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!