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# Friday, 30 April 2010
A Celebration of Family History
Posted by Diane

Some 20,000 people attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-sponsored Celebration of Family History Thursday night in the LDS Conference Center Auditorium.

 It was a spectacular presentation that combined music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, video shorts showing real people talking about what family history means to them, and talks from LDS president Henry B. Eyring and historian David McCullough. McCullough is the author of the books The Johnstown Flood, 1776, John Adams and others. Each element flowed smoothly into the next, in a seamless and inspiring program.

This is a picture I took with my phone before the celebration got underway:

One of my favorite moments came after a video about a man whose family came to appreciate their Scottish heritage when one young son decided to take up the bagpipes. The video’s sound faded as the choir launched into Amazing Grace and out marched a quartet of bagpipers—including the real live boy in the video, now all grown up.

Hearing McCullough was a real treat. Growing up in Pittsburgh, he said, all the kids would make gravy lakes in their mashed potatoes, use a fork to break the side and say “Johnstown Flood” as the gravy flowed into the peas—having no idea what they were talking about. That tragic flood was the topic of his first book.

At dinner time in the 1940s, his hard-of-hearing dad (who detested president Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and his equally hard-of-hearing grandmother (who believed that next to Jesus, FDR was the best human being to walk the earth) would debate the New Deal at unforgettable levels.  

McCullough spoke about the importance of history and the wonderfulness of journals as sources. If you want to be immortal, he advised the audience, keep a journal, and when you think the curtain’s about to come down on your life, give it to the Library of Congress. Your journal will be famous because it will be the only one in existence from this era.

To get to know your ancestors, besides studying their records and reading what they wrote, you should read what they read, McCullough said. There’s no such thing as a self-made man or woman—we’re all made from the people before us and the people before them and the people before them. There’s no such thing as the “forseeable future,” our ancestors no more knew how things were going to turn out that we know.

The phrase shouldn’t be “gone but not forgotten,” he said, but rather, “if not forgotten, then not gone.”

You can read more about the Celebration of Family History here  and here , and see a  video about it here

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun
Friday, 30 April 2010 22:24:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral, April 26-30
Posted by Diane

Tonight’s season finale of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” features director Spike Lee’s search for his roots. Tune in at 8/7 central.

UK genealogy website just added75,000 new WW1 records to its subscription databases with the release of the Royal Marine Medal Roll 1914-1920. The lists of Royal Marines who received medals for their WWI service provide name, rank, service branch, service number, a description of where or to whom the medals were issued, and sometimes more. You can search the index and click to see the record image. has added more than 30 million California vital records, enhanced its family tree tool, added videos to help you use the site, and added to its Expert Series of how-to articles. This is in addition to the announcement earlier this month about the free search of the records on FamilySearch’s Pilot Record Search site

Subscription pedigree site OneGreatFamily launched a free genealogy-oriented bookmarking site called It works like Digg: You can click to "Gee" an online genealogy article and share it on Facebook or Twitter. visitors can vote for and comment on the article. You must register with to Gee an article; anyone can vote.

At the National Genealogical Society conference, we came across a site called It indexes historical resources that refer to ocean and river vessels. If you search or browse on the site to a page for a vessel, you’ll get citations to find more details in resources such as Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia by Lincoln P. Paine. You can subscribe to the site for additional resources.

I also learned about a free online tool called Hi-Lite that lets you highlight information on websites. You register for a Hi-Lite membership, and use a toolbar to highlight information on webpages. That adds the passage and a citation to your Hi-Lite account.

Pennsylvania researchers might want to check out the Ancestor Tracks website, which has free township warrantee maps for many counties and other resources for learning about early Pennsylvania landowners. You can get the full maps, atlases and more on Ancestor tracks’ Early Landowners of Pennsylvania books and CDs.

The National Archive sand Records Administration opens its new Civil War exhibition, Discovering the Civil War, today at 10 a.m. Opening day features a free outdoor concert, noon lecture by historian and author Robert V. Remini, and a screening of "Glory" For more on the exhibit, visit the archives' website.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 30 April 2010 13:47:13 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 29 April 2010
Three News Announcements From
Posted by Diane senior vice president of product Eric Shoup made three news announcements at a reception the online genealogy company hosted this evening:

1. Shoup previewed’s new search features, some of which  have already been implemented (such as the filters I blogged about last week). Features to be added “in the near future” include
  • more prominent browsing by place (right down to a county, which got applause from the audience), record category and collection

  • a simplified basic search form that asks for name and place of residence (it includes a calculator to help you determine a birth year based on your ancestor’s age at a specific time)

  • pages with historical information and basic facts about counties, as well as additional resources outside of
You can see what the new search eventually will look like here.

2. is launching a new, free wiki with all the information from the references Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources edited by Alice Eichholz, and The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy edited by Lorretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargraves Luebking (these books will remain available in print through Turner Publishing, which took over’s book business earlier this year). A wiki is a site anyone can contribute to and edit to update and correct the information. The Wiki is available now in beta.

3. Mac users, listen up: will make its Family Tree Maker genealogy software available for Macs. Shoup said that’ll happen before the end of the year. | Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 29 April 2010 00:21:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
Posted by Diane

During the morning rush at our National Genealogical Society booth today, someone looked at the July 2010 Family Tree Magazine and said “Oh, I saw your guy!”

What guy? I’m pretty sure we didn’t bring a guy.

A little while later, Sherlock Holmes walked into the booth. It was Tim Firkowski, a professional family history detective (and creative marketer) dressed to promote his business, The Genealogy Assistant

In a purely coincidental turn of events, Tim looked exactly like our July cover! See:

Genealogy Events | Genealogy fun
Thursday, 29 April 2010 00:00:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 28 April 2010
NGS Conference News
Posted by Diane

We’re hearing that 2,500 people were preregistered for the National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference, going on now through Saturday at the Salt Palace convention center in Salt Lake City. From the rush in the exhibit hall when the doors opened this morning, that seems about right.

Now for some news from the conference:

This morning in the opening session, the National Genealogical Society announced that its 2012 conference will be in our own stomping grounds, Cincinnati. Research opportunities will include the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, one of the country’s best public library genealogy collections.

Also during that session, FamilySearch International announced today that it has posted an additional 300 million names to its database collections, include those from sources not previously available online. The names are on a FamilySearch beta site, which is similar to the Record Search Pilot site but has an expanded search form. Read the full announcement here.

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) today announced its genetic genealogy database of test results has surpassed 100,000 DNA samples, linked with corresponding family pedigree charts from the submitters. You can read an article about the milestone here and search the database at the SMGF site (it’s free, but registration is required).

UK family history website will take over FamilyLink’s WorldVitalRecords Australasian website. The subscription website will relaunch next month as  Initially, it’ll provide mostly Australian and New Zealand content from Gould Genealogy and History books and CDs; eventually, content and features will be added.

The New England chapter of the Association for Professional Genealogists (NE-APG) announced it’s offering a DVD of two genealogy lectures from expert Tom Jones: "Correlating Sources, Information and Evidence to Solve Genealogical Problems" and "Writing Genealogy. " It covers how to interpret and analyze your research—putting it all together and using a variety of records to build a case for what your ancestors were up to. See a full description on the NEAPG website. You don’t purchase this DVD online, but you can download an order form to print out and send in. 

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | International Genealogy
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 23:55:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 27 April 2010
A Hopping Genealogy Joint
Posted by Diane

After setting up Family Tree Magazine’s booth in the National Genealogical Society conference exhibit hall here in Salt Lake City, editorial director Allison Stacy and I stopped by the Family History Library today.

The place was buzzing with activity! Researchers were busy at almost every computer terminal and microfilm reader. (I surreptitiously took these pictures on the second floor, which has US and Canadian microfilm.)

To help everyone get the records they need, the library is extending its hours, staying open until 11 pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (the library normally closes at 9 on those days).

We’re looking forward to seeing lots of researchers in the exhibit hall!

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Libraries and Archives
Tuesday, 27 April 2010 22:03:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 26 April 2010
July 2010 Family Tree Magazine Hitting Newsstands!
Posted by Diane

Our July 2010 Family Tree Magazine is mailing to subscribers and hits newsstands tomorrow, April 27, with a plethora of resources and suggestions for helping you find ancestral answers.

I'm partial to "Undercover Genealogy" by Lisa Louise Cooke, because it highlights an area of genealogical research I’ve only started to explore. The 10 strategies for finding living relatives (who may hold family history clues) go beyond online search engines to show you how to think like a detective—using the person’s occupation, organizational affiliations, hobbies and interests to figure out where to search. (You can see an article excerpt, with tips on finding old phone books, on our website.)

If Susan Sarandon’s ancestral search on last week’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” piqued your interest in your Italian roots, we have just the article for you: “A Little Italy” by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack names 10 resources for discovering Italian ancestors. She also walks you through an example of tracing an immigrant to his hometown in Italy and researching his family in microfilmed church records.

Just a few of the other topics in the July 2010 Family Tree Magazine: Doing cemetery research, finding female ancestors, using British site, and ramping up your research with help from social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter.

Visit to see the issue’s table of contents and place your order (the July 2010 issue is available in print or in digital format).

Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, 26 April 2010 11:53:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Saturday, 24 April 2010
NARA Social Media Scavenger Hunt Starts Monday
Posted by Diane

Get your game face on for the National Archives and Records Administration’s Civil War–themed social media scavenger hunt, starting at noon next Monday, April 26.

The hunt celebrates the new Discovering the Civil War exhibit opening April 30 at NARA’s Washington, DC headquarters. It’ll send participants scouting for answers across the National Archives' social media sites, including more than a dozen Facebook pages and Flickr, YouTube and Twitter sites.

Visit NARA’s main Facebook page Monday for the scavenger hunt kickoff.  Those who complete the hunt and submit their answers will be entered into a drawing for four Discovering the Civil War t-shirts from the NARA gift shop.

For more details and rules, see NARA's facebook page.

Genealogy fun | Libraries and Archives | Social Networking
Saturday, 24 April 2010 17:00:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 23 April 2010
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Recap: Susan Sarandon Episode
Posted by Diane

I’ve missed my little Friday night get-togethers with WDYTYA?, so I was excited about watching actress Susan Sarandon’s search for her roots.

She was already into family history, but faces a mystery: What happened to her grandmother Anita, who disappeared when Sarandon’s mom Lenora was 2? Family rumors paint Anita as a bad mother who spent time running numbers and hanging out in jazz clubs. Susan—the self-identified “black sheep of the family”—feels a connection to this “colorful character.”

Sarandon visits her mom, who’s been hesitant to try to find Anita. Lenora says her mother was a “showgirl” at a nightclub, and produces a fuzzy newspaper photo. Lenora found out when she was 9 or 10 that her mom was alive and eventually met her; both are in a photo taken in a funhouse mirror. But that was the extent of their relationship.

We go to New York City, where Sarandon knows Anita lived around 1929, to meet with genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. We see Anita’s birth certificate naming her mother Angelina and her father Mansueto Rigali, whose occupation was “statues.” The couple was from Italy, and they had nine children before Anita—but only two of them were still living when Anita was born.

Their mother had died by the time Anita was 12. Smolenyak presents a marriage certificate for Anita. The groom was 21 and the bride was 15—no, wait, make that 13! She claimed to be older, but doing the math from Anita’s birthday puts her at barely teenaged. Sarandon recalls that Anita must have been pregnant, because her uncle was born six months after the wedding.

Sarandon meets Italian immigration historian Mary Brown at St. Joseph church. The Rigalis lived at 35 Madison Street in a crowded Lower East Side tenement neighborhood Brown calls a “death trap.” I llike the interwoven history lessons.

Cut to Sarandon and her son Miles at the New York Public Library, where they search an Italian website for Anita’s surname. I love that her son’s getting involved! They’re from Tuscany, so of course, this is Hollywood and that’s where they go.

Ahhh, Florence. Genealogist Cinzia Rossello produces records of the family, including a military conscription document showing Mansueto was from a small town, Coreglia, and owned land.

Sarandon goes to Coreglia, where Rossello shows her the family’s baptismal records. Mansueto’s record has his father’s and grandfather’s name. We can get back 10 generations, to 1640, just in this church’s baptismal register. “I’m from Tuscany,” Sarandon says. “It’s gone from being something abstract to being very concrete.”

Next she meets Gabriello Cabrese at Coreglia’s statue museum—the town was famous for its figuremaking. We learn that in 1888, at age 32, Mansueto was one of the first sculptors to go to the United States. That year, 98 figuremakers left.

Back in New York, Sarandon visits the cemetery where Mansueto is buried. He died at 72. He and his children—except Anita—are on the burial register, but they have no markers.

Still in search of Anita’s story, Sarandon meets Burton Pereti, an expert on New York nightclubs. He suggests she was active at speakeasies in New York, which were magnets for young women who worked as dancers and singers. There’s little documentation of Anita in nightclubs, he says, but he presents an October 1932 marriage license showing Anita’s marriage at age 25 to a Ben Kahn. The document reports no previous marriages. “Nothing seems to add up,” Sarandon says.

Pereti tells her the show’s researchers were unable to find a record of a divorce from Sarandon’s grandfather, the man Anita married at 13. After a commercial, Sarandon says her grandfather didn’t divorce Anita until after that photo in the funhouse.

Sarandon and Miles visit the New York library to use city directories. They find Anita on West 78th Street and a possible Ben on 74th. Were they already separated the year after they married?

Next, they search for Anita's death record. It’s not under Kahn, so Miles suggests not using a last name. Clever kid! They find an Anita Fiorentini who died in 1984—wrong name, but everything else fits.

At the library in Rockland County, NY, where Anita Fiorentini died, Sarandon finds her obituary. The details fit, down to the parents’ names, except that Anita’s birth date makes her younger. Anita had married a man named Dominick.

Sarandon goes knocking on doors in her grandmother’s neighborhood, and learned a lot about what she was like from a neighbor who didn’t want to talk on camera. Sarandon next visits Dominick’s nieces. “If you can tell me anything…” Sarandon says, and the nieces say “We can!” They tell her Anita and Dom were happy and show pictures of them.

This was the least tearful WDYTYA?, but still touching. “As this journey unfolded, I became more and more compassionate to her and more forgiving and my heart went out to her,” Sarandon says. “Now my mom has some closure.”
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Friday, 23 April 2010 21:26:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
A Look at's New Search Filters
Posted by Diane activated new search filters in its New Search, giving you more options for what kind of matches you want—and, the site's developers hope, appease those who’ve stayed steadfastly loyal to the Old Search.

The filters replace the Exact search boxes for the first name, last name and location fields. You can choose the exact filter (same as checking the Exact box) and a number of other options that differ depending on what goes into the search field. Here’s a look:

• The First and Middle name filter offers these options:

If you choose "Restrict to Exact Matches," you also can choose one or more of the filters below it, but you don't have to. The default setting searches as though you checked all the filters, and it returns records without matching first names but with strong matches on other information.

• The Last name filter offers these options:

Previously, a Soundex-only search option was missing from the New Search (causing many members to stick with the Old Search). The default setting here searches as though you checked all the filters.

• When the location field is empty, its filter offers these options:

The default setting applies no filters for the location field.

• When you type a place in the location field, the filter changes to let you search for results in adjacent counties or states:

Here, too, the default setting applies no filter, and results are ranked according to how closely they match your location.

The filters haven't been added to the Old Search, so make sure you're in the New Search if you want to use them. Once you get a chance to try them out, let us know what you think.
Friday, 23 April 2010 17:01:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genealogy News Corral: April 19 to 23
Posted by Diane

This week certainly flew by, and it's already time for another roundup:
  • Tonight is the first new episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” in a couple of weeks. Tune in to NBC at 8/7 Central for actress Susan Sarandon’s family history journey. (Check your local listings—we’re hearing the show’s airing at different times in some areas.)
  • A call to action is circling the blogosphere regarding the possible closure of the Boston Public Library’s Microtext Department and Newspaper Room. The contents would be distributed to alternate locations within and outside of the city’s Central Library. Blogger Dick Eastman, who’s based not far from the library, has more details and suggestions for taking action.
We'll post next week's news corral from the National Genealogical Society conference in Salt Lake City. Typically, genealogy companies save juicy announcements for a conference, so stay tuned right here.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 23 April 2010 16:29:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 22 April 2010
Get Help Tracing Your Roots Online
Posted by Diane

When it’s time to search out a new genealogical resource, many family history researchers (myself included) turn to the web first—whether to search online databases of records, Google for distant cousins or find out which library has the microfilm or book with the right ancestral answers.

The best online search secrets and strategies Family Tree Magazine experts have shared over the years are gathered in one of our newest CDs, Trace Your Roots Online

The CD covers top genealogy websites for the United States and abroad, online tools and utilities that will help you save time, search tips for getting the most relevant matches, guides to help you find a variety of online records, using social networking sites for genealogy, protecting your online privacy, and more.

Every one of the hundreds of recommended websites is hyperlinked for one-click access. Better yet, Trace Your Roots Online is part of a special on CDs—just type in FTCD10 at checkout. (Family Tree VIPs get an additional 10 percent off.)

Learn more about the Trace Your Roots Online CD on

Editor's Pick | Sales
Thursday, 22 April 2010 10:43:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Wear Comfy Shoes and Other Tips for Attending a Genealogy Conference
Posted by Diane

Whether you’re attending a national genealogy conference (such as the National Genealogical Society or other events next week in Salt Lake City) or your state or local society’s conference, these tips will help you get the most from the experience:
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking to classes (I've even seen tardy folks running), through the exhibit hall, to a lunch locale and to the car or your hotel.

  • Dress in layers and bring a sweater in case the rooms are too hot or cold.

  • Carry a water bottle and a snack. Bottled water is pricey, as are concessions can be pretty expensive, too.

  • You’ll meet a lot of people you want to keep in touch with. Bring business cards with your e-mail address, Facebook username and other contact information. Add the surnames and places you’re researching, too.

  • Bring extra address labels, too, so you can stick them on entry forms for drawings in the exhibit hall.

  • If you’re attending the conference alone and everybody else seems to know somebody, remember that genealogists are a friendly bunch. Just say hi and introduce yourself. Another great opener is “Where are your ancestors from?”

  • Take some time before the day’s classes start to learn where the classrooms are. That way, you won't miss the first 10 minutes because you couldn't find the room.

  • Try to get to classes a few minutes early to find a seat and get settled. Sessions may fill up fast.

  • Not sure which class to attend? Ask fellow conference goers, who may have seen the same speakers or lectures you’re considering.

  • Plan ahead for any genealogy research you want to do and be sure to pack all the charts and records you need, whether on paper or in digital form.

  • In the exhibit hall, first take a reconnaissance walk and mark on your booth map all the exhibitor tables you want to return to. Check off each one as you visit it, but be sure to leave time for browsing. If you have a bunch of questions for a vendor, plan to stop by when everyone else is in class so you'll get the most personalized attention.

  • A good question to ask when you visit a vendor booth: "What's your show special?" If you got a goody bag when you registered, look through the contents for coupons.
  • Some exhibitors pack up early on the last day to catch flights or hit the road, so don't leave important business or must-have purchases for the very end of the event.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 13:55:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
It's a Genealogy Constellation!
Posted by Diane

Next week, a constellation of genealogy events will take place in Salt Lake City as four conferences roll out the red carpet for family historians. Click the links below for more information on each event:
  • The main event is the National Genealogical Society annual conference—where your friends at Family Tree Magazine will be in booth 510—is April 28 to May 1. Advance registration is now closed, but you can register at the door, and the exhibit hall is free. The conference will feature a special Gentech exhibit hall focused on genealogy technology, workshops for beginners and international researchers a Saturday kids camp and more.
There’s also a Celebration of Family History Concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Thursday, April 29 at 7 pm, and the Family History Library will extend its hours throughout the conference.
  • The university’s Family History Technology Workshop, scheduled for April 28, is a daylong forum for discussing current and emerging research on technology in genealogy.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 13:37:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 20 April 2010's “New” New Search Coming Soon
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site announced on its blog that it’ll soon be upgrading the site's “New Search.” ( introduced the New Search in 2008, but kept the old search around because many subscribers preferred it.)

Keep your eyes on in the next few days for a guided tour that’ll give you a preview of the changes. They're the result of member feedback in usability studies, focus groups, the site’s blog and message boards, home visits with members and more. They include
  • A new search home page that includes a clickable map, links to content categories, and other features to help you find the databases you're looking for.
  • Changes to the basic and advanced search forms that should give you more control over your search results. According to the announcement, some changes will be introduced this week and others are in development.
  • A way to browse for databases by country, state or county.
  • New ways to track your recent searches and recently browsed collections.
These changes won’t be made in the Old Search, but, writes search team manager Tony Macklin on the blog, “We’ve paid special attention to feedback from users of “old search” and hope you’ll find this reflected in the upcoming changes [to New Search].”
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 15:25:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 16 April 2010
Genealogy News Corral: April 12 to 16
Posted by Diane

  • Going to the National Genealogical Society conference starting April 28 in Salt Lake City? Stop by the Generation Maps exhibit hall booth Wednesday, April 28, from 2 to 5 p.m., for a Family ChArtist debut party. They’ll have refreshments, discounts, drawings, and demos of this online service for creating family trees.
  • (formerly GenealogyArchives) released a free internet search feature that scours several online genealogy resources, such as FamilySearch. To use this search, go to and run a search on the homepage (if you’re a member of the site, you must be logged out). Web results will be listed below a summary of results.
  • You can get a seven-day free trial membership to search’s own collection of 1.2 billion records and create a family tree on the site. Regular subscriptions cost $39.95 per year.
  • British subscription and pay-per-view genealogy site released a new batch of school and clergy records. School records might range from student registers to mini-biographies. Clergy lists name 200,000 members of Anglican and Catholic clergy for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
  • The Library of Congress will preserving every public tweet since Twitter’s inception in March 2006—that’s billions and billions of Tweets. See the library’s announcement for more details and some interesting discussion.

Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Social Networking | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 16 April 2010 13:05:26 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 15 April 2010
Help for Busting Genealogy Brick Walls
Posted by Diane

Your family history research is humming along just fine. Then a brick wall stops you cold: You can't find the record you need. Your great-grandmother's maiden name eludes you. You don't know your immigrant ancestor's birthplace.

Our newest book has Family Tree Magazine experts' best answers to your toughest genealogy questions. 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges is now available for pre-order.

Solutions for beginning and veteran genealogists cover formulating research strategies; finding occupational, census, military and other records; pinpointing places; organizing your research; doing online genealogy; working around “burned” records and other losses; figuring out kinship; researching your ethnic heritage; and more.

You also can use the book’s exclusive Records Checklist and Brick Wall Worksheet to help you come up with your plan of attack.

In this excerpt from the introduction to 101 Brick Wall Busters, we share nine ways to confront a dead end in your research:

1. Assess the problem. Review your records one by one to re-evaluate what you know and note the information you’re missing. Identify specifically what you want to learn—a birthplace? A maiden name?

2. Do the first thing first. Don’t try to skip steps by, for example, jumping back to your ancestral homeland before you’ve checked every available US record. Have you searched for your ancestor in every census during his life? Have you looked for his birth, marriage and death dates?

3. Create a timeline. Note your ancestor’s life dates, marriages, children’s births, migrations, jobs and so forth. Add wars, epidemics, mass migrations and other major events that occurred during his life. Look at the timeline with an eye for historical records those events might’ve generated (Civil War service papers? A WWI draft registration card?).

4. Identify potential sources. Make a list of sources in which the information you need might appear. For example, if your ancestor was born before the onset of official vital-record keeping, you might find birth information in church records, newspaper announcements, censuses, naturalization papers, and more. Try running a place search of the Family History Library catalog for your ancestor’s county to get a list of microfilmed records associated with that place—some might mention your ancestor.

5. Use search tricks. If you can’t find your ancestor in an online database, seek out search help. Broaden your search to include alternate spellings of the name (try switching the first and last name, too) and a wider range of dates and places. Use wildcards. Browse the records by place.

6. Research sideways. Research your ancestor’s neighbors, friends, in-laws and the people who served as witnesses on his records. The records of these people might mention your family.

7. Toss out your assumptions. Sometimes the unlikeliest scenario is the right one. Begin exploring theories other than what you thought you knew: Perhaps Great-great-grandpa immigrated through a port other than Ellis island. Maybe Great-grandma did get divorced, marry a second (or third) time and have children at a relatively old age.

8. Ask for help. Sometimes, a second set of eyes with a fresh perspective is just the thing. Ask one of your genealogy friends to review the problem and develop some theories or make suggestions.

9. Brush up. A genealogy how-to book will help you understand alternate sources and strategies for overcoming common challenges. Learn about your ancestor’s life, too. Go back to that chronology and find books related to his experiences: Wedding of the Waters, the Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation by Peter L. Bernstein, for an ancestor who worked on the Erie Canal, or for your Upstate New York LaRosa line, Family and Community, Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930 by Virginia Yans-McLaughlin. You’ll find more potential sources and formulate additional theories about what your ancestor was up to.

Editor's Pick | Research Tips
Thursday, 15 April 2010 10:18:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Family Tree University Introductory Offer!
Posted by Diane

It’s time to go back to school—genealogy school, that is. We’re opening Family Tree University with a special offer on our very first course, Google Tools for Genealogists.

In this class, you’ll learn to go beyond simple web searches and take advantage of Google’s other built-in tools, which can be just as helpful for family tree research. You’ll explore four of the tools best suited to help you with your genealogy: News Archive and Timeline, Book Search, YouTube and Google Earth.

Your instructor is Lisa Louise Cooke, whom you know from the Genealogy Gems website, podcast and blog.

The four-week course starts April 26, with one lesson per week. Lessons are self paced—you go through each one at your convenience, then complete and turn in an assignment or quiz at the end of each lesson.

To introduce you all to Family Tree University, this class has a special introductory registration fee of $74.99. Click here for more details on the class and to register.

Family Tree University
Thursday, 15 April 2010 09:20:50 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Getting Ready to Research at the Family History Library
Posted by Diane

Going to the National Genealogical Society conference or one of the other family history conferences taking place the week of April 26 in Salt Lake City?

If so, you’re probably also planning on doing some research at that mecca of genealogy research locations, the Family History Library. The library will be busy and there’s never enough time to accomplish all you'd like, so you’ll want to be prepared by:
Note that catalog listings with the notation “Vault” mean that particular roll of microfilm is kept in the Granite Mountain Records Vault. You’ll need to call or e-mail at least three days ahead of time to have these items sent to the library (for contact numbers and the e-mail address, click this link and see tip number 6).
  • preparing a prioritized research to-do list. Put book look-ups near the top, since these don’t circulate to your local FHL branch Family History Center (FHC). In my FHL research sessions, I’ve found doing book lookups a nice break when microfilm scrolling gives me a headache.
  • updating your family tree charts (whether on paper or in software you plan to take along on your laptop, PDA, USB drive or other device). Also gather paper or digital copies of the records you’ll need to refer to.
If you can’t get to one of these conferences, or your time runs short while you're there, see our tips for using your local FHC. We’ll also explain some of the microfilm rental restrictions you might encounter at FHCs.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Research Tips
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 16:57:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 13 April 2010
New Resource for Early Oregon Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Looking for Oregon pioneer ancestors? Check out the Oregon State Archives' free Early Oregonians Database with information extracted from census, death, probate and other records.

Compiled starting in 2004 by archives staff and volunteers, the database holds more than 150,000 entries on people living in Oregon from 1800 to 1860. (American Indians lived in Oregon during those years and earlier, but because of lack of records, few are represented in the database.) Learn more about how the database was compiled in the State Archives' announcement.

You can search by an ancestor's name and the date range; click More Options to add names of the person's parents and spouses. The site returns a maximum of 200 matches, so if your search is too broad, you'll need to narrow it with more criteria.

Your results list shows the person's name and, if known, the date and place of birth and parents' names. Click the name to see more details about the person and others associated with him (such as parents or a spouse mentioned in the database source records) on a screen like this:

Be sure to click each tab and look for source information. In this case, the Census Events tab reveals that the data on this particular James Smith came from the 1860 US census:

If you're researching Oregon ancestors, you'll also want to use the online Oregon Historical Records Index and Oregon Historical County Records Guide. Family Tree Magazine's Oregon State Research Guide digital download ($3) will help you use these and other resources.

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 08:34:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 12 April 2010 Maintenance Today
Posted by Diane

Greetings! I wanted to let you know will be down for maintenance for about 90 minutes between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time today.

This also may affect the Genealogy Insider and Photo Detective blogs and the Forum. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

Monday, 12 April 2010 10:53:07 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0] Upgrades 1920 Census Collection
Posted by Diane

Subscription site has released an improved version of its 1920 US census collection, with clearer images and a re-keyed index.

The enhanced digital images were taken from microfilm master copies of the original census records. The new index contains 250,000 new names, as well as differences in existing names due to the arbitrated indexing process (two different people would index the records, with a third expert to resolve any differences in the two versions).

The new index also incorporates the new index incorporates about 20 million user suggestions from for alternate names and corrections.

You can read more on the blog.

When I saw the news, I hopped online to look for my Haddad ancestors, who've eluded me in the 1920 census. Alas, I didn't find them, but you can bet I'll try more searches later.

For help searching census records, see the May 2010 Family Tree Magazine print edition (which comes with a Census Research Toolkit CD), our Census Secrets CD and/or our Online Census Secrets webinar recording. | census records
Monday, 12 April 2010 10:47:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 09 April 2010
Genealogy News Corral: April 5 to 9
Posted by Diane

  • The Georgia Historic Newspapers site has added a free Atlanta Historic Newspapers Archive with digitized pages from 14 newspapers published in Atlanta from 1847 to 1922. You can keyword-search the full text of the whole collection or an individual title, or browse issues by title and year. (You may need to download the DJVu Plugin to view articles.)
  • The Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in Houston, considered one of the country's best public libraries for genealogical research, is facing a reduction of operating hours due to budget cuts. Hours will likely change to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and closed Friday and Sunday. (Current hours are Monday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 09 April 2010 09:06:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 06 April 2010
Search Footnote's Census Records Free Through April
Posted by Diane

I just received word from historical records subscription site Footnote that its free census record search will be extended through the end of April. You'll need a free Footnote account to search; you can get one at <>.

Footnote's census collection includes the 1860 and 1930 US censuses, as well as fractions of the 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses.

Footnote is planning to add the rest of the US census, 1790 through 1930, by the end of the year. 

census records | Footnote | Free Databases
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 11:55:06 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Gets Second Season
Posted by Diane

Woo-hoo! NBC has given “Who Do You Think You Are?” the green light for a second season.

From the NBC press release:
"Who Do You Think You Are?" from executive producer Lisa Kudrow is averaging a 1.6 rating, 6 share in adults 18-49 and 6.8 million viewers overall in "most current" results for its season thus far. In preliminary results for last Friday, "Who Do You Think You Are?" won the 8-9 p.m. ET hour in adults 18-49, marking the first time any regular competitor in this slot has beaten an original episode of CBS's "Ghost Whisperer" in 18-49 rating since November 17, 2006. "Who Do You Think You Are?" has improved the time period by 23 percent in adult 18-49 rating versus NBC's average for the traditional 2008-09 season in "live plus same day" results.
You can watch “Who Do You Think You Are?” episodes on

"Who Do You Think You Are?"
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 07:56:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [13]
# Monday, 05 April 2010
Search 1880 DDD Schedules for 14 States on
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy website has added many states' 1880 special census schedules of “defective, dependent and delinquent" classes, also known as DDD schedules.

You'll know to look for your ancestor in DDD schedules if his 1880 US census listing has a mark in columns 15 through 20, showing whether he was ill or had a physical or mental disability. If so, DDD schedules might give you more information about his condition or reasons for being institutionalized. (Learn more about this and other special censuses in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine).

Surviving DDD records are scattered among libraries and state archives. (See Family Tree Magazine's downloadable, state-by-state guide to finding DDD records.)

But now you can search many of the records from home: subscribers can search DDD schedules from California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington Territory. | census records
Monday, 05 April 2010 09:30:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 02 April 2010
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Recap: Brooke Shields Episode
Posted by Diane

Spoiler alert! This post reveals details about the Brooke Shields episode of “Who Do You think You Are?” so don’t watch if you haven’t seen the episode and you want to be surprised.

The theme tonight: how genealogy can help you understand—and forgive—your ancestors, and how it can give you a sense of belonging.

Tonight I sat back on the couch and flipped open the laptop in preparation for learning about Brooke Shields family history. At the beginning (after the annoyingly long series promo), Shields talks about her childhood: Modeling by 11 months old, then acting in movies. (Read more about her career on the “Who Do You Think You Are?” website.) Her parents, who divorced by the time Shields was 5 months old, she says, “were the antithesis of one another.” She describes her dad as aristocracy and mom as working class. “I never knew where I belonged,” she says.

She heads to Newark, NJ, where she was born but about which she has no early memories. Shields doesn’t know anything about her mom's parents, other than her grandma’s name, Theresa Dollinger, and the fact she had a sister.

“I think my grandmother was horrible to my mother and I started disliking her at a very young age,” Shields says. How sad.

She meets Michelle Chubenko, a genealogist specializing in New Jersey family history. They search birth certificates on microfilm. They find Theresa's and learn her mother’s name, Ida. Next, they look for the sister. Excellent strategy.

Surprise! Ida had two other children! Brothers John and Edward were born in 1910 and 1914. John died in infancy. But what happened to Edward?

Shields is eager to find out. “You feel like you’re a detective,” she says, which is exactly what I think so many people like about genealogy.

On a busy street, she meets historian Tom McCabe. He shows her a 1910 image of the same street, where Theresa Dollinger lived as a child.

Chubenko has more vital records to show Shields. Ida, Theresa’s mother, died of uterine cancer when Theresa was 10. Shields realizes her grandmother probably had to be an adult and a “parent” to her younger siblings at a young age.

Another tragedy: Edward died by accidental drowning at age 13—presumably while in Theresa’s care. Chubenko gives Shields an article about the drowning, and she goes to the spot where it happened. Local boys were bathing in the river on a hot day, and Edward couldn’t swim.

Shields' feelings toward her grandmother have turned to empathy. We’re seeing how understanding your ancestor’s lives can help you forgive them.

Next, we follow Shields to research her father’s family at the New York Historical Society, where genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts has prepared a family tree. Shields' father died in 2003, and she doesn’t know much about that side, but she believes they were well-off in Italy.

Giovanni Torlinia, her 5th-great-grandfather (I think; could be off by a great or two) who died in 1829. It’s thought Giovanni’s father Marino changed the family name to Torlonia. Shields wants to know what came before, and travels to Rome.

She visits the building where her ancestors had a bank, as a crowd gathers to gawk. Marino Torlonia was a cloth merchant who supplied the invading French, and he opened up the first private bank in Italy with branches in several countries. He became wealthy enough to buy properties, including one near Rome, and Shields tours Villa Torlonia. It’s an opulent palace filled with murals and sculpture.

We’re looking at a record (I didn’t catch what it is) showing Marino Torlonia’s origin in France.

She goes to the region of Augerolles and learns from another expert Marino was actually born in France as Marin Torlonias. An abbott who Marin worked for was exiled and Marin helped him escape to various places in Europe, ending in Rome. They’ve found THE house, a humble stone structure, where the family started. Shields feels a connection—she loves France and was a French literature major in college.

She explores another branch of her dad's family: Christine Marie, who has the tantalizing word “royale” after her name on a family tree. Shields searches while on the train (I was beginning to worry the site wouldn't make an appearance!) and learns Christine was born in the Louvre, which used to be a royal palace.

She meets Charles Mosely, a expert on royal genealogy. He tells Shields she’s related to Henry IV through Christine Marie. In the Saint-Denis cathedral, they visit a chamber storing the hearts of many French kings. Shields climbs onto a shelf and touches the container with Henry IV heart, as Mosely stammers, unsure whether to stop her. Don't try this at your local museum, kids!

At Versailles, which Louis XIV built, Mosely tells Shields Louis XIV—grandfather of Henry IV—is her first cousin many generations removed. Mosely ticks off a list of other royals Shields is related to. She’s amazed.

“Being able to find your place in the grand scheme of things—there’s something empowering about that. By going on this journey, I feel more complete as a person.” I think even if your roots are a lot more humble and pedestrian than this—more like Shields’ mother’s side, perhaps—you’ll feel empowered when you know the people who came before you.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Friday, 02 April 2010 20:17:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
Genealogy News Corrral: March 29 to April 2
Posted by Diane

  • Tonight on “Who Do You Think You Are?” watch actress Brooke Shields reconnect with her royal past. Take note of the new episode schedule, which inserts a repeat and a bye week:
April 2: Brooke Shields
April 9: Sarah Jessica Parker (Repeat)
April 16: No episode
April 23: Susan Sarandon
April 30: Spike Lee
  • The Brigham Young University library has posted data from the Mormon Immigration Index CD (originally published in 2000) in a searchable database. Data come from immigrants’ accounts, passenger lists and other resources documenting Europeans (especially from the British Isles) who became Mormons and immigrated to the United States.
  • For those of you who are LDS church members, the subscription family tree site OneGreatFamily is launching a new web site called that taps into “New FamilySearch” for a quick and easy way to identify ancestors you can take to the temple for ordinance work. (New FamilySearch is a family tree site available to many LDS members; it eventually will become available to the public.)

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Free Databases | immigration records
Friday, 02 April 2010 11:41:28 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 01 April 2010
April Fool's Pranks From History
Posted by Diane

Last month, in a bid to receive free internet connections from Google, the mayor of Topeka, Kan., announced his city would change its name to Google for a month.

With an expression of gratitude, Google today announced its name change to Topeka.

April Fools!

Read about Google’s past April Fool’s Day hoaxes here.

One of our favorite genealogy jokes has been around for awhile. Go to Steve Morse’s One-Step Web Pages and click “Where’s Grandpa? Finding your great-grandfather in one step” under Births, Deaths and Vital Records.

(Or if you don’t want to play, just click here.)

For history’s best pranks, see The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time from the Museum of Hoaxes.

Genealogy fun
Thursday, 01 April 2010 12:09:44 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Spring Cleaning at!
Posted by Diane

We’re doing some spring cleaning at our warehouse, which means you can clean up on how-to genealogy CDs, books and Family Tree Magazine back issues. A few examples:
and there’s more. As always, qualifying orders totaling more than $25 get free standard shipping in the United States.

Editor's Pick
Thursday, 01 April 2010 07:58:07 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]