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# Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Using Reverse Genealogy to Overcome Brick Walls
Posted by Diane

This advice for doing reverse genealogy—a great technique for dealing with a genealogy brick wall—is from Lisa Louise Cooke’s Reverse Genealogy course, part of Family Tree University’s December session. (The December session starts Dec. 6 and runs five weeks to give you extra time over the holidays.) 

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when researching an ancestor. But your research is best served by considering your focus ancestor as part of a community. (Emily Anne Croom, author of the best selling genealogy guide Unpuzzling Your Past, call this "cluster genealogy.")

Not only is your great-grandfather a member of his nuclear family, but also of an extended family. When you do reverse genealogy, you go a step beyond him and then research forward, broadening your search to his relatives and even friends. Any of the folks in your ancestor’s “cluster” could have provided him with housing, worked for him, asked him to witness a document or attended his funeral.

Here’s how this can work in a real-life research situation:

Several years ago, I was trying to locate my great-grandfather in the 1880 US census on microfilm without success. I found his parents and his siblings who were still living at home. Since Great-grandpa was 17 at the time, I expected to find him there, too. I searched for his future wife thinking perhaps they married younger than I thought. But she was living with her parents. Great-grandpa was nowhere to be found.

In an attempt to find him, I traced great-grandfather’s father back to the 1860 census, where he was listed in the household with his parents. I noted everyone in the household. Then I systematically researched forward, locating each sibling in the 1870 and 1880 censuses.

Sure enough, in 1880, I found my then-17-year-old great-grandfather living with his uncle (his father’s brother) in a neighboring town. Because of a variation in his name spelling, I probably never would’ve found him in online censuses.

Take a look at this picture of an ancestor’s potential family “cluster.” Every one of these relatives has the potential to help you make progress on researching that ancestor.

Click here to search or browse all the Family Tree University December course offerings


Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 3:54:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, November 29, 2010
Cyber Monday Genealogy Deals
Posted by Diane

Today, Nov. 29, is Cyber Monday, a day known for the last several years as a great time to shop online. You can get deals on genealogy stuff, too. A few we found:
  • Today at our own ShopFamilyTree.com, offer code SFT133 gets you 20 percent off your ShopFamilyTree.com order (some exclusions apply, including VIP membership, subscriptions, and products that ship directly from our retail partners). You also can choose a FREE digital download with your purchase. Choose from:
1. Beginner's Guide to Genealogy download
2. Discover Your Roots download
3. 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges download
  • Subscription records site Footnote is offering 50 percent off an annual all-access membership today only, for a total of $39.95. Click here to get started
  • Genetic testing service 23andMe is offering a $99 DNA test sale (normally $499) that ends today. Details at 23andMe.com
  • Through tomorrow, Nov. 30, the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) is giving a free UGA membership to registrants for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (taking place Jan. 10-14). Learn more on Renee’s Genealogy Blog.
  • On Cyber Monday, you’ll receive 15 percent off Elyse Doerflinger’s e-books Conquering The Paper Monster Once and For All and A Mini-Guide to Being a Part-Time Genealogist. Details at Elyse’s Genealogy Blog.

Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | Tech Advice
Monday, November 29, 2010 9:20:04 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Why Turkey?
Posted by Diane

You’ve probably heard that Turkey may or may not have been on the menu when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians sat down to their harvest feast in 1621.

Venison and wild fowl are the only two foods historians know for certain were consumed at the meal. And the men sent to capture fowl could’ve snagged small, seasonal birds such as quail, pheasant and duck, instead of the harder-to-catch wild turkey.

So why do we make such a big deal out of the Thanksgiving turkey? Why doesn't Grandma serve up venison on her best platter every November?

I did some googling. The pilgrims’ countrymen in England would dine on goose at special meals. Americans who later took up the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving may have substituted one big bird for another, because wild turkeys were more abundant here than geese.

In addition, large birds were a lot more affordable than giving everyone steaks or butchering all the laying hens. This quote about how the turkey became popular at Thanksgiving, from an article by Michelle Tsai, explains it well:

Among the big birds, turkey was ideal for a fall feast. Turkeys born in the spring would spend about seven months eating insects and worms on the farm, growing to about 10 pounds by Thanksgiving. They were cheaper than geese, which were more difficult to raise, and cheaper by the pound than chickens.

Americans started eating turkey for Thanksgiving in the mid-1800s, after Godey’s Lady’s Book editor Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. At the time, the holiday was celebrated mostly in New England on a different day in each state.

Hale published editorials and wrote to several presidents. Finally, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln—hoping to boost the war-weary country's morale—supported legislation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Supposedly, Hale popularized a holiday menu of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. But nostalgic images of the Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a huge feast didn’t enter popular consciousness until later in the century.

Turns out the pilgrims and Wampanoag didn’t eat pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce in 1621, either. Not much about our modern Thanksgiving has to do with how the Pilgrims actually celebrated their first harvest—except the most important part, gathering with loved ones to be grateful for what we have.


Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy fun | Social History
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 9:18:37 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Thanksgiving, Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals at ShopFamilyTree.com!
Posted by Diane


This is for all you deal seekers! Here are the specials we’re running this week on Family Tree Magazine how-to genealogy books, CDs, back issues, webinars and more at ShopFamilyTree.com.
  • Thursday, Nov. 25: Thanksgiving Day only, you’ll get free shipping on any ShopFamilyTree.com US order. Even orders less than $25, and even products shipped from our retail partners that normally incur additional shipping charges. 
  • Friday, Nov. 26 to Monday, Nov. 29: On Black Friday, you’ll receive 20 percent off your ShopFamilyTree.com order when you enter offer code is SFT133 at checkout. Some exclusions apply, including VIP membership, subscriptions, and products that ship directly from our retail partners.
  • Monday, Nov. 29: On Cyber Monday, in addition to the 20 percent off your ShopFamilyTree.com order mentioned above, offer code SFT133 enables you to choose a FREE digital download with your purchase (this also doesn’t apply to VIP memberships, subscriptions or products that ship directly from our retail partners). Choose from: 
  1. Beginner's Guide to Genealogy download
  2. Discover Your Roots download
  3. 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges download
Start your holiday shopping at ShopFamilyTree.com.

If your gift list also has woodworkers, writers, artists, gardeners, fabric and yarn crafters, collectors, graphic designers, old car enthusiasts or hunters, you’ll want to take advantage of the F+W Media Friends and Family Free Shipping Special. (F+W is the publishing company that brings you Family Tree Magazine.)

This Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25 and 26, my friends and family (you qualify as one or the other!) can shop at any F+W online bookstore and get free shipping on US orders by using the offer code on this page.

Editor's Pick | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Tuesday, November 23, 2010 10:10:52 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 22, 2010
Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories Blogging Event
Posted by Diane

Got holiday traditions and decorations on your mind? So do genealogy bloggers.

Starting December 1, many will be participating in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories blogging event. Through Dec. 24, participating bloggers respond to blogging prompts by writing about memories related to the theme and their family history.

You can visit the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories blog to see the prompts (about cookie-baking, your childhood beliefs about Santa Claus, your Christmas stocking, and more) and link to bloggers’ posts. If you blog and you’d like to participate, you’ll find the how-tos there, too.

Started as a bi-annual event in December 2007 on GeneaBloggers, the affair is now annual and has dozens of participants. You can follow the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories on Facebook and Twitter.


Family Heirlooms | Genealogy fun
Monday, November 22, 2010 8:42:42 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 19, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Nov. 15-19
Posted by Diane

  • Congratulations to Lisa Louise Cooke on the 100th episode of her Genealogy Gems podcast! This special episode celebrates the first 100 with a look at some of Lisa's favorite gems, interviews and milestones, plus some messages from listeners.
  • FamilySearch Beta has added or updated 34 collections of genealogical records—that’s 15 million indexed records and 2.5 million images. The information covers 13 countries: Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Jamaica, Canada and the United States. Click here to see a list of the new/updated collections
  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society is holding a technology-focused Weekend Research Getaway Jan. 27 to 29, 2011. The weekend will combine guided research at the NEHGS Research Library in Boston with educational lectures about using technology in your family search. Registration costs $300, or you can buy a day pass. See the program and register at AmericanAncestors.org.
  • Ancestry.com and National Geographic Digital Media have developed an online family history “experience” on the National Geographic Genographic Project website where visitors can learn more about researching genealogy and search their roots. They’ll be able to start an online family tree, get tips on doing family history, and links to Ancestry.com’s subscription record collections. The Genographic Project is a DNA study of the genetic makeup of populations around the world in order to chart the migration history of the human species.

Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites | Podcasts
Friday, November 19, 2010 12:27:58 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 18, 2010
MyHeritage Adds Printing Service & Free Family Charts
Posted by Diane

Family network and genealogy site MyHeritage revamped its family tree charts feature with new designs site members can customize online and print for free.

The site also launched a professional poster-printing service for any chart produced on the website, as well as a chart design service.

If you have your family tree information on MyHeritage, you can click on the Family Tree tab on your family site, then select Charts and Books. Choose from 18 chart types, including new bowtie and hourglass designs. The MyHeritage version of the hourglass format is unique in that it can include the ancestors of any spouse.

You also can customize your chart with border designs, frames, backgrounds, decorations, colors and fonts. You can opt to include information such as names, birth dates, wedding anniversaries, photos and personal notes.

This is an example of a bowtie chart, with a nuclear family in the center and each parent’s ancestors on the sides.

This all-in-one chart shows collateral relatives—aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings.

You can export your chart for free in high-resolution PDF format to print or share via e-mail.

You also can order a professionally printed poster starting at $20. A variety of paper types (standard, matte photo, glossy photo, vinyl or canvas) and sizes (including huge wall charts for family reunions) are available, with optional lamination. 

MyHeritage provides free hosting for family websites up to 250MB and trees up to 250 people, with more storage and features for $6.25 to $9.95 per month. You can start a MyHeritage tree by uploading a GEDCOM or typing in names.

Learn how to make the most of your MyHeritage membership with Family Tree Magazine’s MyHeritage Web Guide download, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.


Family Heirlooms | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, November 18, 2010 11:18:50 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 17, 2010
All 2010 Family Tree Magazines on One CD
Posted by Diane


New in our online store this week is the Family Tree Magazine 2010 CD, featuring PDF versions of all eight issues we published this year.



Get your hands on one of these and you can…
  • keyword-search the issues to find expert guidance on the family history records, resources and topics you need

  • print any articles you want for quick reference

  • tuck a year’s worth of how-to genealogy advice into your research tote for library trips

  • slip your slim CD case into a mere 1/4 inch of bookshelf space
Among the articles you’ll find in these eight issues: 
  • Wide Open Spaces (November): 10 ideas for cutting clutter and getting your genealogy stuff under control

  • Census Extravaganza (May): A special section of articles on information censuses collected over the years, getting ready for the release of the 1940 census in 2012, and finding census records from your ancestors’ homeland

  • Undercover Genealogy (July): 10 investigative strategies for locating living relatives

  • Go-Go-Gadgets (March): Seven essential technology tools every genealogist needs, and what features to look for in each

  • Soul Searching (August): Finding your US ancestors in church records

  • Fancy Free (September): Our list of the 101 best free websites for researching your ancestors

  • Heads of State (December): 75 great state websites for finding family across the country

  • Heritage research guides for Scots-Irish, Baltic, Finnish, Italian, Puerto Rican and Dutch roots, as well as tips for crossing the pond to your European forbears
Click here to get the Family Tree Magazine 2010 CD from ShopFamilyTree.com. (Remember, Family Tree VIPs get 10 percent off.)


Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Research Tips
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 5:21:20 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Ancestry.com Updates Date Searching
Posted by Diane

Sometime tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 18), you’ll start to notice new options for the date fields on subscription site Ancestry.com’s search form.

The coming changes will add an “Add an Event” link to the current birth and death date fields in the search form. Click that link, and you can use a pulldown menu select a type of event—marriage, military service, “lived in,” arrival or departure (the last two are in reference to immigration)—and then enter the year the event occurred.

In search forms for collections in which exact dates are indexed, including vital records databases and the Social Security death index, you’ll be able to enter a day, month and year for birth, marriage and/or death. Some forms also will get an “any event” date field you can use to type in the year of any life event that might be included in a record.

You can get more details and see what the updated search forms will look like on Ancestry.com’s blog.


Ancestry.com
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 4:04:24 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Meet Our Family Tree Firsts Blogger!
Posted by Diane

A little while back, we started our search for a newbie genealogist to blog for six months about his or her family research experiences and resources. 

We were thoroughly impressed by all the entries we received, and wish we could pick all of them! The Family Tree Firsts blogger we selected is Nancy Shively of Skiatook, Okla. A genealogist of six months—since she discovered her mom had a brother who died in infancy—she’ll be researching mostly in Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennesse, Indiana and Canada.

Nancy reports she's excited to get started blogging, and adds “I am interested in my female ancestors but also in the military experiences of the men in my family tree. I love walking through old cemeteries. I want to know how my family fit in with larger events and trends in history.”

You can read Nancy’s first blog entry on FamilyTreeUniversity.com

Update: And Nancy's the 1,400th blogger at Geneabloggers! Sweet!


Family Tree Firsts
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 1:32:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
"WDYTYA?" Season 2 Debuts Jan 21
Posted by Diane

The genealogy tv show “Who Do You Think You Are?” returns to NBC for its second season Friday, Jan. 21 at 8 pm (7 central), according to the NBC website. It’ll help fill open slots during a mid-season shakeup that'll rearrange the schedule and cancel a few shows. 

No details on which celebrities will trace their roots on air in season 2, but you can see Family Tree Magazine readers’ suggestions on our Forum.


"Who Do You Think You Are?"
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 8:58:38 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 15, 2010
Nominate a Genealogy Blog for the 2011 Family Tree 40
Posted by Diane

Genealogy blogs are a great way to find out about new resources, get reviews of websites and software, pick up research tips, and share in others’ family history searches. If you’re the blogger doing the sharing, you’ve probably met some wonderful genealogy folks (and possibly cousins) through your blog.

The May 2010 Family Tree Magazine celebrated this phenomenon with the Family Tree 40, forty genealogy blogs that you all nominated and voted on as the best genealogy blogs. (You can see the 2010 Family Tree 40 list in our free online article.) 

Genealogy blogs are going strong with new ones popping up every day, so we’re doing it again in 2011! You can nominate your favorite genealogy blogs using our online form now through Tuesday, Nov. 30.

When you nominate a blog, you’ll give us the title and URL, optionally tell us why you’re nominating it, and put it into one of these eight categories (a few have changed from last year’s Family Tree 40):

  • Local/regional history and genealogy: blogs focusing on research in a specific county, state or region. Most library and archive blogs, as well as many local historical and genealogical society blogs, would go here.
  • Heritage groups: Blogs focusing on the family history of a specific ethnic, religious or national background (such as African-American, Jewish, Polish, etc.)
  • Research advice and how-to: Blogs that primarily explain how to research, analyze photos or perform various family history tasks. The blogger offers tips, strategies and examples; explains genealogical concepts; and writes about how to use new resources.
  • Cemeteries: These blogs feature content primarily about cemetery research and visiting cemeteries. Many feature tombstone photos and transcriptions, with information about those interred.
  • “My Family History”: Blogs about the blogger’s own roots, including accounts of personal research, their own family photos and heirlooms, stories, recipes, etc.
  • “Everything” blogs: Blogs that cover it all—genealogy news, research advice, opinions, local history, family stories, etc.—go here.
  • New blogs: Was the blog you’re nominating launched during the past year? Categorize it here, even if it would also fit into another category.
  • Technology: Blogs focusing on genealogy websites, software, DNA testing or other aspects of technology as it relates to genealogy.

Thanks to our Family Tree 40 panelists—Genealogy Gems blogger Lisa Louise Cooke, Genea-Musings blogger Randy Seaver, Myrt of the DearMyrtle blog and Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers—for lending their expertise in formulating the blog categories and qualifications.

Family Tree Magazine editors and Family Tree 40 panelists will winnow out any blogs that aren’t qualified (see below) and, if necessary depending how many blogs are nominated, narrow the list of nominees based on the quality of the blogs’ content.

From Dec. 13 to 20, you all will vote on those finalists for the final Family Tree 40 blogs. The Family Tree 40 blogs, featuring five winners per category, will be revealed in the July 2011 Family Tree Magazine.

Qualifying blogs must:

  • be primarily about genealogy.
  • have original content (aggregators featuring posts from other blogs will be disqualified).
  • belong to a private individual or individuals, not to a business (a change from last year’s Family Tree 40). They may not exist primarily to market products.
  • be active, having at least four posts per month for the past three months (or, for blogs newer than three months, four posts per month since the blog has been in existence).
  • contain or link to information about the blogger(s), such as an “About Me” page.
  • not be hosted by a Family Tree 40 panelist or by Family Tree Magazine.

Look for reminders and updates on Facebook; on Twitter (we'll use hashtag #FT40), in the Family Tree Magazine free, weekly e-mail newsletter, and, of course, here on the Genealogy Insider blog.

Nominate a Family Tree 40 blog here

Genealogy bloggers, feel free to add this badge to your blog to encourage voting! You can link it to the nomination form:


Family Tree 40 | Family Tree Magazine articles
Monday, November 15, 2010 12:38:34 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 12, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Nov. 8-12
Posted by Diane

It’s been a good week for researchers with British and Canadian roots! In this genealogy roundup:
  • In honor of Remembrance Day, Canadian subscription genealogy site Ancestry.ca has added a huge collection of Canadian WWI death and burial records.
Canada, CEF Commonwealth War Graves Registers, 1914-1919 details the circumstances of death for more than two thirds of the 60,000 Canadian soldiers who fought and died in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. Canada, CEF Burial Registers, First World War, 1914-1919 details temporary and final resting places of soldiers who died.
  • Ancestry.com and UK website Thegenealogist.co.uk have reached an agreement with the UK national archives to publish the 1911 census of England and Wales, the most recent UK census available to the public. The companies will work together to transcribe the census, creating a searchable database. Ancestry.com will add the records by county, starting in late 2010 and finishing up in 2011. (You can search this census now on subscription site 1911census.co.uk, operated by UK genealogy site FindMyPast.co.uk.) 
  • British genealogy subscription site FamilyRelatives.com has added a million records from post office directories. Similar to phone books, these directories name local people and businesses. The growing collection currently covers more than 25 British counties and major cities, and spans nearly a century. Read more on FamilyRelatives.com.
  • British genealogy website FindMyPast.co.uk is working with FamilySearch to post online indexes and images of Welsh parish registers dating as far back as the 16th century.
FamilySearch will digitize about the images containing baptisms, marriages and burials; FindMyPast.co.uk will transcribe them. Over the next two years, you’ll be able to search a free index on FamilySearch, with the records available for a fee on FindMyPast.co.uk. In Wales, users will be able to access the records free through Welsh Archives Services

Canadian roots | census records | Military records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, November 12, 2010 2:26:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 11, 2010
And the Lucky Winner Is . . .
Posted by Diane

A big family history HURRAY! for Kathy Sundquist of Las Vegas, who won our Ultimate Family History Giveaway!

You can see all the cool stuff she won here. Thank you to all our sponsors who are giving Kathy a huge genealogy research boost!


Genealogy fun
Thursday, November 11, 2010 12:00:13 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Discover Military Ancestors With Help From FTU
Posted by Diane


Chances are good you have an ancestor who served in the military, and the service, pension and other records they left behind are rich genealogical resources. 

You can get an in-depth education in how to find and use military records from Family Tree University’s US Military Records Course.

The course lessons cover:

  • Terminology and concepts important to understanding the records
  • An overview of US wars and types of records are available for each
  • How to find records including rosters, muster rolls, compiled military service records, pension records, bounty land warrants, draft registrations—using both online and offline sources Examples of the records discussed 
  • Supplementary military research articles from Family Tree Magazine are included with the course lessons.

You can take this course in two ways:

  • Register for the online course through Family Tree University, and take advantage of the opportunity to interact with instructor Diana Crisman Smith and your fellow students. The November session started Monday (you can register through the end of this week) and lasts five weeks (instead of four) to give you extra time during your holiday preparations.

Family Tree University | Military records
Thursday, November 11, 2010 11:55:27 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Military Research Help on FamilyTreeMagazine.com
Posted by Diane

Over the years, Family Tree Magazine has published a slew of articles on researching your military ancestors. To help you learn more about your forebears' service this Veterans Day, I put together a sampling of what’s available on our website.

To find more articles, just type the name of the war into the search box in the upper-right corner of any FamilyTreeMagazine.com page or browse our Military Records category

General Military


Specific Wars


Military research articles exclusively for Family Tree Plus members include:

You can find print copies and/or digital downloads of the Family Tree Magazine issues mentioned above at ShopFamilyTree.com


Family Tree Magazine articles | Military records
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 3:42:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Ancestry.com Adds West Point Application Papers
Posted by Diane

As part of its Veterans Day commemoration, subscription genealogy site Ancestry.com has added more than 115,000 cadet application papers from West Point to commemorate Veterans Day. The records are part of the database U.S. Military and Naval Academies, Cadet Records and Applications, 1805-1908

You'll be able to search the records free this weekend: Also for Veterans Day, Ancestry.com is making its military records collection free from Nov. 11-14

The West Point Application Papers include applicants’ letters dating from 1805 to 1866 requesting appointment, War Department letters of recommendation and notification if the candidate was accepted, and letters of acceptance from the candidate.

More than 115,000 candidates are named; they include well-known West Point graduates who went on to military careers, such as

  • William Tecumseh Sherman, who became a Union general in the Civil War

  • Thomas J. Jackson, a Confederate commander who was nicknamed “Stonewall” at the Battle of Chancellorsville

  • George Pickett, who resigned from the US Army in 1861 to serve for the Confederacy, and led Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg

  • George Custer, who joined the Union Army after graduating last in his class at West Point

Ancestry.com | Military records
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 2:57:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogists Join to Build a Better GEDCOM
Posted by Diane

In an effort to “build a better GEDCOM,” a group of genealogists and programmers have established a wiki workspace called BetterGEDCOM

GEDCOM (for GEnealogy Data COMmunication) is the language genealogy software programs use to communicate with each other—when you export family data from your genealogy software, you create either a file native to that program or a GEDCOM file that other genealogy programs and websites can read.

(Get help creating a GEDCOM from FamilyTreeMagazine.com's free GEDCOM Basics article.)

But the GEDCOM file format has some shortcomings—one being that it hasn’t been updated in 14 years.

“In the meantime, genealogists have incorporated tools with expanded capabilities reflecting changing technology," says Russ Worthington, a genealogy lecturer and software “power user.”

GEDCOM files you export from your genealogy software may leave out some of your research. “The current GEDCOM file exchange strips out much of my hard work, leaving only some of the data I've typed and attached to each well-documented ancestor,” says genealogy blogger DearMYRTLE. “We experience similar problems when uploading and downloading our genealogy data with popular genealogy websites."

More GEDCOM problems are pointed out in this DearMYRTLE blog post.

The BetterGEDCOM wiki allows genealogy software programmers, website developers and end users to collaborate on developing better data exchange standards. Organizers hope this will facilitate sharing between researchers who use a variety of technology platforms, genealogy products and services. 

"We also seek to account for language and cultural differences as we develop data standards for recording family history information." says Greg Lamberson, the technician who developed the wiki’s initial pages. "Input from BetterGEDCOM participants the world over is a vital component."

BetterGEDCOM plans to codify standards, giving genealogy software developers a framework to resolve problems, and will seek recognition by international standards organizations.

Click here to visit the BetterGEDCOM wiki; the “Where do I start?” section on the home page and the “What is BetterGEDCOM?” link on the left are good places to begin. Anyone can join the effort—just click Join at the top to register.

Confused by computer file formats? Consult our free computer file format glossary on FamilyTreeMagazine.com to learn what your mystery file is.


Genealogy Software | Genealogy Web Sites | Tech Advice
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 9:35:46 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 09, 2010
WWII Research Resources for Veterans Day
Posted by Diane

A Facebook friend I went to high school with e-mailed me this morning about the few hundred letters she has that her grandparents exchanged during World War II. Her grandfather wrote about the countries he visited, and referred to his buddies from the local saloon who also were in the service. What a treasure! She wanted to know how to research her grandfather’s service and learn about the people mentioned in the letters.

World War II can be a bit harder than other wars to research because many records are still closed due to privacy concerns. Some resources I suggested include:

  • Ancestry.com’s 1942 “Old Man’s” draft cards, Navy cruise books, missing in action reports and other WWII records. I was glad to be able mention Ancestry.com's Free Access Weekend for its military records in honor of Veterans Day.
  • Footnote’s WWII missing air crew reports, submarine patrol reports, Pearl Harbor muster rolls and other WWII records. 
  • The Veterans Administration searchable Nationwide Gravesite Locator  has burial information on veterans and, in some cases, their descendants, in VA cemeteries and state and local veterans cemeteries.
  • The WWII National Memorial Registry, which combines four other databases: those buried in American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) overseas military cemeteries, those memorialized on ABMC Tablets of the Missing, those listed on official War and Navy Department Killed in Service rosters , and those who’ve been enrolled in the memorial’s Registry of Remembrances. (You also can search ABMC WWII databases here.)

You’ll find sources and strategies for researching military ancestors in these resources from ShopFamilyTree.com:


Military records
Tuesday, November 09, 2010 12:58:31 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Search Ancestry.com Military Records Free Nov. 11-14
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy website Ancestry.com is making its military records collection free from Nov. 11 through the 14th in honor of Veterans Day this Thursday. (You’ll need to sign up for a free registration in order to view your search results.)

This is the ad about the Free Access Weekend in the December 2010 Family Tree Magazine, now available on newsstands.



You'll get access to, among other records, Revolutionary War Rolls, the Union Civil War Pension Index, WWI draft registration cards (which you’ll want to search for male relatives born between 1872 and 1900, whether or not they served), WWII Missing in Action or Lost at Sea reports, and the US Army Register of Enlistments 1798-1914.


Ancestry.com | Military records
Tuesday, November 09, 2010 12:41:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 05, 2010
What Genealogy Class is for You?
Posted by Grace

Just for fun on a chilly Friday afternoon: We created a fun genealogy quiz that will tell you what kind of genealogist you are and what classes can help you learn more about tracing your family!

Click here to take the quiz. (Note: The Lady Gaga tickets being offered at the end aren't from us -- it's some kind of automatically generated ad. Sorry to disappoint any Gaga fans. :) )


Family Tree University | Genealogy fun

Friday, November 05, 2010 3:48:11 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 04, 2010
Family Tree Maker for Mac Now Available
Posted by Grace

Ancestry.com has launched the long-awaited Mac version of its Family Tree Maker genealogy software.

The press release states Family Tree Maker 2010 for Mac "is constructed from the bottom up to take full advantage of the Mac platform in terms of technology and user experience," but the features listed are very similar to those in the PC version:
  • Ancestry.com searching: Search subscription genealogy site Ancestry.com from Family Tree Maker and merge historical records and information you find into Family Tree Maker. You'll need an Ancestry.com subscription to view most search results; the software comes with either a free trial or subscription to Ancestry.com, depending which you opt to purchase.
  • Multimedia support: You can add photos, documents, audio, video and other media files to the people in your tree. Tools let you scan photos and document images right into your tree.
  • Family books, charts and reports: A strength of Family Tree Maker is the ability to publish attractive family tree charts and books.
  • Slideshows: Create slideshows from photos in your tree
  • Source citation: Standard source templates and other tools to help you cite sources.
  • Migration information: Timelines and interactive maps help you visualize family migrations and other events.
If you're switching from the PC version, you'll be able to transfer files directly into Family Tree Maker 2010 for Mac from Family Tree Maker version 4 through Family Tree Maker 2006. To import files from Family Tree Maker 2008 or a later version, you can use the Windows-based conversion tool included with Family Tree Maker for Mac.

Look for our review of Family Tree Maker for Mac in an upcoming issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Pricing starts at $69.99 at FamilyTreeMaker.com. (The PC version starts at $39.95.) You also can pick it up in retail stores, including Apple Stores, Amazon, Best Buy, Office Depot and Office Max.

System requirements include an Intel-based Mac with OSX 10.5.8 or later, 500MB available disk space for installation, and internet access (for web integration).

(Just a reminder -- Family Tree Magazine is not affiliated with Family Tree Maker software.)

If you're in the market for Mac genealogy software, check out the product ratings in the July 2008 Family Tree Magazine, available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com. Get the lowdown on genealogy software for Macs or PCs in FamilyTreeMagazine.com's free Software Guide.


Ancestry.com | Genealogy Software
Thursday, November 04, 2010 9:15:06 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Get More From Family Tree Magazine With Plus and VIP
Posted by Diane






Since we introduced our Family Tree Magazine Plus membership a year ago,  this online archive of expert how-to genealogy advice has continued to grow.

Plus members receive:
  • online access to articles from past issues of Family Tree Magazine, right up through the current issue
  • guidance on family history research strategies, finding ancestors in the United States and your ancestral homeland, online genealogy, using a wide variety of genealogical records, preserving family photos and heirlooms, new and improved genealogy resources, and more
  • the convenience of being able to keyword-search this genealogy knowledge base 

(Of course, many of the articles on our site , as well as all the genealogy forms and cheat sheets, are freely accessible by anyone, and we regularly add new free content.) 

If you become a Family Tree Magazine VIP, you get the Plus membership and:

  • a subscription to the print Family Tree Magazine
  • 10 percent off any Family Tree University course registration
  • a 10 percent discount at ShopFamilyTree.com (log into your store account before you shop)
  • our exclusive Family Tree Toolkit of genealogy forms and a frameable decorative family tree chart. 

Click here for FAQs about the Plus and VIP programs and how to use your membership


Editor's Pick | Family Tree Magazine articles | Research Tips
Wednesday, November 03, 2010 9:55:07 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 02, 2010
FamilySearch RootsTech Conference Registration Opens
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch’s new technology-focused genealogy conference, RootsTech, has opened attendee registration at RootsTech.org

Organizers of the conference, taking place Feb. 10-12 next year at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, aim to bring together creators and users of genealogy technology to accelerate innovation in the field and “define the future of genealogy.”

FamilySearch RootsTech chair Anne Roach and marketing magazine Anne Harrison, who talked about the event at last month’s Blogger’s Day, say it’ll educate technology users on the best technological practices and applications to use in their research, and educate software developers on the best technological solutions to genealogical problems.

Attendees can improve their genealogical know-how through classes, hands-on workshops, “birds of a feather” discussions and technology demonstrations that cover

  • Using social networking to collaborate as families and genealogical societies
  • Using cameras, scanners, and other preservation devices in your research
  • Using cloud computing
  • Using mobile devices and smartphone applications in your research
  • Handwriting recognition and automated transcription
  • Using web search engines and other finding tools GPS mapping for cemetery research, finding ancestral homes and more
  • Leveraging records digitization and preservation techniques and programs
  • Capturing your research in a range of media, and converting files from medium to medium
  • Understanding new genealogy markets

… and more. Opportunities for dialogue will include an “unconferencing hall” where anyone can give a spontaneous presentation. Roach said there will be classes for the technology novice (though people who have never used a computer might struggle), and the syllabus will indicate which classes best suit which skill sets.

A few sessions will likely be broadcast free on the conference website; in the future, a virtual attendance option might be available.

RootsTech combines the BYU Conference on Computerized Family History, the BYU Technology Workshop, and the FamilySearch Developers Conference into one event.

Registration costs $99 per person until Dec. 31, with a student rate of $35. The regular fee rises to $150 on Jan. 1. Conference hotel rates are $89 per night if you book in time.


FamilySearch | Genealogy Events
Tuesday, November 02, 2010 11:19:59 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Tracing Ancestors in Voter Records
Posted by Diane

As you cast your vote today, after you first rejoice over the imminent disappearance of political ads, you may wonder if you can use voter records to track down your ancestors.

Maybe you can. State and local archives and libraries, town halls, and the Family History Library (FHL) may have town or county lists of registered voters or those who paid poll taxes.

Search your ancestral state archives website for voting, and try running a keyword search of the FHL online catalog on the town, county or state name and the word voting. You can rent promising microfilm by visiting your local FamilySearch Center. Subscription website Ancestry.com has some voting-related records and digitized books, so if you’re a member, run the same search of its online catalog.

Here are some examples of the records you can find for various states and counties:

  • Every four years from 1803 to 1911, Ohio counted men age 21 and older in various counties to determine voting districts. These quadrennial enumerations are on FHL microfilm and in some local genealogical society collections. An 1863 list of Fallsbury Township voters is part of RootsWeb's free Tax and Voter lists search.
  • Chicago voter records, which can help you substitute for the missing 1890 census, are available for 1888, 1888 to 1890, and 1892, at the FHL, as is a 1937 voter registration list. Lists for 1888, 1890 and 1892 are on Ancestry.com.
  • The Wyoming state archives’ collection includes poll lists for various counties (type voting into the search box on the home page). You’ll find voting lists for part of Fremont County from 1907 to 1913 on microfiche at the FHL.
You'll find more resources for US counties in the Family Tree Sourcebook: Your Essential Directory of American County and Town Records, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.

Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Free Databases | Research Tips
Tuesday, November 02, 2010 9:16:08 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, November 01, 2010
Sources for Citing Sources
Posted by Diane

We get plenty of questions around here about citing sources in genealogy research—what sources to cite, how to cite them, where to put all those citations, how to include citations in genealogy software, etc., etc.

That's why I'm pumped about our upcoming Family Tree University class, Source Documentation: How to Cite Genealogy Sources Accurately and Effectively

Source citation can sound complicated, but you'll learn that it's just a way of making sure you—or anyone else—can go back to the original source of the genealogical information you've recorded.

Different kinds of genealogy sources—books, census records, online databases, oral histories—require different citation styles. For books, for example, record the title, author, publisher and location, year of publication, where you found the book, library call number (if applicable), and the pertinent page numbers, like so: “Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo and Erin Nevius, eds., The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists (Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2004), 219-220.”

Our downloadable Source Citation Cheat Sheet has examples of citations for censuses, vital records and other sources. ProGenealogists also has a guide to citing online sources, including databases such as those on Ancestry.com.

Where you cite sources is important, too. Some genealogists include a full citation on the front of every photocopied record so the citation doesn't get separated from the data. Most genealogy software lets you type in citations or link to a digitized record when you add information to your tree. See our article for advice on adding source citations in your genealogy software

The classic tome on source citation is Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co.), also downloadable in digital format from Footnote.com.

The Family Tree University course Source Documentation: How to Cite Genealogy Sources Accurately and Effectively, taught by Charlotte Bocage and available for the November session (starting Nov. 8), goes into depth about why to cite sources, how to cite them, including them in genealogy software, and using them in the course of your genealogy research.

(To register, click the “view upcoming course schedule” link or the Register link, then scroll down a little to find the Source Documentation course link.)


Family Tree University | Research Tips
Monday, November 01, 2010 3:02:38 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]