Friday, April 9, 2010

Helping children appreciate their heritage

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I thought this article important, "Family culture deserves appreciation, celebration," especially for young people who have yet to appreciate their heritage. We might want to consider ways to engage young people at an earlier age, instead of its taking until they are all grown up. 

Here are some ideas:
  • Serving traditional foods, as the article shows
  • Sharing family stories -- everyone loves the stories
  • Displaying family photos on display showing, which might include something like the immigrant ancestor's ship, which can often be found on the Internet
  • Attending cultural festivals
  • Participating in family reunions, maybe encouraging presentation, plays, or enactments of heritage
  • Sharing books and art about/from your culture
  • Helping children keeping a scrapbook
Of course, there is a fine line between helping children appreciate their heritage and making them feel "different" from their peers, so there is a balance. Adoptive parents often face this dilemma and many articles are written on the subject.

One article on helping Jewish children appreciate their culture suggests, "at home, the most important thing is modeling. Modeling for our children our own attachment to, and reverence for" their cultural heritage. That is the best advice.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Oh, the Place You'll Go . . .

Adoption has long been one of those sensitive subjects spoken in whispers. It's a complex subject, balancing the early development of a child with the pressing reality of heritage as the child grows to adulthood. Most of us have seen both sides of the story, either in our own families or in others close to us. Knowing one's cultural and genetic heritage is important and can be enlightening, as noted in a recent article on, "Adoption reform in N.J.: Filling in a blank in the family history." In search of her father's birth family, in large measure for health purposes, the writer discovered a cultural history she could not have imagined. One of the most intriguing things about family history is the many places you will go on the journey. And even for those who do not wish to "claim" their heritage -- and some do not -- the knowledge may still fill a few blanks.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting a Handle on Genetic Genealogy

The Genetic Genealogist Blog may be of interest to those who would like more information about the relationship of genetic testing and genealogy research. On his About page, the author explains the four types of genealogical DNA testing and his approach to the subject. The blog may be great place for keeping up with what's new in the field and what's being talked about. The blog this week compares the types of DNA testing done on a recent episode of the "Faces of America" program, currently airing on PBS. It's a chance, perhaps, to gain a greater understanding and know more about what's possible as this exciting new field expands.

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How to Test for DNA

Can taking a DNA test shed light on your family history? It's hard to generalize, but more and more they are finding that DNA studies can help extend the family tree and possibly shed light on long-standing family mysteries. Of course, you have to know a little about the types of DNA tests and what they can or cannot reveal, as well as who in your family would be the most likely candidate for taking a test. This week, in his article, "How to Test for DNA," Alan Smith examines the process of locating a reputable company and ease with with which a test can be taken.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Many records shed light on African-American genealogy

A recent article on, "Many records available that can shed light on African-Americans' genealogy," provides a good review of African-American resources, especially for the beginning researcher. The article points out the value of the 1870 Census the first in which slave families are listed by name -- the first census recorded after the Civil War and emancipation. The article gives encouragement also for finding information pre-1870 and suggests a number of resources, including census slaves schedules and Freedmen's Bureau records, among other, perhaps lesser known resources, recording various slave transactions, birth, deaths, etc.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

GenealogyBank - African-American newspaper collection

In a press release today, GenealogyBank, a leading online provider of newspapers for family history research, announced it will be adding over 280 fully-searchable African-American newspapers with coverage from 1827 to 1999.  GenealogyBank released the first 61 newspapers in this new series earlier this month, including coverage from 20 states.

“These newspapers are packed with genealogical and historical details of the African-American experience you simply can’t find in other online sources,” says Tom Kemp, NewsBank’s Director of Genealogy. “Making this robust and often rare content available for everyone to use helps all Americans discover the inspiring stories of our forefathers who paved the way for a better, more diverse America.”

For more information see GenealogyBank, African-American Newspapers 1827-1999.

When it comes to leaving no stone unturned in your genealogical quest, GenealogyBank, as well as other historical newspaper collections, are virtual treasures troves of information. Many are available online and many are subscription based but some such as the Utah Digital Newspapers are free of charge. One good resource for locating historic newspapers online is Penn Libraries' Historical Newspapers Online.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

St. Vitus Dance, say what?

A special article to the Ashville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times, "You may have had 'quinsy' and not even known it," discusses a variety of outdated medical terms. The article explores milk sickness, camp fever, and St. Vitus Dance, among others. Aside from being informational and sometimes entertaining, knowledge of these more archaic terms can help researchers when they come upon unfamiliar terminology in family lore or on death certificates. Unfortunately, the articles on this site are available for a limited time. This particular article is a continuation of the December 7 article that has since been archived and requires a small fee for access ("If your g-grandma died of apoplexy what really killed her"), So if you are interested, you might want to use the "Print this page" link on the site and save this article for future reference. Of course, many lists of archaic medical terms --without the commentary -- are available on the Web, a good list can be found on the Genealogy Quest website.

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"Some of it's not too proud to be told."

An article on, "Skeletons in your closet: Exploring the dark side of genealogy," revisits one of the more intriguing subjects of family history, the secrets. The article makes the point that "In our ancestors' times it was a lot easier for people to disappear if they ran into problems, and it was easier to cover up most scandals. . . . We are now more tolerant and forgiving of scandalous behaviour and more interested than ever in the details." As my grandmother liked to say of our own family history, "Some of it's not too proud to be told."

Of course, some family secrets are darker than others.

Along those lines, a couple of websites that might be of interest include, Black Sheep Ancestors and the International Black Sheep Society. This Society was featured back in 2007  in Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, with link to an article entitled "Black sheep, good sheep," by Patrick White. You might also want to check out Genealogy Today's "Ancestral Criminal Records," which offers not only a collection of criminal mug shots and wanted posters, but links to other resources that might be of interest.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

American celebrities explore their family histories

A new PBS series, Faces of America, will premier in February, featuring celebrities exploring their family trees. Hosted by Henry Lewis Gates Jr, "building on the success of his series African American Lives . . . and African Amberican Lives 2" explores the family histories of 12 renowned Americans. The series airs Wednesdays, February 10-March 3, 2010, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on PBS. 

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Researching the history of your house

An article this week in The Independent, "The history of your house: Properties with pedigree," explores the benefits of compiling a house history. "Whether you live in a Georgian townhouse, a rambling country pile or a simple city flat, your home may tell a fascinating story." The article suggests such a history may make the perfect gift for someone you care about. 

I have long been interested in attempting a house history of a home I lived in as a child, an old brownstone duplex owned by my grandparents, an inquiry, I think, that could provide me with some important dates. I expect the research to be a challenge as the home has since been torn down and replaced by a college complex. As the article says, "be prepared to spend hours trawling through old records, books and websites." And even if the home is not one you've grown up in, but recently acquired, the history of an older home can be enchanting at best but, like all genealogy, be prepared for some surprises.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Antiques and Historical Perspectives

At our last family reunion, my youngest son had the privilege of escorting his uncles through a local antique mall. His only regret was that he did not have his digital tape recorder. He said his uncles did could not go five feet in any direction without picking up some object, recalling its use and some amusing story. Although "appointed" to the task, he came home delighted and with a new appreciation for his uncles, what they knew, and the time in which they grew up.  In his article, "Antiques and Historical Perspectives," Alan Smith shares his experience and new perspectives gained in cataloguing the large antique collection in his father's estate. In large part, it is this personal relationship with the past that makes genealogy so engaging.

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What's in YOUR closet?

Some people keep everything and others believe in unsentimental purging. The concern, of course, is that someone will throw away family papers, letters, or the information, unawares. When I took possession of my grandmother's photos, my uncle informed me that there had been a lot of letter tapes that were thrown away -- who knows what else, letters to be sure, as they were not in her box. Of course, there's no going back, but there's no time like the present to begin gathering what information and writings are available to you, before they disappear. 

A recent article in the Bangor Daily News, "Your family may have a trove of writings," brings home the point and suggests some of the items you may find, often hidden in plain sight. Even if you think you've found it all, this gives an idea of the types of writing family members might leave behind, including those old school reports -- such writings do have meaning.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

New book tells stories of many buried at Arlington National Cemetery

An article on, "Arlington National Cemetery, alive with history in new book," highlights a new book by Robert Poole, former editor of National Geographic. The book, On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery (Walker, 352 pp., $28),  "tells the stories of many of those buried in 70 sections across these rolling hills just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. On Hallowed Ground is part history lesson, part tourist guide, part mystery novel," says USA Today writer, Craig Wilson.

"And though it was a four-year project, Poole says his book "just scratches the surface" – from the cemetery's Civil War beginnings in the 1860s to today's tourist must-see, the Changing of the Guard."

Released just in time for Veteran's Day, this timely book, great for history buffs, may be especially meaningful for those with loved one buried at Arlington. And could be a real boon to genealogists, if your ancestor is one whose story is told.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Utopias

Utopia, the ideal society envisioned by Sir Thomas More in his book of the same name, was then and continues to be an imaginary place. Nonetheless, societies persist in believing it's attainable, and the quest has continued throughout history. In her article, "Genealogy of Communities: Utopias," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the nature of such communities, offering insights and suggestions for genealogical research. As the author point out, "people from all walks of life have joined." For those ancestors who present puzzles, it may be an area worth exploring.

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Diamonds in the Rough -- Findings at Local Area Museums

Researchers may want to look beyond the courthouse to the local museum in their quest for family information. An article on, "Clarinda museum tells area's story," illustrates the type of information -- buried treasure, really -- that can be found in local area museums. Clarinda, Iowa, for example, known as the birthplace of big band leader, Glen Miller and the 4-H was also home to a World War II prison camp. The camp held 3,000 prisoners, mostly German soldiers, as well as some Japanese and a few Italian soldiers.These POWs worked within the community and many returned after the war to visit with local families. The museum holds many artifacts, including photographs of the POWs and some of their art work left behind. Additionally, Clarinda wa a stop on the Orphan Train route, with nearly 10,000 children brought to Iowa homes.

For more information and research ideas, see Museums as a family history resource, and Researching Ancestors Through Museum Collections

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Genealogy of Communities: Prostitution

Most genealogists want to know the full story of a family and do want to account for all family members, even those with questionable occupations. In her article, "Genealogy of Communities: Prostitution," Judy Rosella Edwards explores the task of researching this very elusive community. Prostitutes often were listed by first name only, and many were hesitant to give their true names. Even so, as the article points out, becoming familiar with the trends and patterns and learning to "read" census records, this community can be researched with positive results.

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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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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Get Me To the Church on Time

In her latest article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: Get Me To the Church on Time," Jean Hibbens examines the language of religion and the everyday phrases we take for granted. One I think might be of particular interest to genealogists is the significance behind one's illiterate ancestors signing legal documents with an "X". Why and X and not Y or Z? According the author, the signers "mark" is a representation of the Cross and "the belief that the "X" is sacred: the one who signs in that manner does so in honesty; it is considered a 'sign' that the document to which he affixes his name is true and binding." Regardless of religious affiliation, we can respect the meaning of symbol in our lives.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Gathering Family Data": Tips for beginning researchers

For beginning researchers, one of the first questions for is where to begin, and the first answer is to begin with yourself and home records. The information you draw from your immediate and extended family will be of greatest value in setting a foundation for further research. In her article, "Gathering Family Data," Melissa Slate offer a few tips and hints to set you on your path. 

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Societies & Fraternal Organizations -- what can we learn about the women?

Fraternal organizations and societies, we know, can reveal something about our ancestors, their beliefs, interests, and activities. And in her article, "Conducting Research Through Societies and Fraternal Organizations," Judy Rosella Edwards provides background and explores the value of those organizations. One point the article makes, which I think is worth mentioning here at the end of Women's History Month, is how a typically patriarchal institution might help you learn more about a female ancestor. As the article observes, "Many member-based organizations are gender-based, but include an auxiliary for the opposite sex. Most of the older organizations are patriarchal and the auxiliary was for the ladies. Because of the auxiliary, this may be the only place where you'll learn much about a woman's life aside from being listed as spouse on a census." The article suggests ways to look for female ancestors within that context.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Personal Blogs as Historical Documents

Today's blogs represent modern day journals, and as such should be preserved. The article, "Personal Blogs as Historical Documents," explores the personal nature of today's blogs and the importance of backing them up . . . offline.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: All the World's a Stage

In her latest article, "Lexicons of Lost Lifestyles: All the World's a Stage," Jean Hibbens goes behind the scenes to explore the language of the theater. What does it really mean to be "in the limelight" or to "ham" it up on stage? You may be surprised to find some of the most unlikely terms having their origins in the theater.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Myths of the Fathers

We all have them -- stories of family connections to famous (or infamous) people. In her latest article, "Myths of the Fathers," Gena Philibert-Ortega offers some practical ideas for verifying the fact or fiction of those stories.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to Contact Living Relatives

Through various online communities, the Internet has made it possible for family history researchers to connect with other family members in a way that might never have been possible otherwise. The collaborative effort has done much to advance genealogical research and forge new relationships. Even so, many of us have had the experience of being rebuffed in our attempts to make contact, and, given our own enthusiasm, it may be difficult to understand people who do not wish to be contacted or who may not be overly anxious to discuss or share their own research. In her article, "How to Contact Living Relatives," Gena Philibert-Ortega addresses this problem and suggests ways of tactfully and respectfully reaching out to other family members.

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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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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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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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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Family Reunions -- thoughts on planning

Family reunions don't always turn out as one has pictured, and we learn through trial and error. It sometimes takes a little ingenuity and pre-planning to engage all family members. In his latest article, "Family Reunions," Alan Smith shares his retrospective and some ideas for including more family members in the genealogy experience.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

George Washington, the man who would "not" be king . . .

According to an article reported on The Epoch Times, the would-be heir to the throne of the United States has been researched and reported by Although George Washington, America's revered first president, was offered kingship but refused, the "what if" question was explored. As George Washington had no children, the crown would have passed to one of his brothers’ sons. genealogists determined that since President Washington had an older half brother and a younger full brother, ultimately there were four possible succession paths, the article said. The site researched the descendants through each of these possibilities, which meant approximately 8,000 people could factor into the succession equation, with less than 200 of them bearing the Washington surname. As a result, according to the report, the "hypothetical heir" was reported to be Mr. Paul Emery Washington, an 82-year-old retiree living in San Antonio, Texas, who is a descendent of first president George Washington. Said the article, "Given a small twist of fate, Americans could be bowing down to the Washington bloodline today."

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Voter registration may fill in census gaps

Kimberly Powell's Genealogy Blog on asks the question, "Did my ancestors vote?" In researching the question Powell examines the value of voting records and suggests some useful online resources.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Reads . . .

If you're in for some "Summer Reads," Gena Philibert-Ortega offers some suggestions, and there may be more of us may be staying home with a good book this summer than in times past.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Take one kerosene cube and call me in the morning."

Researching the social history of our ancestors is interesting and can tickle the funny-bone. Makes you wonder fifty years down the road, we are doing now that will amuse our great-grandchildren the clothes, for sure always the clothes. But what about our daily life and the things we take for granted, what new medicines will make the common pill a primitive treatment? In her article, "Medicine in Rural Appalachia," Melissa Slate takes an incredulous look at home remedies from days gone by, and while it may seem shocking and amusing all at once, it is also enlightening, helping us to better understand and appreciate our ancestors.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Genealogy Wikis

Pretty much anyone who uses the Internet is familiar with Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Wikipedia differs from all other other online encyclopedias in that its information can be added and edited by anyone. That is, of course, both and good and bad. The goal is to build on the collective knowledge of everyone interested in the topic with the aim of arriving at an accurate record. Genealogy wikis have the same aim. You can add to and edit an online family tree or add new information to help to build a more complete picture of your family, collectively with all your kin, near and far. Wiki is another type of social network. Even FamilySearch has jumped on the wiki bandwagon. In her article, "Genealogy Wikis," Gena Philibert-Ortega exlplores the benefits of wikis and directs you to current wiki sites.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Auntie Mame: Friend or Foe?

Friends of the family can serve as great resources to one's own family history. Friends may have kept old wedding or birth announcements; they may have photos of you family that you've never seen before; or they may have kept personal family records that included information your family. Then there's the flip side. Friends may also lead us astray in our family history research. An interesting article on Bay, "Beware of Friends Posing as Relatives," points out that close family friends, sometimes adopted into the family and given honorary titles such as aunt or uncle, can set a researcher down a wrong path trying to prove a family relationship that simply does not exist. While there may be no real remedy for this excursion, the make-believe relative may be one more factor to weigh.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Meals Through the Ages

If you are interested in learning a little about the everyday life your ancestors, consider looking into the foods and food preparation of the day. In her article, "Meals Through the Ages," Gena Philibert-Ortega suggests a number of resources for researching foods during a particular time period and for finding vintage cookbooks.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Shocking Genealogy Sources

Discovering a crime in the family tree is an often difficult and sometimes hushed subject. But in her article, "Shocking Genealogy Sources," Judy Rosella Edwards suggests that digging into the details may be one way to counter-balance the sensationalism often attached to such stories. And aside from coroner reports, the author suggests a non-traditional source that may never have occurred to you.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cemetery Research 101

Depending on where you live, a hint of spring may be in the air. The time to get outside after a long winter, especially for family history researchers who have been plotting a trip to the cemetery. In her article, "Cemetery Research 101," Karan Pittman provides tips and hints for making the most of your cemetery trip. Don't forget your camera. Above all, take a friend.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Resources for determining if there is an inventor in your family

If you read our GenWeekly article last May on using Google patents as a genealogical tool, you may be interested in Gena Philibert-Ortega's latest article, "Your Ancestor the Inventor," which also explores the subject of patents and provides additional resources.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Searching for burial records may take time

In her article, "Searching for Burial Grounds Takes Time," Karan Pittman reminds us how many old cemeteries and burial spots have been lost over time, and how much time and effort it can take to dig up evidence of an ancestor's death and burial. In an age when so much information is at a our fingertips, we may be frustrated when our expectations are not met. It's good to keep in mind that some things take time and there are many avenues to explore.

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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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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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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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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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Friday, December 14, 2007

Separating fact from fiction

Family history is full of mystery, which is one quality that makes it so fascinating. Melissa Slate, in her article, "The Legend of Virgina Dare," recounts the story of an early American lost colony and the legend of first white child born to English parents. As the article reminds us, about our own histories, fanciful though the legends may be, do not be too quick to dismiss them, as there may be kernels of truth.

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tips and hints for overcoming "Researcher's Block"

Sometimes our mind hits a brick wall, as much as our research. In his article, "Tips on Researcher's Block," Alan Smith provides some ideas to help you get reoriented and maybe take fresh perspective. One idea, for example, is to rearrange the format of your data such as writing out what you know in narrative form, putting it into an outline, or building a scrapbook. The process may shed new light. This and other tips and hints might to refresh your thinking . . . and your enthusiasm.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What we hope to find in an obituary

A good article in The Capital Times, "Don't make obit a resume," among other things, tells what to look for in an obituary. While the article laments modern-day obits sounding more like resumes, it does note the kinds of things one likes to find in an obituary, especially from a family history point of view. Jim Olle, who has collected about 1,200 obits in his pursuit of family history was asked what he likes to find in an obituary.

"It is helpful for me to find all of the names, dates and places and the names of all of the children and grandchildren. In the pursuit of genealogy, it is helpful to read about their military history, their social history, what clubs they belonged to, such as the VFW or the Elks,." he said. Olle believes that when the obituary describes the person's interests, such as fishing or travel, it gives you a more complete picture of the person. Something else to consider is where the obituary should/could appear. If someone lived and worked in one community and retired to another, the notice could appear in several papers.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Memento mori: Funeral Photography

Many of us have in our possession or have seen old photos of an ancestor lying in a coffin, and many have thought this photographing the dead a very macabre practice. But it does have a long and respectable tradition. In her article, "Memento mori: Funeral Photography," Judy Rosella Edwards examines the history and uses of funeral photography.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A CD of your old family photos -- a perfect gift

You know the old saying about putting all your eggs in one basket. The rule applies to many things, including money and your treasured family photos, something money can't buy. Thanks to modern technology, we have a way to preserve and protect old family pictures by scanning them. As Shelley Poblete notes in her article, "Photographs: The Importance of Sharing," scanning preserves the image in its current state, even though the original may continue to deteriorate. But she also notes that scanning them and storing them in your own home is not enough -- to finish the job of preservation, they need to be distributed. You need to share them. With the holiday season at hand, a CD of your old photos may be the perfect gift.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The value of researching all marriages within a family

Experienced researchers recognize the value of collateral-line research; that is, in addition to researching direct-line ancestors, also researching the siblings within a family. In his article, "Searching All Marriages in a Family," Kevin Cassidy provides a substantial case for researching the marriage records for all siblings in a family to identify people and establish relationships. The marriage records when combined with the information from other available records can help significantly to pin down a considerable amount of detail about a particular individual and/or family, to say nothing of the additional information that can be discovered along the way. So rather than a deterrent, collateral-line research may be the most direct route to key information.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boilerplate biographies may prove enlightening

As researchers, we are always happy be made aware of little known or under-utilized resources. This week's article by Judy Rosella-Edwards, "From Apples to Oranges: Portrait and Biographical Albums," brings attention to just such a resource, the "Portrait and Biographical Albums" of Chapman Bros. and Chapman Publishing, which contain valuable personal accounts of early immigrants and pioneers in select states and counties. The article discusses the benefit and limitations of these "boilerplate" publications. What I think is particularly interesting is even though an account may not be your own family member, the experiences within a given locality or time period may reflect experiences that parallel that of your ancestors, as the article points out. Certainly another resource worth exploring.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pennsylvania State Library Hosts Genealogy Event, Sep 29

Announced in a press release yesterday, the State Library of Pennsylvania will celebrate Genealogy Day on Saturday, September 29, with exhibits and information sessions. This free event will bring genealogists together from throughout central Pennsylvania for a day of learning and independent research. Genealogy Day will feature information sessions on various subjects. There also will be an exhibit area where local societies can share their information. The State Library is located in the Forum Building, Commonwealth Avenue and Walnut Street, in Harrisburg. For additional information, contact Marc Bender at the State Library at (717) 705-6272 or For more information on Pennsylvania libraries, visit the Department of Education web site.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Early farming history

While the amount of ground a family farmed, on the surface, might not seem too significant, having that information might tell you something about your ancestor's life. In her article, "20 or 40: How many acres do you work", Judy Rosella Edwards explores the significance of twenty acres of land in the mid-nineteenth century.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007 announces partnership with Allen County Library

In a press release today, announced a new partnership with Allen County Public Library (ACPL), the largest public genealogy library in the United States, to digitize millions of historical records, making them available online for the first time at The ACPL collections feature unique American and international records including family histories, city directories, military records and historical newspapers.

As part of the partnership, all ACPL records digitized by will be made available at the library for free. For those that cannot travel to the library, these records can be accessed from a personal computer with a membership.

“We’re excited to partner with the Allen County Public Library and are fortunate to be working with some of the finest archives in the United States,” said Roger Bell, president of “The content from ACPL is a valuable addition to the millions of records we currently have on our site.”

In addition to the ACPL, has agreements with The National Archives and Records Administration, the Pennsylvania Archives, FamilySearch, the Center for Research Libraries, and local archives in Goffstown, N.H., South Boston, Va., Harris County, Texas, and others.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007 Library Editon granted to BYU Library

According to an article at, The Generations Network, parent company of, today announced it is providing Brigham Young University, BYU Idaho, BYU Hawaii and LDS Business College with free access to Ancestry Library Edition.

"In an effort to recognize the tremendous influence the BYU Library and its unmatched faculty has had in transforming the genealogy landscape through technology-based education, we are pleased to offer the students and faculty free on-campus access to," said Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations Network.

"As the only university in the United States to offer an undergraduate degree in the field of family history, BYU is dedicated to providing our faculty and students with premier resources," said Robert Murdoch, BYU Assistant University Librarian for Collection Development and Technical Services. " plays a leading role in family history research. At BYU, helps more than 600 students each semester with their coursework. . . . We appreciate the generosity of The Generations Network, recognizing the major multi-million dollar investment they have made in transforming family history category for everyone. We look forward to continuing our long-term collaboration and breakthroughs in this great endeavor."

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Have you tried Digital Scrapbooking?

Scrapbooks today have taken on entirely new dimensions. More than just a place to keep memorabilia, today's scrapbooks are works of art. The process, however, can become overwhelming and expensive. In her article, "Digital Scrapbooking," Gena Philibert-Ortega suggests an alternative and provides a number of resources to help you get started. Digital scrapbooking differs from traditional scrapbooking in that it utlizes a photo, graphics or publishing software program to manipulate and arrange photographs saved to your computer, which can then be printed and placed into a physical album. Like traditional scrapbooking, "virtual" embellishments, papers, and other scrapbook goodies are available; however, unlike tradtional scrapbooking supplies, they can be reused and, the "won't take over your house."

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Site brings Empire's Children together

A recent article on DigitalArtsOnline, introduces a new, user-driven web site created by Illumina Digital, designed to complement the six-part TV history series, Empire's Children. The series – to be broadcast from July 2nd – examines how the dismantlement and legacy of the British Empire have impacted on modern Britain and shaped our national identity. The aim of the site is to create an online space that enables anyone with connections to the Empire to trace, record and share their own family history online. As a specialist online resource the web site will contain a research guide with advice and information on tracing Empire lineage, alongside country histories and an interactive map to guide users through the rise and decline of the Empire. Anyone with an interest in the history of the Empire will also have access to a wealth of archive images and videos from the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New partnership integrates DNA and genealogy databases

As announced Monday, two Utah companies, and Sorensen Genomics, are partnering to launch a DNA testing product by the end of summer. For less than $200 and a cheek swab, people looking for their ancestors can add DNA results to family history Web sites. The joint venture will allow customers the possibility of finding DNA matches on across Ancestry's 24,000 databases. An article today in Gizmag, " to offer DNA Genealogy," discusses at length the benefits of the collaboration to researchers and corporate partners alike.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An Inventor in the Family

Finding an inventor in your family is easier than ever with Google Patents. But what does that have to do with genealogy? In her article, "An Inventor in the Family: Google Patents as a Genealogical Tool," Judy Rosella-Edwards answers the question, comparing Google Patents to the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database, and it's global: "Type in any country name in Google Patents and you'll find the country of residence for inventors at the time of their application." In addition to pin-pointing individuals within time and place, the patents are also useful in identifying witness who could vouch for the inventor and might be related. The article brings home, once again, the genealogical value of non-tradtional sources.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Birthday celebrations have ancient roots

If you've ever wondered how your ancestors might have celebrated their birthdays, an enlightening article by Melissa Slate, "Social Customs of our Ancestors Birthdays," provides some insight. It's interesting to see how birthday customs originated and evolved over time. Turns out, it's not just another day, after all.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

South Carolina Magnolia Plantation slave records to be online

Descendants of slaves who worked at Magnolia Plantation will be able to trace their family lineage through a new online archive next year, according to an article on WCIV, Charleston. The Lowcountry Africana web site will be launched in March, when the renovation slave cabins dating back to the 1850s is finished at the plantation outside Charleston.

The site will include records showing the genealogy and daily lives of people who worked at the plantation. The web site is affiliated with the Africana Heritage Project based at the University of South Florida in Tampa and will tell the story not only of slaves, but of blacks who lived there after emancipation.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Auto maker sponsors "Who Do You Think You Are" LIVE event

An article in MarketingWeek, "Daihatsu celebrates centenary with BBC genealogy show," reports Japanese car marque Daihatsu is to sponsor the first Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE event as part of its strategy to celebrate its centenary. The live show is a spin off of the hugely successful BBC television series, following celebrities as they discover their ancestry. It takes at Kensington Olympia May 5 to May 7, and Daihatsu says it has decided to link to event as it ties in with its 100-year-history, while the visitor profile fits its target market. Other brand partners at the event include The National Archives, The History Channel and Alongside exhibits the event will host talks, workshops and an historical fashion feature. Guests at the event include genealogist Nick Barratt and historian David Starkey, as well some of the celebrities who featured in the BBC TV series, including Colin Jackson and Ian Hislop.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Genealogical Research on a Shoestring Budget

In her article "Genealogical Research on a Shoestring Budget," Karen Pittman gives encouragement to beginning researchers, suggesting how simply and inexpensively it can be to get started on genealogy research: " Many people think that beginning genealogical research requires a huge outlay of funds. This is not the case. A notebook, a pencil and an interest in the past are enough to get a researcher started on his or her family history trail."

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Practical tips and hints for cemetery research

Gena Philibert-Ortega, in her article "Lessons Learned from the Cemetery," provides us with insights gained while conducting research for her book on the cemeteries in the Inyo and Mono County regions of California. The article offers practical tips and hints to help family history researchers better understand common situation to improve their success in locating ancestral graves.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

US woman donates 30 volumes of Nova Scotia genealogy

If you have ancestry in Novia Scotia, you might want to reveiw an article in, "US woman leaves 30 volumes of genealogy to Pictou group." While certain family names are specified, others are also listed that may in some way be related. The article reports a county heritage group is the beneficiary of an American woman’s lifelong interest in Nova Scotia genealogy. Hazel Arnold MacIvor bequeathed 30 volumes of information to the Pictou County Genealogy and Heritage Society, to be stored at the Hector Centre archives in Pictou. MacIvor, a retired Detroit teacher who died in the mid-1990s, compiled the information after many trips to Scotland and Nova Scotia.

The genealogies include census records, wills, land grants, family records, Bible records, birth and death records and marriage certificates from Canada, the United States and Scotland. Ms. MacIvor’s work, which began as a hobby, spans the MacLean, Marshall, Fraser, Matheson, Ross, Stewart, Simpson and Nichol families, among others.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Photo collection offers hope for Australia's "stolen generation"

An article in the South Australian, Advertiser Adelaide, "Help finding family faces, " indicates aboriginal people will be able to access a new collection of more than 8000 photographs at the South Australian Museum to help them identify relatives. Dating back to early European settlement, the pictures will be announced as an addition to the museum's Aboriginal Family History service. The service can help establish family connections for members of the so-called stolen generation, those who until the 1970s were taken as children to be placed in state care. A worker at the museum said "one lady who came in had never seen a picture of her mother before, then she found out she had a brother she never knew about. It gives you goosebumps". People interested in tracing their family history can call Mr. Abdullah-Highfold on 8207 7381.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Alex Haley's "Roots" 30th Anniversary rebroadcast, Easter Sunday

A Munster Times article, "Cable revives 'Roots' on 30th anniversary," announces the 30th Anniversary rebroadcast of Alex Haley's "Roots." The groundbreaking 1977 miniseries returns to television Easter Sunday. TV One, a national cable station featuring African-American programming and Comcast Channel 172 in Chicago, is pairing with African Ancestry, a company specializing in using DNA testing to determine African lineage, to bring back the tale of African-American experience that captivated the nation 30 years ago.

"Roots," an adaptation of Alex Haley's book by the same title, traces the journey of a West African man sold into slavery from Gambia to the U.S., and follows his family through emancipation in the post-Civil War South.

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Allen County LIbrary teams up with

An article in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette, "Put family records online," announces the
Allen County Public Library's endoresement of, a new genealogy web site. Several months ago, the library began talks with the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy, a Utah nonprofit, which was founded to create a place on the Web for genealogists to contribute material. Those talks gave birth to, which is based on the Wikipedia model. The Web site allows people to upload and correct genealogical information, research projects and geographic information.

“We wanted a place virtually where we could encourage people to record their family history,” said Curt Witcher, manager of the library’s genealogy center. “Any everyday person can go onto the site and upload information.”

The site is free to use, but registration is required. As on Wikipedia, users will be able to update and correct information on the site. They can also make “read-only” entries that can’t be changed, Witcher said. “Wikipedia’s popularity draws a large crowd of people who can constantly correct misinformation, he said. “If you build enough people, it’s very self-correcting. We’re hoping to build the same thing.”

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Celebrating Women's History Month

In addition to celebrating the "luck of the Irish," March is Women's History Month. These special months are set aside to recognize and honor or create awareness of some significant aspect of our society. As Melissa Slate reminds us in her article, "Celebrating Women's History Month," what better time to learn more about and honor women in history, as well as women in our own lives and those to whom we own our heritage. Melissa offers some ideas for brushing up on your knowledge and honoring the women who have touched your life.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

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.

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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.

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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

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New service to connect families online

Announced in a press release today is another online service aimed at connecting families. The site,, "combines the best of blogging, photo sharing, digital storytelling, and family history." Features include an interactive visual timeline and a library of over 2,000 prompting interview questions. The site offers free and paid memberships, and offers to have family stories turned into "heirloom-quality books, CDs and DVDs."

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Postcards may be a great way to enchance -- and enlighten -- your family history

Dedicated to helping researchers appreciate and explore the social history aspect of their own genealogy, Gena Philipbert-Ortega, in her article, Using Postcards to Illustrate your Family History, once again provides us with multiple links to great resources. With an emphasis on postcard collecting and enhancing your family's story through postcards, Gena directs us toward those great photo postcards of family members so popular at one time, and historical postcards of the times, places, and events that may have figured into your family's history.

I might also add, that you want to watch carefully for postcards received from family members, whenever searching through old family photos. These postcards are not only interesting, but can serve to document certain people in a specific time and place. I found postcards among my grandmother's photos from my uncle serving in France during WW II. I also found postcards from my aunt during their trek along the Alaska Highway back in the early 1950s, not long after the highway was first completed. Postcards are just one more of these often overlooked, non-traditional sources that may add one more piece to the puzzle.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Combined resources still the best best in confirming family history

In his article, DNA Surprises, Alan Smith makes the point that for all its benefit, DNA testing has its limitations and historical research is still needed to fit all the pieces together. Reviewing the well-known Thomas Jefferson DNA study, Smith explores a similar inquiry in his own family history and the inherent challenges of researching two-hundred-year-old mysteries.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

"I think therefore I am Uncle Charlie"

You may have more in common with your children and grandchildren than you think. In the BBC News article, Searching for the soul of cyberspace, writer Paul Mason explores the link between genealogy research and virtual reality games. Both, it seems, have the uncanny ability of psychologically transporting people into a time and place removed from the present and generating a strong emotional attachment to their subjects (or characters, as the case may be). Now, suspend all arguments between the reality of "family" and the "unreality" of virtual reality. The comparison is an intriguing concept, which embraced, could generate greater tolerance and understanding across the generations. And goes to show, once again, that we are more alike than we are different.

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Sunday, January 7, 2007

Allen County Library closes, Grand Opening Jan 27

In preparation for a move to its new location, the main library of the Allen County Library, 200 E. Berry St., Fort Wayne, IN closed to the public at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 5, two days earlier than had been scheduled. The Genealogy Department closed earlier, on December 23. The Library will host a Grand Opening at its new location, 900 Library Plaza (the former Webster Street site), at Noon on Saturday, January 27, 2007. The event marks the conclusion of a $66 million renovation and expansion project. The Allen County Library holds the second largest collection of genealogy materials in the country. For more information, visit the Library's web site at

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Hess grocery bind Yates family

"Memories of small Hess grocery bind Yates family" in Monday's edition of the The Altus Times and the Frederick Leader provides extensive genealogical details of the YATES family, along with some local history of this family-run grocery store.

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