Wed, 9 March 2016
Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 189
BYUtv’s new reality series Relative Race (http://www.relativerace.com/) premiered on February 28, 2016. The show “features four married couples as they travel across the US in search of long lost relatives, armed with only paper maps, a rental car, a $25 per diem and a flip phone.” (Interview with two contestants later in the show.)
Databases of Runaway Slave Notices
New York Times on new websites that will launch databases of runaway slave notices:
Irish Collections and Tips from Findmypast
Index to Irish Parish Records for 1670-1900 at Findmypast.com (FREE FOREVER to search), with links to free digitized content at the National Library of Ireland
Click here to link to Q&A with Brian Donovan, head of Irish Data and Development at Findmypast on getting started in Irish research
MyHeritage Updates Its Search Technologies
Click here to learn more about Record Detective II from the MyHeritage blog.
Marquise’ new blog: The Blakeslee Tribe
Kim recommends my free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast series for beginners and those who want a “genealogy do-over.” She particularly mentions a three-part series on immigration and naturalization records in Episode 29, Episode 30 and Episode 31.
Matt’s suggestion for Find A Grave: leave virtual flowers on the “tombstones” of deceased relatives so other relatives can find you:
INTERVIEW: Janice and Patrick Wright from Relative Race
Relative Race host Dan J. Debenham described how BYUtv’s original competition reality show came into being: “What could we create that would be very different from what’s currently out there and that would show people discovering family all across the country?"
Four teams race from San Francisco to New York in 10 days. Their goal? Find unknown relatives, complete challenges, and don't get eliminated.
In this episode you will hear from Team Black: Patrick Wright is an executive at Alpha Media, a growing radio broadcast media company based in Portland, OR; Janice is a freelance Media Consultant. They joined the Relative Race show because they love travel and adventure.
BOOK CLUB: Interview excerpt with Tara Austen Weaver on Orchard House
Author Tara Austen Weaver talks about gardening and family, and how tending a garden isn’t so different from nourishing family relationships.
DNA GEM: 3 Reasons to Test with Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard
My youngest child, Eleanor, is nearly 8, so it was fun to have a 2 year old over the other day. She loved following Eleanor around, and Eleanor was equally thrilled to have someone to mentor in the ways of big girl play. I took special delight in listening to my daughter’s patient and surprisingly complete answers to our guest’s constant inquiries of “Why?” It got me thinking about the Whys of genealogy, and especially of genetic genealogy.
I decided that there are three main reasons to have your DNA tested for genealogical purposes.
In genealogy, primary information is given by a source with firsthand knowledge of an event, with the best primary information being created at or around the time of the event. I think we can safely say that DNA falls into that category on both counts. Therefore, it is an excellent source of genealogical information and should be obtained as part of a thorough genealogical search.
DNA possesses several qualities that make this record type stand out from the rest. First and foremost, it cannot be falsified in any way. No name change, no deception, no miscommunication or misspelling can tarnish this record. Even if it is not a complete record of our family history, the story that it does tell is accurate.
So much of genealogy work, especially in today’s digital world, is intangible. We add ancestors to our pedigree charts with a click of our mouse, having no idea of their physical characteristics, never once setting foot in the same places that they did, or if they preferred bread and butter or toast and jam.
But with the advent of DNA testing, I am able to see a physical connection between me and my ancestor. The first time I saw it seems unremarkable. It was just a blue line on top of a grey line, representing the location in the DNA where I had the same information as my cousin. But that line meant that we had both inherited a physical piece of DNA from our common ancestor, Lucy J. Claunch. That realization didn’t add names or dates to my pedigree chart- Lucy had been on my chart since the beginning. But it did add a sense of purpose and reality to my genealogical work. In short, it inspired me to know more about Lucy and to tell her story because I felt inextricably tied to it. Perhaps many of you don’t need a DNA test to feel similarly motivated, you already understand what I learned: Her story is my story. But because I have her DNA in me, I am able to take that idea one step further. Because she lives on in me, my story is her story. So I better make it a good one.
Has your DNA motivated you to find out more about your story?
Genealogy Gems readers and listeners get a special price on Diahan Southard's DNA Video Training
PROFILE AMERICA: Voter Documentation
Wed, 17 February 2016
Genealogy Gems Podcast
Highlights from this episode include:
NEWS: Findmypast creates new partnerships
During RootsTech, Findmypast.com 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, Ancestry.com announced an agreement with RootsMagic to connect their family history software with Ancestry.com 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. MyHeritage.com 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. Findmypast.com 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. Ancestry.com 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 MyHeritage.com.
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:
“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?
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.
PROFILE AMERICA: “Oh Canada”
Wed, 13 January 2016
This New Year’s episode is packed with fresh energy and perspective!
We welcome the Legal Genealogist Judy Russell to the podcast. Judy takes on a Genealogy Gems listener’s fantastic question about the bounty land his War of 1812 ancestor never claimed.
NEWS: Family Tree Maker Software Discontinued
Here’s the announcement and my initial comments that reached nearly 30,000 people on Facebook (at press time):
NEWS: New Records Online
AUSTRALIA CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. A new browse-only collection of Tasmanian civil registrations (1839-1938) is now online at FamilySearch.org. It includes district registers, counterfoils of marriage certificates and some church records.
ENGLAND PARISH AND ELECTORAL. Significantly-updated indexes of Kent parish registers and registers of electors (both dating to the 1500s!) are now online at FamilySearch, as Lancashire parish records to 1538 and another collection of parish registers back to 1603 that include Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire.
ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATIONS: More indexed images continue to be added regularly to the free collection at FamilySearch.org! Click here for the current list.
PHILIPPINES (MANILA) CIVIL REGISTRATIONS: More than 400,000 indexed records for the city of Manila have been added to an existing collection of Philippines civil registrations at FamilySearch.org.
WALES ELECTORAL REGISTERS. Over 1.6 million indexed names from electoral registers for Glamorgan and West Glamorgan, Wales (1839-1935) are now searchable at FamilySearch.org.
BONUS AUDIO ON THE APP:
BRITISH IN INDIA. Findmypast has published new record collections relating to British overseas travelers, workers and expatriates. The first includes “British people who either lived, worked or travelled in India from as early as 1664 up to 1961 with an index of births, marriages, divorces and deaths compiled by the Society of Genealogists.” There are also new collections from the India Office: births and baptisms and wills and probates.
DIGITAL BOOKS. A new FREE collection of 150,000 digitized books is searchable at MyHeritage.com. Among the titles are family, local and military histories; city and county directories; school and university yearbooks and church and congregational minutes.
GEMS NEWS: RootsTech 2016: February 3-6 in Salt Lake City, Utah
Here’s the schedule for my official RootsTech lectures and those of our regular Gems contributors:
11:00 Soothe Your Tech Tummy Ache with These 10 Tools, Lisa Louise Cooke
If you’ve been to my booth at a major conference in the past few years, you already know about the “Outside the Box” mini-sessions I’ve presented along with some of my partners in the past. These sessions have been SO popular that people end up lining the walkways around our booth, several deep, crowding the exhibit hall aisles in to listen and sign up for the free handouts.
This year, I’m planning an even richer class experience at the Genealogy Gems booth. There will be 20 sessions, some of them shorter and some longer, taught by myself and my dynamic partners at Genealogy Gems and Family Tree Magazine. I have quadrupled the size of our booth so we can invite many more of you to come in, have a seat and hear these sessions in comfort, without having to stand in the aisles.
Here are the FREE classes we’re teaching at Genealogy Gems booth #1230 in the RootsTech exhibit hall:
Remember, if you register for RootsTech before January 18, you’ll save a LOT on registration (you’ll pay $169 instead of $249 for the full 4-day event). Come by and say hello at our booth!
GEMS NEWS: “Where I’m From”
Winners: Everyone who entered will receive a year of Genealogy Gems Premium Website Membership! In this episode you’ll hear Beverly Field’s wonderful poem, and you’ll hear from more winners in coming episodes.
MAILBOX: Where I’m From
Picture books by George Ella Lyon recommended by Katharine:
MAILBOX: Family Tree Maker
Click here to read a blog post that answers Charles’ question about why not to continue using Family Tree Maker after it “expires.”
Click here to read about specials for Family Tree Maker users and what I do with my master family tree.
Click here to access Moving your tree from Family Tree Maker to Reunion, for Reunion 11 (for Mac) software, as recommended by Bill
Click here to read which family history software I recommend and why
Click here for more Family Tree Maker questions and a couple of bonus questions about keeping Ancestry.com subscriptions or transferring to MyHeritage, which does offer free desktop family history software that syncs with its online trees.
MAILBOX: GOOGLE SEARCHING CORONER’S RECORDS
Click here to read a detailed answer to Lydia’s question on Google searching coroner’s records
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox is available through the store on my website at www.genealogygems.com.
INTERVIEW: Judy Russell
Robert from Covington, LA wrote in with this excellent question! Here’s the full question and an accompanying image: “We have a copy of our great great grandfather's Warrant from the War of 1812. This has never been redeemed. I expect that the time for redeeming has long since expired but can't find confirmation of this anywhere.
I have an affidavit from my grandmother dated 1911 stating the grant was lost or destroyed when she was a little girl being raised by her grandmother, the widow of one of the two brothers listed on the certificate. Her husband, one of those two, died before 1850 and therefore his will has no mention of the Land Grant.
The certificate I have is a copy of a re-issue by the Commissioner of Pensions dated 1917. From the wording on the note the Commissioner scribbled on the copy he sent, it appears he hand copied the information on file onto a blank certificate and certified the copy.
I have attached a copy of the certificate we have (above) and a copy of what I have been able to fill in for what is not too legible (below). I have blanked out the family names and certificate number since it is not clear to me if it is or is not redeemable and I don’t have any control where this information may end up once committed to the internet.
My main interest now is whether or not the certificate could still be good or if these grants have all “timed out” and none could therefore still be redeemable. I spent about a half day researching on the internet but could not find any information indicating grants were still redeemable after all this time.”
Listen to the podcast to hear Judy’s advice about researching laws or statutes relating to our genealogy questions—and to hear how she answered this fantastic question.
Genealogy Gems Book Club: A New Book!
Orchard House by Tara Austin Weaver
Tara Austin Weaver's Tea & Cookies blog: www.teaandcookiesblog.com
Tara’s recipe for Orchard House is one part food, one part gardening and two parts family drama, liberally seasoned with humor and introspection. The “book jacket” summary of Orchard House, from the publishers:
“Peeling paint, stained floors, vine-covered windows, a neglected and wild garden—Tara can’t get the Seattle real estate listing out of her head. Any sane person would see the abandoned property for what it was: a ramshackle half-acre filled with dead grass, blackberry vines, and trouble. But Tara sees potential and promise—not only for the edible bounty the garden could yield for her family, but for the personal renewal she and her mother might reap along the way.
So begins Orchard House, a story of rehabilitation and cultivation—of land and soul. Through bleak winters, springs that sputter with rain and cold, golden days of summer, and autumns full of apples, pears, and pumpkins, this evocative memoir recounts the Weavers’ trials and triumphs, what grew and what didn’t, the obstacles overcome and the lessons learned. Inexorably, as mother and daughter tend this wild patch and the fruits of their labor begin to flourish, green shoots of hope emerge from the darkness of their past.
For anyone who has ever planted something they wished would survive—or tried to mend something that seemed forever broken—Orchard House is a tale of healing and growth, set in the most unlikely place.”
In March, we’ll play an excerpt from an exclusive interview with Tara Austen Weaver in this podcast. Genealogy Gems Premium website members will be able to listen to the full interview in March’s Genealogy Gems Premium podcast.
RootsTech Book Club Open House: Thurs, Feb 4, 10am-11am at the Genealogy Gems booth #1230 in the Exhibitor Hall. Stop by and chat about books or family history or both! Free bookmarks, display copies of featured titles a win chance to win a great Book Club prize just for suggesting a book.
PROFILE AMERICA: Ellis Island Opens
Tue, 8 December 2015
Genealogy Gems Podcast
This month’s episode celebrates upcoming holiday family time with a special segment on interviewing relatives. Diahan Southard offers her thanks for DNA connections that are helping fill holes left by adoption. And you’ll hear about:
NEWS: MyHeritage Search Connect
Genealogy companies are getting smarter, there’s no doubt about it. The latest smart-searching feature from MyHeritage.com is one great example. MyHeritage recently released Search Connect ™. This is new technology that helps you find others who have been searching for the same rare surnames that may be on your family tree. Here’s how it works.
For several years, MyHeritage has kept a database of who is searching for what ancestors. I can only imagine how huge that database is! They have now put that database to use as a social networking tool. They whittled it down, at least for now, to just those folks searching for rare surnames. Just that database has 30 million names in it!
Now when you search for those rare surnames in the SuperSearch area of MyHeritage, results from the database of other searchers are included in your search results (and they even get translated if needed, thanks to MyHeritage’s Global Name Translation tool). You can click to look at their larger search history to see if this is really a match for you, then contact them through the site. You can also search on that database separately here.
The database will continue to be updated weekly, so it will stay fresh. Also, you can opt-out if you DON’T want your past or current searches to be included in it. All you have to do is log in to your family site and click on your name in the upper right-hand side of the screen. Select ‘My Privacy, then on ‘My member preferences’ on the left and uncheck ‘Enable Search Connect™’.”
GEMS NEWS: Contest Results
Recently we ran a contest celebrating our milestone 1000th blog post on the Genealogy Gems website. We counted down our Top 10 posts of 2015 and many of you helped us share those posts on Facebook. Charles Meiser was one person who helped, and he won a copy of the Video course Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects by our very own Contributing Editor Sunny Morton.
I do have a nice consolation prize for those who didn’t win: a coupon code for 25% off your own copy of Pain Free Family History Writing Projects Video Course. Her class is packed full of strategies to help you finally get your family history written. And her approach really helps you think outside the box about what really constitutes family history writing. She shares some fun and fantastic ways of passing along your family history without writing a 300-page volume.
GEMS NEWS: Write of Your Life Podcast
A few months ago I was interviewed on the Write of Your Life podcast. The thrust of what I talked about was the importance of what I call “family founders,” those people we can look to in our tree for inspiration and think of as role models. Family history helps modern families grow and heal. The people we meet on our family tree—people with the same genes we have—inspire and teach and motivate us in ways they never could have imagined, and maybe we never could have, either, until we “met” them.
Click here to listen to the interview. And then I’d love to hear from any of you about how family history has meaning in YOUR life.
MAILBOX: Where I’m From Poems
Between now and the end of the year, I encourage you write your own poem. Just make a list about where you’re from—the places, people, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, phrases, songs and rhythms that are part of your story. Shape it into a poem. Then call in to share it with us on our voicemail at (925) 272-4021. Those who do so by December 30, 2015 will be eligible for a chance to win a one-year Genealogy Gems Premium membership or renewal. Next month, I’ll share a couple more of your entries on the podcast. Give it a try! Click here to learn more about this contest.
MAILBOX: The Case of the Missing Parents Continues
Cluster research, in which you try to recognize little migratory groups and use other members of the group to learn more about your own ancestor of primary interest. It’s a concept that Contributing Editor Sunny Morton wrote an entire how-to class on. She gave some great tips from that class in the November 2015 Family Tree Magazine podcast, which I also host. That brick-wall-busting class is called Cluster and Collateral Research 101.
DNA testing. Depending on which test she takes, her results may lead to common relatives descended from those “missing” parents. I recommended the “Getting Started” DNA guide I offer through the Genealogy Gems website. It’s an inexpensive and helpful way to start your DNA journey. As your DNA journey progresses, the entire series of DNA guides written by our resident DNA expert, Diahan Southard, can help with next steps.
SPECIAL INTERVIEW: Kathy Hawkins: Interviewing Tips for Older Relatives
Here are four tips she shared that I especially appreciated:
Kathy shared information about Timeslips Creative Storytelling, which teaches caregivers how to have more meaningful, joyful interactions with memory-impaired loved ones. Click here to see a pdf with some creative storytelling and arts materials that Timeslips offers.
BOOK CLUB: Excerpt from Citizens Creek
This month, over on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast, our Premium members will hear an exclusive interview with Lalita Tademy, author of Citizens Creek. In this episode, we also play a brief excerpt for you.
If you’re enjoying these snippets of interviews and you’re not already a Premium website member, consider whether it’s finally time to take the plunge. With Genealogy Gems Premium website membership, one LOW price gets you an entire YEAR’s access to current and ALL back episodes of the monthly Genealogy Gems Premium podcast. That podcast is like this podcast—but on steroids. You get MORE meaty interviews, more fun conversations and exclusive, full-length interviews with the authors of our Book Club selections. You also have access to my most popular classes on video, which if you were to take them at conferences or purchase something like them from another web site would EACH be more expensive than the entire annual membership price.
Why not try it for a year? Get as much out of it as you can—there’s definitely a year’s worth of materials to watch and listen to. At the end of the year, YOU decide whether to renew—I never auto-renew my subscribers. It’s always your choice to continue to enjoy Genealogy Gems Premium privileges.
DNA GEM: Filling Empty Seats at the Table with DNA
Earlier this year we related the story of Mary McPherson and her cousin Dolores Washington-Fleming who discovered a common connection through Peter Edward Williams. Mary is a descendant of his wife, and Dolores through his slave.
Mary and Dolores welcomed this new connection and shared information about their common ancestor. As they reunited for the first time, perhaps they talked about what life might have been like in the 1850’s in the south, and how their ancestors would’ve never guessed that the two of them would be gathered around the same table.
As word spreads of the power of DNA testing to reveal the secrets of the past, many adoptees are flocking to genetic genealogy testing companies with the intention of filling the empty seats at their holiday tables. The New York Times reported a touching story of Khrys Vaughan who felt her identity crumble when she found out she was adopted. Turning to DNA testing she was able to connect with cousins and feel a biological connection she didn’t know she had been missing. Even though she still has many open seats at her table, she felt that filling even one meant that she was no longer biologically adrift, but could now look at someone and say, “This is my family.”
A similar story broke recently out of California. Just days old, Jen Chervin was found outside a hospital in Yuba City, CA. That was 40 years ago. But this year, Jen used the power of the genetic genealogy database in combination with some serious genealogy work to find her parents. While neither is in a position to openly embrace her as a daughter at this time in their lives, Jen now has a name card to place at seats of honor around her holiday table, all thanks to a simple saliva test.
This has been a landmark year in my own family. In one seeming miracle after another, I have added the names of maternal grandparents and great grandparents to my family tree as DNA testing has helped my mom fill in some of the missing pieces in her life. We have had a true Texas welcome from some of her paternal second cousins, and an outpouring of kindness from a maternal second cousin. While our place cards for mother and father are only tentatively penciled in, I know as I look around our genetic holiday table, I am excited about the new faces I see and I can’t wait to learn more.
If you want to get started filling seats at your table, there is no time like the present to give yourself, or someone else, the present of DNA testing! The first rule in DNA testing is to test the oldest generation. So parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles should be first on your list. If you are that oldest generation, then pat yourself on the back and get swabbing!
The savvy shopper begins with the AncestryDNA test for all interested parties, and the YDNA 37 marker test from Family Tree DNA for all males. Then sit back and wait for the results to roll in! As they do, check back here at Genealogy Gems for tips on how to use that data to fill seats at your holiday table next year.
And turn to Diahan Southard’s DNA quick reference guides in the Genealogy Gems store at http://shop.lisalouisecooke.com/
In November 1904, he received a patent for the world's first detachable electric plug: the two-, now sometimes three-prong plug familiar to us today. Remarkable as it sounds, at the time electric terminals would extend out from a wall, and any electrical device had to be hardwired to them--a time consuming process with a chance of electrocution. Hubbell was no one-hit wonder, as in the 1890s he created an electric switch and patented the pull-chain electric light socket.”
Wed, 4 November 2015
This month all of us here at Genealogy Gems are celebrating reaching a milestone 1000 blog posts on our website. But we’re not just celebrating our own genealogy writing. We’re celebrating YOURS! Today I have a special segment that celebrates what YOU have shared with us about your adventures in family history blogging. I also have a short, fun family history writing challenge to share with everyone, not just those who blog. I’ll introduce that challenge with a surprise guest—the poet laureate of Kentucky.
Genealogy Gems App Users: Check out the Bonus Content video
NEWS: More U.S. Marriage Records Online
Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington. Louisiana’s collection alone contains over a million entries, and Pennsylvania’s dates to the 1600s! But FamilySearch isn’t alone in the marriage record publishing frenzy.
Of course, not every ancestor who married stayed that way: Ancestry has also updated its Idaho divorce collection and added a new collection of Oregon divorce records. A lot of these are older but you’ll be surprised at how far into the 20th century some of these new marriage record collections are. Use these to recharge your research if you’ve stalled somewhere on your U.S. family tree!
NEWS: National Archives (U.S.) Doing More Digitizing
So the National Archives has partnered with these organizations in the past, but this time around, the contract allows them to get records online faster by uploading digitized and partially-digitized collections before they’re even indexed, like FamilySearch already does. There are new provisions to protect personally identifying information, and Ancestrywill have a shorter window of exclusivity with their content. They invest in record digitization and indexing so they will have exclusive access to the images and indexes for a period of time, after which the National Archives can put the material on its site and share it with other partners. It’s a win-win even for those who don’t subscribe to Ancestry: you’ll just have to wait longer to win!
And FYI, in case you wonder why FamilySearch and Ancestry seem so favored, the U.S. National Archives does sign content partnerships with other companies. Findmypast has a contract pending, and there’s already a contract with military records site Fold3.
NEWS: RootsMagic for Mac and More
Speaking of a full Mac version of RootsMagic, you may recall that last year they launched MacBridge for RootsMagic. This was really a great step forward, but there was an additional fee and it required extra steps to download and use.
But now when you buy RootsMagic 7, you can install it on both Windows and Mac computers in your household....So your single purchase includes licenses for both. Great, right?! So if you already own RootsMagic 7 for Windows, you can head back to their website, and download RootsMagic 7 for Mac any time and use the same registration key that you got with your original purchase.
And something I really love about Rootstmagic is the free and easy to access support they provide their users. There’s nothing worse than struggling to use your genealogy software when you’re hot on the trail of ancestors. Well they have just published two new free PDF RootsMagic user guides – one that’s all about installing RootsMagic for Mac, and another guide on how to create a Shareable CD. So now you have lots of new things to do when it comes to Rootsmagic.
This month we are celebrating 1000 blog posts on the Genealogy Gems website. It’s hard to believe we’re up to 1000 different posts on family history news, tips, stories and more! Who knew there was so much to say? But our blog is only a drop in the genealogy-blogging bucket! I keep hearing from so many of you about your blogging successes. So here’s a taste of what I’m hearing:
“I absolutely love blogging about my family,” commented Diane on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. “Once I got serious, 2 years ago, I have really enjoyed it. I've connected with cousins and made many new friends. I write tips to help other researchers and that's also been very rewarding. It's a regular part of my life now. I would really miss it if I couldn't write.”
Here’s another one. Debra wrote in to say, “I have been reading about blogging for genealogy on your website and finally decided to bite the bullet and start one. Now I am trying to figure out how to get it noticed and remembered that you asked us to send you the link if we started one, so here is the information.” Her blog: Dezi Duz it, at www.deziduzit.blogspot.com.
I took a quick peek at it. It’s still a young blog, but I have to say that Debra is going about this the right way. Her blog posts are packed with family names and locations that can help other relatives find her, if they’re searching for those same names and locations online. She’s also got great stories and memories in her posts, which she’s added documents and photos to. That content will keep interested relatives reading, once they’ve discovered her, which may take some time—but it’s worth it!
A new podcast listener and blogger wrote to me recently. Jolanta is a Polish immigrant to Northern Ireland and a professional translator. She says, “I only just discovered podcast as a medium and your podcast in particular. I am loving it! Love the book club, the tips and really everything about it! I drive a lot and it is recorded loud enough to comfortably listen in a car (unlike some other podcasts) and I still have quite a lot of shows to go so I will be occupied for a while!”
She goes on to say, “Motivated by your show, I decided to take a plunge and start my own blog…I am not a native English speaker, but this is a way to challenge myself. I only have one post up so far and the next one nearly ready, but the more I listen to your podcasts the more ideas I have.”
Since she wrote us, she’s added more to her blog at www.genealogytranslator.com. I’m so pleased that the show is inspiring Jolanta, because she’s inspiring me! What a feat, to blog in your second language! She says that as an immigrant, she feels doing her genealogy is even more important, because since she left 11 years ago, her daughter has been born. Jolanta says, “She needs to know where her roots are!” and I couldn’t agree more. Good for her!
Another Debra wrote in recently with this comment: “I am fairly new to your podcast series; I enjoy listening while I work on my quilting projects. You have inspired me to start a family history blog as a starting base for writing my family history. Last week, I listened to one of your early podcasts on the subject of cold-calling. I was amazed to hear how difficult it is for many people to reach out to others for help with their research into their own family history. I took that topic and wrote a blog entry about the first cold-call that I remember. It has inspired me to write about more cold-calls in the near future. I would like to invite you to read that entry on my site, dygenerations.com. Thank you for your excitement and your inspirations.” Well, you’re welcome, Debra, and thank you for sharing your blog post with your experience cold-contacting a distant relative: an experience that actually led to meeting that relative, who introduced her to another relative who lived in the old family home, which had a family burial plot in her back garden! What a great contact and friendship she describes!
Mike from Sydney, Australia wrote to say, “Congratulations on a great podcast from Down Under. I listen to every episode during my travels to and from work. I recently watched your 'how to blog your family history' series on YouTube and became motivated to finally 'get on my butt' and do something. Your recent episode 184 with Judy's blogging experience was the clincher. I have now proudly given birth to my first blog at http://familyarising.blogspot.com.au/. And it wasn't painful. It has only taken about 20 years since blogging has been around! Thank you for inspiring me and all your other listeners.”
It feels so good to hear that so many people are getting into the spirit of blogging their family history! It’s never too late to start! I’ll share one last letter from Chris, who wrote in after we announced the new Irish Catholic Parish Registers online from the National Library of Ireland.
Chris says, “Since you turned everyone on to this latest resource I thought I'd share the results.” She sent me a link to her blog post link about using these, where she reports: “I was very lucky. I knew enough information to make a smart guess at exactly where to look and within half an hour I had baptismal records for three people in my dad's family.” In fact, these relatives she talks about have the surname Cooke, just like my married name.
Do you still need more motivation to get blogging? I came across a marketing blog post on the power of blogging for businesses. Well, we as family historians are in the business of sharing our family history stories. So I think about things from that point of view when I hear the following, taken from a post on Hubspot Blogs.
First, businesses that blog attract two-thirds more potential customers than those who don’t. Likewise, family historians who share their family history online can attract interest from lots of relatives, including those they’ve never met and those they never knew were interested in family history!
Second, blog posts can pull in new customers for businesses whether you wrote them yesterday or years ago. It’s worth updating older blog posts with more current information and keeping your current contact information on your blog, even if you’re not actively adding to it right now.
Third, marketing experts say that by 2020, customers are expected to manage about 85% of business without even talking to a human. Wow! I think we’ll see some trending that direction in family history research, too. Increasingly, our relatives are likely looking for their family history online first—not as much by reaching out to distant relatives and relatives-of-relatives by mail or phone, though I still encourage that cold-calling approach that worked so well for Debra.
GENEALOGY GEMS FOR SOCIETIES
A few months ago I heard from Richard. “I have been asked by my local genealogical Society to conduct and present at the meeting in August. My thought for the class was Internet Genealogy and providing a comprehensive overview on how members and non-members can increase their sources and find ‘hidden’ records on line. Can I include images of your website and small clips of some of your online free videos as part of the presentation? I would of course include the source information and provide credit for you. I am also planning to hype up your podcast as well since it has given me a number of new outlooks on the best hobby in the world. Thank you again for your continued information and assistance in every media format known.”
Thank you, Richard! I’m so glad he wants to share Genealogy Gems with his local society. I’ve actually heard that from so many of you that I’ve created a new program to meet this need. Genealogy Gems for Societies is a premium subscription service just for genealogical societies and groups, such as libraries. This is a cost-effective way for groups to enjoy my high-quality family history video presentations their regular meetings. It includes:
A year-long license to show video recordings of my most popular classes as group presentations
Permission to republish articles and blog posts from our enormous online archive—remember? we’re up to 1000 blog posts now!—in your society newsletter. (Your newsletter editor will LOVE this feature!), and
Discounts for your society and its members on Genealogy Gems live seminars and purchases from our online store.
INTERVIEW: Where I'm From with George Ella Lyon
Today I arranged for a special segment that Contributing Editor Sunny Morton recorded with George Ella Lyon, the poet laureate of Kentucky, George Ella Lyon, whose own poem on family identity has inspired hundreds of people to write their own and has even become an official statewide initiative in Kentucky! One of those who wrote their own version of the poem was Sunny’s own 11-year old son Alex. Enjoy the conversation—and listen for that writing invitation I told you was coming!
George Ella Lyon is the Poet Laureate for the state of Kentucky and the author of a very popular family history writing exercise based on her poem, “Where I’m From.” She uses her poem to encourage others to make lists about where they’re from, and shape them into their own poems. As she says on her website, “the poem as a writing prompt has traveled in amazing ways. People have used it at their family reunions, teachers have used it with kids all over the United States, in Ecuador and China; they have taken it to girls in juvenile detention, to men in prison for life, and to refugees in a camp in the Sudan.”
The “Where I’m From” poem has inspired a current initiative by the Kentucky Arts Council to encourage people to reflect on and document their own heritage. Of course, we hope this conversation will inspire YOU to write about where you’re from, too! Here are some of George Ella Lyon’s tips on writing your own version of “Where I’m From:”
Tell us where you are from!
DNA GEM: Ethnicity Results: Exciting or Exasperating?
Facebook follower Kate Vaughan recently wrote in expressing her frustration with her ethnicity results provided by AncestryDNA. She gets right to the point when she writes, “the way they refer to the results is confusing.”
Kate, you are not alone. Many genealogists have been lured into taking the autosomal DNA test at one of the three major DNA testing companies just to get this glimpse into their past. Remember that the autosomal DNA test can reveal information about both your mother’s side and your father’s side of your family tree. Many take the test hoping for confirmation of a particular ancestral heritage, others are just curious to see what the results will show. Though their purposes in initiating the testing may vary, the feeling of bewilderment and befuddlement upon receiving the results is fairly universal.
Kate has some specific questions about her results that I think most will share. Let’s take a look at a couple of them. First up, Kate wants to know if our family tree data in any way influences the ethnicity results provided. The answer is an unequivocal “no.” None of the testing companies look at your family tree in any way when determining your ethnicity results. However, the results are dependent on the family trees of the reference population. The reference populations are large numbers of people whose DNA has been tested and THEIR family history has been documented for many generations in that region. The testing companies compare your DNA to theirs and that’s how they assign you to an ethnicity (and place of ancestral origin?).
Next Kate asks, “Do they mean England when they report Great Britain?” Or to put it more broadly, how do these testing companies decide to divide up the world? All of the companies handle this a little bit differently. Let’s look at Ancestry as an example. When you login to view your ethnicity results, you can click on the “show all regions” box below your results to get a list of all of the possible categories that your DNA could be placed in. These 26 categories include nine African regions, Native American, three Asian regions, eight European regions, two Pacific Island regions, two West Asian regions, and then Jewish, which is not a region, per se, but a genetically distinct group.
Clicking on each individual location in the left sidebar will bring up more information on the right about that region. For example, clicking on Great Britain tells us that DNA associated with this region is primarily found in England, Scotland, and Wales, but is also found in Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Basically, this is telling us that people with generations of ancestry in Great Britain are quite a genetic mix from many areas.
The first chart here shows that if we are to test the DNA of 100 natives of one of these primary regions (England, Scotland or Wales) then 50 of them will have the great Britain “pattern” of DNA covering 60% or more of their entire genome, and 50 of them will have that pattern in less than 60% of their DNA. The fact that this half-way number is so low, only 60%, tells us that there is a lot of uncertainty in this ethnicity estimate because there is so much mixture in this region. Kate, for you that means that when you see Great Britain in your ethnicity estimate, it could mean England, or maybe it means Italy- Ancestry can’t be certain.
But that uncertainty isn’t the same for every region. Pictured here is also the ethnicity chart for Ireland. You can see that half the people who are native to Ireland will have 95% or more Irish DNA. Kate, for us this means that if you have Irish DNA in your results, you can be pretty certain it came from Ireland. From these tables you can see your membership in some regions is more robust than others, and Ancestry is using these tables to try to help us tell the difference.
In the end, the ethnicity results reported by each DNA testing company are highly dependent on two factors: the reference populations they use to compare your DNA against, and the statistical algorithms they use to compute your similarities to these populations. Every company is doing both of these things just a little bit differently.
Kate, if you want to get another take on your ethnicity results, you can take your data over to Family Tree DNA, or you can be tested at 23andMe. A free option is to head over to Gedmatch and try out their various ethnicity tools. If you need help downloading and transferring, you can head over to my website: http://www.yourdnaguide.com/transferring. Most people have found after searching in multiple places that their “true” results are probably somewhere in the middle.
While these ethnicity results can be interesting and useful, for most they will just be a novelty; something interesting and exciting. I have found that their most useful application is acting like a fly on a fishing line. They attract our family members into DNA testing where we can then set the hook on the real goal: family history.
The Statue of Liberty had a birthday just recently! On October 28, 1886, the now-famous Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor in New York City. Every school child in the U.S. knows this was a gift from France. According to Profile America, “the statue was the first glimpse of America for more than 20 million immigrants who came through nearby Ellis Island, chiefly from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Poland. In 1910, the year of the greatest influx, some 15 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born.”
Each of those 20 million immigrants to the U.S.—and each of our other ancestors from all over the world—has a unique story. Of migration or change, loss and love, being favored by fate--or not-so-favored. All the stories I find—and all the stories I hear and read from YOU—tell me that we have so much to learn from our ancestors’ lives, so much to be inspired by.
Their stories shape us and, in so doing, become part of OUR stories. That gives us double the stories to tell! I invite you to get sharing those stories, if you aren’t already. Blog if that works for you, because the world is your audience. Or write something else and share it in another way. Put together a short biography of a fascinating ancestor. Transcribe an old diary or interview. Write about your research journey and how your findings inspired you. However you most want to share it: just DO it! Your own legacy will love on. The legacies of those who love from the past will live on. And legacies of those yet to come will benefit from that which you’ve left for them.
Tue, 6 October 2015
In this episode I’ll kick things off with two fabulous online resources I think are Gems. Two of you wrote in with your own advice, one on saving your genealogy from theft and another with another tip on digital preservation. I found a funny poem online that the author gave me permission to share. And then Sunny will join me to announce our next Genealogy Gems Book Club pick—and we may or may not digress a little to talk about other fun things on our minds. So sit back and relax—or do whatever you love to do while listening to podcasts—and let’s get started.
NEWS: Ancestry Web Indexes
Did you see the recent article on the Genealogy Gems website about Ancestry Web Indexes? These are FREE resources that anyone can access. You don’t need to be an Ancestry subscriber or even create a free login on the site.
Here’s what they’re all about. For the past few years, Ancestry has been indexing databases from other websites on their own site. They’re not stealing data or take credit for data from other places—everything is fully cited and points to the original sites. Ancestry is extending the power of its ability to help users find their family history online wherever it may be. They’re taking advantage of the fact that it’s already a place where people are looking and their site’s powerful search tools.
What I think is cool is that you may have a better search experience at Ancestry than you would at the original site. Some sites that host databases or indexes don’t offer very flexible search parameters. If you search for Elizabeth Madison, they may not recognize “Beth” or “Lizzie” as acceptable search results, or alternate spellings of her last name. But Ancestry does.
A subscription to that original site may be required to see any images or other content that’s members-only. But if there’s data out there, I want to know about it. Then I can decide whether I want to get access to it. Another bonus is that a lot of their big Web Indexes are from sites that are not in English. This gives English-speakers a portal to that data, in case they are intimidated by trying to search a site in another language or by applying Google Translate, which I teach about using in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
Anyway, I think it’s just one more online tool we should all know about! Just within the past few weeks, here are a few new Ancestry Web Indexes:
Danish Emigration (that’s Emigration with an E—for people moving OUT of the country), more than 300,000 records from 1868 to 1908.
An Indiana Marriage Index for 1806-1861, with another 300,000 records;
Alberta, Canada newspaper vital events index back to 1889; and
Here’s a tip that wasn’t in our article: you can search for Ancestry Web Indexes by going to Ancestry’s drop-down Search menu. Click on Card Catalog, and do a title search for the word “Web.” You’ll see lots of results that say “Web:” followed by the name of the index. Just another helpful tip to get the most out of one of the world’s biggest genealogy websites, whether you’re a subscriber or not!
NEWS: Bomb Sight website
There’s a new website and mobile app that I have to recommend that reveals the Blitz in a new way: Bomb Sight, http://www.bombsight.org/. The core of this site is a digitized version of 559 bomb census maps that show where each and every bomb fell between July of 1940 and the following June. These maps were classified until 1971, and were previously only available in their fragile, original condition in the British National Archives.
Now you can explore all those neighborhoods and read about the individual bombs that devastated them. You can even see related historical images and read stories and memories. It’s stunning to look closely at a neighborhood and see how densely the bombs fell. It’s also stunning to pan out to the widest view and see SO many dots. So many bombs. So much destruction. Take a few minutes, won’t you, and explore BombSight.org, and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the bombing of London.
Advice to a new family history blogger
So I took a look at Judy’s blog. Here is a summary of my comments:
Her posts are packed with genealogical data
She shows great use of search keywords: she even included all the name spelling variations!
In addition to the wonderful information her blog provides to readers, it’s also wonderful Google “cousin bait” because others searching for all those names and places will find her
I would love to see a "Next Steps" list after the Questions list (which I think was a great addition to the post)
A Sobering Reminder about Computer Backups
I met Kathy from Carmel Valley, California on the Legacy Genealogy Cruise this past June, which was SO much fun! Afterward, Kathy sent me this note: “Hi Lisa, I hope all is well with you and your family. I am still thinking about our lovely Caribbean cruise.
I thought you might share a reminder with your listeners. My husband and I were out of town last week and were robbed. The robbers took only electronics (thank goodness) and did not mess up the house….another thing to be thankful for. But your listeners can not rely on external hard drives as backup. If the external hard drive is by the computer….the robbers will take that as well. Thank goodness we had a web-based backup. So we did not lose our precious research or photographs. It could have been so much worse.
This is just another reason why your listeners should look at BackBlaze or another company that provides the same service. I am grateful that I did. Yes, we have to purchase new computer equipment….BUT we have our research and our photos. Gratitude, gratitude.”
I’m so sorry Kathy was robbed. But I’m so glad she didn’t lose the most important part of her computer: what was on it. And I sure appreciate her sharing her close call with us.
We’ve heard it before: the way to keep from losing copies of anything is to keep multiple copies in multiple physical locations. Kathy mentioned robbery, but another common scenario that would take out all your in-house computer storage is a natural disaster—a flood or fires, like the ones that recently plagued Carmel Valley where she lives (I hope Kathy wasn’t affected).
But it’s a lot of work to back up everything yourself on an ongoing basis and keep distributing it to multiple physical locations. A cloud-based backup service does this work for you: both the backup and the offsite storage! Here at Genealogy Gems, I trust Backblaze as our official cloud-based computer backup service. Do your homework and find what’s right for you. But I did my homework and I recommend Backblaze. It’s less than five bucks a month for the peace of mind and security that your computer’s contents will ALWAYS be safely stored and available for you to retrieve from their secure online vault. I encourage you to check them out at www.backblaze.com/Lisa.
Digital file storage
“I was very interested in listening to podcast Episode 183 since one of its major segments dealt with preservation of old photos and videos. For the last three years (as time permits), I've been scanning my (and my wife's family's) old photos - mainly black and white. This is still a work-in-progress. Tried to do a good bit of reading about this subject (on the Internet) before I started. Also attended a genealogy seminar in 2009 where one of the presentations covered digital photo preservation.
“Based on what I've read and heard, the ‘experts’ generally appear to recommend using the .tif file format (versus jpg, gif, png, bmp) for capturing and retaining any photos you deem valuable or important. This decision seems to be driven by the loss-less nature of the .tif format versus the "lossy" nature of the other formats. There's no question that a .tif version of a given image is substantially larger than its jpg counterpart, too. Since the choice of a file format is a pretty basic (and important) aspect of the digital preservation process, I was surprised it wasn't mentioned in the podcast or associated notes.
I loved hearing from Bill. He’s absolutely right that TIF is preferred over JPG for just the reasons he mentioned. Kristin and I didn't cover that in our conversation due to time constraints, and the fact that we've covered the advantages of TIF over JPG several times before in past Genealogy Gems episodes (like episode 57 with Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist, which is available for free online). We addressed image resolution because this is a specific area we haven't covered as much.
Just a reminder, the Genealogy Gems coupon code for Larsen Digital is still good! The code is Gengem10, and it’s good for 10% off services like digitizing old photos and your family videos and film reels. Visit their website at www.larsendigital.com, call them at 800-776-8357 or send an email to email@example.com.
GEM: “Open Letter Grandma”
Recently I came across this wonderful poem that resonated so well with me—and made me laugh—that I got the author’s permission to share it on the podcast. It’s called “Open Letter to Grandma” by Amie Bowser Tennant, and it’s posted on her blog, RootsBid. (Click on the link to read the poem.)
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: Citizens Creek: A Novel by Lalita Tademy
Citizens Creek is a novel, but it’s based on the lives of real people. The publisher describes it as “the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.
“Cow Tom’s legacy lives on—especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather’s indelible mark of courage inspires her—in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.
Contributing Editor and Book Club Guru first considered this book for the Genealogy Gems Book Club because of the compelling history told about both Native Americans and African Americans. “But then,” she says, “the characters’ stories became more personal and more relatable and more obviously about family, relationships and legacy. We see how the experiences of one generation shape them—and how they shape themselves--and what effects all this has on the next generation. We see how the next generations look backward for inspiration and support and guidance, to see how best to manage in the present and think about the future.”
Next episode, Sunny will share a couple of passages from the book about Rose, Cow Tom’s granddaughter, who becomes the keeper of his secrets.
DNA GEM: Some Suggestions for the Empty Handed Genetic Genealogists
“Over one million people have had their DNA tested for genealogical purposes, and that number is climbing fast. If we were able to survey all of those who have tested, how many would answer that they are fully satisfied with their results? I think the level of satisfaction we feel with our genetic genealogy experience has everything to do with our expectations going in.
“What did you expect going in? Many are drawn to genetic genealogy by the pretty pie charts and maps that reveal our mix of ancestral heritage. If they are expecting a nice addition to their coffee table pieces, they are pleased. If they are expecting a crystal ball into their ancestral heritage, they are often disappointed.
“Likewise, when you see a 2nd-4th cousin on your match page, you may have every expectation that you can figure out how you are related to each other. But when that common ancestor remains elusive, many fear that the test is not helpful, or worse, inaccurate.
“Recently we heard from Jenna on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Jenna has followed the autosomal DNA testing plan perfectly: She tested first with Ancestry, then transferred to Family Tree DNA. She even went the extra step and uploaded her results into GedMatch, a free third party tool, and yet, she feels she hasn’t made any positive connections.
“For anyone in this situation, here are 2 explanations, and 2 next-steps to help set good expectations for your genetic genealogy experience.
“First, you need to know your own family history. If your family is not from the United States, or have only recently immigrated to the United States, you will not find very many matches in the databases. This will change as time moves on and genetic genealogy gains greater exposure and acceptance in other markets.
“If you do have ancestry from the United States, but are still coming up empty handed, it might be because you happen to be the pioneer in your family, the first to jump into genetic genealogy. While 1 million people is a lot of tested individuals, I am consistently surprised by the number of people I meet who have never heard of using DNA testing in genealogy.
“Unfortunately, both of these explanations just require patience to be resolved. But, while you are waiting, here are 2 tips to get the most out of what you have:
“First, as our Facebook friend suggested, start with a goal. In her case, she is interested in her paternal grandmother’s father. Anytime you are researching a male, if you can find his direct paternal descendant, a living male with his surname, you should have him take the YDNA test.
“In the absence, or in addition to that, having as many descendants of your ancestor tested as possible will help you fill in the genetic gaps that naturally occur as DNA is passed down. But short of throwing more money at the testing companies, you can search each database by surname and location to look for others who might share these genealogical characteristics with the individual you are looking for.
“My second tip is to focus on your closest genetic match and use all the available tools to investigate your relationship. This will involve using the Common Matches tools found at Ancestry.com, Family Tree DNA, and GEDmatch. In this way you can find multiple individuals that may all be related to you through a single common ancestor. You can then use their known genealogies to look for overlapping genealogical information, like surnames and locations to help you identify your shared common ancestor.
“Most people that I talk to who feel like their DNA has left them empty handed are just simply not aware of how to use the tools and clues at their testing company to tease information out of their matches. That I why I have written the genetic genealogy quick guides that do take you step by step through your results to make sure you are making the most of your DNA test results.
“You can find these guides under the Store tab at GenealogyGems.com. I also offer customized DNA guidance like the help I’ve been giving Lisa, which she’s talked about in her free weekly newsletter. If you’re interested in a consultant, find me through my website, YourDNAGuide.com.”—Diahan Southard
Wed, 2 September 2015
In this episode, a special expert joins us to talk about digitizing and storing your old movies, videos, and pictures—even further updating those old movies you’ve already put on CD. You’ll hear a juicy clip from our exclusive Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with the editor of the new Laura Ingalls Wilder biography, Pioneer Girl. And Your DNA Guide is here with a story of DNA and the President.
NEWS: AncestryDNA Common Matches
Genealogists are losing sleep lately because of a new DNA tool, but in a good way! I’m talking about AncestryDNA’s release of its Common Matches tool. Diahan Southard, our resident DNA expert, shared the breaking news on our website recently, within hours of when the new tool when live.
She loves it so much she’s already spent hours using Common Matches, which she says is blowing her genealogy mysteries wide open. This tool pulls out shared matches between two people who match at 4th cousins or closer. The tool is on AncestryDNA’s main match page, between the “Pedigrees and Surnames” filter and the “Map and Locations” filter. This link will take you to a blog post on our site with Diahan’s great visuals and explanation of how to use this new tool.
We heard from Alana on Facebook after she read Diahan’s post. She said, “I stayed up for hours past my bedtime last night resolving hundreds of mystery matches. Everything makes so much more sense now. I’ve been mentally begging them to come up with a way to search for two surnames: this does an even better job than that. I did think it was funny how they broke the news by trying to sell me more tests. Oh well. I am SO thankful for this extremely useful new tool!”
Have you tried it? Let us know how it works for you. We’d love to hear your success stories and how you’re making the most of DNA testing for genealogy.
DOUBLE YOUR CLOUD BACKUP SECURITY
Recently Backblaze, a sponsor of this podcast, let us know that we can now activate an extra layer of security to better protect the data we have stored with them.
The feature is called two-factor verification. It requires that we present both our account credentials and a verification code from a second device to gain access to our Backblaze account. That means someone who was trying to steal our data would have to have both our account information and access to the phone that's tied to the account. The option to require both these security steps can make Backblaze’s solid security even more powerful. It’s like you’re giving Backblaze permission to lock the doors to your data with two different keys instead of a single one, because you’re willing to take the time to use that second key whenever YOU need access.
This is just one more reason I’m glad I’ve chosen Backblaze as the official cloud-based computer backup service of Genealogy Gems! I sleep more easily knowing Backblaze is backing me up, 24/7, without me having to do anything but live my life, create and edit the many files that bring you this show, and keep my Backblaze subscription current!
NEWS: RootsMagic Update for FamilySearch Family Tree
If you’re a RootsMagic user, did you install the required update recently so it will continue to work with FamilySearch? On July 30, last month, FamilySearch made some changes to its own site, which required RootsMagic to tweak things on their end to keep up.
If you’re running RootsMagic 7, look for the “Update Available” indicator in the lower right corner of your RootsMagic 7 program screen, and click on it. You will then be able to continue working with FamilySearch Family Tree as if nothing has changed. If you’re running Rootmagic 6, you can either upgrade to version 7 for around $20 or you can download the free RootsMagic 7 Essentials version and switch back and forth between them with the same database. Thanks for helping us spread the word to other RootsMagic users who are now scratching their heads when trying to work with FamilySearch FamilyTree!
MAILBOX: Keeping Track of Your Master Family Tree
We recently heard from a new RootsMagic user, who bought the software to keep track of his family tree. He was still finding it difficult to corral all his data in one place. He wrote, “I have my family tree splattered everywhere: FamilySearch, MyHeritage and Ancestry. I’m afraid of losing control of my tree and would like some advice on keeping things straight. Each of the sites I go on seem to offer different information, so I started posting information on different sites. Can you offer any suggestions that I can use to centralize my data across different sites?”
This is NOT just a problem Louis is having! In fact, I venture a guess that most people with online trees in more than one place have this problem and some may not even realize it.
I look at my RootsMagic database on my computer as my MASTER database and tree. I may post things online, but only copies. Websites come and go and I want to keep ownership of my own master file on my own computer. With this kind of thinking, I can post my tree online but not lose control of it!
When I post tree data online, I’m going fishing for family, so to speak. I’m trying to connect with cousins and gain research leads. With that in mind, I upload only the portion of the tree for which I want to generate those connections and leads. I don’t put my entire tree on each site because I don’t want to get bogged down with requests and alerts for far flung branches that I’m not focused on researching right now.
To do this I make a copy of my database, edit it to fit my research, and then upload it. As I find documents and data on genealogy websites, I may “attach” them to the tree on that site, but I always download a copy and retain that on my computer and make note of it in RootsMagic. That way I retain control of my tree and my sources.
Visit our sponsor MyHeritage.com and start boosting your genealogy research
GEM: Digital Preservation
If you’re lucky enough to have old home movies, then you are probably really concerned about how to preserve them and how to get them into some kind of format that you can share with your family and use in your own family history projects. And what about digitizing and preserving our old photos? We all have those. It can all seem like a pretty daunting task, and that’s why I’ve invited Digital Film Conversion expert Kristin Harding from Larsen Digital in for a chat.
Here at Genealogy Gems we’ve been talking lately about the importance of backing up all your computer files, particularly since our experience with our new sponsor Backblaze has shown us how easy and inexpensive it is to have a first-rate cloud back-up service. But there’s an important step that has to happen before you can back something up: you have to digitize it in the first place!
Bonus! Here's a coupon code for Larsen Digital:
Gengem10 gets Genealogy Gems listeners 10% off!
Call with any questions at
1-800-776-8357 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for digitizing still images
Learn more about how to organize the filenames of all your old images in a two-episode series on the free Family History Made Easy podcast: episodes 32 and 33. Genealogy Gems Premium members can also access my 2-part instructional video series, “Hard Drive Organization” (where you can WATCH how to organize your computer files).
What about moving images? So many of us have old home movies. And we have them in lots of different forms like Super 8, and VHS. You are pretty adamant that we should preserve our old home movies as MP4 digital video files, not just on DVDs and CDs as many of us have done over the past several years.
A final tip: save multiple copies of all these to multiple locations. Kristin advises that all media should be stored in at least two places, preferably 3. “For example, your home computer would be one location; I think an external hard drive is always a smart bet because computers crash all the time. I personally believe that storing it with a cloud provider is critical to ensure that your media never gets lost or erased. If you have your files backed up into different locations, no matter what disaster strikes, (computer crash, floods, fire, moving) you will always have a copy safe somewhere.”
Bonus! Here's a coupon code for Larsen Digital:
Gengem10 gets Genealogy Gems listeners 10% off!
Call with any questions at
1-800-776-8357 or send an email to email@example.com.
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: Pioneer Girl - an interview with editor Pamela Smith Hill
Listen to an excerpt from our interview with Pamela Smith Hill, editor of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, is the never-before-published autobiography Laura wrote in the 1930s. The stories and memories she shares in it are the basis for her popular Little House children’s series.
Get the Full Interview: Genealogy Gems Premium members have exclusive access to the full interview in the upcoming Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 127, to be published later this month. Your membership—just one low annual fee--gives you access for a full year to all the monthly Premium podcasts as well as past ones, so you can hear our interviews with other fantastic authors on books we’ve loved. You’ll also have access to our full series of Premium how-to videos, which include the Ultimate Evernote Education series, Google and Google Earth, and my other hottest topics.
DNA GEM: William Harding DNA test
New evidence in a 90 year old paternity case came to light recently in the form of a DNA test. While most cases of unknown paternity include an unwed woman and a child, this one had the unique distinction of also involving the president of the United States.
The New York Times recently named former president Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) as the father of Elizabeth Ann Blaesing after her son, James Blaesing, and two individuals related to the Hardings, were found to have shared DNA.
Just to be clear, the DNA test results don’t and can’t name a specific relative as the shared source of any two individual’s DNA. Though we would like it to be, it is not DNA in, ancestors name and birth certificate out. The actual report from the testing company was that James Blaesing and Peter and Abigail Harding were second cousins. This means that the shared ancestral couple for these three has to be among their 4 sets of great grandparents. The DNA alone cannot tell us which set. It was a combination of the DNA and the known genealogy that provided such a high level of confidence in this case.
While there are certainly mixed feelings among members of the Harding family about this new evidence, this is clearly a win for DNA. A man who was thought to have never had children did in fact have one child, and now a grandchild. This preserves a genetic legacy for his family line that might have otherwise been lost.
This is also a clear win for the power of curious descendants and the healing balm of time. It was actually Harding’s grand niece and grand nephew who instigated the testing out of a pure desire to know the truth. Time has allowed them this curiosity without threat of scandal and technology has provided the necessary tools to once and for all more fully understand their ancestor and the life he lived.
AncestryDNA declared after this story broke that DNA testing can rewrite history, which may be true. However, I prefer to think of DNA testing not as white out that can erase false accusations, but rather as a filter that allows you to separate fact from fiction so that history can reflect lives rather than lies. Here’s a link to a related article that also comments on the lack of African DNA in Harding’s descendants.
Get Diahan's DNA quick reference guides to help you easily navigate your own genetic genealogy journey.
Diahan Southard offers DNA consultations to help you with your results. Learn more here
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
Be a part of
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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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