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# Wednesday, 29 April 2015
How to Create a Research Plan in Evernote
Posted by Diane

A genealogy research plan can help you identify the genealogy information and resources you need to answer a family history question. You know, one like "When and why between 1894 and 1900 did my third-great-grandmother drop off the face of the earth?"

Not that I would know anything about this particular problem or anything.

Having your research plan handy on your phone or laptop can help you stay focused and let you check it when you're not at home. Keeping it on Evernote is a great way to do that, as you'll learn in our webinar Enhance Your Genealogy With Evernote: 10 Projects to Boost Your Family History, happening Thursday, May 7, with Lisa Louise Cooke.

Evernote also lets you organize your notes, upload record images to the cloud for later analysis, and more.

Here's a sneak peek at how to set up a research plan in Evernote, one of the projects Lisa will show you during the webinar:
  • Set up a notebook in Evernote and give it a name related to the question you're trying to answer.
  • Click to select the notebook in the left-hand column, then create a note for each of the five components of your research plan. Each note will include information specific to your project:
  1. Objective: What do you want to accomplish? Be specific, such as “Identify Hiram Hornhoffer’s parents.”
  2. Known facts: What have you already learned about your ancestors? Include relationships, dates and places.
  3. Working hypothesis: Note the probable conclusions that you hope to prove or disprove.
  4. Identified sources: Which records are most likely to provide information about your hypothesis? Create a list of possible sources and note where to find each source.
  5. Research strategy: This is your plan of action. Determine the order in which you’ll locate each source.
  • Create a tag for the project and tag any related notes.
When you're finished, you'll have something that looks like this:

Visit to see what other Evernote genealogy projects you'll learn in the Enhance Your Genealogy With Evernote webinar, and to register.

Research Tips | Tech Advice | Webinars
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 14:05:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 27 April 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Melissa Etheridge Discovers Her French Canadian Roots
Posted by Diane

We don’t often hear family histories involving 18th-century French fur trappers living along the Mississsippi River. But that’s what singer Melissa Etheridge discovered in last night’s season-concluding episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Etheridge’s mother had already researched a family tree back to Quebec in the early 1700s. So Etheridge headed to Quebec City to find out more about her sixth-great-grandfather Francois Janis. In the episode, we're told that the French were “pre-eminent takers of censuses.” I believe it, after seeing a published version of a 1716 census that named everyone in the household, their ages and relationships, the man’s occupation and the street they lived on:

This census data appears in volume 8 of Répertoire des actes de baptême, mariage, sépulture et des recensements du Québec ancient (click here to see library holdings in WorldCat for the original French publication and here to see an English-language guide to using it at the Family History Library).

At the Quebec National Archives, Etheridge digs through court documents about her fifth-great-grandfather’s sister Charlotte, who became pregnant as a teenager. Her father pressed charges against the baby’s father in both ecclesiastical and civil court. The couple eventually wed, although we learned the baby died.

You can find French Catholic church records for both Quebec and the early United States, both from the Drouin collection, at subscription site has Family Tree Magazine's guide to French Canadian genealogy research, which covers church and other essential records. We also have the Genealogy at a Glance cheat sheet to French Canadian research.

Etheridge’s fifth-great grandfather, Francois’ son Nicolas, migrated by water routes to the heart of the Midwest, where her own father grew up several generations later. He first traveled to Kaskaskia, a French fur trading town on the Mississippi River, now in Illinois. Nicolas made a good living but had to move his family across the Mississippi into Spanish territory after the Americans gained claim to lands east of the river.

Need help tracking ancestral migration routes? Check out our on-demand video class, Hints for Solving Migration Mysteries.

» Guest post by Sunny Jane Morton, Family Tree Magazine contributing editor

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | French Canadian roots | Research Tips
Monday, 27 April 2015 10:03:18 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 24 April 2015
Genealogy News Corral: April 20-24
Posted by Diane

  • A former member of's now-defunct website wrote in a Slate article that the stories, recipes and other discussions his family shared via were not exported before the site shut down last September—despite assurances to site members that their memories would be preserved. The author's relative followed the site's instructions to export the family's data, but when she recently opened the file, it contained only their photos uploaded to—no text files. You can read the article, which contains's response to the author's inquiries, here. | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | MyHeritage
Friday, 24 April 2015 16:36:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 22 April 2015
Using Old Maps to Answer My Genealogy Question
Posted by Diane

Genealogists love old maps. I could browse the David Rumsey Map Collection for days. But maps are more than cool to look at.

In our Use Historical Maps to Solve Research Problems webinar on Tuesday, April 28, D. Joshua Taylor will show you how to use maps as tools to figure out questions such as migrations, boundary changes, birthplace locations and more. (You might remember Josh as one of the hosts of "Genealogy Roadshow.")

Here's how old maps helped me figure out a family migration (albeit a short one) that I didn't realize had happened:

Awhile ago, I found my great-great-grandfather H.A. Seeger's May 28, 1879, mortgage record for the property at the corner of Abigail and Pendleton streets in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati (1884), Plan of Cincinnati and Vicinity by S. Augustus Mitchell, David Rumsey Map Collection

This was, I thought, the corner cigar store his family owned into the 1950s, the one my mom remembers visiting as a child, and which in the early 1980s still bore the outline of its "H.A. Seeger Cigar Manufacturer" sign. Here's its location on a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map in 1904:

Insurance Maps of Cincinnati (1904), Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Virtual Library

The street has been renamed and buildings renumbered over the years; my address timeline (taken from old records such as city directories and censuses) includes: 
  • 112 Abigail in 1879
  • 124 Abigail in 1882
  • 434 Abigail in 1896
  • 434 E. 12th in 1900
But then I found a Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper notice from June 4, 1890, of an estate sale for that building. It was part of the estate of Joseph Otten, named grantor in that 1879 mortgage along with his wife Agnes.

How could the place be up for sale, when my ancestors lived there at the time and continued to live there later?

The Ottens' wills offered no explanation, and I couldn't find evidence that H.A. Seeger purchased the property from Otten's estate.

But on this 1891 Sanborn Fire Insurance map (published closer to the time of my ancestor's property purchase), I noted a building numbered 112 six doors down from number 124 on the corner.

Sanborn Historic Maps (1891), OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons (must be an Ohio resident or have an Ohio public library card)

So my family lived at 112 Abigail from 1879 to 1882, then they moved down the street. This probably occurred to some of you—I guess it goes to show how a family story can give you genealogical blinders. The maps helped me take off my blinders.

As confirmation, I found lot numbers on this 1869 atlas:

Cincinnati part VI embracing 9th & 13th wards (1869), Titus' Atlas of Hamilton Co., Ohio From Actual Surveys by R.H. Harrison, C.E. ... , David Rumsey Map Collection

The map doesn't have building numbers, but matching it up with the 1891 Sanborn map showsthe building at 112 Abigail is on lot no. 29, the one referenced in the 1879 mortgage record. The cigar store is lot number 23. Now my genealogy to-do list includes looking for a deed for that lot (as well as re-reading the 1879 mortgage to better understand the transaction).

The cigar store has since been combined with the building on the back of the lot, as I learned from the Hamilton County Auditor site and Google Maps, and the front door relocated to the side street. 

In the Use Historical Maps to Solve Research Problems webinar, Taylor will cover map resources and tech tools that help you make the most of maps, as well as give examples for solving problems. Learn more about the webinar in

Maps | Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 12:34:57 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 20 April 2015
HistoryLines Website Announces Public Launch
Posted by Diane, a site that helps you create personalized life stories for your ancestors with historical context, photos and an interactive map, has officially launched to the public after several months of beta testing and a "soft launch" last week.

Co-founder Jeff Haddon says HistoryLines addresses two major "pain points" many genealogists face in sharing their ancestors' stories: The lack of detail about ancestors' lives and the time needed to compose a story from gathered research.

You can try the site for free by creating two ancestral stories. Subscriptions cost $9.99 per month or $59 per year, and if you sign up before April 30, you can save 30 percent by using code EARLYBIRD30.

You start by creating a tree, either by entering names and dates on the site, or by importing a GEDCOM or a FamilySearch family tree. I created a small tree with just my second-great-grandparents' birth and death dates and places, to see what the site would do with that basic information. Here's the start of my great-great-grandmother's story:

It weaves her life dates into a story of life at that time. It has descriptions of the local area and historical events (such as the Civil War and the Homestead Act), along with sections with information childhood, clothing, education, marriage, religion and more.

I can edit each section to include more personal information, and add pictures. Here, I've edited the "Marries" section with the church where they married. 

You also can add a section about a family member, immigration, residence or other event.

Stories are currently available for ancestors in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the United States, Denmark, and Germany from 1600 to 1950.

Haddon told me he hired college history majors to research historical events and write about them (sounds like a job I would've loved in college!) in such a way that the information would flow naturally when combined with users' family tree data.
Features new with the launch include the ability to export your ancestors' life stories in PDF format and share them on social media. You also can access source citations for the historical context that's information added to your ancestor's life story.

Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, 20 April 2015 15:13:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Bill Paxton Traces American Revolution Roots
Posted by Diane

Bill Paxton visits his fourth-great-grandfather's remote gravesite.

Follow along as guest blogger Sunny Jane Morton recaps last night's "Who Do You Think You Are?" episode with actor Bill Paxton, and shares links to resources for researching ancestors in the American Revolution.

From a Revolutionary War battle to the final decades of slavery in the United States, last night’s episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC spanned early American history through the life of Benjamin Sharp, the fourth-great-grandfather of celebrity guest Bill Paxton.

Genealogist Kyle Betit helped Paxton use the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Genealogical Research System, which you can use, too. It contains databases listing Patriot ancestors on whom DAR members have based their applications, descendants of those Patriots linking them to DAR members,  and more.

You can download Family Tree Magazine's tutorial for searching DAR genealogy databases from
Benjamin was only about 14 when he participated in the Revolutionary War. That’s young, but what really caught Paxton’s eye was Benjamin’s role: a spy! Paxton learned more about Benjamin’s service in the local militia at the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. Then Paxton visited King’s Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina and read Benjamin’s first-hand recollection of the battle that took place there.
Revolutionary War ancestors are fascinating, whether they were Patriots or British Loyalists. They lived in a critical but uncertain time and had to make risky decisions that could affect their families for generations. A variety of documents can tell you more about Revolutionary War service, including compiled military service records (indexed on and available on subscription site Fold3); muster rolls and payroll records (look for these on Fold3 and and pension and bounty land application records (search for free on Learn more with Researching Revolutionary War Ancestors, our video class by D. Joshua Taylor.
Bill Paxton’s ancestor’s story didn’t end with the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Sharp eventually rose through the ranks of US government service and accumulated a fair fortune. But Paxton was unhappy to learn that Benjamin owned slaves (“All our ancestors disappoint us.”). He took some comfort in knowing that Benjamin’s will, while it didn't free his slaves “Bill and Judy," did express concern for their well-being, commanding that they not be sold outside the family against their will. An 1850 census record, created after Benjamin's death, shows that the Sharp family apparently did grant Bill and Judy their freedom.
Next week is the last episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" for a while. Stay tuned for singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, who travels to Quebec to learn more about her sixth-great-grandfather.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Military records
Monday, 20 April 2015 10:47:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 17 April 2015
Genealogy News Corral: April 13-17
Posted by Diane

  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society will honor Mary Matalin and James Carville with the society's Lifetime Achievement Award for their commitment to the advancement and preservation of family history.

    The couple, known for their opposing political views and as authors of the memoir Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home, will speak on "Our American Heritage" at a benefit dinner April 24. Find more details on

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Friday, 17 April 2015 15:01:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 16 April 2015
Free Access to Immigration Records Through April 20
Posted by Diane

Genealogy website is offering free access to the site's immigration records now through April 20 at midnight ET.

Start searching here. You'll be prompted to sign up for a free basic account after you enter an ancestor's information and click Search. It looks like in order to download the record, you'll need to start a two-week free trial. | immigration records
Thursday, 16 April 2015 15:51:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Wednesday, 15 April 2015
My Genetic Genealogy Test Results: What to Do Now?
Posted by Diane

I finally took a DNA test, not only to learn more about my family history but also to build my background knowledge for Family Tree Magazine's genetic genealogy coverage.

These are my ethnicity results for my Ancestry DNA test (which was provided in a press kit for TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?"):

Thanks to Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard's article in the forthcoming July/August 2015 Family Tree Magazine, I'm not totally taken aback by these results. For example, people with German ancestry (that's me) often get results with Scandinavian heritage, even when they don't have ancestors from Scandinavia (also me).

My paternal great-grandparents were Lebanese, which probably explains the 28 percent Italy/Greece (I don't have ancestors from Italy or Greece) and the West Asian trace regions. DNA from my Irish third-great-grandparents and English fourth-great-grandparents is reflected in my Irish and British percentages.

These percentages are interesting, but not extremely helpful when it comes to genealogy research. Genetic matches are the most useful part of genetic genealogy results—if you know how to use them. I'm finding out I could use some help there.

I'm not in any DNA Circles, nor do I have any Ancestor Discoveries. A couple of matches I already knew are cousins. A couple others have trees with surnames that also are in my tree, so I can guess how we're related. But the vast majority of my matches, mostly categorized as distant cousins, either don't have an online tree, have a private tree (I'm not upset about this—I understand that plenty of folks do genealogy for themselves, not because they want to share their trees with the world), or have a public tree but no names in common with mine.

I'll randomly click through trees of matches in that last group, looking for places that also appear in my tree. I might note that a person has ancestors from Germany or Ohio or Indiana. I've emailed two or three matches (I haven't heard back). So my DNA experience has been anticlimactic so far.

There has to be a better, more-organized way.

Has your testing experience been similar to mine? Are you unsure what to do now that you have your genetic genealogy results? Or are you still thinking about DNA testing, but you want to get the most out of your results?

Our next Family Tree University weeklong workshop is for you (and me): Genetic Genealogy Bootcamp runs April 20-27, and includes six video classes (which are yours to watch whenever you want, even after the workshop is over), exclusive workshop message board discussions, and advice from genetic genealogy expert and the Genetic Genealogist blogger Blaine Bettinger.

Take a look at the Genetic Genealogy Bootcamp program at Family Tree

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 13:33:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
Free Civil War Genealogy Records on Fold3 Through April 30
Posted by Diane

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War on April 9, Fold3 is making its Civil War records collection free to access through April 30.

Run a search in the collection, and when you click to view a record, you'll be prompted to set up a free basic Fold3 membership (or to sign in to your current account).

The Civil War Collection has 47 databases, including:
  • Civil War Service Records (this collection doesn't have the "Free" designation in the Civil War databases listing, but if you click it and select Union or Confederate, you'll see that the individual states are designated Free)
  • Confederate Amnesty Papers
  • Letters Received by the Adjutant General
  • Navy Widows' Certificates
  • Southern Claims (Approved, and Barred and Disallowed)
Start searching Civil War records here. Need step-by-step guidance? You can have it immediately with Family Tree Magazine's downloadable Web Guide, available in

Civil War | Fold3
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 13:20:04 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 13 April 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?" America Ferrera Discovers the Story of Her Honduran Ancestor
Posted by Diane

Guest blogger Sunny Jane Morton recaps last night's "Who Do You Think You Are?", with tips to help you find genealogy records the way America Ferrera did.

Actress America Ferrera (you may have watched her a few years back on "Ugly Betty" or heard her voice Astrid on "How to Train Your Dragon") is an unusual "Who Do You Think You Are?" guest because her family came so recently to the United States.

I liked feeling the immediacy of her ties to the Central American country of Honduras—her parents' birthplace—in last night’s episode. She didn’t need translation help most of the time: She could interview Spanish-speakers and read old documents herself.
America’s family history journey begins when she boards a plane to La Esperanza, Honduras, where her father died. He left her family in the United States when she was young and never came back. She wants to know why. She doesn’t get a satisfying answer from his friend (“he had emotional problems”) but is comforted to learn that her father missed his children and talked about them often. Like many people must do, she turns to the more distant past.
She ends up focusing on the story of her great-grandfather, a controversial and powerful figure in Honduran military and political history. Through his story we learn about struggles at the top levels of Honduran government in the early 1900s. His name appears in elementary school records, a census, newspapers, confidential US government reports, and even Time magazine. This makes Fererra laugh in surprise. (“My great-grandpa’s name is in Time magazine? That’s kind of amazing and insane that I didn’t know that!”)
As views inside the Honduran national archives show, many international repositories are still fairly low-tech. They haven’t digitized or indexed many of their holdings. Yet some Central American resources are online. has some digitized censuses, church and other records for Honduras (municipal censuses are called padrones; click here to learn more about them). You can find an introduction to Honduras genealogy here and overlapping resources (including the colonial censuses) at
Trace your own immigrant ancestors—wherever they were from—with our Researching Immigrant Ancestors Premium Collection. When the records you need aren't readily available online or by renting microfilm, you'll want our video class on working with foreign-language records and repositories—it'll help you with strategies from writing to overseas archives to hiring on-site researchers. 

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Hispanic Roots
Monday, 13 April 2015 09:32:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 09 April 2015
Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the End of the Civil War
Posted by Diane

McLean House, Appomattox, Va.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War.

The fighting didn't immediately stop. Unaware of the surrender or of President Lincoln's assassination April 14, Union Ge. James H. Wilson and his "Raiders" took Columbus, Ga., in a battle April 16. Confederate soldiers defeated Col. Theodore H. Barrett's Union troops at the Battle of Palmito Ranch outside Brownsville, Texas, May 12.

General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman April 26 at Bennett Place, a farm in Durham, NC. Other surrenders followed, the last one being Capt. James Iredell Waddell's surrender of the ship Shenandoah Nov. 6.

President Andrew Johnson formally declared the war over Aug. 20, 1865.

In the May/June 2015 Family Tree Magazine, now mailing to subscribers, you'll find a guide to locating Southern ancestors, black and white, who were uprooted during the social and economic upheaval following the war.

You can get started tracing a Civil War soldier with these tips from

And research Civil War-era ancestors with help from these resources:

Civil War
Thursday, 09 April 2015 16:24:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 08 April 2015
Scandinavian Genealogy: Chart of Patronymic Surname Suffixes in Norway, Sweden and Denmark
Posted by Diane

Patronymic surnames (formed by adding a prefix or suffix to the first name of a child's father) exist in many countries, but the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark are perhaps best known for their patronymic naming systems.

On the plus side, patronyms give you clues to a father's name, but a surname that changes with every generation can make it hard to trace a family over time. The "rules" for creating a patronym also changed with the time, place and family.

Each Scandinavian country’s residents used different suffixes, shown in the chart below, to form their patronymic surnames. Norway generally followed the pattern of the ruling country.

The chart holds true through most of the 18th and 19th centuries. Then as countries began passing laws that mandated fixed surnames, families slowly began adopting them. Late in the 19th century, many families, especially in Denmark, began using the male extension for both sons and daughters.

Country Son Daughter
Denmark -sen -datter
-son -dotter
Norway before 1814 (Danish rule) -sen -datter
Norway 1814-1905 (Swedish rule) -son -dotter
Norway after 1905 (independence) -søn -dotter

Sorting out patronymics is just one skill you'll learn in our Family Tree University online course Scandinavian Genealogy 101, which runs April 13-May 8. The course also covers history and geography and their effect on your research, language and genealogical terminology, and church and other records of Scandinavian countries.

Learn more about Scandinavian Genealogy 101, see a course outline and register at

Research Tips | Scandinavian Roots | Swedish roots
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 13:29:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 06 April 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Tony Goldwyn Discovers Roots in Oregon
Posted by Diane

Thanks to guest blogger and Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sunny Jane Morton for this recap of last night's "Who Do You Think You Are?" with actor/director Tony Goldwyn. She also offers tips for finding old newspapers, an important resource in this episode:

We don’t often get to learn much about our female forebears’ personal lives and values. Neither do we get many glimpses into our ancestors’ marriages, unless they end in scandal or divorce. But Tony Goldwyn’s episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" yesterday paints a compelling portrait of his third-great-grandparents Nathaniel and Mary Coe. And it does this with the types of documents that are available to anyone else out there willing to search for them.
As a young couple, Nathaniel and Mary Coe lived in New York. In 1838, Mary organized a ladies’ group to crusade against sexual exploitation of women. Ten years later, Nathaniel was in the state legislature, promoting an anti-rape law. Newspapers followed their efforts with varying attitudes toward their cause.
The family ended up in Oregon after Nathaniel’s presidential appointment as a US postal mail agent. Nathaniel and Mary promoted settlement of the Oregon Territory and championed the growth of their own little town. Goldwyn was disappointed to learn that his ancestors expressed a callous prejudice toward the American Indians they were displacing. But he also praised them as pioneers who were “absolutely equal and indispensable partners” in their marriage at a time when this was uncommon.
The Coes' story couldn’t have been told without newspapers. I loved watching Goldwyn page gingerly through enormous original newspaper pages with crumbling edges. "WDYTYA?" also mentioned news stories found at the subscription website (owned by show sponsor and the free Historic Oregon Newspapers website.

Another great online resource for newspapers is the Library of Congress' free Chronicling America, where you can search a sampling of digitized newspapers from across the country, as well as a comprehensive directory of all US newspapers by location, date and other categories. Learn more about newspaper research in our video class Three Cool Tools for Finding Your Family History in Newspapers, presented by Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems.
I was more than a little envious when Goldwyn visited the Oregon Historical Society in Portland and found neatly archived boxes of original family documents. There was a scrapbook and letters that detailed the family’s adventures and challenges on the Oregon frontier. Our Libraries and Archives Web Guide download can help you work the web to search for those kinds of hidden treasures about your family that may be buried in a library or archive.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Monday, 06 April 2015 09:05:54 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 03 April 2015
Watch Tony Goldwyn Trace His Roots to Oregon This Sunday on "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Posted by Diane

Stay up this Sunday to watch actor and director Tony Goldwyn follow the trail of his family history to Oregon on "Who Do You Think You Are?" It's at 10/9 Central on TLC.

I'm looking forward to this one not only for the story and genealogy search, but also because it looks to show off some of the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge scenery I remember from waaaaay back when I lived in Portland.

(Fun fact: I wrote a genealogy guide to Portland for Family Tree Magazine in 2001, and was a volunteer room monitor at that year's National Genealogical Society conference in the Rose City. You can get Sunny Jane Morton's updated Portland, Ore., research guide in

Check out the view at the end of this sneak preview:

Come right back here on Monday for Sunny's "Who Do You Think You Are?" recap and tips from the episode.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Friday, 03 April 2015 13:00:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free UK, German and Canadian Genealogy Records This Weekend on Ancestry International Sites
Posted by Diane

Several of's international sister sites are offering free genealogy records from now through this weekend:
Scroll down to the bottom of each of the pages linked above to see a list of records included in the free search, as well as when the site's free access period expires. Registration is required to view search results (I was prompted to register right after I ran a search). | Canadian roots | German roots | UK and Irish roots
Friday, 03 April 2015 12:17:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, 02 April 2015
Ancestry DNA Introduces New Ancestor Discoveries for Genetic Genealogy Tests
Posted by Diane

Ancestry DNA, the genetic genealogy arm of, has launched New Ancestor Discoveries, a still-in-beta feature that can use your DNA matches to show you who your ancestors were.

The feature builds on DNA Circles, announced late last year, which creates circles of genetically matching individuals who also have matching people in their Ancestry member trees.

What happens is this:
  • You take a DNA test with Ancestry DNA.
  • In six to eight weeks, you receive a notification that your results are available, and you go into your account to view them.
  • On your results page, you see the faces of ancestral people who aren't in your Ancestry member tree (if you have one), but who are in the trees of other testers whom you match:

  • You click on an ancestral person, and see a window like this, with basic information about the person and the DNA Circle that links you to this person:

  • If you click the green "Learn About" link, and you also are an subscriber, you can see a Lifestory for the person, compiled from the person's profiles in multiple public member trees on This page is accessible only through the DNA Circle or New Ancestor Discovery experience, and includes photos, records and life events about the person. It looks like this:

  • If you click the gray "See how you are related" link, you see an illustration of the circle, highlighting the individuals you match and how those matches are related to the ancestral person. The thicker the orange line, the stronger your genetic connection to a person. This is an updated presentation of DNA Circle information; you can use the tab to see a list view of circle members.

An update to DNA Circles is that they now include anyone in your tree, not just those in your direct ancestral lines. For example, if your third-great-granduncle is in your Ancestry member tree and you're genetically related to members of his circle, you'll be included in his circle even though you don't descend from him.

Read more about New Ancestor Discoveries and watch a video demo on the blog.

You can read's press release about New Ancestor Discoveries here. | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, 02 April 2015 09:40:08 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, 01 April 2015
Working on My Last-Name Problem: When Genealogy Records Disagree
Posted by Diane

I was doing a casual online search in the Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index when the name "Kolbeck, Theresa Seeger" jumped out and smacked me in the face. It was among a list of deaths announced in the Feb. 23, 1937, Kentucky Post.

The Theory
Recently, I learned that a Teresa was the sister of my immigrant great-great-grandfather Heinrich Arnold Seeger (spelled Seger in Germany). Kolbeck is the maiden name of Heinrich's and Teresa's mother, and it's the surname of seemingly every other person in their birthplace of Steinfeld, Germany (at least according to the church records I viewed at the Family History Library in February).

Could Theresa Seeger Kolbeck be Heinrich Arnold's sister, who married a possible cousin and settled in the United States near her brother? Here's what I've discovered so far in researching this question:

1. Mary Theresa (Seeger) Kolbeck 2. Maria Teresia Seger
Feb. 18, 1849, Germany Feb. 15, 1849, Steinfeld, Germany
Herman Henry Kolbeck (probably before date of immigration)
1873 (probably May 16)
Feb. 22, 1937 unknown

The death certificate for Theresa No. 1, which asks for parents' names, should've helped clear it up. But the informant, Mrs. Ben Schlarman (Theresa's daughter Mary, born about 1884), didn't know their names:

The Last-Name Problem
But then something made me question whether Seeger is even Theresa's correct maiden name:

This passage is from a profile of George Heuer, husband of Theresa's daughter Elizabeth, in the biographical section of History of Kentucky, vol. 3 (available on Google Books). It says that Theresa's maiden and married names were both Kolbeck. The writer takes care to point out that Elizabeth's parents weren't related before marriage.

But Mrs. Virginia Eilers, the Heuers' daughter born in 1908 (and not mentioned in the above bio), believed that Seeger was the right maiden name. That's the name she supplied on the 1946 death certificate of her mother and the 1947 death certificate of her aunt, the aforementioned Mrs. Ben Schlarman:


What to Believe?
So which should I believe? The death certificates of Theresa's daughters, for whom the informant was a granddaughter (who also might've provided the information for the death announcement indexed in the database where I first found Theresa No. 1)?

A death record is a primary source—created at the time of the event by a person who witnessed it—but it's usually a secondary source for the deceased's parents' names. The informant wouldn't have firsthand knowledge of those names (unless a parent was the informant, such as on a child's death certificate).

Or should I go with the biography in History of Kentucky, by William Elsey Connelley and E. M. Coulter, Ph.D., edited by Judge Charles Kerr, published in 1922 by the American Historical Society? This is a secondary source, compiled well after the reported events by those without firsthand knowledge.

Biographical collections are known for their potential for inaccuracy: Families might exaggerate their relatives' accomplishments or provide mistaken information, which could become further distorted in editing.  (Maybe Theresa read the published bio and said, "No, no, no! I said my mother's last name was the same as my husband's.") 

My Answer
I won't believe any of these records for now, and I'll keep looking for the parents of Theresa No. 1 and the spouse and later life events of Teresa No. 2.

I should get the full death announcement from the Kentucky Post, and rent the microfilm of Steinfeld's church records to look for a marriage for Teresa No. 2. The Northern Kentucky Genealogy Index lists the baptisms of several children of Theresa and Herman Kolbeck, so I can go to the library to view the church records on microfilm.

  If you're trying to solve a genealogy question like this one, we'll help you create a step-by-step research plan with our Road Map to Your Roots guide.

The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried and True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors is another great source of strategies and examples for answering tough genealogy questions.

FamilySearch | Genealogy books | German roots | Research Tips
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 09:32:52 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]