Friday, November 28, 2008

Friends of the Family

Friends often play an important role in our lives, and the friends of our parents, grandparents, and ancestors may show up in their writings, collected letters, and photo boxes. Friends and family often have a shared history that is worth exploring. The article, "Friends of the Family," offers a few suggestions for researching friends and possibly sharing treasured stories.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Partnership brings new features

Announced in a recent press release . . . and just in time for Christmas, The Generations Network, Inc., operators of and other genealogy web sites, has teamed its virtual storytelling service,, with a photo-sharing site,, to provide user tools for creating custom photo books, calendars, and posters., launched a year ago as Ancestry Press but recently rebranded. Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Mountain View, Califormia, operates a photo sharing site.

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My Heritage teams with FamilyTree DNA

MyHeritage, the genealogy social networking web site, is offering users a "cheek scraper" DNA test for under £100, as reported recently in the Guardian (UK). The site is teaming up with FamilyTreeDNA to help identify living relatives with common ancestors. According to the article, Israeli-based MyHeritage's 27 million registered members, who are mostly in the English-speaking world, use the site to document their family trees and research missing connections or relatives.

A Y-chromosome test identifies paternal descent, while a mitochondrial DNA test shows the maternal line, and both cost $129 (£87). A combined test, for men, is $219. The DNA test can identify if a member has Native American, African or Jewish ancestors and trace relatives to a migration map of the US, the article says. Both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA are "keen to emphasise" that records are not shared or published and are held securely.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

GenWeekly would like to welcome its newest writer, Jean Wilcox Hibben. Jean has published widely, and we are pleased to have her as part of the GenWeekly staff. In her first GenWeekly article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch," Jean shares with us the historical origins of some everyday terms we take for granted.


Friday, November 21, 2008

New Orleans Interments

Death and burial rituals may differ dramatically between countries, among cultures, and among religions. New Orleans, because of its location and varied culture, has always had unique and interesting cemeteries and customs. In her article, "New Orleans Interments," Judy Rosella Edwards explores burial practices in New Orleans during the mid-1800s when disease was rampant, and offers ideas and resources for research.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

How about YOUR Personal History?

This time of year when we are encouraged to gather our family health history, it's also a good time to think about other aspects of our own personal history. As family history researchers we are so busy recording the histories of our ancestors, we may neglect our own. And you don't have to do it all in one sitting. In her article, "Your Personal History," Gena-Philibert Ortega offers suggestions and resources to help you get started. As the article points out, your descendants will be interested to know your life and times, as much as you are interested to in those of your ancestors.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gather your family health history this holiday season

It's that time of year again. As Thanksgiving approaches, we are reminded that 2008 is the fifth year of the U.S. Surgeon General's Family Health Initiative, aimed at encouraging families to take advantage of holiday gatherings to collect important family health information. In support of this initiative, the U.S. Surgeon General's Office has provided the My Family Health History Portrait tool and web site.

A recent article in The Lincoln Journal, "Five things you should know about your health,"provides a useful list of information to get you started, things we need know for every member of our family, which is also good to keep on hand in the event of emergencies.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's a long, long way to Tipperary . . .

Genealogy research of the future could mean visiting cemeteries far from home. A US funeral business that specializes in launching cremated human remains into Earth's orbit has begun taking reservations for landing small capsules of ashes on the moon, announced the company's founder, as reported in an article on AFP News.

"Celestis' first general public lunar mission could occur as early as 2010 and reservations are now being taken," said Charles M. Chafer, Celestis founder and president, in an email to AFP. "We can send up to 5000 individual capsules to the lunar surface," he said.

The company hopes to install a cemetery on the lunar surface to hold cremated remains of the dead, or a smaller symbolic portion of them, which one day could be visited by relatives of the deceased, said Chafer.

It's a long way to go.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Top UK genealogy software available in US and Canada

Family Historian 3, the highest rated family tree software in the U.K. is now available in the United States and Canada, as announced in a press release today. This top rated software is now available in nearly 1500 Target stores nation-wide. Enteractive Distribution also announces a new web site to provide useful information to consumers and genealogists. Family Historian 3 runs on Windows Vista, XP Home and XP Professional, 2000, ME and 98.


GenealogyBank offers affordable trial membership

GenealogyBank, a leading online provider of historic and recent newspapers for family history research, announced in a press release the addition of over 3 million historical newspaper articles and modern obituaries to its online digital archive. GenealogyBank provides access to newspapers in all 50 states, from 1690 to the present day. November is a great month to research your family history on GenealogyBank. New members can obtain unlimited access for 30 days for only $9.95.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Group offers DNA guidelines

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has asked the question, "How accurate is your family tree," questioning the accuracy of modern DNA testing, as reported in Science Magazine. According to the article, there is a building concern among geneticists and others that the tests performed, both by companies and in academic labs, may not be very accurate, largely because they match samples to "reference" populations of a particular ancestor who may or may not perfectly fit the desired profile. Although not mentioned in the article, one high profile case that comes to mind is that of talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, who stated in 2005 that DNA testing proved her to be of the Zulu tribe. However, research and further testing done as part of Winfrey's participation in the television show, "African American Lives," showed otherwise.

"Even in the best databases that exist today, we know we have only a small sampling of human genetic diversity," says Michael Bamshad, who studies genetic variation at the University of Washington, Seattle.

At its annual meeting, a 10-person ASHG committee released five recommendations that aim to bring more accuracy, oversight, and collaboration to commercial and academic ancestry testing efforts. But it's unclear what effect the recommendations will have.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to remember not only our own heritage but the heritage . . . and history . . . of a nation. Many events are scheduled during the month, sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and others. For an historical overview, Wikipedia offers Native Americans in the United States, and for up to date information and resources visit the American Indian Heritage Foundation. Also, check the GenWeekly archive for articles of interest on Native American research.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And off they went . . .

A recent article in the Canadian Press tells of a family of ten brothers from Prince Edward Island, all of whom served in World War II. The story reminded me of the Sullivans, five brothers all serving together aboard the same ship during World War II who lost their lives when their ship went down in the South Pacific. Although the brothers from Prince Edward Island returned home, the war left its mark. Their story is kept alive by a daughter who says of her children and grandchildren, "We talk, they see the pictures." The article, "And off they went . . .," is a retrospective of these two stories.

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Researching the veterans in your family tree

This week, in an article on, Kimberly Powell asks the question, "How Much Do You Really Know About the Veterans in Your Family Tree?" The author challenges readers to spend this week researching the many narratives, photos, histories and perspectives that can help fill out that veteran's personal story, and cites a good many resources for doing so. She writes, "Learn the history of any battles in which they fought. Learn what life was like at home for the family members they left behind. But most importantly of all, explore veteran oral histories - a treasure trove of feelings and personal recollections left behind by other men and women who experienced the same wars, battles, struggles and triumphs as your veteran ancestor."

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Women Veterans

Contrary to what we might think, women in military service is not a recent phenomena. As far back as the American Revolution and the American Civil War, women have served, if covertly, even in combat. In her article, "Women Veterans," Gena-Philibert Ortega provides an historical overview, along with a number of resources for researching your own female ancestors and learning more about the women who served.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

British WW I naval service records now online

As reported on the UK, "National Archives puts naval WW I service records online," the service records of 40,000 members of the World War One Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) are now accessible online via the The National Archives. The records, previously available only to those visiting The National Archives in Kew, family historians can now trace their WWI naval ancestors through this new online resource.

The records can be found at DocumentsOnline. For more information on tracing your British World War One ancestors, visit the National Archive's Military History pages.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

BBC offers WW I family history series

November 11 is Veteran's Day, known also as Armistice Day, a day marking the "symbolic" end of World War One. The signing of the armistice or treaty between the Allies and Germany took place at 11 o'clock in the morning, the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Although hostilities continued in other regions after the armistice, November 11 has continued as the day to celebrate the end of the war, and has become a day to honor all members of the armed forces.

In anticipation of this anniversary, BBC One is offering "My Family at War", a series combining family history with events of World War I. As reported on Scottish Genealogy News and Events, the program, similar in format to the popular "Who Do You Think You Are," features celebrities discovering their ancestors' roles in the war, ranging from Dan Snow's discovery that a relative was a general who ordered men to their deaths at the Somme, to Kirsty Wark's emotional discovery of a letter written by her great uncle prior to going over the top, The celebrities are ably assisted by top military historian Paul Reed on their quests. Paul regularly writes for Your Family Tree magazine and has also been acting as the series consultant since May.

Not available in the US, the three most recent episodes are available in the UK on the BBC web site, My Family at War, for a limited time, "12 days left to watch," as of Nov 6. Episode Four airs November 14.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Online State Encyclopedias

Researching the local area history of one's ancestors is key to genealogy research, and local area histories for your town and county interest are a primary resource. In her article, "Online State Encyclopedias," Gena Philibert-Ortega offers another resource along with links for those available. Like the author, I have benefited greatly in my own research with use of The Texas Handbook Online, an absolutely stellar reference, and while not all states offer such a resource, many do.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Scrapbooking the Family Tree

Every so often we find a new twist on an old favorite. When I was growing up and when raising my own children, scrapbooks were not nearly as organized and themed as they are today. By the time the grandchildren came along, scrapbooking was almost a national hobby with scrapbook stores, scrapbooking classes, and just scrapbooking days spent painstakingly creating pages that were works of art. This practice evolved into elaborate family history scrapbooks, and today digital scrapbooking is where it's at. In his article, "Scrapbooking the Family Tree," Alan Smith takes a look at the hobby of scrapbooking and how it can be used to add a valuable supplement to family history research.

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