Friday, April 23, 2010

The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities

Social context is an important aspect of genealogy research. Understanding more about the social environment of our ancestors may lend clues to the bigger genealogical questions and help pinpoint people in time and place. In her article, "The Compleat Database: Cultural Affinities, " Judy Rosella Edwards encourages researchers to include social information -- what she is calling "cultural affinities" or "connections" -- in the genealogy database. While a certain piece of information may not reveal much at first glance, later that bit of information may be the one thing that puts you on the right path. As the article observes, information on certain traditions, hobbies, celebrated holidays, even trinkets may hold clues. 

One thing to keep in mind, as well, in considering cultural affinities is the possible existence and value of non-traditional source material such as performance programs, club and society membership records, organizational histories, reunions, business associations, etc. If an ancestor is identified with a particular group or activity, there may well be records available that provide additional information. For locating such sources, be sure to check our parent site,, which has been a leader in transcribing original, non-traditional source material for many years and offering it online. With recent changes to the site, all databases have been combined and are now offered as a single, affordable package. But even browsing the holdings or doing a search on your family name, you can learn something new and may even be guided to other sources you might not have known existed. Not only can you learn about the various types and categories of records published, but you can also see what has been transcribed, thus far, for a particular region. And with the new Wiki you can learn even more. It's a work in progress -- new materials are being added weekly, so you'll want to check back often. Be sure to check out the Genealogy Today Subscription Data, the Family History Wiki, and the helpful Search features available on the home page.

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The Value of Non-Traditional Resources - Fire Insurance Maps

Even if you don't have ancestry in Sacramento, a brief article on, "Fire insurance maps are useful in Sacramento genealogy research, " has merit for pointing out the value of non-tradtional sources in genealogical research. Did you know, in fact,  that "Fire Insurance maps were originally created in the 19th century in the United States for assessing fire insurance liability in urbanized areas. You can find out the names of the people that owned the house and land at different dates." A history of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps on the UC Berkley Library website tells us more about them, and an article on, "Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps," suggests how the maps can be used. 

Indeed, insurance records of all types, and particularly claims records can tell a lot.  Insurance records is one of the categories in the Subscription Data, specializing in non-traditional sources. To see what is currently available, see the Table of Contents - Insurance Records.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

LiveRoots in the news

Our own Genealogy Today, LiveRoots website received honorable mention recently is an article on NewsOK, by Sharon Burns, "Site may help people break through walls." 

"Family historians and genealogists who hit walls searching for information about ancestors should try Live Roots at, a genealogy search engine. . . . The project, under development by D’Addezio and Genealogy Today, offers access to one-of-a-kind family history files working in sync with genealogy providers and files collected by D’Addezio."

As noted, the December/January edition of Internet Genealogy features an article by Tony Bandy, who discusses this site. 

For a first-hand look, come visit the LiveRoots website.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Genealogy on Film: Industry on Parade

It is said the "old times" were simpler times. Whether that is true or not is debatable. Seems the same lament is repeated in every age. Even so, those of us that lived in the 1950s tend to think it was, indeed, a simpler time. Life did not seem to be set on fast forward back then, although we may be viewing it from a child's point of view. In many cases, it's too late to ask our parents. 

In her article, "Genealogy on Film: Industry on Parade," Judy Rosella Edwards explores a fascinating resource from the 1950s, a collection of films showcasing the industry of America and Americans. As the article points out, the workers in the film were actual workers on the job -- not actors: hence, simpler times. In today's promotional films (including folksy commercials), you can pretty well bet actors are playing the roles. The genealogical value of the Industry on Parade film, given its scope, is pretty amazing, and certainly worth checking out the titles to see if any of the films fit the time and place of your ancestors. 

More and more we are seeing film being made available as a genealogical resource. The WWII ‘United News’ Newsreels, being one example. Edward's article brings to our attention yet another area to explore -- documentaries and other films featuring real people, mostly without "staging." It may take some sleuthing to find out what's available and where, but then, that's what we do.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Historical Pageants As a Genealogical Tool

We often talk about the value of non-traditional sources and encourage readers to visit the Genealogy Today, Family Tree Connection database, absolutely THE place for researching non-traditional sources. In her article, "Historical Pageants As a Genealogical Tool," Judy Rosella Edwards provides a little background on historical pageants and their value, in particular, pageant programs, for historical data. Event programs are also known as "ephemera," printed items intended for one-time use. As it turns out, these one-time use items, in some cases, have become highly collectible, and can also be valuable clues for pinpointing an ancestor in time and place or indicating something of his or her life. Of course, in addition to the program, local newspapers carried news of local pageants, a more traditional source of information. Two for the money.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dissertations and Theses as Genealogical Sources

As she continues to explore the genealogical value of various types of manuscript collections, Gena Philibert-Ortega, explores "Dissertations and Theses as Genealogical Sources." As noted in the article, while these works may not be specific to genealogy, "there are many in the realms of history, anthropology, social work and other disciplines that would be of interest to the family historian. In some cases, personal and oral histories might be a part of the research paper that may even shed some light on your own family." In addition to suggesting how dissertations and theses might be used, the author also suggest ways of identifying and locating such materials. 

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Using eBay in Your Genealogy

In her article, "Using eBay In Your Genealogy," Gena Philibert-Ortega provides a basic introduction to the eBay auction web site, and offers suggestions on various ways eBay can be used in doing genealogy. In addition to finding deals on genealogy reference books, eBay may also be a resource for finding information and/or photos on individual families. And while eBay is a valid resource for such materials and can benefit those who have the bidding savvy and financial resources, I find it a bit sad to see such personal items auctioned off in such an impersonal way. The hope is that some of those items might find their way into the hands of family members who will treasure them.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Students in the Graveyard - what can it mean to you?

Here's a new twist on cemetery research -- it may be that others have done some research on your family on assignment with local colleges. In his article, "Students in the Graveyard," Larry Naukam reports on what you might find, and most interesting of all . . . what the student may have found in their pursuit.

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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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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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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Researching Emigrant Aid Societies

Non-traditional sources, those other than the traditional vital records, church records, census, and court records, are valuable resources for pinpointing people in time and place. Fortunately, many of these sources have been made available through historical publications or, more recently, on the Internet. All it takes is for us to become aware that these sources exist. In her mose article, Melissa Slate explores "Emigrant Aid Societies," an often overlooked resource.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Take me out to the ballgame . . .

If someone in your family tree played professional baseball or even if you are simply an ardent fan, you will be interested in Gena Philibert-Ortega's most recent article, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Researching Baseball Players." While the basic methods of research apply to everyone, as Gena points out, the great thing about researching someone who may have gained some fame, even a small amount, is that they are more likely to have left a public trail for us to track, including newspaper articles and interviews, articles in magazines and books, etc. When it comes to baseball, Gena provides a number of resources, including research on the Negro leagues, women in baseball, and even prison leagues. Interesting and fun resources to browse, whether or not it applies to your own family tree.

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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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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Encouragement for genealogical pack rats

The old saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees," has meaning when it comes to the little things in everyday life that we all take so much for granted. Who would think to look for genealogy clues among our parents or grandparents canceld checks? Most times those would just be seen as so much clutter and tossed along with old candy wrappers. In Vicki Boartfield's article, "A Valuable Hidden Resource: a Cancelled Check from 1957," the check was found early on and held onto for good reason. But it does remind us that "home sources" contain rich information, and that we may want to dig a little deeper and be more mindful of what we discard.


Monday, January 29, 2007

LIttle things mean a lot

The article, "Finding My Grandmother Before I Become a Grandmother" by Vicki Boartfield is a success story, detailing how one woman realized the dream of finding her grandmother, with very little information to go on. It helps us not only appreciate the vast, ever-increasing store of information that is available today at our fingertips, but also brings home the importance of those little scraps of memorabilia that so often slip past our notice. So it may be good to take notice and keep those little bits and pieces that may not mean much today but have the potential of unlocking the past -- tomorrow.

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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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