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# Tuesday, 28 July 2015
8 Quick Genealogy Website Search Strategies
Posted by Diane

It was exciting to have the researchers behind TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" (whose summer 2015 season debuted on Sunday!) share tips for uncovering dramatic, meaningful, TV-worthy family stories in Family Tree Magazine's special Discover Your Roots issue.

The Summer 2015 Discover Your Roots issue, now available on newsstands and at, is a helpful guide for beginning genealogists and anyone who wants a refresher on family history research basics.

I included several of the experts' recommended sources for great ancestral stories in this post (where I shared a few of my own family stories I've found in those sources).

The "WDYTYA?" pros also shared these quick, beginner-friendly tips for using genealogy websites:

1.  Start with a general search on your ancestor’s name. Run additional searches as needed using initials, maiden name, nicknames and spelling variations.

2. Pay the most attention to top matches. Most genealogy websites prioritize your results to put the best matches at the top.

3. Use search filters. These let you sort matches by place, time period, record type and more. Remove filters if you get too few matches.

4. Note potential matches. You may find records that look mostly right but have important discrepancies. Note possible matches for further evaluation later.

5. Broaden name searches. When you don’t know someone’s full name, enter part of his name plus the name of a parent or spouse. This is a great way to find women’s maiden or married names or to find a couple’s children.

6. Look for less-common names. Ancestors with common surnames sometimes had family members with less-common names. Try searching for those names instead—and then look for your ancestor in their records.

7. Explore specific record sets. Some sites have database catalogs or lists. Search or browse within specific databases, such as collections of death or marriage records from an ancestral county.

8. Find search advice. Look for search tips on sites you search, such as whether a site lets you search with wildcards to catch similarly spelled names (such as cars* to find Carsidy, Carseldine and Carsley).

Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 15:45:31 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 27 July 2015
"WDYTYA?" Summer 2015 Premiere: Ginnifer Goodwin's Mysterious Great-Grandparents
Posted by Diane

For the summer 2015 season of TLC's “Who Do You Think You Are?Family Tree Magazine contributor Shannon Combs Bennett will be watching and reporting on each episode. Here's Shannon's post on yesterday's premiere episode:

The summer 2015 season premiere of "Who Do You Think You Are?" started with the mysterious family history of actor Ginnifer Goodwin, whom you may have seen on ABC's "Once Upon a Time."

Goodwin wanted to learn more about her paternal grandfather, John, who was abandoned at age 11 in Arkansas and rarely spoke of his parents. Little did she know it would take her (and us, in this intense "WDYTYA?" episode) on a tour of old prison records and the aftermath of prescription morphine addiction.

After picking her father's brain for family history details, Goodwin travels to Arkansas, where she sees John's SS-5 document—the application to participate in the Social Security program—which provides the maiden name of his mother, Nellie. This form can be a treasure trove for genealogists researching ancestors alive after the program began in 1935.

Learn more about requesting your ancestor's SS-5 on the Social Security Administration website and from our guide Document Detective: Social Security Application Form (available in

The maiden name helps Goodwin trace Nellie through moves and marriages. Court documents and prison records reveal that her second ex-husband, Al Goodwin, was sent to federal prison for bootlegging (Prohibition had not yet taken effect, but he was prosecuted for failing to pay federal taxes on the income). The records were remarkable not only because they included the first image Goodwin had ever seen of her great-grandfather, but also a letter Nellie wrote to the Warden asking about another woman who'd been visiting Al. This episode shows viewers the wealth of genealogical information available through the court system.

Nellie, like a surprising number of women in the South during the early 20th century, became addicted to medically prescribed morphine. The drug was prescribed to her, probably for syphilis (which was relatively common, and which her husband's prison records revealed he also had).

According to the records of a Louisiana morphine clinic where she sought help in 1922, she'd been addicted for 11 years. (Find out more about the clinic from this book.) This part of the story, while sad to hear, shed light on the morphine addiction crisis of that time.

If you also have ancestors who could be in the court system, make sure you check out one of these resources from our store:

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | court records
Monday, 27 July 2015 12:41:49 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, 22 July 2015
TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" Summer 2015 Season Premieres Sunday
Posted by Diane

Just a reminder that the summer season of TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" premieres this Sunday, July 26, at 9/8 Central.

In the show, actor Ginnifer Goodwin follows the twists and turns of her paternal grandfather's branch of the family tree. I got to preview this episode, and it's a good one—intense, with criminal court cases, prison records and drug addiction.

Family Tree Magazine contributor Shannon Combs Bennett will be watching each "WDYTYA?" episode this season and providing insider tips and insight right here. Keep an eye out for her informative posts!

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Wednesday, 22 July 2015 16:51:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Search Canadian School Yearbooks on
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site has added Canadian middle school, junior high, high school and college yearbooks from 1908-2010. The 100,000 pages come from almost 800 institutions across Canada. Yearbooks are good sources of photos of ancestors, as well as details such as activities and hobbies.

A filmstrip at the bottom of the yearbook viewer (similar to the one on Ancestry-owned Fold3) helps you "scroll" through pages. This one is from the 1938 annual for Vancouver's Grandview Commerce High School.

Read more (and see the yearbook photos of William Shatner and Martin Short) on the Ancestry blog. And find in-depth help using with our Unofficial Guide to book.
Wednesday, 22 July 2015 16:34:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free Online Search: Digitized Welsh Newspapers
Posted by Diane

The National Library of Wales has updated its free Welsh Newspapers Online website with a new look and 400,000 pages from newspapers published between 1804 and 1919.

The search form lets you type in a name or other search term and select options including:
  • the language of the newspaper (Welsh only or English only, or leave blank for both)
  • a specific newspaper title
  • year range
  • type of article (such as news or family notices)
Your search terms can include Boolean operators such as AND (to find both words you entered), OR (to find either word) or NOT (to exclude articles containing the word you specify).

You also can browse by newspaper title, time period or place, or browse images by type.

This is a page from the Oct. 22, 1864, Aberystwith Observer:

Free Databases | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 22 July 2015 16:29:15 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 21 July 2015
Google Photos as a Genealogy Research Backup Tool
Posted by Diane

Backing up genealogy research is something we all know we need to do, but studying all the options and coming up with a workable system are hurdles that cause lots of us to put off this important task.

What you need is a specific backup strategy, which you can learn from our Back up Your Research: Print and Digital webinar on Tuesday July 28. How To Archive Family Photos author Denise Levenick will teach you easy research backup strategies—both manual and automated—that work on computers and mobile devices.

One backup tool I've found helpful is Google Photos. You get 15 GB of free storage with your Google account, which includes photos as well as Gmail and documents stored on Drive. Google Photos now stores unlimited "High Quality" uploads (files are compressed) for free, but "Original Quality" uploads (files aren't compressed) count against your storage space. You can pay to upgrade for more storage.

You can download the Google Photos app to your smartphone and set it up to automatically sync the photos you take to Google Photos. You can turn Back up & Sync on and off, so you could use it just for research trips, when you're taking pictures of microfilm and documents (the images above are from my Family History Library research in Salt Lake City in February).

My husband and I also have uploaded images from our computer to Google Photos, which includes my genealogy document images and old family photos from a CD my mom made.

I take a lot of pictures with my phone, usually while trying to get both kids with both eyes open looking up at the same time. My success rate is maybe 15 percent. When you delete an image in Google Photos, you also can delete it from your mobile devices. If I'm lucky enough to snap a keeper, I use the Shutterfly app to upload it so I can order prints (call me old-fashioned) and make photo books.

In the Back Up Your Research webinar, you'll learn tools and strategies you can use to create a seamless system for backing up your genealogy work. Visit for more details and to register.

Photos | Research Tips | Webinars
Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:10:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 16 July 2015
AncestryDNA Database Hits 1 Million DNA Profiles
Posted by Diane

AncestryDNA has hit a milestone 1 million autosomal DNA tests performed, an announcement made today in conjunction with the one about AncestryHealth.

That means the company's results database has more than doubled in size over the last year. AncestryDNA joins DNA testing company 23andMe in surpassing the million mark; the latter company did so in April.

Visit the Ancestry Blog for more details and a cute infographic about your chances of finding another Ancestry DNA test taker who's related to you.

If you're one of the million who've tested with AncestryDNA—or you're thinking about taking a test—make sense of your test results and genetic matches with our All About AncestryDNA on-demand webinar, presented by Genetic Genealogist blogger Blaine Bettinger. | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, 16 July 2015 13:36:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1] Launches AncestryHealth Family Health History Service
Posted by Diane today announced the launch of AncestryHealth, a new "entity and resource" to provide consumers with health insights to support healthier living.

The first offering is a free service, now in beta, that helps you compile a family health history by starting with your Ancestry member tree. This can help you and your doctor monitor potential health issues.

AncestryHealth also plans to work with institutions to integrate family health history data into electronic medical records.

The company is not yet offering a health-related DNA analysis, but it wants to, according to this Huffington Post article. It'll need FDA approval first, at least for US consumers. (The FDA told competitor 23andMe in 2013 to stop selling its health-related DNA analysis, although 23andMe does provide health reports to Canadians.)

When you sign into AncestryHealth with your login, you can opt to allow what you enter to be anonymously used for medical research. A statement reads "You can choose to join the Research Project, an initiative to find new health patterns and further medical research. Anonymous health information from you and other participants may help scientific researchers uncover health connections and this could lead to new cures, preventions, and treatments for other people in the future." 

Those who test with 23andMe also can opt to participate in research studies, a lucrative business for that company.

Ancestry DNA's database has just reached 1 million DNA profiles, and the linked family trees make the data valuable to the medical research community.

In AncestryHealth, you import your member tree, enter your height, weight and whether you smoke, and select medical conditions that affect your family. Then you select members of your family who've had each type of condition (the options here go back only to grandparents, so I had to skip the conditions I'd already selected that affected earlier generations). The health library of conditions is still being added to; for example, I found hyperthyroidism but not hypothyroidism.

A tree view shows relatives back to your grandparents, and you can click to see the health conditions you've associated with each person. This tree and all the information in it remain private.

You also get a downloadable summary of conditions in your family, and a family health tree like the one shown above with color-coded conditions.  (I just experimented for a few minutes, so your summary tree might be more colorful and informative.)

Cathi A. Petti, MD, will serve as chief health officer for AncestryHealth. Read's full AncestryHealth press release here. | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, 16 July 2015 09:54:47 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Five Free Genealogy Things You Can Do on
Posted by Diane

I'm happy to pay for something of value to me, and subscription genealogy sites are worth their weight in old records to a genealogist who can't spend a lot of time or money renting and scrolling microfilm, or traveling to repositories around the country. Or one who wouldn't be able to unearth family information without the benefit of a name search.

But I also need to watch my pennies just as much as the next person, so I really appreciate it when the genealogy information or tool I need is available for free. You might be surprised to find that has some very useful free tools.

You'll need free guest registration to access these free features. A guest registration doesn't require entering a credit card number (and it's different from a free trial, which does require payment information). 
  • You can create your family tree and upload records from your computer to your ancestors' profiles. (Viewing those "shaky leaf" hints, though, is a subscriber benefit.)
  • You can use the Family History Wiki, which has the text from two genealogy reference books that were published by Ancestry: The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy and Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources.
  • You can search and post on the message boards, which exist for surnames, places and topics (such as Cemeteries, Spanish-American War, etc.).
  • You can use Ancestry Library Edition at a library, if one near you offers it, to access most of the records on Notable exceptions include the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (especially helpful for finding early immigrants; many genealogy libraries have older, printed versions of this index) and the Periodical Source Index (which indexes genealogical journals and magazines).
If you do have an subscription, or you're thinking about subscribing, our How to Maximize week-long online workshop (July 24-31) will show you how to get the full value out of your investment. See a workshop program and sign up at | Family Tree University | Free Databases
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 11:25:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, 14 July 2015
FamilySearch Power-User Tip: How to Find New Genealogy Collections to Search
Posted by Diane

The free genealogy website is a go-to place for researching family history just about anywhere in the world. It has more than 2,000 record collections with more added all the time.

Here's a quick tip for finding the site's new and updated collections. I do this at least once a week:

1. At, go to Search>Records.

2. Click the Browse all Published Collections link, which will be either under the search form, or if you have your web browser window opened wide like mine, on the right under the map.

3. Now you have a list of all the digitized collections on, whether or not they're indexed and searchable by name. The collections are indexed alphabetically, but click the Last Updated link on the right. This changes the order to the most-recently updated collections, so you can see whether any records have been added that might pertain to your ancestral places.

For example, my paternal great-grandmother's last name was Ganem, and Ganems are in a part of Texas where my great-grandparents lived for a time (they moved around a lot). So I need to explore that collection of Texas, County Marriage Records, 1837-1977 to see what Ganems I might find.

You can use filters on the left to view only the collections related to the countries and states where your ancestors lived:

The Family Tree University course Become a FamilySearch Power-User will show you how to navigate the site to find features you need; essential basic and advnaced search strategies for finding your relatives' records; collections not accessible through the record search, such as genealogies and books; how to access undigitized records; and more.

The next session of Become a FamilySearch Power-User runs July 20-Aug. 14. See a course outline and sign up at

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 16:37:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 09 July 2015
Johanns and Marias Everywhere! Naming Traditions German Genealogists Should Know
Posted by Diane

The German Empire, 1892, David Rumsey Map Collection

Does your German family tree seem to be overloaded with Johanns and Marias? I have Johann Henrichs, brothers named Johannes Caspar and Johannes Franz Caspar, Maria Catharinas, a Maria Teresia, Anna Marias and more.

Our German Genealogy 201 Family Tree University course, developed by Family Tree German Genealogy Guide author James M. Beidler, explains why this is—and what it means for your German record searches:

German children were given two names. Boys commonly were baptized with the first name Johannes (or Johann, often abbreviated Joh). German girls were baptized Maria, Anna or Anna Maria. This tradition started in the Middle Ages.

So a family could have five boys with the first name Johann. You can see the potential for confusion until you understand that the first name doesn't mean a thing.

The second name, known as the Rufname, along with the surname is what would be used in marriage, tax, land and death records.

So in a family with boys Johann Friedrich, Johann Peter, Johann Daniel, etc., the children would be called by (and recorded in documents as as) Friedrich, Peter and Daniel. Usually, the name Johannes in these records marked a "true John" who would continue to be so identified.

By the 19th century, more Germans gave their children three names. Again, typically only one of the middle names was used throughout the person's life. Roman Catholics often used saints' names, while most Protestant groups also included names from the Old Testament or even nonChristian mythology.

A second naming tradition involves nicknames, often called Kurzformen. In English, most nicknames are created by dropping the end of the given name (Christoper becomes Chris). But Germans often shorten a name by dropping the first part. Examples include:
  • Nicklaus >> Klaus
  • Sebastian >> Bastian
  • Christophel >> Stophel
  • Christina >> Stin or Stina
  • Katharina >> Trin
Note that these familiar forms are used in church or other records, even though by today's standards we might expect formal names to be used.

In German-speaking areas, children were almost always named for one or more of their baptismal sponsors. The most common pattern would be for sons to be named in this order:
  • first born, for father's father
  • second born, mother's father
  • third born, father of the child
  • fourth born and on, uncles of the child
The same pattern applies to daughters but using the mothers' names (father's mother, mother's mother, etc.). Families would reuse given names for children who died young. There are even documented instances of families using the same name for two children who both survived.

The German Genealogy 201 online course helps you tackle research in records of Germany. The next session starts July 13. See a course description and sign up at

Family Tree University | German roots | Research Tips
Thursday, 09 July 2015 09:59:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 08 July 2015
New Translation Technology Helps Genealogy Searchers Overcome Language Barriers
Posted by Diane

Genealogy website MyHeritage has introduced a new technology, which it's calling Global Name Translation, that helps you overcome language barriers when searching for relatives on

You can search for records in one language and you'll receive relevant results from other languages, with the indexed information translated into the language of your search.

"For example, a search for Alessandro (Alexander in Italian) will also find "Саша" (which is the Russian form of Sasha, a popular nickname of Alexander in Russia) with its corresponding transliteration into the language of your search," says Daniel Horowitz, the site's chief genealogy officer and translation manager.

Here's another example from MyHeritage's announcement: "If a user from Greece with a family tree in Greek, is related to a user from Israel with a family tree entered in Hebrew, MyHeritage will be able to connect them, automatically matching between names in the ancient languages of Greek and Hebrew, and show the two users how their family trees overlap."

This graphic, provided by MyHeritage, shows matches from different countries for the name Jacob Schmidt.

You can use MyHeritage's Advanced Search form to prioritize results from your ancestral countries by choosing life events (birth, marriage, residence, etc.) and entering the place where each one occurred. You'll find step-by-step MyHeritage search advice in Family Tree Magazine's downloadable MyHeritage Web Guide.

Genealogy Web Sites | MyHeritage
Wednesday, 08 July 2015 15:46:52 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Irish Catholic Parish Registers, 1740s-1880s, Are Now Free Online!
Posted by Diane

You guys. The digitized Irish parish registers we've been waiting for are now online—free!

The National Library of Ireland announced earlier this year that it planned to make digital images of its Catholic parish registers of births and marriages freely available online. The  390,000 images from more than 1,000 Catholic parishes and spanning the 1740s through the 1880s are now online at

These records are the most important source of family history before the 1901 Irish census.

But wait: The parish records aren't indexed. Rather, you must browse to find the record you need. You start by entering a parish name, or clicking a county and diocese on a map of Ireland:

That brings you to a page like this one, where you click a reel of microfilm covering the date range you need:

Then you use a filter to select the event (baptism or marriage), year and month you need:

From there, scroll through the pages until you find the names of your family.

As Irish genealogy expert Claire Santry writes in our July/August 2015 Family Tree Magazine Irish genealogy websites guide, you still need to know where in Ireland the birth, or marriage occurred in order to find your ancestor's church baptism or marriage record.

But Santry also points out that one or more genealogy organizations, such as, Findmypast or FamilySearch, likely will start projects to index the records and make them searchable.

That should help many of you finally find your ancestors' place of origin in Ireland. I still have some work to do in US records: Because my Irish immigrant third-great-grandparents have common last names and I don't know much about their immediate families (only that Third-great-grandma Elizabeth Butler had parents David and Mary, and probably a brother, James), I'd have a hard time identifying the right people in Irish records.

This is exciting news for folks tracing Irish roots. And it happens that we have an Irish Genealogy Problem Solving webinar with Donna Moughty coming up Thursday, July 30. Consider registering for help using parish and other essential Irish records.

Free Databases | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 08 July 2015 14:51:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, 02 July 2015
Fold3: Search Revolutionary War Collection FREE to Celebrate the Fourth!
Posted by Diane

Military records site Fold3 (which also has some nonmilitary records from its previous incarnation as Footnote) is joining the ranks of genealogy subscription sites offering free access in commemoration of the July Fourth holiday in the United States.

You can search Fold3's Revolutionary War Collection free through July 15. That includes (but isn't limited to):
  • Revolutionary War Pensions
  • Revolutionary War Service Records
  • Revolutionary War Rolls
  • Final Payment Index for Military Pensions, 1818-1864
When you click to view a record image, you'll be prompted to start a free basic membership (or log in if you already have one). Start searching Fold3's  Revolutionary War Collection here.

This Fold3 blog post has more on the free access offer, as well as an example of how you can research an ancestor in the site's records.

Our Fold3 Web Guide has help navigating the site, step-by-step search strategies, tips, quick links and more. You can get it as a $4.99 download from and start using it today.

Fold3 | Military records
Thursday, 02 July 2015 09:45:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 01 July 2015
Search Early US Vital Records on FREE Through July 5
Posted by Diane

The Fourth of July holiday brings goodies for genealogists with early American ancestors (and some later ancestors, too—see below):

Through Sunday, July 5, is giving free access to its 160 million birth, marriage, death and divorce records from the original 13 colonies. This includes the recently released collection of Virginia vital records.

Here's a list of the collections included in this free offer. Take a look even if your East Coast ancestors arrived after the Colonial period: Many of the collections extend beyond that era. For example, Amelia County, Virginia, Births, has records up to 1896. I also noticed several West Virginia databases included.

You'll need to sign up for a free guest registration in order to view records matching your search results. If you want to download a record image to your computer or save a record to an Ancestry member tree, you'll need to subscribe or sign up for a free trial, which requires entering credit card info.

Start searching's free early US vital records databases here.

If your searches are coming up empty (or overflowing), you feel like you're not getting everything you could out of your subscription, or you want to know more about using Ancestry DNA, don't miss our upcoming How to Maximize one-week online workshop!

View the workshop program and register at | Family Tree University | Vital Records
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 12:33:51 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]