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More Links

# Friday, 30 October 2009 Cemetery Collection Free Through Nov. 5
Posted by Diane

This just in: is making its "creepiest collections"—records of cemeteries and gravestones free through next Thursday, Nov. 5. You will need to register for a free account to view details of your search results.

 Use the search box on this Halloween landing page to access the free databases.

Click here to see the list of cemetery indexes and inscriptions included in this offer. | Cemeteries
Friday, 30 October 2009 16:02:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral: October 26-30
Posted by Diane

Here are some genealogy news bits we've rounded up for you this week. Happy Halloween!
  • Familybuilder DNA has added Groups, a feature that let customers collaborate on genetic genealogy research. They’ll be able to create and join groups focusing on commonalities such as haplogroup, national origin, surname, birthplace, etc. read more on

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 30 October 2009 14:48:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 29 October 2009
Census Collection Q&A With Footnote
Posted by Diane

By now, you’ve probably heard the announcement that historical records site Footnote is adding indexes and images for the entire US census. Our Q&A with Footnote spokesperson Justin Schroepfer offers more information on the changes to come for the site:

1. Is Footnote creating new census images and indexes? How is this being done?

We are digitizing the microfilm and indexing the data ourselves the same way we have done the [1860 and 1930] censuses. The way we do the census records is different with the addition of what we call ‘sub documents.’

We create sub documents for each individual on the census. It features the indexed information, and allows users to click that they are related and add their own contributions in the form of stories, photos or other documents. Essentially, this creates what we term the Interactive Census Collection.

2. When will we start seeing the new censuses added to the site? What states will be first? When do you anticipate the collection will be complete?

We have already started on 1920, 1910 and 1900. We are starting with the most populous states from these decades. We anticipate the entire census collection to be completed by the end of next year. We created a page where users can check the status of each decade and sign up for a notification when content is added to a specific state from a specific decade.

3. Looking down the road, how will the census addition affect Footnote’s subscription pricing ($79.95 per year or $11.95 per month)?

We are always trying to keep the price of our membership manageable by operating lean and efficient. The pricing for Footnote memberships will not be affected by the addition of this specific collection. It is included in the Footnote membership fees as they stand now. We believe that we can cover our costs by providing significant increase in value to the current product. This, in turn, should help with conversion and retention.

4. Will changes to the workings of the site be necessary to accommodate the added data, searches and traffic?

Adding over 9 million images to the site with the indexes and the sub documents is not a small feat. Our engineering team has been working to ensure that the site experience, including the speed, remains optimal. The team has made some creative decisions to handle this new data and help ensure the customer experience is not negatively affected.

Thursday, 29 October 2009 11:53:34 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Last Week to Vote in the Family Tree 40!
Posted by Diane

Remember to cast your vote for your favorite genealogy blog—the top 40 will be in a May 2010 Family Tree Magazine article.

Click here to see more information on the voting categories.

And click here to vote. Thanks for taking part!

Watch for Family Tree 40 updates here and on Twitter (look for the hashtag #FT40).

Family Tree Magazine articles
Thursday, 29 October 2009 09:28:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Footnote To Add Entire US Census
Posted by Diane

Historical records subscription site Footnote announced early this morning that it will digitize and post online the entire US census, 1790 through 1930. (Footnote already has the 1860 and 1930 censuses.)

That'll add more than 9.5 million images and half a billion names to Footnote's databases.

That’s big news for two reasons:
  • It really ramps up competition in online genealogy. Right now, is the only site that offers the entire US census digitized and indexed. I wonder if/how this will affect’s IPO process—the census claim is probably a major selling point to potential investors.
  • Like Footnote's other historical records, its US census collection will be interactive. Members can add comments and insights to a census record, upload and attach photos or documents, create a Footnote Page and identify relatives found in the census by clicking an I’m Related button.’s new Member Connect features offer interactivity, but not quite to the same extent as Footnote.
Records for each state will be added as they're completed. Footnote has created a page where you can track the progress.

Footnote CEO Russ Wilding likens the census to a path linking to additional, less-used genealogical sources: “We see the census as a highway leading back to the 18th century. This ‘Census Highway’ provides off-ramps leading to additional records on the site such as naturalization records, historical newspapers, military records and more.”

He promises will keep adding unique record collections, not just the same records already on other sites.

“We will continue to move aggressively to add records to the site, specifically those that are requested by our members and others that are not otherwise available on the Internet.”

You can watch a free Webinar on how to use Footnote here (just enter your first and last names and e-mail address and click Register, and the Webinar player will open).

Update: Get more details on Footnote's forthcoming census collection in our Q&A with spokesperson Justin Schroepfer. | Footnote
Thursday, 29 October 2009 07:27:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Truths Behind History-Inspired Halloween Costumes
Posted by Diane

Even when you’re beyond the age of trick-or-treating (and I’m not saying any of you are!), it’s fun to dress up at Halloween to entertain the little ones or impress fellow partygoers.

You’ve might’ve donned one of these history-inspired costumes at one time or another. We dug up some hidden history not revealed in the Halloween costume clichés:
  • Uncle Sam isn’t just a character: During the War of 1812, Samuel Wilson of Troy, NY, provided the army with beef in barrels labeled U.S. The letters stood for United States, but people joked they referred to "Uncle Sam." The term came to mean the federal government; depictions of Uncle Sam appeared starting in 1852. In 1961, Congress officially saluted “Uncle Sam Wilson” as the “progenitor of America's national symbol."
  • You can morph into Rosie the Riveter with rolled-up sleeves and a red handkerchief in your hair. The name was popularized in a 1942 song, but there wasn’t any one Rosie. The most famous image we associate with Rosie the Riveter, J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster, isn’t her. Miller created the poster for the Westinghouse Co.’s War Production Coordinating Committee, and it was posted at the Michigan plant for only two weeks in February, 1942. He didn’t intend for it to portray Rosie.
Read more on the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Memorial Park website.
  • The witch of popular culture—black robe, pointy hat and warts a lá the Wicked Witch of the West—got her start in Shakespeare’s MacBeth and the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. But those accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials of 1692 and 1693 looked like anybody else. The series of trials resulted in the hangings of 14 women and five men. Another man was crushed to death under stones in an attempt to force him to enter a plea.
Learn more about the trials and see related historical documents in the Famous American Trials website.
  • Vampire costumes are big this year, thanks to the book Twilight and the movie based on it. The name of late 19th-century novelist Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire, Dracula, was inspired by a real historical figure: Vlad III (aka Vlad the Impaler), Prince of Wallachia, born in Transylvania in the 15th century. His Romanian surname, Dracula, meant “son of the dragon;” Vlad’s father had joined the Order of the Dragon.
  • Thanks to Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and other popular depictions, pirate costumes sport colorful bandanas, jewelry, an eye patch, a stuffed parrot and maybe a hook or wooden stump. Your typical early 18th-century pirate dressed for the most part like sailors did. The parrot cliché probably arose because many pirates benefited from the trade in exotic animals; the eye patch and hook/stump because of the risky profession. See more theories in this pirate Q&A.

Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 10:02:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The Norway Project on FamilySearch Community Trees
Posted by Diane

This update on FamilySearch’s Norway Project is from genealogy writer Sunny McClellan Morton:

The recent buzz on FamilySearch’s Community Trees has prompted questions from those who read about the Norway Project in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine. As explained in that article, the project will extract and link ancestral data from Norwegian bygdebøker (community books). Who wouldn’t be anxious to start searching a database that automatically links their ancestors to each other?

Data from the Norway Project now appears on the Community Trees site. But like anything on a beta site, the information isn’t quite complete. Only the Sør-Aurdal Clerical District of Oppland County is currently posted.

With 61,228 individuals from 18,428 families (12,276 unique surnames), the information is certainly useful, but limited in scope.

Even the posted data still need a little refining. According to project manager Roger Magneson, the following improvements are yet to come:
  • The current long list of six locality descriptors (small farm, large farm, parish, clerical district, county, country) will be reduced to four (large farm, clerical district, county and country).
  • The current list of only one or two locality descriptors for “move-ins” from other clerical districts will be expanded to three or four descriptors wherever possible.
  • Current errors regarding place names (caused by early extractors who couldn’t read the language) will be corrected in a later dataset.
  • Variants and diminutives of some names will be corrected and standardized in a later version.
  • Magneson hopes to post updated Sør-Aurdal data by the end of 2009. The next clerical district data to appear will likely be Nord-Fron, Sør-Fron, Norde Land and Søndre Land, beginning in early 2010.
Of course, Norway’s not the only country on FamilySearch’s Community Trees. Check the site for other datasets related to your pedigree. Choose “Advanced Search” to select the dataset you want to see.

(Note: The site doesn't work well in the Firefox browser.)

FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 14:53:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0] Plans Overnight Maintenance
Posted by Diane

In case you’re planning a late-night online research session tomorrow: Subscription site and its related international sites (,, etc.) will be down for about 3 hours of scheduled maintenance starting Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, at 1 am Mountain Time (3 am Eastern Time or 7 AM Greenwich Mean Time).
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 14:27:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 26 October 2009
DNA Tests in Ghana May Shed Light on African-American Origins
Posted by Diane

The Center for African-American Genealogical Research, Inc. (CAAGI), genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA, and the Public Records and Archives Administration Deartment of Ghana (PRAAD) are embarking on a project that may improve the ability of DNA tests to estimate African-Americans’ origins in Africa.

DNA tests designed to analyze origins in Africa often lead to more questions than answers because relatively little is known about the diverse genetics of African tribes. The tested person’s DNA is compared against a database of modern Africans' DNA—but because of historical migration in Africa, the DNA of a given area’s modern residents may not match its original inhabitants.

Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast), located in Western Africa, was the source of an estimated million-plus African slaves. FamilyTreeDNA will test several hundred members of the Nzema, Ga, Fante, Ewe and Asante tribes, all of which were part of the slave trade.

The DNA will be gathered at a workshop CAAGI is conducting this Friday at the PRAAD offices in Accra, Ghana, as part of its Sankofa project to use traditional genealogical sources and DNA to reconnect African families. Attendees will learn about online genealogy databases, preservation of song lyrics and photographs, transcription of family stories, and forensic genealogy.
Ghana was once a UK colony where British, Dutch and Danish merchants traded. PRAAD has a Slave Trade Archives project with microfilm on Danish activities in Ghana from 1658 to 1850; some of the film is digitized online.

Addition: Bennett Greenspan, president of FamilyTreeDNA, provided a bit more information on this project.

Greenspan believes the results, which should be available in three to four months, will “absolutely” help improve analysis of African-Americans’ origins in genetic genealogy tests.

“The results of this outreach will be to both increase the size of the FamilyTreeDNA/ comparative databases and the results will also be added to the permanent Hammer collection at the University of Arizona, who will publish on the results of these and other outreach missions to Africa," Greenspan says. "In that way, the data will be published and available to all researchers of Africa.”

The University of Arizona's Hammer Lab is managed by Michael Hammer, FamilyTreeDNA's chief scientist. is the African-American genealogy research firm of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.

African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 26 October 2009 12:33:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 October 2009
Genealogy News Corral: October 19-23
Posted by Diane

Here are some of the week's genealogy news tidbits:
  • We wrote about ethical wills (last statements concerning personal values rather than property) in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine. (Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the article here.)
Ready to get started on one? Personal historian Dan Curtis is offering a free, seven-part online course on writing an ethical will for your heirs.
Discover more resources for Chinese genealogy in these Genealogy Insider posts.
  • The new Amelia Earhart movie is getting tepid reviews (from what I’ve seen, anyway), but the real-life details of her 1937 disappearance might be more interesting.’s "Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad" collection contains a case file of correspondence concerning an investigation into the theory that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were imprisoned in Saipan. Find out more about the case on’s blog and on's “What really happened to Amerlia Earhart?” page.
  • Genetic genealogy company DNA Consultants has added a blog to its revamped website; posts review news and research on dna testing and popular genetics. That involves some complex scientific terms and concepts, so put on your genetic genealogist hat when you visit.

Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Events | Genetic Genealogy | Social History
Friday, 23 October 2009 16:08:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 22 October 2009
New Digital Library Names Thousands of Slaves
Posted by Diane

Search information from thousands of slavery-related county court and legislative petitions in a new, free resource from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro library.

The Digital Library on American Slavery provides detailed information on more than 150,000 individuals who are named in the petitions, including 80,000 individual slaves and 10,000 free people of color.

The information comes from legal documents, such as wills, estate inventories and civil suits, filed in courts of 15 states and Washington, DC, from 1775 to 1867. Though this database doesn’t contain images of the records, it offers a lot of detail from them.

When you search by name, here's what your results list might look like:

Click the petition number by someone’s name for an abstract that tells you what the petition was about, and the date and place it was filed.

Under “People associated with this petition,” click the links for names of enslaved individuals, defendants, petitioners, etc.

One the resulting page, click a name for information about that person. You might learn the person’s color and sex, slave or free status, occupation, skills, physical attributes, diseases and more. Not every detail is available for each person—it depends what's in the record.

This database lets you connect slaves with owners and others they may have interacted with.

The Digital Library of American Slavery grew out of the Race and Slavery Petitions Project, established in 1991 by Loren Schweninger. The project created a microfilm edition of the petitions and documents called Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks: Petitions to Southern Legislatures and County Courts, 1775-1867. It’s on 151 reels; scroll down on this page for a list of institutions that have some or all of them.

Also see Schweininger’s book, The Southern Debate Over Slavery, Volume 2: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1775-1867 (University of Illinois Press). The original documents are at state archives and county courthouses.

African-American roots | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 22 October 2009 11:01:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
NARA Explains Proposed Research Room Changes
Posted by Diane

The National Archives and Records Administration released a statement correcting what it calls "erroneous" information about planned changes to its Washington, DC, research facility.

The plans were publicized yesterday on the National Genealogical Society (NGS) UpFront blog.

The NGS post said NARA wanted to reduce research space, move and reduce the number of microfilm readers, eliminate the military services research room, and eliminate self-serve microfilm pulling in favor of a system that required staff to pull film. The reason? To expand the exhibit area and shops.

I asked NARA about the changes and was sent this statement, which also will be posted on NARA’s website today.

In short, changes are proposed, but according NARA, research space will increase, the microfilm reading room and self service microfilm will not be eliminated, and the lecture room will remain. Plans for the consultation area will follow the service model at the Archives II research facility in College Park, Md.

Here's the statement:
The National Archives and Records Administration continually looks at ways to improve and increase our services to visitors and researchers. We conduct this review to ensure that we continue to provide the highest level of services to our regular clientele and to extend our services to potential users with different backgrounds and expectations. 
It's come to our attention that our researcher community may have received erroneous information about our plans for some adjustments to the Archives I research rooms. The following information is an outline of what we are considering.  
Are you reducing the size of the Finding Aids/Consultation Room?
No.  Current plans would more than double that space.
The current room on the ground floor of the National Archives Building (Room G-28) serves as the finding aids room, the consultation area, and as office space for three staff members.  The area available in this space for consultation with the public is approximately 450 square feet and has three consultation tables. 

We are proposing to move the consultation area from G-28 to the adjacent area which is currently the National Archives Library, G-30. We will use approximately 1100 square feet of what is now Library space for this consultation area.  The space will have eight tables for consultation. 

So, we will more than double the area and number of tables for researchers to consult with staff and use the finding aids. The three staff members who currently have their workspace in G-28 will have new workstations adjacent to the research room that they can use to do other work when they are not providing direct consultation service. 

This plan is based on the successful model that has been in place for several years for consultants at Archives II in College Park.
Are you eliminating the Microfilm Reading Room?
No. Over the last few years use of our microfilm holdings has decreased by 70 percent. In fiscal year 2000 we had 53,000 microfilm researcher visits; in fiscal year 2009 we had 16,000 microfilm research visits. When our microfilm reading room was first designed and built we estimated the need for 100 microfilm readers.  Because of digitization and other factors, there no longer is the need for so many microfilm readers.  So we are considering reducing the number of microfilm machines to 30 and increasing the number of public access computers to meet the demand for the old and the new technology.  We will maintain the number of microfilm machines at a level that is needed by those researchers who continue to have the need for microfilm.
Are you eliminating self-service microfilm?
No.  For the convenience of both researchers and staff, the National Archives maintains a policy of allowing researchers to browse our microfilm cabinets and select their own microfilm.  We will continue with this policy as long as research demand warrants it.  We may, however, relocate the microfilm to another public area adjacent to the microfilm reading room.
Are you eliminating the Lecture Room?
No.  Our current lecture room on the ground floor (G-24) is used daily for programs such as our very popular "Know Your Records" seminars.  Any renovation of the ground floor research area will include a lecture room so our researchers, visitors, and NARA staff can continue to use it for critical outreach and other activities.
What are you doing with the Orientation and Registration Area?
While we may eventually re-locate those areas physically, we have no immediate plans to do so. We of course would not eliminate this critical function, and will ensure it is located appropriately.  
These changes to the National Archives Building should improve the services we provide to researchers.  No functions or services are being eliminated or reduced.  
To ensure that the changes meet the needs of researchers, we intend to continue to have our quarterly meetings with our Archives I user group to keep users informed and solicit their comments.

Libraries and Archives
Thursday, 22 October 2009 09:43:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
FamilySearch Tests Community Trees Site
Posted by Diane

When I saw Dick Eastman's report that FamilySearch labs (the arm of FamilySearch that develops and tests new online projects), is testing a  Community Trees site, I went to check it out.

First, I learned the site doesn't work well in Firefox, so I switched to Safari. 

Community Trees has lineage-linked genealogies from specific places and time periods (some date to medieval times) around the world—for example, Millville, New Brunswick, Canada, and Norfolk, England, in 1563.

Here's a description of current trees. They include communities in Britain, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, Norway, Pacific Islands (including New Zealand), Canada, and Washington State.

Each tree is a searchable database with views of individuals, families, ancestors and descendants. Most are joint projects between FamilySearch’s Family Reconstitution team and local residents or genealogists with expertise in the area or the records used for each database.

Search across all data by name from the home page. Once you click on a name, tabs show you the person's ancestors and descendants, let you calculate his relationship to another person in the tree, display a timeline, and let you download a GEDCOM (in some cases), or suggest new information.

Links at the bottom of the home page let you search for dates, places, cemeteries, histories, etc. Not all seem to be fully working, but you can click the Sources link to search the source citations used for the information in the trees. Each source is linked to related individuals.

Since the site is being tested, you can expect that some features won’t work all the time. Give feedback using the Contact Us link, which is under the Info tab at the top right of most pages.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 22 October 2009 09:25:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Genealogy Browser Toolbars
Posted by Diane

Want to save time surfing for genealogy information? A free genealogy web browser toolbar might do the trick.

Your browser toolbar is the thingie at the top of your Web browser window with buttons that let you go to the last Web page you were on, bookmark pages, see recently viewed pages, etc.

Web sites can create their own toolbars for frequent users; you can download one and add it it to your browser to easily link to the site’s main pages or use certain features of the site without actually having to go there.

You can download a toolbar for just about anything, including using Facebook, searching Google and generating Mapquest maps. A genealogy toolbar might have search boxes for one or more search engines, menus of bookmarked genealogy Web sites, and other shortcuts. You might be able to customize the toolbar’s appearance and settings.

Sometimes toolbars come with spyware or adware, so before you download one, look for an online review or check the developer’s Web site for a reassurance that you won't get these nasty surprises. Also, make sure the toolbar works with your favorite Web browser (Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.) and that it’s easy to uninstall if you change your mind.

Here are some genealogy toolbars we've learned about:
  • The My Genealogy toolbar has dropdown menus of categorized links to genealogy websites. Download it from here or here. It works with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
  • The Malhamdale Local History Group of Yorkshire, England, created a toolbar with links to the group’s site and other genealogy websites. It works with Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox (though Firefox users are directed to a help page).
  • The Manchester and Lancashire (England) Family History Society launched a genealogy toolbar that provides links to more than 200 useful British genealogy sites. It’s regularly updated, and you can configure settings such as which web site categories to display.
  • The Family Genie toolbar works with Firefox (it’s supposed to work in Internet Explorer, but CNET reviewers couldn’t get it to). It has first- and last-name search boxes and a single dropdown menu of search engines, as well as a menu of bookmarked genealogy sites.
  • If you’re an member, you can download the toolbar for quick access to links on It also lets you easily save links and add photos and text from any web page to your Ancestry tree.
  • Google is a handy genealogy tool for searching on ancestors’ names, getting language translations, locating addresses and more; and you can make more use of it than ever with help from resources such as our Googling Your Genealogy webinar and the book Google Your Family Tree by Daniel M. Lynch. The Google toolbar isn't just for genealogists, but you'll appreciate the shortcuts to the search engine’s features.
If you know of a genealogy toolbar not mentioned here, click Comments and tell us about it.

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 09:35:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [10]
# Tuesday, 20 October 2009
10 Ways to Use Your December 2009 Family Tree Magazine
Posted by Diane

The December 2009 Family Tree Magazine should be hitting subscribers’ mailboxes during the next week (yes, it’s already December in Magazine Land). I randomly picked out 10 ways this issue might figure into your family history pursuit:

1. Start a family medical history with nine sources that can help you learn what illnesses your ancestors suffered and died from. (See, I thought I’d start this post on a bright note.) Click here for our online listing of health history books and Web sites

2. And for a slightly morbid yet somewhat educational five-minute time-killer, try to match up 12 archaic maladies with their modern equivalents.

3. Plan your heirloom preservation strategy with a guide to preserving a variety of keepsakes—including a quilt, a delicate wedding ring and other items our coworkers at Family Tree Magazine headquarters brought in. (Associate editor Grace Dobush blogged about the shady past of one such heirloom.)

4. Are genetic genealogy tests really 99.9 percent accurate? Will they pinpoint where your ancestors lived? Discover the truth behind common beliefs about DNA and genealogy, and use quick-reference lists of testing companies, definitions and online DNA databases.

5. Follow along with our step-by-step guide to entering genetic genealogy test results in two genealogy software programs.

6. Did you know the historical newspaper search at GenealogyBank treats personal names like keywords? That means if your name is also a word, such as White or Banker, you’ll get lots of false matches. (The site’s obituaries and SSDI database are indexed by name). You’ll find search tricks in our Web Guide to GenealogyBank.  

7. Can’t find your ancestor’s town of “Gross Herzogtum, Baden?” That’s because gross Herzogtum isn’t a town, but a term for “grand duchy.” Find explanations for this and other place terms related to ruling nobility in our guide to research in German states, including Prussia, Hesse, Bavaria and others. (See articles in our online German research toolkit here.)

8. Thinking of adding (or already have added) a genealogy app to your Facebook page? Get the lowdown on FamilyLink's We're Related and Family Builder's Family Tree, two popular genealogy apps for Facebook.

9. Chuckle over six readers’ captions for a giant-fish photo and enter our newest All in the Family Challenge.

10. Where's that one article ... the one about the census ... not the regular census but the special ones ... ? Stop flipping through all this year’s magazines and open to the 2009 index on the last page of your December issue. You'll find that the article on nonpopulation censuses was in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine on page 20.

Of course, there are even more great resources and tips in the December 2009 Family Tree Magazine. It'll be available starting Nov. 3 at

Family Heirlooms | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | International Genealogy
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 09:38:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 16 October 2009
Genealogy News Corral: October 12-16
Posted by Diane

Here are some of the news items we've rounded up this week:
  • I read an interesting post on the Archives Next blog about NARA’s record digitization agreements with firms such as Footnote and The blogger outlines possible good, bad and ugly outcomes when NARA is finally legally able to post online the record images obtained through contracts with third parties. 
  • Pedigree database subscription site OneGreatFamily ($59.95 per year) plans to improve its search function by installing the Perfect Search Database Search Appliance from Perfect Search Corp. Each week, OneGreatFamily makes more than 18.8 trillion comparisons of names, dates and other details in members’ family trees, says CEO Alan Eaton. The new search tool should increase searching capability, improve indexing, and to deliver results faster.
  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has added several genealogical journals to its online subscription ($75 per year): Besides its own New England Historical and Genealogical Register, they are The American Genealogist, The Connecticut Nutmegger, New Netherland Connections and The Virginia Genealogist.
  • Also from NEHGS: Fellow actors, Boston natives, best buddies and  People magazine sexiest men alive Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are 10th cousins once removed. Their common ancestor is William Knowlton of Ipswich, Mass., a bricklayer who died in 1655. Read the full story in the Boston Herald.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read our article about Matt Damon’s roots—including his link to Ralph Waldo Emerson—here

Celebrity Roots | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 16 October 2009 14:49:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 15 October 2009
Announcing Family Tree Magazine Plus!
Posted by Diane

Along with our Web site’s new look unveiled a couple of weeks ago, we started something else: Family Tree Magazine Plus, an online membership that gives you access to archived articles from the print Family Tree Magazine.

That’s nine years’ worth of advice on researching ancestors from around the world and in the United States, help finding and using genealogy records, recommendations for genealogy Web sites and books, guidance on researching and preserving photos and heirlooms, product and Web site reviews, ways to celebrate your heritage, and more.

In addition, Plus members will get access to new articles when an issue is published, as well as exclusive content that’s not in the print magazine (such as decorative family tree charts that I’ll post about next week).

The cost is $39.99 per year or $5.99 per month. Check out our money-saving VIP program, too, which includes the Plus membership, a year’s subscription to the print Family Tree Magazine, an automatic discount at and other goodies.

(Genealogy Insider newsletter subscribers will get a special message about the VIP program this weekend.)

Of course, much of our site is still freely accessible by anyone. We’ll still add new free content, and all the articles and forms that were free before are still free.

When you search using the search box in the top right corner, you’ll get a list of both Plus and free article titles that match your search.

Next to articles that are part of the Plus membership, you’ll see a green plus icon. Here’s an example:

The Sort By Menu at the top of the results lets you sort the list of articles by Plus/Free (the free articles will then be listed after the Plus articles).

You can click on a Plus article title to read the first paragraph or two, which looks something like this:

Click one of the “Join Plus” buttons to start a membership. Or, if you're a Plus member and you're logged in, you'll see the whole article.

Plus articles show up right on the Web site—no need to download anything.

There’s also a printer-friendly link at the end of every Plus and free article, so you can easily take articles with you to the library.

For a shortcut to starting a Plus membership, just click the orange Join now! button on our home page.

We’re glad to be able to offer this convenient, online way to access the tips and resources in past issues of Family Tree Magazine. If you prefer a more-traditional way to get your genealogy how-to information, though, you can download many back issues and individual articles as PDFs from Most recent back issues are still available in print, too.

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Thursday, 15 October 2009 11:00:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Vital Records Research Tips
Posted by Allison

I've been thinking a lot about vital records lately, while working on our next webinar with presenter Lisa Louise Cooke: Vital Records: Researching Your US Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths Online.

While I've got this topic on the brain, I thought I'd share a few tips with you:
  • US vital records access and coverage varies from state to state. Each state has its own rules  and regulations, but for privacy reasons, death records are  usually  closed to the public for around 50 years, and birth records for 75 to 100 years. But you can sometimes get these records for genealogical purposes if you can prove a relationship.
  • Some states started state-level vital record keeping later than  others—in certain cases, well into the 1900s. But many counties started recording vital statistics  decades  or even centuries before the  state  mandated it. Look for those records at state archives and through the Family History Library.
This is good background knowledge to frame your expectations for your vital records research. Lisa's going to get more specific in the webinar, and demonstrate web sites that can help you get to your ancestors' records.

The webinar will take place next Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern (that's 6 Central, 5 Mountain, 4 Pacific). You can read more about the session and register on

Vital Records | Webinars
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 14:21:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Allen County Library Digitizes Abe Lincoln's Life
Posted by Diane

Staff at one of genealogy’s best-known libraries are digitizing some extra-special records.

Last December, the Indiana State Museum and the Allen County (Ind.) Public Library—whose Genealogy Center is the largest public library genealogy collection in the United States—got word they’d receive the 230,000-piece collection of Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Museum. That museum closed in June, 2008.

Abraham Lincoln lived with his family in Perry (now Spencer) County, Ind., from 1816 to 1830. (The home site is a national memorial.)

The Indiana organizations were selected to receive the collection over a formidable-sounding coalition consisting of the Library of Congress, National Museum of American History, Ford’s Theatre and President Lincoln’s Cottage.

The Allen County library's on-site digital capability helped keep the collection in Fort Wayne, according to a News Sentinel article.

The library will house manuscripts, books, photographs, maps, pamphlets and periodicals from the collection, including genealogical materials on the Lincoln and Hanks (Abraham Lincoln's maternal line) families and Mary Todd Lincoln's “insanity file” (in 1875, she was briefly committed to an asylum). More than 20,000 items will be digitized.

You can view 75 images from the collection on the Allen County library's web site. Library staff also also will dig up historical research so online searchers can get the story behind each item.

Artifacts, such as Lincoln’s wallet and the chair in which he posed for many photos, are at the Indiana State Museum. You'll see some displayed in two Lincoln exhibits to open next year on Feb. 12 (Lincoln’s birthday).

Think you're related to Lincoln or another US first family? Check out our list of books on presidential genealogy.

Celebrity Roots | Libraries and Archives | Social History
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 14:12:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Announcing Our 2009 Difference Maker of the Year!
Posted by Diane

If you’ve used USGenWeb, RootsWeb, a genealogy society library, the databases on FamilySearch Record Search Pilot, the Ellis Island passenger database, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, the photos on Dead Fred, or innumerable other resources and organizations, you’ve been helped by a stranger who just wanted to make it easier for people to find their ancestors.

Nope, your average genealogist wouldn’t get very far without relying on the work of volunteers.

Which is why we started our Difference Maker series—to highlight the efforts of all these unknown volunteers. Family Tree Magazine readers nominated volunteers throughout the year, and we profiled one nominee in each issue. Then readers voted, and the results are in—our 2009 Difference Maker of the Year is Gail Reynolds of Myrtle Beach, SC.

Voters told us how this library volunteer and genealogy instructor has made a difference in their research. “She’ll get you maybe not through that brick wall, but under it or over it. She’ll go to immeasurable lengths to help you—and enjoy every moment.”

Reynolds will receive a year’s subscription to Family Tree Magazine and $100 toward her favorite genealogy cause.

We’re proud of all the genealogy volunteers you’ve met in the magazine this year. In addition to Reynolds, they are:
  • Ellen Thompson, collecting history of local schools
  • Robin Dickson, volunteering and indexing records at her library
  • John Jackson, creating a virtual cemetery for Civil War soldiers
  • Susan Steele, preserving historical insurance records
  • Bennie W. White, compiling records and posting resources free online
Read more about the 2009 Difference Makers on

Family Tree Magazine articles
Tuesday, 13 October 2009 11:32:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 12 October 2009
History Next Door
Posted by Diane

Staying up late the night before you return to work after a vacation does not prolong the vacation.

I’m trying to jump back in the saddle after leaf-peeping in Maine and New Hampshire (with a side trip to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vt.), and sightseeing in Boston.

Having grown up in a Midwestern suburb, I find it remarkable that some people leave their homes or offices every day and walk by a 350-year-old cemetery, or the meeting hall where the assembly began that resulted in the 1773 Boston Tea Party, or the church where patriots hung two lanterns in 1775 to warn colonists that British soldiers were on the way.

One stop on the Freedom Trail, which links Boston sites instrumental to the Revolution, is Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End, just up the hill from the Old North Church.

The oldest surviving inscription on a stone at Copp's Hill is for the two-week-old son of David Copp and his wife, Obedience. The baby died Dec. 22, 1661.

An informational marker pointed out interesting gravestones, including this one, created from another, previously carved gravestone. You can see the old inscription, upside-down on the back:

And here’s the front of the reused stone, marking the grave of Theodore James, who died Sept. 25, 1815:

It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the inscription on Mary Waters’ tombstone gives the names of her husband when she died and her former husband.

You can search Copps Hill interments at Find-a-Grave.

You can read Copp’s Hill historical markers online at the Historical Marker Database. Start with this one, then click the links under Other Nearby Markers.

For Lisa Louise Cooke's demo on using photo-editing software to improve the readability of your gravestone photos, see our video page.

Ask and answer cemetery research questions in Family Tree Magazine’s Cemetery Central Forum (note you must register with the Forum to post).

Cemeteries | Social History
Monday, 12 October 2009 11:27:09 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 09 October 2009
Stupid Inventions of the Past
Posted by Grace

From LIFE magazine (who knew it was still around?), a slideshow of 30 dumb inventions. I'd like to think my ancestors survived being put in a baby cage.

Genealogy fun | Social History
Friday, 09 October 2009 12:14:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Michelle Obama's Slave Ancestry Video
Posted by Allison

As we reported earlier, our friend and professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak appeared on CBS' Early Show this morning to talk about Michelle Obama's slave ancestry.

Though perhaps not unique among slave descendants, the stories Smolenyak uncovered about Obama's ancestors Melvinia and Delphus are certainly interesting. Here's the video of the CBS interview:

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots
Friday, 09 October 2009 11:40:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 08 October 2009
Genealogist Finds Michelle Obama's Slave Ancestor
Posted by Grace

Family Tree Magazine contributor Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and The New York Times have uncovered documents revealing first lady Michelle Obama's great-great-great-grandmother, a slave named Melvinia. Through probate records, photographs and local histories, the sleuths have pieced together a picture of the life of Melvinia, who labored on farms in Georgia and South Carolina, and her first son, Dolphus—Obama's great-great-grandfather—who became a carpenter and owned his own business in Birmingham, Ala.

The story is absolutely fascinating. You can learn more about it in The New York Times, in ABC's news report, and make sure you watch the below video from Roots Television.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Female ancestors | Videos
Thursday, 08 October 2009 12:36:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 07 October 2009
First International Black Genealogy Summit Coming this Month
Posted by Grace

October brings an exciting first in African-American genealogical history. The International Black Genealogy Summit (IBGS) Oct. 29-31 at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind., will be the first mass gathering of all black historical and genealogical societies in the US, Canada and the Caribbean.

"Pulling all the black genealogy societies together has never been done," says conference co-chair Algurie Wilson. "We've all met in our own backyards, but not together. But I've got people coming from everywhere."

IBGS kicks off with a free Thursday pre-conference with workshops, a movie, and extended research hours. Friday and Saturday will be packed with lectures, exhibitors, vendors, and social time (download the schedule here).

"In the workshops, we'll be talking about all the genealogical resources we have," says Wilson. "But besides the workshops, there's great camaraderie. I'm especially looking forward to the banquet and luncheon. We're encouraging African attire. There will be so many beautiful colors. The atmosphere in the room will just be bubbling. I'm also getting an African dance troupe—nobody knows about that yet! I can't wait to hear the keynote speakers, too."

Friday evening's speaker will be Dorothy Spruill Redford, author and nationally recognized interpreter of the African family experience in the South. Hana Stith, curator of the African/African-American Historical Museum in Fort Wayne, will speak at a Saturday luncheon.

Wilson has been encouraged by enthusiastic response despite the difficult economy. "When I talk to someone on the phone and hear their excitement, I realize this is why we're doing it. I've got someone coming on the bus for 17 hours. I'm going to buy that person a drink! That tells you how important it is for us to put this event on."

To Wilson, this event is all about people—both past and present. "I tell new researchers, 'You want to talk to the person next to you. You might find someone looking for the same family tree. You never know what you can discover and more importantly, who you can discover.'"

If you're interested in attending IBGS, visit the conference registration page for more information.
—Sunny McClellan Morton

African-American roots | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 14:35:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Share Finds on Facebook and Twitter
Posted by Allison added a nifty new feature yesterday: You can now share records with your Facebook friends or Twitter followers in one click.

Simply click the Share This Record link in the Page Tools box on the record page (where you land after clicking a search result, not the image viewer), then select Facebook or Twitter from the drop-down menu.

Type a status update message and submit—the record and a link to it will show up on your Facebook wall or in your Twitter feed, like this census page I shared on Facebook.

For now, the feature only works with historical record images. But if response warrants, VP of Product Eric Shoup says it will be rolled out to photos, stories and other areas of the site.

Genealogy Web Sites | Social Networking
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 14:27:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Tuesday, 06 October 2009
400-year-old Books Return to Germany
Posted by Grace

As a sign of "friendship and trust," the US returned two 16th-century books to Germany today. The tomes were taken by an 18-year-old soldier in 1945, who came across the books in a salt mine in Ransbach, Hessen. He was amazed by the stash—about 2 million books plus 200,000 costumes from the State Opera of Berlin were there, sent underground in 1944 to protect the treasures from incoming troops. (An estimated 15 million books were destroyed in Germany during WWII.) Salt mines were a favorite place to stash valuables because of the mineral's ability to absorb moisture.

Robert Thomas, of Chula Vista, CA, said he was returning the books after six decades "because it's the right thing to do." The US Acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas and German Ambassador Klaus Schiaroth exchanged the books from 1573 and 1593 today in a ceremony in Washington, DC.

US Ambassador J. Christian Kennedy, the US State Department’s special envoy for Holocaust issues, thanked Thomas for returning the volumes, according to the statement.

“I hope his decision to take this step will serve as an example for others in this country and elsewhere to step forward and return such items displaced during World War II,” he said.

Sources: National Archives, Bloomberg, Associated Press, AFP, Hamburger Abendblatt

Historic preservation | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 14:34:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 05 October 2009
Family Tree 40 Blog Voting is Open
Posted by Grace

Voting is now open for the Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs (“Family Tree 40” for short).

Go to to vote. Voting takes place from Oct. 5 to Nov. 5, and you can vote more than once. We grouped the nominated blogs into categories, and you'll be asked to vote for a specified number of blogs in each category. (We aimed to have you vote for a quarter of the total number of blogs in each category, but rounded the number in some cases because, well, you can't vote for half a blog.)

URLs are included on the voting form, so you can check out the blogs if you want. For those who wonder how the categories were determined, here's a rundown:
These bloggers give you a little (or a lot) of everything: news, research advice, their own family stories, photos, opinions and more. There’s no one quite like the Genealogue, so we thought about that blog for awhile. It landed in this category because the Genealogue posts a satirical take on genealogy news, holds occasional research challenges and blogs about his own family history every so often.

These blogs primarily cover the blogger's (or, in a case or two or more, bloggers') own research and ancestors. Family historians write what they know and what’s important to them, so this is our biggest category.

Most posts in these blogs cover resources, genealogy events and history for a city, town, state or region.

These blogs focus on cemetery research, gravestone photos and the like.

Content on these blogs is primarily about sharing, researching and preserving family photos and/or heirlooms.

Here, blog content focuses on a particular heritage group, such as African-American, Jewish or Irish. We had some tough decisions in this category, as some family-related genealogy blogs by nature also examine that family’s ethnic heritage.

Blogs in this category deliver a range of genealogy news and information about new resources.

These blogs have instructional content on genealogical resources and methodology. In some cases, bloggers wrote about their own research and ancestors, but framed posts in an instructional manner.

Genealogy Companies
Blogs in this category are written on behalf of a genealogy company, and contain helpful (but not overly advertising-oriented) information on the company’s products, as well as other resources.

Genetic Genealogy
Blogs that are primarily about genetic genealogy and family health history.
The top 80 vote-getting blogs will make it through to a "final" round, and our editorial staff will select 40 blogs from that list. The Family Tree 40 will be announced in the May 2010 Family Tree Magazine and in the Genealogy Insider e-mail newsletter. You also can follow us on Twitter for contest updates (we'll use the hashtag #FT40).

Click here to get voting!

By the way, feel free to grab either of the little logos below to promote your blog or someone else's!

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites | Social Networking
Monday, 05 October 2009 09:37:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, 02 October 2009
Genealogy News Corral: September 28-October 2
Posted by Diane

It's Friday, and that means it's time to rustle up some genealogy news:
  • Got St. Louis-area ancestors? Consider subscribing to Genealogy and House History News, a free monthly e-mail update listing additions to the Missouri History Museum's Genealogy and Local History Index (click the “Sign up for the E-mail List” link). If you find a relative, you can order a photocopy of the record.
  • FamilySearch has added a few more databases to the Record Search Pilot, thanks to its hard-working indexing volunteers. You can search indexes and view images of Protestant church records from France (1612-1906).
The 1920 US census index (but not record images) was added for Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Carolina.
You can browse images of church records from Italy, Slovakia, Argentina and Mexico (these indexes are still being processed).
To find records associated with the place your ancestors lived, click Browse our Record Collections on the Record Search home page, then click an area of the map.
  • Happy third birthday to RootsTelevision! The free genealogy TV Web site shared a list of its most popular videos, several of which relate to family history happenings that broke into “mainstream” news. See the list on the Og Blog.
My trusty colleagues Allison and Grace will post while I'm sneaking in some vacation next week. I might chime in from afar, or I might be too entranced by autumnal loveliness to make it happen. We'll see.

FamilySearch | International Genealogy | Libraries and Archives | Videos
Friday, 02 October 2009 14:20:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 01 October 2009
New Webinar: Finding Vital Records Online
Posted by Diane

Varying availability and privacy restrictions can put getting your US ancestors’ official birth, marriage and death records among your more frustrating genealogical pursuits.

Help is on the way in our next webinar, Vital Records: Researching Your Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths Online.

This session, presented by Lisa Louise Cooke (known for the Genealogy Gems and Family Tree Magazine podcasts), will cover vital records in the United States, including
  • An overview of US birth, marriage and death records and what's in them

  • Answers to the burning question of why coverage and access varies from place to place

  • Types of vital records Web sites to keep an eye out for

  • Online resources vital records and indexes

  • Even if the record you need isn’t on the web, how to use online resources to get offline records
Participants receive access to a recording of the webinar, PDF copies of the presentation slides, and bonus Family Tree Magazine articles on vital records.

The webinar is Oct. 21, 7 pm EDT. Early birds save $10 on registration—it costs $39.99 until Oct. 8. And the first 10 registrants have the opportunity to submit information for possible use as examples in the presentation.

Click here to register.

Vital Records | Webinars
Thursday, 01 October 2009 17:08:41 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]