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More Links

# Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Irish Times Newspaper Archive Free Through April 4
Posted by Diane

The Dublin-based Irish Times newspaper is celebrating its 150th birthday, and you can access the digital archives—covering 1859 to 2009—free through April 4.

Keyword search or browse by date using the gray search box on the right side of the home page. You can download articles—such as this list of birth announcements—as PDF files.

Don't stop there—continue your genealogy search with the resources and guidance in's Irish roots toolkit.

Free Databases | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 07:58:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
The First 30 Days of Your Genealogy Search
Posted by Diane

Genealogy Gems Podcast host Lisa Louise Cooke (who also hosts our Family Tree Magazine Podcast) is the expert guest on ChangeNation’s First 30 Days Podcast.

Take a listen to pick up Cooke's insights on starting a family history search, interviewing relatives and how doing genealogy changes your life a little.

And Genealogy Gems was named by the Salt Lake City Genealogy Examiner site as a great resource for starting genealogy. Congrats!

Genealogy Web Sites | Podcasts
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 07:37:45 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 30 March 2009
New Genomics Company Offers Ancestry Testing
Posted by Diane

Blaine Bettinger at the Genetic Genealogist posted about a new, California-based personal genomics company called Pathway Genomics.

Similar to 23andme, Pathway uses SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing to extract information about your health conditions, ancestry and personal traits.

You can get just the ancestry test for $199 (23andme charges $399 for ancestry, health and traits results).

The test will tell women their maternal haplogroup; and men, their maternal and paternal haplogroups. (That’s because both male and female children inherit the mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but only males inherit the father’s Y-DNA.)

A haplogroup is akin to a branch of the world family tree. In some cases, knowing your haplogroup can help you determine if someone's not a relative. (A female cousin through your mother’s sister, for example, should be from the same maternal haplogroup as you.) But in general, your haplogroup tells you about your ancient roots, not ancestors who lived recently enough to be covered in genealogical records.

See Pathway's answers to frequently asked questions about its ancestry test. The company offers customers the option to discuss test results with an on-staff genetic counselor.

Bettinger, who’s a consultant to Pathway, describes the ancestry test in detail.

See Pathway’s blog, DNAction, too.

Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 30 March 2009 10:05:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 27 March 2009
Genealogy News Corral, March 22-27
Posted by Diane

Here's our roundup of the week's genealogy news:
  • It moved around a bit, but NBC’s "Who Do You Think You Are?" premiere looks to be set for April 20.
  • With help from actor Richard Dreyfuss, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) announced this year’s list of the 10 Most Endangered Civil War Battlefields—Gettysburg, Pa., Cedar Creek, Va., and Spring Hill, Tenn., all made the unfortunate cut.
Want to help? You can start by helping spruce up battlefields on CWPT’s Park Day April 4.

Genealogy Events | Historic preservation | Social Networking
Friday, 27 March 2009 15:35:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
Facebook Targets Families With New Groups Page
Posted by Diane

The AllFacebook blogger pointed out Facebook's new landing page for members to set up private groups for extended family. 

You already could set up private groups; this is just a way to get families to do it. Facebook may be trying to capitalize on the success of genealogy applications such as FamilyLink’s We’re Related and FamilyBuilder’s FamilyTree.

The landing page is here (you’ll have to log in to Facebook if you’re not already). It lets you name your family group and invite relatives already on Facebook and those not yet on Facebook. Then you can share photos and information just with this group.

More details and commentary on AllFacebook.

Family Reunions | Social Networking
Friday, 27 March 2009 08:54:43 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
New Collection Details London History
Posted by Diane

British subscription site—sister site to US-based—has launched a records collection spanning 400 years of London history.

Titled London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s, the collection will include more than 77 million records from parishes and workhouses, plus electoral rolls, wills, land tax records and school reports. It'll predate civil registration—England's equivalent to US vital records—by 300 years.

Right now, just the workhouse records are online. The Board of Guardians oversaw these institutions where impoverished men, women and children worked long hours for meager food and shelter. Records name those born or baptized in workhouses from 1834 to 1934, and those who died in a workhouse from 1834 to 1906.

The other records will be added regularly over the next year. Learn more at

London was the center of Britain’s global empire for centuries. estimates 165 million people around the world, including more than half of British citizens, have an ancestor in the new collection. costs 83.40 pounds (about $120) per year. You also can pay as you go by purchasing a voucher good for a limited time. (See subscription and pay-per-view options here.) | Genealogy Web Sites | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 27 March 2009 07:59:30 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 26 March 2009
America's Next Top Immigrants
Posted by Grace

What do modeling and genealogy have in common?

Absolutely nothing—until last night, when the girls of "America's Next Top Model" did a photo shoot at Ellis Island as very fashionable immigrants.

Watch this season's girls impersonating new arrivals in the video below:

Genealogy fun | Videos
Thursday, 26 March 2009 09:00:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Footnote Launches 1930 Census, New Look, New Search
Posted by Diane

Historical records site Footnote just announced its new Great Depression Collection, anchored by an interactive version of the 1930 census that CEO Russ Wilding calls “a gathering place for the American story.”

Footnote members can attach family photos and stories to names on the census images and automatically create Footnote Pages for them.

That opens up at least one back-door genealogy research avenue, suggests spokesperson Justin Schroepfer: If someone left a note on your ancestor’s neighbor’s listing, you could contact the member through the site and possibly get in touch with the neighbor’s descendants.

Also in the Great Depression Collection are digitized and indexed documents from the era, including newspapers with articles on President Roosevelt’s New Deal and ads revealing how much your ancestors paid for groceries.

Along with this release, Footnote revealed a new home page and new search. Duplicate home page links to the same place have been eliminated for a more streamlined look, and there’s no longer a separate advanced search—you expand the search box on the home page to bring up additional search fields.

Footnote searches for plurals and stem names (such as Michael for Mike), but doesn’t automatically look for alternate spellings. I couldn’t find my Haddad ancestors in the 1930 census until I entered the enumeration district and sheet number as keywords—they’re indexed under Haddah. But you can look for alternate spellings by using an asterisk (*) as a wildcard to stand in for any number of letters.

Look for more search tips in our Footnote Web Guide in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on newstands May 5).

The Great Depression Collection is part of Footnote’s subscription offerings. (There’s a limited-time special offer of $55.95.) Footnote also offers a pay-per-view option for many of its records.

The 1930 census actually went live yesterday, but Footnote postponed the announcement to work out a few bugs (it was killing me to keep my mouth shut, but I distracted myself by updating the abovementioned Web Guide).

Family Tree Magazine articles | Footnote | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 26 March 2009 07:36:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 25 March 2009
RootsMagic 4 Officially Launches
Posted by Diane

RoostMagic has officially launched version 4 of its popular genealogy software (the company issued a public beta test March 5).

Developers say version 4, which won awards at the recent FamilySearch Developers Conference for its compatibility with the "New FamilySearch" online tree-tracker, is a "complete rewrite."

(New FamilySearch is being rolled out to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members, and will eventually be part of the FamilySearch Web site.)

You can download or upgrade RootsMagic 4 now; CD orders will ship April 20. The cost is $29.95 ($19.95 for an upgrade or—for a limited time—a switch from several other programs). You also can purchased the software bundled with other RootsMagic products.

See the RootsMagic Web site for screen shots and an in-depth look at the updates. Look for our review in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands May 5.

Genealogy Software
Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:34:02 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Tips From a Family Reunion Whiz
Posted by Diane

Remember our blog post about a year ago about the upcoming super-size Miner-Minard-Miner-Minor 2008 family reunion? 

Organizer Mark Miner sent us a post-party update. Maybe you can steal some inspiration for your own annual gatherings: He's someone who knows how to put on a reunion. Below, a few takeaways.
  • Enlarge your invite list. From his genealogy research and family Web site, Miner estimates 50,000 people were eligible to attend. They didn't all get engraved invitations, though—he used the media to get the word out, and more than 115 cousins traveled to the three-day reunion last June.

  • Consider sponsorship. It wouldn't work for everyone, but this celebration's reach and the family’s roots near Pittsburgh earned it official status as part of that city's 250th birthday.
  • Visit a historical site. “Our primary event was in the Sen. John Heinz History Center," Miner writes. "Guests were treated to remarks by history center CEO Andy Masich and Pittsburgh 250 executive director Bill Flanagan, as well the unveiling of a photo-memorial to cousin Erick Foster, killed serving in Iraq in 2007.”
Photo and memorabilia displays included a photograph of Oklahoma pioneers James R. and Lydia (Miner) Brown and letters from a cousin, Corwin D. Tilbury, who served on Pittsburgh’s city council during the city’s 150th birthday in 1908. (Mark put period postcards and photos on a Pittsburgh 150 Web page.)
In the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands May 5) look for tips on using family reunions to (gently) squeeze genealogy information from relatives.

And click Comments below to share your own reunion advice.

Celebrating your heritage | Family Reunions
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 07:58:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 23 March 2009
What's NOT in Ancestry Library Edition
Posted by Diane

In Family Tree Magazine articles including our May 2009 guide to the subscription genealogy site, we often suggest Ancestry Library Edition—free to patrons at many public libraries—as a budget-friendly way to access most of's collections.

What exactly do we mean by “most”? Here’s a list of databases that aren’t in Ancestry Library Edition (due to licensing and other issues), and some alternate resources for each:
  • Family and Local Histories Collection
    These town, county and family histories and journals aren't in Ancestry Library Edition, but they are part of HeritageQuest Online, another service many libraries offer (and it's usually accessible to patrons from home via the library’s Web site).
  • Historical Newspapers Collection
    See if your library offers access to ProQuest Historical Newspapers or GenealogyBank.
  • Passenger and Immigration Lists Index
    The original data in this index to approximately 4,588,000 individuals came from P. William Filby’s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Though it's not as up-to-date, see if the library has the book. Note Ancestry Library Edition does have the database of National Archives immigration passenger lists.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index
    This database lists millions of Americans who’ve been profiled in collective biography volumes such as Who's Who in America. Some libraries offer this index separately.
    The Periodical Source Index, a collection of 2 million-plus references to family history articles published in US and Canadian periodicals since 1800, is searchable (in more-updated form) using HeritageQuest Online. | Libraries and Archives
Monday, 23 March 2009 08:50:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 20 March 2009
Is It Just Us?
Posted by Diane

We couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this chart:

and this one:

(Available on

Just sayin'.

Genealogy fun
Friday, 20 March 2009 15:56:43 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
Genealogy News Corral, March 16-20
Posted by Diane

Roundin’ up the week’s genealogy news bits. Yee-haw!
Click here to see Family Tree Magazine's Twitter page and follow us (you need a free registration with Twitter to follow someone).

Or click here to learn more about Twitter.
  • Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter got a makeover (or maybe a makeunder, to those keen on the new subtle colors). Go on over and have a look.

Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 20 March 2009 14:34:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 19 March 2009 Additions Help You Find Living Relatives
Posted by Diane

Funny coincidence.

I was sitting here proofing the final version of our July 2009 Family Tree Magazine article on reverse genealogy (searching for living relatives) when I got an announcement from about its new/updated collections of recent records. Which could help you find, say, a cousin or second cousin.

Now, through a partnership with the people finder (formerly, your search results may include links to’s public information profiles on more than 700 million living people.

But wait, there’s more: In the next week or two, will replace its current US public records database with one containing more than 525 million names, addresses, ages and possible family relationships of US residents between about 1950 and 1990.

Finally, launched an upgraded collection of obituaries extracted from papers all over the world—helpful because survivors named in relatives’ obituaries may be cousins. (Also see last week's post about's "1940 census substitute.")

See the details on the blog. | Genealogy Web Sites | Public Records
Thursday, 19 March 2009 14:50:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Seeking Michigan Adds Free Death Records
Posted by Diane

The historical records site Seeking Michigan has added Michigan death certificates from 1897 to 1920. You can search athe index and click to view a record—free.

Run a basic search by name or construct an advanced search by typing keywords and assigning a data field for each term (such as first name, last name, city/village/township, etc.). The advanced search is the same for all Seeking Michigan's collections, so scroll to the bottom of each field pull-down menu for fields specific to the death records.

To browse the death records, click View Collection next to the basic search box (or just use this link).

The records are available through a partnership with the Library of Michigan. Also on Seeking Michigan, you’ll find Civil War photographs and records, WPA property invoices (documents describing the land, buildings and surroundings of building in rural Michigan), oral histories, maps and more. Here's an overview of the collections.

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Vital Records
Thursday, 19 March 2009 08:19:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Search Wyoming Historical Newspapers Free Online
Posted by Diane

The Wyoming State Library has posted the first set of historical Wyoming newspapers from the Wyoming Newspaper Project.

This project involves digitizing a 70-year collection of the state’s newspapers from 1849 to 1922.

So far, more than 407,000—about half—of the newspaper images are online. They span 1867 to 1922 and include 200 titles such as The Cheyenne Daily Leader, Laramie Sentinel, Natrona County Tribune, South Pass News and Torrington Telegram.
You can run a keyword search or browse by title, year, city or county. You’ll download the pages with matching terms as PDF files.

Newspaper announcements may be particularly helpful for vital information since Wyoming didn’t start keeping statewide birth and death records until 1909, and marriage records, until 1941. Plus, the state's birth records are closed for 100 years.

This clipping is from the March 9, 1886, Cheyenne Sun Individualities section, which reports comings and goings of folks around town.

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips | Vital Records
Wednesday, 18 March 2009 07:53:43 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 17 March 2009
St. Patrick’s Day Stats
Posted by Diane

Enjoy these numbers along with your celebratory corned beef and cabbage, soda bread and green beer:

30.5 million US residents claim Irish ancestry, the second most frequently reported ancestry, according to the Census Bureau's Ancestry 2000 report.

4.5 million Irish immigrants traveled to the United States between 1820 and

4.2 million
, roughly, is the population of Ireland.

248 is the number of consecutive years New York City has put on its St. Patrick’s Day parade.

100 pounds of green dye were added to the Chicago River St. Patrick’s Day, 1962. The river was green for a week. (See the 2009 dyeing in this video.)

24 percent of Massachusetts residents have Irish ancestry, says the Census Bureau.
9 cities or towns in the United States are named Dublin (also from the Census Bureau).

0 is the number of snake species native to Ireland (which has more to do with geography than St. Patrick, if you ask the National Zoo).

And you'll find innumerable tips and resources for tracing your Irish roots in our Irish genealogy research toolkit.

Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy fun | Social History | UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, 17 March 2009 09:41:28 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 16 March 2009
TimesMachine Takes NYT Subscribers Back to Old Editions
Posted by Diane

Our contributing editor David A. Fryxell shared this genealogically cool benefit available to New York Times home delivery subscribers: The TimesMachine (I love puns!), an online archive of digital papers from 1851 to 1922.

New York Times subscribers can log into the site, pick a date and click to flip the pages of that day's edition. If you don't subscribe, you can try it out with a few sample editions.

The TimesMachine is suited to browsing, since it doesn't have a search. But anyone can search past editions of the New York Times using a different tool, the Article Archive.

The Article Archive delivers individual articles in PDF form (1851 to 1980) or text-only (1981 to present). Articles from 1851 through 1922 are free, and articles from 1981 to present are free. If your archive search returns articles dated 1923 through 1980, you’ll be asked to pay before you can download those articles.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Monday, 16 March 2009 14:19:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Show and Tell: All-American Girls League Player Card
Posted by Diane

Phyllis correctly guessed the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) player whose card I'm excited to show off: Pat Scott, pitcher for the Springfield Sallies and Fort Wayne Daisies.

After meeting her, my husband said he bets she could still get out there and throw a pretty good fastball.

See last week's post for AAGPBL research resources.

Female ancestors | Genealogy fun | Social History
Monday, 16 March 2009 09:06:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 13 March 2009
Genealogy News Corral
Posted by Diane

It’s Friday and time to round up the week’s genealogy news bits.
  • From Research Buzz’s Tweet yesterday, the National Library of Scotland has two new resources. One is a digital archive of images including WWI photos, Walter Macfarlane’s collection of genealogies of ancient Scottish families (compiled around 1750), and items from the first printing presses in various Scottish towns.
The library's new digital maps collection gives you access to high-resolution images of more than 6,000 county, town and military maps dating from 1560 to 1935. also added more city directories covering 1935 to 1945, which you can use as a kind of 1940 census substitute. (Don’t be alarmed—the 1940 census isn’t missing. It’s just not yet available, and won’t be until 2012, when we’ll all have a big party outside the National Archives.)
  • Dick Eastman and others have blogged and Tweeted about the New York Times' Immigration Explorer Map. Choose a foreign-born group and a year, and see  where in the United States people from that group were congregating at the time.  It's fun to play with, and if your ancestors have gone missing  for a span of time, you might get some clues for where to look. | Genealogy Industry | immigration records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 13 March 2009 14:42:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Second Life Residents Take Genealogy To a New Level
Posted by Diane

Illya D’Addezio at Genealogy Today sent a note about his new Genealogy HUD for the virtual world Second Life (SL). The HUD (short for heads-up display) lets SL residents seamlessly use the genealogy search engine Live Roots from within SL.

SL is an online role-playing game in which residents have characters (avatars) that interact with each other, participate in group activities, travel, etc.

A child of the 80s, I hear "role-playing" and tend to think of Dungeons & Dragons—but this is more like, well, real life.

"Many people think SL is all about games and role playing, which there is plenty of," D'Addezio says. "But there are also an increasing number of genealogists joining, dozens of genealogy content areas developing, and numerous voice chats taking place on a regular basis.”

Besides letting SL residents access Live Roots, the Genealogy HUD also helps them compile a list of surnames they're researching to compare with other residents wearing the HUD. Learn more and get the HUD at Genealogy Today.

D'Addezio says he’s also building an interactive family history village where “SL visitors will be able to issue actual search queries to many of the Live Roots data partners from within SL, learn about different genealogy companies, purchase books, magazine subscriptions, etc.”

Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 13 March 2009 09:38:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Can You Guess This All-American Girls League Player?
Posted by Diane

Yesterday, a woman who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) stopped in the store where my husband works.

They got to talking, and she signed a baseball card for him, which he gave to me.

The AAGPBL started in 1943 in Chicago to keep ballparks in business, as young men (and potential fan favorites) were being drafted into the military. Cities in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin had teams. Players wore skirted uniforms and, in the first few years, attended charm school at night.

Before I show you this player’s card, can you guess who she is?

She signed in 1948 with the Springfield Sallies, left briefly, then returned in 1951 to the Fort Wayne Daisies. She was the winning pitcher against the Rockford Peaches to give the Daisies their first pennant in 1952. Bonus hint: She’s in this Sallies team photo and this Daisies photo.

Click Comments to make a guess. I'll post the card on Monday.

Was your relative in the AAGPBL? Start your search at the league Web site, try local newspapers and check the Northern Indiana Center for History.

Female ancestors | Research Tips | Social History
Friday, 13 March 2009 07:32:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 12 March 2009
FamilySearch Names Winning Genealogy Programs
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has announced the winners of its new genealogy software award program.

To be eligible, programs had to be compatible with FamilySearch’s Application Programming Interface (API), which allows developers to make their programs work with the FamilySearch site (including the “New Family Search” online tree-building tool, now being gradually rolled out to LDS members).

The 2009 FamilySearch Software Award winners, which include desktop programs, online tools and developers’ tools, were named last night at the FamilySearch Developers Conference in Provo, Utah.

Here's the list (click a program’s name to visit its Web site):

Desktop Productivity
Ancestral Quest (Incline Software): Best Listing Tool
FamilyInsight (Ohana Software): Best Standardizer
RootsMagic 4 (RootsMagic): Best Dashboard

Desktop Syncing or Tree-Cleaning
Ancestral Quest (Incline Software): Most Comprehensive Syncing
FamilyInsight (Ohana Software): Best Person Separator
RootsMagic 4 (RootsMagic): Easiest to Sync

Desktop Use of Media
Charting Companion (Progeny Software): Best for Desktop Printing

Web Productivity
Grow Branch (US Family Tree): Best Web Site Feature for Publishing
(LDS Church members can use this service to submit ancestors for temple work.)

Web Use of Media
Generation Maps: Best Web Site Feature for Printing
TreeSeek: Best Web Site Feature for Mapping (requires users to have a “New Family Search” account)
Developers Choice Awards
David Pugmire’s Best API Library
Ben Godard’s fs-ubiquity: Potential Future Impact on the Genealogy Industry

See's genealogy software guide for information desktop programs for Mac and Windows.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Software
Thursday, 12 March 2009 10:05:39 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Speaking of Irish Roots and Women's History ...
Posted by Diane

March is both Irish-American Heritage Month and Women's History Month. (If you're an Irish-American Woman, double hats off to you!)

March 2, President Obama followed his predecessors' example and proclaimed March Irish-American Heritage Month. (Wonder if he was thinking of his own Irish roots when he signed the paper?)

The next day, again following precendent, Obama also proclaimed March Women's History Month.

You're guaranteed a reason to celebrate: Even if you're not one of the 30.5 million Americans who have Irish ancestry, I'm pretty sure you have female ancestry. See for resources on tracing both:

Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree Magazine articles | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 11 March 2009 07:42:08 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 10 March 2009
To Save or Not to Save?
Posted by Diane

My mom’s been helping clean out Grandma’s garage. Last night when I visited, Mom was telling me about the piles of old receipts Grandma’s been hanging onto all these years.

Mom had pulled out some papers—the hospital bill for my aunt’s birth, the building materials order for the family’s first home—and the rest were in what-do-we-do-with-this? limbo.

Of course, I had to go through it all. I took a bunch of papers, including the bill for Mom’s first communion around 1954

and the receipts for her second-grade schoolbooks (someone played connect-the-dots on the back)


and 12th-grade tuition (including a $25 graduation fee).

I’ll definitely save stuff related to my mom. But what about the other kids’ schoolbook lists, random furniture receipts, a refrigerator repair ticket, ancient correspondence from an insurance company, BBB reports on business schools an aunt was thinking about attending, and similar items?

Theoretically, it’s great to keep every piece of paper. But with limited space and crowded lives, reality demands most of us be choosy about what we save. What would you do with these papers? Click Comments (below) to reply.

Added to my to-do list: Review the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine guide for what to do when you inherit the family archives (print copies are sold out, but this issue is available as a PDF download). And if you're considering donating family materials to a historical archive, see the advice on our Now What? blog.

Family Heirlooms | Family Tree Magazine articles | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 10 March 2009 09:15:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [13]
# Monday, 09 March 2009
Q&A With Beta-Free GeneTree
Posted by Diane

The family networking and genetic genealogy site GeneTree has shed its beta skin and emerged, as the company’s announcement describes, “a simple, intuitive way to regularly communicate with extended family, and to securely share and store family contact information, personal profiles, photos, video and ancestry documents.”

You also can order both mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA genetic genealogy tests, add the results to your profile and search for people who match.

GeneTree president and COO Matt Cupal and I had a quick Q&A over the phone today:
GI: What would you consider GeneTree’s greatest strength?
MC: Probably the positioning that we’ve had along, which is that it’s a family social network, but it has this unique twist of using DNA to extend your concept of family.
GI: Could you give me a quick rundown of GeneTree’s post-beta features?
MC: We’ve improved a lot of the components of the social network, so it’s easier to invite people and stay connected. For example, the page you land on now is a news feed that tells you everything that’s going on in your networks—that could be more DNA connections, or another family member has added a photo or updated the family tree with more people. That's also e-mailed to you once as week as a digest.

We’ve made some dramatic improvements in our family tree building software. It’s intuitive and easy to use. We’ve also added a GEDCOM upload. We’re working on improving it, always, but right now you can have up to 2,000 people inside your GEDCOM.

One of the really cool things about the site is that you can do collaborative family tree work, so you and your cousins and all your other relatives can be on at the same time and make things happen.

GI: Do many people who haven’t ordered a DNA test from GeneTree have their family information on the site?
MC: About 5 percent of the people who come on the site have actually taken DNA tests. It’s a no-cost system to be a member and have your family information there, and that's by far the majority of members.

GI: How many members are there?
MC: We’re moving toward 100,000, and we’ve got about 1.5 million profiles right now—that’s people on trees.
GI: Now that beta’s over, what developments are you planning?
MC: Surname studies are fairly high on the list. We’re also looking at ways we can expand this to the rest of the world. We’re intrigued by the idea of allowing people from multiple sites to come into the system. Maybe they’re a member of Geni or TGN [The Generations Network, owner of] or any number of systems—we’d like to enable them to use the DNA facilities.

We want to make DNA more understandable to the general population—those who are strongly interested in genealogy and those who are more passively interested—to help them better understand how they can use DNA.

We’re starting with an educational component. We’re also designing some new DNA tests to be a little more understandable—still based on the same principles, but tests that can grab the imagination of the general populace more than, say, the particular values of your Y-markers.

GI: What’s your take on the genetic genealogy market right now?
MC: Clearly it’s going to be a challenging time this year. Something we’re working on to help offset that is some lower-priced alternatives, so people can get in the game at a lower number and get their feet wet.
We'll keep you updated on these developments. See the genetic genealogy toolkit on' for more DNA answers.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 09 March 2009 16:04:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Tips From Genealogy Geniuses
Posted by Diane

Shout out to the Green County (Ohio) Genealogical Society, which hosted us at Saturday’s meeting. We administered a light-hearted genealogy IQ test and had a great conversation about preserving photos, reading gravestones and putting family information online.

The tips flowed in both directions. A couple from this enthusiastic group:
  • Newsletter editor Diana Nelson suggests checking what’s behind old framed photos (not to be confused with encased photos such as daguerreotypes, which shouldn’t be taken apart). Someone might’ve enclosed a written identification or more photos inside the frame.
  • A person whose name I didn’t catch (I’m sorry!) uses aluminum foil to safely capture impressions of gravestone transcriptions. After making sure the stone is sturdy and secure in the ground, she’ll mold a sheet of foil onto the stone. You can reuse the foil, or save and frame the impression the same way you can a wax rubbing.
Here’s the group pondering our quiz (there were some smart cookies in the room!).

I vigilantly made sure all kept their eyes on their own papers.

Genealogy fun | Genealogy societies
Monday, 09 March 2009 11:24:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 06 March 2009
It's Friday—Time to Round up the Genealogy News
Posted by Diane

Here are some genealogical happenings that perked up our ears up this week:
  • Roots Television posted a video about Chris Haley—nephew of Roots author Alex Haley—and his first meeting with newfound cousin June Baff Black at last weekend’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live! family history show. Haley learned through DNA testing that he has Scottish Ancestry; the video shows how the test led him to Black.
  • News site SwissInfo launched We Shall Not Stay Long, a section for those whose ancestors left Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland for better lives in the Americas and Australia. You’ll find articles from expert historians and “witnesses to history,” photos and more.
  • Remember watching “Daniel Boone” on TV in the 60s? In the current Genealogy Gems Podcast, host Lisa Louise Cooke interviews Darby Hinton, who played Daniel Boone’s son, Israel.
  • FamilySearch’s volunteer indexing program recently completed a bunch of projects for the free FamilySearch record search pilot site, including church records for Cheshire, England (1538 to 1907). Indexes for the 1920 Washington, DC, US census; 1865 Massachusetts state census; and 1885 and 1935 Florida censuses are still being double-checked, but you can browse the Florida census images now.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | International Genealogy
Friday, 06 March 2009 14:59:12 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 05 March 2009
Cologne Archive Collapse: All is Not Lost!
Posted by Grace

When the Stadtarchiv Köln—or City Archive of Cologne—collapsed Tuesday afternoon, two people died, surrounding buildings were irretrievably damaged, and more than a thousand years of records were buried in the rubble.

The archive contained 65,000 documents, the oldest coming from the year 922. The archive's holdings—more than 16 miles of files—included tens of thousands of maps, photos, posters and one-of-a-kind artifacts from the Middle Ages. The collection was valued at $500 million, according to Welt.

The city archive, which first found a place in Cologne city hall in 1406, withstood World War II with no losses. Officials say the building fell into a crater created by work on a nearby subway line. The building that collapsed was built in 1971. According to Wikipedia, it was built with an estimated service life of only 30 years. The archive reached its holding capacity in 1996; some material has been removed for storage elsewhere.

While emergency workers attempted to stabilize the building with concrete, about 100 volunteers have pitched in to save valuable documents from the rubble since Tuesday night, according to a city press release. A small portion of the archives was in an unharmed area of the building. Rain is expected over the next few days, so a temporary roof will be set up over the collapse site to attempt to save more documents.

Hamburg genealogist Andrea Bentschneider did research at the Cologne archive once and describes its holdings as "gigantic."

The collapse comes at an especially bad time, she says, because German privacy law recently changed to allow easier access to civil records. The city archive of Cologne had announced that as of this month, all death records up to 1978, marriage records before 1928 and birth records before 1898 would be available for research without restriction.

"We can only hope that these civil records as well as all other records were secured and saved on microfilm or a similar medium. Otherwise 1,000 years of Cologne's history may be lost forever," Bentschneider says.

It seems that much of the archive's content may be safe. Welt reports that former city archive head says a large part of the archive’s pre-1945 files were microfilmed; the backups are stored in the Barbarastollen archive in the Black Forest.

And FamilySearch filmed 171 rolls of film from the Cologne archive in 1984, says public affairs manager Paul Nauta. The library has been able to help other archives before by providing copies of the lost documents. FamilySearch’s holdings include these items from the Cologne archive:
  • Genealogy and coast of arms 1350-1880
  • Tax lists 1487-1703
  • Orphans house registers 1592-1788
  • Soldier pay records 1552-1613
  • Court records, inheritance and land 1220-1798
  • Court minutes 1413-1652
  • Town council minutes 1440-1653
"This is one of the clarion calls for why preservation services offered by FamilySearch and other like organizations can be so critical. Most genealogy consumers are aware of the convenient access value, but the tragedy of the Cologne archive reiterates the value for preservation," Nauta says.

Historic preservation | Libraries and Archives | Public Records | Vital Records
Thursday, 05 March 2009 09:39:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
RootsMagic 4 Public Beta Test Launched
Posted by Diane

RootsMagic has announced a public beta test of RootsMagic 4 genealogy software (for Windows). During the beta period, which until March 31, you can download and try out the software free.

RootsMagic president Bruce Buzbee calls version 4 “the biggest release in our 20-year history of making genealogy software.”

New features include integrated web searching, improved source citation, sharing events among multiple persons, creating pre-defined groups of persons, person and place mapping, recording DNA tests and improved navigation and data entry.

RootsMagic 4 includes RootsMagic To-Go, which lets you install the program onto a USB drive, transfer data between it and your computer, and take your data with you anywhere. (Look for our article on running genealogy software from a flash drive in the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine.)

The program can directly import data from Personal Ancestral File, Family Tree Maker (through version 2006), Family Origins and Legacy Family Tree. It’s certified to work with “New FamilySearch,” FamilySearch’s Web-based program that’s being rolled out to LDS churches and will eventually be publicly available.

See an in-depth rundown of new features on the RootsMagic blog. Click here to register for the beta version; you'll get an e-mail with a link and registration key.

Addition: I asked Buzbee what happens when your RootsMagic 4 beta version expires. After March 31, the beta version reverts to a trial version, which has some disabled features and limits the amount of information you can enter. If you want to save what you entered in the beta version, you should export a GEDCOM before March 31.

Genealogy Software
Thursday, 05 March 2009 08:30:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 04 March 2009
Genetic Genealogy Company Shuts Down
Posted by Diane

DNAPrint Genomics, a Florida-based genetic genealogy testing company known for its AncestryByDNA test, has ceased operations, according to a notice on its home page.

My call to the company went to voice mail, then was cut off.

Read more on the Genetic Genealogist and GenomeWeb.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 12:50:09 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free Photo Detective Download with Newsletter Sign-up
Posted by Diane

Tell your friends about this one: We've got a free gift for those who sign up to receive our weekly E-mail Update newsletter (which, coincidentally, is also free).

What is it? Our Best of the Photo Detective 42-page digital download, containing photo historian Maureen A. Taylor’s best tips for identifying mystery family photographs.

After you submit your newsletter sign-up, you’ll get a link to download the booklet. It’s a PDF, so you’ll need the free Adobe Reader software to open it.

And yes, if you’re already a newsletter subscriber, you still can get the download. Go to the sign-up page, enter the same e-mail address where you already receive the newsletter, update any other preferences you want, and click Submit. We won’t send two newsletters to the same e-mail address.

Family Tree Magazine articles
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 10:43:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Cologne, Germany, Archives Building Collapses
Posted by Diane

Dick Eastman blogged that a six-story building housing the archives of Cologne, Germany, collapsed Tuesday. It’s believed everyone inside the building escaped safely, but the condition of the archives’ centuries-old records is unknown. describes the archives' holdings as "65,000 original documents dating from the year 922 as well as maps, films and photos and items left to the city by figures like composer Jacques Offenbach and Nobel Prize-winning author Heinrich Boell."

See CNN’s report here.

International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 08:51:10 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 03 March 2009
Free African-American Genealogy Records Site Launches
Posted by Diane

AfriQuest, the free African-American genealogy records-sharing site that’s been in the works for a year, launched over the weekend.

Use the search box on the home page to search or browse records (stored on the wiki including Freedman’s Bank and Freedmen’s Bureau documents, estate inventories, wills and more.

AfriQuest webmasters hope you’ll submit your digitized genealogical records. Register with the site and submit a document here.

You also can submit your family stories.

Look for guide to tracing slave ancestors in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands May 5).

African-American roots
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 15:17:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 02 March 2009
Superstitious Ancestors? Enter Our Challenge for a Chance to Win
Posted by Diane

It’s both 15 days till St. Patrick's Day and your last chance to get in on Family Tree Magazine’s March 2009 “Lucky Charms” All in the Family Challenge.

To enter, tell us about a lucky charm or superstition in your family. For example, when I was a kid, whenever someone was getting married or we had a soccer tournament or good weather was needed for some other reason, Mom would set a figurine of Mary in the kitchen window (facing outside, or it wouldn't work).

Maybe you’ve saved Grandpa’s lucky penny or you throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder while cooking, just like Grandma always did.

Cross your fingers and describe your family’s lucky charm or superstition for us. E-mail your entry before March 9, and be sure to include your name and hometown.

If we select your entry to publish in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine (knock on wood), you’ll win our Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy digital download.

Celebrating your heritage | Family Heirlooms | Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, 02 March 2009 16:25:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]