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# Friday, 31 July 2009
Crimes of Your Great-Grandfathers
Posted by Diane

A couple of months ago, when I was editing an article criminal ancestors for the forthcoming November 2009 Family Tree Magazine, I asked Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter readers about murders and other crimes in their family history.

Dozens of you responded with stories—some are fascinating (in a can't-look-away kind of way), some are amusing (in a gallows-humor kind of way) and some are sad. Here's a sampling of them:
  • Carol Clemens' family legend was that her great-grandfather Martin Franchetti was accidentally shot and killed by a stray bullet from a saloon brawl in 1902.
After finding references to seven newspaper articles within a couple of months, she discovered her ancestor was shot during an argument with a former boarder who’d developed a crush on Franchetti’s wife. Clemens says help from the Schenectady County Clerk’s office was invaluable in locating the perpetrator's criminal trial records.
  • Cheri Adams couldn’t find anything about her the family of her great-great-grandmother’s second husband. A Google search brought up a New York Times article stating that the husband, Elijah Godfrey, was killed while handling dynamite in his cabin. Another article revealed that the medical examiner thought it was murder. “It seems Elijah had been speaking with authorities regarding stills in the area," writes Adams, "and undoubtedly due to his loose lips, the owners of the stills took revenge.”
  • Tom Neel of the Ohio Genealogical Society found an account in a 1915 county history about John Gately, his fourth-great-grandfather from North Carolina. “Sometime after the year 1793,” Gately’s father-in-law, thinking the younger man had stolen his money, killed him.
Neel found corroboration in court records while at this year’s National Genealogical Society conference in Raleigh, NC. Turns out the aging father-in-law had misplaced his stash.
  • Domenic Parenty, great-grandfather to Janice Gianotti-Zakis, was "gunned down in the street, defending a woman" in Chicago in 1894. In 2002, she confirmed the story in police records from microfiche at Northeastern Illinois University. Now, her ancestor’s case is chronicled on the site Homicide in Chicago: 1870-1930.
  • Kathleen Anders wasn’t interested in genealogy when she found a tombstone in a Nebraska cemetery with the names of two young people who died on the same day. On a return trip, the caretaker furnished a file of newspaper clippings: Anders' great-grandfather had taken the lives of his brother and sister-in-law in 1903. Over the next two years, she found the trial transcript and interviewed people who remembered her family.
With the mystery solved, she’s turned to ancestors whose less sensational lives still deserve to be known. “I now focus on the other lines of the family that have, in their own right, great stories to be researched and written about.”
  • Carol Heap’s grandfather Frederick Hirsch, a Nassau County, NY, police officer, was killed in the line of duty May 6, 1931, by a 19-year-old nicknamed "Two Gun Crowley." Crowley was convicted and sent to Sing Sing prison in New York, where he was executed in the electric chair in 1932. Hirsch's wife raised four young children alone; Heap remembers her father saying he really missed having a Dad.
  • Connie Parott received a copy of a relative's 1970s school essay detailing her third-great grandfather's efforts to track down the murderer of his brother Thomas at a Sylamore, Ark., Christmas Eve dance in 1877.

    She found several news articles, “but to my amazement,” she writes, “the stories favored excessive details about the murderer, but nothing about the victim. The murderer had accidentally shot himself in the leg while hiding in the woods. His leg was amputated, so the newspapers had a field day describing a one-legged man hanging from the gallows.”
Forum members also posted stories and tips for researching ancestral crimes here. You'll also find advice in the previously mentioned November 2009 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands Sept. 8.

court records | Family Tree Magazine articles | Newspapers | Social History
Friday, 31 July 2009 15:47:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral: July 27-31
Posted by Diane

These are some of the news bits that wandered across our desks this week:
  • First, a reminder that if you plan to subscribe to Footnote or renew your subscription, stop procrastinating. The $59.95 annual subscription sale ends at midnight tonight (July 31). Also tomorrow, the membership rate goes from $69.95 to $79.95 per year.
  • Another reminder for those who’ve been meaning to search the Caribbean slave records on—the free period ends tonight. More on this collection here.
  • Speaking of, the new Member Connect features—which let you comment on and correct records, as well as get in touch with other members—went live this week. Click here for more on Member Connect.
  • The FGS 09 conference is just a month away, Sept. 2-5 in Little Rock, Ark. Get news updates and registration information from the conference blog, and when you’re there, stop by to see us at the Family Tree Magazine booth (#407).
  • This from Dick Eastman’s blog: The British national archives and UK-based family history site are giving seven repositories in England and Wales free online access to the recently completed 1911 census records. See Dick's post for the list of archives.

African-American roots | | Footnote | Genealogy Events | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 31 July 2009 14:19:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Burr Oak Cemetery Tombstone Images Posted Online
Posted by Diane

The Cook County (Ill.) sherrif’s office has set up a public database to help families affected by the shocking crimes at Burr Oak Cemetery.

In July, authorities announced that about 300 graves in the historically African-American cemetery near Chicago had been dug up, the bodies dumped, and the plots resold. Four cemetery workers are accused of the crime.

Those looking for relatives’ grave sites at the cemetery can search an online database of tombstone images. So far, it has 9,500 names from the roughly 100,000 grave sites.

Searchers can type in a name or browse by year. There’s also a link to view photos of markers with unknown burial years.

Read more about this tragedy in the articles linked here.'s African-American genealogy writer, Michael Hait, takes a close look at the database here.

African-American roots | Cemeteries | Free Databases
Friday, 31 July 2009 14:04:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Did Your Immigrant Ancestors Sail the Red Star Line?
Posted by Diane

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation folks sent us a note on behalf of a future museum in Antwerp, Belgium, about the history of the Red Star Line.

The Red Star Line was a steamship company that transported thousands of European immigrants across the Atlantic between 1873 and 1935. Museum organizers are looking for individual stories and original photos that'll bring personal history to the museum.

If you know or are a descendant from a person who sailed the Red Star Line from Antwerp to settle in the United States, please e-mail museum staff

The museum is slated to open in 2012, but the Web site is already up and running.

Read more about the Red Star Line, get a list of ships and see photos on You can view postcards of ships and 1908 menu cards here.

The Belgian Roots Project explains how Red Star Line was a trade name, not a corporation. Scroll down the linked page for a fleet list, then click a ship name for a list of voyages and links to free passenger lists, when available.

immigration records | International Genealogy | Museums
Friday, 31 July 2009 08:53:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 30 July 2009
The Useful Genealogy Tool With the Funny Name
Posted by Diane

It’s a special year for NUCMC (“nuk-muk”), as Forum member Happy Dae announced in a post.

NUCMC, blessedly short for National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, turns 50 this year.

In this free Library of Congress program, staff members enter information about the manuscript collections of participating US libraries into the WorldCat library catalog search engine—making those entries searchable by you.

See a timeline of NUCMC’s history here.

Manuscripts might be old papers, letters, diaries and more from local individuals and businesses. But these unique collections at individual libraries can be hard to locate without a program like NUCMC. 

The NUCMC Web site also gives you an interface to search the nearly 1.5 million manuscript catalog entries logged in WorldCat. Since 2006, you can search these and other types of library holdings on the WorldCat site itself—before then, only member libraries had access.

From 1959 to 1985, the NUCMC catalog was produced only as printed volumes—these entries aren’t searchable online. (Your library may have the volumes on paper or microfilm, or through a data service. See this page for more information.)

From 1986 to 1993, NUCMC records are available both online and in print. After 1993, they’re only online.

The NUCMC search is a little complex, so read the search instructions before you start.

WorldCat is more user-friendly to search, and you’ll turn up all types of materials: manuscripts as well as books, journals and more. You also can sign up for a free registration to save your searches, bookmark items and contribute reviews.

You can search both NUCMC and WorldCat on ancestors’ names, but this might not be productive because most names mentioned in a manuscript aren’t included in library catalogs. So try entering counties and towns where your ancestors lived; Civil War units; military battles or other historical events they participated in; an ethnicity, religion or country of origin; an occupation; and an employer or school.

Once you find a promising manuscript or other item, look for the subject heading assigned to the item, and click on the subject to see related materials.

It’s hard to do a comparison NUCMC/WorldCat search because the search forms are different. I got more results in NUCMC than WorldCat when I searched for archival materials with the subject Syrians—United States. So you might want to try both sites.

On WorldCat, click on a search result and then scroll down to see names of libraries that hold the item. On NUCMC, use the directions on this page to learn the name of the institution.

Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Thursday, 30 July 2009 10:26:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Search Hundred Years' War Soldiers
Posted by Diane

If you’ve gotten back quite a ways in your English genealogy research—we're talking Middle Ages here—you might be interested in the Soldier in Later Medieval England project database of nearly 90,000 soldiers in the Hundred Years' War from 1369 to 1453.

The names come from muster rolls in the British national archives.  According to the project Web site, the documents “would probably have been drawn up in advance of a campaign, and then annotated at least once, during a formal muster at the port of embarkation.”

See the project Web site for more information on the muster rolls.

You can search on a first or last name, rank or several other parameters. Read the search tips before beginning.

Results show the soldier’s name, status (his title, such as esquire or baron), rank (archer, man-at-arms, etc.), captain’s and commander’s names, years served, nature of activity (“keeping of the sea,” “standing force,” etc.), a reference number for the source of the information, and a membrane (page) number.

There’s also a Protection Database of 20,000 names from letters of protection and powers of attorney between 1369 and 1453. These documents would, respectively, protect a soldier from prosecution during his absence or authorize a legal representative to act on his behalf.

Click here for information on ordering records from the British national archives.

If you should discover a Hundred Years’ War ancestor, check out the list of publications from Soldier of Later Medieval England project scholars at the University of Reading and University of Southampton.

Thanks to Tara Calishain of ResearchBuzz for this tip.

Military records | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 29 July 2009 09:49:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Jamie's family sticks together
Posted by Jamie


I have never been happier about Uncle Sam keeping tabs on people. Due to the thorough census taking of the past, I have discovered some very peculiar attributes of my family.

In the 1930 census, my paternal grandfather was 5-years-old and living with his mother, two aunts, his grandmother Elizabeth and his grandmother’s brother Patrick. I thought this was odd, so I looked at the 1920 census and saw that Elizabeth and Patrick lived together then as well with their other sibling Mary, and Elizabeth’s spouse and children.

Elizabeth lived with her siblings her entire life. Starting with the 1870 census as Lizzie living with five other siblings, her parents and a seemingly random person named Demus who is 81. (I took a look at the original document, and saw that Demus looks more like Dennis and the age is 5/12 written over something else that I cannot make out. I then scanned the line to column 13, indicating that Denis was born the year the census was taken. This person is much more likely a baby sibling than an older relative.)

While scanning that same document I came across the right surname, Lehan, but saw Elizabeth wasn’t listed. I went down farther and saw Lehan again. Turns out four Lehan households were on that street, one right after another.

At the bottom of the census page, a Kennedy family is listed. While I was continuing research on the Lehan family, a Mary Kennedy popped up with the maiden name of Lehan. I am not quite sure which Mary Lehan married her neighbor because there were three of them that lived on that street. With an age range of 15-19, all of those Marys are close enough to the age listed for Mary Kennedy.

And that is another difficulty in my Lehan research: They all have the same name and live on the same street. On that one page of the 1870 census there are three Mary Lehans, two Cornelius Lehans, two Margaret Lehans, two Timothy Lehans, two John Lehans, two Hannah Lehans, an Eliza Lehan and an Elizabeth Lehan. This makes it difficult to keep everyone straight.

Also, in the 1880 and 1860 censuses, two Lehan families still lived on that same street. The heads of households were born in Ireland and do not appear in the 1850 census. That leads me to believe this branch of the Lehan family began immigrating after 1850 and before 1860, deciding to stick together as they began arriving in America.

The funniest part of this is that their descendants – my father and his brothers – have lived similarly to their ancestors without even knowing it. My father and uncle lived together on their own for years about 1.5 miles from their other brother, whose street adjoined theirs. When my father moved out, my two uncles continued to live that close up until about a year ago when one moved due to a fire. My uncles even went into business together. Talk about families sticking together.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009 12:28:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 27 July 2009
Aug. 5 Rally Planned to Support Library of Michigan
Posted by Diane

The Michigan Genealogical Council (MGC) is organizing a public assembly in Lansing to show support for the state library and archives.

Those institutions are part of the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, which will be eliminated Oct. 1 in accordance with the governor’s July 13 executive order. Its agencies will be divvied up among other departments and may face severe cuts.

The assembly is scheduled for Wed., Aug. 5 at 9:45 a.m. on north and south lawns of the state capitol in Lansing. The state senate session begins that day at 10 a.m.

Participants will process to the Michigan Historical Center and join hands around the library (the building is about 1,800 feet around). After that, they'll meet with legislators, do genealogy research or visit the museum.

For more information on the assembly, see the press release on MGC’s Web site.

MGC also shared some facts about the Library of Michigan:
  • It has the largest collection of Michigan newspaper microfilm in the country, with more than 1,700 titles covering all 83 counties and 400 cities, townships and villages.

  • It has the state's largest collection of Michigan city directories.

  • The Michigan Collection has copies of resources for lending through interlibrary loan.

  • The Gorski collection, of resources for Michigan’s Polish heritage, isn’t available elsewhere.

  • The library funds the Michigan Electronic Library, which includes databases Michigan residents can use from home.

  • The library's collection also focuses on the Great Lakes region, New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

Libraries and Archives
Monday, 27 July 2009 09:38:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 24 July 2009
Genealogy News Corral: July 20-24
Posted by Diane

This week sure flew by, didn’t it? Here’s our news news roundup:
  • New records this week on the free FamilySearch Record Search Pilot  include an index to Cheshire, England, Non-conformist records (1671 to 1900), and index to the 1895 Minnesota state census, and images for the 1905 New York state census (the index is still in progress).
New indexing projects are underway for Italy, New Zealand, Perú and the United States; volunteers who can help with foreign language projects are needed. Go to the FamilySearch Indexing site for more information.
  • The International Association of Jewish Genealogists conference is coming right up Aug. 2-7 in Philadelphia. Besides genealogy classes and an exhibit hall, you can use a Resource Room stocked with research materials and computers. Extracurriculars include walking tours, bus tours and cemetery research trips. Visit the conference Web site for registration information.
  • has upgraded its “hinting engine” for FamilyTreeMaker. Now a faster, higher-capacity engine will automatically search and display a leaf next to a name in FamilyTreeMaker's pedigree and detail views if there's a potential match. The new engine also searches Ancestry Member Trees instead of One World Tree data. | Canadian roots | FamilySearch | Free Databases | Genealogy Events | International Genealogy | Jewish roots
Friday, 24 July 2009 14:25:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 23 July 2009
Finding Family History in Digital Memory Projects
Posted by Diane

State archives, county historical societies, libraries and other organizations across the country are preserving the history of ordinary people in free online collections of photos, letters, stories and historical documents.

You might find something about a relative in one of these collections. You’ll almost certainly get a good picture of your ancestor's life. Here's a sampling of digital memory sites (I had to stop myself from spending all day surfing for more!) followed by tips on finding a collection relevant to your family:
  • Allen County Community Album: Images at this Allen County Public Library-hosted site portray people and places in Northeastern Indiana. The library’s well-known Genealogy Center also has an Our Military Heritage site with records and photos from researchers across the country.
  • Arizona Memory Project: Collections come from the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Arizona Jewish Historical Society, state archives, City of Glendale, Gila County and others.
  • Documenting Arkansas: This site's content relates to the Civil War, 1927 Mississippi River flood and other events.
  • Maine Memory Network: More than 200 organizations have contributed materials to this site, which also supports similar projects for Maine communities such as Bath and Isleboro.
  • Montana Memory Project: Cattle brand books, the Fergus County Heritage Book and Rocky Mountain College yearbooks are a few of the resources you'll find here.

  • Terrace Park, Ohio, Building Survey: A local genealogist maintains this site on the history of buildings in an Ohio neighborhood. It has photos, deeds, census and land records, residents' names and more.
  • The Valley of the Shadow: Censuses, church records, letters, diaries and newspaper articles detail life in two communities—Franklin County, Pa., in the North and Augusta County, Va., in the South—before, during and after the Civil War.
Also explore the digital collections on our 101 Best Web sites list, including Seeking Michigan, the Florida Memory Project, Missouri Digital Heritage and the Library of Congress' American Memory.

To find collections related to your ancestors’ lives, look for links to a memory project or digital archive on Web sites for the state archives, local libraries or local historical society. Many projects are listed on Cyndi's List country, state and local pages; as well as USGenWeb state and county pages.

Also try running a Google search on digital history or memory project plus the town, county or state name, or a topic such as Civil War or pioneer.

Click Comments below to share a link to your favorite digital memory project.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips | Social History
Thursday, 23 July 2009 08:57:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Find Your Family in Old Newspapers
Posted by Diane

You may remember me mentioning my bootlegging great-grandfather, who was a guest of a Texas penitentiary for nine months before Gov. O.B. Colquitt pardoned him. You also may have read about my struggle to find his trial records.

So I’m pinning my hopes on newspapers. I’ve set aside time during September's Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Little Rock to search Texarkana newspaper microfilm at the Arkansas History Commission (Texarkana straddles the Texas/Arkansas border).

I created a list of titles to check using the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America newspaper directory.

Your ancestor didn’t have to be the subject of a criminal trial or gubernatorial pardon to make the news. Newspapers also reported on births, marriages and deaths ; graduations; townspeople’s comings and goings; local gossip; local clubs and organizations; businesses, events and more.

As Web sites increasingly focusing on digitizing old newspapers, it’s the perfect time for our next Webinar on Finding Your Family in Old Newspapers.

Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems will show you what’s in old newspapers, how to identify which ones may have information on your ancestors, and all the tips and tricks for finding and searching newspapers online.

The webinar is July 29 at 7 p.m. EDT, and costs $29.99. Your registration includes access to a recording of the presentation and copies of the slides. Learn more and sign up on

Newspapers | Webinars
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 14:36:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free Database of 5,000 York, UK, Prisoners
Posted by Diane

York Castle Prison museum in York, UK, has posted an online a database of 5,000 people who were held there or were victims of crimes, mostly during the 1700s.

The database, which isn’t comprehensive, includes:
  • Criminals sentenced to transportation to America, about 1705 to 1775
  • Criminals executed at York, about 1710 to 1899
  • Debtors who pleaded insolvency, about 1709 to 1813
You can download a fact sheet with details about the York prisoners database, how to search it and recommended resources (including a database of 123,000 convicts transported to Queensland, Australia).

The museum doesn’t have any original records on the prisoners, but the above-mentioned fact sheet tells you where to look for them.

On the York Castle Prison family history page, you can search the database for a name or keyword. You’ll learn the prisoner's name, date of imprisonment and source of the information, and perhaps a short synopsis of the crime (which may name the perpetrator's victims).

William the Conquerer built the original York Castle, which included a jail, in 1068. A county gaol and women’s prison were added in the 1700s; the whole castle was a prison from 1835 to 1929. Now it’s a museum with an interesting Web site that lets you explore the prison and introduces you to prisoners and keepers.

See our online article for more help tracing British criminals in your family tree.

Free Databases | Museums | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 08:35:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Jamie discovers her ancestors' home
Posted by Jamie


The 1930 census places my 5-year-old paternal grandfather, Grandpa R., as living in Mount Adams in Cincinnati with his mother, aunts and grandmother. When I saw the address I didn’t think much of it–that is until I did a Google Maps search of the address.

I figured Mount Adams wasn’t too far from where I currently live and it would be interesting to see my ancestor’s home on a map if it was still standing. Turns out I live 1.21 miles from my great-great grandmother’s home.

Then I dug a little more and visited the Hamilton County Auditor Web site, which lists the house as being built in 1809. But the file has something called a second card attached that says the same address was built in 1985. I was seriously confused: Why are there two files? Why was the house built in two different years? Was it torn down and rebuilt?

I decided that I just had to see the house for myself. Upon arriving I saw that it is located just steps away from the aptly named Eden Park, which has the most breathtaking views of Cincinnati. All of the houses on the street have a cutesy, classic style about them: I could tell they weren’t built recently, but I couldn’t exactly place when they were built based on the style. Many of the houses had undergone at least some sort of renovation, but they still looked homogeneous on the street.

It was then that I happened upon my ancestor’s home. I realized that I had driven down this street several times before, never knowing that this is where my Grandpa R. had once lived.


There was just one thing: I couldn’t tell which house had originally belonged to my ancestors. The address was correct, but it looked as if two houses occupied that address. The style of the houses and the paint jobs matched, but they still looked to be two distinct houses. I looked into what appeared to be an alley between the two houses and saw a second-floor skyway that joined the two structures.

This wasn’t the only house that had undergone such a procedure on that street. While the others didn’t have a skyway, they did have non-matching, single-story entryways that were sandwiched far back between two multi-floor structures, indicating that the front doors were probably added later to join the once separate houses.

I returned to the Hamilton County Auditor Web site and looked at properties close to my ancestors, and there are other old houses that are listed similarly with a second card that has a different date for the year built. I suppose somewhere along the way some Mount Adams residents decided that two homes were better than one.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009 15:59:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 20 July 2009
Ways I'm Genealogically Lucky
Posted by Diane

My biggest genealogical frustration is the gap in records about my great-grandfather’s family from 1918 to 1924. Where were they? Not in the 1920 census, unfortunately for me.

But I did luck out, research-wise, in a number of ways. Maybe counting these blessings will bring on good genealogical karma:
  • Ninety-eight percent of the deaths listed in the Social Security Death Index occurred after 1962, the year the index was computerized. By all rights, my great-grandfather, who died in 1949, shouldn’t be included. Yet he is!

    Once I had his SSN, I sent off a request for his SS-5 (the SSN application) and learned his parents’ names and where he lived and worked at the time.

  • The only WWII draft registration cards available for research are from the Fourth Registration or “Old Man’s Draft” of men who were 45 to 64 years old on April 27, 1942. (Privacy laws have closed registrations of younger men.) Eight states’ cards have been destroyed, and online databases (a free browseable one on FamilySearch and a searchable one on fee-based aren’t complete. Lucky for me, I found Great-grandpa's card.

  • My dad has a copy of his dad’s resume and a job application from the 1940s. In neat, square writing, my grandfather detailed his employment background. His answer to the criminal offense question tells of a fine he paid after a fender bender with a streetcar. “I was not intoxicated and I don’t drink,” he stated emphatically.

  • My mom's sister was way into genealogy, and before she passed away five years ago, she gave me copies of her microfilm printouts and family group sheets. The family’s home burned down not long after she died; I feel fortunate to have her papers.

  • Once I found my great-grandfather’s obituary in the Cleveland Necrology File, I was able to track down the right funeral home and send an e-mail. Someone faxed his funeral record within days. With today’s privacy hyper-concerns—and the fact I’m not planning to be a customer of the home anytime soon—the response was unexpected.
Of course, I’m very lucky and very glad that it’s part of my job to keep learning about genealogy and stay up on new resources. Click Comments below to share your genealogical blessings.

Research Tips
Monday, 20 July 2009 16:43:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Friday, 17 July 2009
Genealogy News Corral: July 13-17
Posted by Diane

Here are news bits and pieces we turned up this week:
  • British subscription site has added the Civil War Roll of Honor listings of more than 276,000 Union soldiers buried in national cemeteries, soldiers' lots and garrison cemeteries.
  • The East Central Georgia Regional Library's African-American Funeral Program Collection is online (and free) in the Digital Library of Georgia. The 1,000 funeral programs date from 1933 to 2008, with most dating since the 1960s and coming from churches around Augusta, Ga.
  • The College of Charleston in South Carolina has launched the Lowcountry Digital Library with about 7,500 images (so far) of historical letters, scrapbooks, photos and more.
  • Online genealogy company (and GenealogyWise owner) FamilyLink has another site coming next week, as hinted on Twitter by CEO Paul Allen: “41% have pictures of ancestors on the walls of their home ... We are launching a new site soon for the other 59%”
Could it be related to this digitization service, announced in 2007 but no longer offered?

African-American roots | FamilyLink | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 17 July 2009 12:25:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free in July: US Virgin Islands Slave Records
Posted by Diane has added 200 years of Caribbean slave records with help from the Virgin Islands Social History Associates. You can access the records free through the end of July (you’ll need to register for a free account).

So far, the collection includes St. Croix slave lists from 1772 to 1821 and population censuses (1835 to 1911), which together have information on more than 700,000 slaves, owners and family members.

The slave lists aren’t yet indexed, so you can’t search by name, but you can browse the record images by year. Here's an example:

You can search the census records. Most are in English, but some are in Danish—the islands became a Danish colony in 1754; the United States purchased them in 1917.

African-American roots | | Free Databases
Friday, 17 July 2009 11:52:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Colonial Williamsburg and Other Places to Time Travel
Posted by Diane

My ancestors got here after Colonial days, but all the same I enjoyed an afternoon in Colonial Williamsburg earlier this week while visiting family.

The park covers 301 acres with 88 original buildings plus other reconstructed ones. I hadn’t realized Colonial Williamsburg isn’t an enclosed park—rather, it’s a historic part of the city of Williamsburg, Va., with streets closed to cars but otherwise publicly accessible. You can walk around outside and enter shops and restaurants for free; a pass gets you into the park’s other buildings (except private homes and offices) and exhibits.

On our whirlwind trip, we visited the courthouse

... apothecary

... blacksmith shop

... and the magazine and guardhouse, carpenter’s shop and gaol (jail). Exhibit  hours vary, and special programs happen daily at different times and places, so if you’re planning a visit, check the online calendar.

You can see our ancestors’ world at living history centers around the country, such as Old World Wisconsin, Ohio Village, Old Sturbridge Village  in Massachusetts and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City.

Find more museums here or run a Google search on “living history” and the city, county or state you’re interested in.

Celebrating your heritage | Historic preservation | Museums
Friday, 17 July 2009 10:39:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 16 July 2009
Library of Michigan Faces Elimination
Posted by Diane

The news that Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has abolished the state’s Department of Histories, Arts and Libraries—which includes the state library and archive—has genealogists concerned.

Granholm’s executive order, which will save the cash-strapped state an estimated $2 million in the first year, divvies up parts of the department among other state agencies. Of particular interest to genealogists:  
  • Most Library of Michigan functions, including its genealogy collection, go to the Department of Education
  • The Michigan Historical Commission, which includes the state archives, will be moved to the Department of Natural Resources
In Section B (8) of the order, Gov. Granholm directs the state Superintendent of Public Instruction (head of the education department) to cut state library costs:
Unless the Superintendent determines it to be impracticable, these measures shall include, but shall not  be limited to … Eliminating circulation of specific collections (including, but not limited to, the Main, Dewey, and General Reference collections, the Michigan collection, the Michigan Documents collection, and the Rare Book collection) or, alternatively, transferring such collections to other suitable institutions, . . . (c) Suspending or eliminating participation as a participating lending library in MeLCat, (d) Eliminating or transferring to other suitable institutions the Federal Documents Depository and the non-Michigan genealogy collection.”
The order is effective Oct. 1 unless the state legislature rejects it within 60 days.

Genealogists provide 85 percent of the foot traffic to the Library of Michigan, says Michigan Genealogical Council (MCG) delegate Mary Strouse. The library's Abrams Foundation Historical Collection is one of the 10 largest genealogy collections in the United States (see an overview here). Its Seeking Michigan Web site, a partnership with the state archives, was named to our 101 Best Web Sites list this year.

In a July 13 press release, the governor announced a possible “transformed Michigan Library and Historical Center”—the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention, which would “help equip Michigan citizens for the knowledge-based economy through entrepreneurial and innovative programs,” in partnership with a university or other organization.

What might happen to the library's genealogy collection? Among other consequences, it could be broken up the among multiple locations, interlibrary loan access (through the MelCat system) could be shut down, and access to materials on non-Michigan ancestors could go away.

MCG reports that 10 Michigan senators have introduced bills in response, which would transfer functions of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries to the Department of State.

See the MCG Web site for information on these bills and links to finding Michigan senators and representatives.

Libraries and Archives
Thursday, 16 July 2009 17:14:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
GenealogyWise Is Down
Posted by Diane

GenealogyWise, FamilyLink's social networking site that has surged in popularity after just over a week online, is down this morning. We'll keep an eye on it and let you know what we hear.

Update: FamilyLink CEO Paul Allen tweeted that GenealogyWise is down due to a DNS (Domain Name System) problem, which is being fixed, but it'll be awhile before the site is available again.

FamilyLink | Social Networking
Thursday, 16 July 2009 08:45:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 15 July 2009
FamilyHistoryLink to Shut Down Aug. 15
Posted by Diane

Two updates from online genealogy business FamilyLink:
  • Members of FamilyHistoryLink (FamilyLink’s social networking site lunched in 2007) received e-mailed announcements that GenealogyWise, the social networking site FamilyLink launched last week, will replace FamilyHistoryLink. FamilyHistoryLink will shut down as of Aug. 15; members are advised to download and save any important messages. We wondered last week if this would happen.

    More than 5,000 people have signed onto GenealogyWise; they’ve formed 2,360 groups and contributed more than 10,000 items (photos, videos, blog posts, etc.) to the site.

FamilyLink | FamilySearch
Wednesday, 15 July 2009 10:36:26 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Comment issues
Posted by Grace

If you've tried to leave a comment on this blog in the last few weeks but weren't able to get it to post, please let us know via e-mail. Include in the e-mail what operating system (such as Windows Vista or Mac OSX) and Internet browser you use (such as Internet Explorer/IE7 or Firefox 2.0).

Tuesday, 14 July 2009 13:49:13 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 13 July 2009
Meet Jamie the Intern!
Posted by Grace

Hello, Genealogy Insider readers! My name is Jamie Royce, the Family Tree Magazine intern. I'm currently a student at the University of Cincinnati, and I am a native to the area, with family strewn all across the Queen City. I'm also just embarking on my inaugural genealogical journey, which I'll be sharing with you this summer.

On my first day, Diane showed me how to do an search. We started off with my paternal grandfather because I knew the most information about him, and the 1930 Census popped up. My grandfather's name was misspelled, of course, but something more interesting was found: My 5-year-old grandfather and his mother, who had her married name of Royce listed on the census, was living with her two sisters and their mother, no husband to be found.

Diane and I thought this was weird as there were no wars going on or anything during the time, but with no explanation my findings just slipped to the back of my mind.

A few days later I was talking to my mother and explaining to her the living situation of my Grandpa R. and his mother. She thought it was interesting as well, and then slipped in this bit of information: "Well you know, your Grandpa R.'s mother wasn't married when she had him. Royce is her married name."

No, actually, I didn't know that, Mom. How would I?

Then I realized that my family gets its surname through marriage, as my Grandpa R. was not related to his mother's husband biologically; so I'm only biologically related to people with the last name Royce that descend from Grandpa R. This was a bit shocking to learn.

I was left with so many questions. When did Grandpa R.'s mother get married? Why was she living in her mother's house if she was already going by a married name? Where is her husband? What was his name?

Unfortunately, Hamilton County doesn't have older marriage licenses or vital records digitized, so I'll have to make a trip downtown to find Grandpa R.'s birth certificate and his mother's marriage license. But the 1930 Census did indicate that Grandpa R.'s father is from Kentucky; whether that's his birth father or his mother's husband, I'm not sure.

I also wonder if the mystery Royce adopted Grandpa R. as a son. Grandpa R. did take the name Royce, but I'm not sure what is birth certificate says, if his name was ever legally changed, or if he was adopted by his mother's husband. It clearly is, at the very least, a bit of an open secret that Grandpa R.'s father was not his mother's husband. All of these questions will make my research harder.

Without a definitive original last name on my Grandpa R., I may never find his birth certificate. Does the record indicate his last name was his mother's maiden name of Kiely? Does it now have Royce? Does it have his currently unknown biological father's last name? I may have to scour all of the records around my Grandpa R.'s birth date to find what I am after.

I looked up the address listed on the census for my Grandpa R. and his family, and it turns out the house still stands and is exactly 200 years old. Next week I will tell you all about it, complete with pictures. You won't believe how close I lived to my ancestor's home this entire time without even knowing it.

census records | Family Tree Firsts
Monday, 13 July 2009 12:47:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 10 July 2009
Genealogy News Corral: July 6-10
Posted by Diane

Some of the genealogy news bits we rounded up this week:
  • The Genealogy Guys will record their podcast before a live audience at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. The audience will get to submit questions for possible inclusion in the podcast. The conference is Sept. 2 to 5 in Little Rock, Ark.; the podcast recording is 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. Look for location information at the conference.

  • Geni is offering a free two-week trial of its Geni Pro premium service, which includes more stats, matches and member collaboration than the free basic service. (Geni Pro subscriptions are normally $4.95 per month.)

  •’s subscription-based Canadian site,, has added French Deaths by Guillotine 1792-1796, with 13,000 names of French citizens executed during the Reign of Terror. The names come from a book written in 1796 by a French journalist.
  • ProQuest, the creator of the HeritageQuest genealogy service, ProQuest Historical Newspapers and other databases for libraries, is working on a new search platform that’ll make I easier to find information related to your genealogy search. Expected launch is 2010.
The company is also adding Boston’s Jewish Advocate (1905 to 1990), Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent (1887 to 1990) and the Detroit Free Press to Proquest Historical Newspapers.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Newspapers | Podcasts | Social Networking
Friday, 10 July 2009 16:08:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
New African-American Genealogy Database Coming This Fall
Posted by Diane

If you're researching African-American roots, look for a new database this fall from ProQuest, creator of the HeritageQuest Online genealogy service (available free to patrons of subscribing libraries).

ProQuest African-American Heritage will combine records with research guidance.

Records will include censuses, slave and freedmen records; birth, marriage and death records; church records; court and legal records; genealogies and family histories. Other than the US census and Freedman’s Savings Bank & Trust Co. records (both also are in HeritageQuest Online), ProQuest didn’t name specific records.

Social networking tools come from AfriGeneas, a popular Web site and forum on African-American genealogy; an exclusive version of the classic guide  Black Genesis by James M. Rose and Alice Eichholz (Genealogical Publishing Co.); and other reference books.

For more information about ProQuest African-American Heritage, to watch a video and to sign up for a notification e-mail when the service is released, visit ProQuest's Web site.

African-American roots | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 10 July 2009 14:58:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 09 July 2009
Fee-Free Weekends at Historic Parks
Posted by Diane

Want to immerse yourself in history but still save a few bucks this summer? Plan to visit a national park on one of these two entrance fee-free weekends:
  • July 18-19
  • August 15-16
You've got more than 100 parks to choose from, including Georgia’s forts Pulaski and Frederica, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana, Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in New Mexico, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming.

Learn more about National Park Service fee-free weekends here.

Celebrating your heritage | Museums | Social History
Thursday, 09 July 2009 14:01:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 08 July 2009
FamilyLink Launches "Facebook for Genealogists"
Posted by Diane

FamilyLink has launched a new social networking site especially for genealogists called GenealogyWise.

Randy Seaver, whose Genea-Musings blog clued us in to the quiet launch of GenealogyWise, has posted some screenshots and thoughts. FamilyLink likely invited a small group to join so the site will already be lively when an official announcement goes out.
GenealogyWise does appear to be buzzing with activity. Similar to Facebook, you create a profile, find friends, set up groups, upload photos and invite people to events. There’s also a discussion forum, blog and video areas any GenealogyWise member can contribute to, a genealogy search (this links you to the World Vital Records subscription site), a store (also goes to World Vital Records) and a chat area.

FamilyLink is also owner of World Vital Records, the We’re Related and MyFamily Facebook applications, interactive history site, and several other ventures.

Interestingly, FamilyLink has another genealogy social network, FamilyHistoryLink, launched in 2007 as FamilyLink (it was renamed when the company took FamilyLink as its corporate name). FamilyHistoryLink still wears a beta label and looks dated in comparison to GenealogyWise. I wonder if FamilyLink will phase it out?

Facebook has a well-established genealogy community, with more than 500 genealogy groups and several genealogy applications. Can GenealogyWise compete?

Would you stick with the all-encompassing Facebook, switch to GenealogyWise’s dedicated genealogy network, or use both—or neither? Let us know by clicking Comments below.

FamilyLink | Genealogy Web Sites | Social Networking
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 11:01:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [10]
# Tuesday, 07 July 2009
World’s Oldest Bible Reconstructed Online
Posted by Diane

A Bible handwritten in the fourth century, edited as many as 800 years later, and portioned off in the 1800s has been made whole online.

The Codex Sinaiticus (“Sinai book”), the world’s oldest Christian Bible at 1,600 years old, was in a Sinai desert monastery when a scholar found it in 1844. He removed portions over the years to publish them, and most of the ancient Greek text ended up in Britain via St. Petersburg.

The institutions that hold parts of the manuscript—the United Kingdom’s British Library; the University Library in Leipzig, Germany; the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg; and St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai—joined the project to put the Codex Sinaiticus online.

Its 400 leaves of parchment (prepared animal skin) include the complete New Testament, much of the Old Testament, plus books not officially part of either.

You can browse the pages by book, chapter and verse; read an English translation for some of it; learn how the book was created, digitized and conserved, and read historical research about it.

Though Codex Sinaiticus isn’t a strictly genealogical project, the in-depth look inside a globe-spanning historical digitization project is fascinating.

Historic preservation | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 14:39:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 06 July 2009
The Generations Network Becomes
Posted by Diane

Online genealogy business The Generations Network has changed its name to

The new moniker acknowledges subscription genealogy Web site as the company’s most prominent brand, says CEO Tim Sullivan. "Our company has a long and fascinating history, and we've been through several name changes over the years. But we started with, and it now feels completely natural to let our company once again share the brand with our flagship product."

Here’s a timeline of’s name changes:
1983: Ancestry
2006: The Generations Network

Gotta say that we like the shorter, print-friendlier name—no more bulky references to announcements from “Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations Network, parent company of …” in the magazine.

Other properties include Family Tree Maker,,, Rootsweb, MyCanvas and several international genealogy sites. | Genealogy Industry
Monday, 06 July 2009 08:06:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 03 July 2009
How Our Ancestors Celebrated the Fourth of July
Posted by Diane

Did you know John Adams thought we all should celebrate the Fourth of July on the second of July—the day in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution of independence?

Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America ... It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward.”

But Americans chose to solemnize and celebrate on July 4, the date Congress finally approved the Declaration of Independence. Here are some of the ways our ancestors marked the occasion:
  • In 1777, in Bristol, RI, 13 gunshots were fired on July 4, once at morning and again at evening. Philadelphians rang bells, fired guns and lit candles.
  • In 1778, Gen. George Washington gave his soldiers a double ration of rum on July 4 and ordered an artillery salute.
  • In 1781, Massachusetts recognized July 4 as a state celebration.
  • In 1785, Bristol held a Fourth of July parade—now the United States’ oldest continuous Independence Day celebration.
  • In 1817, the Erie Canal broke ground in Rome, NY.
  • In 1828, Charles Carroll broke ground on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
  • In 1848, workers laid the cornerstone of the Washington Monument.
  • In 1870, Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
  • In 1938, the Fourth became a paid federal holiday (three years later, Congress corrected the omission of Washington, DC, employees from this legislation).
  • In 1973, the Boston Pops Orchestra began hosting an annual music and fireworks show alongside the Charles River.
Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to become president, died on July 4, 1826—the 50th birthday of the United States. Get more Fourth of July history on this American University professor’s Web site.

Social History
Friday, 03 July 2009 10:48:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 02 July 2009
Genealogy News Corral: June 29 to July 2
Posted by Diane

This week’s news roundup is coming at you a day early, but it's still chock-full:
  • The Generations Network, parent company of, has a poignant new ad campaign you’ll probably catch on some media or other (if you’re worried you’ll miss it, see it on’s YouTube channel). 
  • also has developed an Ancient Ancestry Finder that guesses your haplogroup (ancestral origins) based on a few questions. It’s fun, and the haplogroups have cute names such as "Boatbuilders" and "Inventors," but keep in mind it's not necessarily accurate. At the end, you get a pitch to buy a $79 DNA test to determine if the Finder is correct.
  • If you’ve been thinking of trying the databases at, now might be the time. The New England Historic Genealogical Society is offering $15 off new memberships during July.
  • This week, FamilySearch enhanced its free Record Search Pilot with 12 new collections, which have records from Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Netherlands, and Spain. New United States collections were added for Delaware, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah.
International indexing projects now underway involve records from the Czech Republic; Baden, Germany; and South Africa—click here if you’re interested in volunteering.
  • The Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) at the Houston Public Library's downtown Julia Ideson Building is changing its research hours during a renovation. Now through Aug. 31, HMRC is open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, it'll be open by appointment—call (832) 393-1313 to make one. | FamilySearch | Free Databases | Genetic Genealogy | Libraries and Archives | Newspapers
Thursday, 02 July 2009 11:18:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 01 July 2009
Footnote, Gannett Kick Off Partnership With 60s Flashbacks
Posted by Diane

Subscription historical records site Footnote struck a deal to digitize newspapers from Gannett Co., the largest newspaper publisher in the United States with 84 dailies including USA Today.

With the upcoming 40th anniversaries of the Apollo moon landing July 16 and the Woodstock music festival August 15-18, Footnote started with newspapers covering these events—Florida Today and New York’s Poughkeepsie Journal.

You can relive these two landmark events free (or experience them for the first time) at Footnote’s Moon Landing and Woodstock pages.

Footnote will continue to digitize the full run of these and other Gannett newspapers.

Footnote | Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers | Social History
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 15:02:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Free Genome Scanning Offer
Posted by Diane

A new genome profiling service called TruGenetics has an introductory offer: The first 10,000 registrants at the site get free genome scanning.

You can get start registering with TruGenetics here.

Genome profiling can give you information about deep ancestry—where your ancient ancestors came from, but not information that’s likely to help you find relatives within a genealogically researchable time frame. 23andme, a similar service, charges $399 for genome scanning.

I haven’t tested this offer. If you do, post a comment here and let me know what you think.

Thanks to Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Rick Crume for this tip!

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 09:01:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
Search Canadian Passenger Lists Free Through July 3
Posted by Diane

To celebrate Canada Day, subscription genealogy data service—the Canadian sister site to—is making its collection of passenger lists from Canadian ports free through July 3.

The lists cover 1865 to 1935 and include names of more than 5.6 million individuals. An estimated 37 percent of Canada’s population has ancestors in the lists. US residents also may have relatives who arrived in Canada, then later traveled south to settle in the States.

See the full announcement here.

Access the Canadian passenger list collection here.

Canada Day, formerly Dominion Day, is July 1. It celebrates the anniversary of the British North America Act of 1867, which united Canada as a country of four provinces.

Canadian roots | immigration records
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 08:43:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]