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# Thursday, 31 December 2015
What's Wrong With This Record?
Posted by Diane

We at Family Tree Magazine are always urging genealogists to find their ancestors' original records, rather than relying on an index or on what another family tree says.

Even original records can contain mistakes, though. For example:

Looking at the birth and death dates on this 1918 death certificate, you might think Alex died at about 6 weeks old. Those are the birth and death dates shown in search results, too, which originally caused me to scroll past this record.

But when you view the record, you notice that Alex was married and employed as a conductor. Which makes sense for someone whose age is 28 years, 1 month and 15 days.

Looks like the person who filled out this death certificate in 1918 accidentally wrote 1918 for the birth year, instead of 1890. (I used this genealogy birth date calculator to figure the right year). He probably was writing an unusually large number of death certificates due to the Cincinnati area's ongoing flu epidemic

It's still important to locate the original record whenever possible, but also be sure to examine the entire record for consistency and use other records naming the person to confirm what you find.

Research Tips
Thursday, 31 December 2015 11:13:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]
Free in January: Millions of Vital Records on!
Posted by Diane

Happy New Year! The New England Historic Genealogical Society is offering free access to three important vital records databases on its website for the entire month of January 2016. If you have family in NewEngland, you'll want to take advantage. Free databases include:
  • Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910: Each index entry includes the person’s first and last name, the town or city where the event occurred, the year, volume number, and page number. 

  • Vermont Births, Marriages and Deaths to 2008:  The collection includes more than 1.5 million birth records, more than 1.8 million marriage records, and more than 1 million death records.

  • New Hampshire Births to 1901, Deaths and Marriages to 1937: This database includes records of more than 475,000 births, more than 1 million marriages, and more than 915,000 deaths.
You'll need a free guest user account to access the free databases (I just learned a free guest account also entitles you to free access to every new database for the first 30 days after NEHGS adds it to the site). Click here to get started.

Here's another help for New England ancestry: The New England Genealogy Value Pack at is loaded with expert webinars, easy-to-use State Research Guides, and more to help you discover your family history in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Free Databases | Vital Records
Thursday, 31 December 2015 09:56:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Great Gifts for the Genealogist on Your Christmas List
Posted by Diane

Buying a holiday gift for someone who's into genealogy and family history? (And it's totally, 100 percent acceptable if the person you have in mind is yourself.)

Here's a list of gifts that I and the other genealogists I know would love to find under the tree. If you're ordering from, take shipping deadlines (at the bottom of this post) into account, or choose one of our many downloadable genealogy guides, cheat sheets or videos.
  • A membership to the person's local genealogical society. Search online for the town or county and genealogical society.
  • A DNA test from one of the above subscription sites or from Family Tree DNA.
  • Help and company while scanning old photos and documents, traipsing through a cemetery or looking up local records at the library. This might not sound like much, but many genealogists would give anything to have a loved one express interest in his or her research.
Some important dates for ordering books and other physical items:
  • Wednesday, Dec. 16: last day to order in-stock items to arrive before Christmas with standard or ground shipping (orders over $25 include free standard shipping in the lower 48 US states)
  • Friday, Dec. 18: last day to order in-stock items to arrive before Christmas with 2-day shipping
  • Tuesday, Dec. 22: last day to order in-stock items to arrive before Christmas with overnight shipping Sales
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 12:35:41 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 11 December 2015
MyHeritage Launches New, Free Collection of Old Books
Posted by Diane

Genealogy website MyHeritage launched a Compilation of Published Sources collection, containing 150,000 digitized, keyword-searchable genealogy and history books published over the past four centuries. Even better, you can search the collection and view your search results for free.

Books include city directories, government publications, periodicals, association newsletters and others.

I initially thought they might be from the FamilySearch Books digitized collection, but that's not the case. "The collection does not come from FamilySearch, Mocavo or any other," MyHeritage Chief Genealogist Daniel Horowitz said when I asked.

Instead, the collection is sourced from various published texts that are copyright-free. A team of curators examines each digitized book for relevance to family history research, and enhances its metadata if they decide to include it.

Here's a search I ran for my Depenbrock family, who lived in and around Cincinnati.

It's a relatively unusual last name, so I didn't add a first name. If you're looking for someone with a more-common name, you could search for a first and last name, plus a keyword such as a town, street or employer.

Because a book mentioning an Ohio ancestor might have been published elsewhere, I left the Publication Place "Match Optional." That means matches in books published in Ohio will be ranked higher in my search results than books published elsewhere.

Results show the publication title and year, and the portion of text containing the name. Click on a title to see the page. Looks like my third-great-uncle George Depenbrock was a justice of the peace in Colerain Township, serving a term that expired Jan. 3, 1907:

Below the image is a detailed description of the publication—in this case, Ohio: The Federal, State, County Officers and Departmental Information, 1903, vol. 1903-05, published in 1911 by the Ohio Secretary of State in Columbus, and contributed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Note that the search does pick up first and last names that both appear on a page, but don't necessarily belong to the same person, as in this result for my search for Edward Norris:

If you click the full screen button above the page image, you'll get a Download icon you can click to download the record to your computer. You also can register for a free or a premium MyHeritage account and create a family tree, then attach the record to that person in your tree.

Read more about the Compilation of Published Sources Collection on the MyHeritage blog.

Learn how to master MyHeritage with help from our Make MyHeritage Work for You Webinar, available now in

MyHeritage | Research Tips
Friday, 11 December 2015 10:31:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 09 December 2015 Announces End of Family Tree Maker Software
Posted by Diane

You've probably heard by now: announced on Tuesday that it will discontinue its Family Tree Maker software. (I feel compelled to mention here that Family Tree Magazine isn't related to the software or to

In a post on the Ancestry blog, Senior Vice President of Product Management Kendall Hulet said Family Tree Maker will no longer be sold as of Dec. 31, 2015. will continue to provide support and fix bugs "at least through Jan. 1, 2017." During that time, Tree Sync, the feature that syncs your Ancestry Member Tree with Family Tree Maker software, will continue to work.

Why retire a popular program? "We’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide product enhancements and support that our users need," Hulet writes.

Software in other fields is moving to versions available only via the cloud by subscription, such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign software. Advantages include the ability to automatically roll out updates, access from multiple devices, and online data storage.

But switching can be a pain, especially when you're using older desktop software that's not compatible with the cloud version, and you need to find new tools or create a new workflow, and you feel forced to keep information in the cloud, where you have less control over it (remember the DDoS attack last year, when the site was inaccessible for several days?).

My guess is that will try to move Family Tree Maker users to Ancestry Member Trees—hopefully, by enhancing the online trees (at least for subscribers) with features such as reporting and easier source citation.

If you do go with a member tree (or you already have one), make sure you download the records you find to your computer. Otherwise, if ever you let your subscription lapse, you'll lose access to them.

If you want to stick with a desktop application, look for offers from other software companies who want to acquire former Family Tree Maker customers.

Update: Several other genealogy software companies have set up special pricing and information for Family Tree Maker users looking to find another desktop program. Here are links to those we know of:
The Software Toolkit on can help you scout out your options.

Lisa Louise Cooke has helpful perspective and user tips for dealing with the end of Family Tree Maker on the Genealogy Gems blog.

Update: Here's another helpful post from Genea-Musings, on short-term and long-term options for what to do with your data.

You can read Kendall Hulet's announcement on the Ancestry blog here. | Genealogy Software
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 09:20:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 08 December 2015
The Terrible Summer of 1897: Finding My Third-Great-Grandmother
Posted by Diane

I've written before about my third-great-grandmother Elizabeth Teipel, who married Louis E. Thoss in 1876 and died sometime between the birth of their son, Henry, in 1894 and the 1900 census.

Our Conquer Your Research Obstacles Digital Pack is designed to help you with genealogy stumpers like mine—finding out when, where and why Elizabeth died.

A few months ago, my hope for an answer was revived by a mention of Elizabeth's death in her mother's will in connection with 1895 loan to Elizabeth's husband. has digitized Kentucky death records covering this period. I searched for Elizabeth T*oss born 1857 in Ohio, with a death in 1895 plus or minus two years in Kentucky. I swear I've run this search before. I must've done something different and wonderful this time, or my mind was more open. When I narrowed the results to birth, marriage and death records, I saw:


Was Elisabeth Toss, who died Aug. 29, 1897, the same Elisibeth whose son Bernard died just over a month earlier, on July 23? And was she my Elizabeth?

Examining Bernard's death certificate, I noted he died at age 10 from "overheating while convalescing from ... " followed by what looks like the beginning of "diphtheria" but runs off the page.

Elisabeth died at age 40—the right age to my relative—of "collapse," with the predisposing condition "birth of hydrocephalus and rupture of ..." which also runs off the page (as if the documents were trimmed during binding). The spaces for her parents' names were blank.


But most interesting was the records' identical place of death: "1230 Garrad Ave." (I guessed this was Garrard, a local street.) Not an address I had for my third-great-grandparents. Nor did I have a Bernard as their son, a possible case of a child whose short life goes undiscovered due to the missing 1890 census.

Things were looking promising, but I had to do some work to find out whether Bernard and Elisabeth were my relatives:
  • Look for a record with the Thosses at 1230 Garrard in 1897. It wasn't hard to do in's city directories collection, although I had to find the 1897 directory and browse rather than search. They can't have lived there very long, as directories for surrounding years list the family elsewhere. It's hard to keep the Elizabeths, Edwards and Louises straight, so I've labeled them:

  • Search for Bernard's baptismal record in the Kenton County Public Library's (KCPL) GenKY index. I ordered a copy of the record for "Thoss, Bern. Lud." in volume 1887. The Latin record from St. Joseph Church showed Bernard's birth on "die 26 Augusti" to "Ludovici Thoss et Elisabeth Teipel."

  • Look for newspaper obituaries or death announcements for Bernard and Elisabeth. There was nothing in the largest local paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer. I'd searched a few times for Thoss KCPL's Northern Kentucky newspaper index, which includes the Kentucky Post, but this time I typed Toss. I ordered those records, too.

I've also looked for a death and baptismal record for the infant born with hydrocephaly referenced in Elizabeth's cause of death, who would have been the fourth child Elizabeth and Louis E. lost, but I didn't find anything. That must have been an awful summer.

My takeaways from this process?
  1. Search with alternate name spellings and wildcards.
  2. Don't rely on the census alone to provide family members' names.
  3. When one record lacks information that will answer your question, look for another.
  4. Look for another record even when one does supply the information you need.
  5. Don't give up your search for answers (but setting it aside for awhile may help).
Conquer Your Research Obstacles puts together expert books and video lessons to help you solve your genealogy problems. Visit to see what's in this brick wall-busting toolkit.

Research Tips
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 10:48:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Tuesday, 01 December 2015
Best Sources to Find for Your Czech or Slovak Ancestor's Place of Origin
Posted by Diane

Between 1850 and 1914, around 400,000 Czechs and 620,000 Slovaks flocked to America's shores. Finding your immigrant ancestor's place of origin can be hard no matter where he or she is from, but changing Eastern European borders and unfamiliar alphabets add to the challenge of tracing Czech and Slovak ancestry.

Start with these sources for clues to the birthplaces of your Czech and Slovak ancestors:
  • Passport applications
  • Church records of baptisms, marriages and funerals
  • Alien registration records (AR-2), which non-naturalized citizens had to complete between 1940 and 1944
  • Home sources, such as letters (be sure to check the envelopes) and family Bibles
  • Newspaper obituaries, including foreign-language papers
  • Local histories
Want to learn more about your Czech and Slovak roots? In our How to Research Your Czech and Slovak Ancestry webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 15, Lisa Alzo (author of the Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide) will show you
  • how to begin your Czech and Slovak genealogy research

  • what records are available and how to access them

  • how to overcome the language barrier and understand naming patterns
As always, everyone who registers will recieve a PDF of the presentation slides and unlimited access to a recording of the webinar. Find more details about our How to Research Your Czech and Slovak Ancestry webinar and register at

International Genealogy | Webinars
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 15:53:55 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]