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# Monday, 31 August 2009
Tips for FGS and Other Genealogy Conferences
Posted by Diane

This week, I and a few hundred other genealogists from around the country are headed to Little Rock, Ark., for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) annual conference.

I’m looking forward to hanging out in the Family Tree Magazine booth (#407), handing out magazines, showing off our latest products, answering questions and chatting with readers. It'll also be an opportunity to catch up with other genealogy bloggers and writers, and get the scoop on the latest news and resources. I'll be posting it here.

Besides touring the exhibit hall, attendees also will go to classes and workshops, field trips to local repositories, luncheons and other social events.

And I’m super-excited about squeezing in a little newspaper research at the Arkansas state archives. My bootlegging ancestor lived on the Texas side of Texarkana, a city that straddles the border, and I’m hoping his “entrepreneurship” made the local news.

Some tips for those going to FGS or another conference:
  • Wear comfortable shoes—you’ll be walking to classes, walking to your hotel, walking through the exhibit hall … you get the idea.
  • The air conditioning always seems to be cranked up at these things, so bring a cardigan.
  • Bottled water is pricey and drinking fountains can be hard to find. You can save by bringing an empty bottle to refill. (I usually bring granola bars, too. I have a thing about knowing where my next meal is coming from.)
  • Bring business card with surnames and places you’re researching and your genealogy e-mail address, in case you run into someone researching your lines.
  • Bring extra address labels, too, so you can stick them on entry forms for drawings (including ours).
  • If you’re attending by yourself and everybody else seems to know somebody, remember genealogists are a friendly bunch. Just say hi and introduce yourself. If all else fails, ask the person next you about his or her ancestors—you’ll have a conversation partner in no time flat.
  • Plan ahead for any research you want to do, so you can make sure you have all the charts and records you need.
  • Take some time before classes start to decide which ones you want to attend and learn where the classrooms are. That way, you won't miss the first 10 minutes because you couldn't find the room.
  • Take a reconnaissance walk through the exhibit hall and mark on your booth map all the vendors you want to return to. Check off each one as you visit it, but be sure to leave time for browsing.

  • Some exhibitors pack up early on Saturday to catch flights and whatnot, so don't leave important business for the very end.
Pre-registration for FGS has closed, but you still can register at the door. A day registration costs $120; the full conference costs $225 (but just visiting the exhibit hall is free).

The conference is at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. You’ll find this and more information on the FGS conference blog.

Hope I’ll see you there!

Genealogy Events
Monday, 31 August 2009 13:28:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 28 August 2009
Genealogy News Corral: August 24-28
Posted by Diane

  • Hundreds of genealogists—your truly included—are packing their bags for the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Little Rock, Ark., Sept. 2 to 5. I’ll write more about the conference in a separate post next week, but in the mean time, you can check out the conference Web site and blog.
  • The National Archives’ marriage records (1815 to 1866) from the Virginia Field Office of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau) have been digitized and are now available free at the FamilySearch record search pilot site.
  • Subscription genealogy Web site and its related international sites will be down for scheduled maintenance for about three hours starting Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 1 a.m. Mountain Time. Portions of RootsWeb,, and—which live on servers—also will be unavailable. 
  • Mark your calendars for National Museum Day Sept. 26, when hundreds of museums across the country will offer free general admission to you and a guest when you present a Museum Day admission card, downloadable from this site.
  • A Deerfield, Ill., documentarian has created a show called “The Legend Seekers,” which traces family legends of regular people. You can submit your family story at, see others' stories and get research tips. Chicago-area residents can watch an episode on WTTW Channel 11 Aug. 30 at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. Aug. 31. (It’ll also run on WTTW Prime—Comcast Channel 243—at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 31, and 4:30 and 9:30 a.m. Sept. 1.)

African-American roots | | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Museums
Friday, 28 August 2009 11:20:36 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 27 August 2009
Put Your Ancestors on Our Cover!
Posted by Diane

We're looking for a great ancestral photo to feature on the cover of the January 2010 Family Tree Magazine (that's our 10th anniversary issue!).

Maybe your family photo is the one.

Post your ancestral photo to our Ancestral Cover Photos Flickr group or e-mail it to us (we'll then post it on Flickr), and we may use it on the cover!

Before you start flipping through those albums, please note these requirements:
  • The image must be dated before 1920 and not show any individuals still living (we don't want to upset any of your more-modest relatives).

  • The image must be high-resolution (at least 300 dots per inch) so it will reproduce well in print.

  • The image must show people (five or fewer is best, that way we'll be able to see everyone).

  • Include your e-mail address and/or phone number with your submission—we'll need to be able to get a hold of you if your image is chosen.
Some disclaimers for you to be aware of: By submitting your photo, you affirm that you are the owner of the image and it is not subject to copyright by any other party. You also grant Family Tree Magazine permission to crop the digital image as necessary for publication, and to use the image in any and all print and electronic media.

Got questions? Click Comments to ask them, or e-mail them to us.

Update: Please submit your photo(s) by September 15. Also, it's fine to submit more than one image, but please try your hardest to choose up to your five favorites to send. Thanks!

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun | Photos
Thursday, 27 August 2009 08:36:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 26 August 2009 Database Launches
Posted by Diane

NewsBank, which produces the GenealogyBank newspaper subscription site as well as news services for libraries, has introduced another site called

This subscription site, which you can access from home, lets you search the full text of “thousands of historical newspapers and millions of articles” from US newspapers published between 1800 and 2000.

A subscription costs $99.95 for a year or $19.95 per month.

See a title list sorted by state on the site. The content appears similar to GenealogyBank’s Historical News collection, at least for the 1800-to-2000 time frame.

So what’s different? targets a more-general audience of history buffs and scholars. The announcement of its launch emphasizes how the articles “capture the civic, political, social and cultural events of American life.” You search it by a keyword, date and place of publication.  

GenealogyBank content goes back to 1690, for one thing, and the search places more importance on finding ancestors' names. It also has genealogy-friendly collections including America's Obituaries, the Social Security Death Index and Historical Documents.

GenealogyBank costs $69.95 per year or $19.95 per month. Look for our special pull-out guide to using the site in the December 2009 Family Tree Magazine.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers | Social History
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 08:34:17 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Pick a Mascot for Family Tree University
Posted by Diane

Would you rather be a Fighting Kin-garoo or a Family History Hawk? Or maybe a Missing Lynx?

We’re on the hunt for a mascot for Family Tree University, the series of online genealogy classes we’re launching in late fall. Family Tree Magazine subscribers can read more about it in the November 2009 issue—coming your way right about now—or visit the Web page and sign up for e-mail notifications.

You can help choose a Family Tree University mascot by clicking here and voting for your favorite (or if you don’t see a mascot you like, you can suggest one).

We'll let you know when classes are starting. Hope to see you on "campus"!

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun | Family Tree University
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 15:58:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 24 August 2009
New Subscription Site: Genealogy Archives
Posted by Diane

A few weeks ago in our E-mail Update newsletter, I mentioned a subscription Web site called Genealogy Archives.

I was skeptical because most of its collections seemed to be free elsewhere online, you couldn’t get even basic search results without a subscription, and there was no information about the site’s owners.

Genealogy Archives spokesperson Julie Hill took notice and contacted me. I had a chance to talk with her and senior product manager Joe Godfrey, and to try out the site.

Turns out GenealogyArchives, which launched this summer, is affiliated with PeopleSearchPro (not the same as PeopleSearch).

Though the subscription genealogy space is crowded, Godfrey believes his approach is unique: Offer family historians a low-priced option with basic content that’s useful to most people, plus links to add-on, fee-based services (such as the option to order a record through VitalChek).

There's also a forum and Expert Advice section with how-to articles, and you can add your family tree or upload a GEDCOM.

Though it's still relatively small, Genealogy Archives added 200 million new records last week, including the 1860 and 1930 census indexes from Footnote, newspaper obituaries (you get a link to the obituary online and/or a transcription of it), and vital records from California and Colorado. It also looks like there’s more customer support information, including FAQs.

Hill points to the site’s living-people sources as unique content not available with other genealogy sites.

On the home page, the Trace Your Family Tree As Far Back As Possible section is a living-people search. You type in your name and age, and if the site finds the right listing for you, you get a tantalizing “We found your family tree” message and a prompt to join the site for $39.95 annually. (The records found may or may not be relatives.)

The Search for an Ancestor section lets you search the site’s historical records and indexes. It’s not as sophisticated a search as you find on competing sites—a first and last name are required; you also can pick a state and add the birth and death year and record type. (The site searches as though you entered an initial for the first name.)

Results give you the number of matches found, but nothing about them, before you’re prompted to subscribe—so it's hard to decide whether or not to bust out the credit card.

Genealogy Archives subscribers can search within a database, which usually adds a few more search fields. Some of the categories are census records, immigration and passenger lists (from NARA’s free Access to Archival Databases listings), newspapers, “Find Famous Relatives” (finds notable folks with your last name—not necessarily relatives) and cemetery listings (actually, obituaries and the Social Security Death Index, or SSDI). 

I liked how SSDI results link you to a list of cemeteries near each person's place of death, which in turn link to the cemetery’s results in Find-A-Grave or from a Google search, and any USGenWeb entries for the cemetery (no guarantee, of course, that you’ll find information from your ancestor’s head stone).

Godfrey says plans call for beefing up the site with higher-quality family tree software. He hopes a redesign will make the site more engaging and make it easier for you to tell what records it has.

To me, that seems crucial for getting subscribers.

Godfrey adds that he’s having “a lot of conversations with a lot of other folks” (i.e., potential partners) about more content. Also, the Genealogy Archives blog promises “members will be blown away by the dramatic upgrades coming soon.”

You can sign up for a free seven-day trial of Genealogy Archives, though you do need to enter your credit card number.

Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 24 August 2009 11:20:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 21 August 2009
Genealogy News Corral: August 17-21
Posted by Diane

We rounded up these items for this week's news corral:
  • FamilySearch and Svensk Arkivinformation (part of the National Archives of Sweden) are starting a huge project to create a free online index to 418 million names in Swedish parish registers of births, christenings, marriages and burials. Volunteers will index registers from the start of recordkeeping (between 1608 and 1686, depending on the parish) through 1860.
  • Heritage Travel, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is launching a free online travel community called Gozaic with several “circles” for those interested in history-related travel. Those include Civil War Buffs, Abraham Lincoln, Family Heritage Travel, Journeys into Hidden America and others. Visit the pre-launch site to learn more.
  • On a celebrity baby blog this week, actor/producer Lisa Kudrow describes her next project as “a genealogy series in which we take stars to their ancestral landmarks ... different countries and places where they see documents and they see homes or buildings or things that have to do with their family.” (Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the full statement.)
Maybe the postponed US version of “Who Do You Think You Are?will see the light of our TV screens. (Last we heard, it didn’t make NBC’s fall lineup, but might show up as a mid-season replacement.)

Celebrity Roots | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | International Genealogy
Friday, 21 August 2009 12:13:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
Headed to the Family History Expo Next Week!
Posted by Diane

The Salt Lake City Family History Expo, which Family Tree Magazine is sponsoring, is next week—August 28 and 29, to be exact—in Sandy, Utah, just south of the genealogical capital of the United States.

Editor Allison Stacy will be in the exhibit hall in booth 202, handing out magazines and other freebies and displaying the latest CDs and other products from Family Tree Magazine.

You can check out the list of exhibitors, classes and many opportunities to win prizes on the Family History Expos Web site

The exhibit hall is open to the public. A conference registration, which gets you into classes and other activities, costs $68 until Aug. 24; at the door, it's $78 for both days or $48 for one day. This event is unique in that you can pay to take individual classes for $12 per session.

There’ll also be Internet access in the Blogger Bistro and Twitter Café where attendees can use a workstation to blog or tweet.

The expo’s 11 Bloggers of Honor will be blogging throughout. Organizer Holly Hansen’s blog is here; you can link to all the blogs from the expo’s Web site.

Follow the expo on Twitter at @FHExpos. Its hashtag is #FHX09-SLC. Search Twitter on this hashtag to see Tweets about the conference.

Genealogy Events
Friday, 21 August 2009 10:35:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 20 August 2009
Full Circle
Posted by Diane

In April, I interviewed Ian Frazier, who penned the story of his northern Ohio ancestors into a book called Family, for the November 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands Sept. 8). 

A half-hour after our interview, Frazier was the keynote speaker at the Ohio Genealogical Society's golden anniversary banquet. During dinner, he sat next to the loquacious Kenny Burck, president of the Hamilton County (Ohio) Genealogical Society.

Frazier’s account of their conversation about Kenny’s son Bobby, aka New York City's Naked Cowboy, appears in the Aug. 24 New Yorker.

And my husband of almost a year was Bobby Burck’s lab partner in high school.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun
Thursday, 20 August 2009 08:21:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Family Tree Maker 2010 Released
Posted by Diane

Capturing your family’s story in a meaningful way appears to be the focus of updates to Family Tree Maker 2010, released today from

New and improved features to this popular genealogy software will help you build your family tree, record memories, and organize photos, stories, videos and audio clips so you can more easily share your family's story.
More specifically, the updates include
  • better tools to create family books from information and photos in your tree

  • the ability to create and export slide shows from photos in your tree

  • scanner support that lets you add photos to your tree right from your scanner and organize them into categories at the same time

  • the ability to track relatives’ migration paths by mapping locations of events such as births, marriages and deaths with Microsoft Bing Maps

  • an improved relationship calculator that lets you view relationships between any two people in your tree

  • a new timeline report and updates to the family group sheet and genealogy reports

  • standard source templates that make it easier to cite a variety of types of sources

  • extended-family birthday and anniversary calendars
Like previous versions, when you’re connected to the Internet, Family Tree Maker 2010 automatically searches genealogy databases on for records about people in your family tree. You need an subscription to view any matching documents.

See an overview and screenshots of Family Tree Maker 2010 here. You can purchase it online for $39.95 (includes a two-week trial subscription); shipping is free for a limited time. There's no upgrade option. (Clarification here in response to a comment: There's not a lower-price version on the Web site for 2009 users looking to upgrade, but yes, you can upgrade from 2009 to 2010.)

The software also will be available in stores. | Genealogy Software
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 11:57:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Tuesday, 18 August 2009 to Digitize Records and Photos Free at FGS
Posted by Allison

Consider bringing your family's records with you if you’re going to the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference Sept. 2-5 in Little Rock. is bringing high–speed scanners so conference-goers can digitize records and photos.

You can sign up for a 15–minute scanning session Sept. 3 through Sept. 5 during exhibit hall hours (9:30 am to 5 pm Thursday, Sept. 3; 9 am to 5 pm Friday and Saturday). That's enough time to scan an estimated 100 photos and/or documents.

You'll need to stop by the scanning station in the convention center’s Toltec Lobby registration area in the morning to snag a scanning session for that day. imaging specialists will operate the scanners—a looseleaf scanner for documents and photos; a planetary scanner for books and fragile items. You’ll get the full-color digital images on a free flash drive. The cynics among you can rest assured your records won’t be uploaded to

Be judicious about the documents and photos you bring: There’s always the possibility your items could be damaged during scanning. Whatever you do, don’t pack irreplaceable records in checked luggage. asks those who plan to participate in the scanning to go to this Web page and click Register. | Family Heirlooms | Genealogy Events
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 08:37:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 17 August 2009
All About FamilySearch
Posted by Allison

A few weeks ago, I was talking with Family Tree Magazine’s art director, Christy, about German genealogy. We both have Deutsch roots, and I was telling her how I’d traced my one family branch in 18th-century Bavaria on a trip to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Christy hadn’t known that it’s fairly easy to get historical records from Germany—and many other places—through the FHL and local centers, which act like FHL branches.

I’ve had a lot of similar encounters, and it always surprises me how many genealogy buffs don’t know the depth and breadth of resources available from FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Even Family Tree Magazine readers!) That’s why I decided to make FamilySearch the topic of this month’s Family Tree Magazine webinar:

FamilySearch Essentials: How to Access Records From 100 Countries Without Leaving Town

This hourlong session will be hosted by yours truly Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Central/5 p.m. Mountain/4 p.m. Pacific. In it, I’ll walk through FamilySearch’s offline and online genealogy resources, show you how to find records relevant to your own genealogy search, and demonstrate different tools on the FamilySearch Web site.

Registration costs $49.99, and you can sign up using the link above. If you’re new to webinars and wonder how they work, see our FAQ.

P.S. If it’s German genealogy you want to learn more about, watch for an article about Germany’s historical regions in the December 2009 issue of Family Tree Magazine, coming to subscribers’ mailboxes in late October.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Research Tips | Webinars
Monday, 17 August 2009 17:40:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Help Choose the Genealogy Difference Maker of the Year!
Posted by Diane

From the unofficial town historian who helps out at the library three days a week to the legions of people doing FamilySearch Indexing, your average genealogist wouldn’t get very far without relying on the work of volunteers.

If you’ve used USGenWeb, RootsWeb, a local genealogical society, the databases on FamilySearch records search pilot, the Ellis Island passenger database, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, cemetery inscriptions on Find-A-Grave, or innumerable other resources and organizations, you’ve been helped by a stranger who just wanted other people to be able to find their ancestors.

We started our Difference Maker series to highlight the efforts of all these unknown people. Family Tree Magazine readers nominated volunteers throughout the year. We selected a nominee to profile in each 2009 issue—they are
  • Ellen Thompson, for collecting history of local schools
  • Robin Dickson, for volunteering and indexing records at her library
  • John Jackson, for creating a virtual cemetery for Civil War soldiers
  • Gail Reynolds, for being a library volunteer and genealogy teacher
  • Susan Steele, for preserving historical records
  • Bennie W. White, for compiling records and posting resources free online
Now it’s up to you to help choose a Difference Maker of the Year. That person will win a year of Family Tree Magazine and $100 toward his or her genealogy cause.

Click here to learn more about the work of these six volunteers, then hit the voting link on that page to cast your vote.

Voting closes Sept. 16 at midnight EDT. One vote is permitted per computer.

Congratulations to these six people, and thanks to all the genealogy volunteers out there who make it easier for us to research our roots.

Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, 17 August 2009 13:03:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, 14 August 2009
Jamie's flea market finds
Posted by Jamie


Recently I was on vacation in western New York and visited a small-town flea market. While there were only 15 to 20 booths set up, many of them had genealogical treasures abound including old letters, photos and World War II ration books scattered across tables among the costume jewelry and used board games.

Of course my first thoughts as I saw these items outdoors and uncovered were, “Get these things out of the sun and into acid-free tissue paper!” These are someone’s family heirlooms after all. I scoured piles of unmarked pictures, scrutinizing each one and lamenting that they did not have a home. All the while I am sure the sun took a disastrous toll on them.

If you come across a similar situation, Dead Fred allows users to upload found photos, search identified photo databases, and help identify and find mates for unidentified photos. Flickr’s Found Photographs group features mostly unidentified photos picked up at garage sales, flea markets or your grandmother’s attic.

Also at the flea market I found a bag full of WWII ration cards, and I was amazed at the genealogical information available on them. Some just had name and address, but others went further supplying age, sex, weight, height and occupation. The books for sale were from the third and fourth series, both issued in 1943. The names on two of the books at the flea market were Kenneth and Hazel E. Valk. To search for your ancestors in a war ration book database of over 9,000 names click here.

While these were all great finds, the letters were most intriguing. Some sellers at least put them in plastic baggies, but still others let them bake in the sun – folded up at that! There were unopened letters, letters in envelops, envelops without letters, greeting cards, postcards, wedding invitations, governmental correspondence – even a few marked “passed by censor” sent from an infantry unit postmarked “JY. 15, 18”

Most of the letters were sent to Leroy Elder, but many are either unsigned or are signed with a nickname. They are postmarked from 1909 to 1922. One of the funnier postcards was from a pastor sternly urging Edler to pay him a visit to discuss the state of Elder's Christianity.

Among the stack of letters was a folded poem of sorts titled “The Charming Young Widow In The Train.” The paper is yellowed and ripping along the folds; the ink is disappearing. It wasn’t dated and it was not in an envelope. The top has some sort of imprint or watermark and the end says, “Written B. Mollie E.V.”

I did a Google search of the title and an old song pops up, written in the mid-1800s according to most accounts. The poem roughly follows the song, although some lines and words are different, the main ideas are the same. How the lyrics got among the letters is a mystery.

Overall, the trip to the flea market was eye opening. I didn’t realize how readily family history was for sale. And if sellers don’t use the modern flea market of eBay many people won’t be reunited with their relative’s items.

Family Heirlooms | Photos
Friday, 14 August 2009 13:57:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
World Vital Records Extends Free Access
Posted by Diane

Looks like subscription genealogy site World Vital Records has extended its free access another five days, until midnight on August 18, so go get a free registration and have yourself a search. Now you get the weekend!

For more information on World Vital Records' content partners—what records the site has from each partner, compared to what's on the partner site itself—see our free online article.

FamilyLink | Genealogy Web Sites
Friday, 14 August 2009 12:56:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genealogy News Corral: August 10-14
Posted by Diane

A summary of news bits we heard about this week:
  • Summit Memory, an online scrapbook from the Akron-Summit County Public Library in Ohio, now has several digitized historical atlases and maps from the 1800s and early 1900s. Access them in the site’s online map room. Check out the photos and other resources while you're there.

  • British subscription and pay-per-view site has completed a new transcription and added higher-quality images for its 1901 census for England and Wales. Images for the 1881 census are next on the site's to-do list.

  • A New York Times article on the transfer of early- to mid-century Alien Case Files to the National Archives quoted Schelly Tallalay Dardahsti, Tracing the Tribe blogger and author of our September 2009 Jewish research guide, about the importance of using original documents. Read the article here.

  • Subscription family tree site is publishing its free newsletter as a weekly genealogy blog you can subscribe to vis RSS. It’ll include research tips, helpful Web sites and suggestions for using

  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has launched a blog called NARAtions, which focuses on the future of online public access to records at NARA.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 14 August 2009 11:40:00 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 13 August 2009
Free Genealogy Software Adds Maps, Albums and More
Posted by Diane

Family and genealogy Web site released an updated version of its free, downloadable of Family Tree Builder software that lets users create maps, chat with relatives and organize multimedia albums.

According to MyHeritage, Family Builder is the world’s most popular free family tree software, with more than 5 million downloads. It's available in 35 languages, which certainly makes it attractive to a worldwide audience.

Key features in the new release include:
  • a map module that lets you display where your family lived over the years, map relatives’ addresses and quickly find your photos associated with a particular place

  • a new toolbar that provides direct access to family Web sites on MyHeritage; birthday reminders; and a text, audio and video chat system called Family Chat

  • an improved album lets you organize photos, videos and documents, and adds slide shows
Family Builder runs on Windows. If you've used it, click Comments and let us know what you think.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 13 August 2009 09:17:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 12 August 2009
UGOs (Unidentified Genealogical Objects)
Posted by Diane

Yesterday evening, our company had a trade show, wherein each community (genealogy, writing, woodworking, crafts, etc.) displayed its latest how-to publications and resources.

The Family Tree Magazine staff enjoyed showing off our CDs, webinars and forthcoming Family Tree Legacies book, and sharing genealogy tips with coworkers. I think one guy is searching the free 1911 Irish census as I type this.

The best part was our guessing game. For a chance to win a prize, our colleagues guessed the identity of this object, commonly used in the course of genealogy research:

Here were some of their guesses (obviously, we’re dealing with some wise guys here):
  • “toddler’s crayon”
  • “fossilized chocolate cake”
  • “worry stone” (over those unsolved brick walls, we presume)
  • “paper weight”
  • “scrubber to get your pen started” (huh?)
  • “thumbprinter thingie”
  • “It’s used to help you separate papers. You rub your fingers on it so you can easily rifle through your records”
  • "a secret listening device"
  • “a template for drawing circles for names on your family tree”
  • “a starter for the center of your family tree”
What’s your guess?

The correct answer is tombstone rubbing wax, used for making impressions of tombstones. The astute Holly Davis, an editor over at The Artist’s Magazine, is the winner of a scrapbook album kit!

For step-by-step instructions on making tombstone rubbings (including ensuring the stone is sound), see this article.

And to avoid arrest while making said tombstone rubbing, read our Now What? blog post.

Cemeteries | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun
Wednesday, 12 August 2009 14:05:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Access WorldVitalRecords Free Through Aug. 13
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site World Vital is offering free access to celebrate the addition of the most records in a single day since the site’s 2006 launch.

Get free access from August 11 (that’s today!) through August 13. You’ll still need a free registration, so type your info into the pop-up window you get when you first visit the hope page. (If you accidentally close that window and try a search and then click on a match, you’ll be asked to subscribe, so just go back to the home page and reload it.)

New records include
  • US newspapers dating from 1759 through 1923, including the New York Times and titles from the West and Midwest
  • immigration records of more than 150,000 passengers who arrived on nearly 8,000 ships at the port of New York from 1820 to 1832
  • university yearbooks from the late 1800 to mid 1950 from
  • Vital records, military records and tax lists from New England and Atlantic states
See World Vital Record's announcement for more details.

Look for our World Vital Records Web guide in the November 2009 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands Sept. 8. The guide also will be available as a digital download from

Update: World Vital Records has expanded the free access until midnight Aug. 18.

FamilyLink | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:59:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Playing Heirloom Detective
Posted by Grace

I just finished writing a super-comprehensive article on heirloom preservation for our December issue. We asked our coworkers if they had any particularly interesting heirlooms to show off, and got some great items to photograph for the magazine.

An item we didn't use was very intriguing, though. Kelly wrote:
Let me know if you guys ever do an article on gruesome heirlooms—my family has this shirt that my great-great grandfather was wearing when he was shot and murdered. (Gross! And weird—who keeps that kind of stuff?)
Genealogists do! I wanted more details.
Basically, all I know is my great-great grandfather was a pig farmer who had a farm in Lockville, Ohio. According to the story, my great-great-grandpa turned to go back into the house after refusing to sell land to this guy, and when he did, the guy shot him in the back. Yikes! And that's how my grandpa ended up with a bloody shirt in a trunk in his basement.
All I knew was her grandpa's last name, Boyer, and that the murder took place in Lockville, Ohio. Surely there would have been newspaper articles about the fracas, but I couldn't search GenealogyBank until I had a specific name. I decided to do an old-fashioned Google search, for Lockville Ohio murder.

One of the very first results was a Google Books excerpt of a tome of Ohio penitentiary pardon petitions. Bingo! A John L. Tisdale pleading for clemency after serving eight years for the murder of a George L. Boyer in 1890. With that name, I searched GenealogyBank and found this article in the June 24, 1890, Cleveland Plain Dealer:

It reads:
Murder at Lockville.
LANCASTER, June 23.—[Special.]—George (sic) Tisdale, a farm laborer, shot George L. Boyer, a prominent famrer, at Lockville, this county, this morning. As the two sons of Tisdale were quarreling with a son of Boyer about hogs that had trespassed on Boyer's farm, he came up to protect his son, when Tisdale came out of his house and shot Boyer in the right breast, Boyer dying in five minutes after.
The Google Books result gives a little more insight into Tisdale's side of the story. He says Boyer was "a coarse, passionate man, of cruel heart" and was "a quarrelsome man and possessed a violent temper." (If you were trying to suss out your ancestor's personality, what a find! Read the September 2009 issue for more on ancestral psychoanalysis.)

With a little searching on, I found the Boyer family in the 1880 census:

(Click to enlarge)

And going back, the family appeared in the same spot in every census going back to 1850. Amazing, what one bloody shirt can do for a family's research!

Learn more:

Family Heirlooms | Family Tree Magazine articles | Free Databases | Newspapers
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 10:51:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 10 August 2009
Google Quadruples Historical Newspaper Archive
Posted by Diane

Google announced last week that it has quadrupled its searchable archive of historical news articles, many of which are free to access.

Additions include the Halifax Gazette (dating as far back as 1753, as shown below), Sydney Morning Herald, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Village Voice, the Manila Standard, The Nation (from Thailand) and others.

When you search, you can specify keywords  or phrases (such as an ancestor's name or an event) to include or exclude, provide a date range, and opt to get articles written a particular language or from a certain newspaper.

You also can choose whether to see only articles that are free to access. (For matching articles in subscription-based sites, you'll usually get to see the first few sentences.)

If you do a timeline search, you’ll get a timeline at the top of your results showing the numbers of matching articles by year. Adjust the timeline to see articles from a different time span.

Google doesn't offer the option to download or save articles, but you can generate a link to share the article with friends.

Read more on the Google News Blog and Techcrunch.

Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers
Monday, 10 August 2009 10:54:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Friday, 07 August 2009
Genealogy News Corral: August 3-7
Posted by Diane

Got a few updates for this week’s news roundup:
Read a report on the event and watch a video on the Lansing State Journal Web site.
  • The Family History Expo in Sandy, Utah, is right around the corner, Aug. 28 and 29. Hone your genealogy skills in classes on everything from Google to formulating a research strategy, and browse dozens of exhibitors (say hi to Family Tree Magazine editor Allison Stacy in booth 202!). Get more details and register at

Genealogy Events | Jewish roots | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 07 August 2009 12:43:17 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 06 August 2009
Merger Creates Britain’s Leading Genealogy Company
Posted by Diane

UK-based Brightsolid, owner of British subscription and pay-per-view genealogy site, is acquiring the Friends Reunited Group for 25 million pounds (about $42 million).

The completion of the deal is still subject to clearance by British competition authorities. Besides and its microsites and, Brightsolid also operates

Friends Reunited is a 20.6 million-member British social network launched in 2000. Its sister site Genes Reunited, the UK’s largest genealogy site with 9 million members and 650 million names in records, was launched in 2003. The group also has a Friends Reunited Dating site.

See Brightsolid's announcement about the acquisition here.

Genealogy Industry | UK and Irish roots
Thursday, 06 August 2009 08:53:12 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 04 August 2009 Plans to Go Public
Posted by Diane filed with the SEC yesterday for a $75 million IPO, indicating its decision to go from a firm funded by private equity investors to a publicly traded company.

Its ticker symbol will be ACOM.

“Our revenues have increased from $122.6 million in 2004 to $197.6 million in 2008,” reads's SEC filing. The Provo, Utah,-based company  reports just under 1 million subscribers, about 45 percent of whom have been subscribing continuously for more than two years as of June 30.

The filing gives more stats, an overview of the business, its growth strategies (more content, more features that let members collaborate, more international growth) and associated risks (dependence on subscriptions, a tight focus on family history, and competitors, “some of which provide access to records free of charge”). You can read it here.

This article nicely sums up information from the filing. | Genealogy Industry
Tuesday, 04 August 2009 14:20:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 03 August 2009
1930 Census Is Free on Footnote In August!
Posted by Diane

Historical records subscription site Footnote is making its 1930 census records free during August (you’ll need to sign up for a free Footnote registration).

If you’re a newbie genealogist, this is a great opportunity to jump in with the most recent federal census open to the public (1940 census records will be available in 2012).

If you’ve been doing genealogy for awhile, use this chance to try Footnote’s search and record viewer. Footnote uses a keyword search that filters your results with each term you add.

I like the "Refine Your Search" panel on the results page, which lets you select from available terms. For example, if you’ve entered the last name Wagner, age 43, in Cincinnati, you’ll be able to choose from first names of people who fit those criteria.

When you view the record in Footnote, you can see notes other users have added to the record (you can toggle this option on and off).

You can learn more about using Footnote from our eight-page Web guide—it just happens to be on sale for $3 at

The guide has an overview of Footnote, a navigation guide, step-by-step search demos, quick links, and hacks and shortcuts. It’s a PDF, so you can download it on the spot, open it with the free Adobe Reader on a PC or a Mac, click through to the recommended links, and print it if you so choose.

PS: Footnote also has extended its $59.95 subscription offer for another week, until Aug. 10.

census records | Footnote | Free Databases
Monday, 03 August 2009 11:44:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3] Expands Jewish Records Collection
Posted by Diane

Subscription Web site is adding to its Jewish records collection thanks to new partnerships with two Jewish heritage organizations.’s partnership arrangements keep most of its Jewish Family History Collection free. You can see a list of gratis databases using the Free Collections link on the Jewish records landing page.

Additions from the American Jewish Historical Society include:
  • Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records (1878 to 1934): admission applications and discharge ledgers

  • Selected Naturalization Records, New York City (1816 to 1845): declarations of intention for New York County

  • New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records (1860 to 1934): admission applications and discharge ledgers

  • Industrial Removal Office Records (1899 to 1922): records of Jews who were assisted in relocating from various countries for safety

  • Selected Insolvent Debtor’s Cases (1787 to 1861): about 2,000 cases

  • Selected Mayor’s Court Cases, New York (1674 to 1860): 6,000 briefs that include summons, complaints, affidavits and jury lists
The Eastern European Archival Database comes from professional genealogist Miriam Weiner’s Routes to Roots Foundation (RTR), a firm specializing in Jewish research in Eastern Europe. Learn more about this database, which has references to records from Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine, on RTR’s Web site (which also has the same searchable database).

Other additions come from JewishGen, a partner that helped launch’s Jewish collection last year. Those include an 1848 Jewish census from Hungary and the HaMagid Hebrew newspaper’s list of donors to Persian Famine victims in 1871 and 1872. | Jewish roots
Monday, 03 August 2009 09:39:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]