Friday, April 23, 2010

A Solemn Observance

April 12, 2010 marked the beginning of the Civil War. On this date In 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter in South Carolina. While war is nothing to celebrate, it is a significant anniversary, when you consider the 600,000 Americans who gave their lives. An article on The American Interest Online, "Civil War Still Echo in our Heads," recaps those first shots and illustrates how in some ways, even today, the Civil War has not ended. I particularly like one quote noted in the piece, "The past isn’t dead, Faulkner once wrote.  It isn’t even past."

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Who Do You Think You Are" - American Style

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

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

"A little-known genealogy service"

This may be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for those researching immigrant ancestors. An article today in the Los Angeles Times, "A government genealogy service lets family history leap off the page," provides a case in point and explains a fairly recent program [2008] that gives researchers more immediate access to immigration records, which may include an entire body of documents.

According to the article, "The documents came from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs a little-known genealogy service for relatives wanting to learn more about their family history. . . . In the past, genealogy researchers had to file document requests under the Freedom of Information Act and sometimes waited years for a response.

Under the genealogy program, which started in 2008, requests are usually completed within 90 days. For $20, the government will run a search of the name, as long as the person is deceased. If there are records available, the government charges additional fees for the files. In fiscal year 2009, more than 5,300 requests were made, fewer than expected. In addition to relatives, historians or researchers can also request files.

"It will be a treasure chest for genealogists," said Southern California Genealogical Society President Pam Wiedenbeck. "Oftentimes these files will have information on brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles that will help connect the dots."

For experienced genealogists, the files may open the doors to even more research, perhaps leading people to exact hometowns in their ancestors' native countries. And for those new to genealogy, they may be just the beginning. "For every question you answer you come up with two or three more," Wiedenbeck said."

For more information about the program, check out

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Hey genealogists, let's start Celebrating America

A recent news item on, "Hey genealogists, let's start Celebrating America," introduces a new project on, a state by state survey of available genealogical resources. States will be added in the order in which they joined the Union. This will be an exciting project to follow -- an opportunity to see how well we've covered our bases and to see what new information or untapped resources might be available.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Immigration History & the U.S, Part IV: Immigration after 1820

The recording of immigrants into the United State is of a relatively recent history. Awareness of this history, the dates for which records were kept, and the ports active during specific periods can help genealogists narrow their research. In this last of four articles, "Immigration after 1820," Alan Smith delineates this history.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009 Releases U.S. to Canada Border Crossings, 1908-1935

Canada’s leading family history website,, today launched online the indexed and fully searchable Border Crossings: From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935, which contains more than 1.6 million names from border crossing documents captured at almost 200 entry points over a 27-year period. 

The release of this collection is of great significance to many Canadians whose ancestors immigrated to Canada through the U.S. in the early 20th century. Border crossing records are the official and only immigration records for those individuals who crossed from the U.S.
Along with the Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, which were launched in September 2008 and contain more than 7.2 million names, the Border Crossings: from U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935 represent the most comprehensive collection of Canadian immigration records ever assembled online.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

History of Early American Ports

In his article, "Immigration History & the U.S., Part III: History of Early American Ports,"Alan Smith provides a background on various U.S. ports, their establishment and role in U.S. immigration. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants set foot on American soil before any attempt was made to document the fact. Understanding more about the formation of these early ports may provide researchers greater insight into the immigration of their own ancestors.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New online resource for U.S. immigration services

A recent article on announced a new program started by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to streamline the process of finding information — but the convenience comes at a price. The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program; a single index search is $20 and record requests are charged additional fees.

The USCIS has records dating back to the late 1800's documenting the arrival and naturalization of millions of immigrants, and also has records of people naturalized citizens between 1906 and 1956. According to the article, the new program replaces a Freedom of Information Act process that was required to get the information. USCIS reported receiving over 40,000 requests for historical records in the last four years. For more information, visit the USCIS web site.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts on the 4th

In her article, "Independence Was Not Free," Melissa Slate recounts an article from a recent issue of the American Legion Magazine, showing the trials and tribulations faced by signers of the Declaration of Independence. This is a good time, perhaps, to help children understand the meaning of patriotism and the value placed on the liberty by our forefathers.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day, 2008

Today is Flag Day in the United States, honoring that day, 14 June 1777 when the original stars and stripes design of the American Flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. In her article, "Our American Flag: Truth and Fiction," Melissa Slate presents the background of the flag's design, dispelling some long-held myths.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007 to bring U.S. Census online

Announced in a press release today, Allcensus has partnered with World Vital Records, Inc. to bring the Federal U.S. Census from 1790-1930 online at

“We, at Allcensus, are excited about this opportunity to assist a broader audience in tracing their family history. Our high quality census pages and correction of errors in pagination will make it easier for researchers to find the data they need in a very convenient and easy to use fashion,” said Jon McInnis, President,

The Federal Census online at contains more than 800,000 browseable images and 32 million names from select counties in every state, except Alaska. The Federal Census contains unique and pertinent information.

“The thing that I love about census data is that it helps connect the dots between many diverse genealogy data bases. The various census data sets, while not perfect, are the closest to consistent data collecting at any point in history,” said David Lifferth, President, World Vital Records, Inc. “With each successive census, more data elements are known and tracked. In most of the census you can get family group sheet info that is not documented anywhere else except for the family bible.”

The Federal Census database will be free to access at for 10 days after its initial launch.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Forgotten Records of the Civil War

While we may all sing the woes of taxation -- and it has been historically so -- early tax lists are a valuable resource, locating people in time and place who, in many case, might not be found otherwise. In her article, "Forgotten Records: Tapping the Power of Civil War Income Tax Records," Melissa Slate sheds light early income tax records, some of which survive. As noted in the article, many such lost or forgotten records exist, it is through the efforts of earnest researchers that such records rise to the surface, to the benefit of all.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Using State Libraries & Archives

At your fingertips, access to most U.S. state libraries and archives web sites. A great opportunity to browse this valuable resource. In her article, "Using State Libraries and Archives," Gena Philibert-Ortega compares the two resources, offers a review of holdings, and provides current links to many, if not all, state web sites.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

For an overview of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and an update of online access to WPA records, you'll find a good resource in Gena Philibert-Ortega's article, "The Works Progress Administration and Genealogy." As noted in the article, "Although only in existence for 8 years, the WPA employed approximately 8.5 million workers," and at least one project of the WPA is responsible documenting and cataloging resources vital to American history and genealogy.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Insights into the 1830 U. S. Census

An article on, "Genealogy: 1830 federal census underwent some changes in format and protocol," highlights some distinct differences between the 1830 U. S. Census and those of previous years, information that may provide new insights for researchers. While the focus is on the 1830 census, the comparison to other censuses is also revealing. The 1830 federal census, like those before it, was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court in each state and was carried out by U.S. marshals who hired and organized the enumerators. However, there were some changes in the 1830 census format and protocol from previous censuses. Of particular interest may be that that duplicate copies were made of the 1830 census, which creates an even greater margin for error. The article gives tips on how to identify whether the copy you are using is an original or duplicate.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ancestry releases Canadian Border Collection

Great news and one more place to check -- online -- for those who have not yet found their immigrant ancestor in U. S. passenger lists. In a recent press release, announced announced the release of a new Canadian records collection, offering 4 million names of individuals who crossed the U.S.-Canadian border between 1895 and 1956. These historical records are the latest addition to's Immigration Records Collection, which also includes more than 100 million names from the largest online collection of U.S. passenger lists, spanning 1820 to 1960.

An often-overlooked, but major U.S. immigration channel, the U.S.-Canadian border typically offered easier entrance to the United States than sea ports such as Ellis Island. This new collection includes immigrants who first sailed to or settled in Canada before continuing to the United States as well as U.S. and Canadian citizens crossing the border. Among the busiest ports of entry on both sides of the border were Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.The border crossings also contain a surprising number of nationalities with Russians, Italians and Chinese among the most common nationalities of people crossing the U.S.-Canadian border.

While you do pay to access the records, you can search the records without charge. To learn more about the collection, see Border Crossings: From Canada to U. S., 1895-1956.

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