Saturday, September 26, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Indian Reservations

In the field of genealogy, we always have to be ready to adjust our preconceived notions. Who would think to check the Indian reservation census records for their white ancestry? In her most recent article, "Genealogy of Communities: Indian Reservations," Judy Rosella Edwards illustrates the fact that Indian reservations were not exclusively Native American.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taking a wrong path in research and setting it right

GenWeekly welcomes our newest writer, AnnMarie Gilin-Dodson. Her first article, "Lessons Learned: Get it Right the First Time," addresses the problem faced by many researchers at some point, taking information at face value and going down the wrong path. It may not even be misinformation given to us by someone else, but our own assumptions that can lead us astray. I recently erred in taking at face value and assuming to be the direct line ancestor, the one person with our family name who bought property in an area at the right point in time. As the research continued, evidence began to suggest this person was, more than likely, the son and not the father, as I had believed. In going back over my research, If I had taken more time in analyzing each piece of evidence and not rushed to judgment, I would have discovered the one piece of information that ruled him out as the direct line ancestor. Much of what we do is trial and error, but in an effort to help us "get it right the first time," the author suggests developing a formalized plan for various stages of research, and provides a checklist to help us get started. I cannot say the list would have helped me avoid my own error, but it does address the Assess/Analyze stage of research, the very place where we need to take the greatest care and make sure the evidence supports our assumptions. The message is valid and the checklist a good starting point, which you can modify and add to based on your own experience.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Seminaries and Other Educational Institutions

"Understanding terminology is essential for researching educational communities. In the late 1800s, seminaries appeared across the country. For years there have been academies, colleges, and universities. Students and others associated with these institutions, were counted in various ways and there are techniques for researching them," so writes Judy Rosella Edwards in her most recent article, "Genealogy of Communities: Seminaries and Other Educational Institutions."

Again, using the census in concert with institutional histories and college yearbooks may help in locating or learning more about an ancestor. The challenge, perhaps, is identifying what schools existed at what periods of time in a particular location, for which we turn to local area histories. As the article points out, "Knowing a college town makes research that much easier," and local maps can often help in identifying neighborhoods and homeowners.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Free Genealogy Toolbar offered

In a recent press release, the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS), based in the U.K. announced the release of its genealogy toolbar which integrates seamlessly with the users browser (IE, Firefox, Safari) to provide instant access to family history sites including online BMD, Archives, Societies, Pay to View and many more.

The toolbar is completely free to download and use and has been developed by Family Historians for use by Family Historians. 

As noted in the press release, "the range of links is especially strong for GB [Great Britian] and Irish research." It does, however, provide links to a number of primary U.S. sites.

Changes to the toolbar are made centrally, which means the toolbar developers control what is available, but the site currently offers over 170 links, which will be "expanded in response to user comments and suggestions." Users do have the ability to turn individual menus on and off and can also choose to add items from a selection of non-genealogy links. 

The toolbar can be downloaded via the MLFHS home page or from Be sure to read the User Notes, available in a drop-down list, indicated by an arrow at the far left of the toolbar, next to the Society's icon. 


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Important points for collecting family medical history

It's time once again to be thinking about collecting family medical history. A Reuters article out today provides a good example. In reference to family history it says, "Men are twice as likely to have prostate cancer when a brother, father or uncle have had the disease. If they have two or more first-degree relatives with the disease. they are four times more likely to be diagnosed."

Another article, on, discusses "Why and How to put together a Family Medical History." The article suggest how far back in the family tree you might want to go, and indicates the importance of knowing not only what a family member died of, but what other conditions they had during their lifetime:

"It's not just about death. The age at death and the ailment that caused or immediately preceded death is the obvious information to record for each of your deceased relatives. But it may not be as important as information about earlier diseases or conditions. Did your father, who died in his 80s of heart failure, have a previous bout with colon cancer or experience high blood pressure for most of his adult life? Make sure you ask about any chronic or previous problems."

"Age is key," it says. You will also want to record the age at which medical conditions arose, if that information is available. "Early" means different things for different diseases, but generally, the younger a person is when a disease rears its head, the more likely it is to have a genetic component. Having two first-degree relatives (a mother, daughter, or sister) diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, for example, is one of the red flags that may mean you should be tested for specific mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In all, the article provides eight practical tips that are definitely worth reviewing.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Research Room Etiquette: What to Bring and What to Do

Modern technology has brought convenient access to millions of documents, with more being made available every minute, it seems . . . but not everything. Many archives and libraries house unique and valuable information that is not available online . . . and may never be. Because so many of these materials are irreplaceable, access to that material is governed by specific rules. In her article, Research Room Etiquette: What to Bring and What to Do in Archive or Library Research Rooms, Rita Marshall provides some important guidelines to help your prepare.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

NGS article cautions of e-mail data loss risk

Technology is a wonderful thing, but not without its risks. An article on the NGS Upfront blog (the Upfront newsletter is now in blog format), "Set Your E-mail Free," by Editor, Pam Cerutti, reminds us that e-mail is at the same risk for data loss as social networks, photo sites, and blogs themselves. We've cautioned about these risks in several articles on GenWeekly. Backing up data has been our primary theme. Cerutti writes,

"You may have heard about Verizon's sale of its internet services in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont a few months ago. Some readers may even be the victims of the sudden switch of their e-mail addresses from to Neither Verizon nor FairPoint notified all customers in time to tell their family, friends, and business contacts of their new e-mail addresses. Many people not only lost all e-mail they had stored on Verizon's servers, but they also lost new messages that were sent to their void Verizon addresses. Furthermore, when FairPoint took over those accounts, their servers were initially overburdened, causing still more lost e-mail messages."

It's true. Companies go out of business. Companies are sold. Systems crash. What happens to your data is everything goes away suddenly? We hope you are 1) saving your e-mail messages (including contact information) and any documents or photos you may have received to your local computer; and 2) transferring whatever data and sources your have received to your genealogy software program . . . or are at least printing it all out. Then, if a company goes belly-up, you've at least preserved your data. But, as the article points out, there are other, equally important issues, that come with a change in your e-mail provider -- be sure to check it out.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Technology helps FamilySearch hit major milestone

FamilySearch volunteers expect to have transcribed more than 325 million names by the end of 2009, just three years after the organization began its online indexing program," according to an article in today's Deseret News, "Technology helps FamilySearch hit major milestone."

The milestone was a number once thought impossible to reach in such a short period of time. In 2006, a few thousand volunteers indexed only 11 million names. But thanks to continuing advances in technology and a growing number of volunteers -- more than 100,000 across five continents -- an estimated half million individual names are indexed each day. At that rate, Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager, expects that 500 million names will be transcribed by the end of 2010.

The article goes on to explain the scope of the work and the technological innovation driven by the need of efficient methods. I was struck by two quotes, in particular:

"With the technological advances and the ever-increasing number of indexing volunteers, the Ellis Island historical records -- which a decade ago took 12,000 volunteers 12 years to complete -- would take three weeks to index today. "

"The records FamilySearch contains currently, when digitized, would equal 132 Libraries of Congress or 18 petabytes of data -- and that doesn't include our ongoing acquisition efforts."

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps

By definition a camp is defined as "temporary" living quarters. Many of those housed in camps were making their way to a new life, most were single, and women were few. In her most recent article, "The Genealogy of Communities: Fishing Camps," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the nature of fishing camps and suggests ways to back-track individuals who may have been found in these camps. Skilled workers, for example, may be found plying the same trade in their place of origin, as noted on the census. As fishing camps were "a haven for new immigrants," the article suggests ways of narrowing an ancestor's place of origin through ship manifests. Ideas are also provided for tracking an ancestor forward in time, as they build new lives.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Archives can yield unexpected treasures

While state and local archives may not be the first stop on your genealogical journey, they should be high on the list -- and most certainly not overlooked -- especially today when their holdings are more accessible than ever before. In his article, "Archives Can Yield Unexpected Treasures," Larry Naukam points out that archives can contain a treasure in primary resources, and "there are innovative ways of getting to them." Many archives have web sites cataloguing their holdings, and many offer links to materials that have been digitized. One of the main points of the article is that an archive in one place may very well have information on individuals and events someplace else. Life itself covers a lot of territory, and like breadcrumbs through the forest, life often leaves a paper trail.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Honor your grandparents by gathering their stories

As we all know, holidays and special days are often promoted for commercial purposes, but I guess if it helps us remember something we might otherwise overlook or take for granted, that's a good thing. One such special day, Grandparent's Day, is coming up on September 13. And while this day has not caught on in the same way as Mother's Day or Father's Day, it could be a good day for gathering grandparent stories (pass the word).

An article this week on, "Tweens: 5 Ways to Celebrate Grandparent's Day," cites the following statistics: "4 million children in 3 million homes are being raised by their grandparents. More than 5 million children live in a household with a grandparent present." But interviewing a grandparent is a good idea, whether they live in the home or not. The article itself is a little commercial, but it does offer some good ideas for children to connect with grandparents, and provides a link to downloadable book -- a   template children can use to gather a grandparent's life story. In addition to interviewing a grandparent and writing their life story, sitting together with grandparents and going through old photographs can be a unforgettable experience: photos are excellent memory triggers, and if you write down the stories as you go, or even better yet, record the activity and then write it down, you will ensure it's being "unforgettable" (and don't forget to back it up!).

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part 1

This month, in her article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: In Passing, Part 1," Jean Hibben examines the origin of phrases alluding to things seemingly dead or non-functioning. As the article points out, most people refer to the death of a person in euphemistic terms, but have no trouble using the word directly to describe inanimate things or a variety of conditions: dead wrong, deadhead, and dead herring, to name a few. 


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Free e-book explains DNA basics

A recent article on, "Genealogy 101: I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What," highlights an e-book (published in 2008) by Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph..D., author of The Genetic Genealogist, with a link to a FREE download. The book is useful, not only as a practical guide to Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, but also provides information to help you find what DNA studies have been performed, and how and where to find various DNA and Surname groups.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Logging Camps

In this second article of her series, "Genealogy of Communities: Logging Camps," Judy Rosella Edwards makes the point that lumberjacks were not the only occupations present in logging camps, but doctors, cooks, and others were also engaged. And pretty much, you wanted to be young and unattached.

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