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# Tuesday, 29 March 2016
Sneak Peek! "Who Do You Think You Are?" Premieres Sunday With Aisha Tyler
Posted by Diane

The month of March sneaked* right by, and it's already time for the premiere of TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" this Sunday at 9/8 central.

This episode features African-American actor Aisha Tyler (she was Ross' paleontologist girlfriend on "Friends" and she's a cohost on "The Talk").

I always enjoy when a genealogy show visits places that also figure into my family tree, so I should be happy with this one: Tyler travels to Cleveland, Ohio, and the Western Reserve Historical Society, as well as the Texas State Library & Archives and other sites in Austin.

The stories Tyler discovers in her mother's family history include a second-great-grandfather who, according to the show's publicist, "took a brave stand for his people, and left a mark so great that he is commemorated today by one of America’s capital cities." He was born out of wedlock to a white man who opposed rights for African-Americans.

I'm not allowed to reveal too many details about the episode, but here's a video sneak peek for you:

Here's a rundown of other "WDYTYA?" celebrity guests this season.

*For any fellow grammar geeks out there, I actually looked up whether sneaked or snuck would be correct, and the Grammarist recommended the former, although the newer snuck has become common and is also acceptable.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Genealogy TV
Tuesday, 29 March 2016 09:55:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
German Resource Spotlight: Hamburg Passenger Lists
Posted by Diane

Immigrant ancestors tend to capture researchers’ imaginations more than others. We’re enchanted by the idea of our ancestors coming to a foreign land with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a dream of better things to come.

Fortunately for those with German ancestry, researchers have access to more than one resource to help document their ancestors’ incredible journeys. In addition to passenger arrival lists in North America, German researchers can also find embarkation lists that record Europeans as they left the continent. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, looks at the Hamburg Passenger Lists, one of the major German assets on

The resource, which is actually a collection of the scanned passenger lists and a collection of handwritten indexes for these records, are from emigration departures from the port of Hamburg in northern Germany. Hamburg was the number-two exit point from Europe from 1850 to 1934, so you’ll likely want to search these two resources if you have ancestors who left Europe in the second half of the 1800s or early in the 1900s.

You'll need an subscription to search the passenger list collection, which offers images of the lists from 1850 to 1934 but is only searchable through 1923. However, the handwritten indexes collection is only browsable, so you’ll want to focus on a specific time period. While you can’t search through the handwritten indexes, they can help cover defects of the passenger lists, which can have bad handwriting that prevents you from finding your ancestors.

These Hamburg lists can provide valuable context for your research when used with other resources. For example, I searched for my ancestor, Rosina Friedrika Wibel, on the Hamburg lists. From other resources, I knew she was born in 1829; A Rosine Wibel (note the spelling difference) was identified in the Hamburg lists as departing Hamburg on the ship Harmonia on 28 Feb 1857. Reviewing stateside passenger lists, I found that she arrived in New York almost a whole month later, on 26 March 1857. And if I couldn’t find Rosina in the searchable embarkation lists, I could have used her arrival date from the US passenger list to pinpoint when to browse for her in the Hamburg’s handwritten indexes.

Here’s a quick timeline of the Hamburg Embarkation Lists:

  • 1850: Embarkation lists begin, initially with just the passengers’ names, but later with additional details.
  • 1855: Handwritten indexes are first created for embarkation lists.
  • 1854–1910: The lists and handwritten indexes are separated into “direct” (passenger who weren’t going to change ships before their ultimate arrivals) and “indirect” (those who did change ships). After 1911, the lists and indexes are no longer categorized this way.
  • 1915–1919: No lists are kept during World War I.
  • 1934: Passenger lists cease to be created for Hamburg.

Learn more about how to research German immigrant ancestors in James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1.

German roots | immigration records
Tuesday, 29 March 2016 09:40:45 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 23 March 2016
Where Do They Find All Those Old Records? Interview With FamilySearch Content Strategist Suzanne Russo Adams
Posted by Diane

For the January/February 2016 Family Tree Magazine, contributor Sunny Jane Morton asked Suzanne Russo Adams, content strategist for FamilySearch (and formerly for about the cool old records she discovers traveling around the world for her work. Here's the full Q&A:

FTM: Tell us about the content strategy team you work on at FamilySearch.
: We're a team of nine, and we refer to each other internally as the “Raiders of the Lost Archives.” One of our engineers made us a poster about that, and I see ourselves that way. We travel the world, go into archives and discover lost treasures of historic records.

FTM: What parts of the world are assigned to you?
: I cover parts of the United States and the federal strategy (what we get from the National Archives and Records Adminstration), southern South America, Italy, Portugal and the Adriatic Sea, as well as help with New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Isles.

FTM: Do you see distinct attitudes about old records in different countries?
: Yes. The areas I work with in Europe tend to be more open and want their records to be freely accessible to the world.

Portugal is amazing. It’s neat to see how much they care about their records and want people to have access. We’ve been able to digitize all the Catholic church records in Portugal because they were held by a government archive. Italy is the same way about records access. They have a website called “Portal for your Ancestors” where they're working with us to publish their civil registration records. They see it as a way of giving people back their heritage.

FTM: Any particular country you’ve fallen in love with?
: Half my heritage is from Italy, and that’s my research specialty. I love Italy. But I fell in love with Brazil’s people, culture and records. And the food is so good. I think what put me over the edge in Brazil was the archivist at the Archdiocese of São Paolo who pulled out all the old church court records. He kept showing me all these cool cases. He was so excited!

FTM: Share a cool discovery you’ve made.
: We got a lead on these cool civil ID cards in Brazil. That’s not a record that we have (or any company has, really) traditionally acquired. They have tons of information and include pictures. We’ve found them all over—mostly I’ve seen them in South America. Depending on the country, they go back to the late 1800s, early 1900s.

FTM: What’s different about working for FamilySearch rather than Ancestry?
: As a nonprofit organization, FamilySearch has the luxury of being patient when working with archives, which requires considerable time to contact, establish rapport and orchestrate records access agreements. When it came to digitizing the civil registrations in Italy, I saw Ancestry pull out and FamilySearch win the contract. But it took seven years.

But what really lured me to FamilySearch was because our scope is so international, not just those cultures and countries that may be commercially viable. In just five years, I’ve been to Brazil, Peru, Switzerland, Germany, Italy (twice!), Portugal and around the United States.

FTM: Do you coordinate efforts with your counterparts at other genealogy organizations?
SRA: Yes. We try to work very closely with the three major commercial partners, Ancestry, Findmypast and MyHeritage. We try hard to work together on targeted records collections when it makes sense. But some of the companies aren’t interested in the areas we are interested in, and there we go it alone. Like, FamilySearch places more emphasis on South America whereas our partners don’t. We also work with growing numbers of nonprofit genealogical and historical societies and churches to help digitally preserve and index records of mutual interest.

FTM: What do you learn when working with all these international records?
: I learn a lot about migrations and the multicultural heritage of a lot of these countries. There are connections between South American countries like Argentina and several European nations, not just Spain.

For me personally, this has expanded my love of a lot of different cultures. Looking at the records of people who lived long ago, I see a commonality. We all have shared experiences: throughout history we’re all just people trying to live our lives, all over the world.

5 Questions Plus | | FamilySearch | Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 15:54:56 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
German Resource Spotlight: The German Genealogy Facebook Group
Posted by Diane

Few can argue that reaching out to other genealogists on social media can be helpful to researchers. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, talks about one particular Facebook group that sees a lot of activity from genealogists with German lineage, the German Genealogy group.

The group, classified as a “closed group” that users can ask to be accepted in, is a typical moderated social media thread. Those approved for the group can post relating to German genealogy—sometimes including historical photos and other times “just for fun” items they’ve found in their research.

The group, boasting more than 15,000 members, describes itself as a forum for “networking with those conducting German genealogical research, in order to provide help and resources to others researching German genealogy.”

Members also use the forum to request transcription and translation help for documents written in German. To do so, users can follow four quick steps provided by the group:

  1. Post your image with a translation request.
  2. See which members offer help.
  3. Contact those members privately and ask if they can assist you further. Give basic details of how much you need translated, etc.
  4. When you find someone who agrees, send images straight to them one at a time, either by email or by Facebook message.

From looking at the feed on German Genealogy, note that many people jump in when an image of a record is posted and the accuracy of their transcriptions and translations varies, often with an inverse relationship to how certain the individual claims to be. Many people think they’re an expert in the German Genealogy Facebook group, but not everyone’s right about that!

However, it’s an excellent way to crowd-source opinions on a record or document—you just need to be able to sift throughout the many responses you get!

Learn more about how to use social media in your research in James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1.

German roots | Social Networking
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 11:41:05 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 22 March 2016
Six Helpful Genealogy Clues From Census Records
Posted by Diane

That old genealogical staple, census records, might seem ho-hum at first, but they're full of clues that are important to your research.

I recently confirmed that my great-great-grandfather's sister as Mary Theresa Seeger did in fact marry a Herman Henry Kolbeck in Germany and move to the United States, settling just across the Ohio River from her brother. (I'll blog more later about how I confirmed that the two Theresas were the same).

With our Census Problems and Solutions for Genealogy webinar coming up next Wednesday, March 30, I wanted to show just a few  of the clues the 1900 census provided about Mary and her family:

I didn't have room to show the entire census. But this census also revealed that the family lived at 109 11th Street (the address is written along the sides of the pages) and that Herman, a cigar maker (also the occupation of my great-great-grandfather, although as far as I can tell, they didn't work together) had been unemployed for six months of the previous year.

Both Mary and Herman were born in Germany, as were their parents; the children still in the household were all born in Kentucky. Both could read and write.

For starters, now I have an alternate name to search with, naturalization records to find, two children to track down, and an address to identify the family in city directories. (I already have the couple's 1873 passenger list and marriage record from Germany, or I'd add those to the list.)

You miss out on all these clues when you can't find ancestors in the census, whether it's because their name was misspelled or misindexed, you can't pick them out among many same-named folks in your search results, they didn't live where you thought they did, you're using early censuses that name only heads of households, or the records you need are missing.  

In our Census Problems and Solutions webinar, board-certified genealogist Paula Stuart-Warren will take you through the problems that can keep you from finding ancestors in the census, and show you the most effective strategies to deal with each one.

The webinar takes place Wednesday, March 30, at 7 p.m. Eastern, and you can sign up in Remember, you'll get a PDF copy of the presentation slides to keep, and access to watch the webinar again whenever you want.

census records | Webinars
Tuesday, 22 March 2016 15:45:42 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 15 March 2016
German Resource Spotlight:
Posted by Diane

Everyone searching for German ancestry—both German-Americans and their forebears in Europe—researches church records, as the registers of baptisms, marriages and death can often replace unavailable or nonexistent civil vital records. These valuable German church records have become more and more accessible as they've been made available in large numbers in the past couple years., a new site that will eventually offer scans of most of Germany's Protestant church books, is the standard-bearer of these new resources. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, discusses some of this great new site's basics: is run by a non-profit organization called Kirchenbuchportal, which was established in 2013 by the umbrella Protestant church (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland) and eleven of its regional churches. The Evangelische Kirche came about as a union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches in the Kingdom of Prussia in the early 1800s, and therefore includes the historical registers of most mainstream Protestant village congregations.

The site already has millions of pages digitized. While not all of the member churches of the Protestant union are participating, those that are involved have already digitized about a quarter of their church registers; see the map for a listing of which districts have contributed to the project. Digitization is made possible by funds from the regional churches and subscription fees paid by users, ranging from monthly “passports” that allow a certain number of register pages to be downloaded to costly professional subscriptions.

Some of the regional churches have loaded information about parish registers (such as the dates for which the various types of records exist) even if those registers have not been digitized yet.

The registers that have been digitized are not searchable by name; their individual pages are “browsable,” though, so you’ll want to have at least a hypothesis (if not actual evidence) that an ancestor was from a particular parish.

The project continuously digitizes these church registers and will add greater capabilities to its English version this year. Kirchenbuchportal also hopes that additional Protestant state churches will join the Archion effort. For records not yet digitized, the site has a list of church archives and contact information.

Check out James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1, for more information on how to use this valuable resource. James will also be hosting a one-hour, live webinar on How to Trace Your German Ancestry Online on Mar. 24.

Church records | German roots
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 16:02:58 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 07 March 2016
PBS' "Genealogy Roadshow" Announces 2016 Season Premiere
Posted by Diane

It's a great time to be a genealogist who watches TV. The latest genealogy television series to announce its season premiere is Genealogy Roadshow, whose season 3, episode 1, airs Tuesday, May 17, on PBS.

The series, sponsored by, will visit Boston, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles in its four episodes. In each one, sleuths D. Joshua Taylor, Kenyatta Berry and Mary Tedesco help everyday people (some of whom have done a little genealogy) investigate family stories and learn more about their roots.

Other television series featuring genealogy research to look for:
Any genealogy shows I'm missing?

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy TV
Monday, 07 March 2016 15:19:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 03 March 2016
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Celebrity Lineup & Video Sneak Peek
Posted by Diane

TLC has announced the celebrity lineup for the spring 2016 season of "Who Do You Think You Are?", which premieres Sunday, April 3 at 9/8 central. Here's a video sneak peek at the season:

Celebrity guests you'll see include:
  • Scott Foley, an actor who's appeared on "Scandal," "Felicity" and other shows. According to TLC's announcement, he "finds a relative who risked his life for one of America’s founding fathers, and an ancestor who suffered unspeakably during one of this nation’s darkest times."
  • Lea Michele, the actress and singer who portrayed Rachel on "Glee." Looks like she has interesting ancestry, with Italian roots on her mother's side and Turkish and Sephardic Jewish roots on her father's side.
  • Chris Noth, the actor from Sex and the City and Law & Order. He "learns his ancestors suffered during one of the greatest catastrophes in American history, and [has] a relative who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of all time."
  • Molly Ringwald, a member of the 1980s "Brat Pack" and star of several of the movies of my youth. The show explores her family lore of roots in Swedish royalty.
  • Katey Sagal, who was Peg Bundy on "Married With Children" and more recently, Gemma on "Sons of Anarchy." She'll explore her family's Amish roots.
  • Aisha Tyler, from "The Talk" and "Criminal Minds," rediscovers the story of her second-great-grandfather and learns she has a prominent ancestor who tried to hide a son born out of wedlock.
Firsts for the upcoming season include travel to Portugal, Sweden and Ellis Island (it's hard to believe the show hasn't taken us there yet), as well as a witch hunt involving a male ancestor. is once again sponsoring "Who Do You think You Are?" and providing research for each celebrity.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy TV
Thursday, 03 March 2016 15:27:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 01 March 2016
NOW: Search Free Irish Catholic Parish Registers on Findmypast!
Posted by Diane

Findmypast has released its new collection of 10 million indexed Irish Catholic parish registers, which will be free to search online—forever.

To celebrate, the site is making all of its Irish records free to search and view until March 7.

(You guys: I couldn't wait until the bottom of this post to tell you about our Irish Genealogy MEGA Collection on sale in Webinars, video classes, printed guides, Cheat Sheet. Here it is!)

Click the Start Searching button to begin your search on Findmypast. On the search form, use the Record Set field to choose a particular collection (I typed Catholic to pull up a list of the parish records collections I could select from).

You'll be prompted to start a free basic registration before you can view records that match your search.

Note that if you didn't specify a category or collection of records, a nonIrish record might appear in your results, and when you click it you'll be prompted to subscribe. You can just hit the back button to return to your results.

Take a look at the tips for searching the Catholic parish registers on the Findmypast blog.

I was most interested in searching the Irish Catholic parish registers collection, which come from the National Library of Ireland include baptisms and marriages from a majority of Catholic parishes in Ireland up to 1880.

I searched for James Butler (the brother of my third-great-grandmother), born in 1835 plus or minus two years in an unknown location. I was looking for a James with parents David and Mary, so I narrowed my search to the Ireland Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms collection.

You'll need to click from my search results to each matching record transcription in order to see the parents' names. I didn't find any good candidates for my James. Sad face. Of course, it's possible the family's parish isn't covered in these records, or that my search terms weren't good (I know little about this family), or that some indexing error is hiding him.

The registers themselves take different formats. Here's an example of one from 1834: also will release an index to these records in March, so I'll try that site as well. And I'll look for more Irish place of origin help in the Irish Genealogy MEGA Collection (now 81% off!).

Tuesday, 01 March 2016 10:10:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]