Wednesday, October 31, 2007

First Family of New England

This is the time year when our thoughts turn to the first Pilgrims and the colonizing of America. In her article, "First Family of New England, " Melissa Slate reminds us of the Edward Winslow family and its early contributions. While Winslow's first wife did not survive that first winter, his second wife, Susannah White, a recent widow, was one of only four women to survive and care for the fifty men and children.

Greater access to college yearbooks through latest collaboration announced in a press release today its partnership with World Vital Records, Inc., bringing greater online accessibility to thousands of names from hundreds of old college yearbooks. The partnership with will allow World Vital Records subscribers access to yearbooks from the late 1800's to 1960, containing rich data and images of the student body members, school traditions, faculty and staff members, clubs, Greek life, ROTC, intramurals, and more. E-Yearbook collection will be offered to World Vital Records on an exclusive basis for genealogy searches. has exclusive content license agreements with dozens of major universities such as the University of California Berkeley, the University of Iowa, the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Texas (Austin). Some of the larger yearbooks that will be part of the collection offered at World Vital Records contain tens of thousands of names with associated images, as well as rich, historical data. For example, the University of Texas at Austin Cactus yearbook collection is the oldest publication on campus, containing more than 114 volumes of rich historical data. The University of California Berkeley published the first Blue and Gold yearbook in 1875.

Many genealogists find great value in using old yearbooks for research. In fact, using yearbooks for genealogical purposes is one of the most common reasons members utilize this resource. Additional college yearbooks will be included at World Vital Records as they become available through

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jury Summons becomes Genealogical Adventure

As luck would have it, my jury group was given a two hour lunch today, so after grabbing a quick bite, I went across the street from the Union County Court House and visited the Elizabeth Public Library's new Elizabeth Room. This local history room was opened in mid-September and was filled with many interesting items.

Materials include a variety of books, The Elizabeth Daily Journal and its index, which was completed by Elizabeth Public Library, a pretty complete series of city directories going back to the late 1800's, maps, photos, high school yearbooks and other records of local interest. A microfilm machine is dedicated to the room, as well as new furniture and a computer. The Local History Room has been made possible with support from the Trustees of The Josephine Ebbe Kenah Trust.

I found some interesting items that will be added to my Family Tree Connection database, including an Elizabeth Police Department report from 1927, three Elizabeth Fire Department reports (for 1902, 1903-4 and 1905), a 1907 yearbook for the Elizabeth Board of Trade, and a bunch of other local items of genealogical interest.

So, what I expected to be a long, boring day, turned in to something quite unexpected. Many of the items I photocopied will be indexed and uploaded next Monday (Nov. 5, 2007).

New genealogy web site focuses on natural disasters

An article in the Cincinnati Post, "New genealogy Web site focuses on natural disasters," observes, nearly every family, at some point throughout its history, has been impacted by natural disasters such as fires, floods and tornadoes, or been touched by tragic events such as explosions, building collapses and railroad accidents. For this reason, genealogists may be interested in a recently launched Web site called

As noted on the site's main page, "is a genealogy site, compiling information on the historic disasters, events, and tragic accidents our ancestors endured, as well as information about their life and death."

The Post reports, "This fascinating online chronicle includes an impressive array of photographs, transcribed newspaper articles and excerpted entries from historical books, all detailing hundreds of events - spanning from the 1800s to the 1950s - which affected the lives of past generations. Researchers may limit their search by state, or select from among the numerous disaster headings and then browse a listing of events in alphabetical order by state."

First Annual Family Restoration Conference to be held in Gambia

Slave Descendants Freedom Society, Inc. and Diversity Restoration Solutions, Inc., in a recent press release, announced the first annual Family Restoration Conference will take place in The Gambia, West Africa in June 2008. The in-depth conference will explore historical and cultural points of interest related to family genealogy and history and business development opportunities available in The Gambia. The conference evolved from three genealogy and history symposium events conducted by Slave Descendants Freedom Society, Inc. and Diversity Restoration Solutions, Inc. in the United States since 2004. The conference is slated for May 31-June 8, 2008, with travel arrangements coordinated by Avocet Travel. To learn more about the Family Restoration Conference, visit

Slave Descendants Freedom Society's, Inc.’s mission is to help descendants of enslaved African ancestors in America and others reconnect with their ancestral heritage. Established by Eric and Lisa Sheppard in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Society seeks to promote and encourage an open dialogue across generations about African American ancestral history through genealogy research and awareness initiatives and sponsorship of educational events.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Georgia death certificates 1919-1927 now online

FamilySearch has announced the completion of two new online projects and asks for volunteers to help them in a third, according to an article on, "FamilySearch completes two new online projects."

FamilySearch Record Services, the Georgia Archives, and the Georgia State Office of Vital Records and Statistics recently entered into a cooperative effort to place the Georgia death certificates online. Now approximately 275,000 Georgia death records from 1919-1927 can be viewed for free at one of two Web sites. The sites have an online searchable index that is linked to a scanned digital image of each death record. These can be viewed by going to (go to the virtual vault), or at

FamilySearch is also launching a Latin America project and needs 10,000 volunteers who can read both English and Spanish to help index Mexican, Argentine, and other Latin American records for placement on the Internet. The first records to be indexed will be the 1930 Mexican census. Volunteers would download one census page at a time onto their home computers, index that page, and send it back to Family search. Each page would take about 30 minutes to index and volunteers would work at their own pace, accepting only as many pages as they have time for. If you want to be a part of this exciting project, register at Por favor!

CEO discusses the future of

If you are interested in "What's next for, "you may be wish to read Kimberly Powell's Genealogy Blog on, reporting her interview with Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of The Generations Network (TGN). Now that the recent majority buyout of TGN by Spectrum Equity Investors has been announced, Sullivan speaks freely with the media and the genealogy community regarding a wide variety of issues, both past and future.

Using DNA to create a global family tree

GeneTree, a new genealogy site launched this week, adds a new twist to online family history searches by allowing users to submit their own DNA and to collaborate with others using social networking tools. The new site is being launched by several companies owned by Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Cos., including Sorenson Media Inc. and the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF), which operates a genetic database that contains DNA samples from 80,000 people in 170 countries, as noted in a Computerworld article, "Genealogy site uses DNA and social networks to trace ancestors."

Another article in AppScout, "GeneTree: Using DNA to Create a Global Family Tree," observes GeneTree is a whole new idea: It maps how everyone on Earth is related to one another, not based entirely on research and historical documents but based on DNA. . . . But the service is only as good as its database of genetic information. . . . so before it can help you answer the big questions about how you're related to your ancestors in Africa or Europe, its database of DNA information will have to grow significantly. In the meantime, you can use the service as a genealogy service and ancestry site.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Researching family lore

Sooner or later the family historian is likely to come across evidence suggesting a family member spent time in some type of mental institution. In earlier times, this information was very hush-hush. In her article, "Asylums, State Hospitals, and Private Institutions," Gena Philibert-Ortega not only gives some ideas for researching family members that may have live and/or died in an institution, but also gives a little insight into how people might end up there. You might be surprised, for example, to learn that a husband could have his wife committed for no particular reason. And while you may not be able to learn all you would like to know, owing to privacy laws governing such records, beyond death, some resources are available that may at least help you confirm family lore and pinpoint time and place.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tips and hints for identifying Irish place of origin

While knowing the country of origin for an ancestor is certainly better than not knowing, narrowing down the locality is even better. In his article, "Identifying Irish Place of Origin," Kevin Cassidy provides tips and hints for narrowing down the place of origin for Irish ancestors, which can be challenging if not downright frustrating at times. A great many resources -- a number of them online -- are available. As with any research, the author suggests, persistence is key.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

GenealogyBank Celebrates Anniversary of Launch is one year old this week, and has started a two week celebration by adding a record amount of content - over 4 Million records. Anyone may search this site for FREE and see a portion of the page where the search terms appear. This let's you know if your ancestors are in there - and yes, to see the entire page - you do need to join.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Expect the unexpected in church records

In her article, "Faith as Archivist," Judy Rosella Edwards discusses the value of church records for genealogical information, beyond the baptism and marriage records you might expect. In many cases, she points out, church records provide varied information about members of the congregation and not it's leaders only, and many of these resources are online. One such resource is the MennObits project, maintained by the Mennonite Church, which is a database of searchable obituaries for church members of any age, indexed, including by maiden name. This is a great resource for finding female ancestors. The article suggests resources for a number of faiths.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SOLD for $300 Million -- and sister sites

Definitely a sea change. The Generations Network, which encompasses,, and other genealogy web sites has been sold, it was announced yesterday. It will no longer be a Utah company -- the new owners, Spectrum Equity Investors are based in Menlo Park and Boston.

According to an article in Marketing Pilgrim, "The Generations Network Aquired for $300 Million," Spectrum, a private equity firm is a shareholder in The Generations Network since 2003. The company’s current management team will continue to lead the company, it says.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to find those long sought-after books

Found Aunt Doris in a county history book? Want to own a copy of that book for future reference or just as a keepsake? In her article, "Finding Rare Genealogical and Historical Books," Gena Philibert-Ortega suggests a number web sites to help you find a copy of that treasured book, in addition to some tips and hints for evaluating books and finding one in your price range.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Redesigned Canadian Genealogy Centre web site benefits users

In a recent press release , Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced three new online products to assist genealogists and family historians to access information on their ancestors in both LAC and other Canadian collections. Chief among these is the newly redesigned Canadian Genealogy Centre website, at The website makes available Canadian collections of immigration, military, public service, land and census records and provides advice and guidance to researchers. It was voted one of the world's 100-best genealogy websites by Family Tree magazine.

"The new Canadian Genealogy Centre website provides easy access to records of significant interest to Canadians," said Librarian and Archivist of Canada Ian E. Wilson. "The search tools allow Canadians access to a very personal piece of Canadian history-a piece relating to somebody's own family-with the click of a mouse." Mr. Wilson added that the new website and search tools demonstrate how LAC's priorities in digitizing its collections and in working through partnerships with other institutions, benefit Canadians wherever they may be.

Friday, October 12, 2007

New tool aids Canadian genealogy research

A new service out of Quebec, Canada is in the news. According to a press release out today, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) announces a new Web site dedicated to genealogical research. Launched by BAnQ in partnership with Library and Archives Canada (LAC),, also available in French at, provides the public with a user-friendly and innovative federated search engine free of charge.

Designed to respond to the growing public interest in genealogy, features a set of search tools that even beginners can master rapidly. Maintained by BAnQ, the new search engine allows genealogists to conduct searches against several databases at once.

Most of the interface-compatible databases brought together at are hosted by federal, provincial or territorial Canadian libraries or archives centres. The project's leading partners are BAnQ, LAC and the Council of Provincial and Territorial Archivists of Canada.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Researching Emigrant Aid Societies

Non-traditional sources, those other than the traditional vital records, church records, census, and court records, are valuable resources for pinpointing people in time and place. Fortunately, many of these sources have been made available through historical publications or, more recently, on the Internet. All it takes is for us to become aware that these sources exist. In her mose article, Melissa Slate explores "Emigrant Aid Societies," an often overlooked resource.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tenth Annual Hispanic Family History Conference, Oct 19-20

As noted in the Deseret Morning News, The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting the tenth annual on 19-20 October, 2007.

The conference is free to the public, and classes will be conducted in Spanish and English. Attendees will also receive free genealogy software.

For additional information, please contact Ruth Merriman (801) 240-6208 or Ruth Gomez Schirmacher at (801) 240-1530, or go to FamilySearch. Co-host for the conference is the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who are the Mohawk Dutch?

We often hear terms to describe a segment of the population, but may not know exactly what those terms represent; for example, Acadian, Cajun, Scots-Irish. In her article, "Mohawk Dutch," Judy Rosella Edwards introduces the Mohawk Dutch, explains where the name derives, reveals interesting details of their culture, and suggests where to look for additional information.

Ancestry launches Digital Scrapbooking tool

Announced in a press release,, today launched AncestryPress(TM), a tool that lets users create professionally printed, custom family history books, family recipe books and more. With this new state-of-the-art publishing tool, offers users a one-stop solution to build their family tree, discover historical documents about their ancestors, collaborate with their family members and create high-quality family history books for themselves or family gifts.

Friday, October 5, 2007

No News is Still Good News, Right?

war ration booksThe other day someone told me that I was wasting my time by scanning and indexing war ration books that had little (or no) information on them. I tried to explain to him that as a genealogist, it is better to know that a document does in fact exist, but has little informative value, than in endlessly wondering how to locate it. He didn't accept my argument.

Don't genealogists have to accept that along the way they will encounter genealogical duds? I have a death certificate of a female ancestor and the maiden name is blank. I was certainly bummed when I got the document, and even more confused when I saw that the witness (i.e. person providing the information) was the woman's son! He didn't even know that detail about his mother. Up until that point, getting that death certificate was my sole quest. Once I saw it, even though it was disappointing, I was able to move on.

Ration books have so many cool pieces of information (when they are filled out properly), which is much like so many other documents genealogists crave. When I acquire these documents, I don't always know how complete they will be, and I see no reason not to scan/archive the ones which are lacking.

Ration books are also somewhat unique in that they have series and serial numbers on them, so even the blank ones can yield relationship information by noting the books that are in the same series and serial number range. You may not be able to tell who were the parents, but you'll have a good idea that they were all in the same household.

I was always fascinated by the Columbo movies. As a detective, Columbo was able to piece together a murder mystery with the smallest of clues. As a genealogist, sometimes these partial documents can be just as important.

Genealogical duds are a fact of life for researchers. If you can think of a better argument for me NOT to scan/index these partial documents, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Researching Your Seventh-Day Adventist Ancestors

It goes without saying that church records are among the most valuable resources in genealogy. Many early church records have been microfilmed and are readily available, while others are more elusive. In her most recent article, "Researching Your Seventh-Day Adventist Ancestors," Gena Philibert-Ortega offers a variety of options for researching ancestors belonging to this church, organized in the mid-nineteenth century. to bring U.S. Census online

Announced in a press release today, Allcensus has partnered with World Vital Records, Inc. to bring the Federal U.S. Census from 1790-1930 online at

“We, at Allcensus, are excited about this opportunity to assist a broader audience in tracing their family history. Our high quality census pages and correction of errors in pagination will make it easier for researchers to find the data they need in a very convenient and easy to use fashion,” said Jon McInnis, President,

The Federal Census online at contains more than 800,000 browseable images and 32 million names from select counties in every state, except Alaska. The Federal Census contains unique and pertinent information.

“The thing that I love about census data is that it helps connect the dots between many diverse genealogy data bases. The various census data sets, while not perfect, are the closest to consistent data collecting at any point in history,” said David Lifferth, President, World Vital Records, Inc. “With each successive census, more data elements are known and tracked. In most of the census you can get family group sheet info that is not documented anywhere else except for the family bible.”

The Federal Census database will be free to access at for 10 days after its initial launch.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

MacFamilyTree 5 public beta now available

Synium Software has announced a public beta of MacFamilyTree 5, the latest release of the popular genealogy software for the Mac, according to an article on MacNN. The company previously announced that with this release, it will complete the acquisition of all rights to the software and be responsible for development, distribution and support. Version 5 has been completely redesigned and rewritten application, and Synium claims it will provide biggest leap in performance and product design so far. The entire GUI as well as the underlying database have been dramatically changed while maintaining true backwards compatibility.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Family Tree Connection At One Million Names and Growing

Family Tree ConnectionOur flagship database, Family Tree Connection, reached the one million name milestone last month. Launched in 2003, this project is about archiving and transcribing genealogical information from smaller documents published between 1830 and 1930.

Looking beyond the traditional genealogical vitals (birth, marriage, census and death records), the Family Tree Connection project captures information from a variety of organizations: schools, churches, clubs, societies, prisons, orphanages and business associations are just a few examples.

These organizations frequently published reports, proceedings and rosters that contain relevant information for genealogists often including addresses and occupations. Surprisingly, many clubs and societies kept track of their members long after they moved out of the area, giving genealogists all sorts of migration data to track their ancestors movements around the country.

Family Tree Connection is a subscription database with a very affordable annual rate of just $29.95 -- slightly more than two dollars a month for complete access to the existing database and all of the weekly updates (of typically 5,000 to 10,000 names).

Genealogy is Boring. Say What?

I was browsing around the other day and stumbled upon an article where the writer, Mike Elgan, starts out by saying, "I've always found genealogy boring." I've always considered genealogy to be one of the most passionate hobbies around. Connecting with pieces of your heritage brings out so many different emotions.

Then, after the shock of his statement wore off, I began to wonder if what he really meant was that online genealogy was boring -- or more accurately, frustrating. I do find it somewhat challenging to conduct research online when all of the information you need to search is stored in a variety of different "islands." There is no meta-genealogy search engine, and that's what Mike was speculating about in his article.

He ponders, "Is combining all genealogy data too scary?" I don't think so. Just like anything in life, there will be bad people who take advantage of improved access to information. Genealogists would certainly benefit from the efficiency of being able to access information from a variety of online databases in a single search.

Recently, a friend asked for some help in tracking down any immigration information regarding her grandfather. It was a simple request, but it took me over an hour to make the rounds (,, and before I located a relevant document. It must be challenging for some researchers to contend with the different search techniques required to find information at each of these (and other) sites.

Will it take a company like Google to persuade our industry to provide open interfaces to their databases? The databases of my company, Genealogy Today, are small in comparison to the other players, but I'm ready to join the bandwagon and would be willing to develop an XML interface.

Census Mortality Schedules -- an often overlooked resource

While the Census is well known for its value to family history research, the various schedules appearing with the Census over the years are often overlooked. One of those schedules is the Census Mortality Schedule that began with the 1850 Census. In her article, "Mortality Schedules Are Often Overlooked," Karan Pittman provides insight into these schedules and how they might be utilized.