Friday, December 4, 2009

Avoiding common research pitfalls -- a gentle reminder

A brief but insightful article on out of the Press-Register Community News, "Avoiding pitfalls in genealogical research," identifies a number of common mistakes made by beginning and genealogy researchers alike. The article lists it source, and -- It's good to be reminded

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Three Reasons You Need Local History Books

In our heart of hearts, we know the benefit digging into local history books. But with more information available online, we may be less inclined to head for the library. Also, as Rita Marshall points out in her article, "Three Reasons You Need Local History Books," when were are enjoying a great bit of success in our research using other resources, it's easy to bypass the often "thick, somber history books detailing a town's history." And yet, local histories often contain hidden gems we that are hard to anticipate. The article offers insight into different ways local histories might be used. It's also important to note that many local histories can be found online at no charge; it's worth entering the title into your favorite search engine to see if the book you seek is offered in full text format -- some offer previews only. However, not all local histories will be offered online, free or otherwise, which means, back to the library: it's worth the trip.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Hey genealogists, let's start Celebrating America

A recent news item on, "Hey genealogists, let's start Celebrating America," introduces a new project on, a state by state survey of available genealogical resources. States will be added in the order in which they joined the Union. This will be an exciting project to follow -- an opportunity to see how well we've covered our bases and to see what new information or untapped resources might be available.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mining for Genealogical Information in Federal Records

We might think of the National Archives as containing a static body of information, and genealogists anxiously await each new set of records scheduled to come online.  What we might not realize is that in the U.S. (and probably so in other countries as well), the repository is not static at all. The federal archives are continually adding new data, transferred from other government bodies -- information previously unavailable to the general public. In her article, "Mining for Genealogical Information in Federal Records," Rita Marshall makes a case for going straight to the source and NOT waiting for the movie (or online data release) to come out. Old and new, a considerable amount of valuable information is housed in the federal archives that is not available elsewhere. While a trip to Washington D.C. might not be in the stars for all of us, it is important to know what's available. Professional researchers and look-up volunteers in the area of a particular archive are a possible resource.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Casting a wider net may help find elusive documents

We all have brick wall ancestors or event dates that just can't be found. In his most recent article, "Keeping your eye on the road -- not!" Larry Naukam suggests not only thinking outside the box but outside the neighborhood. When a search of local area sources goes cold, consider casting a wider net into the neighboring communities, which might be "across the river" or in another state. The author illustrates this point with several examples and provides suggestions on the types of sources that might yield further clues.

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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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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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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lots of free data still available online

Is free genealogy a thing of the past? asks Kimberly Powell in her article, "101 Ways to Research Your Family Tree for Free." Apparently, the answer to her question lies in the title to her article, lots of free data is still available. Check it out to be sure you are taking advantage of the many free resources available.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Newspaper Treasures -- Beyond the Obituaries

"Newspapers are gold mines for obituary information," says Judy Rosella Edwards in her recent article, "Newspaper Treasures," and they are, indeed. In addition to the more familiar genealogical use of newspapers in finding obituaries, birth and marriage records is the reporting of everyday events -- events that may contain significant information and leads. The article suggests ways you can digitize any information you might find, for personal use. I might also add, today we are lucky to have a wealth of newspapers already digitized: many  are subscription-based but may be available for free through local public libraries and Family History Centers. Some newspaper sites and other commercial sites that contain newspapers, offer trial subscriptions for a nominal fee. Newspapers are a valuable resource definitely worth pursuing.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Exploring German Ancestries

For those just beginning to explore their ancestral roots in another county, Alan Smith's recent article, "Exploring German Ancestries," takes a look at some of the first steps. The more general principles discussed would apply to research in any foreign country, beginning with an exploration of the political, geographical, and cultural history. Determining who was in power at any given time and how areas were divided and records maintained is the key to successful research abroad and at home.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Simple High=Tech Solution for Genealogists

Although "simple" and "high-tech" might sound like a contradiction in terms, in her latest article, "A Simple High-Tech Solution for Genealogists," Judy Rosella Edwards suggests an "innovative and earth-friendly way of using computerized gadgets you already have" for extracting information from various sources.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Using Google Scholar for Genealogy

As we all know, Google offers many, many services, some we might not know about or might not know how a particular relates to our own needs and interests. Gena Philibert-Ortega has presented several articles bring to light some of the Google advantages. Her latest article, "Using Google Scholar for Genealogy," suggests ways to find obscure books and articles that might related to your own family and enhance your research. 

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MyHeritage announces "significant" search improvements

Leaving no stone unturned, another good place to run those family names is, one of the leading family history web sites, now with expanded search capability. MyHeritage announced today, "significant improvements: and expansion to its search engine. The updated “MyHeritage Research” now provides access to some 12 billion names in 1,526 genealogy databases from across the Internet. New sources included in the search include, Facebook, Digg, and others. MyHeritage Research accesses only genealogical resources which helps researchers find those websites and databases most relevant to their unique family histories. This allows you a much quicker and efficient search, so you don't have to wade through volumes of non relevant records. You can access the search at

Researchers can perform a name search using different spelling options: Exact, Soundex, or the unique Megadex spelling variations. Megadex allows you to choose from the most commonly used spelling variations of last names, cutting down on the time needed to research name variations. MyHeritage services are free of charge and available in 34 languages.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Refresher on "Using Genealogical Indexes"

Gena Philbert-Ortega, in her latest article, "Using Genealogical Indexes," provides a refresher on the value of genealogical indexes, along with examples of various indexes, some available online. As the article points out, "While indexes are not a substitute for primary documents, indexes can assist you in finding ancestors and lead you to primary documents."

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

GenealogyBank provides new tools to allow more targeted research, a leading provider of digitized historical and recent newspapers for family history information, in a recent press release announced a new set of advanced search tools that let family researchers gather information from one specific newspaper or group of newspapers, as well as search newspapers by state, city or only recently added content.

"GenealogyBank's new search enhancements are excellent new tools to help genealogists fine tune their family research," reports Tom Kemp, Genealogy Director at NewsBank, inc. "We appreciate the feedback we receive on the site and often heard from users who wanted to search a specific newspaper by title or by city and narrow searches by type of article--for example, just birth notices or just marriage announcements. And now you can! We also added the ability to search only the most recently added content over the last one to three months. Researchers of any level can use these and other tools to hone in on hard-to-find family history information and document the lives and times of their American ancestors over four centuries."

Additionally, GenealogyBank recently added more than six million articles, documents and death records. The site's online family history archive now features more than 3,800 newspapers, including over 144 million fully searchable historical newspaper articles articles and 113 million obituaries and death records.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Life, Death, and Everything in Between

“Everyone knows to look for federal, state, and county censuses. But what else is on that paper trail between Life and Death?” In her article, “Life, Death, and Everything in Between,” Judy Rosella Edwards reviews the kinds of documents that might be generated over a lifetime, with insights into researching these records in various state and local archives.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Midwest Genealogy Center set to open May 11

An article in the the Fort Worth's Star Telegram, "Site for Genealogy Buffs," announces the new $8 million Midwest Genealogy Center, set to open May 11 in Independence, Missouri. The new center houses microfilm and microfiche with Civil War histories, American Indian records, black family history records, passenger lists, plantation records and more.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Australian records online at WorldVitalRecords

Announced in a press release Friday, Archive CD Books Australia and Gould Genealogy have partnered with, Inc. to make 344 Australian and New Zealand databases more accessible to a worldwide audience at (a service of, Inc.).

“We are delighted now to be part of’s new international focus. The benefits we see are many,” said Alan Phillips, Managing Director, Archive CD Books Australia and Gould Genealogy. “For us, it is a great way to market our content online. For, it is an opportunity to provide more significant Australian content than from any other single source. For Australian content owners, is a great avenue to get their data online. For libraries, it brings joy to those who have no love of CDs. For ‘Down Under’ researchers, it provides the best Australian and New Zealand content online. For end users overseas with Australian and New Zealand interests, at last they can have some great accessible content.”

Initially Archive CD Books Australia will provide with half of the Archive CD Books Australia product list. . . .This initial data launch from Archive CD Books Australia will be followed during the year by data from Gould Genealogy, which will include birth, marriage, and death notices, shipping records, biographical databases, cemetery records, and obituaries. . . . The content databases provided by Archive CD Books Australia and Gould Genealogy comprise’s first major collections from Australia.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Refocus your Efforts for Success

Not only is it important to become familiar with the location where you ancestors lived, in order to find documentation, but it is also important to understand something about the culture of the people within a particular community. In his article, "Refocus Your Efforts for Success," Kevin Cassidy uses a case in point to show that standing back from your research and making common sense connections, may lead you to the documentation in question.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WorldVitalRecords launches World Genealogy Collection

In a press release today, (a service of, Inc.) released today its flagship product, the World Collection, an online genealogy database containing more than 1.5 billion names from 35 countries.’s World Collection launch includes significant collections from countries such as: England, Canada, Australia, France, Ireland, Scotland, Hungary, and Portugal.

“All over the world there are wonderful people who are digitizing and preserving historic records,” said Paul Allen, CEO,, Inc. “During the past year we have traveled and met with these content providers from more than a dozen countries. We are pleased today to announce that many of them have chosen to let us distribute their genealogical databases on the Internet.”

More than 20 companies have partnered with to make this new collection possible. They include Find My Past, Genealogical Publishing Company, Archive CD Books Australia, British Origins, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Archive CD Books Canada, Eneclann, Quintin Publications, Gould Genealogy, Familias Argentinas, Godfrey Memorial Library, and Moravian Heritage Society.

The World Collection includes birth, marriage and death records, census records, passenger lists, immigration lists, emigration records, foreign newspapers, cemetery records, reference materials, land records, family histories, historical records, city directories, business directories, township histories, civil service records, telephone directories, government records, war records, and maps, atlases, and gazetteers. Individuals can access more than 5,000 genealogical databases, more than 2 billion names (these names are being added throughout the year), and the World Collection at

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Encyclopedias may open new doors in research

Encyclopedias, even those you've had sitting around the house for years, may contain historical information relevant to your genealogy. In her article, "Finding Aids: Encyclopedias," Gena Philibert-Ortega discusses the ways in which encyclopedias might be used to assist genealogy research, suggesting the types of encyclopedias researchers might find useful, along with some specific titles. Among the resources suggested is one of my favorites, The Handbook of Texas Online. The great thing about encyclopedias is that they also direct to additional source information, some of which may be entirely new to you and send you down a new path.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Utilizing Genealogy Societies

Most family history researchers appreciate the value of consulting genealogy societies in their quest for information. The business of genealogical societies is the preservation of historical records within the local area; thus, being on-site in your area of interest, genealogical societies are a valuable resource. In addition to conducting original research within the area and publishing indexes, compiliations, and periodic journals, genealogical societies also compile libraries of information related to the area. In her article, "Utilizing Genealogy Societies," Gena Philibert-Ortega provides information on contacting genealogy societies in your area of interest, as well as tips and hints for requesting information.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Researching the origin of immigrant ancestors

When researching your family, especially in the United States, you will eventually come across an immigrant ancestor. Learning more about that ancestor before they came to America can present many challenges. In her article, "Origins of Immigrant Ancestors," Karan Pittman provides some general information on researching immigrant ancestors, with an emphasis on records and resources for England.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Museums as a family history resource

In her article, "Researching Your Family History at the Museum," Gena Philibert-Ortega offers insight into museums as a genealogical resource. In addition to exhibits and artifacts, museums sometimes have research rooms that include local and family history files as well as books and periodicals that pertain to the local history, and some may provide research assistance for a fee. When traveling to do genealogy, a trip to the local museum might be as beneficial as a trip to the local library. To give you an idea of what you may find, the article provides a sampling of museum resources and offer tips for working with museum personnel.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Researching illigitimate births

This week we would like to welcome Shelley Poblete as a new writer for GenWeekly. In her first article, "Illegitimate Children" a Search for British Parentage," Shelley addresses the subject of illegitimate birth, providing us with a little historical background and some tips for researching. As most of us know, many researchers find one or more illegitimate births in the course of building the family tree. Having discovered the fact is one thing, trying to unravel the parentage is another. Understanding a little more about the historical traditions surrounding illegitimate birth may suggest new places to look.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

More news on FamilySearch partnerships

In press release today, it was announced that more than 4,500 FamilySearch Family History Centers throughout the world will now have free access to’s genealogical records and resources, as a result of an agreement signed between FamilySearch (TM) and As part of the agreement, will provide a vast collection of genealogical materials including vital, land, immigration, and military records; newspapers, international databases, and a collection of reference material. also partnered with Everton Publishers last year to provide the Everton Genealogical Library containing numerous databases, as well as 60 years of the Everton Genealogical Helper and 150,000 Everton Pedigree Files and Family Group Sheets, all of which will now be made available through local Family History Centers.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Organizing research saves time, effort, and heap of frustration

One of the most frustrating things in genealogy research is retracing your steps, either at the library or online, and not for any new insights, but because you forgot where you found a piece of information or you did write down what you found. Organizing research is almost an eternal quest. Why? Because it takes time and many people are averse to detail. In her article "Organizing Your Research," Gena Philibert-Ortega provides tips for organizing as you go, to help avoid procrastination. Simplicity is the key to keeping up with the task, and the article discusses a variety of forms along with a number or resources aimed at making do-able.

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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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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Scotland genealogy center to open in 2009

An article in the Buchan Observer highlights a new genealogy research center scheduled to open in 2009, in harmony with Scotland's Year of Homecoming. According to the article, historians from all over Scotland, the UK and the world, with Aberdeenshire lineage, will soon be able to trace their family history when the region's first genealogy centre opens in Peterhead. The centre is being established by the Peterhead Tourism Initiative (PTI) which has been working hard to secure funding for the project. It will be hosted in a room at the Arbuthnot Museum at Peterhead's St Peter Street where a wealth of documentation can already be found. It is believed the project will attract new visitors to the North-east and will tie in with the Scottish Executive's Homecoming project scheduled for 2009. Scotland's Year of Homecoming is a year-long event which will showcase Scotland as a 'must-visit, must-return' destination. The year coincides with the 250th anniversary of the birth of national bard Robert Burn which will be celebrated through a series of events.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Evaluating genealogy publications

In his article, "Summary on Genealogical Publications," Alan Smith offers some guidelines for evaluating various genealogical resources and targeting those most applicable to a particular objective. Smith suggests there are two main types of genealogical publications: "The first is very specialized and concern a unique geographical area and can hold actual documents and family tree data which mainly concern state and county locations. The other type of publication has a ‘human interest' slant for a generalized public or a "how-to" approach. Both can help, but sometimes a researcher has to stop reading "how-to" articles and start doing research."

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Genealogy in the Virginias

This year the state of Virigina celebrates its 400th Anniversary. In her article, "Genealogy of the Virginias," Melissa Slate explains the relationship between Viriginia and West Virgina and tips for locating records of your Virgina ancestors. In the early formation of our country, not only county, but state boundaries changed, as well. Understanding the geography of an area is important to help you make sure you are looking in the right place at the right time period in your quest for records.

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Friday, March 23, 2007


PERSI is a great resource, and yet, "PERSI, the Periodical Source Index, could perhaps be one of the least used resources by genealogists." One reason for this limited use may be that the articles are not immediately accessible, and it takes some effort to request them or otherwise dig them out. For those who take the time, however, the effort can be rewarding. In her article, "Using PERSI," Gena Philibert-Ortega reminds us how useful PERSI can be, gives a few tips for conducting successful searches, and provides a direct link to the PERSI ordering form, just to make it a little easier.

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Knowledge of State and County lines is key to research

In her article, "State and County Lines May Lead You to Your Ancestors," Karan Pittman points the importance of knowing state and county creation dates, as well as boundary changes. Not only can county boundaries change, as one new county is carved from two or more others, but state boundaries have also been known to change. A family could become residents of a new state or territory, without ever moving a stick. So it was with the "Western Lands" of North Carolina -- in 1784 settlers in the western lands created the small, independent State of Franklin, in an audacious move that did not set well with North Carolina and was dissolved just four years later. However, the writing was on the wall, and in 1790, North Carolina ceded her western lands to the U.S. Government, and the area, known as the "Territory of the U. S. South of the River Ohio," was later to become the state of Tennessee. As Karan points out, knowledge of these geographical divisions is key to directing your research and understanding the social, economic, and political dynamics surrounding your ancestor's lives.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Land Records, an often underappreciated resource

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

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

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

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

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Friday, February 2, 2007

General overview of United States National Archives holdings

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

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Old newspapers contain rich information

In her article, "Don't Forget the Local News, " Karan Pittman provides a strategy for researching old newspapers, keeping in mind how old papers were organized, what information might might be found and where. "People often underestimate the type of information that may be gleaned from newspapers in the past. The papers need to be viewed a bit differently than those of today in order to utilize them effectively."

One thing I have learned about old newspapers over the years is how much personal information might actually be reported as "news," a father who abandoned his family, for example. Important stuff if that's your family, but at the same time, you are chagrined at its being aired for public viewing. But those were the times. However rewarding, searching old newspapers today can be tedious and must often be done in the dusty recesses of the local courthouse or archives. But as more and more old newspapers are digitized and come online, the greater our opportunity to browse and even search for our family members by name. Oh my, with that prospect in mind, when will I ever get anything else done?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Local area research is "limitless" in its value

Oftentimes it is information indirectly associated with our ancestors that provide vital clues, and local area research is an important step in the research process. However, as Karan Pittman points out in her article, Don't Forget Local Histories, "Regional, local and county histories don't always enjoy the best reputation, but they can be invaluable to the researcher when used correctly." The article is focused on helping readers makes the most of these valuable resources.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

19th century genealogical data used in scientific study

"What exasperated or overworked parent hasn't declared to a child at least once: 'You'll be the death of me!' Now we know -- with unprecedented precision -- just how true that can be."

An article this week in the San Franciso Chronicle, Genealogy study examines price of parenthood, reports on the findings of a recent study that utilizes data from 22,000 19th century families. "As raw material, the researchers, used a database of genealogical information kept by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, examining the reproductive history and survival of 21,684 couples married between 1860 and 1895. Each person was married only once, and polygamists were excluded." Along with other fascinating tidbits, findings from the study also show that younger children in a family had less chance of survival than their older siblings, and that losing a mother raised every child's risk of dying young. The data sample is said to be the largest used to estimate the cost of human procreation.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Family history resources in San Bernadino County, CA

With an area containing more land than nine states, San Bernadino County, California is the largest county in the United States. Early residents included native peoples, as well as pioneers looking for adventure in the West. The Mormons and some other religious groups were among the early settlers. In her aticle, "Genealogical Research in San Bernadino County," Gena Philibert-Ortega helps researchers become aware of available family history resources.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's not too late to develop a new resolve

“Everyday is a new life to a wise person.” Reflecting a general philosophy, this is one of my son’s favorite sayings – a way of looking at the world he is passing along to his two daughters. If we take the spirit of such optimism to heart, then: No, it’s not too late – it’s never too late to develop new resolve. In her article, “Genealogical Resolutions and Goals for 2007,” Karan Pittman offers some good ideas for jumpstarting your family research in the new year, and true to the first rule in genealogy research, it begins with YOU.

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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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Friday, December 1, 2006

Practice good writing techniques, and you will get answers

Karan Pittman contributed the article, "Good Letters Will Get Good Information", offering the perspective that sooner or later every genealogist has to write a letter either to a relative, a stranger, a library or a government entity requesting information for family history.


GenWeekly -- Delivering a Fresh Perspective for Genealogists