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Feb 17, 2016

Genealogy Gems Podcast

Episode 188

Highlights from this episode include:

  • RootsTech news and resources for everyone;
  • New records online for Ireland and the United States;
  • Two inspiring emails from listeners who unravel family mysteries with determination, skill and Google sleuthing;
  • Motivating thoughts on organizing your family history research;
  • Genealogy Gems Book Club update with more thoughts on the featured title Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austen Weaver and book recommendations from RootsTech attendees;
  • A critique of a recent NPR article on genetic genealogy by Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard; and
  • A great conversation with Cindy Cochran and Sabrina Riley of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society Library at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.

NEWS: Findmypast creates new partnerships

During RootsTech, announced new partnerships with RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, FamilySearch, Family-Historian, Puzzilla, Billion Graves and RootsCity. A press release stated that “Findmypast will make its vast record collection of more than 8 billion records available to customers via these partners. The rollout of these partnerships will begin in 2016, with exact dates to be detailed later….Customers using these various family history products will benefit from having Findmypast’s record collection embedded within the actual product in ways that each partner determines will benefit their customers most.”

NEWS: More on the Family Tree Maker Roller Coaster

On February 2, announced an agreement with RootsMagic to connect their family history software with by the end of 2016. Hooray for being able to continue to sync your online tree with your master tree at home in your own control, your own software, where Ancestry says you’ll also have access to Ancestry hints and searches.

On the same day, Ancestry also announced the acquisition of Family Tree Maker software for both Mac and Windows by a company called Software MacKiev. According to Ancestry, “This new agreement means you will receive software updates and new versions from Software MacKiev, and have the ability to purchase new versions of Family Tree Maker from Software MacKiev as they are released.“

Ancestry hopes to have both these solutions fully functional by the time Family Tree Maker software stops being supported at the end of this year.

NEWS: New Genealogy Records Online

IRELAND CENSUS RECORDS. has added to its site “over 8.7 million Irish census records from the 1901 and 1911 censuses [which record every household member]. Both collections are completely free and contain images.”


IRELAND PARISH RECORDS. subscribers now have access to an exclusive index to the National Library of Ireland’s free online collection of digitized-but-not-indexed registers from 1000 parishes, with over 10 million baptisms and marriages. 


(US) DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH RECORDS. has added a new collection of Dutch Reformed Church records (1701-1995)  from 14 states and has updated a separate but similar collection of Dutch Reformed Records (1639-1989).


US MARRIAGES. Findmypast has just released an enormous collection of marriage records from across the United States. “Containing over 450 million names from 1650 to 2010…the US Marriages collection will, when complete, include over 100 million records, 60% of which have never been published online before.” A third of the data are already online.

NEWS: MyHeritage Audio Recordings

Audio Recordings feature on the MyHeritage app: Use to interview relatives right from their profile in your family tree, where you’ll now find an audio icon that looks like earphones. Tap it to create a new recording or to access recordings you’ve previously saved. Listen to the recording anytime, download it to your own computer (which you should definitely do to store as your master file) and share it with anyone who is a member of your family website on


Audio Recordings is free and available on the latest version of the MyHeritage mobile app on the App Store and Google Play.


NEWS: RootsTech Follow-Up

Live-streamed RootsTech 2016 sessions by Lisa Louise Cooke:

Lisa Louise Cooke’s RootsTech 2016 lecture on Google methodology, with top tips and strategies taken from her book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

The lectures below were streamed live from the Genealogy Gems theater in the RootsTech Exhibitor Hall. Click to watch them: give the video a few seconds to adjust to the proper orientation.



Here’s the news article Cathy sent in along with her email about learning more about her grandfather’s death. Inspired by the Genealogy Gems blog post about Googling for coroner’s records to solve mysterious deaths, she went looking for coroner’s records online, too.

“Well, I still haven't found the Coroners' Records but I did find a couple of newspaper articles - & apparently the body was indeed found on 21st December - but he had been missing since June!”

MAIL: Trisha finds Railroad Retirement Board Records

Railroad Retirement Board’s instructions for genealogists (redirects inquiries to The National Archives, which has an entire webpage dedicated to its Railroad Retirement Board records.

Additional railroad history and genealogy suggestions:



PC World/Mac World article on Backblaze cloud-based computer backup service:

“When it comes to backing up your precious data, investing in an online backup service is one of the smartest things you can do.”

However, if you ever DO need to restore your hard drive, it’s not so easy to download the massive amounts of files you probably have. The solution has generally been to ship an entire hard drive to a customer, but that can cost $100 or more on top of regular backup service fees.

The article gave Backblaze two thumbs-up for its new solution: the Restore Return Refund Program. It refunds the cost of those hard drives they send you when you return them within 30 days after restoring your data. It’s a $99 refund for USB flash drives and $189 for USB hard drives, so it essentially makes this a free service. Other leading cloud-based computer backup services either won’t ship hard drives at all or continue to charge large fees for it. Other online magazines--The Next Web and Verge—gave similar reports.











INTERVIEW: Lisa talks to Cindy and Sabrina at Union College

Cindy Cochran of Lincoln-Lancaster County (Nebraska) Genealogical Society and Sabrina Riley of Union College on the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society collection at Union College

What’s in their collection?

  • Originals and copies of some government records; some of these exist on microfilm but are not online
  • Local and regional historical materials that meet their own research priorities—they can refer you to other repositories as needed
  • Reference materials and plenty of local expertise!


BOOK CLUB: Update from Book Club Guru Sunny Morton

We hope you’ve gotten to savor Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austen Weaver, the current featured book of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. You’ll love her mouthwatering descriptions of food; fascinating insights into gardening; and touching descriptions of how we nurture and harvest our family relationships in ways not so different from gardening. In the next episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll hear a snippet of our interview with Tara Weaver in the free Genealogy Gems podcast. Next month, Genealogy Gems Premium website members will be able to hear the entire interview with Tara on the Premium podcast.

Additional books that were recently recommended at the Genealogy Gems Book Club Open House at RootsTech 2016:


DNA GEM: Diahan Southard Comments on NPR article

Recently NPR published an article entitled “DNA, Genealogy, and the Search For Who We Are.” This sounds like exactly the kind of article that I would want to read, considering that I am, after all, Your DNA Guide. However, after only the first two sentences of this article, I stopped reading. I could already tell this was one of those articles, you know, the kind meant to sensationalize and not to communicate accurate information. I closed the browser page. I just don’t have time to read information that is meant to incite, and not to inform.

But then I read some comments from some friends that had read it, and then Lisa asked me to review it for you, so I read it in its entirety. It was difficult to get through, even though it wasn’t very long. There are just so many things that are wrong with the presentation of this material.

Let’s take three big ones.

First of all, the “facts” are taken out of context. Yes, it is true, your genetic pedigree is not the same as your genealogical pedigree. Your genetic pedigree can only contain a finite amount of information while your paper pedigree can contain limitless amounts. In general, our personal set of genetics will only connect us to half of our fourth cousins, and it is true that if we go back far enough we will have zero DNA from some of our ancestors. The author implies that this kind of incomplete information is unacceptable and should be discarded. What he is missing is that by genetically connecting me to my fourth cousin, that fourth cousin is genetically connected to another fourth cousin, who I might not share DNA with, but through the testing and the genealogical research, I can confidently identify as kin. One of the powers of DNA is that it allows you to create networks with living people who can work together to verify and expand our knowledge of our ancestors. 

Secondly, this author claims that DNA testing and traditional research are mutually exclusive. He claims, “…family and family history are one thing, and DNA-based ancestry is another.” I don’t think I even need to comment on that. That is just wrong. Genetic genealogy is just one more tool in our toolbox to help us answer family history questions.

Before I go on, I think we do need a little perspective about where this author is coming from. As US citizens, many of us have enjoyed the rapid growth and general acceptance of the genetic genealogy industry. The author of this article gained much of his content from sources in the UK. Unfortunately, the UK has seen a stream of less-than-reputable companies hawking genetic genealogy-like products that are frankly a scam. So, from that perspective, caution when entering a genetic genealogy experience should be exercised.  

That background knowledge, provided by my colleague Debbie Kennett in the UK made me feel a little sheepish about my initial hostile reaction to the article. But then I read again where the author states, “It is family that matters — and family is relationship, not DNA,” and I am back on my soapbox. Perhaps this author did not pay attention in 7th grade biology. DNA is family. That’s how this works. I have heard so many stories from so many of you reporting how it was this very DNA stuff that led you to a discovery about your family. Just yesterday I received an email from a woman who recently reconnected with a relative she found through DNA testing. She said, “Spent a week with Carolyn and her husband out in Colorado this Fall and the time spent together is beyond words.  It is as if we had known each other our whole lives.  But then again on a different level, I am sure we have known each other.”

To me, that is a story worth telling, a story that is every bit as real as one that is discovered using only paper research methods. DNA deserves a spot in your family history research. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.