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Friday, November 21, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Nov. 17-21
Posted by Diane
FamilySearch | findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy for kids | Genealogy societies
Friday, November 21, 2014 12:25:25 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Ancestry.com Study: Online Genealogy Research in the U.S. Has Grown by 14X in 10 Years
Posted by Diane
Here’s some news to warm a genealogist’s heart before Thanksgiving: According to the first chapter of Ancestry.com’s new Global Family History Report, online family history research has grown in the United States by 14 times over the past decade, with 63 percent of respondents stating that family history has become more important than ever.
The study by the Future Foundation on behalf of Ancestry.com examined trends in the family—both past and present—across six developed countries: the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.
Overall, it indicates that generations are growing closer and families are increasingly interested in their history. Other findings include:
- The number of grandchildren with a close relationship with a grandparent has risen from 60 percent in the 1950s to 1960s, to 78 percent today.
Ancestry.com family historian Michelle Ercanbreck attributes this to advances in technology and medicine: “As grand- and great-grandparents live longer and stay connected with social media, there are now unprecedented opportunities to engage with younger generations and pass on family stories.”
- Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents reported feeling closer to older relatives, with half of older relatives saying they had drawn closer to young relatives as a result of learning more about their family.
- Younger people (55 percent overall) are among those inspired most to learn more about their family history by talking with older family members.
- The average family history for US respondents stretches back 184 years, compared to 149 years a generation ago.
- Among Americans who’ve gone beyond talking to family to research their family history, three of the most commonly used resources are photographs (81 percent); birth, marriage and death records (66 percent); and letters (45 percent).
Do you like the idea of bringing generations closer and passing on a family history legacy? Take a look at our book Stories From My Grandparent: An Heirloom Journal for Your Grandchild. If you’re inspired to start tracing your family history, Discover Your Family History Online can point you to the best genealogy websites and online resources to start your search.
You can see more details on these findings and the study methodology in Ancestry.com’s press release.
Ancestry.com | Genealogy Industry | saving and sharing family history
Friday, November 21, 2014 12:05:51 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Features Greek Genealogy
Posted by Diane
I was struck by the strong Greek identities of the guests—comedian Tina Fey, author David Sedaris
and journalist George
Stephanopoulos—on last night's "Finding Your
Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." All grew up with a deep
sense of being Greek, spent time with other Greeks, and went to Greek Orthodox churches.
A lot of this identity comes from the guests' relatively
recent Greek heritage—each had grandparents who came from Greece in
the early 20th century. Could it also be the food? My husband and I,
and lots and lots of other people, go every year to a Greek festival
in our area to get dinner and copious amounts of baklava. It's a
good reason to be proud of one's culture.
Despite their strong ethnic identity, though, none of the guests
knew much about their family histories. Gates pointed out that Greek
roots can be hard to trace because of record losses suffered during
the world wars and Greece's fight for independence from the Ottoman
Empire—struggles that also took their toll on the Greek people.
There's the language barrier and decentralized archive system, too.
Nonetheless, the show's researchers were able to discover quite a
bit of family tree information for each guest. The highlights:
- Tina Fey: Researchers found Fey's immigrant grandmother
Vasiliki Kourekou on a 1921 passenger list "deep in the Ellis
Island archives." (I had to chuckle over Gates' dramatic
wording. Ellis Island passenger lists are readily available
online, and the record "archives" at Ellis Island are on the computers in
the first-floor Family History Center, which any visitor can use.)
She was from Patrina, and researchers found an old family
history with genealogies of the town's residents. Fey's
third-great-grandfather escaped the Turks' massacre on the
island of Chios,
and went on to earn a medal for his service in the Greek
On her father's side of the family, Fey's English
fifth-great-grandfather John Hewson was a manufacturer in the
textile industry. He migrated to the American Colonies
with a letter of recommendation from Benjamin Franklin and
became a prominent textile manufacturer here as well; quilts
from his company now hang in museums. He also organized his
workers to support the American Revolution.
The ethnicity estimates from Fey's DNA test show she has 6
percent Asian ancestry, which breaks down to 3 percent Caucasus
and 3 percent Middle Eastern—not surprising for a person of
- George Stephanopoulos: Both of Stephanopoulos' parents
are Greek. His maternal grandmother Marguerite Nicodopoulos was
born in Saravali. The town was the site of a WWI Nazi raid in
January 1944, in which George's family, part of the local
resistance, was rounded up and later released. Their home,
though, was later burned down by German supporters.
His fourth great-grandfather was a Klepht, or
anti-Ottoman rebel, leading up to the Greek Revolution, and later
served in the war. Stephanopoulos' DNA revealed he's 98.9 percent European.
Ancestors in Sedaris' maternal line were in the United
States from colonial times. His fourth-great-grandfather was 16
when he enlisted for the Americans in the Revolutionary War. His
DNA test revealed 4 percent Caucasus ancestry.
- David Sedaris: When Sedaris was young, his Greek
grandmother, who spoke no English, lived with his family.
She was born in Apidia, where Sedaris still has distant cousins
who helped piece together the family history. In Greek military
archives, researchers discovered that his
third-great-grandfather Elias Sedaris, born in 1781, had a
daughter seized by the invading Turkish army. Her fate is
If you're researching Greek ancestors, let our
downloadable Greek Genealogy guide lead you to records,
websites and resources. It's
available in ShopFamilyTree.com.
can watch this episode on the "Finding Your Roots" website.
Next week's episode will focus on genetic genealogy and the DNA
results of guests such as Anderson Cooper, Jessica Alba, Gov. Deval
Patrick and others.
Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 12:58:03 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
New Ancestry DNA Launch: "DNA Circles" of Matching Individuals
Posted by Diane
Ancestry DNA—the genetic genealogy services arm of Ancestry.com—is launching major new updates for its customers today. I'll save what I
think is the most interesting one for second:
The number of tests that Ancestry DNA has processed—about
500,000—has allowed it to create a new algorithm to determine your
matches. Customers will now see higher-quality matches and, for most
people, a smaller list of matches as the lower-quality ones drop
off. In the online demonstration I saw last week, Ancestry DNA
Senior Product Manager Kenny Freestone said his own match list went
from more than 100 pages of matches to 36 pages.
You'll still see the notes and stars you've added to the matches who
stay on your list. For the time being, you can download your old
match list, including any notes you added, via a link on the View
All DNA Matches screen.
A link in the top corner will let you access
help content including an article that explains your match
"confidence score" (for example, a "very high" confidence level
means it is very likely that you and your match share an ancestor
within five or six generations).
Also here, a white paper that explains matching in technical
detail, including a process called "phasing." Freestone
said Ancestry DNA is the only major testing company that performs
this complicated, expensive process, which determines whether parts
of DNA called SNPs came from the mother or the father. (See a more thorough
description of phasing here.)
This update, in beta right now, is potentially extremely
helpful to genealogy researchers. Ancestry DNA will create DNA
Circles—clusters of test-takers who all match the same ancestral
individual. Each person in a circle matches at least one other
person in the circle and has the same ancestral individual
in his or public Ancestry Member Tree.
Circles will be constantly
updated as DNA customers add and change family trees, and new people
Circle members can see a list of everyone in the circle, the
confidence level of the person's membership in the circle, and how
each person is related to the ancestral individual genetically and
on his or her tree. Members can link to each tree to view the
information and records they contain.
DNA Circles help customers put their DNA test results
to work solving family mysteries—explaining how genetically matched
people are related, leading to new relatives and verifying
To be in and view a DNA Circle, you must:
Here's what DNA Circles look like. William Gray is the ancestral individual at the center of this DNA
- be an Ancestry DNA customer
- have an Ancestry.com member tree that's set as public (because
your membership in a DNA Circle gives others access to your
- subscribe to Ancestry.com
Circle members can see a list of other members:
This comparison shows two members of the William Gray DNA Circle
(Kenny Freestone and L.S.) and how they're related to William—making
Kenny and LS second cousins once removed. In this case, they're not
a DNA match, which, due to the way DNA recombines over generations,
These updates will take effect automatically—no need to upgrade or
take a new test. Ancestry DNA customers will receive an email message about the changes today.
Ancestry.com | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 12:31:12 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
12 Kinds of Organizations Genealogists Should Follow on Facebook
Posted by Diane
This isn't an article about the genealogy organizations you
should follow on Facebook and other social media. Nope. Instead, it's
about the types of organizations you should seek out and
follow, because they might lead you to important
research information and resources.
As you'll find out in our Jumpstart
Your Genealogy with Social Media webinar on Nov. 25, using
social media for genealogy isn't just getting your research
questions answered on Facebook (although that is a great use of
It's also finding out about new resources, learning the history of
your ancestral places and people, meeting folks who are researching
the same ancestors you are, and answering other genealogists'
questions. Start by finding and following these organizations:
- Genealogical societies for the towns, counties and states
where your ancestor lived and where you live
- Public libraries where your ancestor lived and where you live
(sometimes the genealogy department has its
own Facebook page)
- State libraries and archives for your ancestral states
- Major genealogical societies, libraries and archives (such as
- Alumni organizations for the places your relative attended
- Museums and historical sites related to your family history
(such as the Coal Creek
Miner's Museum if your great-grandfather worked in a mine)
- Still-extant social, religious, immigrant and other
organizations your ancestor belonged to (such as the Freemasons)
- Organizations and museums related to your relatives' military
On a Facebook page, click the Like button to
follow it. For groups, click the Join button to join (or if it's a
closed group, to ask to be added). You can see most pages even if you're not a member of Facebook, but
you must be a member of Facebook to join a group.
- Genealogy websites and products you use, are considering using or
subscribing to, or are interested in hearing about
You'll learn how to find these types of organizations and groups on
social media sites in the Jumpstart
Your Genealogy with Social Media webinar, taking place
Tuesday, November 25, at 7 p.m. ET. You'll also learn strategies for
using social media to do genealogy research, and discover social
media sites especially for genealogy.
Webinar registrants receive a PDF of the presentation
slides and access to view the webinar again whenever they want.
Learn more about the Jumpstart
Your Genealogy with Social Media webinar in
Research Tips | Social Networking
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 2:40:02 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, November 17, 2014
Free Global Records on Ancestry.com Through Nov. 19
Posted by Diane
I just got word that Ancestry.com
is offering free access to select global records for a limited
The offer corresponds with this week's "Finding Your Roots With
Henry Louis Gates Jr.," which features the Greek roots of Tina Fey and David Sedaris. It airs Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m./7 central on PBS.
Ancestry.com sponsors the show.
I ran a few test searches to get an idea of what's included, and it
looks like mostly births and baptisms, marriages, and deaths and
burials from FamilySearch
(obtained as part of the records
partnership announced last year).
The free Ancestry.com access ends Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 11:59 p.m.
ET. You'll need a free basic Ancestry.com account to view matching
records. (If you don't already have a free account, run a search and
you'll be prompted to set one up when you click to view a record.)
to start searching Ancestry.com's free global records.
Ancestry.com | Free Databases
Monday, November 17, 2014 12:11:41 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, November 14, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Nov. 10-14
Posted by Diane
- Fold3 is offering free access to the site's WWII Collection through
November 30. This includes Missing Air Crew Reports, US Air
Force photos, Old Man's Draft cards and WWII diaries. You'll
need to set up a free basic account when prompted to view
records that match your search. Start searching here.
- FamilySearch International, an important driver of progress in
genealogy research, is celebrating
its 120th anniversary. Nov. 13, 1894, the Genealogical
Society of Utah held its first meeting. It became the
Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints in 1944. It was later renamed as the church's
Genealogical Department, then the Family History Department. In
the 1990s, as the concept of the FamilySearch.org website was
being developed, it became known as FamilySearch.
The company has launched
another advertising campaign in Norway.
Celebrity Roots | FamilySearch | Fold3 | Genealogy societies | MyHeritage
Friday, November 14, 2014 10:15:47 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Genealogy Research at the Courthouse: When Your Ancestor's Old Record is Missing
Posted by Diane
So you send a request for your ancestor's divorce or deed or
criminal trial or other old record to the courthouse that should
have it—or you go to that courthouse—and the record isn't there.
This happened to me when I requested case records of my
great-grandfather's 1913 trial for bootlegging in Bowie, Texas, a dry
county at the time. I didn't have a volume and page number, but I
knew details including the county and the date of conviction. I laid
it all out as succinctly as possible in my request, added that I'd
pay any fees, and sent it off to the clerk (whose name and address I
found on the county court's website).
A few weeks later, my letter came back with a note that said
"searched, record not found." When this happens, it's possible the
information in the request was incorrect or incomplete, that the
record was misfiled or filed elsewhere, or that it no longer exists.
In addition to explaining what types of court records exist and
helping you find your ancestor's court records, our Nov. 20 Courthouse
Research Crash Course webinar will address what to do when
records are missing. Here are some of the options I've tried:
- Double-check your information: Were the names in your
request spelled correctly? Did you give a woman's maiden name
when the record should be under her married name? Did you
transpose numbers in the date? If so, correct your request and
- Find the volume and page number where the record is
located: Some local genealogical societies have published
indexes to court records. Otherwise, check the FamilySearch
online catalog for microfilmed indexes: Run a Place search
on the county or town and click the court records heading, then
browse for index reels covering the right time period. Rent the
film to view at your local FamilySearch Center (or, if the
records are digitized online, you'll see a link to the
collection at FamilySearch.org).
Court records indexes are usually handwritten and arranged by
the first letter of the last name. Within each section, names
may be partially or not at all alphabetized, so check the entire
- Check the microfilmed records: Once you have a volume
and page number, you could add it to your request, or you could
see whether FamilySearch has microfilmed or digitized the
records you need.
At the Family
History Library in Salt Lake City, I searched the
microfilmed index and court records for Bowie County. I could
see why the clerk didn't find the records: The volume and page
number the index gave for my great-grandfather's case
corresponded with records from years before he was in the
county. I also checked microfilmed records for the time his
trial took place. Nothing. I noted from the index that his trial
was one of a batch of consecutively numbered bootlegging cases,
all of which seemed to be missing.
- Look for courthouse disasters: Local research guides
and genealogical societies also can tell you if a fire or other
disaster destroyed records. If so, find out exactly which
records were involved—some may have survived. Also look for
reconstructed records and other substitute sources. (Find
our guide to researching around record disasters in
- Check local research guides: It's possible the records
were misplaced or filed elsewhere. After all, we're talking
about an entire county's worth of paperwork in a pre-computer
era. Some time after my microfilm search, I found newspaper
articles mentioning my ancestor's trial, and how a special court
district was set up to handle the glut of bootlegging cases. I
wonder if those records were kept elsewhere? Local research
guides and societies might help in figuring out the answer.
I could resubmit a more-detailed request, in the hopes a
different clerk would know where to look. One thing to remember,
though, is that a clerk won't be as highly invested in my
genealogy search as I am, and regular duties would likely take
precedence over my request.
I would love to go to the courthouse to search the records
myself (or I could hire someone if I had the budget for it). Not
all courthouses let researchers access the original records, so
if it's an option you're considering, call first.
Research Crash Course webinar, presented by Family Tree
Magazine contributing editor Sunny Jane Morton, is Thursday,
Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. ET. Everyone who registers will receive a PDF
of the presentation slides, as well as access to view the webinar
again as often as desired.
See what you'll learn in the Courthouse
Research Crash Course webinar and get registered at
court records | Webinars
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 1:01:55 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
"Finding Your Roots" Focuses on Ancestry in the British Empire
Posted by Diane
British roots was the theme for last night's "Finding Your
Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." That includes roots from all
over the British Empire: As it revealed the family histories of
guests Deepak Chopra,
Sally Field and Sting, the show touched on research in England,
Ireland, Canada, India, the American colonies and Australia.
- Deepak Chopra: This alternative medicine guru and
author came to America in 1970, where he eventually became chief of staff in a busy Boston hospital.
had managed to avoid the desperate poverty rampant in India, Gates
said, by aligning themselves with the British rulers. His
father, a medic for the British Indian Army during World War II,
served in the bloody Battle
of Kohima. He later became an aide to Lord
Mountbatten, viceroy of British India, who helped him
secure a scholarship to study cardiology in Scotland.
When Britain left India in 1947, the partition
of India displaced millions of Hindus, Sikhs and
Muslims. Chopra's grandparents managed to escape their
hometown in the newly created Pakistan.
One of the most interesting parts of this segment was a
record of visitors to the sacred city of Haridwar that allowed the
show's researchers to document a branch of Chopra's tree back to
his sixth-great-grandfather. You can find
information about the Hindu Pilgrimage Records at FamilySearch,
which has digitized versions available for the public to view at a
FamilySearch Center, or for members of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Saints to view from home when logged into their
- Sally Field: Actor Field was cut off from her father's
family history after her parents divorced when she was 4. Gates'
research team documented the family in Ontario, Canada, to her fifth-great-grandparents. How did they end up there? Ralph and Anne Morden lived in Pennsylvania in the
1770s. According to a letter written at the time, Ralph, a Loyalist, was taken prisoner and executed for
treason. To protect her eight children, Anne moved her family to
Ontario, where Britain granted her land as compensation for her
can read more on Canadian land grant records here.
Fields' DNA test revealed a small amount of American
Indian ancestry, which Gates suggested means her colonial American
family had children with their Indian neighbors.
On her father's maternal side, researchers traced
Field's ancestor back to William Bradford, a Mayflower pilgrim and
governor of the Plymouth colony. Probably in the interest of time,
Gates skipped over the Pilgrims'
years in Leiden, Holland, when telling their story; you'll find
those details here.
- Sting: Sting was born
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner in Wallsend, England (the show didn't mention this, but he got his name because he once performed in a black-and-yellow-striped sweater). A newspaper article
reported how his great-grandfather, whose shipmate father had
died at sea, was injured while working in the town
shipyards at age 13.
Another set of third-great-grandparents,
laceworkers in Nottingham, England, moved to France to find work
after steam-powered machines automated their jobs. An
unidentified book referred to "the lace hands of Nottingham
extraction" and the "great distress" caused by the French
Revolution of 1848, which eliminated laceworkers' main
clientele and prompted the family to move to Australia.
In Sting's paternal grandmother's line, a baptismal record of a
great-great-grandfather in Ireland showed that the parents were
too poor to make the customary donation to the church—a common
occurrence during the Great
Famine. The family moved to England, among the roughly
1.5 million to emigrate between 1845 and 1855.Our Empire Emigrants guide helps you research British ancestors in India, Australia and South Africa.
Ready to research ancestors in England? Family Tree University's English Genealogy 201 course will show you what old records to look for and how to find them. The next session starts Dec. 8.
this episode of "Finding Your Roots" on the show's website.
Next week's episode will focus on the Greek
roots of Tina Fey, George Stephanopoulos and David Sedaris.
Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 10:37:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, November 07, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Nov. 3-7
Posted by Diane
Family tree site WikiTree
has added two new features to its Relationshop Finder tool, which
helps those who've taken genetic genealogy tests find matches on
WikiTree. The Relationship Finder now lets you easily browse all the
ancestors you have in common with matches, and lets you filter your
common ancestors to display only those who also are shared with a
third, fourth or fifth person. You
can read WikiTree's announcement about the relationship finder
findmypast | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | UK and Irish roots | Swedish roots
Friday, November 07, 2014 3:02:46 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)