Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rolling in the Genealogical New Year 2007

In the spirit of bringing in the New Year with a splash, Genealogy Today published over 24,000 new names across several databases. Included in the release were 473 war ration books, 197 funeral cards and 182 mug shots and wanted posters.

Also included were two extremely interesting and unique resources:

Indianapolis Police 1910 Souvenir ReviewIndianapolis Police 1910 Souvenir Review - Dedicated to the Indianapolis Police Department, June the First 1913. Includes a roster and history of the department, along with many photos. This amazing book was filled with names of the officers, along with some history of the department.

Citizens' Mutual Fire Ins. Co. 1883 Members - By-Law No. 9, As Amended, And List of Members of the Citizens' Mutual Fire Insurance Company, Of Kent, Allegan and Ottawa Counties. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1883. This book had over 8,000 names in it.

Many of the items were added to the Family Tree Connection database, which reached the 750,000 name milestone with this update. For a list of the new resources, check out today's Genealogy and How blog post.

Starting the year with over 1.92 million names online, Genealogy Today has set the goal of reaching 2.50 million names by the end of 2007. This will include significant additions to the war ration book and business card collections.

2006 celebrated the 200th anniversary of America's first interstate highway.

Looking back at where we've been, Melissa Slate brings to our attention and important anniversary, and in her article, “The National Road An Enduring American Icon,” gives us a us a brief history of our country’s first interstate highway, suggesting its relevance to better understanding the context of our ancestor’s lives.

New Year, New Ideas

You might have noticed that our home page was recently converted to a blog format. This is just one of the improvements we've planned for 2007 -- all in an effort to make it easier for subscribers to keep up with the latest news, events and exclusive articles.

The entire GenWeekly staff wishes you a healthy and peaceful New Year.

2006 GenWeekly Newsletter Archive

December 14, 2006

December 7, 2006

November 30, 2006

November 23, 2006

November 16, 2006

November 9, 2006

November 2, 2006

October 26, 2006

October 19, 2006

October 12, 2006

October 5, 2006

September 28, 2006

September 21, 2006

September 14, 2006

September 7, 2006

August 31, 2006

August 24, 2006

August 17, 2006

August 10, 2006

August 3, 2006

July 27, 2006

July 20, 2006

July 13, 2006

July 6, 2006

June 29, 2006

June 22, 2006

June 15, 2006

June 8, 2006

June 1, 2006

May 25, 2006

May 18, 2006

May 11, 2006

May 4, 2006

April 27, 2006

April 20, 2006

April 13, 2006

April 6, 2006

March 30, 2006

March 23, 2006

March 16, 2006

March 9, 2006

March 2, 2006

February 23, 2006

February 16, 2006

February 9, 2006

February 2, 2006

January 26, 2006

January 19, 2006

January 12, 2006

January 5, 2006

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Nebo Reporter, December 28, 2006

sample ration book was mentioned in an article, "War Ration books are a hidden treasure," which discussed the war rationing process of World War Two and our related indexing project of the books. The article states, "a new movement is underway to preserve, protect against loss, and share these items of everyday life," and discusses how books can be donated to our project.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Do They Know What You're Doing?

If you run a genealogy web site, you probably (or maybe not) spend most of your time building the business by adding more content, or working on your marketing efforts to drive more traffic to you site. But do you ever ask yourself if the people arriving at your site understand what you're trying to offer them?

Many people (especially earlier this month while I was on a great genealogy tour) ask me what Genealogy Today is all about. And the more often I get asked, the better I get at answering. But, the better I get answering, the more I begin to realize that the Genealogy Today home page wasn't as successful at conveying the same message. [The home page has been improved since I wrote this post]

Often it's the evolutionary process that creates this disparity, so you should expect this to happen if you often engage in a variety of projects -- involving different type of information, or geared towards a slightly different audience.

There are plenty of articles out there on the topic of testing, but they typically measure success based on the number of visitors that complete a specific task. How do you measure whether or not someone understands what you're actually doing after they visit your web site?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dealing with the proliferation of Paperwork

Christine Sweet-Hart contributed the article, "Managing a Large Genealogical Project", reminding us that New Year's is coming and you want to make a resolution to become better organized than you have in the past.

What greater honor can we give our forbearers?

Melissa Slate contributed the article, "Illuminating the Darkness" offering a collection of seasonal thoughts for honoring our loved ones.

Don't Forget to Record Christmas Traditions

Gena Philibert-Ortega contributed the article, "Christmas Traditions: Past and Present" highlighting websites might help you better understand your traditions and that of your ancestors.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

A Santa Fe Railway Brakeman

There's one source we often don't think to check when doing genealogical research: the special collections of libraries. I was surfing around for railroad employee information and stumbled upon a guide for the A. M. Spratt Railroad Collection.

What an interesting find. A. M. Spratt was born east of Sanger, Texas, on November 15, 1906 and lived there most of his life. He owned a café in Sanger until he became a brakeman for the Santa Fe Railway Company in July, 1943, working on the line from Purcell, Oklahoma to Cleburne, Texas.

The collection, in two letter-sized document boxes, is composed of material collected and saved by A. M. Spratt over the course of his 29 year career as a railroad brakeman. According to the guide, the collection contains employee Information, which consists of a variety of material related to employees, such as forms, seniority lists, rules, regulations, and health information.

This unique resource is open for research to anyone who visits the The University of Texas at Arlington Library, and was donated by Archie M. Spratt on July 30, 1987.

You Always Find a Friend

Genealogy for many is a self-rewarding hobby. Those that find multiple interested family members are among the lucky ones. That's what's so amazing about the Salt Lake Christmas Tour, and it's emphasized by the saying on the back of the tour t-shirts: "I may not find an ancestor, but I always a friend."

And from some of the attendees, I've also heard that you may also find a cousin!

Imagine having breakfast, saying "does anyone have {surname}" and getting a "sure, I do" from across the table. Then after a little exploration learning that you're sitting across from someone connected to your tree!

That's how interesting this tour is. There is a tremendous amount of information sharing among the attendees. And while some say that nothing beats high-speed Internet access, the bandwidth "across the table" often will exceed even the best online capacity.

It's been an exciting week, hearing so many success stories. The combination of having on-site access to the Family History Library and the tour coaches, has led to many genealogical discoveries -- some of which have remained elusive for years.

While many Internet "prophets" predict that the growth of online genealogical information will soon eliminate the need for travelling for your genealogy, nothing will ever be able to compare to this unique "research family" reunion.

Genealogy Library Center Accepting Donations

Here's an interesting project launched by Arlene Eakle (blog). What would you do if you found a large plastic bag full of someone’s genealogy manuscripts? Of if someone brought you 6 1/2 tons of professional genealogy files? Well, Arlene and her associates purchased a large building, remodeled it, and are now accepting genealogical donations.

If you have a genealogy research collection that needs a permanent home, please consider donating your collection to the Genealogy Library Center, Inc.

Friday, December 8, 2006

The Key to Understanding Land Records

Melissa Slate contributed the article, "The Headright Land System of Virginia", highlighting that the study of land records can bring us many important clues into the study of our past.

Churches Offer Historical Information About Family

Alan Smith contributed the article, "Church Records", suggesting that churches are more than just a depository of marriage, death and baptism records, but also living bodies of individuals whom collectively can have a lot of historical information about a family member.

A Treasure Trove of Undocumented Stories

Christine Sweet-Hart contributed the article, "Uncatalogued Correspondence and Notes Can Yield Great Clues for Research", advising not to discount the local library or historical society's uncatalogued correspondence and research notes as they can yield great clues for furthering your research goals.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Find Yourself a Genealogical Niche

If you're a small genealogy business owner, stop posting general information like census data or passenger lists on your site, the big companies will always outpace your efforts. And our industry is seeing an increase in the number of medium companies (e.g. and joining in the fray.

Yes, many genealogists are frugal and will often seek a free source for the information they are looking for, but as these medium companies grow and the bigger companies invest more and more in mainstream advertising, will the next generation of genealogists even think to check your site for these commodity items?

Compound this changing climate in our industry with the glut of keyword-happy Google AdSense web sites, and the visibility of a smaller genealogy web site will clearly be on the decline.

One of the solutions is to hone your collecting skills and expertise on smaller, more unique information sources and then become the best online resource.

Another reason I'm looking at this strategy is that the affiliate marketing opportunities available today (versus several years ago) are more focused on new customer acquisition. By specializing in more unique resources, you have the opportunity to reach individuals that may be interested in genealogy but not actively pursuing the hobby.

For example, a couple of months ago I stumbled upon a World War Two ration book in an antique shop. The book had interesting genealogical information on it, so I bought it. When I got back to the office, I did some research and found that there weren't any online repositories of these little books.

Now, as I'm collecting and expanding the WW2 war ration book database index on Genealogy Today, I'm also attracting military enthusiasts and researchers.

And the last marketing incentive for creating a specialized online resource is the ability to establish links from non-genealogy web site. Developing a highly focused page on the topic will get you good search engine placement, thus webmasters will find your page and link to it. How can they resist when you're the only site with an abundance of information on the topic, right?

The remaining question is how many niches can you establish and still have enough resources to be remarkable in each!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Do You Know What You're Missing?

Leland and DonnaI'm in Salt Lake City this week participating in the Leland Meitzler [pictured right with Donna Potter Phillips] Annual Christmas Tour. I've never been on a research tour before, but have visited the LDS Family History Library many times. Now I get it. Accomplishing in one week that would otherwise take months, (as the MasterCard commercials say) priceless.

This morning kicked off with a session by George Ott who essentially in one hour unlocked all of the mysteries of finding information in The Library. We all know how to use a library right? Well, approaching this library the same way you would your local library will work, but just much, much more slowly.

Then you have the team of professionals coaches at your disposal -- each having a specialty to ensure that you have a resource regardless of the geographic regions that you are most challenged by. The researchers hang out in The Library all week, and all you have to do is stop by, signup for a time slot, and you've got a free appointment. Signup with a research each day of the week and think about how much help your going to get and how much money that would have cost if you had to hire them yourself.

They are really "coaches". They don't tell you "oh, go look that up in the ...". They give you the play by play , "Go to this floor, check this reference book, find the FHL reel and find the document. And then come back tomorrow and we'll talk about the next step." It's really like having a coach on the sidelines helping you get to the goal line.

Most of the coaches also teach classes on various topics throughout the week. Pick the topics you would like a little guidance on. Learn tips and tricks for researching that particular topic in The Library.

Now I'm starting to see the value of spending a week in Salt lake City on the Christmas Tour, and not all tours offer this level of service. Have you ever been on a genealogy tour? Was it anything like this?

Don't Jump.... To Conclusions

Here's a deep thought, what is the truth when it comes to genealogical information? This evening, I attended a talk by Arlene Eakle (blog) who made an interesting statement. She said that documented information is simply information that has its source defined.

Over the years, many people have cautioned about online information and its validity, and I've blogged about anonymous websites and unsourced information that continue to compound the problem. If your a genealogy webmaster, you owe it to your visitors to explain where your information came from, the original source AND who interpreted it. That's another distinction Alrene made. We often say that information was transcribed, which is appropriate for clearly type documents, but for hand-written documents it really is interpretation.

I've learned this first hand with my ww2 war ration book project. My enthusiam oftens clouds my judgment as I didn'r realize what I was getting myself into with this project. I never imagined running around my house to stare at a little book in different lighting with a magnifying glass to figure out what the surname is. My wife now knows if I approach her and hand out a ration book, it means I'm baffled and need a second opinion.

So, sure people have gotten the message about trusting information, but I wonder how many apply that rule to the less professional looking sites. Do they trust the information found on as opposed to some of the personal web pages? Shouldn't they trust

A point was made in another session I attended today that the census data on was actually transcribed (and thus intepreted) in countries where English is not the primary language. And thus the people interpreting the handwritten census records are not familiar with Anglican names. Interesting point.

It seems like all genealogy companies be more responsible with the information they publish by clearly stating who was responsible for the interpretation. Not necessarily name the person (for privacy reasons), but stating a first initial, last name, and regional information (country or state).

I'm going to take a closer look at this topic and consider adding this extra piece of information to the databases published at Genealogy Today. It would probably also be interesting to clarify whether the source was typed or hand-written.

Genealogists should ask the webmaster, or the company providing the information, whether the source was handwritten, and if so, who did the interpretation. Don't just assume that because its online that the transcriber did an accurate job. I can now say with experience that dealing with handwritten documents is not an easy prospect.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Conductor Business Card Images

We picked up six old business cards that belonged to railroad conductors. These have been added to the business card collection at Genealogy Today. Here are the names:

Richardson, F. M.
Cummings, L. J.
Goodspeed, R. S.
Kenyon, C. B.
Lang, J. A.
Darling, W. H.

The business card database, a free online service, currently includes hundreds of railroad employee cards from across the country.

What's Your Weakest Link?

Image obtained from iStockPhoto.comBetween running your business, worrying about year-end accounting, and doing some planning for the new year, it's a challenge to find the time to stop and look at where you're NOT doing a remarkable job. But, perhaps such an exercise may yield better results in the long-term.

If you take a moment and think about what part of your business doesn't quite run as smoothly as it should, or is there a typical business function that you haven't even addressed. This should be part of your planning for the new year. Do what you do better before you attempt to do more.

So, I asked myself last month, what could I do better? The answer was improve my customer service. What if instead of waiting up to two days to get a response from me, customers could get one in a matter of hours? Sounds like a great plan, but how can a small business afford to provide remarkable service like that?

Enter the Virtual Assistant!

The explosion of the Internet created a whole new industry, giving talented people the opportunity to work for companies remotely. Then International Virtual Assistants Association defines a virtual assistant as, "an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services."

There are many VA's out there looking for opportunities to fill up a 40 hour work week. The best part of this arrangement is that you can get what you need (say 5 hours of help a week) without having to foot the cost of hiring a full-time (or even part-time) employee.

Interesting, right? So, rather that try to fix the real problem (i.e. I'm wearing too many hats to provide my customers with prompt responses), bring in some extra help to offset it. When you distill down something like customer service (for a small company), it shouldn't add up to more than a few hours a week. (If it's consuming more than that, perhaps you have a weaker link in your business and need to dig deeper)

Several years ago (when the VA thing was starting), I contacted several VA's (and a few contacted me), but could never get past the mental block of what could this person really do for me that I'm willing to pay for. It's really the exploration of what your weakest at, or what you're not even getting to altogether, that will help identify where to invest in outside help.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Researching Ancestors Through Museum Collections

Christina Inge contributed the article, "That Quilt in the Corner", which explains that museums can be a rich source of genealogical material, especially on female ancestors.

Practice good writing techniques, and you will get answers

Karan Pittman contributed the article, "Good Letters Will Get Good Information", offering the perspective that sooner or later every genealogist has to write a letter either to a relative, a stranger, a library or a government entity requesting information for family history.

Pennsylvania Dutch not of Dutch Lineage

Melissa Slate contributed the article, "History of the Pennsylvania Dutch", offering a brief history of the origins of the Pennsylvania Dutch in America.