Friday, December 11, 2009

Give the gift of family history

Gifts with a genealogy theme are not for genealogists only, but may also be given to engage others in their family history. An article on, "Give the gift of family history," offers some great ideas. Another article,  from the Niagra Falls Review, "Think outside the gift box," suggests a couple more ideas, although you might want to think carefully before giving DNA test kit to make sure it would be a welcome gift. But the Photo Opoly board game sounds fun.

Traditions across cultures

An article in the Detroit News, "Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa: A time for joy, traditions and reflection," highlights traditions across cultures, reminding us that even though our faiths and practices may differ, this "season of celebration" is about love and family and shared tradition. It's is good to recognize, appreciate, and share with our children the traditions from other cultures,  bringing us closer together as a people and making the holiday season even more meaningful.

Songs of Yesterday: How Our Ancestors Sang the Holidays, Part 2

The holiday season is a time of joy. In times of war, on the battlefield and for those at home, the holiday season takes on even greater meaning. In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: How Our Ancestors Sang the Holidays, Part 2," Jean Hibben reflects on holiday songs born of wartime. With emphasis on the song, "Christmas Bells," better known as "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," written during the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the author recalls and performs the song, including the more somber verses "almost lost to obscurity."

Genealogy on Film: Industry on Parade

It is said the "old times" were simpler times. Whether that is true or not is debatable. Seems the same lament is repeated in every age. Even so, those of us that lived in the 1950s tend to think it was, indeed, a simpler time. Life did not seem to be set on fast forward back then, although we may be viewing it from a child's point of view. In many cases, it's too late to ask our parents. 

In her article, "Genealogy on Film: Industry on Parade," Judy Rosella Edwards explores a fascinating resource from the 1950s, a collection of films showcasing the industry of America and Americans. As the article points out, the workers in the film were actual workers on the job -- not actors: hence, simpler times. In today's promotional films (including folksy commercials), you can pretty well bet actors are playing the roles. The genealogical value of the Industry on Parade film, given its scope, is pretty amazing, and certainly worth checking out the titles to see if any of the films fit the time and place of your ancestors. 

More and more we are seeing film being made available as a genealogical resource. The WWII ‘United News’ Newsreels, being one example. Edward's article brings to our attention yet another area to explore -- documentaries and other films featuring real people, mostly without "staging." It may take some sleuthing to find out what's available and where, but then, that's what we do.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Allen County Public Library Digital Collections

An interesting article on, entitled, "Fiction lovers, history buffs go digital at library," provides a review of digital holdings at the Allen County Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. While many of the services offered are available to local patrons only, the genealogy section has material available to everyone. Under the heading Popular Picks, the article explains the digitizing effort and resources available.

"The non-profit Internet Archive scans the materials and hosts the Web site, which draws about 1 million visitors a month," according to genealogy manager Curt Witcher. At present nearly 8,000 title are listed.

"Currently the most popular download is the '"Yorkshire Marriage Registers, West Riding, Vol. 2" from 1914. Internet patrons have downloaded the text more than 3,300 times," library spokeswoman Cheryl Ferverda said. Options for viewing the book are in the lef-column.

Marriage records are important resources for genealogists, but library officials aren’t sure why that volume is so popular, she said."

The Allen County Libarary is a great resource for genealogists, long known for its Periodical Source Index (PERSI). 

Genealogy Magazines Offer Valuable Insight

An article on, "Genealogy Magazine takes on genetics," provides an in-depth review of the  Family Tree Magazine December 2009 issue and it's theme, "Complete Guide to Genetic Genealogy," as the article says, "an ambitious claim." The article highlights one article in particular, "DNA Fact or Science Fiction,"and follows up with a number of useful links and additional information on vaccinations over the years.

Watch for end-of-year specials. This time of year, many of the popular genealogy magazines are offering their complete 2009 editions on CD, with searchable content -- a good way to catch up on valuable content you might have missed.

Avoiding common research pitfalls -- a gentle reminder

A brief but insightful article on out of the Press-Register Community News, "Avoiding pitfalls in genealogical research," identifies a number of common mistakes made by beginning and genealogy researchers alike. The article lists it source, and -- It's good to be reminded

Three Reasons You Need Local History Books

In our heart of hearts, we know the benefit digging into local history books. But with more information available online, we may be less inclined to head for the library. Also, as Rita Marshall points out in her article, "Three Reasons You Need Local History Books," when were are enjoying a great bit of success in our research using other resources, it's easy to bypass the often "thick, somber history books detailing a town's history." And yet, local histories often contain hidden gems we that are hard to anticipate. The article offers insight into different ways local histories might be used. It's also important to note that many local histories can be found online at no charge; it's worth entering the title into your favorite search engine to see if the book you seek is offered in full text format -- some offer previews only. However, not all local histories will be offered online, free or otherwise, which means, back to the library: it's worth the trip.

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of Holidays Past

As with so many other things, we take often holiday traditions and practices for granted, seldom stopping to think about their origins. It may also be that some traditions and practices of the past have become antiquated and rarely practiced, caroling from door to door being one example. Our ways of passing the time and socializing and certainly changed. In the article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of Christmas Past," Jean Hibben explores the language of Christmas, clearing up some commonly held misconceptions and, perhaps, bringing a greater sense of meaning to our holiday observations.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking a tip from the estate gumshoes

"It's all about spreading the net as wide as possible." A recent article out of The Sydney Morning Herald, "Unorthodox sleuthing helps trustee find beneficiaries," recounts the process taken by the NSW Trustee and Guardian, the public trustee of unclaimed estates. "Using everything from cemetery indexes and census data in several countries," the trustee was able to locate a rightful heir. "This was one of our most interesting cases because it required research in so many countries." Persistence pays.

Help for UK researchers

Following on the heels of a similar success, one UK researcher's appeal to the Information Commissioner under the Freedom of Information Act "could unlock details from the 1939 National Registration of the UK - an emergency, census-like survey of the country at the beginning of the war," as noted in a recent BBC article etnitled, "Families on the brink of war."

"The National Registration enumeration, carried out on the night of Friday 29 September 1939, led to the issue of about 46 million identity cards for citizens the following month," the article reports. The records are currently closed to the public.

"The truth is, it's often far more difficult to find out about recent history than Victorian history and beyond," says family historian Guy Etchells. Etchells, credited as the "driving force" behind the recent release of 1911 census for England and Wales.

As we learn from Margaret Meade, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The "real" story of Thanksgiving -- reaching mind share

As genealogists we know there are two (or more) sides to every story. We also know that history is often romanticized to favor one version or another, depending on who is doing the telling -- history textbooks are no exception. As the poet Emily Dickinson wrote, "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." The story of Thanksgiving is, perhaps, one of the most controversial of all holidays in what it celebrates and how the story is told. Although racial discrimination and bigotry still exists in the this country and in the world, most non-Native Americans are aware of and respect the plight of Native Americans. So much so, in fact, that one of the most popular yet elusive of all genealogical quests in tracking down one's legendary Native American ancestry. That said, the pain of that heritage lingers in the modern generation, as illustrated in the recent article on entitled, "Thanks? Giving? A History of Civil Rights." The PBS special, "We Shall Remain," is an attempt to tell the whole story of the Native American up to the present time, in what producers call "an unprecedented collaboration between Native and non-Native filmmakers." Episode 1, After the Mayflower explores that first Thanksgiving and its consequences. Old traditions die hard -- it may be awhile yet before the "real" story of Thanksgiving reaches mind share.

Songs of Yesterday: How our Ancestors Sang the Holiday, Part 1

The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect songs our ancestors and to consider their origin. This week, GenWeekly writer, Jean Hibben, known for her musical performances, introduces a new Songs of Yesterday series, with the article "Songs of Yesterday: How our Ancestors Sang the Holiday, Part 1." Full of fun and surprises, the real treat in this series is hearing the author perform the song. Many of the Songs of Yesterday, we might think to be much more dated than they actually are -- have you ever considered the origin of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"? And while many of us decry the commercialism of Christmas and the ever-present Santa Claus, this week's article suggests he may have closer ties to the original spirit of Christmas than one had imagined.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Do a Different Genealogy Search this Holiday Season

Thanksgiving really does begin the holiday season -- from that day on, up through New Year's Day, families gather and connect, almost more than any other time of year. And while Thanksgiving has been named National Family History Day, with families encouraged to gather their family health history, the opportunity presents itself all season. In her article, "National Family History Day: Do a Different Genealogy Search This Thanksgiving," Rita Marshall reviews the U. S. Surgeon General recommendations on how to start a family health history and who to include. And something not often discussed are the follow-up questions, and how to interpret the information you receive "genealogy style."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Antiques and Historical Perspectives

At our last family reunion, my youngest son had the privilege of escorting his uncles through a local antique mall. His only regret was that he did not have his digital tape recorder. He said his uncles did could not go five feet in any direction without picking up some object, recalling its use and some amusing story. Although "appointed" to the task, he came home delighted and with a new appreciation for his uncles, what they knew, and the time in which they grew up.  In his article, "Antiques and Historical Perspectives," Alan Smith shares his experience and new perspectives gained in cataloguing the large antique collection in his father's estate. In large part, it is this personal relationship with the past that makes genealogy so engaging.

What Amelia Earhart Can Teach You About Family Mysteries

Evaluating evidence and arriving at conclusions is a critical step in the research process. The mystery is what give genealogy much of its allure, the discovery of the unknown. Whether hurdling a brick wall or unravelling a family legend, it's important to be as objective and thorough as possible. In her article, "What Amelia Earhart Can Teach You About Family Mysteries," Rita Marshall illustrates through recently declassified information on Amelia Earhart, the challenges of evaluating evidence. As the article point out, our motivations can influence our interpretations.

Halloween it's not, but Mummies are in the news

At this time of year when we are charged with gathering our family health history, you might be interested to read the recent U.S. News & World report article, "The Mummies' Curse: Heart Disease." Using the latest imaging techniques scientists  have discovered "hardening of the arteries -- or atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and stroke -- in mummies up to 3,500 years old." Thought to be a modern condition, atherosclerosis turns out to be "as old as the pyramids."

What's in YOUR closet?

Some people keep everything and others believe in unsentimental purging. The concern, of course, is that someone will throw away family papers, letters, or the information, unawares. When I took possession of my grandmother's photos, my uncle informed me that there had been a lot of letter tapes that were thrown away -- who knows what else, letters to be sure, as they were not in her box. Of course, there's no going back, but there's no time like the present to begin gathering what information and writings are available to you, before they disappear. 

A recent article in the Bangor Daily News, "Your family may have a trove of writings," brings home the point and suggests some of the items you may find, often hidden in plain sight. Even if you think you've found it all, this gives an idea of the types of writing family members might leave behind, including those old school reports -- such writings do have meaning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What Are the Confederate Amnesty Papers?

We always  appreciate hearing about those little known and untapped genealogy resources -- this is the way we expand our knowledge and our family tree at the same time. That said, finding an ancestor among these records could be met with mixed emotion. 

In her article, "What Are the Confederate Amnesty Papers?, Melissa Slate explains The Amnesty Proclamation of December 8,1863 and outlines amnesty requirements. Being a United States record, the Confederate Amnesty Papers are housed at the National Archives. Indexes may be available for some states, such as those for Tennessee. In addition, has made these records available online. You may look for hints to amnesty among a soldier's compiled service record. According to the Civil War publication on the National Archives website, "References to oaths of allegiance and paroles from Confederate soldiers can often be found referenced in compiled military service records for captured soldiers/prisoners." Civil War paroles, also noted in that document, might be another resource to consider.

Genealogy of Communites: Intentional Communities in the Next Century

In the final article of her Genealogy of Communities series, Judy Rosella Edwards explores communities of the recent past and looks to the future: "Genealogy of Communities: Intentional Communities in the Next Century." One point made was the increase in international and cross-cultural marriages brought about during wartime; locating ancestors in war-torn and unstable countries is and will continue to be a challenge. The article also asks the question of how genealogists will manage the research of ancestors whose choices and philosophies might differ from their own. Many of these questions we are already addressing and apply to all generations and all time periods, although the new challenges are sure to bring about new and exciting genealogical and technological innovations. This has been an informative series with ideas for researching in many directions.

New book tells stories of many buried at Arlington National Cemetery

An article on, "Arlington National Cemetery, alive with history in new book," highlights a new book by Robert Poole, former editor of National Geographic. The book, On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery (Walker, 352 pp., $28),  "tells the stories of many of those buried in 70 sections across these rolling hills just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. On Hallowed Ground is part history lesson, part tourist guide, part mystery novel," says USA Today writer, Craig Wilson.

"And though it was a four-year project, Poole says his book "just scratches the surface" – from the cemetery's Civil War beginnings in the 1860s to today's tourist must-see, the Changing of the Guard."

Released just in time for Veteran's Day, this timely book, great for history buffs, may be especially meaningful for those with loved one buried at Arlington. And could be a real boon to genealogists, if your ancestor is one whose story is told.

Thanksgiving, National Family History Day

We cannot be reminded too often the importance of gathering a family health history. Since 2004, the U. S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day, as part of the Family Health History Initiative. The aim is to encourage families as they gather throughout the holiday season -- and at other times -- to talk about and write down any health problems that may run in the family. This is one of those easy-to-procrastinate tasks, but what better time than the holidays to initiate a conversation?

As noted, health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases can run in families. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy. To aid families in recording such information, My Family Health Portrait, was created. This is a web-based tool, which allows users to record, print, and share their family history information. In particular, families are encouraged to share the information with their doctors.

"Beat the Crowds" by reserving your National Archives visit online

If you are considering a trip to the U S. National Archives, you may want to check out Dick Eastman's blog, "National Archives Launches New Online Reservations System," providing information on how to "Beat the crowds" and reserve your time, conveniently online.

New "Sources" on Irish Reserach

Here is some great insight to a source we might not all be perusing in our online travels.  Leland Meitzler, on his GenealogyBlog, highlights "The New 'Sources' Database for Irish Research." Described as "A new database of source materials for Irish research, entitled simply 'Sources,'has been  launched by the National Library of Ireland."

GLO "not the only game in town"

A recent article by Kimberly Powell on, "Locating Historical U. S. Deeds Online," reminds us the General Land Office (GLO) records is a great resource for finding ancestors in thirty federal or public land states. She also makes the point "the GLO is not the only game in town. Many U. S. counties in the eastern part of the country have started putting their historical deed records online." The article suggests ways of locating these online county deed records.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Utopias

Utopia, the ideal society envisioned by Sir Thomas More in his book of the same name, was then and continues to be an imaginary place. Nonetheless, societies persist in believing it's attainable, and the quest has continued throughout history. In her article, "Genealogy of Communities: Utopias," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the nature of such communities, offering insights and suggestions for genealogical research. As the author point out, "people from all walks of life have joined." For those ancestors who present puzzles, it may be an area worth exploring.

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part III

In her latest article on the uses of death, dead, and dying in everyday language, Jean Hibben suggests many of the phrases and terms we use relating to death "never were alive in the first place." The article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part III," the author explores the origin of terms such as a "deadpan, "deadbolt," "deadline" and, as unlikely as it may seem, the word "mortgage." The study of language and root words, in particular, can be entertaining as well as enlightening. 

Just in time for Veteran's Day - "Smart" Phone access to Veteran burial sites

Just in time for Veteran's Day, more convenient access to veteran grave sites. As announced in a recent AP article, "Want to find a veteran's grave? Get out your "smart" phone," the Department of Veterans Affairs has enhanced its Web site to make it easier to look up the grave sites of more than 6.7 million veterans on a "smart" mobile phone, such as a BlackBerry. It builds on an online service started in 2004 that helps locate the graves of veterans and eligible family members buried in national cemeteries or whose graves are marked with a government headstone. Once the site locates the cemetery, it offers users directions on how to get there.

Diamonds in the Rough -- Findings at Local Area Museums

Researchers may want to look beyond the courthouse to the local museum in their quest for family information. An article on, "Clarinda museum tells area's story," illustrates the type of information -- buried treasure, really -- that can be found in local area museums. Clarinda, Iowa, for example, known as the birthplace of big band leader, Glen Miller and the 4-H was also home to a World War II prison camp. The camp held 3,000 prisoners, mostly German soldiers, as well as some Japanese and a few Italian soldiers.These POWs worked within the community and many returned after the war to visit with local families. The museum holds many artifacts, including photographs of the POWs and some of their art work left behind. Additionally, Clarinda wa a stop on the Orphan Train route, with nearly 10,000 children brought to Iowa homes.

Strategies for Finding Female Ancestors

An recent article in the Broomfield Enterprise, "Genealogy: Tips for finding females that matter to you" explores the issue of finding female ancestors through the men in their lives and provides a list of 10 sources to check. As the article observes, "Often the answer to identifying a woman can be found in the records of her husband, son, or brother." This proved true in my own experience. I found one female ancestor's second married name, not among legal documents, but in letters she had written to her son. The letters were found through a message board correspondent -- and not a relative. Interestingly, my respondent was not a family history researcher and was not on the message boards. Rather, he found my message board post through a Google search. 

While letters and diaries is # 8 on the list of 10, don't forget to put those puzzles out on the message boards. It may take some time. My post was out there four years, but the person responding had a wealth of information, including a collection of personal letters.

For more insights on researching female ancestors, check you may want check our previous blog post, Love the Ladies, and, in honor, of Veteran's Day, Women Veterans.

Hey genealogists, let's start Celebrating America

A recent news item on, "Hey genealogists, let's start Celebrating America," introduces a new project on, a state by state survey of available genealogical resources. States will be added in the order in which they joined the Union. This will be an exciting project to follow -- an opportunity to see how well we've covered our bases and to see what new information or untapped resources might be available.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

FamilySearch Indexing: Want Free Indexed Records Online? Become a Voluteer and Help Create Them

Everyone is delighted with digitizing of records going on at FamilySearch, and opportunity to access the FamilySearch Labs and browse the records as they are released. Rita Marshall, in her article "FamilySearch Indexing: Want Free Indexed Records Online? Become a Volunteer and Help Create Them," suggests taking that enthusiam one step further by participating in the indexing process, helping to move the work along and make even more records available sooner. As the saying goes, "Many hands make light work." And as the author points out, there are benefits to the researcher, opportunities to share your expertise and learn even more. This is an exciting time in genealogy and very rewarding to on the inside track.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting a Genealogy Education

Those new to family history will soon find, one surest ways to expand your family tree is to expand your genealogy education. More and more opportunities and resources for learning are becoming available. In her article, "Getting a Genealogy Education," Cindy Drage presents an overview of what you may find. No longer is genealogy just a hobby for seniors. Younger people are not only taking an interest in genealogy, but many are entering the field professionally. Educational opportunities are available to all, at any level of expertise, and at reasonable cost, depending on your goals. If you have no budget for education, a great wealth of knowledge is available through free articles, workshops, and online courses. The most experienced researcher can benefit from the new an innovation techniques of others. There is no lack of educational resources in this highly popular field.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Faith-based Organizations

So maybe Grandpa didn't run off and join the circus, after all. Maybe he ran off and joined a faith-based community. In many cases family members did abandon families to join some sort of community or communal organization. There's definitely a story in there: Did he or she leave the family because the faith required it, did the family choose to stay behind, or did the family reject the person adopting a particular faith? Whatever the reason, when a family member drops off the radar, researchers might want to consider the possibility. In her article, "Genealogy Communities: Faith-based Organizations," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the nature of these communities and how they might be researched. Oh, by the way -- my father did run off an join a circus . . . but he came back . . . and married my mother. The rest, they say, is history.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is a dit name and why is it important to Family History?

Naming conventions are a fascinating study, and knowing more about a culture's naming conventions can contribute to family history. In her article, "What Is a Dit Name and Why Is It Important to Family History," AnnMarie Gilon-Dodson explains the French custom of distinguishing individuals one from another through the use of "dit" names, "the custom of attaching an additional surname to the original family name," separated by "dit," as in "Giles Michel dit Tailon." As the article shows, the practice of dit names can end up, from one generation to the next, creating what might appear to be surname contradictions. An awareness of the practice and how it works, can help researchers better interpret documents and understand contradictions.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Prostitution

Most genealogists want to know the full story of a family and do want to account for all family members, even those with questionable occupations. In her article, "Genealogy of Communities: Prostitution," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the task of researching this very elusive community. Prostitutes often were listed by first name only, and many were hesitant to give their true names. Even so, as the article points out, becoming familiar with the trends and patterns and learning to "read" census records, this community can be researched with positive results.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mining for Genealogical Information in Federal Records

We might think of the National Archives as containing a static body of information, and genealogists anxiously await each new set of records scheduled to come online.  What we might not realize is that in the U.S. (and probably so in other countries as well), the repository is not static at all. The federal archives are continually adding new data, transferred from other government bodies -- information previously unavailable to the general public. In her article, "Mining for Genealogical Information in Federal Records," Rita Marshall makes a case for going straight to the source and NOT waiting for the movie (or online data release) to come out. Old and new, a considerable amount of valuable information is housed in the federal archives that is not available elsewhere. While a trip to Washington D.C. might not be in the stars for all of us, it is important to know what's available. Professional researchers and look-up volunteers in the area of a particular archive are a possible resource.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Asylums, Hospitals, and Sanitariums

Census lists are continually revealing, and sometimes it's a good idea to go back and revisit census records we have already researched. In days past, we tracked where we had been in our research, so we would not go back and tread the same ground. Today, as more and more data comes online with greater indexing and search capabilities, going back may yield new and interesting information. In the latest," "Genealogy of Communities: Asylums, Hospitals, and Sanitariums," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the information derived from census records of these communities. As the article states, "Asylum residents were enumerated and the asylum considered their home." Staff members may also be included, if they lived on the premises. The article provides insights into the "astonishing amount of detailed genealogical data" that can be gleaned from these records.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

FamilySearch posts new data for several states

As published Friday in the Tribune Star, FamilySearch has announced that it has posted the Rhode Island state censuses for 1905 and 1935, the New York state censuses for 1892 and 1905, and the Minnesota state census for 1885. Also up are the Vermont state militia records (1861-1867), the Arkansas county marriage records (1837-1957), the Washington county marriage records (1858-1950), the Delaware birth records (1861-1922), the Georgia death records (1930), and the Salt Lake County, Utah, births (1890-1908) and deaths (1948-). Also of interest are the Ohio tax records (1825- ) the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, marriage records (1885-1951), and the Freedman marriages (1861-1869). A multitude of foreign records is also available on the site as well as many of the federal censuses. To access the site, go to the FamilySearch Labs web site.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Casting a wider net may help find elusive documents

We all have brick wall ancestors or event dates that just can't be found. In his most recent article, "Keeping your eye on the road -- not!" Larry Naukam suggests not only thinking outside the box but outside the neighborhood. When a search of local area sources goes cold, consider casting a wider net into the neighboring communities, which might be "across the river" or in another state. The author illustrates this point with several examples and provides suggestions on the types of sources that might yield further clues.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Prisons

We might not like to think about the possibility of finding an ancestor in prison, but in her article, "Genealogy of Communities: Prisons," Judy Rosella Edwards makes the point that in earlier times, one did not have to be a hardened criminal to end up in some type of jail or prison. Of course, for some, the black sheep of the family are often the most interesting. And yes, census enumerators counted noses, even in prison. One of the more interesting points made in the article is that inmates' occupations, prior to imprisonment, are often listed, even those who were career thieves. The article also provides suggestions for researching those aboard prison ships and reminds us that the prison "community" was comprised of many people who were not prisoners, sometimes complete families resided on the grounds.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part II

We know what a euphemism is, and the current political climate is full to the brim, finding more and more creative ways to befuddle the common citizen, to make the dubious more "acceptable." And that is the function of a euphemism. To veil or soften the harsher reality. In her latest article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part II," Jean Hibben schools us on yet another term intended to manipulate perception, the "dysphemism," the substitution of one word for another, making it more unpleasant or unacceptable. So we can make things sound better than they really are, but we can also make them sound worse. As my son likes to say, "Presentation is everything."

2009 GenWeekly Newsletter Archive

September 24, 2009

September 17, 2009

September 10, 2009

September 3, 2009

August 27, 2009

August 20, 2009

August 13, 2009

August 6, 2009

July 30, 2009

July 23, 2009

July 16, 2009

July 9, 2009

July 2, 2009

June 25, 2009

June 18, 2009

June 11, 2009

June 4, 2009

May 28, 2009

May 21, 2009

May 14, 2009

May 7, 2009

April 30, 2009

April 23, 2009

April 16, 2009

April 9, 2009

April 2, 2009

March 26, 2009

March 19, 2009

March 12, 2009

March 5, 2009

February 26, 2009

February 19, 2009

February 12, 2009

February 5, 2009

January 29, 2009

January 22, 2009

January 15, 2009

January 8, 2009

January 1, 2009

Archived Issues from 2008

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Indian Reservations

In the field of genealogy, we always have to be ready to adjust our preconceived notions. Who would think to check the Indian reservation census records for their white ancestry? In her most recent article, "Genealogy of Communities: Indian Reservations," Judy Rosella Edwards illustrates the fact that Indian reservations were not exclusively Native American.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taking a wrong path in research and setting it right

GenWeekly welcomes our newest writer, AnnMarie Gilin-Dodson. Her first article, "Lessons Learned: Get it Right the First Time," addresses the problem faced by many researchers at some point, taking information at face value and going down the wrong path. It may not even be misinformation given to us by someone else, but our own assumptions that can lead us astray. I recently erred in taking at face value and assuming to be the direct line ancestor, the one person with our family name who bought property in an area at the right point in time. As the research continued, evidence began to suggest this person was, more than likely, the son and not the father, as I had believed. In going back over my research, If I had taken more time in analyzing each piece of evidence and not rushed to judgment, I would have discovered the one piece of information that ruled him out as the direct line ancestor. Much of what we do is trial and error, but in an effort to help us "get it right the first time," the author suggests developing a formalized plan for various stages of research, and provides a checklist to help us get started. I cannot say the list would have helped me avoid my own error, but it does address the Assess/Analyze stage of research, the very place where we need to take the greatest care and make sure the evidence supports our assumptions. The message is valid and the checklist a good starting point, which you can modify and add to based on your own experience.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Digging Deeper for Genealogical Gems

This week the individual titles included in Ancestry's U.S. Obituary Collection were cataloged (AND geocoded) into Live Roots, making it easier to locate location specific resources in this collection of over 20 million obituaries from more than 3,000 newspapers. Also, the unique Lost Faces collection of vintage family photograph albums was cataloged--over 60 albums of identified family photos and growing. You are now able to Follow/Share/etc. the geographic locations in the Navigate feature. And lastly (yes, it's been a busy week already), several dozen postcard images were added to the Live Roots collection. Postcards are a great resource for being able to see the buildings of the institutions our ancestors may have (sometimes involuntarily) attended.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Seminaries and Other Educational Institutions

"Understanding terminology is essential for researching educational communities. In the late 1800s, seminaries appeared across the country. For years there have been academies, colleges, and universities. Students and others associated with these institutions, were counted in various ways and there are techniques for researching them," so writes Judy Rosella Edwards in her most recent article, "Genealogy of Communities: Seminaries and Other Educational Institutions."

Again, using the census in concert with institutional histories and college yearbooks may help in locating or learning more about an ancestor. The challenge, perhaps, is identifying what schools existed at what periods of time in a particular location, for which we turn to local area histories. As the article points out, "Knowing a college town makes research that much easier," and local maps can often help in identifying neighborhoods and homeowners.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Free Genealogy Toolbar offered

In a recent press release, the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS), based in the U.K. announced the release of its genealogy toolbar which integrates seamlessly with the users browser (IE, Firefox, Safari) to provide instant access to family history sites including online BMD, Archives, Societies, Pay to View and many more.

The toolbar is completely free to download and use and has been developed by Family Historians for use by Family Historians. 

As noted in the press release, "the range of links is especially strong for GB [Great Britian] and Irish research." It does, however, provide links to a number of primary U.S. sites.

Changes to the toolbar are made centrally, which means the toolbar developers control what is available, but the site currently offers over 170 links, which will be "expanded in response to user comments and suggestions." Users do have the ability to turn individual menus on and off and can also choose to add items from a selection of non-genealogy links. 

The toolbar can be downloaded via the MLFHS home page or from Be sure to read the User Notes, available in a drop-down list, indicated by an arrow at the far left of the toolbar, next to the Society's icon. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Important points for collecting family medical history

It's time once again to be thinking about collecting family medical history. A Reuters article out today provides a good example. In reference to family history it says, "Men are twice as likely to have prostate cancer when a brother, father or uncle have had the disease. If they have two or more first-degree relatives with the disease. they are four times more likely to be diagnosed."

Another article, on, discusses "Why and How to put together a Family Medical History." The article suggest how far back in the family tree you might want to go, and indicates the importance of knowing not only what a family member died of, but what other conditions they had during their lifetime:

"It's not just about death. The age at death and the ailment that caused or immediately preceded death is the obvious information to record for each of your deceased relatives. But it may not be as important as information about earlier diseases or conditions. Did your father, who died in his 80s of heart failure, have a previous bout with colon cancer or experience high blood pressure for most of his adult life? Make sure you ask about any chronic or previous problems."

"Age is key," it says. You will also want to record the age at which medical conditions arose, if that information is available. "Early" means different things for different diseases, but generally, the younger a person is when a disease rears its head, the more likely it is to have a genetic component. Having two first-degree relatives (a mother, daughter, or sister) diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, for example, is one of the red flags that may mean you should be tested for specific mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In all, the article provides eight practical tips that are definitely worth reviewing.

More Genealogy Publishers Added to Live Roots

Today catalogs were added from the following groups: Picton Press, Broadfoot Publishing, Arphax Publishing, GoldBug Maps, [Loyalist, Paul] Bunnell Genealogy Books, Gorin Genealogical Publishing and In addition, this week I've fixed close to 500 broken links (mainly sites that have left,, and/or

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Research Room Etiquette: What to Bring and What to Do

Modern technology has brought convenient access to millions of documents, with more being made available every minute, it seems . . . but not everything. Many archives and libraries house unique and valuable information that is not available online . . . and may never be. Because so many of these materials are irreplaceable, access to that material is governed by specific rules. In her article, Research Room Etiquette: What to Bring and What to Do in Archive or Library Research Rooms, Rita Marshall provides some important guidelines to help your prepare.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NGS article cautions of e-mail data loss risk

Technology is a wonderful thing, but not without its risks. An article on the NGS Upfront blog (the Upfront newsletter is now in blog format), "Set Your E-mail Free," by Editor, Pam Cerutti, reminds us that e-mail is at the same risk for data loss as social networks, photo sites, and blogs themselves. We've cautioned about these risks in several articles on GenWeekly. Backing up data has been our primary theme. Cerutti writes,

"You may have heard about Verizon's sale of its internet services in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont a few months ago. Some readers may even be the victims of the sudden switch of their e-mail addresses from to Neither Verizon nor FairPoint notified all customers in time to tell their family, friends, and business contacts of their new e-mail addresses. Many people not only lost all e-mail they had stored on Verizon's servers, but they also lost new messages that were sent to their void Verizon addresses. Furthermore, when FairPoint took over those accounts, their servers were initially overburdened, causing still more lost e-mail messages."

It's true. Companies go out of business. Companies are sold. Systems crash. What happens to your data is everything goes away suddenly? We hope you are 1) saving your e-mail messages (including contact information) and any documents or photos you may have received to your local computer; and 2) transferring whatever data and sources your have received to your genealogy software program . . . or are at least printing it all out. Then, if a company goes belly-up, you've at least preserved your data. But, as the article points out, there are other, equally important issues, that come with a change in your e-mail provider -- be sure to check it out.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Technology helps FamilySearch hit major milestone

FamilySearch volunteers expect to have transcribed more than 325 million names by the end of 2009, just three years after the organization began its online indexing program," according to an article in today's Deseret News, "Technology helps FamilySearch hit major milestone."

The milestone was a number once thought impossible to reach in such a short period of time. In 2006, a few thousand volunteers indexed only 11 million names. But thanks to continuing advances in technology and a growing number of volunteers -- more than 100,000 across five continents -- an estimated half million individual names are indexed each day. At that rate, Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager, expects that 500 million names will be transcribed by the end of 2010.

The article goes on to explain the scope of the work and the technological innovation driven by the need of efficient methods. I was struck by two quotes, in particular:

"With the technological advances and the ever-increasing number of indexing volunteers, the Ellis Island historical records -- which a decade ago took 12,000 volunteers 12 years to complete -- would take three weeks to index today. "

"The records FamilySearch contains currently, when digitized, would equal 132 Libraries of Congress or 18 petabytes of data -- and that doesn't include our ongoing acquisition efforts."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps

By definition a camp is defined as "temporary" living quarters. Many of those housed in camps were making their way to a new life, most were single, and women were few. In her most recent article, "The Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the nature of fishing camps and suggests ways to back-track individuals who may have been found in these camps. Skilled workers, for example, may be found plying the same trade in their place of origin, as noted on the census. As fishing camps were "a haven for new immigrants," the article suggests ways of narrowing an ancestor's place of origin through ship manifests. Ideas are also provided for tracking an ancestor forward in time, as they build new lives.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Archives can yield unexpected treasures

While state and local archives may not be the first stop on your genealogical journey, they should be high on the list -- and most certainly not overlooked -- especially today when their holdings are more accessible than ever before. In his article, "Archives Can Yield Unexpected Treasures," Larry Naukam points out that archives can contain a treasure in primary resources, and "there are innovative ways of getting to them." Many archives have web sites cataloguing their holdings, and many offer links to materials that have been digitized. One of the main points of the article is that an archive in one place may very well have information on individuals and events someplace else. Life itself covers a lot of territory, and like breadcrumbs through the forest, life often leaves a paper trail.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Honor your grandparents by gathering their stories

As we all know, holidays and special days are often promoted for commercial purposes, but I guess if it helps us remember something we might otherwise overlook or take for granted, that's a good thing. One such special day, Grandparent's Day, is coming up on September 13. And while this day has not caught on in the same way as Mother's Day or Father's Day, it could be a good day for gathering grandparent stories (pass the word).

An article this week on, "Tweens: 5 Ways to Celebrate Grandparent's Day," cites the following statistics: "4 million children in 3 million homes are being raised by their grandparents. More than 5 million children live in a household with a grandparent present." But interviewing a grandparent is a good idea, whether they live in the home or not. The article itself is a little commercial, but it does offer some good ideas for children to connect with grandparents, and provides a link to downloadable book -- a   template children can use to gather a grandparent's life story. In addition to interviewing a grandparent and writing their life story, sitting together with grandparents and going through old photographs can be a unforgettable experience: photos are excellent memory triggers, and if you write down the stories as you go, or even better yet, record the activity and then write it down, you will ensure it's being "unforgettable" (and don't forget to back it up!).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part 1

This month, in her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part 1," Jean Hibben examines the origin of phrases alluding to things seemingly dead or non-functioning. As the article points out, most people refer to the death of a person in euphemistic terms, but have no trouble using the word directly to describe inanimate things or a variety of conditions: dead wrong, deadhead, and dead herring, to name a few. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Free e-book explains DNA basics

A recent article on, "Genealogy 101: I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What," highlights an e-book (published in 2008) by Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph..D., author of The Genetic Genealogist, with a link to a FREE download. The book is useful, not only as a practical guide to Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, but also provides information to help you find what DNA studies have been performed, and how and where to find various DNA and Surname groups.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Roots Television Interview about Live Roots

Roots Television has released a video interview about Live Roots, featuring Illya D'Addezio, President and Founder of Genealogy Today. In this video, Matthew Poe talks with Illya about the site's new offerings. The interview was conducted at the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree in Burbank, California.

Watch and listen to the video at

Genealogy of Communities: Logging Camps

In this second article of her series, "Genealogy of Communities: Logging Camps," Judy Rosella Edwards makes the point that lumberjacks were not the only occupations present in logging camps, but doctors, cooks, and others were also engaged. And pretty much, you wanted to be young and unattached.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tracing Your Roots to Germany, Part Two: The Nomenclature

Tracing an ancestor back to his or her country of origin is very exciting. The process of continuing the search in the records of a new land can be intimidating, especially where a foreign language is involved. In "Tracing Your Roots to Germany, Part Two: The Nomenclature," Alan Smith offers some first-hand suggestions for those who are just beginning.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cemeteries - not just for tombstones, anymore

They say necessity is the mother of invention. So what do you do when you visit a cemetery in which you are certain a person in buried, but you cannot find the grave? In her article, "Cemeteries - not just for tombstones, anymore," Cindy Drage suggests looking for cemetery or "interment" records. Many people are buried without headstones, for one reason or another. Finding the location of the grave is one objective, but interment records may offer a great deal more. Even when there is a headstone, this is a resource you might not want to overlook.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 launches British Prisoners of War database

With the 70th anniversary of the start of World War Two (September 1, 2009) approaching, has launched online British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945, which contains the records for more than 100,000 prisoners of war (POW) captured during the conflict, including the names of many ancestors of living Canadians. Nearly one-third of Canada’s population claims British heritage, which means that many Canadians with ancestors who fought for or alongside the British Army may be able to find ancestors in this collection.

As one of the few World War Two archives not subject to the UK’s ‘75-year rule’,  this collection is a vital resource for anyone looking to trace British and Commonwealth soldiers captured by German Forces during the war. The majority of World War Two records are not yet available to the general public as individual records are still protected by the rule.

In addition to the POW records, has also published online the UK Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945, featuring the records of all British Army personnel killed in action during World War Two.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Genealogy of Communities

Most of us are aware that a variety of non-traditional communities exist in our society, and have existed in the past, places where are drawn together for one reason or another, possibly employment, but the people are generally unrelated. Take the California Gold Rush, for example. Researching family members who might have been part of such a community is the subject of a new series by Judy Rosella Edwards. In her first article, "The Genealogy of Communities," Edwards introduces these "intentional" communities, so-called because they are artificially created outside the traditional family community, and suggests the first steps to researching them. Additional articles in the series will cover specific types of communities, including logging camps, fishing camps, seminaries and prep schools, etc. Even if your community of interest is not covered, and it would be hard to detail them all, the techniques and resources explored will certainly transfer over. 

Friday, August 21, 2009

What the heck is "data rot" and why do we care?

If you have ever experienced a system crash, you know how devastating it can be -- the challenge of trying to reconstruct information that has been damaged or irretrievably lost is the computer user's nightmare.  As beneficial as computer technology is, and it's revolutionized the field of genealogy, it still comes with a powerful caveat: be aware of "data rot"; that is, the deterioration of the medium on which information is stored (CDs, DVDs, hard drives, magnetic tape, etc.) and the problem of accessing data when medium and the equipment to run it becomes obsolete. "The Ten Commandments on floppy? Where would we be?" explores the issues and what can be done to preserve valuable information.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How to start your own "genea-blog"

"Discover the online tool that will have people searching for your information instead of the other way around. A genea-blog is a way to have long-lost relatives and fellow researchers in the same fields come to you." In her article, "Instead of Searching the Internet, Have the Internet Search for You: Start a Genea-Blog," Rita Marshall explains how these blogs work and how to get started.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Salt Lake Family History Expo, Aug 28-19

If you are in the area, mark your calendar for the Salt Lake Family History Expo, to be held August 28-29, 2009 at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. In addition to other presentations, FamilySearch will offer classes on New Family Search -- a class certain to be a hit. The New FamilySearch, currently available only to a select group is eagerly awaited by the genealogy community at large. For details, visit the Family History Expo website.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lots of free data still available online

Is free genealogy a thing of the past? asks Kimberly Powell in her article, "101 Ways to Research Your Family Tree for Free." Apparently, the answer to her question lies in the title to her article, lots of free data is still available. Check it out to be sure you are taking advantage of the many free resources available.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Heads Up! "The Human Family Tree" film airs August 30

If you have not yet submitted your DNA to the National Geographic, Genographic Project, a new film, "The Human Family Tree," airing August 30 might inspire to do so. For those who are not familiar, the Project is a a five-year research  partnership led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells, aimed at studying the migratory history of the human species through DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world -- everyday people like you and me. The film provides insight into how the Project works and what can be learned: "On a single day on a single street, with the DNA of just a couple of hundred random people, National Geographic Channel sets out to trace the ancestral footsteps of all humanity." To learn more, visit The Human Family Tree web site. The site offers a convenient Time Zone button to indicate when the film will air in your area. 

Map Reading 102

Reading a map is not easy. Ask all the frustrated drivers who have to stop and ask for directions, or turn to their digital navigation system! They still need to pass Map Reading 101. In her very informative article, "Map Reading 102," Judy Rosella Edwards lets us in on some lesser known map reading strategies.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Replacing the 1890 Census — City Directories

Pretty much every U.S. family history researcher laments the loss of the 1890 U.S. Federal Census, which was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington D.C., in January 1921. Filling in the blanks left by the loss of that census can be challenging, indeed. Fortunately, other resources do exist for the time period, often at the local level. It just takes a bit of sleuthing to discover what records might be available for your particular area of interest. In her article, "Replacing the 1890 Census -- City Directories," Cindy Drage suggests a source, while not at the federal level, certainly widespread, that of city (and county) directories. If you know how to read them -- and the article provides tips and hints for doing just that -- city and county directories can provide a lot of good information.

Friday, August 7, 2009 on Wall Street

Some of you may remember the old insurance company slogan, "Buy a piece of the Rock," meaning the Rock of Gibraltar, the company's logo. Well, soon it may be possible to own a piece of the tree -- the family tree, that is. A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, " plans to go public," reported this week that is preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) of company stocks, joining the ranks of other publically owned companies on Wall Street. Formerly known as The Generations Network (earlier than that and earlier than that, of all things,, the company has now come full circle with its most recent name change, back to the brand, perhaps, having the mind share to carry the company into its public offering.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's new at your local Family History Center? — in a word, LOTS

A recent article on, "Mormon Family History Centers get trove of new documents," reports how LDS Family History Centers (and consequently their patrons) are proving the beneficiary of the Church's new indexing program. "Among the new databases: the 1915 Rhode Island state census; Mexican Catholic Church records dating back to 1627; Delaware birth records from 1861 to 1908; and Canadian censuses from 1851, 1861 and 1871." The article goes on to say, "Although it has become increasingly easy to research ancestors from the comfort of a home computer through Web sites such as, the Mormon Family History Centers have access to microfilm and international collections that are unavailable on many of these sites, said Paul Nauta, public affairs manager of" And the real beauty of the Family History Center is there's one near you -- there are 4,500 Mormon Family History Centers around the world, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, which is visited by more than 2,000 people a day. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Specialty publications, another place to look

A recent GenWeekly article highlighted the value of newspapers, beyond the obituary. This week we look at and beyond the traditional newspaper. In her article, "Digging Through History's Pages: Using Newspapers and Other Periodicals To Find Ancestors," Rita Marshall explores specialty periodicals, in addition to newspapers, how they can aid your research and where to find them.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Incentives for publishing your research

If you have long "thought" about publishing your genealogy research but haven't seemed to quite get around to it, you might be interested in a recent article from the, "New England Genealogy 101: top 10 reasons to publish your research." Sometimes all we need is the right motivation.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Historical Pageants As a Genealogical Tool

We often talk about the value of non-traditional sources and encourage readers to visit the Genealogy Today, Family Tree Connection database, absolutely THE place for researching non-traditional sources. In her article, "Historical Pageants As a Genealogical Tool," Judy Rosella Edwards provides a little background on historical pageants and their value, in particular, pageant programs, for historical data. Event programs are also known as "ephemera," printed items intended for one-time use. As it turns out, these one-time use items, in some cases, have become highly collectible, and can also be valuable clues for pinpointing an ancestor in time and place or indicating something of his or her life. Of course, in addition to the program, local newspapers carried news of local pageants, a more traditional source of information. Two for the money.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Newspaper Treasures -- Beyond the Obituaries

"Newspapers are gold mines for obituary information," says Judy Rosella Edwards in her recent article, "Newspaper Treasures," and they are, indeed. In addition to the more familiar genealogical use of newspapers in finding obituaries, birth and marriage records is the reporting of everyday events -- events that may contain significant information and leads. The article suggests ways you can digitize any information you might find, for personal use. I might also add, today we are lucky to have a wealth of newspapers already digitized: many  are subscription-based but may be available for free through local public libraries and Family History Centers. Some newspaper sites and other commercial sites that contain newspapers, offer trial subscriptions for a nominal fee. Newspapers are a valuable resource definitely worth pursuing.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: From Logs to Log Cabins

What has the world "lumber" to do with a pawnshop? Well, it's a long and winding road and not the most intuitive connection. Such is language. In her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: From Logs to Log Cabins," Jean Hibben explains this and other entertaining, but seemingly far-fetched connections. 

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Bachelor, the Spinster, and the Childless

While many of us do try to record the birth, marriage, and death dates of collateral line ancestors, we may not always go to the time and expense of documenting the information, especially for those ancestors who never married or never had children. We may think such family members have little to tell us . . . but, think again, suggests Cindy Drage in her article, "The Bachelor, the Spinster, and the Childless." It may be they knew more than anyone else -- those familiar with "Arsenic and Old Lace," might agree. 

Getting Past the Native Ancestry Block: Can DNA Testing Break Through the Wall?

Proving native ancestry in North America is more than a little challenging, for a great many reasons. Today, DNA testing can help address some of the questions, but not as completely as one might hope. In her article, "Getting Past the Native Ancestry Block: Can DNA Testing Break Through the Wall?," Rita Marshall explores the various DNA tests, what they can and cannot tell us about our native ancestry, and how to proceed with what we learn.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Newspapers for Genealogy Research and Not Logic

The entire newspaper collection from has been cataloged into Live Roots, which added close to 4,000 new resources -- all with locations so they appear properly in the Navigate feature. In addition, I recently added "not" logic to the main Live Roots search. To negate a word in your query, place an exclamation point before the word (no space). For example, "johnson !county" would mean "show me all listings containing the word JOHNSON but NOT containing the word COUNTY." Keep in mind, the search is only as good as the listings in the catalog, so if a listing is about Johnson County, but doesn't include the word "county" in the listing, it will still appear.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Free Books for Genealogists

I posted the latest catalog update from the BYU Family History Archives project, about another 1,000 books. This is a wonderful project, similar to Google Books, but focused on resources of interest to genealogists. Also, posted yesterday, an update from, Teri Brown's growing collection of searchable group photos.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why Splinter Genealogists Away from their Cousins

This week the folks at FamilyLink, in an attempt to generate another revenue stream, invited genealogists to join a Ning network site named, and in fact, offerred to pimp (oh, sorry, pay) some of them to make the new site look "lived in" with content prior to an official launch later this month.

I have no issue with Ning networks, and in fact manage two myself. The concept of creating your own themed social network is wonderful, and might be something Facebook should consider offering.

Where I think the GenealogyWise concept is a bit misguided in trying to splinter genealogists away from Facebook for the purpose of making it look like the "official" genealogy social network. This will undoubtedly help them attract non-facebook genealogists to the site, which they will need to do in order to generate revenue.

Rather than try to pry genealogists away from Facebook to connect with non-Facebook genealogists, why not come up with a slick way to draw more non-Facebook genealogists into Facebook? Oh, right, if they did that, how would they make money off of the reputations of hard-working professional genealogists and bloggers?

Where GenealogyWise cannot compete with Facebook, is in connecting genealogists with cousins that have (or have had) no interest in genealogy. I have no interest in abandoning Facebook (as some genealogists on Facebook have suggested) and the relatives that I've been able to connect with. I've seen comments from some genealogists new to Facebook to the effect that "they don't understand what Facebook is all about." Well, it's a phenomenal tool for connecting with distant cousins that you may not otherwise have been able to locate.

Sure, the Ning functionality is cool (like I said, I run two Ning networks myself), but something about GenealogyWise makes me feel uneasy. It just doesn't seem right that a for-profit genealogy company should be fueling a social network that should be independent and neutral (as Facebook is). Will the folks from or be joining GenealogyWise and contributing? Or will they remain on Facebook? I value my interactions with them.

And why not own up to it? Why doesn't the masthead banner say something like "A FamilyLink Service"? Do the 1,400 members realize that this site is operated by FamilyLink who will profit from their use of GenealogyWise through advertising? How come when flipped to (and added advertising), many genealogists chose to abandon the site, and yet "we" seem to have no problem with GenealogyWise doing the same thing?

Yes, I joined GenealogyWise and intend to stay involved, but I'd rather see the site turned into a neutral, not-for-profit network so everyone can participate. At a minimum, FamilyLink should step up to the plate and clearly disclose that they are the company behind GenealogyWise (just as Ancestry does on the RootsWeb home page).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What is Paleography?

As most researchers are aware, the task of reading and interpreting the handwriting and language of a bygone era is often quite challenging, and can sometimes be downright painful. There are those, however, who make it a regular practice, either for fun or as a career. In her article, "What is Paleography?," Melissa Slate gives a basic overview of the "art" of paleography and some of its uses.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of War, Part 3

In the continuing series on everyday words and phrases originating during war time, the American Civil War takes center stage, as Jean Hibben presents, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of War, Part 3. And who can reference the American Civil War without acknowledging Abraham Lincoln? Although Lincoln may have borrowed rather than coined the phrase, the concept (and potentially damaging consequences) of "swapping horses midstream" is accredited to him. This along with several other familiar words and phrases can be traced back to that same time period. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beyond the Paper Trail: Discovering Family History with Different DNA Tests

Molecular genealogy, the study of DNA to help genealogical research, has made big strides over the last few years, but some answers are still out of science's reach. Learn what you can and can't learn from the different genetic tests, and which ones may be right for you. In this her first article, "Beyond the Paper Trail: Discovering Family History with Different DNA Tests," Rita Marshall queries experts in the field and brings us up to date on this exciting and promising new branch of genealogical research.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

GenWeekly welcomes two new writers . . .

We would like to welcome two new writers to our GenWeekly staff: Cindy Drage and Rita Marshall. We look forward to their contributions. Appearing this week, in our last issue for the month of June, Cindy Drage, in her first GenWeekly article, "Don't Overlook Historical Societies,"examines the valuable support historical society volunteers can provide, especially in locating those unique sources that may not be available online, or anywhere else for that matter. 

Rita Marshall's first article exploring DNA research will appear next week, in our first article for the month of July. Again, to our new writers, Welcome Aboard.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Enhancing the Live Roots Search Experience

In conjunction with the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree, I released some project management tools to help visitors keep track and organize the genealogical resources that they discover while using the search engine. Throughout Live Roots, registered members will now see Follow, Comment, Record and Share buttons. For more information, please read "Live Roots Search Experience, Release Two".

The Wonders of the Family History Center

Almost anyone who has done genealogy for awhile has either heard about or utilized one of the many Family History Centers to be found around the world. In her article, "The Wonders of the Family History Center," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the role of the local Family History Center today, when so much information is available online so easily accessed in the comfort of one's own home. Considering the vast archive from which the Family History Center draws and the many services it provides, it is not likely to become outdated anytime soon. 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Genealogical Summer Reading 2009

In the mood for a summer read? In her article, "Genealogical Summer Reading 2009," Gena Philibert-Ortega brings into focus a variety of genealogy-related works covering a range of topics from the murder mystery to an exploration of the LDS penchant for genealogy. Surely, something for everyone.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Exploring German Ancestries

For those just beginning to explore their ancestral roots in another county, Alan Smith's recent article, "Exploring German Ancestries," takes a look at some of the first steps. The more general principles discussed would apply to research in any foreign country, beginning with an exploration of the political, geographical, and cultural history. Determining who was in power at any given time and how areas were divided and records maintained is the key to successful research abroad and at home.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How many Genealogical words is a Picture worth?

With more genealogists posting photos online, it only makes sense to include sites like Flickr and Picasa Web Albums to the Live Roots project. In addition to photos of ancestors, you may stumble upon cemetery images of tombstones, or historical buildings where your ancestors lived, worked, worshiped or played. Both of these new search interfaces can be found on the real-time search page. Also, thanks go to Wevonneda Minis, who I met at the NGS conference in Raleigh, for her nice article on Live Roots, "Search engine for genealogists."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's nice to visit a place mentioned in an item that I transcribe

Last week, I picked up a document at auction that listed the pew holders for a church in Morristown, which is very close to where I live. The name sounded familiar, as we spent New Year's Eve at Morristown's First Night recently. The document was "List of the Pew Holders and Sitters in the Church of the Assumption, Morristown, N. J., January 1st, 1898," and after uploading the transcribed information this morning, I decided to take a drive and photograph the church.

There's a historical marker outside the church that reads, "Gothic revival building is the oldest standing church in Morristown. Replaced 1848 wooden church which ministered to Irish immigrant families in surrounding Dublin area."

From the church's website: "In 1847, a lot of land was purchased by Father Louis Senez, (pastor of St. Vincent Parish in Madison) for $400 to build the first Catholic Church in Morristown. The building of the church was then left to Father Bernard McQuaid. The original wooden church structure stood on the site of the present-day rectory. By August 15,1948, the modest church was roofed and Father McQuaid gave the church the title of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mass was said for the first time in the church on Christmas Day, 1948. The new church was dedicated on March 5, 1849."

The church is located at 91 Maple Ave, Morristown, NJ 07960.

On the cover of the document that I acquired it states, "Every resident of this Parish is in duty bound to contribute his and her share to the support of the Church and the Church Work. The principal source of revenue is the renting of pews and sittings. Nobody may reasonably expect to participate in the benefits of the Parish, unless identified with it by the renting of a pew or sitting."

It was such a nice pleasure to be able to visit a place mentioned in one of the documents included in my Family Tree Connection project. All of the photos were uploaded to a folder on Flickr.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Will the Real Mr. Snider Please Stand Up: Finding Your Ancestor's Misspelled Name

The misspelling and misinterpretation of surnames is a classic problem for genealogists, one that never ceases. No matter how seasoned the researcher, surnames continue to challenge. In her article, "Will the Real Mr. Snider Please Stand Up: Finding Your Ancestor's Misspelled Name," Gena Philibert-Ortega continues her discussion of the surname challenge, suggesting ways to circumvent an all too common problem.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Role of Genealogy in History

Although the popularity of genealogy has grown exponentially in the past decade, it has been an important in the lives of many cultures since ancient times. In her article, "The Role of Genealogy in History," Melissa Slate touches on several such practices. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

While surname searches are important to genealogy, they are not the sole solution. In her article, "Getting Past Your Ancestor's Surname: The Need for a Comprehensive Research Plan," Gena Philibert-Ortega suggests a research strategy and offers multiple sources for moving beyond the surname. In may be that the one source you need is not indexed by surname, but by some other organizational category. As noted in the article, a well thought out plan will help a good researcher cover all the bases.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of War, Part 2

Regardless of their time or culture, our pioneer ancestors are near and dear to the heart of a family history researcher. But have you ever considered the origin of the word "pioneer"? Who would imagine it originated in war time? In her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of War, Part 2 ," Jean Hibbens explores some of the earliest wars in recorded history and how that language is used today. In particular, she explores how many of the meanings have been altered, in at least one case, reflecting pretty much the exact opposite of its original intent.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Genealogists suggest adding more precise searching options

I've added an "Advanced" link to the small green search box that appears on every page of the website. This will lead you to the search tool that I developed for the iGoogle gadget, allowing you to search any of the resources accessible through Live Roots. Also, if you are a FamilyTreeMaker user, check out this blog post by Russ Worthington about adding as a custom search option. UPDATE: The iGoogle gadget that I created is now also available in the orkut online community application directory (search for "Live Roots").

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Facebook for Genealogists

Most family history researchers are familiar with the more popular social networking sites dedicated to genealogy, sites aimed at connecting families and providing a platform for sharing information. Another branch of social networking are the sites previously thought to be the domain of the young, used by teens and college kids to connect with friends, Facebook being the most popular today. However, the demographics on Facebook have expanded to include pretty much everyone, regardless of age. Facebook is the place to find people and to be found by others. Its popularity has made Facebook a real powerhouse in connecting people. In her article, "Facebook for Genealogists," Gena Philibert-Ortega, explores how Facebook can be used to enhance or advance your genealogy, lending encouragement, perhaps, to those who have yet to dip a toe in Facebook waters. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Dan Lynch the Indiana Jones of Genealogy?

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to Dan Lynch speak at a local library about his book, Google Your Family Tree. I have to be honest, I've known about Dan's book since it was released, and had wondered in the past why he chose to write on this topic, and also why genealogists would want to buy such a book. But hearing Dan talk about the subject, and seeing the audience reactions, made me realize that I've really taken Google (and searching techniques) for granted.

I especially love the subtitle of Dan's book, "Unlock the Hidden Power of Google." It's a great reminder of how much genealogy research, especially in the online world, is truly an "adventure." And just like Indiana Jones in the movies, genealogists need the skills necessary to filter through the enormous amount of information on the Internet and avoid those poisonous darts (i.e. overwhelming search results) that frustrate us.

The talk last night was sponsored by the Family History Interest Group (FHIG) of Bernards Township Library, and the Morris Area Genealogy Society (MAGS), and was a packed room full of avid genealogists equally curious to learn some of Dan's "secrets" about the all-too-familiar Google search engine. The crowd was quiet for the first thirty minutes, or so, as Dan covered some of the basics to ensure everyone understood the essential components of Google. Then the "oohs" and "aahs" started, as Dan revealled some of his favorite tips for filtering results.

Oh sure, I bet you were hoping that I'd spill the beans and share Dan's top tips. No such luck, there's no shortcut to becoming a better search engine user. Dan's talk was just the tip of the iceburg, and you really need to dig into his book (most folks I've talked to say every time they pick up their copy and re-read certain chapters, they learn something new).

Bravo to Dan for taking on the challenge of making all genealogists better online sleuths. I now see how his efforts will benefit all information providers (small and large), by teaching genealogists to find what they are looking for more efficiently. Genealogists often speculate that the information they need to break down their brickwalls is "out there" somewhere. Why not spend $34.95 and purchase this book to gain the skills needed to actually find it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Vital Records for Railroad Employees

At a recent live auction that I attended there were three box lots of a monthly publication for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen listed. I had been collecting a similar publication for the same group that later merged with another and became the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, so my interest in these three lots was high.

Locomotive Firemen Magazine (January 1889)This may sound weird, but at these auctions I prefer NOT to look too closely at the items or lots. I look just enough to ensure that there is some genealogical value. That way I'm less disappointed if I don't win the lot.

I "went for it" on these three, won them, and quickly shuffled them off to my truck. (Sadly, items do tend to mysteriously walk away at these auctions). The next morning I flew to Raleigh, N. C. for the NGS conference; it wasn't until this weekend that I finally had a chance to sit down and sort through the boxes.

Just to put into perspective how exciting this find was, my previous collection of these publications focused between 1908 to 1916, although I did win a large lot off eBay covering 1928-1933. Recently, I managed to get a handful of copies from some dealers dating back to 1897.

After sorting all 98 issues in these three boxes, I was amazed to see that they went all the way back to 1889! This is earlier than any issue I've ever seen for sale or online. Oh, why do I like these publications? They are filled with promotions, marriages, births of children and deaths of the members (i.e. railroad employees).

Yesterday, I transcribed the ten issues from 1889 (March and November were missing), and just posted them online as part of my Family Tree Connection (subscription) database project. The name indexes are free to search, and you can browse through the issues by visiting or using the Live Roots for Facebook application.

Each week, I will attempt to post another year of this amazing collection.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

When a Picture Is Not Worth a Thousand Words

What's that you say? A picture is not worth a thousand words? Another myth, busted! In her article, "When a Picture Is Not Worth a Thousand Words," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the ways in which pictures can deceive and why they considered secondary, rather than primary sources. The problem today is even worse. Technology has allowed us to warp reality in photos to such a degree that our children's children will never really know for sure what's real and what's not, without expert analysis to see if an image has been "photoshoped." So words of caution are well taken.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Industry Professionals are Genealogy Resources

When I started the Live Roots project, including living people was one of the first things that I considered. Behind every genealogical resource (e.g. website, book, podcast, etc.) is a person (or a group of people), and it's helpful to genealogists to know the "who's who" of our industry. The Live Roots project makes it easy to explore related resources from the same person, so you can see if they blog, write books, speak at events, all from their profile page. Genealogy researchers, writers and speakers are invited to signup for a free Live Roots profile at either the or websites.

Did you know that back in 1981, Mary Keysor Meyer and P. William Filby edited a book called Who's Who in Genealogy & Heraldry (published by Gale Research Co)? I actually have a copy of the 1990 revised edition. Pretty neat book. Each listing has personal (with DOB), career activities and genealogical publications sections. Amazing how many industry professionals there were even back then; the second edition boasts 1,100 biographees. At a quick glance, I see that my friends Leland Meitzler, Arlene Eakle, Tom Kemp, Craig Scott and Kory Meyerink are all listed.

This book is a reminder of just how important industry professionals, many of whom make genealogy their full-time occupation, are to genealogists around the world. It would be incredible to capture as many individuals in the Live Roots project.