Thursday, January 31, 2008

Keep an open mind when browsing resources

In her article, "Researching Civil War Volunteer Infantrymen from Havana, Illinois,"
Judy Rosella Edwards reminds us that key information may be found in the most unlikely sources. In this case, a Civil War military regimental history happens to include the names of those who pre-paid for copies of the book -- you never know who that might include. So keep in mind when browsing resources for your time and place, there may be more to a source than meets the eye.

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St. George Family History Expo, Feb 8-9

The Family History Expo 2008 (formerly the Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree) will be held in St. George, Utah, February 8 and 9, at the Dixie Center. This two-day event is drawing speakers and vendors from all over the U.S. and beyond. It will feature 101 presentations to choose from, more than 50 vendors and exhibitors, and the latest genealogy products and technology. Many free drawings and prizes each day!

Pre-registration is $60.00, at the door $65.00. Online pre-registration ends February 5, 2008. Registration packet, name tag, CD syllabus, and a goody bag are included in cost of registration. You may pick these up at the door.

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Ancestry launches California Voter Registration Lists, 1900 -1944

In a press release today, announced the launch of California Voter Registration Lists documenting more than 30 million names of Californians who registered to vote between 1900 and 1944. The collection, now searchable for the first time online, comes just prior to Super Tuesday, one of the most significant milestones in the 2008 race to the White House.

The unique collection reveals the political persuasions of California residents -- including famous celebrities who registered to vote during the first half of the 1900s. The collection also documents the voter's name, occupation, gender, age, street address, voting district, and city and county of residence. Many of the earliest voter registrations include detailed physical descriptions of the register and even naturalization information. Because the lists were updated every two years, the collection enables users to track their ancestors through time and serves as a valuable replacement for census records since California did not take state censuses.

"Peeking into the political preferences of our ancestors and celebrities is fascinating," said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for "Very few historical records actually reveal the opinions of our ancestors. With this collection of voter registrations, someone with California family ties can discover the political black sheep in the family or which ancestor changed their family's party affiliation forever."

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

March is National Women's History Month. Once again, honoring this celebration of women, Gena Philibert-Ortega in her article, "Searching Women's Manuscript Collections," aims at helping you find the writings of women who were part of your ancestors' community. As the author points out, in the absence of today's media, women of the past wrote about the comings and goings in their own communities. Your ancestors may be among those chronicled by someone other than a family member, and it is certainly worth the investigation, to say nothing of the historical interest.

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"The Root" - new online magazine for African Americans

Those familiar with the PBS production of African American Lives and the upcoming, African American Lives 2, will also be familiar with host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. According to an article in the New York Times, "Washington Post Starts an Online Magazine for Blacks," Gates has now teamed up with the Washington Post for a new online magazine entitled, The Root, a magazine "primarily for a black audience, with news and commentary on politics and culture, and tools for readers to research their family histories." Gates will serve as editor in chief. The magazine is free to readers and will be found at . . . The Root’s emphasis on genealogy will set it apart from its competitors. The site will have online tools for people to build their family trees, link to or add information to other people's trees and construct maps showing their ancestral trails. It will also urge people to have DNA testing, the article said.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

New Jersey's DataUniverse now offering SSDI

As reported in the CourierPost Online, "Now you can trace family history with Courier-Post's DataUniverse," the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is now available on DataUniverse, the free public records search offered by New Jersey's Courier-Post. The site also allows you to make the request online for a photocopy of your ancestor's original Social Security Application Card, the SS-5. While your search of the SSDI is free, there is a fee for the SS-5 application card.

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Society offers "virtual surname wall"

Here's a novel idea, the Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library has recently introduced a “virtual surname wall” on its Web site that is free and open to the public, as reported on, "Genealogy: 'Virtual surname wall' is handy online tool," According to Society's web site,, the wall “provides a worry-free way to post information about your ancestors online and find others who are researching your families.” So, far, more than 1,000 family researchers have contributed their information to the virtual surname wall. The site allows participants to post up to 10 names and posts a disclaimer regarding the accuracy of information posted. There is one more caveat, "Participation in the project is your authorization to include your surname information in any printed or searchable online databases that may be developed."

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Researching the Circus in Your Family Tree

More fact than fiction, sometimes. In her article, "Researching the Circus in Your Family Tree," Gena Philibert Ortega suggests, "As children, we may have wanted to run off an join the circus." Some did and among them, my own father. When my father and mother met, he had just returned from working with the circus — he was 18 years old. Between the time he left and the time he returned, my mother's family had settled into a little West Texas farming community and she had become close friends with his brothers. Although my dad did play the guitar and sing, I doubt he was a circus performer — more likely a roustabout, not likely to be mentioned in the records suggested by this article. My older brother said our dad would never tell the boys about his experiences; my brother thinks he did not want to highlight the adventure lest his boys decide to venture off. So don't be too quick to write off these old tales, they may bear a shred of truth.

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GenealogyBank reports growth and offers trial membership

In a press release yesterday, GenealogyBank, a leading online provider of newspapers for family history research, reported explosive growth in 2007 increasing its digital archive with over 40 million historical newspaper articles and modern obituaries.

GenealogyBank is quickly becoming the fastest growing newspaper archive for family history research with over 3,300 U.S. newspapers in all 50 states. The exclusive collection features newspapers from the 1600s to the present day with over 106 million historical newspaper articles and more than 26 million obituaries now available for family history research. Each article is a single digital image that can be printed and preserved for family scrapbooks. To celebrate, GenealogyBank is currently offering a 30-Day trial for only $9.95.

"We are excited about the rapid growth of our newspaper collection and the vast breadth of family history information we now have available," says Genealogy Director for NewsBank, inc., Tom Kemp. "GenealogyBank provides exclusive access to more than four centuries of important genealogical information such as obituaries, marriage and birth announcements as well as interesting and often surprising facts about our ancestors."

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Early Kentucky research

The Wilderness Trail was generally conceded to be the roughest, most disagreeable road on the continent. "The earliest newcomers had to literally clear a trail as they traveled with all their worldly goods, their children, and their hopes for the new frontier," according to Judy Rosella Edwards in her article, "And he knew Daniel Boone . . ." The article reviews the distribution of Kentucky land and suggests available resources.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Researching ancestors through the railroads

An interesting article in the Tampa Tribune, "Track Down Ancestors Through Railroad History," may give you some ideas on researching ancestors who either worked for or were in some way affected by the railroads, including several resources. The rails figure into my own family history, so it is interesting and enlightening to find out which railroads traveled which routes during a particular time period. The types of occupations are also interesting. In my daughter's paternal line, we have an ancestor going from cook in 1880 to telegraph operator by 1900. Knowing an ancestor worked for the railroad can account for finding -- or looking for -- people in some far-fetched places.

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Scotland Online acquires family history web site

Scotland Online, the IT business owned by Dundee media dynasty DC Thomson, yesterday said it had acquired a leading independent UK-based family history website, according to an article yesterday in The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland). The company said it had acquired the business Title Research Group as part of its plans to establish a world-class online network of family history resources. . . . The merger will see Scotland Online's current online genealogy service, ScotlandsPeople, amalgamating with to create an enlarged resource to serve millions of family history enthusiasts worldwide.

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Ancestry Learning Center redesign announced

According to an article in the Press Register last week. The Generations Network announced a redesign of its learning center. The Learning Center focuses on those who are new to the site as well as those who are new to genealogy. The revamped Learning Center includes numerous short videos, featuring's Chief Family Historian Megan Smolenyak. The Ancestry Learning Center is available free of charge. You will have to create a (free) user name and password in order to use it. Also, many of the tutorials and other "how to" information will have links that point to content behind the "pay wall." That is, you will have to be a paid subscriber in order to access some of the items that are mentioned.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pioneer Migration Routes, insights and understanding

"Sometimes it is more important to know how a family relation traveled from one location to another, than it is to know about the final destination," writes Alan Smith is his article, "Pioneer Migration Routes." Knowing the path, truly, can shed much light on the family and may help you find new places to search for records and may help you understand more about the motivations for travel and why people took up roots or moved on. I have learned much about my own family migrating from East Tennessee to north central Texas. One can see from the record where various children were born along the way, not only where they traveled but also about how long they stayed in each place, and why the some of the young men in the family served on different sides and from different states in the Civil War. The history of any country is fascinating, especially when viewed through the lens of relevant family history.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Remembering Martin Luther King and our African American ancestors

In her article, "African American Resources," Gena Philibert-Ortega reminds us, as we remember this month the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., it may be as good time to look at a few resources for those with African American roots. While so far, I have found no indication of African American roots in my own family, my grandmother did tell of an old couple living nearby "that had been slaves," whom she remembers fondly from her Texas childhood, just at the turn of the twentieth century. The two or three incidents she recalls are endearing, and so it has been my personal quest to find evidence of this family, although we have nothing but first names and a general location to go by. This update of resources may provide new avenues of research.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

"Babes in the Mines," childhood occupations in the coal mines

When we read the life and times of our ancestors, it helps us appreciate them more and, perhaps, consider our modern lives by comparison. It was not so long ago, really, that child labor laws really came into effect. Today, in an age when parents cater to every need of their children, it's hard to imagine (or remember) a time when even very young children were required to work in the fields, in factories, on the streets, and in the mines. In her article, "Babes in the Mines," Melissa Slate provides a snapshot of children working in the Appalachian coal mines

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Genealogy and family networking website,, introduces new ways for families to preserve their history and stay connected, as stated in a press release today. Timeline and Family News are the latest features to be added to it's growing list of site enhancements. The launch of these features enables family and friends to begin working together to build digital scrapbooks of their lives and the lives of their family.

The Timeline is a new profile section that shows a visual history of the events in a person's life. Each event has its own page that can contain additional information, photos, attendees, and comments. When an attendee is added to an event, the event appears in their timeline too. In the process of building their own timeline users are likely to help complete the timelines of other family members.

"We are making the process of building family history collaborative, in the same way that we made the process of building the family tree collaborative," said Geni's CEO David Sacks.

A related feature that Geni has launched is Family News. Family News provides a single page where users can track everything going on in their family, including additions to their family tree and timelines, birthdays, photos, discussions, comments, and more. It does this by surfacing all the new content created on Geni by a user's family. Users can also quickly post news themselves. Privacy settings allow users to control who is in their Family group and which of their activity will appear in Family News.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lafayette Exhibit at NY Historical Society

A recent article in New York City's, City Guide Magazine, "History comes alive for the entire family at the New-York Historical Society!," highlights an engaging, uplifting, interactive exhibition, "French Founding Father: Lafayette's Return to Washington's America." The exhibit, which runs through August 10, 2008, allows people of all ages to see, touch and experience history. Founded in 1804, the New York Historical Society is the oldest cultural institution in New York and serves as a collective memory of the city.

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Family Heritage Series explores Ukrainian immigration in upstate NY

In 1900, not one Ukrainian name is listed on the federal census of Cortland County [NY], but by 1915, the state census records show about 290 Ukrainian names, according to an article in the Ithaca Journal, "Area historians look at Ukrainian immigration." While some families lived on West Hill in Homer and performed agricultural work, the majority lived in the City of Cortland and many worked in the Wickwire factory. Two historians will explore the legacy of Cortland's early 20th century Ukrainian immigration at the next installment of the Family History and Heritage Series at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 in Cortland. For information call 607-753-3021. The program is free and open to the public.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Mid-1800s German/Francisan settlement in Illinois

If you are looking for German immigrants in the United States who spent some time in Ohio before disappearing from your genealogical timeline, you may try looking for them in Tuetopolis, Illinois. In her article,"Migrations from Vechta, Germany to Teutopolis, Illinois," Judy Rosella Edwards provides background on this community, along with many names of those who settled there and founded the St. Joseph's Diocesan College and the Sisters' School.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

What will happen to my research?

Many of us, no doubt, have seen in our travels remnants of someone's personal history collection. Maybe an old, but beautiful photo album in an antique store, filled with period photos of "someone's" family; a box of collected miscellany sitting in the back corner of a thrift shop or on the auction block somewhere -- or worse, as Arlene Eakle experienced, in trash bag awaiting the dumpster. How those materials arrived at that spot is a mystery, but most likely were, at some point, among one person's or one family's treasures. Today, more and more, we are finding efforts within the genealogical community to receive and preserve these abandoned records. In a recent article, "What will happen to my research?," Alan Smith suggests some options for those who may looking to archive their family record, to save others from making the decisions.

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