Friday, January 29, 2010

LiveRoots in the news

Our own Genealogy Today, LiveRoots website received honorable mention recently is an article on NewsOK, by Sharon Burns, "Site may help people break through walls." 

"Family historians and genealogists who hit walls searching for information about ancestors should try Live Roots at, a genealogy search engine. . . . The project, under development by D’Addezio and Genealogy Today, offers access to one-of-a-kind family history files working in sync with genealogy providers and files collected by D’Addezio."

As noted, the December/January edition of Internet Genealogy features an article by Tony Bandy, who discusses this site. 

For a first-hand look, come visit the LiveRoots website.

Find more Surnames... phonetically speaking, that is,

Happy New Year, everyone. 2010 is off to a great start, as more genealogical resources continue to be added to the Live Roots catalog every week. Today, I rewrote the Surname Results section of the search engine to be more efficient and to expand upon the phonetic algorithm used to display alternate spellings of the surnames you searched for. Prior to this update, the search engine only offered a single alternative per surname, however, now the system will attempt to offer multiple. This is especially helpful when searching through older documents where phonetic spellings of names were more common.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be A Census Taker?

If you've ever wondered what it was like to be a census taker, here's your chance. The U. S. Census Bureau is hiring for the 2010 census year. In her article, "Do you have what it takes to be a census taker?" Rita Marshall explores the opportunity. As the article states, "We've admired their dedication and been exasperated by their penmanship,"  here is the chance, literally, to walk a mile in his moccasins. Nothing like a little first-hand experience to increase our understanding and appreciation.

Google Newspaper Archive

Another resource highlighted this week on is Google's online newspaper archive. As noted, "Google is digitizing periodicals, including newspapers, to create a global library. The company is doing this by accessing microfilm of the periodicals." The article points out that microfilm of The Dispatch goes back to 1889 and those early editions are available through Google, suggesting the scope of the archive. The project was launched back in 2008 and is a work in progress. To learn more, see "Bringing history online one newspaper at a time."

Tips using the Find-a-Grave website

This seems to be a week for reviewing good resources. A nice article on,"Find A Grave can shorten the search,"  by Sharon Tate Moody points out the benefits of the Find-a-Grave website, with the caveat that nothing takes the place of visiting ancestor graves personally and making that "spiritual connection." The article provides some tips for a successful search. It also observes the site's focus on celebrity grave sites, while distracting (if not downright annoying) to  genealogists, is the very reason the site exists at all, so we can be a little tolerant. The site is definitely worth checking -- I've personally found burial information and photos it would take me a long time to find otherwise.

How Would DNA Help My Research

In his article, "How Would DNA Help My Research," Alan Smith takes a look at DNA testing and how it might be used in genealogy. The author makes the point that DNA testing is supplemental to the more traditional genealogical methods, which is good to remember. As the article states, "If any disputes arrive over the history of a family, it will most likely be the offering of an original document which will end the debate." 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1

Which came first the chicken or the egg? It's an old joke, and you might find differences of opinion as to which is the correct answer. You might also get a different opinion if you asked the same question of two very old, yet familiar songs: which came first, "John Brown's Body" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"? In her article, "Songs of Yesterday: Glory, Hallelujah! Part 1," Jean Hibben answers the question. Perhaps an even more intriguing question is, which John Brown was the subject of the original lyrics. We think we know, but do we? All this and the story of how the lyrics changed . . . and why, is presented, along with the author performing the song.

Patronymics and Other Naming Patterns

It's always good to be reminded of the naming conventions practiced in various countries. For beginning  researchers, the information may be all new, and for experienced researchers, there might be something yet to learn. In her article, "Patronymics and Other Naming Patterns," Melissa Slate points out certain conventions and practices that might be new to some. For example, the simple addition of "s" or "es" to indicate the "son of." So rather than the son of Peter being given the surname Peterson or Petersen, as is familiar, the surname might be Peters, instead. So if you've ever wondered how the name Williams or Davis came about, this might be a clue. Naming patterns and practices, the consistencies and inconsistencies, are at once complex, challenging (to say the least), and fascinating. For even more perspective, you may wish to review some the archive links included in this week's newsletter. Other articles on the subject can be found by doing a keyword search at the top left of this page.

GenealogyBank - African-American newspaper collection

In a press release today, GenealogyBank, a leading online provider of newspapers for family history research, announced it will be adding over 280 fully-searchable African-American newspapers with coverage from 1827 to 1999.  GenealogyBank released the first 61 newspapers in this new series earlier this month, including coverage from 20 states.

“These newspapers are packed with genealogical and historical details of the African-American experience you simply can’t find in other online sources,” says Tom Kemp, NewsBank’s Director of Genealogy. “Making this robust and often rare content available for everyone to use helps all Americans discover the inspiring stories of our forefathers who paved the way for a better, more diverse America.”

For more information see GenealogyBank, African-American Newspapers 1827-1999.

When it comes to leaving no stone unturned in your genealogical quest, GenealogyBank, as well as other historical newspaper collections, are virtual treasures troves of information. Many are available online and many are subscription based but some such as the Utah Digital Newspapers are free of charge. One good resource for locating historic newspapers online is Penn Libraries' Historical Newspapers Online.

Louisiana Digital Library - Citizens Invited to Participate

Genealogists are always happy to hear about new document collections being digitized and made available online, especially those we can access without charge. A recent article on, "Digitization project aiming to preserve Louisiana's history," highlights the Louisiana Digital Library (LDL) collection, some "84,000 digital materials about Louisiana's history, people and places." Anyone can view items by visiting the LDL website.

What's unique about this project is that northeastern Louisiana citizens (and probably others with something to contribute) are invited to participate. The article states, 

"The equipment used in this project is also available to scan and save digital images of photographs and manuscripts belonging to northeastern Louisiana citizens.

What the project is interested in are items from the late 1800s and early 1900s that depict the following, home and family life, agriculture such as farming, ranching and timber, schools, churches and baptisms, sporting events, work and leisure activities, libraries, architecture and landmarks, transportation and natural disasters such as floods."

The scanning service is being made available through local libraries. The article provides information on who to contact, and assures participants that original materials will remain with the owner. "Your items will be scanned and handed back to you within moments," the article said.

Those with Louisiana ancestry, no doubt, will watch this collection with interest.

A window to the past -- local area records

According to an article published recently on, "A window to the past," the Rutherford County Archives "holds the community's history" through its preservation of county government records, enabling people to do everything from legal work to genealogy research. Although focused on one Tennessee county, this story carries a broader message: be sure examine holdings at the local level to see what information is available. Buried treasure relating to your ancestors may be out there just waiting to be discovered, as Rutherford County archivist John Lodi explains.

"The records record history, so when it was times of enslavement, we have those records. When it was times of antebellum plantations, Old South, we have those records. We can document the civil rights movement through our records. So we definitely keep up with the social history of Rutherford County and Murfreesboro. It's very fascinating."

While not everything a locality holds is digitized, a multitude of potentially valuable materials are available -- the task is finding out what records are available and how to access them. Most counties, libraries, and archives have websites . . . and check back often. Also, don't forget local genealogy societies, which make it their business to know the local area and can be very helpful.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"A little-known genealogy service"

This may be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for those researching immigrant ancestors. An article today in the Los Angeles Times, "A government genealogy service lets family history leap off the page," provides a case in point and explains a fairly recent program [2008] that gives researchers more immediate access to immigration records, which may include an entire body of documents.

According to the article, "The documents came from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs a little-known genealogy service for relatives wanting to learn more about their family history. . . . In the past, genealogy researchers had to file document requests under the Freedom of Information Act and sometimes waited years for a response.

Under the genealogy program, which started in 2008, requests are usually completed within 90 days. For $20, the government will run a search of the name, as long as the person is deceased. If there are records available, the government charges additional fees for the files. In fiscal year 2009, more than 5,300 requests were made, fewer than expected. In addition to relatives, historians or researchers can also request files.

"It will be a treasure chest for genealogists," said Southern California Genealogical Society President Pam Wiedenbeck. "Oftentimes these files will have information on brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles that will help connect the dots."

For experienced genealogists, the files may open the doors to even more research, perhaps leading people to exact hometowns in their ancestors' native countries. And for those new to genealogy, they may be just the beginning. "For every question you answer you come up with two or three more," Wiedenbeck said."

For more information about the program, check out

Friday, January 15, 2010

Is It Time For Overseas Help? Working With a Foreign Researcher

Many of us do not have the resources or the particular expertise required to take our research abroad. Rita Marshall in her article, "Is It Time For Overseas Help? Working With a Foreign Researcher," explores the benefits of hiring and working with an overseas professional, as well as how to locate a competent researcher. Just as we are familiar with the resources in our own country, professionals in a foreign country are adept with their country's resources -- this can save you time and money, overall. Even so, as the article points out, "it's hard to know how an international genealogist will work out until he or she is tested," so it's best to start out small. Whether working with a professional locally or internationally, the basic rules apply: be prepared and communicate, communicate, communicate.

How to Hire a Genealogist

Even the most avid and practiced researcher may find need of professional help. In her article, "How to Hire a Genealogist," Judy Rosella Edwards offers some direction for a successful relationship. As a professional, the author helps us understand what the client can expect from the professional and, almost more importantly, what the professional needs from the client in order to provide the greatest and most efficient service. Preparedness and communication is key.

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

As noted in Broomfield Enterprise genealogy column, it's time once again for the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Conference, this year in Salt Lake City. The article, "Need a reason to attend NGS event? Here`s 10," offers ten good reasons to attend the event. One of the biggest benefits to the Salt Lake City location is, of course, the Conference proximity to the LDS Family History Library. The NGA, organized in 1903 is over one-hundred years old. An interesting article in PDF format, "The National Genealogical Society: A Look At Its First 100 Years," shows how the Society has evolved, as has the genealogical community itself. Researchers might also be interested in the very compelling video, "Paths to Your Past," available on the NGS website. Professionals and non-professionals alike express the heart the the genealogist.

St. Vitus Dance, say what?

A special article to the Ashville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times, "You may have had 'quinsy' and not even known it," discusses a variety of outdated medical terms. The article explores milk sickness, camp fever, and St. Vitus Dance, among others. Aside from being informational and sometimes entertaining, knowledge of these more archaic terms can help researchers when they come upon unfamiliar terminology in family lore or on death certificates. Unfortunately, the articles on this site are available for a limited time. This particular article is a continuation of the December 7 article that has since been archived and requires a small fee for access ("If your g-grandma died of apoplexy what really killed her"), So if you are interested, you might want to use the "Print this page" link on the site and save this article for future reference. Of course, many lists of archaic medical terms --without the commentary -- are available on the Web, a good list can be found on the Genealogy Quest website.

"Some of it's not too proud to be told."

An article on, "Skeletons in your closet: Exploring the dark side of genealogy," revisits one of the more intriguing subjects of family history, the secrets. The article makes the point that "In our ancestors' times it was a lot easier for people to disappear if they ran into problems, and it was easier to cover up most scandals. . . . We are now more tolerant and forgiving of scandalous behaviour and more interested than ever in the details." As my grandmother liked to say of our own family history, "Some of it's not too proud to be told."

Of course, some family secrets are darker than others.

Along those lines, a couple of websites that might be of interest include, Black Sheep Ancestors and the International Black Sheep Society. This Society was featured back in 2007  in Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, with link to an article entitled "Black sheep, good sheep," by Patrick White. You might also want to check out Genealogy Today's "Ancestral Criminal Records," which offers not only a collection of criminal mug shots and wanted posters, but links to other resources that might be of interest.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Working on the Railroad

What do railroads and baseball have in common? The "doubleheader." In her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Working on the Railroad," Jean Hibben examines everyday terms derived from the railroad.. What exactly does it mean to be "railroaded" or to "ride the gravy train? Learning more about the history of words may add a little power to the punch our use of the language.

Allen County Public Library and PERSI

The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Ft. Wayne, Indiana is the second largerst genealogy library in the county. One of the library's most popular and widely used resources is its Periodical Source Index (PERSI), the "largest subject index to genealogical and historical articles in the world." In her article, "Allen County Public Library and PERSI," Cindy Drage explores the benefits of the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), with some tips on conducting a successful search.

How to interpret marriage records

A recent article in the TribStar genealogy column by Tamie Dehler, "Marriage records are among the most sought documents," provides some insightful information on researching and interpreting marriage records. The article identifies various types of marriage records and helps clarify what different records mean and how they can be used to extend the family tree. A good article.

American celebrities explore their family histories

A new PBS series, Faces of America, will premier in February, featuring celebrities exploring their family trees. Hosted by Henry Lewis Gates Jr, "building on the success of his series African American Lives . . . and African Amberican Lives 2" explores the family histories of 12 renowned Americans. The series airs Wednesdays, February 10-March 3, 2010, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on PBS. 

Researching the history of your house

An article this week in The Independent, "The history of your house: Properties with pedigree," explores the benefits of compiling a house history. "Whether you live in a Georgian townhouse, a rambling country pile or a simple city flat, your home may tell a fascinating story." The article suggests such a history may make the perfect gift for someone you care about. 

I have long been interested in attempting a house history of a home I lived in as a child, an old brownstone duplex owned by my grandparents, an inquiry, I think, that could provide me with some important dates. I expect the research to be a challenge as the home has since been torn down and replaced by a college complex. As the article says, "be prepared to spend hours trawling through old records, books and websites." And even if the home is not one you've grown up in, but recently acquired, the history of an older home can be enchanting at best but, like all genealogy, be prepared for some surprises.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Annie Moore Story -- The Saga Continues

Today, January 1 is the 118th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island. In a recent article, "Photos of Annie Moore, First Ellis Island immigrant: Help Solve History Mystery," noted genealogist Megan Smolenyak recounts the Annie Moore story and its latest photo mystery. Annie Moore was the first immigrant to pass through the gates of Ellis Island. The article is particularly interesting explaining the twists and turns in identifying the true Annie Moore, with Ms. Smolenyak herself at the heart of the story. The article also provides a link to the 2006 New York Times article, detailing Annie's story.

The Compleat Genealogy Database: Religious Affiliations

In a new series, Judy Rosella Edwards encourages researchers to examine the data in their database with the aim of filling in the blanks and creating a truly complete record. The first article, "The Compleat Genealogy Database: Religion Affiliation," explains the objectives and discusses the benefits of exploring religious affiliations. One point made in this first article, relative to fine-tuning your data is to "be precise about place of death." If a person lived in one place but died in another, that is an important distinction to make, lest the place of death send someone off in a wrong direction looking for records. The devil is in the detail.

As a side note, those wondering at the use of the word "compleat" may interested in reading the article, "Compleat vs. Complete." At one time thought to be an archaic spelling of the word "complete," the word has seen a revival in modern times to indicate the quintessential, "the perfect example of class or quality."

Sound Practices That May Be Overlooked

The first of the year is typically a point of new beginnings. In his article, "Sound Practices That May Be Overlooked," Larry Naukam offers some tips for reaffirming sound genealogical practices. One important tip is to be aware of what the author calls a "sense checker" in your genealogy software -- a feature that will scan your data and report various types of errors, including key discrepancies such as birth or death dates that do not correspond. This kind of check is good at finding accidental as well as careless errors in the data, our own and that acquired from others. Whatever name it goes by, this is a good feature to be aware of and to use. This and other tips will help get your research off to a good start this year.

Hamilton County, Ohio Probate Records Online

It's always good news when new documents come online, especially those at the local level, as opposed to online subscription services. A recent article, "Documents -- some from 1791 -- now online," on reports that over 1 million Hamilton County, Ohio documents are now available online from the Probate Court. "These are probably some of the oldest records in the state," Probate Court Judge James Cissell said. "These records are part of history." 

The newly available documents, some 219 years old, include birth, death, marriage, estate, naturalization and other records, the article said. To see what's available, see the Hamilton County Probate Court Archived Records search page.