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# Friday, July 29, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, July 25-29
Posted by Diane

  • Stanford University has put together a cool visual timeline of US newspaper publication from 1690 to today, using data from the Library of Congress Chronicling America newspaper directory. The map shows where newspapers were published during various years and eras, with different-sized and –colored city or town markers to indicate the number of papers published there and foreign-language newspapers. Click on a marker and the names of papers published there appear below the map.

Here’s more information on our blog about Chronicling America. Genealogy expert Timothy Pinnick recommended the site as a resource for finding African-American newspapers in our February 2011 podcast

  • If you’re escaping the heat inside tonight and wondering what to do, give GeneaBloggers Radio a listen. The weekly Friday night internet radio show, hosted by Thomas MacEntee, starts at 10pm EDT, 9pm CDT, 8pm MDT, and 7pm PDT. Tonight’s episode is about capturing your personal family history. Click here to learn more about it and tune in
  • Traveling to the National Archives in Washington, DC, in September? Look into attending the archives’ genealogy programs on Freedom of Information Act requests (Sept. 6), military records (Sept. 7), census searching strategies (Sept. 10) and more. On Sept. 10 from noon to 4 pm, you can make a 20 minute appointment with an archivist for individual help. See the list of September programs and descriptions here.

Genealogy Events | NARA | Newspapers
Friday, July 29, 2011 9:57:36 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Thursday, July 28, 2011
This Land Is Your Land
Posted by Diane

Do you have an ancestor's deed or land patent? The strange-looking land description containing letters and fractions is called “aliquot parts.” If you can decode the description, you’ll be able to figure out exactly where your ancestor’s land was.

Aliquot parts is an important element in the public land survey system (PLSS), also called the rectangular survey system, which was used to survey and divvy up land starting shortly after the Revolutionary War.

States with land surveyed under the PLSS, called Public Land States, are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

That's everything except the original 13 states, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and Hawaii. (Parts of Ohio were surveyed with the old metes-and-bounds system, too.)  

The PLSS established principal meridians—imaginary north-south lines—to serve as the starting point for surveying each 24x24-mile tract. A tract is divided into 16 townships; townships (23,040 acres) contain 36 sections, each 1 square mile (640 acres), like this: 

A section could be split into halves, quarters or other parts. A description of your ancestor’s subdivision on a land record might look like N½ SW¼, which you’d read as “the north half of the southwest quarter.”

Here’s an example of how land might be divided and described in aliquot parts:

This free FamilyTreeMagazine.com article has more information about the PLSS and the Bureau of Land Management’s free federal land patent site.

One of the video sessions in Family Tree University’s Summer 2011 Virtual Conference, Aug. 19-21, is Diana Crisman Smith’s demo on platting your ancestors’ properties using PLSS. Learn more about the conference and register here


Family Tree University | Land records | Research Tips
Thursday, July 28, 2011 9:19:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Take Yourself Back to Genealogy School
Posted by Diane


Our next round of Family Tree University courses starts up Aug. 1, and you can get 20 percent off your tuition with offer code FTU0811

These classes start Aug. 1:

A refresher course on how FTU works: You download a lesson each week and work through it at your own pace, then practice your skills in an assignment you turn in to your instructor. You also can communicate with class members and the instructor via a private message board, or on-on-one with your instructor via e-mail. 

Take this opportunity to save a few bucks, bust through some brick walls, improve your research skills and rejuvenate your family search!


Family Tree University
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:32:40 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Tuesday, July 26, 2011
In the Trenches
Posted by Diane

As the former capital of the Confederate States, Richmond, Va., is ringed by Civil War battlefields. I was determined to visit one of them on a recent road trip to see family. I settled on Cold Harbor, one of several sites that make up the Richmond National Battlefield Park.

The Battle of Cold Harbor, May 31-June 12, 1864, was part of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign, during which Confederate troops defended Richmond with six miles of trenches.

I picked up a brochure and map at the small visitor center, then we drove the short park loop and walked a trail tracing over and around the remains of trenches soldiers dug 150 years ago. (My husband gets props for pushing Leo’s stroller up and down the gravel path in Virginia humidity).

The ground looked like corduroy. Markers explained how for days soldiers would crouch in misery in the trenches. They dug “zig zags” between lines of trenches so they could retrieve supplies without getting their heads blown off. They would top the trench with a header log and shoot through a narrow gap below it.

This depression is a rifle pit occupied by a Union soldier. It was the closest position to enemy lines, just 50 yards from Confederate rifle pits.

Most fighting at Cold Harbor took place June 1-3, when Union forces launched assaults. They were unsuccessful. "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made,” Grant wrote in his memoirs. “No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained." 

On June 3 alone, nearly 6,000 Union soldiers were killed or wounded, most in just an hour’s time. Both sides’ casualties over the two weeks totaled 16,000. A nearby creek was named Bloody Run. According to the brochure, Cold Harbor was the beginning of modern trench warfare, showing how trenches, supported by artillery, were practically impenetrable.

I have to admit that my eyes tend to glaze over when faced with a battlefield map full of lines and arrows. But standing in the places where soldiers took cover in trenches, hid in rifle pits and charged across fields opened a small window into the past and helped me understand what happened 150 years ago. 

You can listen to a podcast tour of the Battle of Cold Harbor, with vivid battle descriptions, on the Civil War Traveler website

See our slideshow of Civil War images on FamilyTreeMagazine.com here and get resources for researching Civil War ancestors here

You also can sign up for our Family Tree University course Civil War Research: Find Your Ancestors in the War Between the States with instructor Diana Crisman Smith. The next session starts Aug. 1, and you can use code FTU0811 to get 20 percent off your tuition.


Civil War | Family Tree University | Historic preservation | Social History
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 4:30:47 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Friday, July 22, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, July 18-22
Posted by Diane

I'm back at it after a short vacation (which involved my first visit to a Civil War battlefield—I'll show and tell next week) to post this week's news roundup. Here goes:
  • The new Black Sea German Research site is for those tracing families who migrated from Germany, Alsace, Poland or Hungary to the Black Sea region of South Russia (now Ukraine) in the early 1800s. Search a database of names, upload your GEDCOM and share historical information at this free, volunteer-run site.
  • NBC is re-running “Who Do You Think You Are?” season 2 episodes Saturday nights this summer. Check your local listings if you missed an episode or want to watch your favorite again.

Canadian roots | Celebrity Roots | German roots | Photos | UK and Irish roots
Friday, July 22, 2011 2:14:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Thursday, July 21, 2011
150 Years Ago in the Civil War: Battle of Bull Run
Posted by Diane

The first major battle of the Civil War took place July 21, 1861, near Manasses, Va. The First Battle of Bull Run, also called the First Battle of Manasses, involved 15,000 Union and 14,000 Confederate soldiers.
 
The Confederate victory sent Union troops retreating toward Washington, DC. Michael O. Varhola, the author of Life in Civil War America, reports that 460 men were killed and 1,124 wounded on the Union side, and 387 killed and 1,582 wounded on the Confederate side.
 
This was the battle where Confederate Gen. Thomas Jonathan Jackson, relatively unknown until then, got the nickname “Stonewall” for standing his ground.
 
Soon after the battle, President Lincoln replaced Gen. Irvin McDowell with Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. The North was shocked by the loss, and both sides began to realize they were in for a longer, bloodier war than expected.


Civil War | Genealogy Events
Thursday, July 21, 2011 8:28:44 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Wednesday, July 20, 2011
FTU Virtual Conference's Chat Schedule
Posted by Grace

You've heard of Family Tree University’s Summer 2011 Virtual Conference, I'm sure. From the morning of Friday, Aug. 19, to late night Sunday, Aug. 21, registrants can watch 17 video classes and participate in live chats. We’ll also have a digital swag bag for attendees, a message board, an exhibit hall and opportunities to win prizes.

More about those live chats -- Virtual Conference registrants get exclusive access to live chats with our genealogy experts. No fancy software is needed—just log on to the conference and join a live session. All chats are text-based and 30 minutes long. If you can’t join a live session, no worries—all chat transcripts will be saved in the conference area for you to read at your leisure. We just posted the live chat schedule, so check it out!

PS: Diane is out on vacation this week, so I apologize for the brief radio silence. We could never be as prolific as the original Genealogy Insider!
Family Tree University | Genealogy Events

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 5:35:42 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Thursday, July 14, 2011
150 Years Ago Today in the Civil War: Blockade of Wilmington
Posted by Diane

July 14, 1861, the U.S.S. Daylight under Commander Samuel Lockwood, initiated the Federal blockade of Wilmington, NC. It was the last major port to be blockaded in the strategy to close Confederate ports.

The South used small, fast ships to try to slip past the Union Navy, and over the course of the war, five out of six blockade runners were successful in evading the blockade. But because of the runners’ small size, drastically less cargo got into and out of the South.

The whole country experienced food shortages, but the blockade made things more severe in the South. Prices soared and people got creative about stretching foodstuffs. According to Life in Civil War America, some butchers even sold dressed rats. But in case you’re eating this over lunch, these examples from the book of making do are easier to digest:

When salt was unavailable to use as a seasoning, things with a salty flavor could be used, such as a pinch of wood ashes or a wild plant called coltsfoot, and soldiers sometimes used a dash of gunpowder.

And ...

Chicory, acorns, beans, beets, bran, corn, cornmeal, cotton seeds, dandelion root, okra seeds, peanuts, peas, sugarcane seeds and wheat berries were variously parched, dried, browned or roasted and used to make ersatz coffee. Other versions used tubers like carrots or yams, which were cut into small pieces, dried, toasted ad then ground up.

Civil War | Social History
Thursday, July 14, 2011 11:26:18 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
The Genealogy Blogiverse Speaks on Sources
Posted by Diane

As an addendum to our earlier blog post on resources to help you cite your genealogy sources, I wanted to link to some other posts on the topic from genealogy bloggers.

Most researchers agree it’s important to cite sources, but the hows, whens and wheres have caused a bit of a stir. Genealogy blog readers may notice what my mom and dad used to call a “discussion” over the importance of adhering to the finer points of source citation style (which might be intimidating to newbie or casual researchers) versus just getting the source information down.

Another component to the issue (and something else that can make source citation look complicated) is evaluating a source's reliability:

Is the information likely to be correct because the source—say, a birth certificate—was created when the birth, marriage or other event happened? Or is the source less reliable because it’s a transcription of a digitized book written years later by someone who read a newspaper article about the grandson of the person whose neighbor was actually there? Do several less-reliable sources that provide consistent information equal a reliable source? Can you ever really prove when certain events happened in your ancestor’s life? What does it all mean??

These folks weigh in with their opinions and encouragement:

  • Source Citations in Genealogy: Church or Cult on the Clue Wagon blog encapsulates the above-mentioned discussion. The comments here include 10 commandments of source citation from Evidence Explained author Elizabeth Shown Mills.
  • The Genea-Musings Source Citation posts describe sourcing in genealogy software and online family trees, review presentations on citing sources, link to others’ posts on the topic and more.

Source citation doesn’t have to be scary. The key is to note every bit of information available about the record, website, book, newspaper, person or other source you used, and make sure it doesn't get separated from the information the source provided. Whenever possible, get the original record rather than stopping when you find an index or a transcription.

Use your knowledge as a researcher to decide whether the information in the source makes sense, and how far you can trust that source. If you have any doubts, don’t add the information to your tree, but use it to form a hypothesis you can keep researching.  


Related resources:


Family Tree University | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Thursday, July 14, 2011 9:08:57 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Wednesday, July 13, 2011
If You Were a Pie Chart …
Posted by Diane

While working on an article on ethnic heritage and genealogical societies (look for it in the forthcoming November 2011 Family Tree Magazine) I was inspired to figure out what, exactly, Leo is, heritage-wise.


And by “exactly,” I mean “theoretically,” because:

  • you never know what proportion of genes you ended up with from each ancestor after the DNA-combining process
  • geopolitical developments and population shifts can mean ancestors' ethnicity is different from the country whence they came (Your ancestor from Russia would actually be German, for example, if he was one of the many “Volga Germans” who settled in Russia’s Volga River valley.)

  • nonpaternity events, such as adoption and children fathered—unbeknownst to you—by someone other than the person named in records
  • a lack of documentation or incorrect documentation about an ancestor's origins
  • all those ancestors yet to be discovered (unless you’ve found ‘em all)

With that caveat, figuring out Leo’s theoretical heritage combo involves first determining Mom’s and Dad’s percentages. Three of my husband's grandparents came from Germany and one from Hungary, so we'll estimate him at 75 percent German and 25 percent Hungarian. I'll go back to my great-grandparents’ origins: I’m half German, a quarter Lebanese (the source for my last name), and one-eighth each English and Irish. 

I just divided each of our percentages, added up the common German heritage, and came up with these numbers for Leo (I generated the pie chart online using Kids Zone): 

He’s pretty typical as far as American ancestry: In the 2000 census, German was the heritage most often claimed by Americans and by his fellow Cincinnatians. He also shares in the second- and fourth-most-commonly reported ancestries: Irish and English, respectively.

Download the Census Bureau’s Ancestry: 2000 report as a PDF here.

What's your theoretical heritage combo? 

Update: Apparently you can order a t-shirt boasting your ancestry pie chart from MeonaTee.com. Great idea! (Thanks to Megan Smolenyak for mentioning.)


Celebrating your heritage | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy fun | German roots
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 9:44:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Family Tree University Virtual Conference = Real Genealogy Learning
Posted by Diane


Get an intensive dose of genealogy education (without having to pack up and hit the road) at Family Tree University’s Summer 2011 Virtual Conference. At this online weekend workshop, you’ll learn strategies and resources to boost your research.

From 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 19, to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21, you get a three-day all-access pass to watch 15 pre-recorded video classes and participate in live chats. We’ll also have a digital swag bag, ongoing message board discussions, an exhibit hall and opportunities for attendees to win prizes.

Because the conference is web-based, you can participate from anywhere there’s a computer with internet access. Join in every day or anytime during the weekend as your schedule allows.

Here's a sampling of the video sessions:

  • Google Surname Search Secrets with Genealogy Gems founder Lisa Louise Cooke 
  • City Directories: Key to Your Family’s Past with genealogist Maureen A. Taylor (aka the Photo Detective)
  • Finding Your East European Ancestors’ Village with genealogist Lisa A. Alzo
View the conference program on FamilyTreeUniversity.com.

MacEntee and FTU instructor Nancy Hendrickson will be conference supermoderators, joining in on message board discussions and live chats all weekend.

Tuition for the Virtual Conference is $199, but you can use promotion code VCS11 to get the early bird rate of $149 through this Friday, July 15.


Genealogy Events | Research Tips
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 11:31:46 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Monday, July 11, 2011
How to Be a Spy, 1918-Style
Posted by Diane

The CIA has recently declassified WWI-era documents bearing formulas for invisible ink, instructions for exposing concealed writing in German correspondence, and ways to open sealed envelopes undetected.

The typed memos were believed to be the country’s oldest still-classified documents. You can see them on display this month at the National Archives in Washington, DC and on the CIA’s website (scroll down a little).

Read more about the documents in this CNN article.

NARA | Social History
Monday, July 11, 2011 1:49:20 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, July 08, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, July 4-8
Posted by Diane

  • Subscription genealogy site Archives.com has added 17 million new US vital and military records. Vital records come from Texas, Colorado and South Carolina; and the military records provide information about individuals who served in the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and National Guard during the Vietnam War and Gulf War eras. Click here to see more details on the Archives.com additions

FamilySearch | Free Databases | Genealogy Web Sites | UK and Irish roots
Friday, July 08, 2011 3:14:20 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Thursday, July 07, 2011
Congratulations to the Family Reunion Contest Winners!
Posted by Diane

Today we’re super excited to announce the winners of the Family Reunion contest held in June. 

And the grand prize winner is … Patricia Skubis! Her long-lost Danish relative Tage will travel to the United States so they can meet in person for the first time. Patricia also will receive a year-long VIP membership to Family Tree Magazine and a three-year Premium-Plus subscription with MyHeritage.com.

Patricia belongs to a Danish family that immigrated to the United States in 1888. Another branch had headed for Australia in 1873. Skubis made contact 27 years ago with Alison Rogers from the Australian branch, but they were unable to find a connection. Here’s Patricia’s account of how it finally happened (look for more details in an upcoming issue of Family Tree Magazine):

In March of 2011, a family in Denmark researching the Thygesen name posted information on MyHeritage and I received a Smart Match notice. I wasn’t sure we had a match. The parents’ names were the same but the children did not match. So I asked the submitter for more information. With the additional information I thought we did indeed have a match.

I went online to the Danish Church Records [on the Danish archives’ website] and found Tyge Jørgensen’s children between Neils Madsen Thygesen, born in 1794, and my great-great-grandfather Martin, born in 1805. What a great surprise I received when I found that the next son after Neils was Peder Andersen Thygesen, the great-great-grandfather of Alison Rogers.

Tage and I are fourth cousins once removed. Our great-great-grandfathers, along with Alison’s, were brothers.

Each of our two runners-up will receive a digital subscription to Family Tree Magazine and a three-year Premium-plus subscription on MyHeritage.com. They are:

  • Linda Mehlinger, whose mystery started with her Louisiana-born great-grandmother’s photo of a lady and five schoolgirls in a rickshaw being pulled by a Zulu warrior. Through research including searching the 1910 census on Ancestry.com and contacting other genealogists via a mailing list, she discovered a cousin in South Africa who had pictures of the same people.
  • Pam Ingermanson, whose Norwegian ancestors settled in Idaho. After hours upon hours of research, she connected with a cousin who descended from a brother who ended up in Ohio. The branches of the family had lost touch over the years.

You can read the winners’ full stories, as well as those of other entrants, in their comments on the MyHeritage.com Blog

Thank you to everyone who entered this contest. Both our team at Family Tree Magazine and our contest partners MyHeritage.com were touched by your stories of reconnecting with family, and we're impressed by your diligent research. You’re truly an inspiration to your fellow family historians!


Genealogy fun | Genealogy Web Sites
Thursday, July 07, 2011 9:05:15 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Here's to You, Weekend Genealogy Warrior
Posted by Diane


We salute you, stiff-elbowed scroller of microfilm. Mosquito-bitten searcher of headstones. Sneezing file-flipper in dusty courthouse archives. 

Hats off to you who squeeze all your genealogy into just a few hours on the weekend, quick half-hour intervals during lunch, or late nights on the computer after the kids are in bed.

The Weekend Genealogist Value Pack—available during July at an extra-deep 63 percent discount—will help you make the most of your limited research time. This value pack contains: 

  • Online Genealogy Crash Course DVD: Lessons to help you master finding ancestral records online and using Ancestry.com.
  • Discover Your Roots Winter 2011 digital issue: Our 132-page guide to getting started in genealogy, with articles on finding your ancestors in a weekend genealogy blitz, avoiding common myths, visiting the courthouse and more.
  • Discover Your Family Tree FTU Independent Study Course: This course download is designed to help you start your family tree research without feeling overwhelmed.
  • 60 Minute Genealogy Jobs download: You can do these 14 family history projects in an hour or less, making them perfect for lunch hour.

Click here to find out more about the Weekend Genealogist Value Pack.


Editor's Pick | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Wednesday, July 06, 2011 12:19:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Mocavo.com iPad Giveaway
Posted by Diane

We wrote last week that genealogy search engine Mocavo.com added GEDCOM uploading (via a Facebook app) to its offerings.

Mocavo.com has announced it’ll give away an iPad 2 on July 15 to someone who’s uploaded a tree. In response to a comment on the Mocavo.com Facebook page, webmasters also said they’re working on a non-Facebook upload method, and hope to have it in place before the end of the entry period.



Tuesday, July 05, 2011 12:37:31 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Friday, July 01, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, June 27-July 1
Posted by Diane

  • If you have an iPad or iPhone, here’s a more educational way than Angry Birds to pass the time, especially on the Fourth of July: MultiEducator’s History on the Go apps  use images, contemporary accounts, multimedia presentations and documents to help you learn about the American Revolution, Civil War, Constitution and Federalist Papers, and more. They’re available for about $5 through the Apple iTunes store (the Constitution app is free).
  • The Civil War Trust, a battlefield preservation organization, has announced Campaign 150: Our Time, Our Legacy, a campaign to raise $40 million for the permanent protection of 20,000 acres of battlefield land over the next five years. An average of 30 acres of battlefield land are lost each day, according to Battle Cry of Freedom author James McPherson.

Civil War | Genealogy Web Sites | Social History
Friday, July 01, 2011 1:18:41 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]