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# Thursday, 30 April 2009
Overcoming Genealogical Malaise and Canine Sabotage
Posted by Diane

Funny how when my research is humming along and I’m finding all kinds of new genealogy information, my excitement percolates over and I can’t wait to write about it here.

But when there’s nothing on the microfilm and my online searches come up empty, I keep quiet. I fade into a kind of genealogical malaise.

My dog enjoys shredding paper. (Once I caught her slinking away from my purse with a $10 bill in her teeth.) Soon after my ancestors failed to appear in city directory microfilm, Janie got hold of a research request sitting on the bookshelf waiting to be mailed to the Louisiana state archives. I found it in two pieces on the living room floor.

I still haven’t done anything about those two pieces. Malaise.

They say that when you’re trying to get into shape, the best motivation is seeing the dieting and exercise pay off. That principle applies to genealogy: The best inspiration to do more research is getting results.

So when you keep not finding new information despite your best efforts, you’re in danger of embarking on a downward spiral—lack of motivation to look for records followed by (wonder of wonders) not finding your ancestors.

That’s when you need outside motivation. I’ll throw out a few suggestions, and I hope you’ll click Comments to add your own:
  • Take a genealogy class, attend an event, go to a society meeting or read a magazine (hey! I know one you might like!). Let others help you see the possibilities. Plus, it’ll be inspiring to talk to people who are in a more excited state of doing genealogy than you're stuck in.
  • Help a genealogy newbie. You could go with a friend to a Family History Center, be a library volunteer or answer questions online in forums such as ours. You’ll gain confidence in your research skills and be inspired by your helpee’s successes—a little like watching a wide-eyed toddler discover the world.   
  • Bask in the glow of past bingo! moments. Go through your research and remember the time you finally discovered Great-grandpa, his last name mangled, in the 1900 census. That feeling of triumph will be yours again.
  • Power through. Our sister publication Writer’s Digest says the best way to get over writer’s block is to make yourself sit down and write. It’s like that. Force yourself to do some research (try moving to an environment, such as the library, where you won’t be tempted to clean the kitchen or turn on the TV).
  • Accept the lows with the highs. You can’t be on all time, and neither can your family tree. Instead of feeling guilty, let yourself enjoy a short research vacation. Then jump back in refreshed.

Research Tips
Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:37:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
Happy Jewish-American Heritage Month!
Posted by Diane

Jewish American Heritage Month, which starts with the first day of May (that's tomorrow), brings you opportunities to learn about Jewish history.

President Bush announced the first monthlong commemoration of American Jewish roots in 2006. May was chosen to mark successful celebration of the 350th anniversary of American Jewish history in May 2004.
Check with your library, synagogue and Jewish community center to find events near you. You can learn more about Jewish-American Heritage Month and see online exhibits by clicking here, through this site's events calendar still lists 2008 celebrations.

For tips and resources on researching Jewish roots, see our research toolkit and look for Schelly Talalay Dardashti’s seven search strategies in the September 2009 Family Tree Magazine (which mails to subscribers mid-June and goes on sale July 7).

Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Events | Jewish roots
Thursday, 30 April 2009 10:32:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 29 April 2009 Promises More-Relevant Results Starting Today
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site has embarked on its quest to improve the relevance of your search results by starting with dates.

It’s not unusual to give a death date in, say, 1910, but still get search results from the 1930 census. But after today, that’ll be a rarer occurrence.

On the blog, search product manager Anne Mitchell promises we’ll start to see changes in search results around noon EDT.

Based on experience with census and vital records, Mitchell’s team has chosen “fudge factors” of five years for birth and two years for death. Searches also assume someone lived about 100 years.

I haven’t tried the adjusted search yet (it's only 9 a.m. here), but here’s what should happen:
  • If you’re searching for someone and you know he was born in 1880, but you don’t know when he died, matching records will fall between 1875 and 1982.
  • If you know the death date was 1926 but you don’t know the birth year, matches will fall between 1821 and 1928.
  • If you enter the birth year and the death year, matches will fall between the birth year minus 5 and the death year plus 2.
  • If you pick a range for the birth or death year, the fudge factor will come in at the outside end of the range. For example, for a birth you enter 1843 with a two-year range. Search results will start in 1836.
If you give the 1902 death a five-year range, results will end in 1909.
  • You can still choose Exact to eliminate the fudge factor. If you choose Exact for a birth of 1843 with a two-year range, matching records will have birth dates between 1841 and 1845. If you specify Exactly 1843 with no range, matching records will have birth dates in 1843.
Unless you’re specifically looking for a death record, It’s best to avoid choosing Exact for a death date. Checking Exact for any search term means matching records must contain that term. But few genealogy records have death information (most of your ancestor’s records were created while he was alive).
A caveat: Mitchell says 95 percent of records are covered with this search update. The rest will be added, but if you search a data set in that five percent, you won’t notice these updates.

She answers more questions on the blog.
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 08:50:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, 28 April 2009
FamilySearch Adds Brazil Genealogy Records
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch launched its first Portuguese records collection, Rio de Janeiro Civil Registrations.

The 4.5 million digital images comprise birth (1889 to 1930), marriage (1889 to 1950) and death (1889 to 2006) records from all cities in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The index isn’t completed yet; you’ll need to browse the record images by place in the free Record Search Pilot.

PS: And if you get stuck while trying to climb any language barriers, consult FamilySearch's Portuguese Genealogical Word List. (Which is actually more than just a list. Don't miss the links at the top to different parts of the guide).

FamilySearch | Free Databases | International Genealogy
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 13:09:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Scare Tactics Throughout History
Posted by Grace

This swine flu is nothing new—and neither is the panic. A 1976 outbreak was described as "the epidemic that never was." The flu itself killed only one person, but hundreds were injured or killed by a vaccine the government came up with. (Read the whole story here.) About a third of the US population was vaccinated, perhaps thanks to scaremongering public service announcements like these:

Click here for answers to all your swine flu questions. Thanks to Sally Jacobs for the video link!

Social History | Videos
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 12:40:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Year's Most-Endangered Historic Sites Span History
Posted by Diane

History doesn’t always mean ages ago, if you look at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2009 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

It names threatened historic sites as ancient as New Mexico’s Mount Taylor, sacred to American Indian tribes, and as modern as the Century Plaza Hotel, the distinctive curved building opened in Los Angeles in 1966.

The list, which has identified 211 sites since it started in 1988, serves as an alarm to raise awareness of threats facing historic treasures. And it’s been remarkably successful: Only six of the 211 sites have been lost. That makes us hopeful for Cincinnati’s historic Over the Rhine neighborhood (where my grandfather lived as a child), which made the endangered list in 2006.

For its 22nd annual list, the National Trust wants to raise the alarm for these places. See the National Trust’s blog for details about each site below (and follow @PresNation on Twitter for tweets from the 11 Most Endangered press conference).
  • Ames Shovel Shops, a 19th-century industrial village in Easton, Mass.
  • Cast-Iron Architecture (below, in a National Trust photo) in the 12-block Strand/Mechanic National Historic Landmark District of Galveston, Texas

  • Century Plaza Hotel, opened in 1966 in Los Angeles

  • Dorchester Academy, once a school for former slaves and later, voting registration center during the Civil Rights era, in Midway, Ga.

  • Human Services Center, the former South Dakota Hospital for the Insane, in Yankton, SD

  • Lāna‘i City, Hawai‘i, built by pineapple baron James Dole in the 1920s

  • The Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar, Wendover Airfield, Utah

  • Memorial Bridge, the first major lift bridge in the eastern US, connecting Portsmouth, NH, to Kittery, Maine

  • Miami Marine Stadium, a landmark and icon of modern design completed in 1963 in Virginia Key, Fla.

  • Mount Taylor, in the San Mateo Mountains near Grants, NM

  • Unity Temple, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Oak Park, Ill.

Historic preservation
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 09:16:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 27 April 2009
Some Databases Malfunctioning
Posted by Diane is working on the site issues that are causing some data sets not to return search results, search product manager Anne Mitchell reports on teh blog thought the problems, which apparently began over the weekend, had been fixed, but Mitchell's team is focused on databases blog commenters report still aren't working. Those include several from Ontario, Canada, as well as Historic Newspapers and Alabama Marriage Collection, 1800-1969. 

Commenters also complained about the lack of earlier notification, such as an alert on's home page.
Monday, 27 April 2009 15:07:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Be First to Try FamilyTeller Online Community
Posted by Diane

We first met Matt Unger over the Internet when associate editor Grace Dobush covered his Papa’s Diary Project blog—where he transcribes and annotates his grandfather’s diary one day’s entry at a time—for the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine.

Unger sent us a note this week—seems he heard from a lot of people asking for advice on creating similar projects with their own family materials. They inspired him to put his Web development and publishing background to work on an online community called FamilyTeller.

In Unger's own words, FamilyTeller “will allow people to more easily scan, organize, annotate and share family artifacts on the Web.”

Can you beta test this new service? For a discounted subscription rate, you’d get assistance digitizing and uploading documents and photos, automatically catalog and organize them, try a few transcriptions, create a blog-style Web site to share with your family, and more—as well as, of course, provide feedback on your experiences with the site.

Benefits include lifetime discounts on subscription and service fees, plus the chance to influence what the site will be like.

Wanna try it? Fill out this online form and Unger will contact you.

Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Web Sites | Social Networking
Monday, 27 April 2009 09:20:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 24 April 2009
Attention Googlers: Workshop is Tuesday
Posted by Allison

How many times a day do you search Google? Today, I'm up to only 7. But some days—when I'm not away from my desk so much—I'm searching the Web 20 or 30 times.

Because so much of my job is about finding and sharing information, I'm constantly seeking new and better ways to search. On Tuesday, I'm going to share the secrets I've learned in an online workshop called Googling Your Genealogy: 7 Essential Strategies.

If you've never attended an online workshop (or "webinar") before, it's kind of like attending a in-person genealogy seminar--only "cozier," because you can do it from the comfort of your own computer. You'll be able to listen, view the presentation slides, even ask questions. Learn more about the experience on our Online Workshops page.

The workshop is at 7 p.m. EDT and registration costs $49.99. I hope you'll join me!

We'll be doing more online workshops in the future, so if there's a topic you'd like us to offer, go ahead and e-mail me.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 24 April 2009 16:26:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral, April 20-24
Posted by Diane

Here's our roundup of the week's genealogy news bits:
  • The New England Regional Genealogy Conference is now underway in Manchester, NH. If you're in the area, stop by today or tomorrow to take classes, check out the exhibitors and participate in the Ancestors Road show.
  • Subscription records site enhanced its record image viewer to let you view newspaper images at up to 200 percent (before the most you could get was 100 percent). You also can print the zoomed record, save images to your computer and share images with friends and family.
  • Roots Television (genealogy tv you watch online) is bringing back the Down Under series, which has genealogists discovering intriguing stories about tombstones and those who’ve passed on.
  • FamilySearch online indexing volunteers reached a big milestone this week, transcribing their 250 millionth historical record. Record #250 million was part of Nicaragua civil registrations, extracted by three online indexers from Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras.
FamilySearch Indexing, begun in January 2006, now has more than 100,000 volunteers worldwide typing away.
  • This also from FamilySearch: Its expanded the Knowles Collection, a free database of Jewish records from Britain, to 40,000 names. You can download the database in GEDCOM or Personal Ancestral File format from FamilySearch’s Jewish resources page.

  • Update: has change its blog to disable commenting on posts once they've reached two weeks old. That's so staff can "track all comments in a more timely manner and reply as needed." See more on the blog.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Videos
Friday, 24 April 2009 15:06:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 23 April 2009
FamilyLink Releases Free Photo-Sharing App for iPhone
Posted by Diane

If you have an Apple iPhone, FamilyLink has developed a free application that will let you share photos with family.

From the announcement: “FamCam is the simplest way to send photos privately and securely to family members. Send any photo from your phone with a couple clicks. Create persistent family groups just for photo sharing.”

Here’s a bit more information from Apptism.

Click here to download FamCam from iTunes.

Genealogy Software | Social Networking
Thursday, 23 April 2009 09:18:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 22 April 2009 Adds Border Crossings into Canada
Posted by Diane

Those who used the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine article on immigrants to Canada will be pleased to learn that, sister site to, has added border-crossing records from the United States to Canada between 1908 and 1935. (Thanks to Dick Eastman for the tip.)

The database may hold the key for "missing" immigrant ancestors. Between 1901 and 1914, more than 750,000 people entered Canada over the US border. Many were European immigrants who originally settled in the American West.

Americans also routinely crossed the border to visit friends and family.

But this database isn’t available with the $155.40 US-focused subscription, reports Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings. You need an or a World Deluxe subscription to access it.

Note Canadian citizens returning home weren’t recorded, nor were those who had a Canadian parent. And Lisa A. Alzo, who wrote our May 2009 article, says those who crossed where ports either didn’t exist or were closed wouldn’t be listed. | Canadian roots | immigration records
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 14:59:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Meet Our Family Tree Huggers
Posted by Diane

For people who research genealogy, “tree hugging” has a second meaning. That's the one we have in mind as we recognize several members our online community as Family Tree Huggers.

Over the years the Forum has been up and running, these especially active members have enhanced the entire community’s experience with their observations, research advice, questions and inspiration.

These folks, who represent a range of research levels, will have this nifty badge to use as a forum avatar and to put on their own Web sites and blogs. They’ll serve as a sounding board for feedback on article topics, genealogy Web sites, industry news, etc.

Thanks to Valerie Craft, Jackie Fry, Linda Matthews, Dae Powell, Cat Smith and Linda Swisher for helping to make our Forum a welcoming place. Get to know this group of researchers a little better.

And we’re on the lookout for more Family Tree Huggers who post frequently to the Forum and help make it a great place for genealogists to hang out. Let us know if you're interested.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 12:19:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 21 April 2009
See World's Historical Documents Free on New Site
Posted by Diane

The World Digital Library, a free, online collection of documents, photos, maps and art from countries and cultures around the world, launches today.

You can choose from seven languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) for viewing descriptions of the materials. Text on the records themselves isn’t translated.

On the home page, click on the map to see a sample of content from that region. Use the slider on the timeline at the bottom of the screen to change the era from which the samples are taken.

Links at the top of each page let you search the record descriptions or browse by place, time, topic, type of item or originating institution.

Images from Syria, where my great-grandparents were born, include a late-19th century panorama of Beirut—showing what it would’ve looked like about the time they lived there.

More examples of digitized content: centuries-old calligraphy from Iran, an 1851 John Tallis and Co. map of Brazil, the 1866 book The Gabrovo School and Its First Trustees from Bulgaria, and a photo of African-American major league baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson from the United States.

There’s some content from nearly every UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) member country. (On the country listings page, you can click to see content from each place.)

World Digital Library is hosted by the Library of Congress, with support from UNESCO and partner institutions around the world. Partners are seeking more materials and the means to digitize them, especially for the developing world.

Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 21 April 2009 09:10:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, 20 April 2009
Can Genealogy Web Sites Make it Easier to Cite Sources?
Posted by Diane

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find information about your ancestor on a database site such as, FamilySearch or Footnote, and just click to add the ancestor information and a properly formatted source citation to your genealogy software?

Mark Tucker, the software architect who blogs at Think Genealogy, says the technology exists to make this happen. He created a video to prove it.

It sure looks simple: On a sample Web site he'd set up, Tucker clicks a "quick citation" link next to digitized pages from a family history book. Then, switching back to his RootsMagic 4 software, he shows how the source citation and information about his ancestor has been automatically exported to the software. (Tucker says this also could work in Family Tree Maker 2009 and Legacy Family Tree 7.)

At the end of the video, he encourages you to contact database companies you use to encourage them to adopt this easy method of source citation. You also can take a survey about your source citation needs.

Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Software | Videos
Monday, 20 April 2009 08:34:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Friday, 17 April 2009
If Books Could Talk...
Posted by Grace

Don't you wish sometimes that you could ask the books you read questions? Well, the Santa Monica Public Library has a special Living Library program going on tomorrow where you can check out a person.

The offerings include "a Mormon, an animal rights activist, a police detective, a fat activist, a feminist, a married Jewish lesbian mom, a little person and an ex-gang member," among others, according to the LA Now blog. You can borrow one for a half hour conversation, as long as you return the "book" in the same condition you received it in.

Libraries and Archives | Oral History
Friday, 17 April 2009 14:40:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral, April 13-17
Posted by Diane

  • The Washington Digital Archives—a Family Tree Magazine 101 Best Web Sites pick several times over—has added WWI service statement cards resulting from a 1919 Congressional act directing the US Department of War to provide states with summaries of each WWI veterans' wartime records.
Card images are online. Click here to search (scroll to the bottom of the page), then click a match to download (I was missing a necessary plugin, but another button let me open records in JPG format). There’s also a glossary to the military abbreviations in the records.
  • Add the Minnesota Historical Society (whose Web site also is a 101 best site) to the list of state archives facing slashed budgets. The governor’s proposed budget would close three sites and lay off or cut hours for nearly half the staff, according to this Star Tribune article. The society also is coping with charitable giving reductions.
  • Pat Richley, the long-time Dear Myrtle genealogy blogger, has partnered with Moorshead Publications to start the Internet-Genealogy blog. She’ll post her takes on the news and information from the company’s history and genealogy titles.
  • MyGenShare, a free Web site where you can get and share knowledge-based genealogy articles, podcasts and videos, is set to launch in May (the launch was originally slated for last fall). You can sign up to get an e-mail when the launch happens.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 17 April 2009 13:32:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0] Web Sites Down (and Now Back Up)
Posted by Diane

Tweets are flying around Twitter that and its sister sites RootsWeb and are down, for the first time in anyone’s memory here. We've been trying for about a half hour.

Snowstorms took out some trees and power lines in Provo, Utah, last night—maybe that's the culprit. We'll update you when we find out what's going on.

Just spoke with spokesperson Anastasia Tyler. All properties have been experiencing an outage for a couple of hours now, and a team is working to fix the issues. Tyler believes no data loss would have occurred. Stay tuned for more details.

Update: Looks like the sites are working again. | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 17 April 2009 09:57:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 16 April 2009
Interview With TV History Detective Tukufu Zuberi
Posted by Diane

Tukufu Zuberi, whom you might know as one of PBS television’s four History Detectives, is the guest on Lisa Louise Cooke’s current Genealogy Gems podcast episode.

Zuberi is the keynote speaker at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree June 26-28 (where Cooke will be teaching and staffing the Family Tree Magazine booth—so stop by!).

He tells Cooke about tracing the genealogy of a dummy: Sam, that is, the first black ventriloquist's dummy to appear on Broadway.

And Zuberi talks about the show’s mission to discover the truth about historical (or turn-out-not-to-be-historical) objects, tell the personal stories behind those objects and show how “history is reflected in the living.”

“History is a result of everyday people living their lives,” he says in the interview—a sentiment I’d wear on a t-shirt any day. A must-listen.

Genealogy Events | Podcasts
Thursday, 16 April 2009 13:29:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Listen to our Free April 2009 Family Tree Magazine Podcast
Posted by Diane

Our Family Tree Magazine Podcast April 2009 episode is now online for your listening pleasure.

This month, host Lisa Louise Cooke interviews photo historian Maureen A. Taylor about historical hairstyles,’s Debra Chatfield about the newest records available for British ancestors, and genealogy author James M. Beidler about ancestors’ financial records.

And editor Allison Stacy offers a chance to win our new Passport to Europe CD—but you'll have to listen to the episode by April 30 to find out how. Listen now (it's free) on or in iTunes.

Click below for RSS subscriptions options:

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Thursday, 16 April 2009 12:48:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Find Genealogy Resources From Facebook
Posted by Diane

Genealogy Today’s Illya D'Addezio just released a full version of Live Roots for Facebook. It’s not in the Facebook application search yet, but you can download the Live Roots app to your Facebook profile now by clicking here.

In a nutshell, Live Roots is a searchable guide to online and offline genealogy resources that launched last fall.

The online catalogs it searches are listed here.

D'Addezio says he’ll add a few more enhancements to between now and Monday, and that any updates to Live Roots will automatically be live in the Facebook version.

Once you’ve added the app to your Facebook profile, you can search Live Roots from the comfort of Facebook by clicking the Applications link in the bottom left corner of your profile.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips | Social Networking
Thursday, 16 April 2009 11:45:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Get Tricks for Googling Your Genealogy in Our Webinar
Posted by Diane

Google’s a great, no-cost tool to search for your ancestors online—when you can find the information you’re looking for without getting frustrated first.

Here's help: In Family Tree Magazine’s premier Webinar, April 28 at 7 p.m. EST, our publisher and editorial director Allison Stacy will show you how to:
• word your searches more effectively
• focus your searches on genealogy data and specific genealogy sites
• use Google’s special search tools to look up facts and data
• find old photos and newspapers related to your family history
The hour-long live event also includes a Q&A session.

If you’ve never taken a Webinar before, it’s an online, interactive, class you participate in using your Web browser. You’ll be able to ask questions and chat with the host. A broadband connection is recommended for best results.

Registration costs $49.99. There’s a special opportunity for the first 10 registrants: Each of those folks can submit a real-life “Google challenge” to get personalized search advice.

Click here to register. Once you do, you’ll receive an e-mail with a link and other information you need to take the Webinar.

Genealogy Events
Wednesday, 15 April 2009 16:36:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Recommended Reading: Family Falsehoods and FamilySearch Widget
Posted by Diane

Two blog posts we think you should put on your reading list this week:
  • Since FamilySearch doesn’t have a recent updates list on its record search pilot site, the Ancestry Insider made a widget that shows new and updated databases. Take a look at it here, and click a title to go to that database on FamilySearch.
  • Many people start their genealogy searches with certain dearly held beliefs about their families that don’t jibe with historical reality. ("We're related to royalty" and "Our ancestor’s name was changed at Ellis Island" are two that come to mind.) Settle in with a cup of coffee and read Dick Eastman’s explanation as to why such family stories are often fairy tales. (Except the Ellis Island one, which is certainly a fairy tale.)

FamilySearch | Research Tips
Wednesday, 15 April 2009 08:23:13 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Ellis Island Honors Immigrants' Contributions
Posted by Diane

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation announced the recipients of this year’s Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards, to be celebrated at a luncheon May 19. You’ll probably recognize them:
  • Eric R. Kandel, MD, won a Nobel Prize in 2000 for his studies in the molecular basis of memory. He immigrated from Vienna as a child in 1939, after Germany annexed Austria.
  • Football legend and Hall of Fame member Joe Namath’s father and maternal grandparents immigrated from Hungary.
  • Jerry Seinfeld, of course, is a comedian, television star and producer. I also credit him with helping “Seinfeld” fans instantly bond over entire conversations consisting solely of quotes from the show. His maternal grandparents came from Syria.
  • Gloria and Emilio Estefan, formerly of the band Miami Sound Machine and now, respectively, a singer and music producer, will receive the BC Forbes Peopling of America Award. Both fled Cuba with their families after the rise of Fidel Castro.
The awards honor immigrants (through Ellis Island or another port) and their descendants who've made significant contributions to the American experience. Read more about the honorees at

Celebrating your heritage | immigration records
Tuesday, 14 April 2009 15:06:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 13 April 2009
Free Download: Where to Find 1880 DDD Census Records
Posted by Diane

I wanted to let you know we’ve just uploaded a new genealogy Cheat Sheet to our online Research Toolkit: A state-by-state listing of where to find 1880 supplemental census schedules of “defective, dependent and delinquent" classes (“DDD schedules” for short).

Download it as a PDF from our Record References page.

You'll know to look for your ancestor in DDD schedules if his 1880 US census listing has a mark in columns 15 through 20, showing whether he was ill or had a physical or mental disability. If so, DDD schedules might give more information about his condition or reasons for being institutionalized.

These special schedules, recorded only for the 1880 US census, aren’t in online databases such as’s. Some states’ DDD records are on microfilm at the National Archives and/or genealogy libraries; other states' records are in original form at state archives and libraries. Few are indexed.

We can’t promise our listing is comprehensive, but it does give locations and Web site addresses of repositories where we could find DDD records for each state or territory. If you’re still having trouble finding DDD schedules for your ancestor, start by contacting the state archives where he lived.

For help using DDD and more special census records—including agriculture, manufacturing, mortality, slave and other schedules—look for our guide in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine. It starts mailing to subscribers this week.

census records | Family Tree Magazine articles | Libraries and Archives
Monday, 13 April 2009 10:46:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 10 April 2009
Genealogy News Corral: April 6-10
Posted by Diane

Here's a roundup of news bits from this week:
  • UK-based subscription site FamilyRelatives redesigned its Web site to make it easier to find databases. Changes include a simpler look and new menu that categorizes databases geographically. Records come from Australia, England, Ireland and a few from the United States (US records are free to registered users), with Canada, Wales, Scotland and New Zealand collections to come.
A FamilyRelatives subscription costs 30 pounds (about $44) per year. Many records are also available on a pay-per-view basis. See more details on Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter and some screen shots on Genea-Musings.

Genealogy Web Sites | Historic preservation | Videos
Friday, 10 April 2009 14:44:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
The Cure for Hard-to-Read Web Sites
Posted by Grace

Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist, shared this amazing Web tool today: Readability, which boils down horribly busy Web sites to the basic text.

You simply visit the Readability Web site, select the format you'd like to read in (including how large you'd like the text), and drag the link to your browser's bookmarks toolbar.

Then, when you encounter a site that makes you want to spork your eyes out, just click the link in your toolbar, and the site's content is miraculously legible!

Here's a before and after with our local news site, which can be a trainwreck of ads and popups, with the actual story barely beginning before the end of the my screen.



Amazing, huh? Click here to try out Readability for yourself.

Genealogy for kids | Tech Advice
Friday, 10 April 2009 12:58:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 09 April 2009
GenWed Has Free Marriage Records, New Blog
Posted by Diane

The marriage records site GenWed just started a genealogy blog called Tracing Your Routes. They jump right into the fray with a review of points on both sites of the debate over the quality and reliability of online sources.

At GenWed, by the way, users submit ancestors' marriage information or digitized documents to a free database. Sources include license applications, certificates, banns (church notifications a couple intends to wed so the congregation can speak up if a spouse or some other problem is lurking in the closet), newspaper announcements and other records.

The site reports more than 25,000 free records for marriages in a range of states and counties, plus more than 30,000 links to “mostly free” marriage records and indexes on other Web sites.

On GenWed’s home page, scroll to the bottom to find the search box for GenWed’s free database, or click on a state name (on the right) to see links to marriage resources for that state.

FYI since we know many of you are keenly interested in the free links: The links under “Professional Searches” lead to fee-based sites, as do the “Search XX State Now!” links at the top of the state pages. You’ll also find ads with search boxes and links marked with a $ that lead to subscription databases.

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Vital Records
Thursday, 09 April 2009 10:38:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 08 April 2009
Genealogy News Corral: New Online Records
Posted by Diane

This week’s roundup (late from last week or, as I prefer to see it, early for this week) focuses on record additions to genealogy database sites:
  • New on FamilySearch's free record search pilot: 1920 US census indexes (no record images for this one) for Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois and Massachusetts; and Arkansas marriages (with images) from 1837 to 1957 in Clay, Crittendon, Desha and Monroe counties.
  • Subscription site Footnote ($69.95 per year) added Cherokee resources including the Guion Miller Rolls (info and free index on and Cherokee Indian Agency records, plus Civil War Union service records from Kentucky, Southern Claims Commission approved claims from Alabama and Georgia, and two historical newspapers.
What’s up Footnote’s sleeve? Vietnam service awards and photos, Eastern Cherokee Applications of the US Court of Claims, and Southern Claims Commission approved claims for Virginia and West Virginia.
  • Subscription-based Family Tree Connection ($29.95 per year), which focuses on smallish record sets, has more names and images in its collections of WWII ration books and association reports and rosters.
  • Subscription site ($155.40 per year) is adding family histories (usually, at least one per day; see the recent additions page for titles) and updated obituary collections from the US, UK and Ireland, and Australia and New Zealand.
Coming soon: a recently discovered 1890 census fragment listing black farmers in Delaware, South Dakota territorial and state census images, returns from US military posts (regular reports that include names of people stationed there), and WWII draft cards from Illinois.
If you know of content additions not included here, by all means, click Comments (below) and share the news.

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 10:09:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
Lives, History Lost in Italy Earthquake
Posted by Diane

Monday’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake in central Italy killed 250 people (a toll that may grow) and severely damaged historical buildings in the town of L’Aquila, where the quake was centered.

On the Genealogy Blog, Leland Meitzler reports on the damage to the Archivo di Stato (archives), National Museum of Abruzzo and other buildings.

Also see photos on Tom Kemp’s GenealogyBank blog.

The extent of historical records loss isn’t yet known. The Family History Library has some microfilmed civil registration records from the L'Aquila archives.

L’Aquila, founded around 1240 AD, is about 70 miles from Rome in mountainous central Italy. It's the capital city of the Province of L'Aquila and of the Abruzzo region.

International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 08:34:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 07 April 2009
How Y-DNA Can Work in Your Genealogy Search
Posted by Diane

For a good example of integrating genetic genealogy into your family history research, see this USAToday article (Tweeted by Blaine Bettinger and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak) about Chris Haley’s DNA connections with a Scottish man.

Haley is a Maryland State Archives research administrator and the nephew of the deceased Roots author, Alex Haley.

Haley took a Y-DNA test, which examines the paternal line (the father’s father’s father, and so on), and found a couple of matches through’s Y-DNA database. One match was a man in Scotland, whose daughter June Baff Black had just started doing genealogy (talk about beginner’s luck).

Though Haley and Black haven’t yet been able to find a paper trail leading to their common ancestor, the match on 45 out of 46 markers confirms they’re on the right track.

Roots Television has a video about their first meeting, which happened in March at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show in London.

You can order a DNA test through It's free to search's DNA database by last name (via a search box at the bottom of the DNA landing page) or enter your test results from another company.

The USAToday story also mentions a limitation of Y-DNA testing. Since it’s a relatively new science, you may not find a close match in online databases as quickly as Haley and Black did. | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, 07 April 2009 10:02:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 06 April 2009
OGS in Pictures
Posted by Grace

Diane and I spent the weekend up by Lake Erie at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference to give away copies of the magazine and show our latest CDs.

The table where Diane and I sat saw a steady stream of visitors. We love meeting fans! Surprisingly, the gigantic cover of our November 2007 issue only got knocked over once.

Diane took advantage of downtime to edit an upcoming story about the National Archives by Rick Crume, who was also in attendance.

And there was time for cake.

Our fan club!

An impromptu family reunion—my mom stopped by! Mom was in town to visit her family, which is from the north central Ohio area.

On the way back south, Diane and I got a teensy bit lost and ended up driving past a nuclear power plant. No gills so far, so I think we're good!

If you went to the OGS conference, leave a comment and let us know how your weekend was!

Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun
Monday, 06 April 2009 12:23:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Campaign Urges Families to Preserve Their Heritage
Posted by Diane

The founders of the International Association of StoryKeepers and the Treasury of Family Heritage family networking site launched the Great Heritage Campaign March 31 to encourage families to preserve their traditions and stories.

Treasury of Family Heritage co-founder Dennis Stack calls the campaign “a call to action for members of the heritage industry to help bridge the disconnect between its various elements and to drive the movement in an interactive way.”

He adds that his site is a “key piece” of the campaign, serving as a platform where families and heritage-related businesses can connect and preserve stories.

To use the Treasury of Family Heritage, you set up a profile (choose from a family, business or social page), then upload video, audio, images or stories. Packages range from free to $15 per month, depending on storage size.

In the crowded area of family networking/storykeeping sites (Geni, MyHeritage, Genetree, TribalPages, to name just a few), genealogy sites with networking components (Footnote,, FindMyPast, etc.), wikis (WeRelate is one), and genealogy applications for general social networking sites (including FamilyBuilder’s Family Tree and FamilyLink’s We’re Related), will the Great Heritage Campaign direct attention to the Treasury of Family Heritage? We'll have to wait and see.

The Great Heritage Campaign doesn't seem to have its own Web site, but you can watch a video on the Treasury of Family Heritage site.

Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 06 April 2009 10:45:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
We're Honored!
Posted by Diane

We’re excited to be on ProGenealogists’ list of the 25 most popular all-around genealogy blogs, based on Technorati ratings, overall content and industry experience of the bloggers.

(As a former high school student, I know “popular” doesn't always correlate with “helpful”—but I hope in this case it means lots of researchers are finding good advice on the Genealogy Insider blog.)

Subscribe to all the blogs on the list to stay updated on genealogy news and resources. Thanks to ProGenealogists—a professional research firm with experts in a range of areas—for including us! We got this special badge to wear, too.

Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 06 April 2009 08:44:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 03 April 2009
Talking Genealogy in Northern Ohio
Posted by Diane

I had a chance to interview Ian Frazier, author of the book Family (Picador, $16) Thursday evening before the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference started up in Huron (on Lake Erie midway between Cleveland and Toledo). 

Frazier was the speaker at the society’s golden anniversary banquet. The book—one of my favorites—is about Frazier’s family, from the time his ancestors settled small towns in the Western Reserve to his own childhood in the northern Ohio town of Hudson. His incredibly detailed research comes across in the book, so I asked him how he organized it all and decided what to keep and what to leave out. You’ll see his answers in an upcoming Family Tree Magazine.

I snapped a picture of the banquet:

And here's Frazier signing books afterward:

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Friday, 03 April 2009 20:34:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 02 April 2009
Help Tracing Roots in Europe
Posted by Allison

Need a hand crossing the pond? You'll find help in our newest CD, the Family Tree Passport to Europe.

Given the popularity of our heritage articles in Family Tree Magazine—"When are you going to do an article on [insert ancestral homeland]?" is an oft-asked question in our inbox—we're excited to have a way for folks to tap into the great advice we've offered on European genealogy.

The CD combines 22 guides to researching in these nations and regions
(some articles cover more than one country):
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Scotland
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Wales
Plus articles on Jewish roots and major ports of emigration. The guides include hints for finding and using records, identifying ancestral villages, dealing with foreign language barriers and understanding historical events that affect your ancestors' circumstances—and your genealogy search. Many guides include helpful maps to put your family in geographic context.

And of course, there are lots of recommended resources for learning more—and all the Web sites are hyperlinked for one-click access.

For those of you who subscribe to our e-mail newsletter, look for a special discount offer on this CD to hit your inbox tomorrow.

Don't get the newsletter? Now's a great time to sign up—in addition to genealogy news, tips and advice each Thursday, you'll get the opportunity to download our 42-page PDF e-book Best of the Photo Detective. Visit our newsletter page to subscribe for free.

Family Tree Magazine articles | International Genealogy
Thursday, 02 April 2009 09:00:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 01 April 2009
Obama Cousin Prank Pays Off for FamilyLink
Posted by Diane

FamilyLink pulled a fast one on the 19 million users of its We’re Related Facebook application today.

We’re Related users received notifications that Barack Obama had confirmed them as a fourth cousin once removed. Genea-Musings' Randy Seaver posted his notification and the linked pages explaining the “relationship.”

A Learn More link at the bottom of the explanatory page fessed up about the April Fool's Day prank.

Some think the joke is funny, some don’t (and some who didn't click through probably believe it). Either way, FamilyLink is getting a lot of buzz. According to the AllFacebook blog, We’re Related is experiencing five times its usual traffic today.

FamilyLink CEO Paul Allen linked to We’re Related users’ Tweets on Twitter.

Genealogy Web Sites | Social Networking
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 15:19:54 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Quiz: Are You an April Fool?
Posted by Diane

Can you pick out the historical hoax? Take our April Fool's Day quiz and find out.

The quiz is on Survey Monkey. Once you've submitted your responses, you'll be redirected to the answers on

Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 08:14:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogist Discovers Royal Roots*
Posted by Diane

Our warmest congratulations to this lady:

*April Fool's! Think of all the fun** you can have today with the Newspaper Clipping Generator.

**Please play responsibly. Not for purposes of "discovering" Great-grandpa's long-missing obituary or giving "evidence" of Aunt Helen's secret career in international espionage.

Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 07:10:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]