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# Tuesday, 31 August 2010
New Genealogy Classes for September
Posted by Grace

Thinking of going back to school? Family Tree University's September session begins Monday, Sept 13, and we've got three new courses for you. Read on for the whole course catalog!

New: Organize Your Genealogy: Get Your Research in Order (and Keep It That Way)
Whether you work on paper or do everything online, getting your research organized is essential to keeping track of ancestors and making sure you know where to put new ones in your family tree.

New: Trace Your Polish Roots: Strategies for Searching in the US and Poland Trace your ancestors from America to Poland. This course will debunk myths, explain history and point you to the most useful records.

New: Newspaper Research 101: Find Your Ancestors in American News Sources
In this class you'll learn how to find and use newspaper archives—online, on paper and on microfilm—to put together missing pieces of your genealogical research.

These classes will help you preserve your family's legacy and get creative with your genealogy:

Editor's Pick | Family Tree University
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 13:22:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Family Tree Maker 2011 Released
Posted by Diane

Online genealogy company has released Family Tree Maker 2011, an updated version of its genealogy desktop software.

You can purchase Family Tree Maker with a full subscription or a free trial. The software also comes with either a printed or electronic Companion Guide. It starts at $39.95 online at and at some retail stores.

The 2011 version has more than 100 improvements, including:

Smart Stories: An editor that lets you drag and drop text and photos from your Family Tree Maker tree into story pages that update automatically when you make changes to your tree.

Timelines: You’ll be able to find and add more events to your ancestors' timelines and add your own historical events.

Charts: The 2011 version has four new fan chart styles. You can enhance charts with backgrounds, borders and embellishments, and change fonts based on fact type.

Improved integration: A hallmark of Family Tree Maker is its ability to search’s records collections for people in users’ family trees when the computer is connected to the internet. An subscription is required to see results. Uploading and downloading of your tree is faster in version 2011, and you can see your Member Connect activity and related message board posts right on your home page.

Media management: Drag and drop, cut and paste, and categorize multiple items at the same time. A new tool helps you locate missing media files.

Enhanced reports: Ancestor and descendant reports have been enhanced, and there’s a new surname report. You can now sort your custom reports, and save and reuse report settings. is holding a free Family Tree Maker 2011 webinar Sept. 15 at 8 pm Eastern. You can register by clicking here. | Genealogy Software
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 08:35:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 30 August 2010
Two Days Left in $250 Giveaway!
Posted by Diane

You have only two more days to enter to win our $250 shopping spree! The sweepstakes ends Aug. 31 at 11:59 Eastern.

You can enter up to once per day at (Read all the rules here.)

The winner will be able to choose from hundreds of expert genealogy how-to books, CDs, and other products, such as

Genealogy fun | Sales
Monday, 30 August 2010 10:14:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 27 August 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 23-27
Posted by Diane

  • The Federation of Genealogical Societies has re-launched its Society Hall online directory. If you think you know the name of the genealogical society, historical society, family association or library you want to contact, you can search by keyword; otherwise, choose a state from the drop-down menu for a list of societies in that state (note that the directory might not include every society in the state).
  • An Irish library and museum website called Ask About Ireland has posted an important Irish record group free online: Griffith’s Primary Valuation is an accounting of property values in Ireland that took place between 1847 and 1864. You can search by a family name and place, or use the Place Name search to search by just a place. 
Each result contains the family name, the first name, county and parish. Click links to see details for the individual (landlord and tenant names, location, and publication information for the original map), the person’s residence plotted on a map, and a copy of the original Griffith's Valuation page entry.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Free Databases | Genealogy societies | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 27 August 2010 14:42:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0] Launches Largest Online School Yearbook Collection
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site beefed up its school yearbook collection to total 10,000 yearbooks and 60 million records (names), staking a claim to the largest searchable collection of yearbooks available online.

I like the idea of yearbooks as genealogical resources because of the potential of finding a photo of an ancestor as a young person, and learning about interests such as tennis or science (you won't find that in the census).'s collection contains two databases: US School Yearbooks, which already was on the site; and US School Yearbooks Index, the new additions.

The yearbooks come from military, public, parochial and private high schools, junior highs, academies, colleges and universities from almost every state. The books date from 1875 to 1988. Click here to search.

The search can be a bit frustrating. The first and last names you type in won’t necessarily be near each other on the yearbook pages in your search results, so you’ll get a lot of irrelevant matches. Adding a place of residence and a birth year or range will help.

Once you do find somebody, you can page through the book to see if he or she is photographed or listed elsewhere (such as with the football team or on a “Most Popular” list). Also try to find yearbooks for other years the person spent at that high school or college.
Friday, 27 August 2010 12:28:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 26 August 2010
Posted by Diane

Funny stuff! On, the companion website to our latest book, Grave Humor, you can:
  • See funny tombstone photos (some from the book, some sent in by our fellow funny gravestone enthusiasts)
  • Meet the author, Mr. M.T. Coffin.
  • Download free Grave Humor wallpaper for your computer, iPhone or iPad
  • Submit photos of the funny gravestones you’ve encountered in your cemetery adventures
  • ... and, of course, buy a copy of Grave Humor for your very own (on sale now for $8.79!) 

Grave Humor

Cemeteries | Editor's Pick | Genealogy fun
Thursday, 26 August 2010 09:01:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Library Contest Seeks Historical Treasures for Digitization
Posted by Diane

Do you own a historical record that cries out for digitization? Maybe a diary from a Civil War ancestor, a payroll ledger from a shipping company or a Colonial-era letter?

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is holding its second annual Digitization Contest to find historical treasures to scan and post online.

Documents, letters, diaries, and even large-scale items such as posters and maps are eligible. To enter, complete the short online entry form by the Oct. 1 deadline.

A panel of judges will narrow the entry pool and post information about the treasures online for public voting. The library will digitize the treasures receiving the most votes and add the images to its free Virtual Library website.

The library’s digitization equipment (updated even since our tour just a couple of years ago)  can create high-quality images of fragile items without causing damage.

Learn more on the Digitization Contest website.

Family Heirlooms | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Wednesday, 25 August 2010 13:00:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Listen Up! August 2010 Podcast Now Available
Posted by Diane

A bunch of booth visitors at last week’s Federation of Genealogical Society conference said “I love your podcast!” You can see what they mean in the just-released Family Tree Magazine Podcast August episode, available now for free through iTunes and on our website.

Here’s what you’ll discover:
  • Tips and websites for determining whether you’ve found your Harry Smith (or whomever) from author and professional genealogist Sharon DeBartolo Carmack
  • A discussion on news from the blogosphere with yours truly
  • A sneak peek at the upcoming November 2010 Family Tree Magazine with publisher and editorial director Allison Stacy
Get the August 2010 Show Notes on

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Genealogy Web Sites | Podcasts | Research Tips
Tuesday, 24 August 2010 16:50:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 23 August 2010
A Visit to the East Tennessee History Center
Posted by Diane

I blogged a bit a couple of weeks ago about the East Tennessee History Center and the research collections inside. Friday morning while attending the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, I wandered the three or four blocks over to the center for a peek.

The center, renovated and expanded in 2004, is in the old Federal Customs House, constructed in 1874.

The Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, part of the Knox County Public Library, is on the third floor. The staff graciously let me take some photos, which are normally prohibited in the research rooms. The collection covers East Tennessee as well as other regions and states, especially those where folks who left Tennessee ended up.

The reading room was once a Federal courtroom, with the reference desk positioned about where the judge ruled from his bench.

Downstairs on the first floor, part of the Museum of East Tennessee history occupies what used to be a post office. Exhibits—multilayered with documents, artifacts, images, video and audio—start with the Cherokee Indians who inhabited the area and go all the way through the settling of the frontier, the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority and up to the World’s Fair of the 1980s.

Inside an old reassembled log cabin, you could watch a video about the Civil War in East Tennessee.

I especially liked the displays focusing on regional Appalachian crafts such as broom-making, basketry and quilting,

as well as the blue grass, gospel, country and other musical genres that evolved here. 

You can pay a virtual visit to the East Tennessee History Center here

Libraries and Archives | Museums | Social History
Monday, 23 August 2010 10:37:27 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Saturday, 21 August 2010
All Smiles at FGS!
Posted by Diane

A couple of photos for you from the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Knoxville, Tenn:

Terry Nicholson (right), a fellow Ohioan, was the lucky winner of our door prize, our 10 Years of Family Tree Magazine DVD. That's Family Tree Magazine publisher and editorial director Allison Stacy congratulating her.

Four of our Family Tree University instructors gathered at our booth yesterday for a meet-and-greet with FTU students and prospective students. There was even some "FTU!" chanting, led by Find Your German Roots instructor James M. Beidler (second from right). The others pictured are (left to right) Tim Pinnick, instructor of Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers; Jana Sloan Broglin, Finding Ancestors in the US Census; and Diana Crisman Smith, US Military Records and Land Records 101.

You can read all about FTU instructors at

Family Tree University | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Saturday, 21 August 2010 11:37:14 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 19 August 2010
Happy 90th to the 19th Amendment!
Posted by Diane

Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution. I’m especially partial to this one because it granted women the right to vote, declaring “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Tennessee, where we are right now for the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, is the state whose General Assembly passed the suffrage amendment by one vote Aug. 18, 1920. By becoming the 36th state to ratify the amendment, Tennessee assured the approval of the three-fourths of the states—the final requirement necessary for ratification.

Assemblyman Henry T. Burn from McMinn County provided the tie-breaking vote. He originally planned to vote against the 19th amendment, but a letter from his mother changed his mind.

“I notice some of the speeches against," she wrote. "They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. [Carrie Chapman] Catt put the "rat" in ratification.”

The next day, Burn told the Assembly that he changed his vote because "a good boy always does what his mother asks him to do."

Read about the long struggle for women’s suffrage and the passage of the 19th amendment on these sites:

Female ancestors | Social History
Thursday, 19 August 2010 21:28:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
NEHGS Launches Website
Posted by Diane

The New England Historic Genealogy (NEHGS) has launched a new website, to reflect the society’s broad range of genealogical resources, announced  NEHGS president  D. Brenton Simons. includes NEHGS’ New England and New York content, features, articles, and resources, as well as weekly updates and databases in a variety of regional and ethnic specialties, such as sources for mid-Atlantic, Irish, and African-American research. The site has a new image viewer
for genealogical records, an enhanced search engine, faster navigation and search results time, and social networking-type profiles for NEHGS members.

Most records databases  and indexes on the site are available to NEHGS members ($75 per year); but the site also has a few free indexes, an array of how-to articles, a genealogy question of the day, the NEHGS library catalog and more.

Though its scope has broadened, Simons says NEHGS will remain committed to its core strength: New England genealogical scholarship. “New England will always be our greatest strength and primary focus, as well as our cherished institutional name. We have much New England material to bring to the public and the new website will add 25 million additional New England names to search.”

For more information on, see this NEHGS press release.

Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, 19 August 2010 12:20:25 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
FamilySearch News From FGS
Posted by Diane

Day one of our Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Knoxville, Tenn., started off bright and early with a FamilySearch-hosted breakfast to update the genealogy media on recent and upcoming changes to FamilySearch.

Most exciting are the developments on the FamilySearch beta site. Eventually, this site will seamlessly integrate all the FamilySearch tools that now live on different sites: the Record Search Pilot, Family History Library catalog, pedigree databases, FamilySearch Wiki, FamilySearch blog, online videos and other learning tools, “new” Family Search (the family tree feature that’s currently available to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and others.

The Record Search Pilot and library catalog search (already on the beta site) are far more sophisticated than those on the Record Search Pilot site and FamilySearch, respectively.

According to FamilySearch product manager Robert Kehrer, all the records now on the pilot site will be searchable on the beta site within a month. FamilySearch isn’t big on giving launch dates, but Kehrer says some major updates to the beta site will take place by the end of the year, others will be ongoing.

FamilySearch beta eventually will replace the current FamilySearch site, whose technology doesn’t allow it to host all these useful tools. You can see what’s on the beta site so far at

In other FamilySearch news, FamilySearch is hosting a Rootstech conference Feb. 10-12 in Salt Lake City to bring together “technologists” and genealogists. The goal is to encourage innovation in genealogy., the New England Historic Genealogical Society and Brigham Young University also are sponsoring the conference.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events
Thursday, 19 August 2010 11:42:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 17 August 2010
See you in Knoxville!
Posted by Grace

We're looking forward to seeing many of you at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference tomorrow through Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. For those staying home, we'll be doing our best to bring you the conference news and happenings here on the blog.

If you're going, be sure to visit us in booth 316. We'll have magazines and other handouts (while supplies last) and our newest books, CDs and other products for sale. The exhibit hall, which is free to the public, is open Thursday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can also meet some of our Family Tree University instructors from noon to 12:30 p.m. Friday at our booth!

If you haven't registered yet for the conference, you can do so on-site. The cost is $235 for the full four days or $125 for one day. (And again -- you can visit the exhibit hall even if you're not a registered conference attendee!)

Visit the FGS website for the conference program, exhibit hall map and special events information. The conference news blog has updates, handy advice and insider information from event organizers. Read our earlier post about local research opportunities, including extended research hours at the East Tennessee Historical Society.

See you at the show!

Family Tree University | Genealogy Events
Tuesday, 17 August 2010 13:08:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
New Class: Exploring City Directories
Posted by Grace

The August round of Family Tree University courses began yesterday, but there's still time to sign up for this session! Of particular interest is Exploring City Directories: How to Trace Your Family in Yesterday's Yellow Pages. Course instructor Patricia Van Skaik is a genealogy librarian, so she really knows her stuff. Read this excerpt of a case study from the class to see for yourself:
An 1846 Cincinnati city directory reveals that photographer Charles Fontayne operated a business in Cincinnati in 1845. In fact, in the 1840s and early 1850s he did not live in Cincinnati, but instead one mile across the river in Newport, Ky. However, he did not appear in any US census schedules until 1860. 

William S. Porter's family knew he moved to Cincinnati by 1850, but knew little about him before then, including his reason for migrating to Cincinnati. The 1849 directory reveals Porter's arrival about a year after Fontayne's, and shows Porter becoming Fontayne's business partner in a photography studio.

The photographic method of the time, the daguerreotype, was extraordinarily expensive and could only be supported by a large and prosperous city. Cincinnati was the sixth largest city in the United States, just behind Baltimore, and very cosmopolitan as revealed through the wide range of products, including luxury goods, advertised in the directories. Photographers were an elite group with only eight listed in the 1850 Cincinnati directory.

Applying the cluster strategy to the business associates led to looking for connections between Fontayne and Porter before their partnership in Cincinnati. Baltimore city directories from the early 1840s show Fontayne and Porter as business partners there. We can conclude that Porter followed Fontayne to continue the business, a successful endeavor as demonstrated by their ornate advertisement.

The Fontayne and Porter case study illustrates several of key concepts of delving deeper into city directories:
  • Use the cluster strategy with co-workers. Business associates may have worked together elsewhere prior to their arrival in their current city.
  • Chain migration—one individual traveling ahead to be joined later by another—can apply to occupational groups.

  • Business location is important and strategically chosen.

  • Business owners may have lived in a different city or state.

  • Read between the years and compare information about the industry and your ancestor.

  • Look to advertisements for further information about the ancestor or company, including its target audience and prosperity.

  • Identification in a city directory points to new leads for genealogical sources.
You can see the Exploring City Directories syllabus here, and sign up for the course here! (Note: If you use the coupon code SCHOOL20, you'll get $20 off this course or any other this month!)

Family Tree University | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Tuesday, 17 August 2010 09:53:40 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 13 August 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 9-13
Posted by Diane

The New England Historic Genealogical Society and will hold a Family History Day Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center Boston. The day includes lectures, consultations and document scanning. Attendance costs $38. Learn more and register here.

GenealogyBank has updated more than 1,800 newspapers and added new titles. In addition, the site will add 400,000 digital newspaper pages (11,633 issues from 48 newspapers) in September. You can get a peek at the list on the GenealogyBank blog.

Aug. 14 marks the 75th anniversary of Social Security, the federal program that gave us the Social Security Death Index and the SS-5 (Social Security application). On, you can learn how to access these two great genealogical resources. You also can view the Social Security Administration’s history pages.

Ready to share your family history knowledge? Geneabloggers blogger and High-Definition Genealogy founder Thomas MacEntee has published an e-book called Approaching the Lectern: How to Become a Genealogy Speaker that will help you become a more-effective speaker at conferences, society meetings and other venues. You can download it as a PDF for $8.99, or order it in print form for $12.99.

The Genealogy Gems Podcast is among the first 1,000 shows available through the new BlackBerry Podcasts, a free app that lets BlackBerry users (running BlackBerry OS v4.6 or higher) listen to free audio and video. You can get the app at BlackBerry App World.

If you missed NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” this past spring—or you just want to relive the thrill of seeing celebrities do genealogy on prime-time network television—you can watch the reruns Friday nights from Aug. 13 to Sept. 3 at 8/7c on NBC.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Newspapers | Podcasts
Friday, 13 August 2010 12:08:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
Friday the 13th Trivia
Posted by Diane

While you're avoiding ladders and black cats today, you can brush up on some Friday the 13th fun facts:
  • Friday the 13th is a relatively recent phenomenon: The earliest known documented reference is in an 1869 biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini: “If it be true that, like so many other Italians, he regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died.”
  • In 1907, Thomas W. Lawson published a novel called Friday the Thirteenth about a stockbroker who orchestrates a financial panic on Wall Street by preying on people's superstitions.
  • Many consider Friday a bad day to begin a project or a journey. In Scandinavia, Friday was known as "Witches' Sabbath." Author Charles Panati writes that the Norse goddess of love and fertility, Frigga, was banished and called a witch when Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity. Every Friday, she met with eleven other witches and the devil (for a total of 13) to plan the next week’s misdeeds.
  • In numerology, the number 12 symbolizes completeness, whereas 13 is an irregular number that ruins the completeness.
  • Every month that begins on a Sunday will contain a Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th occurs at least once but no more than three times per year on the Gregorian calendar.
  • The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia.
  • Spanish-speaking cultures fear Martes Trece, Tuesday the 13th. In Greek culture, too, Tuesday the 13th is a day of bad luck.

Genealogy fun
Friday, 13 August 2010 11:04:32 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
New in Store: Family Tree Magazine Web Guides CD
Posted by Diane

Our new Web Guides CD, which delivers user guides to 11 of the most popular genealogy sites on the internet, is available for pre-order from

Each guide has a how-to article, screen-by-screen search techniques, and a cheat sheet with quick links, hints and hacks from online genealogy experts.

The CD is a great way to catch up on guides in the magazine you may have missed, or just keep them handy in an easy-to-store, searchable format with clickable links.

With the CD, you also get a bonus guide to Google, a handy web search tracker, and free access to new or updated Web Guides for one year. Click here to learn more and to order.

Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice
Friday, 13 August 2010 08:58:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 12 August 2010
Genealogy Q&A From Our Ask the Editors Webinar
Posted by Diane

Thanks to everyone who attended last night's free “Ask the Editors” webinar! We had a blast, and we hope to do it again.

I wanted to share the questions attendees asked—and our answers, of course, enhanced with links to resources we mentioned and a few new ones. But first, because Allison, Grace, Lindsay and I started the webinar with an introduction, blog readers can “meet” most of us on our staff page. Get to know Lindsay here. And now for the main event:

Q. How would I find a 1905 death certificate from Mexico?

A. Civil registrations in Mexico (akin to vital records in the United States) started in the mid- to late-1860s, though records may not be complete. In most cases, records were kept on the municipio level and you can request copies from the local civil registry (addresses are in FamilySearch’s Mexico research outline). Older records may have been transferred to a local or state archive.

Before writing, see if the record is in an online index or on microfilm. Many Mexican death records are indexed on the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site. Search the Family History Library online catalog for microfilmed civil registration records or indexes, as well.

You’ll find more advice in our Mexico Research Guide digital download, available from

Q. I can't find my ancestor’s birthplace. Different censuses give different locations, and I don’t know his parents’ names. Where should I look?

A. It’s not unusual for a person’s birthplace to be inconsistent from one census to the next. The trick is to go beyond census records. Many sources will give a place of birth, so continue researching the person in any record you can get your hands on. Bibles, baptismal records, newspaper birth announcements, military records, passports, naturalizations and death records are a few sources that often name a person’s birthplace.

See which places are mentioned most often, and focus there. You may find online birth indexes such as those for Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri or South Dakota. Websites such as and FamilySearch often have vital records indexes, too.

Get in-depth information and online search demos in our recorded webinar Vital Records: Researching Your US Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths, available from

Q. How do you trace a child named Jane Doe who was a foundling, and was adopted?

A. Adoptions weren’t always formalized in courts—sometimes a relative or neighbor would take in the child. For a formalized adoption, look into guardianship records (court records of hearings to determine who would care for a minor). Also look for an amended birth certificate, changed to reflect the child’s adoptive rather than biological parents.

Another good resource is newspapers. Finding an abandoned child would be a newsworthy event and may have received press coverage and follow-up articles. Also see the resources in our adoption toolkit and the “Early Adopters” article in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital issue).

Q. How do you find a grave site when the cemetery doesn’t know where the stone is?

A. Try looking in the cemetery for plots of relatives and those of the same last name, since family members are often buried together. Also search for burial indexes, many of which were created years ago—perhaps before the cemetery lost track of the burial record or the stone was overgrown. In the 1930s and early ‘40s, the Works Progress Administration indexed cemeteries in many communities; you’ll find a free WPA cemetery database at Access Genealogy and printed indexes at public libraries and the Family History Library. The Daughters of the American Revolution also has collected cemetery and other records for years.

A webinar attendee suggested the researcher look for burial permits, which many counties would issue before a grave could be dug, as well as funeral home records. Just this week, I got a letter from a reader who found a permit that a deceased’s relative's second husband had obtained to have the remains moved to his own family plot.

Q. Several of my lines have “daughtered out.” What is your advice for researching women?

A. Our female ancestors just don’t show up in as many records as our male ancestors did, so sometimes you get to a point where you can’t trace a family line back past a woman. Allison emphasized the importance of not focusing just on the female ancestor, but also researching her husband, children, siblings, parents and neighbors. Records of these people may lead you to a maiden name and other information about the woman. Because people often married those who lived nearby, researching the husband’s family may lead to records of interactions, such as land transactions, with your female ancestor’s family.

See our list of records that often reveal details about female ancestors.

Q. What will increase my chances of success in your photo calls?

A. As Allison explained in the webinar, which photos end up in the magazine or another project is partly luck, for example, say we need a wintry photo for a January calendar page, and you’ve sent in a photo of kids sled-riding on a snowy day. Or sometimes a project calls for a vertical or horizontal orientation.

Another thing we look for is a photo with a clear focal point to draw the viewer’s eye. “Compelling” is a good word to describe a photo that makes someone want to pick it up and look at it longer. (We’re always happy when someone picks up the magazine!) Pleasant, open expressions on faces (we know outright smiles are rare in old pictures), a steady gaze, or cute kids are often compelling. Photos with unusual or surprising subject matter also can be compelling.

If we’ll be reprinting the photo at a relatively small size, we’ll want to make sure viewers can still easily discern the subject matter in the pictures (in this respect, photos of large groups of people might be at a disadvantage). But we hope you’ll upload your photos to our Flickr pools regardless—we love seeing them, as do others.

Cemeteries | census records | Female ancestors | International Genealogy | Photos | Vital Records
Thursday, 12 August 2010 15:30:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0] Adds 6 Million Names From Probate Records
Posted by Diane

British genealogy subscription site has added a database called the National Probate Calendar, 1861-1941, which has 6 million names and other information from wills and probate records created in England and Wales during those years. (This database also is available on Canadian subscription site and on

In England, the Principal Probate Registry has been responsible for the probate process since 1858. Cases were summarized in the registry’s National Probate Calendar.

“There’s an entry for the vast majority of people who died in that period,” says spokesperson Russell James. The calendar may provide the deceased person’s full name, date and place of death, executor of his or her will (often another family member) and value of the estate.

You can use the information in the database to write the Principal Probate Registry for copies of the deceased’s will and probate records.

Related resource from Family Tree Magazine: | court records | UK and Irish roots
Thursday, 12 August 2010 12:20:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Lindsay the Intern Visits Ellis Island
Posted by Lindsay

The Family Tree Magazine staff had to do without their intern last Monday, as I spent the weekend in New York. Being the amateur genealogist that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Ellis Island. Here’s a tip for the tourist: don’t visit Ellis Island on a Saturday afternoon in late July. It took me no less than 3 hours to make it through the line (which has airport-style security) and onto the ferry. Luckily, it was a beautiful day—had it been 5 degrees warmer, I don’t think I would have made it.

I vaguely remember a visit to Ellis Island on my first trip to New York when I was ten years old. My grandpa showed me (I forget how or where) a record for “Frank Sena” (his grandpa’s name) from Italy. During my research at FTM however, I learned that all of my ancestors came to America before 1892—the year that Ellis Island actually opened. The “Frank Sena” my grandpa showed me could have been any number of people.

Ellis Island consists of a big, beautiful building (now the Ellis Island Immigration Museum) on an island surrounded by trees and gardens. Despite its physical beauty (and the hundreds of tourists running around), the building has an eerie quality. Maybe because of the “horror” stories I learned in school—of people waiting for weeks, being inspected in six seconds and turned away for seemingly silly reasons—I felt uneasy as I passed through the exhibits.

The Museum itself is somewhat scattered, and unless you do the audio tour for another $8 (I opted out of this), it may be difficult to know where to go. There are many unmarked, unlocked doors, so I had to suspend my usual fear of “breaking the rules” and be a bit adventurous. While searching for the exit, I wandered into a room and was asked if I was there to pick up a record (there’s a station where you can search for your ancestors and print the actual records—or you can order them from I didn’t see any original records though, which was disappointing.

(me in the Great Hall on the second floor)

The two parts of the Museum that were the most memorable were the “Barbie Dolls of the World” exhibit, and some lone “graffiti columns.” The Barbie Doll exhibit—which took up a large portion of space on the first floor—made part of me wonder, “What is this doing here? Don’t they know this is a historic site?” and the other part think, “This is such a brilliant idea.” If I was ten (okay—maybe five) years younger, and you asked me to wait in line for three hours, you better believe I was walking away with an Italian-themed Barbie.

After being a bit dumbfounded by the Barbie exhibit, I was relieved to see some genuine artifacts in the form of two or three graffiti columns, located in a dim hallway on the second floor. The columns had been stripped of paint to reveal original drawings and writing from immigrants who had been waiting (presumably, to be examined). I couldn’t read any of what had been written (it was faded and written in foreign languages), but the columns finally made me feel connected to the many people who had passed through Ellis Island.

In other news, my family tree search continues! Thank you for your comments on my past posts—your advice has been very helpful. I’m learning that genealogy is largely about the process—you can’t learn everything in a week! I have made some exciting discoveries on my mother’s maternal line, which is now traced back to colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut. I may not be a Mayflower descendent, but I’ve discovered some ancestors that journeyed to America shortly after the Mayflower landed, in the 1630s and 1640s. I will update with more details later this week.

Family Tree Firsts
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 17:32:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers
Posted by Diane

The upcoming Family Tree University course Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers will help you use what instructor Tim Pinnick calls a neglected resource to trace your black ancestors.
Pinnick, author of the book Finding and Using African American Newspapers (read chapter 1, Making the Case for Newspaper Research, online as a PDF), emphasizes the importance of using both mainstream “white” newspapers and those written for a primarily African-American audience. Here’s why:
Mainstream newspapers carried a wide range of stories covering the African-American. A considerable number of white newspapers in both the North and South carried columns or special sections of news specifically for black readership. Stories ranged from items about local residents to those on a state or national scale. The Joliet Evening Herald News in April of 1926, for example, ran an article on the awarding of a charter to the first black Boy Scout troop in the city.
Obituaries or stories reporting the deaths of black community members can be found with regularity. Researchers report great success in finding items such as these on their ancestors. In most cases these ancestors have not lived a life of great acclaim, but have merely established themselves as amicable neighbors.
In general, it's not unusual to find obituaries in mainstream newspapers to be more extensive than those in African-American newspapers. I would guess that this is particularly true in cases when the white paper is published in town, while the black newspaper is national in scope and published elsewhere.

A case in point would be the death of African-American Nancy Greenly of Kankakee, Ill., in 1920. Her death notice in the Chicago Defender on January 17 consisted of one paragraph on page 7, compared to front-page coverage of the event in eight rich paragraphs in the Kankakee Daily Republican.
Pinnick recommends the N. W. Ayers & Son’s American Newspaper Annual, digitized on the Library of Congress website, to help you determine what newspapers were published in your ancestors’ area, and even the papers’ political leanings. Pinnick points out that before the Civil War until around the 1930s, elements of the Republican Party championed the rights of African-Americans. Newspapers supporting that party may have been more likely to cover African-Americans in the community.

Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers: Research Strategies for Success is a four-week course (one lesson per week) starting Aug. 16.

Click here to see a syllabus and learn more about the instructor.

Click here to register for the class.

African-American roots | Family Tree University | Newspapers | Research Tips
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 11:07:37 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Call for Photos!
Posted by Diane

Family Tree Magazine is putting out a call for photos for two projects featuring readers’ ancestors:
Stop by either Flickr pool to see photos and accompanying stories readers have already submitted. I especially like how George Washington Gaddy’s great-grandaughter relates standing on the Burnside Bridge—where G.W. was last seen before his death—on the Antietam battlefield.

Please submit your photos for either calendar on or before August 24. Include in the caption any details you know about the photo and who's in it, and tell us where you came across it it (for example, in your family's collection, at a historical society, etc.).

Note that you must have a Flickr membership (free or paid) to upload photos or add comments. Click here to learn more about Flickr.

If you have questions or wish to submit a photo by other means, you may e-mail your question or submission to us. Please attach a high-resolution image (at least 300 dpi).

You may submit as many photos as you like. There’s no need to post your real name if you prefer not to, but to be credited if your photo is selected, please provide your name and your city or town of residence.

By submitting photos and captions via Flickr or e-mail, you verify that no other party holds copyright to the image. You also grant F+W Media, Inc., permission to use your contribution in any and all print and electronic media.

Celebrating your heritage | Photos
Tuesday, 10 August 2010 09:18:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 09 August 2010
Sources for Free Online Family and Local Histories
Posted by Diane

I’ve been editing the Published Genealogies classes for Family Tree University, and I wanted to share these sources of free online family histories and local histories.

I've listed sources with broad geographic coverage first, followed by sources focusing on a particular state or locality. Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive—libraries and societies all over the place are putting books online. Click Comments below this post to add sources you know of.

Broad coverage

BYU Family History Archive: More than 17,000 items from the Family History Library, Allen County Public Library, Houston Public Library Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center, BYU Harold B. Lee Library, BYU Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library Find The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (aka the OR) and other mostly military titles

Google Books: Zillions of searchable books on all topics (many are free to read, especially older books, but books still covered by copyright may have limited or no preview)

HeritageQuest Online, accessible through public, state and university libraries that offer this service (ask at your library’s reference desk): More than 25,000 searchable family and local history books

Internet Archive: millions of books from libraries around the world

Library of Congress: Many books from the 1500s and 1600s about early explorations and world cultures, as well as US works including a farmer’s almanac with handwritten notes by George Washington

Making of America at and (different material is found on each site): Material covers Acadians, individuals and families, geographic areas and more

Project Gutenburg: Browse “bookshelves” on topics such as slavery, suffrage, witchcraft, bestsellers and more

State and local coverage

Digital Library of Georgia: The Anne Fannie Gorham Civil War diary, Living in Savannah scrapbook project, oral histories, titles from the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library and more

Historic Pittsburgh: City directories, local and church histories, University of Pittsburgh alumni directories and more

The Kansas Collection Books: Transcribed (rather than scanned) books from and about Kansas’ past

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Digital Library: The history and genealogy section includes county histories, city directories, ships’ log books, The Black Brigade of Cincinnati and more

Quinnipiac University Digitized Connecticut History Books: Biographies, regimental histories, local histories and more

Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collections: Pioneer memoirs and interviews, books on state history and more

The Family Tree University Published Genealogies course covers how to find and use genealogies in your research. The next course starts August 16—see for more information and to register.

Family Tree University | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Monday, 09 August 2010 13:37:46 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 06 August 2010 Acquires Research Firm ProGenealogists
Posted by Diane

Subscription site just announced it has acquired Salt Lake City-based professional genealogy research firm ProGenealogists.

The acquisition adds to the research services business launched last year with Expert Connect.

ProGenealogists has been operating for 15 years and employs a roster of more than 30 researchers including Natalie Cottrill, Kory L. Meyerink, Kyle J. Betit and Judith Wight. You may remember some of these names as the researchers who helped celebrities find their roots on the NBC television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”, a partner in the show, “will continue leveraging the expertise at ProGenealogists for similar initiatives in the future,” according to a press release.

The press release also stated that ProGenealogists will “continue to provide premier family history research to its existing clients while extending the reach across the genealogy value chain.”

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | | Genealogy Industry
Friday, 06 August 2010 14:37:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral: Aug. 2-6
Posted by Diane

  • Families is a new app for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that works in conjunction with  the windows-based family tree program Legacy Family Tree. You can transfer Legacy family files from your PC to your mobile device, then view and edit them. (You’ll need to download a free program called Families Sync to your PC in order to transfer the files.) Families is available at the Apple App store. Learn more on the Families website.

Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | UK and Irish roots | Vital Records
Friday, 06 August 2010 13:40:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 05 August 2010
How to Write Your Family's Story
Posted by Grace

In our upcoming August session, Family Tree University will teach you how to write right in the new class Writing Your Family Memoir: Create a Captivating Record of Your Family’s Story. Frequent Family Tree Magazine contributor Sunny McClellan Morton will teach the class, which includes advice like this to get your creative juices flowing:
In personal/family memoir or narrative family history, you, your family, and ancestors are now characters in a story. Obviously, you're not creating characters out of your imagination—you have real-life people to portray. But you can—and should—borrow the characterization techniques fiction writers use.

One of the first things a fiction writer learns is to reveal characters to the reader bit by bit, not all at once as can be seen in so many family histories:
"Felice Vallarelli was born on 28 March 1880 in Terlizzi, Bari, Italy."
When we meet someone in real life, no one stands there and reads us life statistics (or if he did, we would consider him a terrible bore). Why should we meet you or your family that way? Reveal your characters slowly—through their actions, how they dressed, their beliefs, and so on.
In four weeks, you'll develop a solid outline and structure for your family history book. (And when you've completed the book, check out Nancy Hendrickson's Creating a Family History Book, which goes into the self-publishing process.) The course starts August 16, so sign up today!

Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree University | Oral History
Thursday, 05 August 2010 10:51:58 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy Conferencing and Researching in Knoxville
Posted by Diane

Will we see you the week after next at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Knoxville, Tenn.? I hope so!

The conference takes place Aug. 18-21 at the Knoxville Convention Center. Besides taking classes—many of which will highlight local topics, such as research in the old frontier states and Cherokee Indian heritage—attending social events and capitalizing on local research opportunities, you can try genealogy resources and shop for books and supplies in the exhibit hall.

The exhibit hall (which has free admission) is open Thursday 9:30 am-5 pm, Friday noon-7 pm and Saturday 9 am-5 pm. Stop by booth 316 and say hi to Family Tree Magazine editors Grace Dobush, Allison Stacy and yours truly. Also check out our latest CDs and books, including the funny tombstone photos in Grave Humor (you might even get to meet author M.T. Coffin).

Click here for the full lineup of FGS events and here for a press release.
See the FGS Conference News Blog for updates.

My grandfather lived in Nashville around 1942, according to his father’s petition for naturalization, so I’ve been perusing the East Tennessee Historical Society website to see what resources I should use while in Knoxville.

The East Tennessee History Center at 601 S. Gay Street (about a mile from the convention center) houses the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knox County Public Library and the Knox County Archives, in addition to the Museum of East Tennessee History.

On the McClung Collection website, you can search indexes to local obituaries (1991-present), marriages (1901-1950) and delayed birth registrations (1861-1945). Search more digital materials here.

Microfilm in the McClung collection includes selected records from 31 counties in East Tennessee and six in Middle Tennessee, 1,500 volumes of county records transcribed by the WPA, land grant indexes, military records, 500 volumes of the Draper Manuscripts and more. You can acquaint yourself with the collection at the center’s open house, 2-8 pm on the Tuesday before the conference.

Update: The East Tennessee Historical Society is offering extended research hours during the conference:
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17: 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday-Friday, Aug. 18 - 20:  9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 21: 9 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Learn more about area research locales on the FGS conference blog.

Before you go, prepare to research your Tennessee ancestors with our Tennessee State Research Guide, available for $3 from (You can get all the state guides on CD or in book form.)

Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Research Tips
Thursday, 05 August 2010 09:49:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 04 August 2010
Yearbooks Free on World Vital Records 'Til Aug. 12
Posted by Diane

I just got an e-mail from subscription site World Vital Records that its large collection of high school and college yearbooks is free until Aug. 12.

You can search the entire collection at once, or one yearbook at a time by choosing the first letter of the school name and scrolling (or using your web browser’s Find function) to find the yearbook you need.

In searching for my grandfather in the University of Texas at Austin Cactus yearbook (I didn’t find him), I noticed that some of the images are a little pixelly. Was it just me, or did others find this? Look for the Smooth button in the upper right corner of the image viewer, which helps a little. I was still able to make out the names.

Here’s a yearbook page before Smooth:

and after Smooth:

Need help searching World Vital Records databases? You'll find it in our World Vital Records Web Guide digital download, available from

Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 11:30:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 03 August 2010
9 Things to Find Out About Your Family Heirlooms
Posted by Diane

There’s a family story on my mom's side about a dent in a silver pitcher Mom inherited from her dad’s mom. I don't remember how the story goes, but it has something to do with my grandpa and his brother arguing.

Luckily, I can go home tonight, call my mom and ask her to repeat the details (at which time I’ll write them down). But that opportunity won’t be around forever, so I’m planning to start keeping track of the specifics and stories about the heirlooms in our family.

If you want to do something similar, here are nine things to try to find out about each heirloom:
  • Who in your family first owned the heirloom
  • When and how it came into that person’s possession
  • When the heirloom was created and by whom
  • How the heirloom has been passed down in your family (in other words, its provenance)
  • Any stories associated with the heirloom
  • Who owns the heirloom now
  • Who will be the future owner of the heirloom (so generations to come don’t lose track of it)
  • The heirloom’s composition (so it can be properly cared for)
  • For an heirloom with monetary value, a professional appraisal amount (so it can be insured)
You can record your findings on our heirloom inventory form, downloadable free from Also try to take photos of the item and any manufacturer's or other identifying marks to keep with your records.

You'll find articles on preserving family photos and heirlooms on For more guidance, see these resources from

Family Heirlooms
Tuesday, 03 August 2010 16:31:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 02 August 2010
New Family Tree University Courses!
Posted by Diane

Just wanted to give you a heads up that registration is open for the next Family Tree University session, which begins Monday, Aug. 16. We've added several new classes:
We’ll also be bringing back a host of popular classes for the August session. You can read about these classes and meet the instructors at FamilyTree
You also can visit to learn how courses work, read genealogy how-to articles, and connect with Family Tree University on Facebook and Twitter.

Family Tree University | Research Tips
Monday, 02 August 2010 15:21:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]