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# Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Free Outside the Box Mini-Classes at RootsTech/FGS
Posted by Diane

I'm getting excited for the joint RootsTech/Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference Feb. 12-14, and I hope lots of you are, too. (I've even planned the research I want to do at the Family History Library while I'm there.)

There'll be a lot happening in our digs in the exhibit hall: Family Tree Magazine is joining with Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems, Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor, and Chart Chick and Zap the Grandma Gap author Janet Hovorka to offer free Outside the Box mini-sessions, prizes, author meet-and-greets, and more.

Here's a PDF with a schedule of Outside the Box sessions, which include Tech Tips for Newspaper Research, Preserve Your Family Photos on a Budget, Heirloom Roadshow and much more. The sessions take place throughout the day right in our exhibit hall booths.

The Outside the Box Schedule also has an entry form you can print, fill out and bring with you to RootsTech/FGS. Drop it in the prize box in Booth 1240 to receive an e-book with all the Outside the Box session handouts and be entered into our grand prize drawing. 

The party will be in the RootsTech/FGS exhibit hall in booths 1143, 1238, 1240 and 1242, right across the aisle from the Demo Theater. See you there!

Genealogy Events | RootsTech
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 14:29:22 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Census Assumptions: A Tale of a Genealogy Near-Mistake
Posted by Diane

I've been researching my third-great-uncle Henry Thoss, hoping to find clues to what happened to his mother, my third-great-grandmother. She disappeared without a trace sometime between Henry's birth in May 1894 and the 1900 census.

I didn't find those clues (yet), but I did teach myself a lesson about using census records.

It wasn't hard to find Henry in's 1940 census with wife Eleanor, 16-year-old stepson William Garcia, and mother-in-law Mary Dietrich.

So Eleanor's maiden name was Dietrich. It always feels like a win when a woman's maiden name just presents itself to you like that. And she had a son when she married Henry.

I might've added Eleanor Dietrich, mother Mary and son William Garcia to my tree and called it a day. But luckily, I had a little more time to spend, so I went back further. Here's Henry in 1930:

The household included wife Alma and mother-in-law Mary Dietrich. I've seen worse name discrepancies in the census than Alma to Eleanor, and William could've been living with his dad in 1930.

Then I noticed what you're probably already wondering about: Henry's wife aged an extra six years between 1930 and 1940. Age inconsistencies from census to census aren't unusual, but six years is a lot. That plus the name difference aroused suspicion.

Looking for Alma, I found a 1932 burial record in a local cemetery. The deceased's residence matched the censuses, her parents' last name was Dietrich, and she was the wife of Henry Thoss:

That totally changes Henry's part of the family tree. After his wife Alma died, her mother, Mary, stayed in the couple's home. She lived with Henry even after he married another woman, Eleanor, who had a son from a previous relationship.

Looking at the situation with modern eyes colored my assumptions: It's hard to imagine a mother-in-law remaining with her deceased daughter's husband, especially after he remarries. Mary died in 1942, according to the Ohio death record I found on, which names Mrs. Henry Thoss as the informant.

Another easy census assumption is that a wife is the birth mother of every child in the household who shares the family's surname. Those children could be the husband's from a former marriage.

Censuses are supposed to be basic genealogy, right? But based on my initial assumption, I almost gave Eleanor the wrong identity and overlooked Alma. Even if a mistake for a third-great-uncle's wife wouldn't have a huge impact on my research, it could mislead someone else, and it's an injustice to the memory of two women.

You can avoid such assumption and learn more from your ancestors' census records than you ever thought possible with Family Tree Magazine's Genealogy Workbook for US census records, available as a digital download in

census records | Research Tips
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 11:13:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Friday, 23 January 2015
Genealogy News Corral: Jan. 19-23
Posted by Diane

Genealogy Events | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 23 January 2015 14:10:45 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 21 January 2015
What Can a Quick Google Search Find for Your Genealogy?
Posted by Diane

Our webinar with Lisa Louise Cooke on Googling Your Genealogy, coming up Tuesday, Jan. 27, gave me the idea to see what genealogy results I could find with a quick web search.

I searched for Thoss genealogy kentucky (because I don't think I'm connected to the Seherr-Thoss family of Connecticut and New York, or Thosses elsewhere).

Right away I could see that Google also returned matches for Thomas, so I made an adjustment:

That's better. The quotation marks tell Google to find exactly Thoss. Results from the first several pages that appear to be relevant (and aren't from things I posted online) include:
  • the book Early Nineteenth-Century German Settlers in Ohio (Mainly Cincinnati and Environs), Kentucky and Other States, on Google Books, listing my third-great-grandfather and his place of birth in Germany—a great find!
  • two old Geocities genealogy sites for related families
  • matches in the Kenton County, Ky., library's Northern Kentucky Genealogy Database, which indexes church, cemetery, census and other records, as well as newspaper articles, and in some cases links to digitized versions.
  • profiles from Ancient Faces, based on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
  • a PeopleSearch page listing Thosses from the SSDI with dates of birth and death, and a map plotting those folks' residences reported in the SSDI.
  • a relative's transcribed obituary, with children's names, on
  • a local cemetery transcription project with burial information that could be for a relative

That would be enough to get me started building a family tree and finding relatives' old records. Try it with your surnames!

Further searching using Lisa's tips in the Googling Your Genealogy webinar would get additional matches and bring even more relevant resources to the top.

The webinar also will cover how you can make genealogical discoveries with Google's other tools, including Alerts, Books, Patent, and Translate. Learn more about the webinar and register here.

Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 15:37:16 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Pros Share Family Research Tips in "Genealogy Roadshow: St. Louis"
Posted by Diane

I was excited to see that last night's "Genealogy Roadshow" was in St. Louis, my old college stomping grounds (wish I knew at the time that a couple of my Depenbrock relatives had moved there). I recognized the St. Louis Public Library, where filming took place, and the downtown area, and of course the iconic Gateway Arch.

If you have ancestors there, here are the St. Louis library's online genealogy resources, and you might want our St. Louis genealogy research guide.

In telling the show's guests more about their family mysteries, hosts D. Joshua Taylor, Mary Tedesco and Kenyatta Berry revealed several genealogy research tips:
  • Always look at page two of the passenger list. Page two helped Tedesco elaborate upon the first guest's family legend about her great-grandmother, who supposedly immigrated as a mail-order bride but spurned the intended groom when she arrived and ran off with another man.

    Later passenger lists span two pages side-by-side, and when you search them online, you initially see the left-hand page listing the names. Use the arrows in the site's image viewer to flip to the second page, which contains details such as who paid the person's passage (in this case, the great-grandmother's brother), the name of a relative back at home, and the final US destination.
  • Even when a family legend isn't accurate, it came from somewhere. When you're trying to determine if the story is plausible, look for relatives in the right place and time. In researching a young woman's fabled relationship to Blackbeard, Taylor traced her tree back and found relatives along the Carolina coast involved in seafaring trades in the early 1700s. (Although he didn't find a relationship, the relatives' presence in the right places and time means they could've had some encounter or other connection to the pirate.)
  • Relatives often stuck together. A little girl and her mother found out from a great-uncle's obituary that a great-great-grandmother's maiden name was Ingalls. How cool would it be to be related to Laura Ingalls Wilder? Berry used censuses and land records to trace the great-grandmother's line to a James L. Ingalls, who filed a land claim in South Dakota two years before Laura Ingalls Wilder's family arrived there. Earlier, James L. lived in Iowa not far from Lansford Ingalls, whose son Charles was the famous author's father. Although she didn't find records showing a relationship, Berry said the circumstantial evidence points to one. 

As we saw in this segment, it's common to refer to any long-ago family member as an ancestor, but technically, only people you descend from—parents, grandparents, great-grandparents—are ancestors, so Laura Ingalls Wilder would be the little girl's relative.

  • Family research is full of surprises, and you can't assume based on a person's appearance. A woman, who appeared to be of European descent and had identified as such her entire life, discovered a census reference to her mysterious grandfather as "colored," and a then similar notation on her mother's birth certificate. Her mother, who had died recently when the show was filmed, and who also appeared Caucasian, had wanted her secret kept until her death. Berry showed the woman additional census records indicating the mother and grandfather had African heritage. She explained how "passing" for white meant cutting off ties with one's African-American roots—but it also could make life easier during that time. What an awful choice to have to make.
Watch the full "Genealogy Roadshow" in St. Louis espisode online here.

Learn Taylor's expert research strategies for investigating family mysteries in our on-demand webinar 10 Essential Tricks from Genealogy Roadshow, available in

Genealogy TV | Research Tips
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 12:20:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Hoping to Solve a German Genealogy Mystery at the FHL During RootsTech/FGS
Posted by Diane

I have a couple of questions I want to answer while I'm at the RootsTech/Federation of Genealogical Societies joint conference in Salt Lake City Feb. 12-14, and have access to the Family History Library (FHL) just down the road:

1. Which Caspar is it?
One of my fourth-great-grandfathers was Casparus Ladenkoetter (or Ladenkotter, the spelling in most American records), according to the birth record of his son Franciscus Josephus (he went by Joseph), born July 1, 1814.'s online index to German baptismal and marriage records includes Rheine, Germany, where they were from, and one afternoon I mapped out a working tree on my kids' coloring paper with as many Ladenkoetters as I could find in records. The circled area is Joseph's branch:

Here's a close-up:

My problem is the German tendency to name siblings similarly. According to the records, Joan Caspar Ladenkotter was born March 27, 1780, and his brother, Johannes Franz Caspar Ladenkoetter, born March 7, 1781.

I don't know which one is the right guy to be Joseph's father (searching FamilySearch doesn't turn up a death record for either one). Maybe Caspar's microfilmed marriage record gives his full name or birthdate, or maybe Joseph's or a sibling's baptismal record gives the father's full name.

2. If I get that done ...
My second-great-grandfather Heinrich Arnold Seeger was born in Steinfeld, Germany, Feb. 26, 1852. The FHL has microfilmed church records from there, and I want to find Heinrich's baptismal record, his parents' marriage record, and any siblings.

I have these jobs and the relevant microfilm numbers in my research log in Google Drive, which I can access on my phone, and I'll print out the info just in case. My research time will be tight, so I want to make sure I can hit the ground running.

The FHL has extended hours during the conference:
  • Tuesday through Friday, Feb. 10-14:  8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb: 15: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
RootsTech/FGS exhibit hall hours are
  • Thursday, February 12, 2015, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
  • Friday, February 13, 2015, 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 14, 2015, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
If you're going to RootsTech/FGS, stop by Family Tree Magazine's booth No. 1238 in the exhibit hall (feel free to ask if I found my Caspar).

Looking for German ancestors? Get the advice and resources you need in The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide.

Genealogy Events | German roots | RootsTech
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 13:36:33 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Friday, 16 January 2015
Genealogy News Corral: Jan. 12-16
Posted by Diane

MyHeritage is in the latter stages of developing a native Mac version of Family Tree Builder.
  • FamilySearch has unveiled a new online app gallery that helps you find applications and services from FamilySearch partners  that work with the FamilySearch website. You can search for and browse more than 50 apps to find apps for searching records, using genealogy software, creating charts, or storing photos and stories. You also can browse the apps by operating platform, price, and language. Find the FamilySearch App Gallery here.
  • Six students from De Montfort University have created a  3D representation of 17th-century London, before the Great Fire in 1666. The students used maps and period diaries to "build" the city, winning a contest sponsored by the British Library and video game developers. Watch the video animation of Tudor London here.

FamilySearch | MyHeritage | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 16 January 2015 15:01:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Coulda Woulda Shoulda: Genealogy Regrets
Posted by Diane

I get to talk to a lot of folks about family history, and they'll often say what they wish they would've done in their genealogy research. Among the most common regrets I hear:
  • Not citing sources of genealogy information.
  • Not asking Dad or Grandma or Great-aunt Mary about your family history when you had the chance.
  • Not backing up your digital files.
  • Not organizing your research from the start.
  • Keeping old photos and records in an attic or basement.
I have a few genealogy regrets of my own, including:
  • Not copying photos in the family album when I could have, because someone else got the album and may have lost it. I would look at it whenever I visited my grandma's house. It was a beautiful late-1800s album with photographs of my great-great-grandparents' family, and thinking of it now makes my insides all twisty, so I try not to.
  • Not hanging onto the oral history interview I conducted with my other grandma when I was a kid working on a Girl Scouts badge. I remember flashes of the conversation, including telling her that I was supposed to interview an older person, and she was the oldest person I knew. She also said she got water out of a well when she was little.
If you have a genealogy regret—you're not alone. We all have them, and beating yourself up over it doesn't help. All you can do is learn, and try to do better from here on out. And share them (in a nonpreachy way) to save others similar anguish.

If you or someone you know is beginning their genealogy research (or picking it up again), our Getting Started in Genealogy online workshop, Jan. 16-23, can help them start their research on the right foot and avoid later regrets. See the workshop program on

See our other Family Tree University online genealogy workshops and courses here.

Family Tree University | Research Tips
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 11:24:35 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
"Genealogy Roadshow" Season 2 Premiere Investigates Family Mysteries in New Orleans
Posted by Diane

Last night's "Genealogy Roadshow" season premiere was filmed in New Orleans inside the Cabildo, the seat of government under Spanish rule. It's now part of the Louisiana State Museum, and I was lucky enough to visit there several years back.

Filming this season took place as part of a family history fair in each location (above). Being in the Cabildo added to the sense of place, as did an aside in a New Orleans cemetery that demonstrated how much you can learn from a tombstone.

The show shed light on about eight family mysteries from local residents, including:
  • My favorite segment was the first, in which two young women, sisters, asked about their family home. From the photo, it looked like a shotgun-style house.
Host D. Joshua Taylor traced the family in censuses, and discovered from the 1890 veterans schedule that the sisters' third-great-grandfather, Baptiste Eugene, fought for the US Colored Troops in the Civil War. A pension based on his service allowed his widow, Adele, to purchase the house after his death in 1891.
Adele's pension application was a gold mine, stating how she had been born free, to a mother whose slaveowner, from Virginia, had freed his slaves upon his death. Adele named her mother and her father, a white man.
(If you're tracing enslaved African-American ancestors, check out the guide in the January/February 2015 Family Tree Magazine.)
  • Mary Tedesco, a new host this season, told a family of their colorful ancestor Charles A. Montalde, who didn't really die in the Klondike, as the family thought. Instead, he bounced around from New Orleans to Sacramento, Calif., to Albuquerque, NM, to Reno, Nev., making business deals and likely living as a bigamist.
  • Another particularly interesting story was from a guest whose family legend told of her great-uncle's murder. Taylor showed newspaper articles about the case, used marriage announcements to figure out whose wedding the uncle had been to that night, and used census records to show the relationships among those involved and the proximity of their homes.
He pointed out how in the 1900 and 1910 censuses, women reported how many children they'd given birth to and how many were still living, helping you see when someone's missing from the household.
The new season brought another welcome change besides a third host: The emcee, whose role reminded me of the court reporter on "People's Court" and didn't seem to add much to the series, is gone. The storytelling pace also seemed to slow down a bit, making the history easier to follow.

"Genealogy Roadshow" airs through Feb. 17 on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on most PBS stations. If you missed last night's episode, it's available for purchase on iTunes (and it's free on the PBS website—thanks to GeneaBloggers for the tip).

African-American roots | census records | Genealogy TV | Research Tips
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 10:17:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 09 January 2015
New Genealogy Website Helps You Find African-American Ancestors' Freedmen's Bureau and Freedman's Bank Records
Posted by Diane

A new website called Mapping the Bureau will help you research African-American ancestors after the Civil War.

The site, created by African-American history and genealogy experts Toni Carrier and Angela Walton-Raji, has an interactive map of field offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, a federal agency set up after the Civil War to serve indigent black and white families. The same map also shows contraband camps (communities of African-American fugitive slaves, or "contraband," during the war) and bureau hospitals.

When you click a Freedmen's Bureau field office near a place where your ancestors may have lived, you'll see a pop-up showing the National Archives microfilm numbers which the records for that office, as well as links to the digitized versions, if available, on the free website.  

There, you can browse record images for your ancestors' names. Records of the bureau include labor contracts, marriage registers, correspondence, applications for aid, monthly reports on abandoned lands, court trial documents, lists of workers, registered complaints and more.

The map doesn't show Freedmen's field offices in Virginia, although Virginia did have field offices.'s Virginia Freedmen's Bureau records are searchable by name, though, making it easier to find your ancestor's records.

Icons for contraband camps and hospitals link to websites with more details about those locations and their records.

The Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau site also has a similar map of Freedman's Savings and Trust Co. branches, a separate organization that operated a bank where African-American workers could deposit their earnings. Although's Freedman's Bank records are indexed and searchable, the map links you to the first page of the microfilm instead of to the search form. You might find it useful to try the search form first, then browse if you don't find what you need.

(Subscription site has searchable Freemen's Bureau records for field offices in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, New Orleans, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC, and searchable Freedman's Bank records here.)

Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau also has sample old documents you can view, as well as the National Archives' guides for researching Freedmen's Bureau records for each state where the bureau operated.

In our Family Tree Magazine's January/February 2015 article on researching African-American slave ancestors, you'll learn how you can use Freedmen's Bureau, Freedman's Bank and other genealogy records to trace your family lines from the post-Civil War era into slavery, and learn more about your enslaved ancestors' lives.

African-American roots | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Friday, 09 January 2015 12:32:17 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 07 January 2015
Tips From the Pros: Baby Steps to Organize Your Genealogy
Posted by Diane

When you hear people talk about organized genealogy and think about your own research, does something like this come to mind?

National Archives and Records Administration. Historical
Records Survey workers inventory records in New York
City, about 1935.

It's an uneasy feeling when you don't know whether you already have this or that information (and where you'd look to find out), where you got a particular record or "fact," or how you'd retrieve files after a computer crash (if you'd even be able to). That must be why "get organized" is at the top of so many genealogy to-do lists for the new year.

Following these tips from professional genealogists (who shared their expertise in the May/June 2014 Family Tree Magazine) won't solve your organization problems overnight, but they can give you a small way to work toward accomplishing organized genealogy.
  • Keep an updated research to-do list. I follow this advice with a research log in a spreadsheet on Google Drive. I can use my phone or computer to add ideas that come to me while doing other research. When I complete a task, I check it off and enter any findings (and then pat myself on the back).
  • Label paper and digital file folders with a consistent scheme. You could use the surname and a type of record, which helps to make the contents easy to find.
  • Come up with a naming scheme for digitized photos and records, too. For example, lastname-firstname-day-month-year-recordtype.
  • Take a few minutes to file or recycle papers and neaten your desk (or the dining room table) as you wind up a research session. You’ll be able to pick up next time with fewer distractions.
  • Keep a “to file” basket on your desk or a shelf, and schedule regular times to file those papers. I do this with my family's nongenealogy paperwork, which helps keep papers off the kitchen counter. Most of my genealogy is digital, so I have a "to file" folder on my hard drive (the problem now being the lack of a paper avalanche to remind me to file stuff).
  • Don't waste money on unnecessary organizational supplies. Before you buy anything, figure out what you need to organize. Declutter and decide how you’ll arrange what's left. For example, would binders or filing drawers work best? What size bookshelf should house your library? Will you need archival boxes to store old photos? You might already have some of the supplies you need.
But no matter how many bins, drawers and shelves you have, it's your research practices—not the boxes and binders—that'll keep you organized.

In Family Tree University's Organize Your Genealogy in a Week online workshop, taking place Jan. 24-31, you'll learn the good research habits necessary to keep your information organized and become a more efficient family historian. You'll also discover tools to help you keep up those organization practices. The video classes and written lessons will teach you how to:
  • organize your genealogy information, paper and digital files, and notes

  • set up and maintain a research log

  • use the cloud to store your files and sync them across all your devices

  • sort through and digitize the family archive of papers, mementos, photos, albums, letters, receipts, etc. that you've inherited or amassed over the years

  • use Evernote to manage your research projects
Participants receive full online access to video classes and written lessons (both of which can be downloaded for later viewing), and the exclusive workshop message board. Denise Levenick, the Family Curator and author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes, will be on hand in the forum to answer your organization questions. You can join in whenever it's convenient for you during the week—no need to log in at any particular time.

See the full Organize Your Genealogy in a Week workshop program and get registered on

saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 12:37:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 06 January 2015
4 Genealogy Challenges to Give Your Ancestry Research a Kick in the Pants in 2015
Posted by Diane

Looking to reinvigorate your genealogy research in 2015? One of these four genealogy challenges issued by bloggers and open to everyone might be the kickstarter you need.

These will help you conquer family history goals by breaking down a big job into manageable pieces, and offering the support of a group.  

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
This challenge was originally issued last year by No Story Too Small blogger Amy Johnson Crow, and she's heading it up again in 2015. The idea is that you write about one ancestor (a relative would work, too) per week all year, and at the end of the year, you have a biographical collection. If you need inspiration, you can follow the optional themes Amy will post each month for the next month (January's are here).

If you have a blog, post your weekly writings and add a link to it to Amy's weekly recap, which she'll publish on Thursdays. And/or you could share it on Facebook, include it in a photo album, add it to your genealogy software or online tree, or file it for using in a family history book.

Genealogy Do-Over
Geneabloggers' Thomas MacEntee has announced that he's putting aside the genealogy research he's done and starting all over again—and you're invited to join him. This is a challenge you could customize to your own needs: Thomas will retain only purchased vital records and notes from research trips as he re-researches his family from himself backward. You might do a modified do-over, in which you re-evaluate all your research, documenting sources you've missed, organizing files and filling in gaps. 

52-Week Organized Research Challenge
Brick Wall Genealogist blogger Susan Bankhead will issue a genealogy organization challenge to herself and to you each Monday morning in 2015. Each challenge post will include instructions and suggest tools to help with the task. You can see a preview of the organizational jobs you'll tackle every month here ("organize your desk and computer" is the theme for January).

This monthly event, coordinated by AnceStories blogger Miriam Robbins, is a day when genealogists meet on Miriam's blog and chat (using a tool called Blyve) while scanning their documents and photos. Scanfest turns an important but often tedious, easy-to-put-off task into an opportunity to meet and learn from other family historians. The 2015 Scanfest dates are here.

This post has scanning tips and instructions for participating in Scanfest.

Make Your Own Challenge
If none of these genealogy challenges rings your bell, make your own. You could challenge yourself to:
  • tackle one item on your genealogy to-do list per week
  • write one source citation every week
  • each month, read one a social history book related to your family's ethnic background or places of residence
  • call one relative each month to talk about family history
Best of Family Tree Magazine Premium Collection

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Research Tips
Tuesday, 06 January 2015 17:07:17 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]