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.

Time to revisit the SSDI?

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a staple for U. S. genealogy, post-1935. A recent article in the Genealogy column on, "Don't forget to revisit the Social Security Death Index", provides a good review of the SSDI, which is frequently updated. Included are some important points to remember; for example, not everyone who died after 1935 is listed in the SSDI -- the article tells you why. Also, you will want to remember that the SSDI lists a person's name at the time of death. As genealogists, we are accustomed to searching for our female ancestors by their maiden name, and without really thinking might enter a woman's maiden name rather than her actual name at time of death. Another really useful detail noted in the article, is that Social Security numbers starting with 700 and 728 indicate someone receiving a railroad retirement, which can to search for railroad records. Finally, the article provides a number of caveats and tips about using the SSDI that will help you better interpret information found. And one point I might make about the SSDI -- it is a secondary source record. There are errors. My own mother's death date in in error on the SSDI, even though a death certificate was submitted as verification of her death. Well . . . even the death certificate can be in error. On my mother's death certificate, she is listed as having completed 12 years of education, which is not the case. Being the informant on her death record, I have no idea where that information came from. So it pays to pay attention.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Live Roots Adds Access to FamilySearch Record Search Results

You can now view results from the Record Search pilot from within the Live Roots search experience. The FamilySearch Record Search pilot include millions of indexed records, and is expanding each month. When you perform a search in Live Roots, you will see a link to the FamilySearch Record Search feature in the "Available Partner Services" section. You also have the ability to search a specific collection within the Record Search pilot from the corresponding resource page. Resources from the pilot are cataloged in Live Roots as soon as they are posted online.

Friday, February 5, 2010

African-American DNA research highligthed

February is Black HIstory Month, and it is no secret to African-Americans with a heritage dating back to the slave era that genealogy research is challenging, at best. A recent article on, "Family Trees: African-Americans find it difficult to trace history," outlines some of the main issues, and highlights DNA research, perhaps, of the greatest breakthroughs for African-Americans. For more on the subject, see author's complete interview with Dr. Rick Kittles, Scientific Director of African Ancestry, at African-Ancestry, Inc. and Associate Professor, The University of Chicago, Department of Medicine.

A couple of resources that might be of interest to researchers include, African Heritage Project and African-American Genealogy Blogs.

Brief refresher of online genealogy resources

A recent article on, "Genealogy: Internet handy for genealogy research," by Tamie Dehler, provides a nice little refresher on some very useful, free online genealogy resources, with some emphasis on land records, but touching on vital records, as well.

The Compleat Genealogy Database: Names

Genealogists are always on a quest for names, and previous articles have explored various aspects of naming. This week's article from Judy Rosella Edwards, "The Compleat Genealogy Database: Names," suggests we take an even closer look at names in the genealogy database and make sure we are recording and interpreting them correctly. The article also encourages us, once again, to be very careful in making assumptions, names can be tricky. Citing the source of how we know a particular name to be true and accurate is an important to building a "compleat" database and, important for helping us stay on the right track in our research.

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Weaponry Wording, Part 1

In this month's article, Lexicon of Lost Lifestyles: Weaponry Wording, Part 1, Jean Hibben explores terms and phrases handed down from weapons of war. As the author points out, language derived from the use of guns is so common, it even "creeps into the vocabulary of the most sincere pacifist." And that's how it is -- words spill off the tongue without much thought to their origin, but knowing the origin helps us make sense of the language and clarify meanings, to say nothing of helping us "mean what we say and say what we mean."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Who Do You Think You Are" - American Style

The "Who Do Think You Are" website launched today, setting the stage for the show's premiere. The American version of the popular British family history TV series, will feature seven celebrities as they journey back in time to discover more about their ancestors. Lisa Kudrow (Friends), the show's executive producer, will be featured, along with Sarah Jessica Parker, Spike Lee, Matthew Broderick, Susan Sarandon, Emmitt Smith, and Brooke Shields. The program is a partnership between NBC and Tune in to NBC on Fridays at 8 PM Eastern (7 PM Central), beginning March 5. The show has become almost an institution in the UK, generating an overwhelming interest among the general public to know more about their own ancestry -- not a bad thing. Even if you're not a celebrity aficionado, and I am not, the show is sure to be of interest to family history researchers. See a preview of the new series.