Sat, 8 August 2015
You know me, I love looking outside the genealogy box to discover strategies and inspirational stories that can help us be better family historians. In today’s episode, we’re heading back to World War II, and event that in some way touched the lives of every genealogist’s family, and we’re going to hear an incredible tale deception while at the same time gather research strategies, interview techniques, and compelling story telling methods that I know you’ll love and be able to apply to your own family history.
This episode is brought to you by our wonderful sponsors:
In the summer of 1944, a handpicked group of young GIs landed in France to conduct a secret mission. They were to create an elaborate façade of military might for an audience, the German army. These 1100 men had one goal: to fool the enemy into believing they were an American army thousands strong, and draw their attention away from the actual fighting troops. Get ready to go behind the curtain of Twenty-third Headquarters Special Troops known as the Ghost Army with my special guest Rick Beyer, author of the book The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery
Rick Beyer, is not only a best-selling author, but he’s also an award-winning filmmaker, and popular speaker. He wrote and directed the acclaimed documentary film Ghost Army, which premiered on PBS in 2013, and is currently available here.
Please click images below for the book or DVD. Thank you for using our links to Amazon - you are helping us produce the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.
Watch the trailer for The Ghost Army:
Rick explains the three divisions of the Ghost Army, and the deception they were responsible for. Radio, Visual:
(Photo above: Dummy M4 Sherman Tank of the type used by the Ghost Army. 93 pounds fully inflated. Credit: National Archives)
(Photo above: Uncovering the Speakers of a Sonic Half-Track. Credit: National Archives)
We discuss the power of imagination and how these brave soldiers took advantage of that to defeat the enemy.
Rick shares a story featured both in the book and the documentary film The Ghost Army where some men in France spotted some pretty bizarre things.
(Photo above: The Americans are very strong by Arthur Shilstone. Credit: Arthur Shilstone)
Then Rick takes us behind the scenes of the book to explore research strategies and in particular, effective interviewing techniques.
(Photo above: Rick Beyer interviewing Ghost Army Veteran Jack McGlynn in 2007. Credit: Rick Beyer)
The book is compelling on many levels: the storytelling, the integration of all the art, photos and documents, and fantastic catchy chapter titles that make you want to read, and Rick shares the secret behind his success, particularly those catch chapter titles!
(Photo above: "Near Metz" by Sgt. George Vander Sluis, 603rd Camouflage Engineers, 1944. Credit: Jeff Vander Sluis)
Telling family history stories in a way that captivates non-genealogists can be a tough job. Rick shares his tips for telling great stories, particularly in a book format.
(Photo above: Photo montage featuring some of the eleven hundred men of the Ghost Army. From the book The Ghost Army of World War II. Credit: Photos contributed by William Sayles, Dick Syracuse, Nathaniel Dahl, Jack McGlynn, Bob Boyajian)
A Very Special Gem: A Plate of Peas by Rick Beyer
Visit Rick at Rickbeyer.net
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"In the end, we may search with our computers, but we never want to stop searching with our hearts." Lisa Louise Cooke
Fri, 10 July 2015
Today, we’re turning back the clock to talk about two of my favorite eras, the 1950s and—well, the second one is a surprise. I’ll tell you later in the show when I introduce the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title!
But first, we’ll talk a little news—from a new Google innovation to two new record collections online that fill in a hole in American documentary history. I’ll read some mail from YOU about the new Ancestry site and family history blogging.
Wouldn’t it be great if your smartphone alerted if you left your keys or eyeglasses behind when leaving the house? Google is working on it, based on a recent patent it filed.
The patent describes a device that uses short-range wireless technology to link your smartphone with other must-have items like your wallet, keys or glasses. The idea is that if you leave a location with one item, but leave other items behind, an alarm will go off.
Here’s a drawing from the patent. In one way, it makes me think that Google is taking its Alerts out of cyberspace and right into our daily lives to help them run more smoothly.
Do you use Google Alerts? Setting them up lets me find out about new content online as it becomes available—24/7—relating to my favorite keyword searches. I use Google Alerts to automate my online genealogy searches and follow other favorite topics.
You can learn more about Google Alerts AND how to search for patents like the one I was just talking about—for household items and inventions that shaped our relatives’ lives—in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
In last month’s podcast, I mentioned the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors Database in response to a question from a listener who was looking for a good resource for Civil War sailors. Unfortunately, as I stressed in the blog post, the percentage of sailors included is still fairly low in that database. So I was pleased to see a new collection on Fold3 recently: U.S. NAVY SURVIVORS. Here’s a link to a post about it.
Nearly 2 million records in this collection come from case files of approved pension applications between 1861 and 1910, so they include Civil War survivors and later Navy veterans until just before World War I. I love seeing all these new record collections that appear online that, ever so gradually, fill in the gaps to help us find our ancestors! At Genealogy Gems we blog about new record collections online every Friday—watch for those on our blog!
Finally, there’s another record set coming online that will just be HUGE for those researching African-American ancestors. Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed!
Anyone with African-American roots or who has ANY Southern ancestors should know about these. The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. Destitute whites were also helped. For several years the Freedmen’s Bureau created marriage records, labor contracts, and other records of families and their military service, poverty, property, health and education. The richest documents are the field office records of each state. (Here’s a link to a great article from the National Archives about these records.)
A few field office records are already transcribed or indexed; you can find links at the Freedmen’s Bureau Online. Now FamilySearch and other national partners have issued a call to action for the genealogy community to help finish indexing them all—an estimated 1.5 million records—within the coming year. A press release says the “records, histories and stories will be available on DiscoverFreedmen.org. Additionally, the records will be showcased in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and expected to open in late 2016.”
Recently I heard from Patty, who says, “Not long ago I listened to the podcast in which you encouraged people to send the links to their genealogy blogs, and after seeing this week's newsletter, I thought I finally would.”
You’re welcome, Patty, and I have to say, I hear from SO many people about the power of blogging your family history. Most people start because they’re just bursting to share their family history finds, and they want to do it in the small bite-size pieces that work so well on a blog. Many of them also hope to connect with other descendants who may stumble across their blogs and contact them. And you know, it really does happen!
If you’re ready to start blogging your family history—or to get re-inspired and get BACK to it—I recommend you listen to my how-to series on the FREE Family History Made Easy Podcast or watch my YouTube channel version.
Finally, we continue to hear feedback on the new Ancestry site. On the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Cynthia told us, “I absolutely love it! At first I was confused, but took the time to figure out how to find what I wanted, add new facts, photos, etc. It was a challenge and now I will never go back to the old way.” Also on Facebook, Paris told us she misses the “show how we’re related” feature with its icon, and Ken misses now having the family group view.
Nora also wrote in with more detailed comments on her three favorite features. In short they are:
That when you are given the option to accept hints, you now have yes, no AND MAYBE options. (And I agree—that’s so much more practical to have a MAYBE option.)
She loves the Lifestory view, especially since it gives the option of removing historical events you don’t want to include from an ancestor’s timeline.
She finds it easier to merge facts about the same life event when reported by multiple sources.
Nora even shares step-by-step tips for how she merges facts on the new site. Here’s a link to her full comments, along with helpful screen shots.
A third piece of mail comes from Carol in St. Louis, Missouri. She was frustrated that she couldn’t read my entire email newsletter. “Would love to know what you are saying,” she says. But my newsletter email doesn’t fit in her email window. She says, “I don’t want to toggle to the right to see the end of each line and then have to toggle back.”
I don’t blame her! That’s annoying. The good news is that anyone who has trouble with my emails not fitting in their viewers can fix it pretty easily.
Email sizing is related to your computer’s screen resolution setting and a variety of other variables. It’s different for everyone. In cases where it doesn’t come through to your email account right, we provide a link at the top of the email that you can simply click to view the email on a new web browser tab fitted to the page.
To get the free Genealogy Gems email newsletter, just sign up in the box in the upper right-hand corner on the Genealogy Gems home page. We don’t share your email address with anyone else and you get a free e-book of Google tips for genealogy just for signing up.
Sunny and I discuss her digital backup plan (or lack thereof!) My solution for her: www.Backblaze.com/Lisa
GEM: Find Your Family History in the 1950s
What comes to mind when I say these words? Sock hops. Drive-ins. Juke boxes. Fuzzy dice. Letterman jackets. Poodle skirts, bobby socks and saddle shoes. 3D movies. Hula hoops. Of course, the 1950s. Do you remember any of these fads, or have you seen any family pictures that show them?
Of course, the fifties weren’t all fun and games. Think the Korean War, McCarthyism, the Iron Curtain. The 1950s was also a time of complex social problems and conflict throughout the world.
What about finding records about your fabulous family in the 1950s? You know, we’re always told to start researching the most recent generations. But national censuses and many vital records have privacy blackouts. So I want to mention four major resources for finding family in the ‘fifties:
Oral history interviews. In many families, there’s at least one person around who remembers the 1950s personally. If there’s not, then look to the memories of the next living generation, who often know at least some important things about the past.
Interviewing a relative is one of the most fun and meaningful ways to learn your family history. After all, you’re learning about the past first-hand (or second-hand, if you’re asking about someone’s parents). You can ask specific and personal questions of the kind that don’t appear on a census record. You can deepen your relationships with those you interview and gain a better understanding of the lives that led to you. Older people often love to have someone take a sincere interest in them.
The Family History Made Easy podcast has a great episode on interviewing your relatives. Here are some tips about interviewing your family:
Reach out with sincere interest in that person, not just their memories of others who have gone.
Be patient and respectful when you ask questions. It can take a while to establish a rapport and discover the kinds of memories that person most wants to share.
The best skill you can have is that of a good listener. Don’t interrupt. Don’t judge. And listen so intently that you can ask great follow-up questions.
Newspapers are my second resource. Turn to these for more recent relatives’ obituaries and other articles that mention them. Use hometown papers to discover more about a relative’s daily life, current events that would affect them, popular opinions of the time, prices for everyday items and more.
Thanks to the internet, it’s getting easier than ever to find family members in newspapers. Some newspapers have been digitized, though this isn’t as common with more recent papers that may still be under copyright protection. Still, you can use online resources to discover what newspapers served your family’s neighborhood, or even whether an ethnic, labor or religious press would have mentioned them.
Each country and region has its own online newspaper resources. In the US, I always start with the US Newspaper Directory at Chronicling America. (In this case, DON’T start with searching digitized papers, which only go up to 1922.) From the home page, click on US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present, and you’ll get a fantastic search interface to locate ALL newspapers published in a particular place and time, as well as the names of libraries or archives that have copies of these papers. Links for newspapers outside the United States include: The British Newspaper Archive, the National Library of Australia digitized newspapers webpage and the Newspaper Collection webpage for Library and Archives Canada.
Remember, historical societies and even local public libraries are also wonderful places to look for newspaper holdings. My book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, gives you all kinds of tips for what to look for in papers and how to locate them, both online and offline, and in free and subscription resources.
City directories are the third place I look for recent relatives. By the 1950s, most towns and cities published directories of residents, mostly with telephone numbers. I use annual directory listings to track families from year to year. These might give you your first clue that someone moved, married, separated, divorced or died. I can often find their exact street address (which is great for mapping them out!), who lived at the house and sometimes additional information like where they worked, what their job was or who they worked for.
Ancestry has over a billion U.S. city directory entries online, clear up to 1989. But most other online city directory collections aren’t so recent, probably for copyright reasons. Look for city directories first in hometown public libraries. I would call the library and see if there is a local history or genealogy room where they handle research requests. Also check with larger regional or state libraries and major genealogical libraries. These are pretty straightforward research lookups and may not be that expensive to request copies of your relatives’ listings in each year for a certain time period.
The fourth and most fun place to look for relatives, I think, is in historical video footage! YouTube isn’t just for viral cat videos and footage of your favorite band. You can look for old newsreels, people’s home movies and other old footage that’s been converted to digital format. It’s not unusual to find videos showing the old family neighborhood, a school or community function, or other footage that’s relevant to your relatives.
Use the YouTube search box like you would the regular Google search box, because it’s powered by Google. Enter terms like “history,” “old,” “footage,” or “film” along with the names, places or events you hope to find. For example, the name of a parade your relative marched in, a team he played on, a company she worked for, a street he lived on and the like. It’s hit and miss, for sure, but sometimes you can find something very special.
My Contributing Editor Sunny Morton didn’t really believe me that YouTube could be a great source for family history finds. She set out to prove me wrong—and I’m glad she did! Almost immediately, with a search on the name of her husband’s ancestral hometown and the word “history,” she found a 1937 newsreel with her husband’s great-grandfather driving his fire truck with his dog! She recognized him from old photos and had read about his dog in the newspapers. What a find! Her father-in-law was stunned, because he never met his own grandfather, who died in 1950. You can learn more in my all-new second edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, which has an entire, newly-updated chapter on YouTube.
So that’s four places to look for 1950s relatives: in family memories, newspapers, city directories and YouTube footage. So what ABOUT those 1950 and 1951 censuses around the world?
Spotlight on the 1950 US Census:
The 1950 US Federal census won’t be released to the public until April 2022. If you REALLY need an entry on yourself or immediate relatives, you can apply to receive copies of individual census entries from 1950-2010. It’s not cheap—it’s $65 per person, per census year. But if you’re having research trouble you think would be answered by a census entry, it might be worth it. Here’s a link to the page at Census.gov that tells you how to do this (it’s called the “age search service”).
Ancestry does have a 1950 U.S. census substitute database. It’s a little gimmicky, because it appears to be just a slice of their city directory collection from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. But this is still a good starting point to target US relatives during this time period.
I have some interesting factoids on the 1951 censuses for England, Canada and Australia, which aren’t available yet to the public.
At Office for National Statistics website, you can at least download a blank form for the 1951 census in England. That site says:
“There was no census in 1941 and only limited population information from the 1939 National Register, making the 1951 census highly significant in tracking changes in society over 20 years. The 1951 Census revealed that the population of Britain had exceeded 50 million.
It was the first census to ask about household amenities (outside loos) as Britain began to clear slums and rebuild housing after World War II. Questions about fertility and duration of marriage were reinstated.
The Registrar General for England and Wales, Sir George North, asked women to be more honest about their age. Many women of the time felt that questions relating to age were of a too personal nature. Information from previous censuses suggested that women had adjusted their age upwards if they married young and down if they married later. Problem pages in newspapers and magazines were flooded with queries from distraught women, fearful that their true age would become public knowledge.”
That’s so funny to me now, as our age is a basic piece of all our identifying records!
So a good substitute for the 1951 census may be England’s electoral registers, at least for those who were qualified to vote. An Ancestry description of London electoral registers states that these “registers typically provide a name and place of abode, and older registers may include a description of property and qualifications to vote. Registers were compiled at a local level.” That webpage has helpful tips on searching registers by location through 1954.
What about Canada? They do censuses every 10 years on the years ending in “1” also, and a population and agriculture census in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta every 10 years in the years ending in “6,” according to the Library and Archives Canada website. By law, you can’t get personal information yet from post-1921 census returns except about yourselves or for pension or other legal purposes. The site does say that “Third parties cannot obtain information about another individual without the individual's written consent,” which leads me to wonder you COULD get them if you did have consent, but that might not be easy or possible to get from the relatives you’re researching.
You’ll hit up against the same privacy issues in Australia for 1951, but what is online is the entire Year Book Australia for 1951, with free downloadable chapters on topics like land, transportation, communication, education, welfare, labor, wages, prices, the population, vital statistics, and several different types of industrial reports. You won’t likely find ANY ancestors mentioned by name, but you can read generally how the country was doing at the time.
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB:
The new Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title is Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill. This autobiography was written by Laura in the 1930s, and is the basis of her popular Little House children’s series.
But her actual autobiography was never published, and it’s the “grown-up” version—more detailed, more explicit—of all those stories and her recollections of family, and neighbors, wagon trains and homesteads: pioneering in an American West that was fading away. Across the cover of the first tablet she scrawled “Pioneer Girl.” These real stories behind the Little House stories will intrigue--and sometimes stun--any Laura Ingalls Wilder fan.
What makes this book a standout and a prime candidate for genealogists? The immaculate research that went into it. The stunning example it sets for source citations, which consume large portions of most of the pages. And the often never seen before photos sprinkled throughout that bring the people and times to life visually for the reader.
Tue, 16 June 2015
Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Welcome to episode 180 of the Genealogy Gems podcast! Today we’re talking about big names, like Ancestry and Google and FamilySearch. We’re talking about big numbers—the possible price tag for Ancestry at auction—and small numbers: a handheld computer for under $100.
We’re also talking about road trip tips, an important online Civil War database, a leading Canadian digital archive and EXCLUSIVE tips for using FamilySearch’s free digitized book collection, which now tops 200,000 titles. And because I’ve gotten so much demand for it, I’m sharing tips for backing up your data at Ancestry—not just your tree but your sources and DNA, too. Mixed in with all this news and how-tos is an assorted cast of listeners-with-questions and an inspiring story about long-lost siblings reunited by radio. Let’s get started!
Certainly some of the biggest news buzzing around the genealogy world is the possible sale of Ancestry. Reuters recently reported that the buyout firm that owns most of Ancestry has hired investment bankers to put the company up for auction. The price tag, they say? Between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.
So what could this mean for customers? Of course, it’s far too soon to say. Ancestry currently delivers over 15 billion genealogy records to over 2 million subscribers. Their current trajectory includes acquiring even MORE records pretty aggressively, which we love. But as I'm sure we’ve all experienced at one time or another, though, when any type of company gets sold, things can change. Or we could continue to see business as usual at the shaky-leaf genealogy giant.
Mybest advice to those of you whose master family trees are on Ancestry is to download and backup your data. I'm not being alarmist or saying the sky is falling here! This announcement is simply a good opportunity to do something we routinely recommend anyway. I'll have specific advice for downloading your tree, checking your source material and getting your raw DNA from Ancestry later in the podcast.
In another piece of news, have you notice that Google is now answering the questions you google instead of just giving you search results with the keywords in your questions? Say you Google the question, “What county is Chicago in?” Google will respond at the top of your search results with a big, fat “Cook County” headline followed by some key facts about the county.
Google’s also creating a bit of a stir with its new Chromebit; it's a Chrome OS full size computer about the size of your hand, and it plugs into an HDMI on our computer. This sounds like a great option for on-the-go genealogical computing!
A lot of folks aren’t fully cloud-based and they really don't ever plan to be: they like to work from a hard drive or desktop of some kind. So this offers them a portable way to do that.
You could plug in at a public terminal--say at a library--or at someone else’s home computer, or even a television so that you could share pictures on a big screen. And best of all the Chromebit is as affordable as it is portable! A write-up at ReadWrite.com reports that Google says the Chromebit will be less than $100!
Recently we heard from Jennifer, who is taking a little road trip, as many others of us in the northern hemisphere are contemplating in June. She asks a great question:
“I’m tagging along on my husband’s thesis research trip to Columbus, Ohio. I have some ancestors from other parts of Ohio. I was wondering what exactly I could look for in a state’s capital city's collections and archives? I was thinking that the state capital may have a “gem” that I couldn’t find elsewhere, or even duplicated information [from local repositories].”
Jennifer is definitely thinking along the right lines! Here’s our advice:
At the state government level there are often two key resources: the state library and the state archives. These might be combined. One might be called the state historical society. You just have to look for each state. In Ohio, the Ohio History Connection serves as the state historical society and official state archives. But there is also a state library that serves as a repository for government documents and a resource for other libraries. Each has resources for genealogists, online and in-house. Look for some links to these in our show notes.
In addition, public libraries of major cities often have excellent local history and genealogy collections. This is definitely true of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio’s state capital!
We suggest you contact librarians before you go and ask what they have that can’t be found anywhere else, both on a state level and for locales you are researching. Often times that will include photograph collections, materials on old businesses, and newspapers on microfilm. If you can formulate specific genealogical questions that you want to try and answer and share those ahead of time with the librarian that will help her guide you toward the unique gems. Every state library and archive is unique, so consulting by phone with the reference librarian is the best way to go.
Recently Tom wrote in with a question about a Civil War veterans database:
“I’ve been a listener of your podcast for quite a long time. Great job. (Thanks, Tom!)
“We have a grass-roots group trying to locate and document Civil War Veterans buried in Washington state. Is there a good website where I can enter a name and unit identification and get results of the person’s [Civil War] service? I’m having a really hard time finding US Navy sailors.”
It sounds like Tom is conducting a very worthwhile project! An excellent resource–but still in progress for sailors with only about 20% of them–is The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS).
The site describes its resources as a “database containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Other information on the site includes histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records.”
This is an excellent resource for soldiers. As far as sailors go, the site says, “The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System currently contains [only] the records of approximately 18,000 African American sailors, though additional records will be added in the future. The information in the Sailors Database is derived from enlistment records and the quarterly muster rolls of Navy vessels." A Howard University research team is behind this stellar effort, using muster rolls to fill in missing data or correct apparent misinformation. Here’s a link to an article from the National Archives about African-American servicemen in the Navy during the Civil War.
If a Navy ancestor isn’t among those already listed, my first instinct is always to turn to Google searches first. I ran a search in Google Books for free digitized books meeting the criteria “civil war” “sailors” and there are some resources there as well. I'll put a link to these results in the show notes. Just one example? Manchester Men, which appears to be a published list of those who served from Manchester, N.H. You can learn more about Google searching for “niche” topics like this in the fully-revised and updated 2nd edition of my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
Finally, we heard from Alexis with this energetic note about her ”genealogy podcast marathon:”
“I just had to email you and say thank you for all you do! I am 23 and finding that I am obsessed with family history. No one around me seems to understand why but I love it. And I was thrilled when I found your podcast! Though still pretty young, I've been behind on some technologies like podcasts but now I'm addicted to those too. It makes work so much better. Though I wish I didn't have to work at all so I could just research and apply what you teach us instead. Wouldn't that be great?! I have been on genealogy podcast marathons. I'm still quite behind on genealogy gems since I just found you now in 2015 but I'm working through it!
And I started a blog of course. I just mentioned you in my last post as well. It's called Geneaholic Confessions at http://geneaholicconfessions.blogspot.com/. It's just getting started but I really want to be a part of the geneablogger community ‘cause it sounds like you guys have tons of fun! Thanks for all you do!
GEM: PROTECTING YOUR ANCESTRY DATA
Okay, I promised you some tips for protecting your data on Ancestry, which you should do regularly whether the site is under threat of new management or not. First, download your current tree(s) to GEDCOM files onto your computer. Under the Trees tab, choose Create and Manage Trees. For each tree you have, choose Manage Tree, then Export Tree. At this point the green button should say “Download your GEDCOM file.” Just click on it and it will download. If you’re having difficulty, click “download tips” underneath the green button.
I've heard that some of you have had difficulty downloading your trees to specific software, like Family Tree Maker or RootsMagic. For Family Tree Maker, read this article on syncing your updated online tree to your Family Tree Maker software. RootsMagic users should watch this YouTube video on importing your Ancestry tree into RootsMagic. Consult other online support options if you still need help.
Next, check your sources! The Ancestry help section states, “Any pictures, charts, books, views, or similar items found in the original file will not be included in the [downloaded] GEDCOM. Vital information, notes, and sources are usually retained after conversion.” Check your GEDCOM to see whether your source notes are intact. Then make sure you have copies of documents, videos, photos and other items you may have attached to your tree. You don’t want them to disappear, should there be a hiccup (or worse) in service.
Finally, if you have used AncestryDNA, download a copy of your raw DNA data. Here’s a link to show you how. We especially recommend this step! These tests are expensive. Tests for loved ones who are now deceased can’t be repeated. And Ancestry has disposed of DNA samples in the past when the company has switched directions. (Again, I'm not trying to be alarmist about this, just cautious.)
If you have relied on Ancestry or any other cloud-based service to host your only or master family tree, I recommend you do some homework and consider keeping your master tree on your own computer, and a backup file with all your other backup files. We here at Genealogy Gems use Backblaze as our backup service and we love them (visit www.Backblaze.com/Lisa for more information).
GEM: TIPS FOR USING FAMILYSEARCH’S DIGITIZED BOOK COLLECTION
So here's another tip for you. Google Books, which I mentioned before, isn't the only place to find digitized family history books online. Another free and growing resource is FamilySearch's Family History Books collection. They've reached a milestone 200,000 titles! This collection began 8 years ago and includes "family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees,” according to the landing page.
Digitally-archived volumes like these are so valuable because they are immediately accessible and because they are keyword-searchable. Here are three search strategies to use for these:
· Look for only a surname (in case the first name is written different ways or a different relative is mentioned).
· In addition to surnames, search for the name of a neighborhood, street, church, school, business, type of work or other keywords that pertain to your family.
· Use the Advanced Search feature to focus your search, like for a keyword in a title, or a type of publication like a periodical.
Once you’re reading a book, you can click on the info icon (a circle with an “i” in it on the upper right) to see more information about the book, including source citation and copyright information.
We were curious about how well FamilySearch's digital book Viewer interfaces with mobile devices. So we asked FamilySearch. Turns out, this is still a work in progress and in fact some browsers work better than others. Dennis Meldrum at FamilySearch told us that “Safari does not work well with the Viewer.” Neither do mobile devices like the iPhone or iPad. “The Viewer works best with IE or Firefox. It also works with Chrome, but the Adobe Tools do not work. We are aware of the limitations of the Viewer and are working to replace it by the end of the year."
GEM: CANADIANA DIGITAL ARCHIVE
Speaking of digital libraries and archives, I've got a great one to share with you. If you have Canadian roots, you should be searching Canadiana (www.Canadiana.ca) regularly for family history information.
Recently Newswire.ca described Canadiana as “a digital initiative of extraordinary scale,…a joint effort of 25 leading research institutions, libraries and archives working together with the goal of creating Canada’s multi-million page, comprehensive online archive.” Its digital collections chronicle Canada’s past since the 1600s and most of its content is free.
For example, the free Héritage Project “aims to digitize, preserve and make accessible Canada’s archival materials for Canadians and the world." Their large collection of genealogy materials so far includes immigration records, church records, land records, family histories, voters’ lists and more. Military history, government documents and aboriginal records are also well-represented. Check back often! More is coming, like local and regional newspaper digitization and records of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
Another part of Canadiana is The Canadiana Discovery Portal. This gateway to digital collections from 40 repositories points to 65 million pages! Sample subjects include Ontario genealogy and War of 1812 campaigns. This portal is also free to use.
One part of the site that's awesome but NOT free? Early Canadiana Online, with 5 million images already and expected to grow to 16 million. A subscription will run you $10/month or a year for $100, says that site, I'm assuming in Canadian currency. This is “a full-text collection of published documentary material, including government documents and specialized or mass-market periodicals from the 16th to 20th centuries. Law, literature, religion, education, women’s history and aboriginal history are particular areas of strength.” The site describes itself as “the most complete set of full-text historical content about Canada, including books, magazines and government documents.” Tip: scroll down on the home page to click the Genealogy and Local History portal, but don’t ignore the rest of the site!
This month we feature a meaty excerpt from our interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist).
Genealogy Gems Premium subscribers can access the full interview in this month’s podcast episode. He tells us how he got started; we talk about the plot and characters and the challenges of creating genealogical mysteries with dangerous consequences for the present and more!
DNA GEM: INTEGRATING GENETICS AND GENEALOGY TOOLS
Our very own Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, joins us now. She talks about how the ideal genetic genealogy interface creates a seamless transition between genetics technology and genealogy research. AncestryDNA, she says, is really pioneering the integration with its newest product update. Read more about it here.
Here's a this-month-in-history from Profile America. Ninety-one years ago this June, "Congress passed — and President Coolidge signed — the Indian Citizenship Act, which stated 'all noncitizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby declared to be, citizens of the United States: Provided that the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.'
"Prior to this act, about two-thirds of American Indians were already citizens by other provisions. Universal voting rights lagged until 1957, as various state laws were amended. Today, there are over 2 million single-race American Indians possessing this full citizenship and 566 federally recognized tribes." Wow, I had no idea there were so many federally recognized tribes!
I close today with a story Contributing Editor Sunny Morton recently read about long-lost relatives who were reunited. We hear lots of stories like that now, relatives who rediscover each other online or through DNA tests. But this story happened in 1926!
Sunny found the story in a newspaper article. The children of a man named Alonso Jones were sitting around one day listening to the radio. Then they heard the announcer say, "Alonso Jones, wherever you are, listen...Your sister wants to see you at Worthington, Ohio. She has not seen or heard from you in forty years. You were born at Antiquity, Meigs County, Ohio, at the time of the Civil War...."
"You were reared by Captain William Roberts, an Ohio River flat boat man. You went with him on a produce boat when you were a boy and ran away while the boat was lying at the bank in Arkansas."
The article reports that the man telegraphed his sister and arranged to meet her. All because she'd had a dream that the radio could help her find her brother, and she tried it, and it worked.
What an inspiration! It reminds me of the value of thinking outside the box, of using all available technologies, and of never giving up when we are looking for family. Forty years after she lost her brother, she still thought of him, and she finally figured out how to find him.
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Sun, 24 May 2015
Have you ever felt like you got the short end of the genealogy stick when it comes to family heirlooms? Maybe you haven’t inherited much in the way of family photos or memorabilia, or maybe you feel like you’ve tapped out all the potential goodies that are out there to find. In this episode I’ll share an email I got from Helen, because she reminds us that you should never say never. I’ve also got another amazing story about an adoption reunion. And we’ll also check in with our Genealogy Gems Book Club Guru Sunny Morton about this quarter’s featured book, The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. And of course all kinds of other genealogy news and tips for you. We’re going to take all that genealogy and technology noise out there and distill it down into the best of the best, the genealogy gems that you can use.
I’m just back from several weeks on the road. Since we last got together in episode 178 I’ve been to Cape Cod to talk to the Cape Cod Genealogical Society about Time Travel with Google Earth, and all you Genealogy Gems Premium Members have that video class and handout available to you as part of your Premium membership – and if you’re not a member click Premium in the main menu at genealogygems.com to learn more about that.
And then Bill and I headed to Providence, RI where I was the keynote at the NERGC conference. That was my first time ever to New England so it was a real treat. And we teamed up once again with the Photo Detective and Family Chartmasters and held our free Outside the Box mini genealogy sessions in our booth which were very popular.
Then I had a 2 day turnaround and Lacey and I were off to Anchorage Alaska to put on an all-day seminar at the Anchorage Genealogical Society. Another great group of genealogists! And Lacey and I added an extra couple of days to explore, and explore we did. We booked a half day ATV tour to explore the National forest outside Anchorage. Now this was before the start of tourist season, so there we are, to gals driving out of town, onto a dirt road and waiting at the meeting spot in the middle of nowhere where we met Bob the Guide. He looked like he was straight out of Duck Dynasty! He showed us how to drive the ATVs, assured us that the bears weren’t quite out yet, and then packing his side arm pistol lead us out into the wilderness for 4 ½ hours of amazing scenery. It was like we had the entire forest to ourselves. This guide would pull over every once and while, whip out a telescopic lens on a tripod and in seconds would zero in on something way over on the mountain across the valley, and he’d say “look in there. See that clump of snow with legs, that’s a Mountain Goat, or that’s a Dall Sheep.” It was incredible. We saw moose, and muskrat, the biggest rabbit’s I’ve ever seen in my entire life, which Bob the Guide called bunnies, and he was right, the only thing we never saw was bear. But that was just fine with me and Lacey!
So after our mountain safari we flew home and I gave an all-day seminar in my own backyard in Denton, TX, and then Bill and I jumped in the suburban and drove to St. Charles Missouri where I spoke at the National Genealogical Society Conference. St. Charles is just on the other side of the river from St. Louis, and we were pleasantly surprised to find the a quaint little main street. Diahan Southard Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems was with us and Diahan and I drug poor Bill in and out of every “foo foo potpourri” shop they had when we weren’t busy meeting so many of you at the booth or in class. It was a 4 day conference, which is A LOT of genealogy, but we had a blast and again teamed up with Family Chartmasters, The Photo Detective and Family Tree Magazine for an Outside the Box extravaganza of free sessions in the booth. And this time Diahan Southard joined in with sessions on Genetic Genealogy. And all this reminds me of an email I received recently from Shelly. She writes:
“I am a new listener and new premium member of Genealogy Gems. Thanks for getting me motivated to organize my research and get back into learning my family history. I had never thought about attending a genealogy conference before but listening to your podcasts has gotten me interested in going. There is a conference coming up in less than two weeks only 1 1/2 hours from me in St. Charles, Mo. I can't afford to attend the actual conference, but would it be worth it to just go to the free exhibit space? I listened to one of your podcasts that mentioned you and a few others give free mini classes. Please let me know what you think. Thanks, Shelly”
I told Shelly that I thought it would absolutely be worth it. In fact, that is one of our goals with our free Outside the Box sessions in our booth - to give everyone a free opportunity to experience a genealogy conference. The hall is very large, there will be loads of exhibitors, and you not only attend any and all of our sessions, but at most larger conferences you’ll usually also find companies like Ancestry, MyHeritage and FamilySearch holding sessions at their booths.
Well Shelly took my advice and she wrote back. She says: “Thanks for your encouragement to attend the NGS exhibitor area! I was able to attend on Friday and enjoyed looking at all the booths and talking to some of the exhibitors. I was also able to attend a few Outside the Box sessions also, although yours were too crowded to see or hear very well! Thanks so much for doing this.
While waiting for a free session to start in another area, I overheard two men talking about DNA for genealogical purposes and privacy. My ears perked up as they discussed an instance where a DNA sample sent to Ancestry.com was used to help solve a crime committed by a relative of the DNA tester. I don't have enough information to form any opinions on that case, but the question of privacy came up when I was asked my mother to take a DNA test for me. The first thing she said was that it sounded interesting but she was worried whether the government or the police could get ahold of the information. I encouraged her to read the privacy information on the site and to let me know, but I told her I didn't see how anyone could get the information. Her curiosity got the better of her, as I knew it would, and she agreed to the testing and I am awaiting the results. The funny thing is that my mother does have a criminal history and has served over ten years in prison (I was raised by my father from age 5). Hopefully there aren't any serious unsolved crimes my mom has been involved in! She is 64 now so hopefully the statute of limitations has passed for most crimes. I will let you know if the FBI come knocking on my door :)”
I want to say thank you to all of you listening who stopped by the booth and welcome to all our new listeners who got to know us at these recent conferences and seminars, we are very glad you are here!
Recent Family Tree Magazine Evernote Webinar: In the last year I've moved from Earthquake central (California) to Tornado Alley (Texas) and it's been a bit of an adjustment to say the least.
All this threat of danger and destruction has reinforced my decision to bring into our Genealogy Gems family a brand new sponsor. Backblaze is now the official back up of Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems. If you've been to the RootsTech conference then you may already be familiar with them. Backblaze is a trusted online cloud backup service that truly makes backing up all your most precious computer files super easy.
The thought of losing my genealogy files is too much to bear. Now I can concentrate on keeping my loved ones safe through the storms of life because I know Backblaze is taking care of my files and photos! Many of you have asked me which company I use to back up my files. I've done my homework and Backblaze is my choice.
I invite you to visit www.Backblaze.com/Lisa and get all your files backed up once and for all.
“Dear Lisa, Thanks for the latest email. I have been using Backblaze for a year now. I thankfully have not needed their complete services :-), but I love the feeling of being protected. Have a great weekend! It was so nice to meet you at Roostech in February. Thanks, Ellen”
Tyler Moss, the dean of Family Tree University wrote me after a recent webinar I gave for them: “One woman typed an ellipsis (…) in to the chat box. I messaged her back and said “I’m sorry, did you mean to send a question? All I see are three periods.” And she said, “Oh no, I’m just in wonder at all the awesome things I can now do in Evernote!”
The webinar we were doing was called “Enhance Your Genealogy with Evernote” and in that session which we recorded on to video as well I covered 10 terrific genealogy projects you can use Evernote for to improve your research, organization and productivity. My motto these days is, save time by being more efficient so you have more time to spend with your ancestors, and that’s what this training session was all about.
And the good news for all of you who are Genealogy Gems Premium Members is that the video and downloadable handout are coming very soon to the Premium Videos section of genealogygems.com. Look for the announcement of its release in our weekly free newsletter. You can sign up for the free Genealogy Gems weekly e-newsletter on our homepage.
GEM: Evernote Library Project
Create an Evernote Genealogy Book Library:
Create a new notebook called “Library”
With your smart phone or tablet, snap photos of the cover of each of your genealogical books
Send the photos to the Library notebook in Evernote (on your mobile device tap the share icon and tap Evernote. You will need to have authorized the Evernote app.) Another option is to email them to your unique Evernote email address which will also place them in Evernote.
Evernote will apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to each image making them keyword searchable.
To see if you already have a book, tap the notebook and then search an applicable keyword.
Inspiration and motivation from Helen:
“I just had to tell you about my recent find. My late father-in-law served in the Canadian Navy for 39 years, entering Naval College when he was only 14. Most of my knowledge about his life came from talking with him before he died. Of course, then I did not know the questions to ask.
“About a month ago, I was preparing for a lecture on his life for a local World War 1 Seminar. I starting looking around in our basement as I knew we had some material from when we cleared out his house when he died, but I had no idea of just what exciting material I would find.
“I found his personal diaries, with the earliest from 1916! The journals give an amazing first-person record of naval service from a person who devoted his life to the service of his country. I was able to weave his actual words into the somewhat dry official record of his long time service [ending with] his being presented with a Commander of the British Empire medal shortly before his retirement.
“I am so grateful that the family saved these invaluable documents through the myriad of moves that a naval officer’s career entails. In a different box, I found his photographs from the same era—some even earlier than the journals. I am now seriously considering publishing the journals along with the photographs, as they deserved to be shared.”
Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to access Premium podcast episode 116 to hear a discussion between two authors of books on life-story writing, and here to access a Premium podcast AND video on how to make a family history video
Her Birth Mom Was Her Co-Worker! Birth Family Reunion
“When [La-Sonya] Mitchell-Clark first received her birth records in the mail on Monday and saw the name Francine Simmons, she immediately plugged it into Facebook,” reports the story on Entrepreneur. It didn’t take long for her to recognize her mother as a woman who worked at the same business she did.
“Following a tearful reunion, the two…discovered that they live just six minutes away from one another,” reports the article. La-Sonya also learned that she has three birth sisters, one of whom also works at the same company. Wow! Company picnics and water cooler chats must suddenly seem a lot more meaningful after this birth family reunion.
Learn to use your own DNA to search for genetic relatives (whether you’re adopted or not!) in our free Genealogy Gems podcast interview with CeCe Moore, a leading expert who appears regularly on television shows to talk about finding family with DNA.
Genealogy Gems Book Club
Our featured book for the 2nd quarter of 2015 is The Lost Ancestor.
Sunny's Book Recommendations:
Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier novella by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux
Out of the Shoebox: An Autobiographical Mystery by Yaron Reshef
Nathan Dylan Goodwin does have two other titles in the same series. I’ve read them both. Hiding the Past takes us into a genealogical mystery set in World War II and it’s a similar type of read as The Lost Ancestor. I enjoyed it. The Orange Lilies is a novella set at Christmastime. Here Morton puts his skills to work—and his emotions—to confront the story of his own origins and a family story from the Western Front in World War I a century ago. It’s a more personal story and Nathan I think is pushing into newer territory as a writer in dealing with more intimate emotion. But I like seeing Morton have these experiences.
I also have a few more titles to recommend along these lines. It’s that “If you liked this book, we think you’ll also like…”
The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux. This is a novel. I opened to the first page and the About the Author made me laugh: Stephen, amateur genealogist, lives in Hampshire and the South of France with two metal detectors and a long-suffering wife.”
The book opens with a scenario many of us may be sympathetic with. A genealogy buff buys a marriage certificate he sees on display at an antiques gallery. He begins researching the couple with an idea of returning the certificate to them. Eventually he uncovers several secrets, one with some money attached to it, but others are also chasing this money. It may sound a bit far-fetched but it doesn’t unfold that way. I like the surprise twists that bring the story into the present day. I also liked living out a little fantasy of own through Peter, the main character: that of being that genealogical research hero who brings something valuable from the pasts to living relatives today.
Another book I recently enjoyed is Out of the Shoebox: An Autobiographical Mystery by Yaron Reshef. This one’s a more serious, and I think a little more sophisticated, read. In this memoir (so a true story), Yaron gets a phone call about a piece of property his father purchased in Israel years ago. He and his sister can inherit it, but only if they can prove that man was their father. He goes on an international paper chase into the era of World War II, the Holocaust and the making of Israel. Then a forgotten bank account surfaces. There’s more, of course, in Yaron’s two-year quest to understand the tragedies of his family’s past and recover some of its treasures.
There’s another series I’ve been made aware of but haven’t read yet. This is Jimmy Fox’s Nick Herald Genealogical Mystery series: Deadly Pedigree, Jackpot Blood and Lineage and Lies. The hero is an American genealogist who lives and works in New Orleans, of course one of the most colorful and historical parts of the U.S. I’ll put links to all of these on our Genealogy Gems Book Club webpage, which you can find at http://lisalouisecooke.com/genealogy-book-club/.
Fri, 10 April 2015
Lisa Louise Cooke
Niche record collections that might just be what you are looking for. Interview with genetic genealogist CeCe Moore about using DNA for genealogy research, adoption, and the Finding Your Roots TV show. Announcement of the Genealogy Gems Book Club book for the 2nd quarter of 2015. A listener shares an update on adoption records in Ohio.
CANADIAN MENNONITE PHOTO ARCHIVE: A new databaseis now online with over 80,000 images of Mennonite life from across Canada and dating back to 1860s. A press release says that the archive “is a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada and includes Mennonite archival partners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.” An online ordering system allows visitors to order image copies for noncommercial use.
GEORGIA NEWSPAPERS: The Digital Library of Georgia has launched an archive of north Georgia historical newspapers. “The North Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive provides online access to six newspaper titles published in three north Georgia cities (Dalton, Gainesville, and Rome) from 1850 to 1922. Consisting of over 33,000 newspaper pages, the archive provides historical images that are both full-text searchable and can be browsed by date. The site is compatible with all current browsers and the newspaper page images can be viewed without the use of plug-ins or additional software downloads. The archive includes the following north Georgia newspaper titles: Gainesville News (1902-1922), Georgia Cracker (Gainesville) (1894-1902), North Georgia Citizen (Dalton) (1868-1921), Rome Courier (1850-1855), Rome Tri-Weekly Courier (1860-1880), Rome Weekly Courier (1860-1878). The Digital Library of Georgia will add additional titles from the region over time.
OHIO GENEALOGY INDEX. The Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, OH has created an onlineGenealogy Index to some of its most valuable and unique genealogical records, including original funeral home and Bible records. Also in the index are Jewish marriages and death notices, an index of names in a significant African-American manuscript collection, a 1907 Cleveland voter registration index, a photo database of Cleveland military personnel from WWII and the Korean War and a biographical sketch name index. Currently, there are about 320,000 records in the index; more are being added on an ongoing basis. The Society primarily archives records relating to Cleveland and northeast Ohio. Soon to be added are indexes to the 1870 mortality census for Ashtabula, Ohio and indexes to several church records collections.
WWII CADET NURSING CORPS (US): The WWII Cadet Nursing Corps Card Files, new on Fold3, contain membership cards of women who joined. According to Fold3, the cards “are organized by state, nursing school, and cadet name. Some cards include the date of admission to the school, date of admission to the corps, and date of graduation (or date of other reason for termination from the school). Others contain details like the woman’s marital status, father’s/husband’s name and profession, years of college completed, place of residence, and how they heard about the corps. Still others also record the woman’s age in addition to the previously mentioned information.”
MICHIGAN DEATHS. Images of Michigan death certificates from 1921-1939 are now available for free at Seeking Michigan. “The index for records from 1940-1952 will be made available in the next few weeks, with additional certificate images to be released each year as privacy restrictions are lifted (1940 images will be released in January 2016),” says a press release.
NEW ZEALAND ORAL HISTORIES. A new web archive of oral histories of New Zealand nurses is now available. “The aim of this website is to capture this rich history and create a resource that nurses, students, academics and family members can access in order to gain a better understanding of nursing history in New Zealand,” says the site’s home page. The site contains a “large collection of oral histories including abstracts, recordings, photos and other information. These histories have been collected from nurses who trained during the 1950s and 1960s and capture both the everyday elements of nursing practice along with some of the more unusual. Here you are able to listen to stories, read brief abstracts, and view photos of the nurses.” Got a story to tell? They are accepting new interviews. There’s also a section on hospitals and one on nursing uniforms.
WWI WOMEN. FindMyPast has posted over 9,500 UK records that illustrate the various roles played by woman during the Frist World War. These include:
§ Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Service Records 1917-1920. It’s a relatively small collection but rich in material on each woman.
§ British Women’s Royal Naval Service officer files 1917-1919 (ADM 318) details the service history of women who served as officers in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the First World War.
§ British Women’s Royal Naval Service Ratings’ Service Registers 1918-1919 contains the details of nearly 7,000 enlisted women who served as Wrens during the First World War.
§ British Women’s Royal Air Force Service Records 1918-1920 is an index of 31,090 Women’s Royal Air Force service records held by The National Archives.
Adoption: Recently Genealogy Gems Premium member Katharine wrote in this with newsworthy gem: “Recent adoption records are being released in Ohio. Such an exciting time for those adoptees yearning to connect with their bloodlines! Before the bill took effect, they allowed birth mothers to redact their names. Out of 400,000 only around 110 took them up on that. There’s also a preference form with the birth records where the mother can request not to be contacted. I wonder how often that might not be respected. It’s such an interesting situation for someone to be in.”
Thanks for the news, Katharine. She sent us this link to a local news story that covers the story.
Want to learn more about accessing adoption records in any state? Check out the U.S. Adoption Research page at the FamilySearch wiki for a terrific overview and helpful links.
Also, try running a Google search for the name of the state and the keywords adoption and genealogy. You’ll find lots of great resources, like this page on adoption records at the Pennsylvania state library or this online resource from the State Historical Society of Missouri.
The right Google search can shorten your search for the records you want! This tip brought to you by the newly-published, fully-revised and updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke.
GEM: CeCe Moore on DNA
GEM: Genealogy Gems Book Club
But now it’s time to talk about our next Genealogy Gems Book Club selection. Our next book is The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) (Volume 2) , the most recent book in a mystery series by British author Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
In The Lost Ancestor , we meet the hero of the series, Morton Farrier. He’s a forensic genealogist whose cases are usually quite tame, but occasionally he takes on a job that leads him into dark and dangerous corners of the past and the present. He reminds me a bit of that famous fictional British detective, Sid Halley in Dick Francis’ books, because Morton takes at least a punch or a bullet and threats to his personal life in just about every episode. Fortunately his girlfriend is a police officer in training, so she doesn’t mind these occupational hazards so much.
Morton is hired to find out what happened to his client’s great-aunt Mary, who disappeared without a trace a century ago. A tame enough premise, but then we get to the historical setting of her life story: a grand English estate where she’s a maid who’s thinking above her status. This is a drama that will speak to Downtown Abbey lovers for sure. With her proximity to a grand family comes proximity to money and power, which have a definite effect on how Mary’s story unfolds. We follow Morton to his favorite research haunts—where he scuffles with his nemesis, a grumpy librarian and envy his budget, which allows him to order vital records at will by express mail. Maybe we don’t envy the lumps and risks he takes, but they’re fun to read.
The Lost Ancestor has a different feel than our previous two books, best-sellers that were a little more literary. I hope you will find it a welcome change of pace. This is a genealogy-specific find and a great choice for both men and women. It’s an excellent pick for holidays, weekend relaxing, or curling up indoors or outdoors, whatever the weather permits in your corner of the world. My hammock just went up, and it’s still hanging there empty and hopeful for it to warm up just a little more.
Please SUBSCRIBE while you’re there.
Check out our new video son Evernote and DNA.
Tue, 10 March 2015
This episode features our interview with Christina Baker Kline, the author of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured book Orphan Train. The book spent five weeks at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list as well as time at the top of The Bestsellers List in Canada, and by now after reading the book you know why. Christina will share how the book came in to being. And why she first hesitated to write it. And how, although this is a novel, in fact the details of Vivian’s story are true thanks to her extensive research. And Christina sheds light on the effect that being an orphan had on the children of yesterday and the children of today.
PRISON RECORDS. Kingston, Canada, Penitentiary Inmate Ledgers, 1913-1916, are now available on Flickr. According to GenealogyCanada.blogspot.com, “The ledger includes frontal and profile mug shots, the inmate’s name, alias, age, place of birth, height, weight, complexion, eye colour, hair colour, distinctive physical marks, occupation, sentence, date of sentence, place of sentence, crime committed, and remarks of authorities.”
And speaking of Flickr
But wait, there’s more! An important part of the Flickr world is Flickr Creative Commons, which describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.”
Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others. Like what kinds of groups? Well, there’s the British Library photostream, with over a million images in its photostream! And how about the (U.S.) Library of Congress, with over 23,000 photos?
Look for your favorite libraries and historical societies–and check back often. New additions post frequently. For example, as of December 2014, The Netherlands Institute of Military History now has a photostream. According to a blog announcement, “The Institute exists to serve all those with an interest in the military past of the Netherlands. Its sphere of activities covers the Dutch armed forces on land, at sea and in the air, from the sixteenth century until now. The staff of the NIMH administer a unique military history collection containing approximately 2 million images, of which they will be uploading many to the site.” At this posting, only a couple dozen images show up so far, like the one shown here. Check back–or check with the Institute to see what they’ll be posting soon–for more images.
Here’s a tip: Those who post images to Flickr Creative Commons offer different rights to those who want to download and use their images. Described here (and searchable here by the kinds of rights you want), those rights may include the ability to use a photo as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes and proper credit is given. Perfect for a responsible, source-citing genealogist!
CEMETERY HEADSTONES. The Canadian Headstone Photo Project is now also searchable at FamilySearch.org. The original site with over a million headstone photos isn’t new. But some people don’t know about the site, and its search interface isn’t as pretty or flexible. So we think it’s nice that FamilySearch is hosting that data, too. According to FamilySearch, the collection is still growing. “This collection will include records from 1790-2013. The records include a name index of headstone inscriptions, courtesy of CanadianHeadstones.com, which is a family history database of records and images from Canada’s cemeteries.”
HISTORICAL PROPERTIES MAP INTERFACE. The state of Delaware in the United States has launched an updated version of its CHRIS (Cultural and Historical Resource Information System) GIS tool. Use this interface to explore houses, districts and National Historic Landmarks in your ancestor’s Delaware neighborhoods. Maybe a place they lived, worked, shopped, worshiped or attended is still standing!
Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! Use the “numrange” search operator in Google to locate records from a particular time period. Do this by typing the range of years to search (first and last year) into your Google search box, with two periods in between (no spaces). For example, the search “Kingston Penitentiary” 1900..1920 brings up the ledgers mentioned above.
This tip comes to you courtesy of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke–the fully-revised 2015 edition that’s packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online.
The next visit I made was two weeks later with my parents accompanying me. We arranged for my aunt and her younger sister to be there. Bringing stories and photos, we had a marvelous evening! Besides recording animated conversation and anecdotes, I was able to use my tablet to "scan" pictures. With their permission, I have since edited and shared photos online along with their stories.
As circumstances would have it, one of my aunts suffered a stroke only a month later. This has been a great sorrow for my family, but in thinking back I am so grateful I had the time to visit with her; what an opportunity to have preserved those precious conversations and photographs!
Thanks for your podcast and for the valuable tips and stories.
P.S. I posted about this experience in my blog along with the value of using tablets in family history work in July last year. There is a picture of me and my Aunt Connie with my impressions of the first visit"
From Terri: "I am so glad I found you and all the fun things you have to offer to all of us working on our Family History. I was listening to a webinar with Gena Philibert-Ortega and she mentioned your Genealogy Gems Podcast and how useful it was. So I went on immediately and downloaded it on my iPhone. It has been so much fun and I have already gleaned so many helpful hints from it. Recently, on my drive from San Antonio to Houston and back, I listened to many the ones in your archives. Well, the Podcast led me to your website where I decided to become a premium member and have already taken advantage of many of the videos and podcasts. I then signed up for the newsletter.
I have installed Google Earth on my computer and have already begun plotting my Family History. It is so much fun! With your great video on using old pictures to help find places you lived, I have been able to find the home we lived in right after I was born, 57 years ago. It still stands, and except for a few minor renovations and a paint change, looks very much the same. I have attached the old pics and the one from Google Earth. It was a very exciting moment! (I am the little one crawling around on the right of the picture)
My father is 79 and he has been the one, for many years, encouraging me to delve into the family tree. We have some interesting story lines out there that have been fun to look into. One of the things I found was an American Revolutionary Ancestor, in my father’s line, which led me to apply for the Daughters of the American Revolution and my app was accepted in December. I was inducted this last weekend and my dad was there to see it. That was a very special moment.
After watching your videos on YouTube, I have started a blog, "Unearthing My Family Roots”. It is in it’s infancy but I am enjoying it and hope to start incorporating family history and genealogy into it after the “Cruise Log” is complete. You can find the blog here.
As you can see, I am taking full advantage of my membership, so you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that you are coming to my local genealogical society meeting (Genealogical Society of Kendall County) in March and I can’t be there. We are expecting our second granddaughter around that time in Missouri and I am going up to help. :) I know you will be wonderful and everyone will go home with lots of takeaways. Thank you for all you do and I look forward to all your future GEMS!"
From Lisa: Thanks for writing and I'm thrilled to hear you have become a Genealogy Gems Premium Members and that you are enjoying it! And I'm particularly happy to hear that you are putting Google Earth to good use.
Congratulations on your new blog. You are a talented writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed your series on the day you found the family bible and shared it on Google+. It is so similar to my own introduction to the family history obsession!
I'm sorry to hear I won't get an opportunity to meet you at the upcoming seminar. I'm really looking forward to Kendall County because all of my dealings with the folks there so far have been delightful.
Recently I heard from Sue, whose story offers a compelling reason to use Google Scholar for genealogy research! Read it below–then I’ll tell you a little more about Google Scholar:
“I’ve been using computers for genealogy research (among other things) for about 30 years and am pretty good at finding most anything on the internet whether it pertains to genealogy or something else. It’s a continuous learning experience because computer, the internet and genealogy on the internet are always changing and updating.
After hearing your seminars at RootsTech 2015], I tried out a couple of Google searches for my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather Silas Fletcher. Silas lived on Indian Key in the Florida Keys in the early 1820s.
My husband and I and our son visited Indian Key several years ago and the young lady who took us out in the boat had actually written her college thesis on Silas! Of course, we didn’t think to get her name or any other information. So I Googled “scholar paper Silas Fletcher’ and the first item on the search turned out to be her thesis!
I also found a second thesis on Indian Key and a research paper a third person had written–and they both contained information on Silas. In the footnotes I found references to deed books (book number and page number) that contained statements written by Silas, his wife Avis, their daughter Abigail and Mike’s 2nd great grandfather William H. Fletcher about their lives and movements in the Florida Keys.
With that information I went to Familysearch.org and found the deed books I needed for Monroe County. I was able to go find their statements very easily instead of having to ‘browse’ through the books on the off-chance I would find something (which I do if I don’t know the exact book where the record would be).
I can hardly wait to try out the rest of what I learned at your seminars to see what else I can find!”
Sue’s experience is a great example of using Google to dig for your family history. One little-known feature on Google is Google Scholar, which would help Sue and anyone else more easily find material like what she describes: doctoral dissertations, theses, academic papers and more. Your keyword searches in Google Scholar will target results from academic publishers, universities, professional societies and more.
Though scholarly literature gets a bad rap sometimes for being boring or highbrow, they do something genealogists love: THEY CITE SOURCES. Sue cleverly read the footnotes of the materials she found and they led her right to a key source she needed.
Here’s another resource she could find using the details found on Google Scholar in a Google Image search: a map of his community!
My newly-updated, revised book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox has an all-new chapter on using Google Scholar. Among other things, I show you advanced search strategies and how to use Google Alerts with Google Scholar for continuous updates on your favorite search results. Click here
GEM: Interview with Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline spent five weeks at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list and is now on top of The Bestsellers List in Canada. When you read it you’ll see why. Here’s the storyline:
Vivian is an Irish immigrant child who loses her family in New York City and is forced to ride the ‘orphan train.’ Orphan trains were a common solution in the late 1800s and early 1900s for care of abandoned or orphaned children in New York City and other places. The children were loaded onto trains and paraded in front of locals at various stops across the countryside, where they might be claimed by just about anyone.
After following Vivian’s life through her childhood and young adulthood, we fast-forward. Vivian is 91, and a teenage girl named Molly comes to help her clean out her attic. Molly is a Penobscot Indian who is in the modern foster care system. Gradually they realize they have a lot in common, and you’ll love the ways they each respond to that.
To me, the book is about the importance of family identity. Each of us has a family storyline that existed before we were born and brought us into being. Vivian’s and Molly’s experiences remind me how important it is to know and value our family backgrounds. Of course I loved learning more about orphan train riders, too. That chapter of history is now a vivid reality to me.
Northwest Genealogy Conference
The Northwest Genealogy Conference will feature 3 full days of classes from speakers like Cece Moore and Judy Russell, and I will be there as well teaching 3 classes on Evernote and mobile technology. And there will be an exciting exhibit hall where you can see genealogy products and services up close.
If you’re new to genealogy, they’ve got something just for you too! The Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society is sponsoring free Beginning Genealogy Classes in conjunction with the Northwest Genealogy Conference that will be held on Wednesday 12 August from 1:00pm to 5:00pm at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center. Seating is limited, and pre-registration is required.
Registration opens on April 1, 2015 Head to http://www.nwgc.org/
Profile America: Deadly Influenza
Mon, 23 February 2015
In this episode we are going to check in with our Genealogy Gems Book Club Guru Sunny Morton on our featured book Orphan Train, and some additional books you’ll want to add to your reading list that also provide insight in to how you can approach writing your own family’s history. And Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems, Diahan Southard, will be here to tell you how to Social Network Your YDNA with Surname Projects
But first I’ve got the RootsTech Run down for you. Last week I spoke at RootsTech 2015 which was really a two-fer conference of both RootsTech and the Federation of Genealogical Societies national conference. So needless to say it was bigger than ever. If you didn’t attend, why should you care? Because FamilySearch which is the organization behind RootsTech has really, and I mean really, upped the family history game if you will. Even though they are a non-profit, they are really leading the industry, and having a huge impact on the types of genealogy resources and services that are being developed, which directly affect your family history research.
And “Family History” is the key phrase there. At a FamilySearch VIP event I attended the leadership made a point of saying there is a distinct difference between genealogy and family history. We may often use these terms interchangeably, but they made this point with purpose, to drive home the fact that they are concerned with more than just genealogy; the building of your tree and tracing of your lineage. They are extremely focused on “family history”, and from what I know about you, you are too. Family history is the holistic approach – the stories, the photos, the legacy you are creating through your research. It’s not that its critical which words you use, but I think they focused on the distinction to really help the community understand what their focus is.
For example, the keynote speakers included Former first Lady Laura and Jenna Bush, (who by the way did a phenomenal job and were witty and thoroughly enjoyable),
as well as Donny Osmond, and American Idol star David Archelta. There were some negative comments about these choices floating around on social media before the conference, but for anyone who attended and saw the presentations it all made perfect sense. They all spoke, and sometimes sang, to the heart of family history. I know for all you listening, your heart is certainly in it. They offered incredible inspiration and I think everyone walked away rejuvenated and recommitted to their research. And research just isn’t the right word. They came away motivated to continue on the legacy of family history they are building. And really that is the job of the keynotes. To set the tone and inspire and motivate, because there were plenty of indepth classes and a huge variety of topics to fulfill the educational component of why we attend conferences .
Let me give you a run down on some of the stats:
FamilySearch, which was formerly the Genealogical Society of Utah, celebrated its 120th birthday last fall. It now operates 300 cameras in 50 countries around the world collecting digital genealogical sources. They released two mobile apps in 2014, FamilySearch Tree, the mobile companion to Family Tree on the FamilySearch website, and The Family Search Memories app which helps you collect, preserve, and share your favorite family photos, stories and spoken words. They are launching a new indexing program which will be part of the FamilySearch website which can be used on most desktop computers, notebooks and tablets. And to give you an idea of the scope of FamilySearch Indexing , there are 321,000 volunteers who have indexed 160 million records in 2014 alone, bringing the total of records indexed to 1.26 billion. These are records being made available to all of us free on the familysearch.org website.
In June of 2014 FamilySearch surpassed publication of 1 billion images. It took 7 years to get there and the billionth image was published in FamilySearch’s growing collection of Peruvian records. IF you consider that a single digital image can have several historic records on it, that means there are actually billions of record images on FamilySearch. FamilySearch projects that it will take just 3 to 5 years to publish the next billion images.
And as for new record collections, in 2014 FamilySearch published 38 million obituaries, 10 new Freedmen’s Bureau field office collections, and new and updated collections all around the world.
One of the coolest things they unveiled is their new Discovery Centers. This is something that they announced last year, and our contributing editor Sunny Morton got a chance to go through the one in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City while at the conference. Here is a link to her blog post.
The FamilySearch Discovery Center is focused on offering families simple and powerful in-person family history experiences. Each visitor gets a unique, personalized experience where they learn about themselves and where their family came from, and how they lived. They can even record a video about themselves or a family member. You’re in luck if you live in the Seattle area because a center is expected to open there in June of 2015. The two centers will serve as a testing ground to fine tune the centers and then open more around the world.
(Image above: Amy, Sunny and Lisa at the Genealogy Gems booth)
So while I was at the conference I presented three classes for FGS which included using Evernote for Genealogy which was a packed house, using criminal cold case strategies for your brick wall genealogical cases, and video marketing for genealogy societies. For RootsTech I taught Turn your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse and, and building a genealogy business which was for the Rootstech Innovator Summit.
(Image above: Lisa and Diahan filming a segment at RootsTech)
And of course we had the Genealogy Gems booth in the massive expo hall where we teamed up with FamilyChartmasters, The Photo Detective and Family Tree Magazine to once again present our Outside the Box booth sessions where folks could join us for ½ hour session on topics like Google Search, Evernote and a whole lot more.
NEW! Map for African-American Genealogy Resources after the Civil War
The time period after the U.S. Civil War is a messy era for searching for African-American ancestors from the South. Millions of people were emerging from slavery, without documented histories of who they were or who they were related to–many without even consistent first and last names.
A new website helps researchers locate important African-American genealogy resources from the post-war Reconstruction era. Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau is a map-based tool for helping you find the Freedmen’s Bureau offices and hospitals, Freedman’s Bank offices, “Contraband Camps,” U.S. Colored Troops battle sites and other locations nearest your ancestors that may have created records about them. Many of these record sets are just coming online or are newly indexed and are free to search, so the timing couldn’t be better.
What it is a fantastic tool! I’m so pleased to see this site. Now those who know what location they’re starting with can easily glance at a map and click to see which of these resources exist in a specific locale and where to find them online or offline.
Listen to my interview with African-American genealogy research expert Deborah Abbott, PhD, in the FREEGenealogy Gems Podcast episode 159.
“Danish national censuses, including approximately 9 million images and 31 million records, covering the years of 1787 through to 1930. One of the most enlightening sources of historical content, census records provide a glimpse into a family’s past listing information about each household including the names of occupants, information on residence, ages, places of birth and occupations.
Church records (3.9 million images) containing approximately 90 million names from 1646 to 1915. The Parish Register provides information regarding anyone who was born, baptized or confirmed (after 1737), married or died in a particular parish. The records include rich information about a person’s family: for example, for baptisms they list the date of birth, date of baptism, name of the child, parent’s names, occupations and residence, and often names of witnesses and godparents.”
According to MyHeritage, “The records, spanning almost 300 years, provide a window to the lives of Danish ancestors during fascinating periods in history including the Napoleonic wars, liberalism and nationalism of the 1800s, the Schleswig Wars and industrialization.
“The records will illuminate the lives and times of noted Danish historical figures such as Kierkegaard and Niels Bohr. Celebrity fans will be able to look into the family history of Danish Americans such as Scarlett Johansson and Viggo Mortensen for clues on their success. Many of the records will be made available on MyHeritage as early as April 2015 and the rest will be added during the year.
MyHeritage is a leader in family history for those with Nordic roots and is “the only major company providing services in Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish. With more than 430,000 users in Denmark and an additional 600,000 registered users in Sweden, 500,000 in Norway, and 280,000 in Finland, MyHeritage has amassed the largest Nordic user base and family tree database in the market.”
Just one more reason we at Genealogy Gems are pleased to have MyHeritage as a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast.
From Judy: "After reading your message about "getting materials back home", I thought I'd share something I've begun. Because of working on family genealogy, I have become the recipient of several family items. We have no children, just a niece and nephew who do not live nearby. So...To make sorting things easier for family at the end, I've begun a photo album with pictures of family heirlooms with a message included that tells whose item it was or who made it and/or a story about why it has been special. I'm in hopes that at least they can try to find and save these items instead of trying to guess or having to take the time to go through all of the family binders where most are also recorded."
From Sharon in California About Nov. 13 newsletter: "Lisa, in today’s email you talked about walking through your front door and seeing things differently. Since you are a big fan of Google and Google Maps, I wanted to tell you about a speaker that we had at our San Ramon Valley Genealogical Society meeting one time who talked about using maps in genealogy. And he said the first map we should use is the map of our house. I thought that was a little Silly, until I thought about the first house I remember, when I was 3 or 4 years old (and I’m now 74). As I walked up those stairs to our apartment, I remembered so many things about that house. As I “mapped” the layout of the house, each room brought back Memories. Memories of my bedroom where when I had measles and my Dad brought me little Scotty dog magnets and we played with them on my bed. In the kitchen, where my Mom taught me to eat vegetables that I didn’t like by piling on the butter. The back porch where the ice Man delivered blocks of ice. And many, many more. Each house, and it’s map brought back individual memories. Maybe this isn’t genealogy, but it is family history, or maybe only MY history, but it was fun going through all those memories."
From Deanna: "I was very touched by the story of your husband's relative whose mother took her own life due to what sounds like depression. I have a loved one who has anxiety and depression, and I am so thankful we live in a time where education, resources and medical options are available to assist those who are struggling. I am also thankful for your podcast, Genealogy Gems, which was a great source of encouragement to me during a difficult season of being the caregiver of my struggling loved one. The research tips inspired me to keep looking for those elusive ancestors, and the many stories reminded me that most life journeys have difficulties. Most importantly, however, I was reminded that we humans are quite resilient. Thankfully, my loved one is doing much better now, yet I still look forward to each and every Genealogy Gems podcast. In addition, I am planning on attending the upcoming seminar in Vero Beach, FL, which is being hosted by the Indian River Genealogical Society. Although it's a bit of a drive for me, I couldn't miss seeing you in person! Thank you for all you do, and may God bless the life journeys of you and your family!"
GEM: Genealogy Gems Book Club
Our current featured book, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, is getting some nice thumbs-ups from Genealogy Gems readers. Just to catch you up, this is the story of two women. It starts with Vivian, an Irish immigrant child who loses her family in New York City and is forced to ride the ‘orphan train.’ She’s placed with several different families across the Midwest, with different results, but it’s the same premise at every home: her life starts over fresh there, with new rules and expectations and little or no recognition of her past or personality.
After following Vivian’s life through her childhood and young adulthood, we fast-forward. Vivian is 91, and a teenage girl named Molly comes to help her clean out her attic. Molly is a Penobscot Indian who is in the modern foster care system. On the show, I read a passage from when Vivian meets Molly. On first glance, they are so different: an old white lady with money and a Native American teenager without resources. Molly immediately judges Vivian. But Vivian’s response totally disarms her. And that’s when it starts to get fun. I hope you will have a chance to read Orphan Train before our interview with Christina Baker Kline next month!
More Good Reads from the Genealogy Gems Book Club:
I think a lot of people make genealogy goals at the new year: goals like writing up your research. I’ve noticed that one of things people often stumble over when they try to write family history is what style of writing to use. Do they want to write like a college professor, scholarly and objective? Or should their personal feelings and opinions be part of the story? Or, even more nontraditional, should they fictionalize their ancestors’ stories like a novel?
My book recommendations this month are three published family histories—all fascinating reads—that happen to be examples of different kinds of writing.
Mordecai: An Early American Family by Emily Bingham is perhaps the most engaging scholarly family history I’ve read. It’s based on thousands of letters and other documents that make me just go green with envy—like, how did she FIND that document??? There are more than 50 pages of endnotes.
I don’t think the author is related to the Mordecais. My sense is that she’s a historian who came upon a gold mine of a family, in terms of documentation, personality and themes she saw emerge down the generations of this family. I do like to read well-written scholarly history, especially about families and religion. I am fascinated by how religious beliefs make people tick, and their effects on family and community life, especially for a family like the Mordecais who belonged to a marginalized faith at that time in U.S. history.
On the show I read the opening paragraph of the introduction, to give you a sense of her voice. Many of you may have read Family by Ian Frazier, which came out several years ago and was popular among genealogists. Ian also wrote the best-selling books On the Rez He’s an expert observer, insightful, compassionate, funny and honest. So it’s no surprise he also uses a first person voice, or the use of “I” when writing about his explorations into family history.
On the show I read a passage from page 9 where he is writing about his ancestor’s hometown of Norwalk, Ohio, and we compare how different his voice is, but how effectively he wraps together his own experience with his research.
The Worst Country in the World by Patsy Trench is a first-person narrative about her Australian ancestors, who were among the first European settlers in that fascinating country. Patsy actually quit her job and traveled from London to Australia several times to research the story of her fourth great-grandmother and other relatives. She describes the book she wrote as “a hybrid: part family history, part memoir, part novel. The skeleton of the story…is as true as I could make it…. But I have put flesh on the bones, invented personalities for real people, circumstances behind the facts, all in the cause of turning my family saga into what I hope is an entertaining read. The dramatised scenes are from my imagination but the outcome of them is fact.” (Introduction, page 5) She cares a lot about her research, so she tries to make it clear in the text what’s based on evidence and what’s speculation, and she includes a detailed appendix that spells out where she took liberties.
On the show I read a passage from page 86 about something her ancestor may or may not have done upon her arrival in the colony. You can hear the author’s playfulness as she openly decides to buy into an unsubstantiated account for the purposes of good storytelling. Then she tells a good story, and we have a sense of the setting, other characters, social life and current events in her ancestor’s new life in Australia (whether or not that specific incident actually unfolded as it did).
All in all, these three books—great reads in and of themselves—are also great examples of the different kinds of storytelling methods and voices we might choose to adopt when we write about our ancestors’ lives. Happy reading from the Genealogy Gems Book Club!
GEM: Your DNA Guide at Genealogy Gems, Diahan Southard
Family history organizations and studies based on individual surnames have been around for years. They are now integrating YDNA research into their efforts. Use surname projects to enhance your paternal DNA research!
Surnames are the flagships of our genealogical research. We name our files after them and we tag our research with them. We wear our last names proudly on pins and necklaces and T-shirts.
But surnames can also be misleading. Illiteracy, language barriers, and just plain carelessness led to misspellings and alterations, not to mention those ancestors who blatantly changed their name to avoid detection.
The advent of YDNA testing has changed the way many genealogists view surnames and their role in their genealogy. Because a man’s YDNA is the same as the YDNA carried by each of the ancestors in his direct paternal line, the YDNA can act like a filter, clearly indicating which men with a particular surname, or variant, truly share a direct paternal line.
So how has YDNA testing affected family organizations that do surname research? I asked Debbie Kennett, a regular contributor to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki and Facebook page who is also involved with the Guild of One Name Studies. The Guild of One Name Studies was established in 1979 to promote public understanding of one-name studies and preserve the information obtained by those studies.
“Virtually every common surname is now the subject of a DNA project,” says Debbie, including “just over 500 Guild members who are running a DNA project. That number has jumped up considerably just in the last couple of years.”
The quality of those projects varies. Debbie tells us that a quality YDNA project includes three elements: “presenting the DNA data, recruiting people from different countries and also correlating all of the genealogy information.”
Jean Morrison, a member of the Morrison surname project, says that because of DNA testing, “identifying where in Scotland this family originated prior to coming to America ca 1728 has become a realistic goal. The Morrison Q Group has identified through Y line testing at 111 markers, 22 individuals with an MRCA (most recent common ancestor) within eight generations.” In plain English, this means that a definite YDNA pattern has been associated with her Morrison surname and with a common ancestor eight generations back.
Noel and Ron Taylor were two early adopters of YDNA testing for their Taylor family project. Their first samples were submitted to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation in 2000. The former president and currently the head of the board of trustees for the Taylor Family Society, Noel says that using DNA “caught the attention of many people in our organization….It renewed great interest in the hearts of many people who had been doing research for many years [who may have] lost interest and were somewhat discouraged.” The Taylors have made significant breakthroughs with their DNA testing. They have connected several Taylor lines back to a common ancestor, verified their paper trails, and even found a line of Hodges that were actually Taylors!
It appears that YDNA is becoming part of the research plan for most family societies. But Debbie tells us that there is still much room for improvement in her organization. “Not all Guild members are running [DNA] projects. We have something like 2,700 Guild members so we are still not at the stage where the majority of Guild members are running projects.”
Besides The Guild, other organizations have been created to assist genealogists with their surname research, including a new organization just launched in November. The Surname Society’s goal is to “to build a collaborative environment where members are encouraged to develop their own approach to the investigation of their surname.”
Kirsty Grey, chairman of the Surname Society, says that DNA testing has taken a front seat role in the research of one of their founders as well as several early members. “DNA is one of the many strands of family history research (and to a greater extent, surname studies) which can connect individuals, often where genealogical research cannot.”
That really is the bottom line. DNA, especially YDNA, can tell you things about the surnames in your pedigree that you can’t learn in any other way. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to jump on the YDNA bandwagon and see what your DNA has to tell you.
DNA for Genealogy Resources:
Quick Reference Guides by Diahan Southard
(purchase all 6 laminated guides for the best deal):
Get the NEW AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA 2 guide bundle Click here
es: Click here
Visit Diahan's website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.
New! MyHeritage Digital Guide:
(Click image above to order)
Pre-Order the 2nd edition of
Watch the newly updated iPad Premium Video
Wed, 7 January 2015
I’m pretty excited about this episode because it’s just jammed back with all kinds of fun stuff! (image right: my Grandson Joey excited about his new wagon!) First, Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton will be here to announce our new Book Club read for this first quarter of 2015. And it is fantastic! Even better, the nationally acclaimed author who wrote it will be joining us on a future episode to give us the back story.
Then, since it is January that means that a lot of television shows are ramping back up, and one of those is the Genealogy Roadshow on PBS. And not only will it be back with new episodes, it will also feature a new addition to the panel of hosts. Professional genealogist Mary Tedesco is joining Genealogy Roadshow and she will join me a little later in this episode to talk about her experience on the show and also about her specialty which is Italian research, which I couldn’t be happier about since we haven’t had a chance to delve into Italian genealogy until now.
Our Genealogy Gems DNA Guide will also be here. And I have a very special announcement for you at the end of the show.
Epitaphs from Genealogy Gems listeners on Facebook:
From Cindy:"One of the most fascinating epitaphs I've ever seen is in Monticello, Florida. It reads, "Remember reader as you pass by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now so you shall be, prepare for death and come with me." The date of death was in the 1880s. The tombstone is made of metal instead of stone."
From Jan: "Most memorable epitaph to date: In Memory of Elizabeth Palmer who should have been the wife of Simeon Palmer who died Aug 1776. This in the Old Commons Cemetery, Rhode Island."
Jillian writes in about the story of Mary Ann Munns Cooke’s untimely death
"What an amazing, heartbreaking - yet somewhat uplifting - story. I feel compelled to share a similar struggle on my family tree - it is a bit long (for all of the details, I would advise reading my blog at www.burgessgenealogy.wordpress.com), but the shorthand version involves my great-great grandmother being widowed by the Spanish Influenza, and her children being taken from her by a corrupt politician, who uses his connections to incarcerate her in an insane asylum to gain control of her late husband's property and mineral rights.
She survived it, miraculously, and went on to live a happy life, even getting to see her great grandchildren being born. My grandmother told me that her father was forever changed by what his mother endured, but he was the most forgiving man she'd ever met. It reaffirms your statement that bad things may happen, but you don't have to let it determine your outlook, your path. Much love to you and your family for overcoming and living out a legacy that recognizes the struggle, and the acts involved in overcoming."
GEM: Book Club with Lisa and Sunny Morton
Our last featured book, She Left Me the Gun, was a memoir by a woman raised in England who researched her South African past. This time, we fly across the pond to the new world, to a bestselling U.S. novel, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (image right).
Orphan Train is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it twice and recommended it more times than I can count.
I thought a lot about whether a genealogy book club, which is based on researching real history, should incorporate novels. But genealogists are three dimensional people; we’re not all fact and no fun, right? I have loved historical fiction from the time I read A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by EL Konisburg. It’s a kid’s chapter book about the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine told from her point of view as she and the cast of characters from her life were sitting on a cloud in heaven waiting for her husband King Henry II to get into heaven. That novel bred in me this love for re-imagined history, in which the stories and lessons from past lives are repackaged in a way that’s meaningful to us, in a way that we’re willing to listen to.
But back to Orphan Train. I’m guessing that many of you have already read it and loved it—if you have, raise your hands on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page and tell us so! If not, here’s a teaser for you. Orphan Train follows the story of Vivian, who as an Irish girl immigrant with another name entirely loses her family and is forced to ride the orphan train.
What was the orphan train? It was an early, special urban brand of foster care in which homeless or neglected children were gathered up and put on trains out to the country. They advertised ahead of time their stops in little rural railroad depots, where essentially the children were lined up and local residents could come pick up kids and take them home. Essentially the children were advertised as free labor sources for farm families.
So, Vivian rides the orphan train and we follow her childhood through some challenging placements with a few families and then into young adulthood when she is still trying to pin down an identity for herself. Then we move ahead in time. As a 91-year old woman, Vivian meets Molly, a teenager in today’s foster care system. Molly comes to Vivian’s home to help her clean out her attic because she’s gotten in trouble and needs community service hours. Molly thinks this old lady has nothing in common with her, not knowing anything about Vivian’s own trials as an orphan rider.
So what makes this a good read for family history lovers? The core of the story is about family identity. Both these girls were separated from their families at a young age—they were told their past wasn’t good enough and they were re-booting their lives from scratch. You can’t do that to a person without serious consequences to their psyches. This book reminds me how important it is that each of us has a storyline from the past that existed before we were born, and brought us to who we are today. It’s perilous to break that story up or to be ignorant of it. The author spent a lot of time with the real stories of people who have lived in foster care or who rode the orphan trains, so the feel of the book would be authentic and real even though it’s not wholly factual. The orphan train history is so fascinating itself and this is a great way to be introduced to that chapter in history—which I have read is not limited to the U.S. I have read that about 100k children rode orphan trains in Canada, too.
Read the Genealogy Gems Book Club Book for 1st Quarter 2015: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.
Next month Sunny will be back with a few more suggestions for fun things to read and a teaser from the book, and then in March we’ll have an interview with Christina Baker Kline.
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Profile America: Ellis Island Opens
Thursday, January 1st. The place where many of our ancestors first stepped ashore when they came to America seeking a new life opened on this date in 1892 — Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The very first immigrant processed at the new facility was a 15-year-old Irish girl named Annie Moore. Over the course of more than 60 years, some 12 million people flowed through the center. Some sources say the number is considerably higher. The peak year was 1907, when just over a million immigrants came to Ellis Island. The complex now belongs to the National Park Service and is visited by several million people a year. In 1910, the foreign-born represented nearly 15 percent of America’s population. Now, after falling through 1970, that figures sits at 12.9 percent.
GEM: Mary Tedesco on Genealogy Roadshow and Italian Genealogy
Mary M. Tedesco is also the founder of ORIGINS ITALY at originsitaly.com, which is a firm specializing in Italian and Italian-American genealogical and family history research. She speaks fluent Italian and travels often to Italy where she conducts genealogical research and visits family.
Watch the new season of the Genealogy Roadshow
Read about it on the Genealogy Gems Blog:
Visit Mary at Origins Italy at http://www.originsitaly.com/
Mary’s favorite websites for Italian research:
Things to know about Italy:
Your DNA Guide with Diahan Southard
I think with the implementation of DNA circles Ancestry is trying to implement tools in the areas where they are comfortable, and actually capable. Yes, they are making mistakes. But so are the other testing companies. Yes the trees are flawed. They did release the DNA circles as Beta. I too have ready many concrete accounts of how this tool is making mistakes. But they are in uncharted territory here. No other company is trying to so fully integrate traditional genealogy with genetic genealogy, and there is something to be said for that. And, you will probably agree that one of the biggest frustrations with any testing company is getting people to post their family trees and/or respond to your inquiries about their family trees. By making inclusion in the Circles contingent upon having and linking your sample to a family tree (even a flawed one) it does encourage more people to post public trees. Of course, it does completely ignore anyone without a family tree- again, frustrating.
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Completely updated with loads of new content! Everything you need to know to stay up to date on using Google for your family history.
Mon, 8 December 2014
In this episode I'm going to share a personal story from my own family history just recently uncovered, and pull from it 3 powerful strategies that you can start using right away to further your own genealogy research in newspapers.
My husband's grandfather, Raymond Harry Cooke, was born March 6, 1894 in Tunbridge Wells, England.
Ever since I first started researching his family I have been aware that Raymond's mother, Mary Ann Cooke, died at a young age, around 40 years old. What I didn't realize was that in the back of my mind I sort of made some assumptions about what happened to her.
I knew she had lost one child in child birth, and had one living child, Raymond. Though the answer as to her exact date and cause of death have been elusive, I haven't been in a big hurry to find the answer, because I guess deep down I assumed that she had lost her life in a third pregnancy. So it remained one of those genealogy projects I put off for a rainy day.
This hypothesis was unexpectedly shattered last week!
Not long ago I posted on the Genealogy Gems blog about BritishNewspaperArchive.com hitting over 9 million digitized pages. Last Wednesday evening I decided to take an hour out for my own genealogy (which I rarely get to do these days) and do some digging to see if I could find anything about Mary Ann's death.
With the site's powerful advanced search engine I located the answer within minutes. And it was devastating. (Image left)
3 Tips for Finding Family History in Newspapers:
Look for "Search" Clues in the Articles You Find
After absorbing the story of Mary Ann's untimely death, there was still work to be done. I went back through the article with a fine tooth comb making note of every unique details that could possibly be used in a future database search such as addresses, name variations, neighbors, friends, occupations, etc. This will lead you to:
Look Beyond Known Names
In my case, I noticed that Mary Ann Cooke was referred to as "Mrs. Cooke" in one article, and "Mrs. Cook" in another, so I omitted her first name and ran searches under both options, resulting in even more articles. And in the article about "Mrs. Cooke", her son Raymond was referred to as "Master Cooke". Indeed even more articles existed under that name as well.
Go Beyond People
Search for the addresses of locations where they lived. And don't necessarily include their name. Simply searching the address can give you a kind of "house history" set of search results, revealing who lived there before, descriptions of the home and its contents and who moved in after your ancestors left. In my case, I located an article about the Cooke home (by the address) being up for sale several years before they owned it. That article included a fairly detailed description of the property. The final article found in the British newspapers was also found only by address (as the Cooke name wasn't mentioned) and it detailed the contents of their household up for sale. The auction was held in prepartion for their move to Canada.
Resource: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke
GEM: Interview with Emma Brockes, Author of She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me, and More Reading Recommendations
"When a parent dies, you the child, your relationship with that history changes almost over night. It suddenly becomes much more relevant to you. because you feel like you're the only one left in a position to remember it. So, having never wanted to know anything about my mother's life, suddenly after her death it seemed imperative to me to find out absolutely everything. And to remember her that way. It felt to me that I couldn't, how does one put it, I couldn't stake out the parameters of what I had lost, until I knew everything there was to know about her, and of course there was this huge black hole in her background which I knew nothing about." Emma Brockes
Read Sunny's blog post Genealogy Gems Book Club: MORE Great Books Recommended to find out about two more excellent books for genealogists.
GEM: Your DNA Guide at Genealogy Gems: Ancestry DNA Update
Read Diahan's blog post AncestryDNA Review and Breaking News! Updates Launched at the Genealogy Gems blog.
Tue, 11 November 2014
We all need a little inspiration now and then, and in this episode I hope to bring you some through good books, inspiring comments from other listeners, and some new ideas to try.
Once I got past the organization of my new office, what I’ve really enjoyed doing is devoting time to display family photos and artifacts, and just decorating the room. It may seem frivolous, but I don’t this it is. We spend a lot of time in our offices, and you may have a home office, or corner of a room where you work on your genealogy. Considering the importance of the work and the time you spend doing it, I think it’s time and effort well spent to put effort in to inspiring decorations and displays.
(Lisa's new office display)
Feedback on the “Lizzie” interview from Alvie
They were so very interesting reading but I had no use for them so I turned them over to our local museum in Lakeland, FL. I don't know what became of them.
Kay loves MyHeritage too
"Loved this podcast today - I listened while I walked my 3-mile loop. Just want to share a MyHeritage story.
GEM: BOOK CLUB conversation with Sunny Morton
“When [your] parent dies…your relationship with their history changes almost overnight. It suddenly becomes much more relevant to you because you feel like you are the only one left who is in a position to remember it. So having never wanted to know anything about my mother’s life, suddenly after her death it seemed imperative to me to find out absolutely everything….It felt to me that I couldn’t…stake out the parameters of what I’d lost until I knew everything there was to know about her.” -Emma Brockes, on She Left Me the Gun
Suggestion from Mary:
Here’s one along a similar theme of secrets in a mother’s past and the mother-daughter relationship. One of our listeners, Mary, wrote to us about it. She said, "I just ordered this book and thought you might be interested in reading it. I am looking forward to reading it myself.” The book is The Woman in the Photograph by Mani Feniger. Here’s a little blurb on the book: Mani Feniger wanted nothing to do with the relics of her mother's life before she escaped from Nazi Germany in 1936. But when the fall of the Berlin Wall exposed the buried secrets and startling revelations of her mother's past, she was drawn into an exploration-of history and family, individuality and identity, mothers and daughters-that would change her life forever."
Listener suggestion from Mike:
"Here's a book I found that you and your listeners might also enjoy. The Lost German Slave Girl recounts the story of a poor emigrant family and what happened to one of the daughters. I found it fascinating. The story is non-fiction and takes place around New Orleans in the first half of the 19th century. There is much family research involved, some heart-wrenching descriptions of what the emigrants suffered, and delightful insights into the New Orleans of that time period. It's the kind of research that we family historians love to do but is more dramatic than many of the personal stories we work on."
Profile America: Thursday, November 13th
Improvements in Using Autosomal DNA for Genealogy
You may recall from our recent DNA discussion on the Genealogy Gems podcast (Episode 168) that Ancestry.com recently discontinued their mtDNA and YDNA tests (the two that trace our direct maternal and direct paternal lines) to focus on autosomal DNA (which delivers information about both your mother’s and your father’s side of your ancestral tree).
Well, recently I attended an all-day meeting hosted by Ancestry.com: a summit to talk about current trends and accomplishments at Ancestry DNA , and ideas about the future of DNA testing at Ancestry.com. Free Shipping on Ancestry DNA Kit w Code: FREESHIPDNA
The meeting included a diverse group of Ancestry representatives, from CEO Tim Sullivan to members of the marketing, scientific, communications, and even computer science departments, as well as some of the top voices in genetic genealogy. It was an open and lively discussion, and I walked away with a few gems I want to share with you today.
More Powerful DNA Hints Coming
In AncestryDNA, the ‘shaky leaf” hints are meant to help you find a common ancestor between you and your DNA matches. The computer code behind the old hints was not very efficient. Lazy, in fact. It started at the bottom of your tree—and the bottom of your match’s tree—and slapped on a shaky leaf at the first sign of a shared common ancestor.
While this method worked for a large number of cases, it was leaving a lot of stones unturned. But the IT guys at Ancestry have beefed up the computer power, allowing them to cover a much greater distance through our trees and the trees of our matches before making a judgment about the best place to assign that shaky leaf.
The result? Better hints about how you and your match COULD be related. Remember, the leaf is still just a SUGGESTION on how you and your match might be related. It is not a crystal ball.
Did You Know?
There is no question that the genetic genealogy industry is rapidly advancing, and our discussion with Ancestry certainly didn’t disappoint. While I will be sharing with you in future posts about some of the exciting changes, I do want you to be ready for one that will be coming online fairly soon.
It has to do with your matches. If you have been tested by AncestryDNA, you may have been initially excited, then nearly immediately overwhelmed, by the number of individuals listed in your match page, all claiming to have some kind of connection to you and your family tree.
All three major genetic genealogy testing companies (AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23andMe) are using basically the same laboratory methods to glean information from your DNA. What differs is how they use that data to draw conclusions about your ethnic heritage and about your relationships to other individuals. As it turns out, AncestryDNA has been reporting far more individuals as your relatives than it should have.
You can think of it like this: You have sent out tickets, in the form of your genetic code, to an exclusive party where you (of course!) are the star. However, you have lost the guest list and you are counting on the testing company to check the ticket of each guest before they enter your party to be sure they were really invited.
AncestryDNA was relatively new in the role of party bouncer, and in the interest of not turning away any VIP guests, they initially allowed guests into your party who had (gasp!) forged tickets!! But as AncestryDNA admits more guests, the experience it’s gained in party monitoring is starting to show.
You see, each of the forged tickets has some unique qualities that have started to send up red flags to the team of scientists at AncestryDNA . They are now in the process of carefully documenting what each forged ticket looks like and tossing those unwanted guests out on their ear.
The short of it: in the near future your match list at Ancestry will be much shorter. Which is good news to you, as it means only those invited genetic cousins will be around eating hors d’ oeuvres and ready to talk about your shared common ancestry.
Each testing company has its strengths and weaknesses. It was good to have a bit of insight into this one company and come to a greater understanding about why it is they do what they do. It is a great time to be in this young genetic genealogy industry, with so much room to grow and change. I will let you know when I find the next genetic gem.
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GEM: Couple Celebrates 80 years of Marriage
Watch the video and see photos through time of the successful couple at KVAL.com