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.

Discover More Genealogy at Live Roots

Additional integrated real-time searches include YouTube (videos) and RootsWeb Search. There is also a new feature on the site called "Discover More Genealogy (within Live Roots)" that guides you to all of the feeds (blogs, podcasts, video channels and tweeters) that are currently followed. You'll find this feature below the Roots Discover option, and throughout the site whenever you are looking at a feed. We were mentioned recently on DearMyrtle's blog (see " saving time for online researchers"), in Tamura Jones' coverage of Facebook applications (see "Facebook Genealogy") and Randy Seaver has been writing a very interesting multi-part review of Live Roots (see "Using - Post 1" and "Post 2").

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dissertations and Theses as Genealogical Sources

As she continues to explore the genealogical value of various types of manuscript collections, Gena Philibert-Ortega, explores "Dissertations and Theses as Genealogical Sources." As noted in the article, while these works may not be specific to genealogy, "there are many in the realms of history, anthropology, social work and other disciplines that would be of interest to the family historian. In some cases, personal and oral histories might be a part of the research paper that may even shed some light on your own family." In addition to suggesting how dissertations and theses might be used, the author also suggest ways of identifying and locating such materials. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Words of War, Part 1

As one might expect, a lot of word relating to war fare have to do with courage in the face of battle. In her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles, Words of War," Jean Hibben show words of war derive from ancient times, forward. Language is interesting in the way usage can alter meaning, and connotation can trump denotation, turning a word that is, if not positive, at least neutral, into something downright pejorative, as shown in the origin of the word "coward" and other "words of war."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Free Online Classes Through OpenCourseWare

There is no limit, it seems, to the information available on the Internet for the resourceful and curious researcher. In her latest article, "Free Online Classes Through OpenCourseWare," Gena Philibert-Ortega explores yet another useful -- and free -- resource. Universities around the world offer a wide range of non-credit classes in many disciplines, on topics that may inform your genealogical research. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New FamilySearch: A Database to Capture Your Imagination

The New FamilySearch is being gradually rolled out. If you are aware of a correction that needs to be made to your existing FamilySearch data but you don't have access, how do you correct it? In her second article on the subject, "New FamilySearch: A Database to Capture Your Imagination," Judy Rosella Edwards tells us how.

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Refined Searching at Live Roots

I've expanded the options for several of the real-time search partners, including,, Genealogy Bank and World Vital Records. You are now able to filter searches by adding given (first) names, regions, year (or range) and keywords. The options currently vary between partners, but I am working with each partner to expand each preview feature. Once you enter the options for one partner, you are able to click on the preview links for the other partners without have to re-enter them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

BYU Book Collection Added to Live Roots

The Family History Archive collection is being added to the Live Roots catalog. Currently over 10,000 online books (all free access) have been included. Also this week, a preview for Genealogy Bank was added so you can search from within Live Roots and see what they have available for your surnames. Links to the major collections of HeritageQuest Online were added. Links for the library version of are now included for anyone using Live Roots from within a library that subscribes. Additional sharing options were added to the Facebook version of Live Roots.

Genealogy Writing Markets

Alan Smith, in his article, "Genealogy Writing Markets," offers insights and some direction for those experienced in genealogy and with a bent for writing. As the article points out, there is a high degree of interest in genealogy topics, genealogy writing offers rewards, other than financial. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Search the Family History Library Catalog on Live Roots

I am pleased to announce the addition of the Family History Library Catalog to the Live Roots Project (i.e. and Live Roots for Facebook). Visitors using either platform may now perform Place, Surname, Keyword, Title, Author and Subject searches from within the Live Roots environment. Visitors using the Facebook application are able to "Share" any of the FHL Catalog results with their friends and family directly from within Facebook. A similar feature is under development for the website.

Finding Digitized Books Online

"Millions of digitized books and periodicals exist on the internet that can assist you in your research. The secret is knowing where to find them. Just ‘googling' a book's title may not help you, but knowing what websites feature digitized books can." In her latest article, "Finding Digitized Books Online," Gene Philibert Ortega directs us to some new and interesting sources for finding books online.