Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (November 2010)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for November 2010.

Is Genealogy Today A Worthy Web Site?

image courtesy of iStockphoto
Even after running the Genealogy Today web site for almost 12 years (anniversary in Feb 2011), there is still plenty of room for improvement. This year has seen a significant number of changes, making the site (hopefully much) easier to navigate, and then there's the never-ending addition of unique content (data, photos & articles).

So, I was wondering are we now (or have we been) worthy of genealogists? The best way to answer this question is to recommend us to your genealogy friends! If you agree, use of of the links below and share one our resources. 

Recommend Genealogy Today (the entire site)

Or The Genealogy News (the Free Email-based News service)

Or Surname Tracker (the Free Research Agent service)

Or Team Roots (the Free Membership program)

As I was thinking of writing this blog post last night, my mind raced with ideas, and at 4:00 a.m. I wrote down fifteen more things that will be improved. If you see anything on the site that you feel could use some spiffing-up, please don't hesitate to tell me. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Genealogy Search Engine is only as Good as its Form

The search forms at Genealogy Today have been on my to-do list for quite a while. When I work on the search engine, I tend to focus on the results and the speed by which they are delivered.

But, as I was thinking about it recently, what good are quick and relevant results, if a genealogist gives up before they even make an attempt! So, this week I've released a new search engine form that will appear everywhere on the sites ( and where a surname is involved.

For another week or so, you'll still see the old forms; and there are many of them. Over the years, with different databases being added to the site, a variety of search forms have popped up. Now there will be just one; a smarter type of form that understands how the various searches work, and allows you to easily jump from one collection to another.

Here's a quick rundown: The basics... Name, Time Span, and Location. Click on the Time Span or Location link to make the fields appear. I need to do some more work on making location more "global"... right now its limited to the US states. Following these three are Scope, My Surnames and My Notecards.

Scope is a totally new option to the search form; allowing you to switch from the Subscription Data collection to the Free Data Archive (also known as the Live Roots Index). AND it will also let you switch to many of the 3rd party searches that are supported (including Ancestry, Footnote, et. al.). Very easy, no retyping your query, no clicking around the site to get to the other collection.

My Surnames is also new; for Team Roots members who use the surname tracking features on Genealogy Today, the search form presents you with a list of those surnames that you're tracking. So, to perform a search you can simply select one from the list -- no more typing in the same surnames time and time again as you return to see if there is anything new.

My Notecards is similar to My Surnames, and is also a member-only feature. If you've contributed to any of the "query" type databases and/or added Ancestor Notecards in the project management area, the search form will offer you a list of the notecard names to select from. Since, for many, the notecards represent brick wall ancestors, it's likely they are names you've typed over and over again.

I have six other planned options, but wanted to get the form out there for visitors to test out. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903, The Sad Side of Genealogy

I've started going back to some of the crates containing the first books purchased when I started on the path of creating a subscription-based genealogical database. (More on that later) And in the process came across "The Great Chicago Theater Disaster, The Complete Story told by the Survivors," by Mashall Everett.

Wow, what a tragic story. Over 600 people died in what remains the deadliest theater fire in the United States. The fire occurred on December 30, 1903 in the newly-built Iroquois Theater on West Randolph Street in Chicago. The theater had only opened the prior month, and was thought to be designed with all sorts of innovative fire prevention and protective measures.

The book contained a lengthy list of the victims, which I've added to the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection. There are free copies of the list online, but I've included all the details and dozens of photos of victims that are in the book. I guess the author must have gone around to the victims' families and asked for portraits. Sadly, since this was a matinee, the victims were mostly women and children.

I've also transcribed the Verdict of Coroner's Jury from the book, which sheds light on the many deficiencies of the theater and the suggestions the jury put forth to make sure this never would reoccur. You can find the verdict in the Family History Wiki at Genealogy Today.

The picture on this blog post is Miss Nellie Reed, leader of the Flying Ballet, killed by the fire.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Additional Mug Shots and Arrest Warrants Posted at Genealogy Today

Over 300 images have been added to the Criminal Mugshots and Wanted Posters resource at Genealogy Today.

Included are larger batches of mug shots from New York, Illinois (Joliet) and Ohio, along with a set of 20 arrest warrants from the early 1800's. This set of warrants is from Hampden County, Massachusetts.

While many of the items I collect are acquired through a network of book/ephemera dealers, estate sale managers, book/paper shows and live auctions, I do manage to find some good stuff from eBay sellers. I say "sellers" because some eBay sellers don't list their best items. While they may be using eBay, many are still "old school" dealers and antique store owners that feel that the Internet isn't always the best place to sell collectibles.

When I find something of minor interest on eBay, I check out the sellers other items and profile, and if it seems like they are more of a dealer, I contact them. Through this simple extra step, I've developed several long-term trading and buying relationships. (Note I also said "trading", but I'll talk about that in a future blog post)

Still to come... a collection of 700+ mug shots from a Denver prison!

p.s. Did you know you can search eBay from within my web site? Check it out!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday Genealogy Sale

What better gift to give this Christmas than your own story! Here are some great discounts (available through Sunday) on books to guide you in recording those memories you wish to share with your grandchildren (or children):

From Grandmother With Love (45% off)
Grandma's Keepsake Journal (45% off)
Grandma's Thoughts (45% off)
Grandmother's Journal (25% off)
Grandmother's Memories To Her Grandchild (35% off)
Mother's Memories To Her Child (35% off)
The Secrets of my Life (45% off)

PLUS, free gift (picture above) with purchase! Note: supplies are limited.

Friday, November 26, 2010

After Thanksgiving Specials for Genealogists

I just can't get myself to use the term Black Friday. It just sounds so negative, and finding something you really would like to have at a great price is a happy event.

According to Wikipedia, "the day's name originated in Philadelphia [back in 1966], where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving."

Here are several special deals (available through Sunday) in the Marketplace at Genealogy Today (supplies are limited):

A Grandparent's Journal (35% off)
A Mother's Keepsake Journal (25% off)
Ancestral Songs ... by Steve Lanza (40% off)
DK Millennium Family Tree Record Book (25 % off)
Your Story (25 % off)

PLUS, free gift (pictured above) with purchase!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This Week I Joined the Association of Professional Genealogists

I first learned about the APG while attending my first genealogy conference in Portland, Oregon, (NGS 2001) but always had the impression it was limited to being an association for people who researched for a fee.

Recently, two of my friends, DearMyrtle and Tami Glatz, enlightened me to the fact that APG has a much broader scope. Members include family historians, professional researchers, librarians, archivists, writers, editors, consultants, indexers, instructors, lecturers, columnists, booksellers, publishers, computer specialists and geneticists.

A visit to the APG web site helped me understand where I fit into this mix. One of the objectives -- to engage in activities which improve access, facilitate research and preserve records used in the fields of genealogy and local history -- pretty much defines what I've been doing for the past decade here at Genealogy Today, and through my most recent project, Live Roots.

I jokingly call myself the "Fred Sanford" of the genealogy world, as I travel around the country collecting what people (those selling the stuff I purchase) consider "junk" from estate sales, auctions, book/ephemera conferences, and, every once in a while, literally off a garbage pile (that's a story for another blog post).

The APG's own roots are in Utah, where in the early months of 1979, a group of members of the Professional Chapter of the Utah Genealogical Association joined to begin an independent organization, whose goals were to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work.

I'm looking forward to enjoying many of the benefits of APG membership, and hope that I'm able to contribute something back in support of their objectives.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Genealogists Still Like Books, Right?

Seems the focus these days is always on databases, but we also need tools to help us locate items which haven't been transformed into searchable data. When I talk about my Live Roots project to groups, everyone "oohs" and "ahhs" at the way it can locate data, but they're often shocked it's just as capable of locating digitized AND printed books.

This morning, I updated the Live Roots Catalog with the latest books available from a variety of providers (including free online books). This meta-catalog is the source behind the "Resource Results" in the Live Roots Search Engine (also available at Genealogy Today as "Resource Search"), and currently has over 232,000 entries.

What makes this search engine interesting for genealogists and research librarians, is that it's a single catalog which emphasizes the overlap between publishers in the results. What also surprises most visitors... only 25% of the listings are fee-based! And, the system gets updated daily with new entries.

Here's a partial listing of the publishers included:
The +API notation on some of the listing above indicates that you can also perform a real-time search of the publisher's web site. Likewise, you can perform real-time searches of WorldCat,, Abebooks, eBay and the Family History Library Catalog. And all without retyping your search query!

I'm always looking for additional publishers to include; if I've missed any please let me know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

War Ration Book Collection Reaches 10,000 Name Milestone

Back on September 12, 2006, I scanned my first World War II Food Ration Book, and today, the ten thousandth book hit the bed of my scanner! It was an arbitrary goal set after purchasing the first two books at the Summit Antique Center (Summit, NJ), and learning about their significance in U. S. history. (See "Web Site Launches Online Registry of War Ration Books")

With a little bit of digging around the Internet, I learned not only about the books and the rationing program instituted during World War II, but that there was a society (named Society of Ration Token Collectors) whose members collect and study all of the items (books, tokens, newspaper articles, pamphlets, etc.) related to food rationing. And it was by corresponding with SRTC members, that I discovered there really wasn't any significant collection of these books. They said the largest collection was about 900 books. The SRTC members have been very supportive of my project, many contributing books and one even drove all the way to New Jersey in 2007 to spend a day studying the books I've collected! (See "Ration Book Researcher Visits Genealogy Today Archive")

Each of the book formats (there were four series of books) includes stamps and a cover that captured information about the person the book was issued to. When the books are filled out properly, they offer great details about the individual. Some of the books I've collected include nothing more than a name, but I still index and post an image of them. (See "No News is Still Good News, Right?")

While ten thousand is (genealogically speaking) a small number for a collection, consider that there were millions of books issued, dispersed across the country to every U. S. citizen (even infants). There was never a central repository; the books were simply to be disposed of when the program ended. It's remarkable that so many people held on to them.

The Registry of War Ration Books, a free collection at Genealogy Today, is fully indexed on first and last name, plus year and location. Donations are welcome; visitors may send images and/or the actual books. Oh, by the way, the image above is the 10,000th book!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Genealogy Exclusive: B. Kolb & Sons Ledger (1925-1932)

Here's another handwritten funeral home ledger! It documents the funerals between 1925 and 1932 from B. Kolb & Sons Funeral Directors business in New York City. This is one of three ledgers that we own from this funeral home.

It doesn't look like a ledger from the outside; that's because it's actually a three-ring binder. The original ledgers must have fallen apart, as the ledger pages have been three-hole punched and stored in binders.

What I find most interesting about this ledger is that the listings include the burial permit numbers and dates, some of which go back to the mid 1800's. There are also a few with burial plot diagrams drawn on the page.

As with all of the resources in the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection, the names indexes may be searched free of charge. To see a listing of the surnames from this ledger and/or search for a specific name, visit B. Kolb & Sons Funeral Ledger. A subscription for full access is only $32.95 per year.

This is the second handwritten ledger we've made available. The first was Lynn & Freeman Funeral Ledger (1926-1934) which was posted last week. Additional ledgers will be released in the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When Wedding Bells Ring, Genealogists Listen

Everyone loves a good wedding; whether it's the ceremony or the reception that follows, there's usually something for everyone to enjoy. However, for genealogists weddings represent the merger of two family trees.

When researching family histories, marriage documents often provide the missing link between two family lines, especially when the bride's maiden name is unknown.

When I travel around to book shows and auctions, I often stumble upon all sorts of marriage documents; actual marriage certificates or licenses, intent to marry documents, and even marriage invitations. You can search these treasures in my Marriage Certificates and Announcements collection in the Genealogy Today Subscription Data service.

This week I uploaded several dozen additional document images, including an interesting one from 1843. It's a handwritten letter from Timothy P. Gillett, pastor of the Congregational Church in Branford, Connecticut, that was sworn to in front of Samuel Frisbie, Justice of the Peace. The letter appears to be a marriage certificate replacement for Ezekiel BUTLER and Lydia FRISBIE who were married in 1788.

You never know what you'll discover when you search the records at Genealogy Today! In addition, to this collection, there are a few other Marriage Records in the subscription database, and some Free Marriage Records in our archives section.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Genealogists Really do Improve with Age!

After you've been researching your family history for a dozen or so years, it's easy to forget that in the process you've probably become a better genealogist. So what? Well, if you've stuck on a brick wall ancestor for quite a while, you might want to consider starting over from scratch, re-evaluate any documents you've found on the person, and re-search all relevant data resources.

I regularly apply this thinking to my Genealogy Today Subscription Data project. It was started in 2003, and over the years I've improved many of the steps of the process of taking an original document from paper to digitized data. Likewise, scanning technology and software continues to improve.

Every so often, I spend several hours revisiting the documents handled in "the early days". This past week, I discovered several documents that were "insufficiently" transcribed. There were no inaccuracies, but there was more data in the document that could have been captured in the process. Tomorrow, they'll be re-uploaded along with all the new documents for the week.

A while back, I did a similar exercise with my own family research. Using the tree building tools at I started with a blank tree, added my parents and grandparents, and let the features that Ancestry provides do the rest. When you step back and allow yourself to ignore your own internal knowledgebase, sometimes you'll stumble across a new fact or two.

So, while indeed it is a tremendous challenge just keeping up with all the new resources arriving online, don't forget to periodically go back and retrace your roots. There are over 5,000 original documents in my subscription database, and anyone may search the name indexes for free.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Advice to Genealogists: Look Everywhere!

When I tell people that one of the unique aspects of the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection is that it focuses on "small documents", I often get puzzled looks.

Here's an example of a small document -- barely a document, it's just an old postcard -- that I transcribed last week. It's from The Canadian Mutual Aid Association, and it's a dues assessment mailed out to members. What's special about it is that included are details of the deaths of four recent members; including the date of death, their residence, age and cause of death.

Mutual aid/benefit groups were the precursors to insurance companies as we know them today, and they would send out "bills" to the members to cover the costs associated with recent claims. On the web site, all entities that have an insurance flavor to them are listed on an Insurance Records page. An annual subscription is required for full access to these records, but anyone may search the name indexes for free.

Surnames of the deceased mentioned on this particular document: CAMPBELL, GESNER, HICKS and THUELL.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Military Holidays Highten Passion for Genealogy

Whether you win or lose, war has a tremendous impact on families and the generations that follow. While we all learn about wars in school, knowing that an ancestor was involved in a particular war, and their contribution and/or sacrifice for many is often a driving force behind starting a genealogical project.

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada, both holidays honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their nations. Steve Johnson's article, "The History of Veterans Day", provides a great explanation of how the U. S. holiday was developed. Toby Shaw has an article, "Remembrance Day - History and Tradition", that sheds light on the Canadian holiday.

If you're looking for additional Military Records to search through, we have added quite a few unique resources to our Subscription Data collection.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (October 2010)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for October 2010.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ancestry Releases UK Military Medals Records

The Live Roots system just detected these newly released databases on

UK, Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-1920
This database goes a step beyond medal rolls by providing researches access to more than 25,000 citations for recipients awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Great Britain’s second highest military honor for noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel, in the years surrounding the Great War.

UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972
This database contains lists of more than 1.5 million officers, enlisted personnel and other individuals entitled to medals and awards commemorating their service with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines between 1793 and 1972.

UK, Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949
This database contains lists of more than 2.3 million officers, enlisted personnel and other individuals entitled to medals and awards commemorating their service in campaigns and battles for the British Army between 1793 and 1949, in Europe, Africa, China, the Middle East, and elsewhere during the height of the British Empire.

Disclaimer: In compliance with guidelines published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on December 1st, 2009, please be advised that Genealogy Today LLC (the owner of this site) has an affiliate agreement with (and/or the parent company) and may receive commissions from banners and links hosted on this page.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Arrest Warrants for Ancestors, A Genealogical Find

This week, I scanned and uploaded images from five vintage arrest warrants into the Criminal Mugshots and Wanted Posters collection. Dates on these warrants range from 1816 to 1820, and they are all from Rockingham County, New Hampshire. Here are the names (with links to the records online):

An annual subscription is required for full access to these records and the corresponding images. As with all handwritten documents, there is a greater margin for error on the interpretation of names.

I love these kinds of documents; they give a snapshot into the lives of our ancestors and the challenges they faced (or fled from). You can expect to see additional arrest warrants added to the collection in the near future.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Genealogy Exclusive: Lynn & Freeman Funeral Ledger (1926-1934)

For the first time, I've transcribed data from an original handwritten Funeral Record ledger book into the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection. In addition, images from the ledger pages will be made available to subscribers as a result of a recent system upgrade. While the ledger itself is not labeled, papers found within tie it to the Lynn & Freeman funeral home in Portsmouth, Ohio. This ledger contains entries from 1926 to 1934, with a few from 1917. Most of the entries are legible, although overall I'd say the handwriting is sloppy in general.

As with all of the resources in the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection, the names indexes may be searched free of charge. To see a listing of the surnames from this ledger and/or search for a specific name, visit Lynn & Freeman Funeral Ledger. A subscription for full access is only $32.95 per year.

Additional ledgers from other funeral homes will be added to the collection in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Genealogy Today expands Subscription Data service to include more Images

This week, the Genealogy Today Subscription Data service was enhanced to support additional image types, including group photos, partial document and full document images. In the past, only individual photos were made available to subscribers. Along with this enhancement, several new document collections were expanded to include the corresponding images; the Marriage Certificates and Announcements collection includes original certificates, printed announcements, intent to marry letters; and the Criminal Mugshots and Wanted Posters collection includes a variety of crime related materials.

Database listings may now have multiple images attached. For example, mug shots will include images of both sides of the document. To avoid delaying the release of new listings, some images will be available upon request. Subscribers will be prompted to fill out a short request form and the images will be posted online within two business days.

With this exciting change to the database service, subscribers should expect to see several new types of original documents and resources added in the near future.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Live Roots Location Search Improved

An avid user of Live Roots sent me an email asking why the Location Search in the Navigate feature was so limited, and she was right. So, I've enhanced the search to better handle the types of genealogy queries visitors have been entering. Now, for example, if you search for "adams county" you will get more accurate results.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (September 2010)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for September 2010.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Free Genealogy News Service

I've developed a FREE email service that acts like an RSS Aggregator called The Genealogy News. It pulls together stories from the top genealogy blogs and sends out either a daily or weekly version. Over 30,000 genealogists have signed up and are reading the updates each week.

          The Genealogy News

If anyone has particular blogs (or websites) that they like to follow, and that offer general information the readers might enjoy, please suggest them to me for consideration.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (August 2010)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for August 2010.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Genealogy News - Monthly Edition (July 2010)

Catch up on the top stories mentioned in The Genealogy News service throughout the month by reading the Monthly Edition! Visit our News Center at to download the PDF for July 2010.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities

Social context is an important aspect of genealogy research. Understanding more about the social environment of our ancestors may lend clues to the bigger genealogical questions and help pinpoint people in time and place. In her article, "The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities, " Judy Rosella Edwards encourages researchers to include social information -- what she is calling "cultural affinities" or "connections" -- in the genealogy database. While a certain piece of information may not reveal much at first glance, later that bit of information may be the one thing that puts you on the right path. As the article observes, information on certain traditions, hobbies, celebrated holidays, even trinkets may hold clues. 

One thing to keep in mind, as well, in considering cultural affinities is the possible existence and value of non-traditional source material such as performance programs, club and society membership records, organizational histories, reunions, business associations, etc. If an ancestor is identified with a particular group or activity, there may well be records available that provide additional information. For locating such sources, be sure to check our parent site,, which has been a leader in transcribing original, non-traditional source material for many years and offering it online. With recent changes to the site, all databases have been combined and are now offered as a single, affordable package. But even browsing the holdings or doing a search on your family name, you can learn something new and may even be guided to other sources you might not have known existed. Not only can you learn about the various types and categories of records published, but you can also see what has been transcribed, thus far, for a particular region. And with the new Wiki you can learn even more. It's a work in progress -- new materials are being added weekly, so you'll want to check back often. Be sure to check out the Genealogy Today Subscription Data, the Family History Wiki, and the helpful Search features available on the home page.

Migration to the Northwest: The Early Years

While much is said of Westward migration and travel along the Oregon Trail, there's also an interesting story at the "end of the line," settlement of the Pacific Northwest. In his article, "Migration to the Northwest: The Early Years," Alan Smith examines the slow settlement and diverse forces behind the eventual, mass migration. The story of the Pacific Northwest, its dash and daring is played out vividly in my own family, with a Swedish immigrant making his way across the land to settle, first in Seattle, then after heartbreak and hardship, following the gold rush and starting a new life along the upper Yukon River. Its the stuff of Jack London and Robert Service, in real life. As with all pioneer history, the stories are colorful nigh unto unbelievable, but true. And that is one of the driving forces behind our passion for genealogy.

A Solemn Observance

April 12, 2010 marked the beginning of the Civil War. On this date In 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter in South Carolina. While war is nothing to celebrate, it is a significant anniversary, when you consider the 600,000 Americans who gave their lives. An article on The American Interest Online, "Civil War Still Echo in our Heads," recaps those first shots and illustrates how in some ways, even today, the Civil War has not ended. I particularly like one quote noted in the piece, "The past isn’t dead, Faulkner once wrote.  It isn’t even past."

The Value of Non-Traditional Resources - Fire Insurance Maps

Even if you don't have ancestry in Sacramento, a brief article on, "Fire insurance maps are useful in Sacramento genealogy research, " has merit for pointing out the value of non-tradtional sources in genealogical research. Did you know, in fact,  that "Fire Insurance maps were originally created in the 19th century in the United States for assessing fire insurance liability in urbanized areas. You can find out the names of the people that owned the house and land at different dates." A history of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps on the UC Berkley Library website tells us more about them, and an article on, "Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps," suggests how the maps can be used. 

Indeed, insurance records of all types, and particularly claims records can tell a lot.  Insurance records is one of the categories in the Subscription Data, specializing in non-traditional sources. To see what is currently available, see the Table of Contents - Insurance Records.

Resource Tips From a Pro

When it comes to genealogy resources, we all appreciate the essential, love to come across the innovative, and are . . . well, delighted . . . by the delightful. Even if you don't live in Canada or have Canadian ancestry. you may be interested to read the recent article by Tammy Tipler-Priolo, "Essentials, Innovations & Delights," on, as the author shares favorite resources used in her own "everyday research business." Among those mentioned are resources for Canadian, French Canadian, English, Irish, and Scottish research. When I was working in the software industry, in the field of human factors, the most successful programs went beyond functional to delight the users, which meant, exceeding expectation. To call a resource delightful is high praise, indeed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy

I wonder sometimes at the romanticizing in song and verse of some legendary figures -- it helps to look into the story behind the story. In her "Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy," Jean Hibben explores the back story to the legendary, "Tom Dula" or "Tom Dooley," as he is better known. While none of the characters in this story seem to have any redeeming qualities, a few of the details, after the fact, at least suggest how his life . . . and death might have stirred the imagination of songwriters.

From a genealogical perspective, the alternate pronunciation of the Dula surname strikes a chord. My own Appalachian ancestral name, "Childers," while not ending in "ee" has been altered over the years and is alternately pronounced "Childress," again, this slurring an blurring of speech that sort of flips things around. This pronunciation of the Childers name is so common, in fact, they are used almost interchangeably. In the case of my great-grandmother, even the alternate spelling of the name was used within the family. While all legal documents, including the marriage record, show my great-grandfather's surname as Childers, the headstone of his wife, my great-grandmother, reads "Mattie Childress." Which, in a way, takes us back around to some good advice in considering all things: keep an open mind.

Sons and Daughters of Genealogy: Joining a Lineage Society

If you have ever considered joining a lineage society, Rita Marshall's article, "Sons and Daughters of Genealogy: Joining a Lineage Society" may give you that extra incentive. As the article points out, in addition to showing pride in your ancestors' accomplishments, joining a lineage society also serves to test you metal as a researcher and may provide the motivation to firmly document your family history. The article also provides a link to help you identify the many lineage societies in the United States. You may want to check Cyndi's List for organizations in other countries. There are various types of societies, some based on events such as wars, some based on place, and some based on a single, notable ancestor -- pretty much, something for everyone. Lineage societies and fraternal organizations are, for the most part, service organizations, and most require an annual renewal.

Spring -- Time to Get Organized

One more word on getting our ducks in a row -- how are you at organization? The "Spring is season to get records in order," on the Broomfield Enterprise, suggests now is the time for some genealogy deep cleaning and organization, and if you aren't sure where to start, the article offers some easy tips. My own goal is to one day be organized enough so that when I want something, it's not enough to say "I know I have it," I want to be able to walk to and and put my hands on it. I'm on that path. I've learned to compensate for short-term memory loss and now have a system -- what I'm lacking is space. So once I get that figured out, I may be able to realize my goal. 

Procrastination -- "You may delay, but time will not."

Items in the news seem to suggest this is a time of caution and precaution. Last week we talked about genealogy scams, this week it's coping with family secrets, and now a strong reminder to protect and preserve our records. An article on Mormon Times, "Fires, floods and earthquakes: Preserve your personal history," features Scott Smikins, head conservator at the Family History Library in Salt Lake city, advising, "Take the time to preserve your precious histories and treasures before it's too late." Simkins' remarks centered around the "ings" of preserving: Handling, documenting, organizing, preparing, mending, sharing and storing, then discussed the purpose of each point, the article said. The article is worth reading, offering simple and do-able tips that may help you prepare for the unexpected. As Ben Franklin said, "You may delay, but time will not."

Family Secrets Deserve Sensitivity and Respect

A recent article on, "Genealogy can open 'Pandora's box' of family secrets," looks at possible effect on the present generation of uncovering family secrets. Uncovering new information about our ancestors is inevitable, some may be secrets or painful to learn. In some cases, the issue of what to do with the information may present problems. The key is sensitivity and a respect for the feelings of others. We are not compelled to share secrets just because we know them, and it's important to the whole family that we protect and preserve living relationships, something the article suggests may be at risk in unraveling the family history. Also important is that we understand that our ancestors were living in a different time and age -- we may not want to judge too harshly until we better understand the context.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity of interviewing both of my grandmothers. Throughout her story, it was clear my maternal grandmother held hard feelings toward her father for his stern ways, but revered her mother (and rightfully so). The children had to work in the field "from the time they could sit up, almost." And he had strategies for getting the most out of them. It would be easy for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to dismiss this ancestor as a brute and really have no sentiments toward him whatsoever; they might even go so far as to assign his perceived negative traits to other family members: "You are just like Grandpa So-and-so."  However, as much as I love my grandmother and appreciate her experiences as a child -- and life WAS hard -- I find that even as she is expressing her resentments, you can see in what she describes that her father was a provider who took care of his family, and he was a shrewd businessman. They had so much more and were so much better situated than other tenant families of their time, that if you read between the lines, you can identify and appreciate his better qualities. Although stern and forceful, I see him as a man of his times. I do not excuse his behavior toward his children nor his general indifference toward his wife, but I can appreciate the life he provided and the strengths demonstrated and give him a place of balanced respect in our family's history. I believe if my grandmother were alive today and I could share with her what I have learned of her times, even she would cut him a little slack. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Beware of relatives seeking cash . . .

As the saying goes, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," that in reference, of course, to the Trojan Horse. All is not as it appears. Today that might read, "Beware of relatives seeking cash."

Last week's issue of GenWeekly focused to some extent on genealogy fraud. This week, an article from the Colony Courier-Leader, "AG warns of grandparent scam,"reports a caution from the Texas Attorney General about scams targeting seniors, grandparents, in particular. The problem is not limited to Texas.

The scam "plays upon a grandparent's natural desire to protect a grandchild. Although variations of this scam have been around for a long time, it has become more sophisticated with the proliferation of information on the Internet. Con artists are more often using personal information gleaned from family blogs, genealogy Web sites, social networking sites, and online newspapers to add credibility to their calls. Reports from law enforcement agencies around the country suggest that the scam works too often." [italics my own]

We have noted on this blog and in various GenWeekly articles the dangers of putting too much personal information online, including family trees, social networks, and blogs. So this is just another word of caution.

"Law enforcement agencies encourage [residents] to always exercise some skepticism when they receive telephone calls urgently requesting money."

The article goes on to suggest ways to detect and avert a scam -- it's definitely worth taking the time to read.

Ogden Regional Family History Center -- lots of space to work

Those living north of Salt Lake City -- maybe even those from Idaho and Wyoming -- might be interested to learn about the Ogden Regional Family History Center, which is said to be the second largest, outside of Salt Lake. An article on, "Ogden's family history center the largest outside Salt Lake,"has grown from a "50-volunteer staff and 15-computer facility . . . to include nearly 300 volunteers and 140 computers." 

But if you're coming very far, it might be good to check on what they have available -- not every Family History Center has access to the same online databases as the Family History Library nor the stacks of books and bins of microfilm not yet been digitized. Going the extra distance could prove beneficial, depending on your needs.

Helping children appreciate their heritage

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I thought this article important, "Family culture deserves appreciation, celebration," especially for young people who have yet to appreciate their heritage. We might want to consider ways to engage young people at an earlier age, instead of its taking until they are all grown up. 

Here are some ideas:
  • Serving traditional foods, as the article shows
  • Sharing family stories -- everyone loves the stories
  • Displaying family photos on display showing, which might include something like the immigrant ancestor's ship, which can often be found on the Internet
  • Attending cultural festivals
  • Participating in family reunions, maybe encouraging presentation, plays, or enactments of heritage
  • Sharing books and art about/from your culture
  • Helping children keeping a scrapbook
Of course, there is a fine line between helping children appreciate their heritage and making them feel "different" from their peers, so there is a balance. Adoptive parents often face this dilemma and many articles are written on the subject.

One article on helping Jewish children appreciate their culture suggests, "at home, the most important thing is modeling. Modeling for our children our own attachment to, and reverence for" their cultural heritage. That is the best advice.

The Compleat Database: Citizenship Matters

In her article, "The Compleat Database: Citizenship Matters," Judy Rosella Edwards provides considerable detail on researching and interpreting immigration and naturalization records. The key advice is to work backwards, as it true of most genealogical research; that is, work from the most recent information back. If an ancestor were a naturalized citizen, the place to begin would be with naturalization records, of which there are three documents along the paper trail. Also noted is the fact the "third paper" -- the final, certificate of naturalization, might even be noted in the local newspaper, perhaps among the legal notices. Recording this information in the genealogy database is important an important step in tracing an immigrant ancestor's place of origin.

I recently had the opportunity of helping my niece track her Swedish grandfather's immigration and naturalization. It was interesting to note the dates and distance traveled. Her grandfather arrived in the U.S. in 1907, in New York. Applying for citizenship, he filed his Declaration of Intention in 1919, in Seattle, Washington. Interestingly, the Certificate of Citizenship was not awarded until 1942, in Fairbanks, Alaska, some 24 years since he first filed. In all, a 35-year process. Seems immigrants as well as genealogists must practice patience. 

German Resources on the Internet

If you are just beginning your German research, Alan Smith, in his article, "German Resources on the Internet," suggests some Internet sites to get you started. As the author suggests, "studying a foreign country does present unique barriers," and may, at some point, benefit from the help of a local area researcher. Language can also present a barrier, although a little resourcefulness and familiarizing oneself with common words for common documents can help. In helping my niece with her Swedish research, I found a site that translated Swedish to English, allowing us to at least discern the key words in an important estate document. I'm sure similar problems exist for those on the other side, trying to locate ancestors who emigrated to the United States or another country.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: These Words Will Grow on You!

Spring is in the air -- or so they say, here in Utah we've had snow for the past several days. Even so, spring is just around the corner. And as our thoughts turn to spring, so we begin to think of spring flowers. In her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: These Words Will Grow on You!," Jean Hibben explores the naming of some familiar flowers. It occurred to me that some of the earlier, romantic and yet playful names given for the pansey -- names no longer in use -- might well be names known and used by our ancestors. Likewise, the terms from which some flower names derive such as "cowslip" may have been familiar and made perfect sense to our ancestors, as well.  So might we, after reading this article, be better informed and delighted should we encounter some of these terms in the writings of our ancestor's.

April Fooled: Three Hoaxes That Make Jokes Out of Genealogical Research

As Lincoln said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Unfortunately, "some" do become victims of frauds and hoaxes. In every field, it seems, there is someone (or several) who profit or take pleasure in duping others. Genealogy is no exception.  In her article, "April Fooled: Three Hoaxes That Make Jokes Out of Genealogical Research," Rita Marshall explores some of the more infamous genealogy frauds in history, some that being perpetuated to this day. And new ones abound. The moral of the story is be aware and do your own due diligence so you can recognize a fake when you see it.

FREE Census Records Access on Footnote, through April

As noted on Randy Seaver's Genea-Musing blog, is offering FREE census records through the month of April.  The message indicates, "In order to view the images from the collection, visitors only need to register for free." Also noted was that Footnote is offering a "real deal" on its subscription rate to readers of the Dick Eastman blog: on $49.95, a $30 savings. You may want to check it out.

"Who Do You Think You Are" Renewed for a Second Season

It's official -- according to a press release on Dick Eastman's Genealogy Blog, "Who Do You Think You Are?" Renewed for a Second Season. The announcement was made today by Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming, NBC and Universal Media Studios. 

"All of these new series have demonstrated increasing popularity and generated far-reaching interest among viewers," said Telegdy.

The original, British version of the show, which premiered in 2004, is now on its eighth series, prompting a huge surge of interest in genealogy in that country.

Keep a Record of Family Treasures -- Your Kids Will Be Glad You Did

A recent article on, "Make records of family heirlooms," offers a good reminder and some advice on making a record of family photographs and keepsakes that are to be handed down through the generations. If you want something to endure, you might want to identify its meaning, otherwise those who follow might not be aware and will make their own executive decisions about its disposal. Hosting the GenealogyToday booth at conferences, I've talked to people that tossed a lot of stuff before the knew its meaning, and lived to regret it. 

Now, our family does not have a lot of heirlooms; certainly nothing of great value -- just sentimental stuff, but that in itself does have meaning. For example, I have a pair of gold-dust earrings handed down from my mother. Sounds impressive, but they aren't worth much  . . . monetarily. I have a second pair just like them, handed down from my aunt -- they sort of did things in pairs. My aunt was the trail blazer in our family who made her way to Alaska in 1950 with my then teenage brother in tow. Given our family's 60-year (and counting) history in Alaska (including a turn-of-the-nineteenth century gold miner) and these earrings came from there, there is a story to go with the earrings that may add sentimental value, if nothing else. My own children might figure out their meaning without its being in writing, but my grandchildren, not so much. So do put the story in writing, following some of the guidelines suggested in the article. Your posterity will be glad you did.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NGS Conference in Salt Lake City, Apr. 28 - May 1

A recent article in USA Today, "History buffs head to Salt Lake City for genealogy events" highlights some upcoming genealogy events, including the 2010 NGS Family History Conference (NGS), to be held April 28 through May 1, 2010 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sponsored by the National Genealogical Society, the Salt Lake Conference is always a hit for its close proximity to the LDS Family History Library. For more information visit the Conference website

Oh, the Place You'll Go . . .

Adoption has long been one of those sensitive subjects spoken in whispers. It's a complex subject, balancing the early development of a child with the pressing reality of heritage as the child grows to adulthood. Most of us have seen both sides of the story, either in our own families or in others close to us. Knowing one's cultural and genetic heritage is important and can be enlightening, as noted in a recent article on, "Adoption reform in N.J.: Filling in a blank in the family history." In search of her father's birth family, in large measure for health purposes, the writer discovered a cultural history she could not have imagined. One of the most intriguing things about family history is the many places you will go on the journey. And even for those who do not wish to "claim" their heritage -- and some do not -- the knowledge may still fill a few blanks.

A Little Perspective

A recent article on by noted genealogists Sharon Tate-Moody, "New TV show inspires, but remember: It's TV," offers some perspective, especially for beginning researchers, on the current, "Who Do You Think You Are," television series. As the author points out, it all looks so easy, "celebrities do seem to find their forefathers without a lot of effort," but, hey, this is television. "Many hours, days, weeks, perhaps months, went into finding the materials culled into the hourlong (minus commercial time) episodes." The article offers a few practical pointers for new researchers, balancing "real" reality from TV reality.

Are You Ready to Go Pro? Achieving a Certification in Genealogy

If you've ever considered genealogical certification, you may be interested to read Rita Marshall's article, "Are You Ready to Go Pro? Achieving a Certification in Genealogy." The article outlines requirements for certification and accreditation. While board certification is clearly the more rigorous of the two, either will allow you to test your "genealogy chops."

Pacific Northwest Genealogy

In his article, "Pacific Northwest Genealogy," Alan Smith provides a brief introduction to the research of ancestors in the Pacific Northwest, with a primary focus on Washington and Oregon. The Pacific Northwest region, bounded on the West by the Pacific Ocean, actually covers a much larger area, including the Canadian province of British Columbia, southwestern Alaska, Idaho, western Montana, and northern California. The main point made in the article is the recent history of American settlement, "The family researcher does not have to begin tramping through Northwest records until after 1841, when Americans, who were now part of a sixty-five year-old nation first began trickling into the area." Of course, indigenous peoples occupied the land almost since time immemorial, with European explorations dating back to the late 1700s, and early missionary movements of the early 1800s, all influencing the great Westward Migrations to come.

Friday, March 19, 2010

More than a cemetery survey . . .

Some months ago, I wrote about an in-depth history of the cemeteries of Logansport, Louisiana, published by two women of advanced age. Most intriguing was the research behind the book -- more than a cemetery survey, the ladies endeavored to research the families of those buried. This week, an article on, "The history in East Tennessee cemeteries is well-documented thanks to Robert McGinnis," tells the story (along with a video of the interview) of a Knox County, Tennesse man who has documented the cemeteries of 16 East and Middle Tennessee counties, and like the ladies of Logansport, provides research and even documentation on many of those buried. 

An ambitious project it was:

"He's taken all this information and packed it into 34 books that not only tell you which grave is, where and who it belongs to, but it goes one step further. "We add in information like wills, birth certificates, information on deaths, obituaries, marriage records. Fill it out a little bit, give it more of a life story."

What the article did not tell us is where the books could be accessed or which counties had been surveyed, so I did a little research and queried the author. I learned that only four of the 16 counties surveyed have actually been published in book form: Knox, Anderson, Grainger, and Blount. Each county is a multi-volume set, and some volumes are not yet complete. As for accessing what has been published, you can check local libraries for the counties completed. I also found some 17 of the publications under the author's name in the Library Catalog of Family History Library. Some of the information (probably not the complete histories), especially for Knox County, is online.

Smithsonian Commemorates 100 Years on the National Mall

Those interested in modern DNA studies and deep ancestry, may be interested to know of a new and permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian, noted in The Washington Post, "Smithsonian's Natural History Museum opens its Hall of Human Origins." The 15,000-square-foot exhibit opened this week, to commemorate 100 years on the National Mall. Its a story replete with drama, the article says, and "even a little tenderness." 

The Compleat Database: DNA and Health

Much is said these days about recording family health information, and we know the benefit of providing this information to our family doctor. Many people are even taking DNA tests to better understand their health risks, a practice that is often debated. As genealogists, we are interested in every aspect of our ancestor's lives and are equally interested in our heritage, cultural and physical. Recording this information in the genealogical database is the subject of Judy Rosella Edwards' most recent article, "The Compleat Database: DNA and Health." The article explores the types of information we might want to record and how such information might be used.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Danny Boy

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without hearing at least one version of the "Danny Boy," a favorite among Irish and non-Irish alike. In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: Danny Boy," Jean Hibben explores the history of the song, including the perhaps unresolvable issue of the song's age, in addition to its origin, and the supposed meaning of its lyrics. What may be surprising to some is the multi-national history of this revered Irish anthem, which does nothing to reduce its charm.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Search Open-Access Text Archive from Live Roots

This online book project, established by Internet Archive, is similar to Google Books and allows you to view close to two million books online, or download a digitized version to your local computer. You'll find a quick link to the new Internet Archive Text Search at the bottom of Live Roots search results in the section labeled "Available Partner Services". This search, along with all of the other integrated real-time searches, allows you to expand your genealogy search beyond the Live Roots catalog.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Archives Preview added to Live Roots

A relative newcomer to the genealogy marketplace, has been aggregating a variety of vital record sources. Today, I added a search preview for the site, along with cataloging the various resources they have collected so far. There is currently no method for searching a specific resource, only record types (birth/marriage/death/etc). Last year, they launched an article feature called Expert Series -- a variety of well-respected genealogists have been contributing articles. All of the articles have also been cataloged, and I'll be tracking the feature for any new additions.

All Things Irish

Included here in honor of St. Patrick's Day, those interested in Irish genealogy may enjoy The The Small-Leaved Shamrock blog, selected by Family Tree Magzine as one of the top 5 heritage blogs. Focused on the author's personal family history, this blog links to others of the author's blogs, including the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture blog, of more general interest.

Beating the Search Engines and Inside "Who Do You Think You Are"

The ProGenealogist Blog this week, "Be Smarter Than a Search Engine," provides tips for combating the limitations of some search engines. It is hard sometimes to find just the right keyword; in many cases, you know the information should be there, but how to get to it is another question. And we'd all like to learn more about how to pull out those hidden bits and pieces we don't even know about.

As a side note, ProGenealogists in its March 3 blog revealed the company's involvement in the NBC production of "Who Do You Think You Are," and ProGenealogist CEO Natalie Cottrill appeared in the first episode with Sarah Jessica Parker. The blog offers a video of this first segment and indicates it will be posting "individual webpages for different episodes providing “behind-the-scene” insights that will better explain just how we found the clinching document or story that was presented in the show."

What I like about these webpages, covering two episodes, so far, is that it does provide some insight into the research process that can help others doing genealogy. And, if you're lucky, the show might touch on something relevant to your own genealogy -- maybe you had a Gold Rush ancestor and did not know "as many as ten people died for every mile traveled along the route."

Getting a Handle on Genetic Genealogy

The Genetic Genealogist Blog may be of interest to those who would like more information about the relationship of genetic testing and genealogy research. On his About page, the author explains the four types of genealogical DNA testing and his approach to the subject. The blog may be great place for keeping up with what's new in the field and what's being talked about. The blog this week compares the types of DNA testing done on a recent episode of the "Faces of America" program, currently airing on PBS. It's a chance, perhaps, to gain a greater understanding and know more about what's possible as this exciting new field expands.

Research Me, I'm Irish: Five Tips for Tracing Irish Ancestry

In her article, "Research Me, I'm Irish: Five Tips for Tracing Irish Ancestry," Rita Marshall gives some sound and practical advice for researching your Irish ancestors. Chief among her advice is, "Don't go to Ireland. . . . At least not yet." Like any other research, it's very hard to jump in the middle of something until you have found sufficient leads indicating you are researching in the right place. Ireland is especially difficult given the lack of early records. My own family has a line going back to Northern Ireland in the early 1700s. While the chances of documenting this immigrant ancestor in Ireland at that time period looks quite bleak, the article does give some tips on ways to narrow the field.

How to Test for DNA

Can taking a DNA test shed light on your family history? It's hard to generalize, but more and more they are finding that DNA studies can help extend the family tree and possibly shed light on long-standing family mysteries. Of course, you have to know a little about the types of DNA tests and what they can or cannot reveal, as well as who in your family would be the most likely candidate for taking a test. This week, in his article, "How to Test for DNA," Alan Smith examines the process of locating a reputable company and ease with with which a test can be taken.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is Alice in YOUR family tree?

It may not be such a stretch when you consider authors often base their characters on real people. The inspirations for the works of James Barrie and Lewis Carrroll just happen to be well known. With all the hype over Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland, which is certainly a far cry from Disney, prompted one enterprising genealogist trace the original Alice's family tree, according to an article on Oxford Mail, "Rose Hill woman's 'Liddell' bit of Alice in Wonderland." More or less out of the blue, an Oxford woman, Lisa Liddell, received a call telling her she was a cousin three times removed from the original Alice. According to the article Liddell had some prior knowledge of a supposed link to Alice, but it wasn't fresh on her mind. What fictional character would you like most to be related?

Document traces six generations back for some 200 colonial families

A "treasure trove" of colonial data documenting some 200 immigrants of Plymouth, Massachusetts and New Amseterdam (present day New York) has been discovered and is now being offered for sale in the form of eight, 2-foot by 3-foot charts, as reported on, "New Jersey ‘genealogical gold’ is available in Belvidere, Flemington." According to the article, "The data traces the families through six generations. In total, over 3,000 individuals, all related by blood or marriage, are included, providing many genealogical connections for current New Jersey residents. The material was compiled in 1978 by Joseph N. Kearney of the Roadmaps-Thru-History Association in Los Angeles." For those with colonial ancestry, this will be a delight. My own research goes back to New Utrecht, with an ancestor who arrived in 1657, was an early settler of New Utrecht and is said to have died in New Amsterdam. Tracing a line six generations back from 1657 would be something, indeed. The article gives a sampling of names but, alas, our name was not on the list.

Library of Michigan to Lose Genealogy and Federal Document Holdings

Sad to hear --  The Library of Michigan, transferred last year to the Michigan Department of Education and facing severe budget cuts is now forced to narrow its scope and lose its support for genealogy and federal documents, as reported on, "Library of Michigan, Facing Cuts, To Drop Genealogy and Federal Documents." The library is "committed" to finding good stewards, but some are worried the move will limit access, if nothing more than owing to space limitations.

"While most state libraries have genealogy collections, non-state collections are more rare, and Robertson described Michigan’s as one of the top ten in the country, with more than 44,000 volumes of book materials and close to 100,000 volumes of microform."

I have a personal affection for Michigan records. In doing one branch of our family line, I was delighted by the extent of Michigan records available on FamilySearch Labs. While it certainly cannot substitute for a library full of records, it's a good place to start.

The Compleat Database: Non-traditional Relationships

Accurately identifying relationships in genealogy can be tricky business. In her article, "The Compleat Database: Non-traditional Relationships," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the issue of tracking such relationships in the genealogy database. Incorrectly identifying a relationship can lead a researcher down the wrong path, so it is important to cautious in the analysis and make no assumptions.  It is also important to make note of non-traditional relationships in the notes section, if your genealogy database does not provide a specific place.

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Weaponry Wording, Part 2

In her second article on the subject, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles:Weaponry Wordings, Part 2," Jean Hibben presents the origin for a lot of the very pithy words in our vocabulary. Seems the words of weaponry pack a powerful punch, literally and figuratively.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Finding Relatives and Stories Lost in WWII

In her article, "Finding Relatives and Stories Lost in WWII," Rita Marshall discusses two free services that can be used to locate relatives who disappeared during the war, including those in concentration camp prisoners, forced laborers, or displaced persons. And where the family is known and accounted for, these resources can also help add to or fill in the blank spots in history. As the article notes, there is increasing interest in this information "from second and third generations that would like to learn more about their own roots."

What is DNA from a Genealogical Perspective, Part II

DNA science is replete with a lot of terms, some of them almost unpronounceable, so understanding their meaning and relationship is not a given. In his article, "What is DNA from a Genealogical Perspective, Part II," Alan Smith provides some clarification. And while the genetic function of the DNA "parts" is important and interesting, the article makes the point that genealogists are primarily concerned with the hereditary aspect of DNA and what we can hope to learn from DNA testing that will advance our research.

Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Blogs may help navigate the seas

Earlier this week Family Tree Magazine announced its list of the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. Everyone tends to follow a few favorite blogs -- there are way too many to read them all. But if you'd to expand your horizons or don't know which blogs to read, the top 40 categories may give you a place to start. Some have more eye-appeal and some make it easy to identify and navigate to items of interest. One such item caught my eye on the top-rated blog in the All-Around category, Creative Genes. I have been looking for city directories in New York City circa 1907-1910, so the City Directories link caught my eye. I found the blog offers a series of articles on city directories. While I've not read all articles in the series, and don't expect to find the answer to my specific question, the general information provided will, no doubt, be useful for anyone researching city directories. I remember in my early years of researching (pre-Internet), I was avoided city directories, thinking the field to vast an undertaking. The Internet has made the task less intimidating and more hopeful. I have since found some good information in city directories, and they are absolutely priceless for pinpointing a person in time and place . . . if one exists for your particular time and place. I'm not finding much encouragement for Manhattan city directories for my time period, but the search continues. So if you don't have a favorite set of genealogy blogs, you might use this year's top 40 list and take one or two a week to browse. 

Another another approach to writing family history

From the Idaho Press-Tribune, "Cook up your family history stew," presents an approach to writing your family history, comparing it making a good stew. While you do have to wade through the analogy a bit to get to the concrete suggestions, it may be a good way to make the task less forbidding. And for those who have an aversion to writing, the article suggests that just making notes and putting them in order "becomes a valuable memorial to your family's heritage." This may be especially valuable to those who are working with very reluctant family members -- even a little bit of information can be worth much.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Review of the Basics for Beginning Researchers

Published earlier this month on, here is a nice overview for beginning researchers on how to get started on family history.  The article, "Genealogy 101: How can I research my family's roots?" provides some good points, like, "Get out of the house," "Don't disregard anything you find," and Trust, but verify." In fact, it might even be a good refresher for those of us who have been doing this awhile.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Compleat Genealogy Database: Compleat Names

Judy Rosella Edwards' last article on names emphasized the importance of documenting where and how name information was obtained, indicating most genealogy software databases have a place for recording this documentation. In this week's article, "The Compleat Genealogy Database: Compleat Names," the author suggests notating all names by which a person may have been known, including nicknames, aliases, and other names. The article points out the accuracy of a person's birth name is key and suggests avoiding the tendency to assign a spouse's surname when the person's birth name is unknown, which can be highly misleading to others. It stands to reason any extra information that can be provided can help to distinguish one person from another, even within families.

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2

In her last article on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" Jean Hibben presented lyric variations on the original melody written by William Steffe, lyrics that were often crude, prompting Julia Ward Howe to create her more inspirational tribute.  Continuing the story, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 2," the author explores the variations in the Howe version, which involves mostly its verses relating to the Civil War. One variation, which changes the lyrics entirely, pays tribute to the women behind the battle lines.

Useful update on researching immigration records

A recent column on, "Why are genealogists fascinated with our immigrant records and why are they so hard to find?" reviews the methods and resources for researching immigration records. One important point made is that one cannot typically go right to the country of origin and dig into the records, without first narrowing the field place within the country, information usually derived from more recent records and tracing back. The article provides a nice update on researching immigration records and includes some useful links. 

Political Power -- Is there a gene for that?

No doubt you've heard about the "six degrees of separation" concept. Well, I'm not sure by how many "degrees," but it turns out, according the the research of a young girl from Salinas, California, that all U. S. presidents except one are related. So, in the future, we need not be so surprised to hear this president or that is related to his (or her) diametrically opposite political rival, suggesting, perhaps, our political persuasion is not mapped on the genome. Thus, it holds true once again, we are all more alike than we are different. To see what she did and how she came to her conclusions, you can see the article, "Local student finds all but one U.S. presidents are related," in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Australian National Archives hosts nation-wide genealogy event

If you live in Australia and have ever wanted to know more about your family tree, here's your chance. An article on Typeboard, "Shake Your Family Tree Day, 23 Feb 2010 – Discover Your Australian Heritage," reports, To encourage more Australians to find out about their family ancestors, the Australian National Archives is hosting a Shake Your Family Tree Day event in each of their capital city offices." This is a good thing, bringing the opportunity a little closer to your doorstep. 

This event will offer a range of activities including talks, preservation workshops, demonstrations and introductory research training to find out more about your family history. With expert family historians on hand, visitors will learn how to locate treasures such as letters, photographs, service records, immigration and citizenship applications, employment records, copyright registrations and other government records.

“If members of your family migrated here in the 20th century, served in the defence forces, or worked for, or had any other dealings with, the Australian Government, we’re likely to have something to interest you,” the article says.

The event will be held on the 23rd of February 2010, from 9:30am to 4pm – For more information on the event and locations visit the National Archives website.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Live Roots Genealogy Search Provider Now Available

Would you like to be able to search Live Roots regardless of where you may have browsed to on the Internet? You're probably familiar with that small search box in the upper right corner of your browser; well that's called the Search Provider box, and additional search engines can be added. Yesterday, I created the XML file necessary to add Live Roots to that search box area. Click here to add the Live Roots search provider. Once added, you can select Live Roots and initiate a search at any time, from anywhere!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Ten Questions of the 2010 Census: What They're Asking and Why

Yes, it's time once again for the U. S. Census. Some people have a real aversion to answering census questions, and that has been true historically. Of course, for genealogists, the census past is often the cornerstone of their research. This week, in her article, "The Ten Questions of the 2010 Census: What They're Asking and Why," Rita Marshall takes a look at the 2010 census and ponders some important questions. This year's census is abbreviated, to say the least, which begs the question, what will that mean to researchers 72 years hence (when this census goes public), who will be missing key information we have come to rely on so heavily. 

Not to worry. We live in the information age. It has been said that todays' generation is the most documented generation in history. The federal government itself has enough social programs and registrations to document us cradle to grave and everything in between, and in some cases, in utero and beyond the grave, all placed into databases and searchable. Add to that the wonders of modern technology benefiting the individual, literally thousands of digital photos, movies, and voice files on the home computer; blogs for all occasions; and the proliferation of social networks revealing way too much about too many people. The data is out out there. As the author says, "Will we even still need the census as a genealogical tool by 2082?" 

But wait . . .  we may live in the information age but it's also an age of rapid change -- can these records be preserved over the decades when every 18 months or so a new technology makes the old one obsolete. Backing up your data in an age of rapid change. It's something to consider . . . sooner rather than later.

WorldCat -- A Mighty Kitty of Information!

Recently, in our Genealogy Guide, we gave a brief introduction to WorldCat, an international online library catalog. This week, our resident librarian, Larry Naukam expounds on the subject, telling us what WorldCat is and what it is not, "WorldCat - A Mighty Kitty of Information." We can more effectively use the resources and tools available to us when we understand their limitations as well as their benefits. For example, as extensive as it is, WorldCat does not catalog the holdings of the LDS Family History Library. WorldCat is a cooperative and libraries must opt in -- the Family History Library is not a member of the cooperative. Of course, the Family History Library maintains is own online catalog, so nothing is lost. The article identifies other reasons a legitimate library item might not show up in WorldCat. One nice benefit of WorldCat is that it does "point to" online digitized materials held by its member libraries (provided they have been cataloged); although it may not provide a live link to that resource, it can lead you the repository where the resource is held. As the author points out, WorldCat is a supplement to other online genealogical resources -- it does not replace them.

Many records shed light on African-American genealogy

A recent article on, "Many records available that can shed light on African-Americans' genealogy," provides a good review of African-American resources, especially for the beginning researcher. The article points out the value of the 1870 Census the first in which slave families are listed by name -- the first census recorded after the Civil War and emancipation. The article gives encouragement also for finding information pre-1870 and suggests a number of resources, including census slaves schedules and Freedmen's Bureau records, among other, perhaps lesser known resources, recording various slave transactions, birth, deaths, etc.

Resource includes Holocaust documents

A recent article on Information Today, "EBSCO Publishing and Footnote Expand Genealogy and Historical Document Resources," highlights the release of new document archives on, including the Footnote Holocaust Archives created in partnership with the National Archives and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. As reported, the database presents records pertaining to the seizure of Jews' assets by the Nazis during the Holocaust, as well as German property subsequently subject to restitution.The archive ncludes more than 600 stories of individual victims and survivors. Users can searchby name or browse the entire collection. is subscription site, but does offer a 7-day free trial to first time users.