Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Update on privacy issues

The GenWeekly Blog, dated January 16, "Yet another world family tree," expressed concerns about privacy issues relating to the new web site. It would appear we are not the only ones concerned, as suggested by an article dated Feb. 18, "Click Here", noting a piece from the Wall Street Journal:"Geni has already raised privacy concerns over the level of personal information that can be published about a person, even without their permission. A Geni member can create entire profiles for relatives who don't visit the site, including their birth dates, education, phone number and photos." Apparently has responded to the concern by limiting access, "To address those concerns, Geni is only allowing visitors to the site to see their own family trees." As new "social networks" come online with public zeal and the power of the internet behind them, we may need tamper our enthusiasm with a little caution when it comes to privacy.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 26, 2007

What evil lurks in the minds of men . . .

It had to be so . . . a new genre of mystery writing has emerged with a genealogy theme. No longer are published genealogies, family histories, or family-history-based historical fiction the "only" outlet for the genealogical muse. Genealogy has long been associated with detective work and the solving of mysteries. Now the genealogy slueth has become the protagonist, utilizing his or her research skills to solve mysteries of the living, rather than the dead. In her article, "Genealogy Fiction," Gena Philibert-Ortego introduces us to some her favorite reads, suggesting we take a break from "the practice," to read the exploits of a fictional alter ego. Entertaining and fun.


Familiar names figure in the Al Sharpton story

It's been all over the newspapers and on TV, Al Sharpton's ancestors were slaves owned by Strom Thurmond's relatives, a newspaper reported Sunday. The Daily News said professional genealogists, working at the newspaper's behest, recently uncovered the ancestral ties between one of the nation's best known black leaders and a man who was once a prominent defender of segregation. "I have always wondered what was the background of my family," the newspaper quoted Sharpton as saying. "But nothing -- nothing -- could prepare me for this."

What may be of special interest to researchers are the familiar names of the genealogists who did the work, Megan Smolenyak and Tony Burroughs. You can more about it in the Detroit News.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Listen for the sound of EchoTaps Worldwide

Perhaps the most stirring of all funerals ceremonies are those performed by comrades-in-arms, paying tribute to one of their own, men and women who put their life on the line -- police, fire-fighters and, of course, the soldier. This spring an echoing bugles will be heard across the globe to enhance public awareness of Verertan services and programs. Announced in a recent press release, the Fort Snelling National Cemetery will host EchoTaps Worldwide on Saturday, May 19, 2007 - Armed Forces Day. Admission is free, open to the public, and handicapped accessible.

EchoTaps Worldwide is a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Bugles Across America to create awareness of VA programs and the availability of volunteer buglers to play Taps at the funerals of Veterans. Musicians will render Taps at 11:00 AM local time on May 19 beginning at American Battle Monuments Commission sites overseas and continuing at National Cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery, National Park Service Cemeteries and State Veterans Cemeteries across America. More information at the Military Salute Reference Forum.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 23, 2007

World War I records go online at

It's something to shout about, anytime significant new documents go online. This week in an article titled, "World War 1 military records go online," it was announced the web site has teamed up with The National Archives to make service and pension records of soldiers who served in the British Army between 1914 and 1920 available online. The records come from over 8,000 reels of transcribed microfilm at The National Archives. "Users will be able to find details about people's former occupations, physical appearance, discipline records, regimental movements, postings, next of kin, and military career histories and, in some cases, the manner of their deaths." According to the article, "German bombing raids in 1940 destroyed around 60 per cent of service records that were held," so we can grateful for those that survive. The records can be searched on the web site, on a per-view basis or by subscription.

Labels: ,

Pay an online visit to Old Chapel Hill Cemetery

According to an article in the Durham Herald Sun, "Old cemetery expands online," the town of Chapel Hill has added an additional page to its web site, allowing people to learn more about the Old Chapel Hill cemetery. The site features an online tour of the cemetery, a map to locate specific interments, and links to learn more about the cemetery. The best thing for family historians, the site also includes a searchable database, noting the deceased person's last name, the person's year of death, as well as the section and lot of the grave site.

Labels: , ,

Project to photograph archive of New Zealand war-dead

An article in, "Support for war graves archive," announces a project to create a photographic archive of the graves and primary memorials of New Zealand’s war-dead has Wairoa District Council backing. The New Zealand War Graves Trust is planning the archive, reportedly the first of its kind. Forecast to take three years, the project will cover the period from the Boer War in South Africa to peacekeeping in East Timor. The trust intends to set up a website with free access to the archive and virtual tours of relevant cemeteries. The Auckland War Memorial Museum has agreed to accept the archive and host the finished website. The museum, which has a national focus on military history, hosts the "Cenotaph" database of New Zealand’s service personnel. The trust says the archive will be a world first.

Labels: ,

More historical newspapers online

A recent press release, "Exclusive Historical Newspaper Archive Now Online for Genealogists," announced a new source for historical newspapers. Under a partnership between SmallTownPapers, Inc. and World Vital Records, Inc. "The newspapers, part of the SmallTownPapers collection, represent unique historical content which has never before been available on the Internet and is not available from any other source. To date, the company has scanned more than two million of its more than 20 million page archive, which will be available online as the digital images are created. For more information visit"

According to the site, access is free. Wow! When I went to site, I did not see a search box or search link on the home page and had to click around a bit, and found one under both the Archive and Notifiers & Scrapbooks links. Most of searches I tried, even very common names for "all states, turned up zero results. Others, however, have reported great results, so maybe I hit it on a bad day. On any day, access to historical newspapers online is a great boon to researchers, and even better when it's free.

Labels: ,

Online "social network" open to the public, in an article titled, " Connects People With Family Tree," announces yet another "family network."An online social network, uses the six degrees principle, to show how people are related to each other, across the globe. The web site, which describes itself as an online genealogy service and social network, officially went beta on December 1, 2006 and is now opening its doors to the public.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Salvation Army was "church"?

Interesting how things we take for granted can suddenly spring into relief. Without specific information, who would think to look toward the bell-ringing Salvation Army as a source of genealogical information. What is the Salvation Army, anyway? In her article, "Salvation Army Records," Gena Philibert Ortega answers the question, providing a brief history of this "church," how it was organized, and your best hope of obtaining records. The article shows that finding the information you need is not always an easy task and you need to be resourceful; and, it's easy to see how this pattern of reserach can be applied to other research challenges. The bonus to this type of research is that even if you don't find your ancestor's name in the records, you may find a great deal to help build the story of your ancestor's life.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tips to help with the inevitable brick wall

How true it is -- the "inevitable" brick wall. We all have them, which often makes genalogy research all the more intriguing. This week, Melissa Slate bring us some of her her personal tips on "Brick Wall Ancestors: How to Uncover the Past." One point, in particular, stands out -- keep an open mind. Be willing to go back and analyze your information, even when you think you know it by heart, because different information is relevant at different times. "Sometimes you need to forget what you know, or rather what you think you know." This is an amazing exercise that is tried and true, and is just one of several tips Melissa provides to help researchers jump hurdle.


Ancestry announces online African-American Historical Records

In celebration of Black History Month, in a press release today,, announced the launch of the largest collection of African-American family history records available and searchable online. The collection, which represents the 19th and early 20th centuries, features more than 55 million black family history records that collectively dispel the common misconception that very few historical records were kept for African-Americans and that tracing African-American ancestry is virtually impossible. This month, individuals can search the African-American Historical Records Collection and receive free access to for three days.

Labels: ,

Irish Roots event to be held in London

History notwithstanding, a special Irish genealogy day is being arranged for March 10 in London with expert advice on tracing your Irish family history. The day features talks by experts from the National Records Office in Kew, Britain's Family Records Centre as well as a host of others. To find out more about the event, see Organizers are advising people to book as early as possible.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Secretly Honoring Seven Wise Men

What I love most about my job is going on adventures. These aren't trips to exotic places like Egypt, but rather ancestral "digs" into boxes of once-cherished, but presently discarded materials. On a recent adventure, I discovered the Heptasophs.

Among several boxes of unwanted junk, I came across two attendance books for a New Jersey based Conclave of the Improved Order of Heptasophs. Five dollars later (i.e. cost of the box) and this secret society was going to be my next challenge.

To read what I learned about this interesting secret order (including the identity of the seven wise men) and search the names in those two books, visit the Improved Order of Heptasophs page at Genealogy Today.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 16, 2007

Was your family member a Southern loyalist?

Did you know there were Southerners who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, and those who suffered personal property losses, could file a claim for damages with the Southern Claims Commission? Yes, it's true. But before you go on the defensive, read on. In her article, "Southern Claims Commission Records," Gena Philibert-Ortega provides insight on this little-known resource, along with places where these records can be accessed. The so-called "Southern loyalists," we are told, made 22,298 claims between March 1871 and March 1873. Of course not everyone who claimed loyalty really were, as the article points out, "people did what they had to do to receive compensation [and] did not consider it "lying" to "lie" to a Yankee." The most refreshing aspect in learning about these records is realizing that many more little known resources may be out there hiding in plain sight to help us in our search for ancestors.


First ever conference for those with history in Alabama's Black Belt Region

On Saturday, Feb. 17, the first ever Black Belt African American Genealogy Conference and Family History Fair will be held in Selma by the Black Belt African American Genealogical and Historical Society, Inc. While everyone is invited to attend, this event should be of particular interest to those living in, or with ancestry in, the 12 counties of Alabama's Black Belt Region: Bullock, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Wilcox. For more information, see

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Land Records, an often underappreciated resource

Land records can contain extremely valuable information for family history researchers, but may be intimidating for new researchers and avoided by even those who are more seasoned. But researchers, take heart -- it's worth the effort. In her article "Land and Property Search Jargon: How to Know What They’re Talking About," Melissa Slate gives not only gives us some useful terminology to be mindful of in searching land records, but explains how certain transaction types can signal important relationships.

Labels: ,

Court records in Kentucky donated to genealogy library

A recent donation from City Hall to the Glenn E. Martin Genealogy Library in Princeton, Kentucky offers the public a glimpse at a rich, if less-than-noble, facet of the community’s history. City officials, in the process of moving records from the old City Hall on North Jefferson Street to the new building on East Market Street, removed seven crates full of bound volumes of police court dockets, judgments, bail bond issues, warrants and other documents. The documents date from as far back as January 1912 and end in 1977. “There’s a lot of rich history in there,” said City Clerk Julie Key. To preserve the records, Key suggested and the City approved donating them to the Library, where they will now be on permanent display and accessible to researchers. The transfer of records was announced in a Princeton Times Leader, "Genealogy library receive court records."


A new way to look at where people are buried and why

An article in, "The Sociology of Cemeteries," announces a talk by Helen A. Shaw, to be presented February 23. According to Shaw, the presentation has evolved over many years and takes an anthropological look at "why" people are buried where they are, which may provide leads to other information. Maybe a person has been "removed for burial" in their home town, or maybe they were buried in a veteran, fraternal organization, church or ethnic cemetery. "What you know about the cemetery in which family members are buried, can tell you a great deal about them and their social and ethnic background. People are buried in a particular cemetery for a reason. Discovering that reason will lead to a better understanding of your relatives." Ms. Shaw is a professional genealogist specializing in census research and cemetery history. The presentation will be given at 7 p.m. at the Thomaston Public Library in Thomaston, Maine.

Labels: ,

Heads Up! Both sides equally relevant in researching AND reporting family health history

A new and important aspect of family health history came out this week, suggesting women may not be thinking about -- or reporting incidents of breast cancer in their father's family. Based on a survey reported in, "Breast cancer: women may be underreporting paternal family history," some women do not seem to know that both sides of the family tree are equally important -- or they are simply underreporting that information. When 800 women were asked about a family history for breast cancer, more women reported the mother's family history for the disease and less for the father's family history for the disease. The results suggest doctors may need to be more specific in asking women about paternal health history, in order to capture that vital information. It was also suggested that men in a family may be less likely to be told of a woman relative diagnosed with breast cancer and, therefore, unable to share that information with his own family. The lesson here for all of us is that both sides of your family health history, regardless of the condition, are equally relevant.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New index released by Genealogy Today for areas around Bethel, Alaska

Genealogy Today has announced the release of a new index of names centered on the town and surrounding areas of Bethel, Alaska, dating back to the early 1900s. The index applies to information compiled by Margaret Felder Holland, written on 3 x 5 index cards. A search of the index will lead you to the scanned images of the actual index cards. The names at the top of each card are indexed, with additional names listed on each card of spoused, children, business partners, etc. Many cards include vital statistics (marriages, births, adoptions, and deaths), other cards have only information about the comings, goings and mining details of the people in the area. The collection was donated for indexing by Margaret Holland's daugther-in -law, Jeannie Ross. For more information on the background of this collection, see The Margaret Holland Collection.

Labels: , ,

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Well, not really.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "What happens in Vegas," makes the point has created a special section focused on marriage and divorce in the Nevada city. The collection is based on records of the more than 9 million people who got married and got divorced in Nevada between 1956 and 2005, most of them in Las Vegas. You may be able to resolve some long-held curiosity. Or, if you're interested in divorce and marriage celebrity-style, the index also includes celebrity union and disunion. If you are actually looking to document family marriages, as noted on the Ancestry site, be sure to verify the information you find in the database by comparing it with the original source. Indexes are secondary sources and when even primary sources can be in error, verification is the rule of thumb.

Labels: ,

A new deal to scan some 75 million historical records announced

According to an article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article, "Kirtas Technologies gets contract to scan genealogy records" announced Victor's Kirtas Technologies Inc., a maker of high-speed document scanners, has signed a deal with The Generations Network to scan more than 75 million historical records. The Generations Network, based in Salt Lake City, Utah runs web sites, including, that have become destination spots for geneaologists. The documents include immigration records and city directories that date back to the 1920s.
The documents include immigration records and city directories that date back to the 1920s. The network will use two high-speed Kirtas scanners to scan nearly 5,000 pages per hour. The scanners use a robotic arm and twin 16.6 megapixel cameras to capture the images. The process reduces stress on the delicate books, Kirtas said. Character recognition software developed by Kirtas helps assure accurate scans.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 12, 2007

Love and Marriage

As thoughts turn to Valentine's Day and remembering those we love, Gena Philibert Ortega, in her article, "Love and Marriage," reminds us this may be a good time to look back at how our ancestors celebrated marriage and to consider the variety of resources available for documenting marriages.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 10, 2007

GenWeekly's own Gena Philibert-Ortega offers preservation tips at St. George Jamboree

Genealogy Today is hosting a booth at this year's St. George Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree. One of the speakers is GenWeekly's own, Gena Philibert-Ortega. Gena gave a great class yesterday on Preserving Your Heirlooms, offering very good information on the display and long term care of everything from family photos, documents, and books to heirloom quilts. As always, Gena does her research. She exposes old fallacies and offers the pros and cons of new and popular methods of preservation. Importantly, she leaves leaves you with multiple resources to provide benefit beyond the class. Today Gena will be speaking on Cemeteries and Their Secrets. Gena is currently researching a book on cemeteries of the eastern Sierra, so has lots to offer. Worth your time if you are at the Jamboree or in the area.


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Encouragement for genealogical pack rats

The old saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees," has meaning when it comes to the little things in everyday life that we all take so much for granted. Who would think to look for genealogy clues among our parents or grandparents canceld checks? Most times those would just be seen as so much clutter and tossed along with old candy wrappers. In Vicki Boartfield's article, "A Valuable Hidden Resource: a Cancelled Check from 1957," the check was found early on and held onto for good reason. But it does remind us that "home sources" contain rich information, and that we may want to dig a little deeper and be more mindful of what we discard.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Internet radio show devoted to the widely popular pursuit of genealogy and family history

Hosted by well-known genealogical author, speaker and researcher, Kory L. Meyerink, the show will feature a wide range of “how-to” elements designed to assist all people interested in family history, from the novice to the professional. In addition to answering general questions from listeners, spotlighting important family history news and providing research tips from professionals, the show will include guests from among the most prominent genealogists today.

This weekly, hour-long radio show will air each Thursday at 1pm Pacific (4pm Eastern) beginning February 8, 2007 on Modavox’s VoiceAmerica™ Channel, the nation’s leading Internet radio provider, accessible by anyone having an Internet connection with audio capabilities, Show schedule and guest profiles will be made available on the Family Roots Radio web site.


Monday, February 5, 2007

Could You Live Without Salt?

Today we take salt for granted, and aside from cooking, don't bother much with it. But in the years of the Civil War, our ancestors relied on it for tanning leather, making dyes, curing meats and maintaining the health of their farm animals.

That's why when the Union soldiers blockaded the major salt mines and shipments from Europe the Confederate states began to ration salt to families. Aside from an interesting history lesson, there's a genealogical resource hidden away in the salt lists recorded by the courts in the southern states. While many have only been reproduced in print, some are online and indexed for researchers.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Centenariam with sharp memory shares knowledge and wisdom

A 100-year old birthday is a milestone worth noting. Atheria Finney, one of 21 siblings, was born Jan. 5, 1907. An article on, "100-Year-Old Matriarch Provides History For Local Family" reports Finney has a sharp memory and is able to recite poems, important dates and old negro spirituals.

Labels: ,

Genealogy services a new feature on travel web sites

Genealogy travel is becoming ever more popular. An article in The South African Star, "Getting back to your roots in the UK," points out that many tourist organizations are now presening genealogy content and searches on thier web sites, catering to this group of travelers. Focusing on travel to the UK, in particular, the article notes with "over nine-million emigrants sailed from Liverpool alone in just one 100-year period (1830-1930), imagine how many more millions around the world can trace their ancestry to the UK."

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 2, 2007

General overview of United States National Archives holdings

As Alan Smith points out, "the United States National Archives, is a resource most genealogists know about, yet may not really know the specifics". In his article, "The National Archives," Smith points out that it took him eight years to really dig in and become familiar. The article explores Smith's own discoveries and provides a general overview.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Help for family history researchers in Scotland

An article in the Paisley Daily Express, "Guide Makes History Easy," announces a new Family History booklet, published by Renfrewshire Council, with the help of local history organizations to help people trace the roots on their family tree. The publication provides ideas about where to go for information such as libraries, museums, registry offices, churches, workplaces, old newspapers, valuation rolls, trade directories and maps. Helping to launch the booklet, Councillor Jackie Green said it will appeal to people across Scotland, as well as to family-tree researchers in Paisley. Copies of the booklet are available in local libraries, hotels, the Renfrewshire Council departments and the Tourist Information Centre in Gilmour Street, Paisley. Further information is available by logging on to

Labels: ,

Ancestry users create 1 million family trees in six months

In a press release today,, announced that more than 1 million online family trees have been created since the site's new tree-building and sharing features launched in late July 2006. In building family trees, users have added an estimated 150 million names, uploaded 400,000 photos and attached 10 million family history documents directly from's 23,000 historical records collections.

Labels: , ,

GenWeekly -- Delivering a Fresh Perspective for Genealogists