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Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Three New Ways to Learn About Your Ancestor's Military Service
Posted by Diane
On Memorial Day, Americans traditionally place flowers on the graves
of those who died in military service (read
how this holiday, originally called Decoration Day began).
Canadians observe Memorial Day on July 1.
Library of Congress
Another way to honor your ancestors who served in the armed forces
is to learn about their wartime experiences and preserve those
stories by writing them down. If it was years ago when you last
learned about the wars your ancestors served in, it might be time to
give it another go—technology offers new ways to explore
historic wars through maps, apps and videos.
Library of Congress
If you can learn the military unit and battles your relative served
in (this military research guide can help), military maps let you
trace his movements and even where he would've been during battles.
Library of Congress has a Military Battles and Campaigns map
collection, which you can search by keyword using the search
field at the top of the page. The one above is from a series showing the
12th Army Group from D-Day through July 26, 1945, in World War
The David Rumsey Map Collection has digitized
military maps and military
atlases you can search or browse using the filters on the left
side of the page.
For the Civil War and American Revolution, explore the animated and historical
maps at the Civil War Trust website. They include overviews of
the entire war and for individual battles.
Your smart device can help you access military history information
wherever you are. Try searching your device's app store for
"military history," "[name of war] history" or "[name of battle]
history." A few I found include:
- Civil War
Today ($2.99, iOS): This History Channel app shows you a
daily newspaper article about the war.
- Civil War
Trust Battle Apps (free, iOS and Android): These let you
virtually tour Civil War battlefields for major battles like
Chancellorsville and Antietam, and they're good companions if
you're visiting the battlefield.
History (.99, iOS): This reference has 1,200 entries
for important military events; search by date and keyword.
It also has a "this day in history" feature.
Century Military Uniforms (about $4, iOS and Android):
View uniforms used by various countries throughout the 20th
The Civil War Trust comes through again with educational videos
from history experts, including a Civil War In4 series that
delves into a topic in four minutes or less.
Archives' YouTube channel has playlists including WWI
Airmen and D-Day.
The Library of Congress has a YouTube
playlist on the Spanish-American War. YouTube also has videos
from Ken Burns' documentaries about the Civil
War and World
the only known Allied color footage from World War II.
More Genealogy Resources for Military Ancestors
Find websites for researching your ancestors who served
in the US Armed Forces in this
list of websites and get research tips in our free
podcast on military records.
In ShopFamilyTree.com, check out our downloadable, complete guides
to research in military
service records and military
Maps | Military records
Tuesday, 23 May 2017 12:44:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 03 May 2017
Overlooked Genealogy Resource Alert! 9 Tips to Research at Heritage Museums
Posted by Diane
You’ve searched Ancestry.com and FamilySearch, gone to the
library and maybe even taken a DNA test to discover your family's immigrant
origins. But for a genealogist, just knowing the country or region is rarely enough.
To find records in your family's homeland, you need their
town or village. And you probably want to understand how your ancestors
lived, what they did for work, what they wore and ate.
Heritage museums give you a look at that culture’s history
and people. Many have research centers (an overlooked genealogy resource!) with records such as
foreign-language newspapers, maps, photos, histories and more. Staff often can help with research and translation.
Whether your ancestors hail from Germany, Ireland, Eastern Europe,
Japan, Africa, Mexico or elsewhere, there’s probably a museum for
Tree Magazine's roundup of 11 Must-Visit Heritage Museums.
National Hispanic Cultural Center library, Albuquerque
These tips will help you do your best genealogy research at a
- Scan the museum website to understand its library holdings and geographic focus. The National Hispanic Cultural
Center library in Albuquerque, NM, for example, is a
great research destination for those with deep Southwest roots. It has more
than 12,500 titles, and an archive with rare books,
photos, maps and manuscripts.
- Search the online catalog (if there is one) for materials you'll want to use.
- Call ahead to verify hours and any fees (including acceptable
forms of payment), ask about special services such as
translation or research consultations. Make an appointment with
research center staff if needed.
- Check the museum's events calendar in case you want to
time your visit for a family history workshop or cultural
festival (such as Historic
Huguenot Street's annual Gathering).
- Find out about research room rules. For example, you may need
to request materials ahead of time so they can be pulled for you,
or use only pencils for note-taking.
- Bring a pedigree chart with as much information as you know.
Summarize what you’ve learned about immigrant relatives, even if
all you have is stories. “If your family talks about your
great-grandfather who always went to the river to catch fish,
that can be a clue to a geographic area,” says Karile Vaitikute
of the Balzekas Museum of
Lithuanian Culture in Chicago.
- Bring good-quality, full-color copies or high-resolution
digital images of any records needing translation.
- Consider becoming a museum member or making a donation,
especially if the research center charges minimal fees. Send a
thank-you note to acknowledge help you received.
Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i Tokioka Heritage Resource Center, Honolulu
See Family Tree Magazine's list of 11 Must-Visit Heritage Museums
To find museums focusing on your family's heritage, search
online for the country or ethnicity plus the words heritage, history or cultural
and museum. Add the name of a city or town to narrow results to places in that area.
Libraries and Archives | Museums
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 12:35:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, 24 April 2017
National DNA Day 2017: What It Is & Genetic Genealogy Sales To Look For
Posted by Diane
National Human Genome Research Institute
If you follow genealogy folks on Facebook, Twitter or blogs, you
might've seen mention DNA Day. What, you wonder, is DNA
National DNA Day is April 25. It commemorates two landmark events in human genetic
research that happened in April:
The US Senate and House of Representatives officially proclaimed
April 25, 2003, DNA Day. No formal proclamation has taken place
since, but the
National Human Genome Research Institute organizes annual DNA Day
In ShopFamilyTree.com, we're having a sale on our webinar, DNA
and the Paper Trail: Putting It All Together, on Tuesday,
April 25. Use
coupon code DNADAY10 to save $10 on your registration,
and learn how to combine DNA testing with traditional genealogy
research to discover your ancestors.
You also can save
81% on our Genetic Genealogy Mega Collection, which gathers
educational tools like our Family Tree Guide to Genetic
Genealogy and DNA Testing book, our Using DNA to Solve Family
Mysteries video download and many more.
You'll also find sales at DNA testing companies, too. Here's a roundup
of DNA testing sales for DNA Day 2017.
Monday, 24 April 2017 13:29:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Find Ancestors in Free Probate Records on AmericanAncestors!
Posted by Diane
AmericanAncestors.org, the database website of the New England
Historic Genealogical Society, is offering you free access to 32
of its probate records-related databases through next Tuesday,
You must register as a free guest member with AmericanAncestors.org
in order to access the probate databases, which mostly come from New
York and New England.
Click here to start searching.
Probate records, which relate to the distribution of a deceased
person's estate, may include wills, estate inventories, guardianship
papers and more. They often identify heirs and provide clues to
family relationships—especially valuable in the time before birth
and death records.
To help you decipher unfamiliar terms in your ancestor's probate
our free Will & Probate glossary on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.
You can get help researching and understanding your ancestors'
probate records in our on-demand video class Using
Probate Records, available in
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 15:13:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Q&A With Randy Majors, Creator of Online Map & Search Tools Genealogists Love
Posted by Diane
Randy Majors is the inventor of the Historical US County
Boundary Maps tool genealogists use to trace their ancestors'
county boundary changes (we at Family Tree Magazine think
it's so useful that we made it one of our 101
Best Websites for 2016).
which lets you run genealogy-specific advanced Google searches, is
another one of his creations. Our intrepid reporter Sunny Morton tracked him down
to ask a few questions about maps and genealogy.
Q. What inspired you to develop the county boundaries tool and
A. Both were born out of my own genealogy research: thinking there
have got to be better, quicker, more efficient ways of performing
tasks I do repeatedly.
Q. What’s your professional background?
A. In college, I got degrees in geography and GIS (geographic
information systems) just as that technology was moving mainstream. I spent much of my early career developing
interactive, computerized mapping tools for the energy industry.
When I became interested in family history more than 10 years ago,
I just applied my skill sets and interests in mapping and
Q. So you love maps?
A. I’ve been interested in maps forever. You know how other kids
have lemonade stands? I had a map stand in third grade.
Q. Have you had personal research success success using your tools
A. The county boundaries tool has mainly helped me overcome
mistakes. How many of us have discovered we haven’t found
something because we were looking in the wrong place?
AncestorSearch, I’ve taken six or seven family lines back at least
another generation. Despite how much is available on the big
genealogy websites, it’s funny how often something is buried on a site you don’t expect. And a lot of people have
messaged me about people they’ve found using AncestorSearch,
including living lost cousins.
Q. What’s the Let’sWalkTo
tool on your site?
A. That one is not related to genealogy. It’s literally just
another example of something I was interested in. My wife and I
like to walk everywhere. When we go out to dinner we
rarely drive, either where we used to live in Manhattan, NY, or
now in Denver, Colo.
When I’m traveling, I use this tool, too. You enter your preferred walking distance and the address, and get a list of restaurants and bars to click on. You can
filter for a specific type of food or entertainment and by price
point. This is just a mash-up of walking distances and restaurant
information on Google Maps, but it’s so useful.
Q. Tell us about a map hanging on your wall right now.
A. Manhattan in 1836. Only the southern tip was populated
and there was only forest land where Central Park is. I can see
that a building that’s now several blocks in from the water was
actually on the shoreline; so many of the old rivers are now
partly filled in. This map reminds me how this island has been
so hugely transformed.
Randy and Sunny teamed up on a May/June
2017 Family Tree Magazine article about using old
maps to solve genealogy research problems. Get your copy of this
issue today in ShopFamilyTree.com: It's available both as
a PDF download or a print
5 Questions Plus | Genealogy Web Sites | Maps
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 14:44:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
23andMe Authorized to Provide 10 New Genetic Health Reports to DNA Customers
Posted by Diane
Genetic genealogy and health testing company 23andMe announced that the FDA
has authorized the company to issue 10 new genetic health risk
reports to customers. Those include Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease,
Parkinson's Disease, Hereditary Thrombophilia, Celiac Disease and
the rest of the authorized report and a description of each
condition in this 23andMe blog post).
The FDA in 2013 ordered
23andMe to stop offering its health analysis, which informed
test-takers about their risks for 254 diseases and conditions,
because the company hadn't proven its tests were "analytically or
clinically validated." After negotiations with the FDA, 23andMe
began offering more-limited health-related reports in 2015.
To obtain the FDA's authorization for the new reports, 23andMe
"conducted extensive validation studies for accuracy and user
comprehension that met FDA standards," according to its blog.
The FDA also established a new authorization pathway for future
23andMe reports that are "substantially equivalent" to those already
approved, which should facilitate reports on additional conditions.
The company will release the new set of genetic health risk reports
in April. New customers will receive the reports when they're
available. Customers who've already tested should look for an email
from 23andMe about their eligibility to receive the new reports
(this has to do with your geographic location and the genotyping
"chip" used for your original test). See
more details on the 23andMe blog.
Learn how to use DNA testing in your genealogy research from our guidebook, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy.
Tuesday, 11 April 2017 11:15:21 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 05 April 2017
6 Records to Trace Ancestors Who Served in World War I
Posted by Diane
The United States declared war on Germany 100 years ago this month,
on April 6, 1917, joining the side of the Allies in the Great War. See all the countries caught up in the conflict in our timeline of
World War I war declarations.
More than 650,000 from Canada and Newfoundland and about 4 million
from the United States served in the military. These are two of the US Expeditionary Force soldiers in my family:
On the left is Joe Seeger, who enlisted September 1917; and on the right is his brother Norbert (with their father), who enlisted July 1918.
Loss of WWI Service Records in NPRC Fire
When you go to research your WWI ancestors' military service, you'll
make a sad discovery: More than 80 percent of US Army service
records for those discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and Jan. 1, 1960
(which includes WWI soldiers) were destroyed
in a 1973 fire at the National Archives' National Personnel
Records Center in St. Louis. (You
can request surviving WWI service records following these
But there are other ways to trace your ancestor's
WWI service, including:
1. Draft Registration Cards
More than 24 million men (including immigrants who hadn't
naturalized) registered for the draft in 1917 and 1918, although not
all of them served. These are widely available on genealogy websites
like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.
2. State Adjutant General Rosters
Most states issued a roster of soldiers in World War I. Both Joe and
Norbert are listed in The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers,
Sailors and Marines in the World War, 1917-18, on Ancestry.com
as Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918.
3. WWI Transport Service Records
Fold3 just published this
collection of passenger lists of military transport ships. Norbert was listed with Supply Co. 336, leaving New York City Oct 27, 1918, and arriving in Liverpool Nov. 8. I
had to scroll through the records to find a page with a date and
was on another ship Nov. 11, but I can't find a page noting where it took
him. His last transport took him home: The USS Orizaba departed Brest, France,
July 29, 1919, and arrived at Newport News, Va., Aug. 6.
4. Discharge Papers
Most discharged service members registered with their local
courthouses on return to their communities. I can't find my WWI
servicemen among the veteran discharges in FamilySearch's
records for Hamilton County, Ohio, so here's the record for
5. Veterans Surveys
Many communities asked local veterans to complete surveys about
their service in the World War. My cousin three times
removed Louis E. Thoss filled out this one for the Kentucky Council of
Defense (it's now part of the Kenton
County Public Library's genealogy database).
The US Army Military History Institute also has a collection of WWI
veterans questionnaires completed in the late 1970s, along
with photos, letters, memoirs and other materials.
6. Military Headstone Application
When Joe died in 1941, his sister applied for a
military headstone based on his WWI service. These are on National
Archives microfilm, and digitized on Ancestry.com.
You'll find more ways to research your World War I ancestors in
Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Fold3 | Military records | World War One Genealogy
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 14:54:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Social History & Noah Wyle's Civil War Ancestry on "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Posted by Diane
I remember Noah Wyle from his days portraying a wide-eyed medical
student on "ER." Last night on "Who Do You Think You Are?" we saw
him tracking down his third-great-grandfather J.H. Mills, who served the Confederacy in the Civil War and
fought in the bloody Battle of
Later, in Mississippi, newspaper articles show J.H. was a prominent,
well-liked citizen. But he killed himself when he couldn't make a
premium payment for his life insurance policy, which under a
then-common "deferred dividend" scheme, meant that he would lose his
entire life savings. His suicide before the policy lapsed allowed
his family to receive benefits.
Unfortunately, Wyle's third-great-grandmother, Mary Emily, still
became destitute and had to rely on J.H.'s meager military
pension. She died in 1928 in a home
for soldiers and widows at Beauvoir, the former home
of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
Something that struck me in this episode was how the experts' social
history knowledge enhanced the story. Wyle learned the backstory of
regiment that J.H. joined in New Orleans—mostly comprised of
the city's educated elite, who would've been neophytes in battle.
Another historian shared information on J.H.'s deferred dividend
life insurance policy (called
a "tontine"—read about it here), a practice that was outlawed
after the Armstrong
investigation in 1905. In light of her explanation, we gain insight into J.H.'s motivation for taking his own life.
list of 10 free social history websites where you can start
exploring the places and times your ancestors lived in.
And exploring social history to learn more about your family is the
whole idea behind Family
Tree Magazine's History Matters column, which you'll
find collected in our Best
of History Matters e-book. You also might find our How
to Research Your Ancestor's Daily Life Online video class
helpful as you search for details on everyday lives of your
Wyle's "Who Do You Think You Are?" episode is online but
"locked," so you have to log in with a TV subscription to watch it
(I've missed a couple of episodes so far for that reason).
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Civil War | Social History
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 07:54:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Family Tree Maker 2017 Introduces FamilySync, Ditches TreeSync
Posted by Diane
Time to Sync Your Family Tree Maker and Ancestry Trees
Important news for Family Tree Maker software users: Software
MacKiev, the company that acquired Family Tree Maker from Ancestry.com early last year, will release Family Tree Maker 2017 on March 31.
Previous versions of Family Tree Maker used something called
TreeSync to sync your software with your tree on
Ancestry.com. Family Tree Maker 2017 will use something else, called
FamilySync, to sync your trees. As of March 29, Ancestry will no
longer support TreeSync.
If you use Family Tree Maker and don't plan to upgrade to 2017, you
should open the software and sync your trees before March 29. You
still can use your old Family Tree Maker after that, but your trees
will no longer sync.
(Note that Family Tree Maker is not afilliated with Family
Tree Magazine, which hosts this blog.)
Upgrading to Family Tree Maker 2017
If you bought Family Tree Maker from Software MacKiev since March 1,
2016, you're eligible to upgrade to 2017 for free. Discounted
upgrades are available for some folks who received Family Tree Maker
2014.1 or Mac3.1. Visit the
Software MacKiev website and sign up for the company's newsletter
for full details.
Sneak Peek at RootsMagic 7 TreeShare
Many of you have been anxiously waiting for RootsMagic software to
start syncing with Ancestry trees. RootsMagic posted on its
blog earlier this month that RootsMagic 7 will use technology
called TreeShare to do the syncing. The new version will also add
research hints from Ancestry.com records to its WebHints feature
(which also offers hints from FamilySearch, Findmypast and
The post also shares
RootsMagic 7 screenshots and asks for folks to be testers.
Have you switched to RootsMagic? Ready to learn the ins and out of
your RootsMagic software? Take
our Mastering RootsMagic online course, starting March 27,
with RootsMagic expert Diana Smith.
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 12:14:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
AncestryDNA Genetic Communities First Look! My Mom's Munster Irish Connections
Posted by Diane
I've been hoping DNA testing would shine some light on my Irish
origins. But since I'm just 1/16 Irish through a set of
third-great-grandparents on my mom's side, her DNA test might be
more useful than mine in this regard.
We haven't made any connections with cousins who know where we come
from in Ireland, but we did learn Mom is a "likely" member of what AncestryDNA calls the
Munster Irish genetic
community. The company is beta
testing a genetic communities experience for members who test results put them into these groups. Here's what Mom's beta
Genetic communities are genetically connected groups AncestryDNA has
identified that show where your family probably lived over the past
few hundred years. The Munster Irish were from the province of
Munster in southwestern Ireland, where counties Cork, Kerry and
I already knew from records that our Irish ancestors
came from Cork and Kerry, but this would be big news for someone who
knew only that he was part Irish.
Clicking on the overview and timeline arrows at the left gives you
some history of this genetic community during that time, and shows
you migration paths for the group. My Irish ancestors were famine
immigrants who arrived sometime before about 1850 (the date of their
marriage record in Cincinnati).
You'll also see who in your tree was part of the migratory group
You can zoom in to see an area more closely.
You might be able to click on a "historical insight" below the
overview to learn more about a topic related to that heritage group.
Clicking Connection on the community's home screen explains how you came
to be a member of this community, shows you common last names in the
community, and lets you view matches also in the community.
So if you haven't done much genealogy yet, being placed in a genetic
community automatically gives you new information about your
possible family history, and points you to a starting place for
looking through your matches. Even as someone who's done some
genealogy research, I liked seeing my family as part of an
international migration and learning more about the historical
context for their lives.
I'm not quite Irish enough to be in this community with Mom, but I
am in the "Netherlanders and Northern Germans in the Midwest"
community (she is too).
Have you been placed in any genetic communities? What do you think
of the beta experience?
Ancestry.com | Genetic Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 14:42:39 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)