DNA test (down from $149) and a $149 46-marker test (down from $199). The reason for the cuts? wants to build its DNA test results database to make it useful for people searching it for genetic cousins. Currently it has more than 30,000 results; they’re shooting for 150,000.

The DNA area also will feature more educational tools, many developed with help from partner 23andMe.

  • Content-wise, is increasing efforts to digitize and index records in county and state archives, which means more scanning of paper documents rather than microfilm.

  • You’ll see new content including state censuses, a 1940 census substitute in the form of city directories from the era, state vital records, military records including Navy cruise books, naturalization documents from 1792 to 1989 (indexes just went live on the site; images are still to come), US Chinese immigration records, prison and criminal records, and more.

  • More Civil War records will come out in conjunction with Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday; a Vermont and New York records release will coincide with those states’ 400th anniversaries.

  • Look for more promotion of the World Archives Project, which vice president of content Gary Gibb says lets save indexing costs and put more resources toward aquiring records.

  • Wait also announced a goal to increase family history education—including how to use resources that aren’t on
Saturday, 10 January 2009 08:27:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 08 January 2009
101 Best Sites: Texas Archives and a Genealogy Wiki
Posted by Diane

Our look at two of this year’s Family Tree Magazine 101 Best Web Sites picks takes us to Texas and around the world:
  • Texas State Library and Archives Commission: We categorized this site as “Best for Military Researchers” for its online index of 54,634 Lone Star State Confederate pension applications and Texas Adjutant General Service Records (1836 to 1935). But I’ve also found it helpful for other records: This archives was the source of information on my great-grandfather’s brief stay in the state penitentiary for bootlegging. I was impressed with the online information and staff responses to my research questions.
  • WeRelate: This is a community Web site just for genealogists that works on the "wiki" principle, where users generate and update the content. Created by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy in partnership with the Allen County Public Library, the free site has pages for 1.5 million people/families.
Users can upload GEDCOM files, upload and annotate scanned documents and photos, share family stories and biographies, and generate maps of ancestors' life events.

Read more about using this and other genealogy wikis in the March 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands and Jan. 13).
See the rest of the best on

Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 08 January 2009 10:22:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 07 January 2009
New Online Index Guides You to St. Louis Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Dennis Northcott, archivist at the Missouri History Society in St. Louis (my old stomping grounds) wrote me about the new Missouri History Museum Genealogy and Local History Index.

The index includes references to hundreds of thousands of St. Louis ancestors who appear in more than 225 museum research sources.

That includes St. Louisans’ Civil War-era loyalty oaths, early 20th-century yearbooks, Who’s Who publications, local censuses, WWI service member questionnaires, newspaper clippings, church histories, business letterheads and others.

You can search the index by a person’s name, business/corporate name, or street address (great for researching the history of your house and its former occupants).

You’ll find a search tips link on each search form—Northcott suggests checking out those tips before you start.

Matches give source information for the resource the name or address appears in, then you can click to order a photocopy.

Learn more about the index in Voices, the Missouri History Museum’s online magazine, and see the museum’s Web site for additional St. Louis-area research help.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 08:22:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 06 January 2009
Are Digitization Projects Skipping Your Ancestor?
Posted by Diane

Genea-Musings blogger Randy Seaver brings up a seldom-raised issue: the quality and completeness of records digitization projects between the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and its partners Footnote, FamilySearch and

His post stems from a discussion on a professional genealogists’ mailing list. A list member experienced with NARA records did a spot check: She noted the first 25 names on a NARA microfilm reel of Civil War pension index cards and searched for those names in’s pension index database. She found just one of the names. (I can hear you thinking "I knew it!")

The researcher said the cards that didn’t scan well from the microfilm were left out of the database (’s source information states 1 percent of the cards are “missing;” she puts the percentage higher).

The researcher also questioned the wisdom of scanning colored documents in black and white, pointing to Footnote's Civil War widows' pensions project.

A NARA staff member explained that partner digitization projects use original records or the highest-quality “master” microfilm and are subject to quality controls. Other, non-partner projects may have digitized records from second- or third-generation film, resulting in poorer images.

He also said NARA does make original records available, even after they’re digitized, to "researchers who need to see them."

A respondent from commented that the microfilmed Civil War pension index cards were particularly difficult to scan because some cards were on dark paper, and the technology available at the time was inferior to today's.

See Seaver’s entire post here. He raises good questions at the end.

It’s easy and comforting to assume genealogy databases have every surviving document in a particular record set. This is a reminder that’s not always the case.  

Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, 06 January 2009 12:52:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
Go to This Summer's Family Reunion on a Shoestring
Posted by Diane

Now’s the time to be thinking about this summer’s family reunion. You can glean a few tips from CNN’s article about holding reunions during tough times.

The March 2008 Family Tree Magazine (now mailing to subscribers) offers a special genealogy-on-a-budget section with professional researcher Maureen A. Taylor’s how-tos for genealogy travel on a shoestring. Here's a sneak preview:
  • Explore transportation, hotel and rental car options using a metasearch engine such as Farecast or Kayak, which search several travel sites at once. (Study the fine print for any added fees, though.)
  • Instead of putting up your whole group in a hotel, consider renting a residence through a site such as Cyberrentals.
  • Try to use public transportation instead of renting a car, especially in big cities. Ask your hotel or the visitors bureau Web site for information.
  • Scout out restaurants ahead of time and shop for gift certificates priced below face value at (note any restrictions on usage) and eBay.
Get more planning help in’s Reunions section and create kid-friendly get-togethers with advice from Family Tree Kids!

Family Reunions
Tuesday, 06 January 2009 09:54:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 05 January 2009
Family History Expo Podcast Interview
Posted by Allison

Family Tree Magazine is proud to be the media sponsor of Family History Expos, a series of two-day genealogy events happening in various Western cities throughout 2009. The next Expo is Feb. 27-28, in St. George, Utah.

DearMyrtle—whom you may know from her blog, Web site and Family History Hour podcast—recently interviewed yours truly for the Family History Expos Podcast. You can listen to our conversation by subscribing in iTunes or using the player on the show notes page.

Genealogy Events
Monday, 05 January 2009 11:44:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Popular Family Tree Sites Launch Pay Plans
Posted by Diane

Two family networking and genealogy sites have added fee-based premium plans to their popular free offerings:

MyHeritage, headquartered in Israel, introduced two premium plans to let users access the new features in its just-released Family Builder 3 Web-based genealogy software. Those features include SmartMatching, which compares new family trees to the MyHeritage database of more than 300 million profiles, to find matches so members can merge the information in overlapping trees. (You may remember SmartMatching from the GenCircles pedigree database site—whose creator, Pearl Street Software, MyHeritage purchased.)

Also new in Family Tree Builder 3 is automatic “Smart Search” searching of more than 100 online databases for names in your tree, easy family tree chart printing, and online publishing with videos and documents to your MyHeritage family Web site.
  • The Premium plan, at $3.95 per month (a holiday offer available through Jan. 15 costs $1.95 per month), 
nets you the above new features with an online tree of up to 2,500 people
 and 500 MB
 of online storage, along with priority support.
  • The PremiumPlus plan, which costs $9.95 per month, offers unlimited online trees and unlimited storage, plus the priority support.
  • With a free Basic plan, you can still use the gratis version of Family Tree Builder, with up to 500 people in your online tree and 100 MB
 of storage.
Los Angeles-based Geni introduced a new $5-per-month Pro plan with benefits including Enhanced Relationship Paths, which lets you discover your exact relationship to any blood relative on Geni. (The free Basic membership shows you relationship “pathways” to ancestors and close relatives—Enhanced Relationship Paths will be most interesting to those with large trees or who’ve who’ve merged their trees with others’.)

Additional Pro benefits include:
  • The ability to export your family tree and all connected trees as a single GEDCOM file (up to 100,000 total individual and family records).
  • A priority support team especially for Pro members.
  • A Geni Pro badge to sport on your profile and in your family tree.

Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 05 January 2009 10:46:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]