Monday, September 29, 2008

38,800 New Newspaper Pages Added At LOC

News Flash: The Library of Congress added 38,810 newspaper pages to the Chronicling America Web site in September. Their collection has now expanded coverage into the 1880's and includes content published in the "Star of the North," the great state of Minnesota.

The site now provides access to over 680,000 newspaper pages from 9 states and the District of Columbia. Chronicling America is a project of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

Search the LOC Newspaper Directory NOW

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Podcast Episode 51 Now Available

Genealogy Gems Podcast
Episode 51 Features:

Interview with Jim Beidler,
Chairman of the FGS 2008 Conference

Ice Cream Cone

Mac Minutes with Ben Sayer,
The MacGenealogist

Genealogy Podcast Chime In With Their
Favorite Family History Sayings

Census Abbreviations
Listen now at the website
or in iTunes

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Find Out What That Record Says

You've probably faced this dilemma a time or two yourself. You order an English microfilm or digital record that you are convinced contains the secret key to unlock your next brick wall, only to find that the words on the page look like they were written by a chicken who had dipped her talons in the ink well and did a little dance.

No need to cry that the sky is falling, because there is a website out there that can teach you how read and understand English script and it's called English Handwriting 1500 - 1700. It's a comprehensive online course that you can use from the comfort of your home. It's free, and doesn't even require registering to use.

Check out this article from the Terre Haute News for a great overview. And then head to the website. The Project Overview page will tell you everything you need to know about how to get started. Once you become proficient in reading English script, it will be you, not the chicken, doing a little dance!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Save Some Dough & Go To An Expo!

With the conclusion of the FGS 2008 conference in Philadelphia, there's been a lot of talk lately about the high cost of attending national conferences. It's a very valid concern. In the most recent Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast I discussed my own outrage at the convention center hotel charging $10 a day for Internet access, and how surprised I was to find that in order to have use of a refrigerator in my room I would have to rent it!

I went without the fridge, and ended up spending something like $4 for each soda in the conference exhibit hall. That on top of airfare, a "discounted" rate of $189 per night (only to find out they add $22 per day in tax to that), transportation, a hefty conference entrance fee etc. and you find that you have quickly dropped a good chunk of change.

My observation was that it was the exhibit hall vendors who paid the price, faced with reduced sales because attendees had spent their wad. I also wonder if FGS paid somewhat of a price this year. I heard unconfirmed estimates of about 700 in attendance which according to some very reliable sources is about half of what they have had in good years in the past.

As top notch as the conference was, when I got home I asked myself, "would I go again next year?" At this point I can't really say. I sure would like to because it's going to be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I have a lot of research I could do there. And the speakers and vendors will of course be top notch. But it is a very expensive venture.

As Jim Beidler, chair of this year's FGS conference pointed out in my interview with him (which you will be able to hear on Monday when Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 51 is published), the real benefit to these conferences is that it's "networking on steroids." It certainly was for me. And I loved it. But is networking a top goal for most attendees? Does the Internet offer alternative low cost ways to network? (Just look at the recent genealogy explosion on Facebook!)

During the plane ride back my thoughts drifted back to the other national conferences I attended this last year in St. George and Ogden, Utah. They were bustling with conference-goers; my Genealogy Gems exhibit hall booth was always busy! And the costs involved were much more down to earth: $89 / night for pleasant, clean hotels with FREE Internet access and in-room refrigerators very close to the convention hall...$65 early bird entrance fee to the conference. You just can't beat the value for the money you invest.

Riding on the huge success of their Expos, My Ancestors Found , the organizers, have decided to take the plunge and change their name to Family History Expos. It's a great move because they are so good at what they do, and this name makes it crystal clear.

I have a special place for Holly and her team in my heart because about a year ago they reached out to me and invited me to participate in their exhibit hall. The next conference they invited me to speak, and our relationship has grown from there. They are so kind, and so friendly and you see it in everything they do. Family History Expos radiate fun and excitement!

And what's even more exciting now is with the new name is also coming a new website, a new podcast, and soon videocasts. Their new home is now There you can check out the brand new Family History Expos Genealogy Podcast. Listen to DearMYRTLE interview upcoming Expo speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors. You'll also find the Family History Expos Genealogy Blog where you will learn about upcoming Expos and discuss the possibility of new locations to be considered for an Expo. They welcome your feedback!

And I'm especially excited to be working with them to soon be bringing you Family History Expos TV. You'll be able to watch online videos spotlighting segments of Family History Expos ~ past, present, & future. Be sure and stop by the TV Booth (next to the Genealogy Gems Podcast booth) and check out what we're up to at the Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ on November 14, & 15, 2008.

So even though the name has changed, you will still see a lot of familiar faces, and you'll likely have more dough left in your wallet!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Exhumed Body of an English Aristocrat Sheds Light on Threat that Loomed Over Our Ancestors

It was a disaster of epic proportions. It is estimated that anywhere from 20 to 100 million people were killed worldwide. And now the remains of an aristocrat, buried in a churchyard in Yorkshire, are making their way to the surface some 90 years later in hopes of preventing a repeat of the disaster.

The 1918 flu pandemic, also known as the Spanish Flu, first appeared in Fort Riley, Kansas on March 4, 1918. By August 1918, a more deadly strain appeared simultaneously in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Brest, France, and Boston, Massachusetts. The flu wreaked havoc across the world until June of 1920.

The BBC news has been tracking the story (Feb 2007 article, Video, 2008 article) 2008 story of the scientific research that’s being conducted in hopes of thwarting similar calamties in the future. That research is reaching a climax with the authorization by the Diocese of York to exhume the body of one of the victims of the pandemic, Yorkshire landowner Sir Mark Sykes, who died in France from the flu in 1919.

There are only five known tissue samples worldwide from victims of the pandemic, and there is a desperate need for more if they are to further their research and prevent future victims of similar flu strains.

But why have scientists set their sites on Sir Mark? Records of Sir Mark’s funeral at St. Mary’s Church, Sledmere indicate that he was buried in a lead coffin which scientists hope preserved traces of the virus.

So many of our ancestors were dramatically affected by the 1918 Pandemic. In Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 50, we came to know one of the victims of 1918, Alice McManus, the great grandmother of Genealogy Gems Premium Member Sue Torguson. Like so many of the flu’s victims, Alice was a vibrant, healthy adult woman when she was struck down, leaving behind her sixth month old daughter.
(Photo: Alice McManus)

Watch the BBC video to learn more about the man who is contributing to the health of his descendants and the world 90 years after his death, and the scientists working on this important project.

Do you have ancestors that were struck down by the Spanish Flu? What were the lasting affects on your family?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Top 5 Strategies for Enlisting Your Kids Help with Your Family History Efforts

I knew I would need some help on my recent trip to the FGS conference in Philadelphia. Interviews needed to be arranged, video needed to be shot, photos needed to be snapped and there was a desperate need for someone younger than me to run back and forth across the GIANORMOUS convention center to the hotel for forgotten items. The perfect candidate: my daughter Lacey.

I thought it would be a hard sell to get her to go. After all, genealogy falls about 3476th on her list of “I can’t wait to do that!” (right after “take out the garbage”) So I came up with a strategy for enlisting her help. It’s an incredibly effective strategy that you can use to corral your own kids and grandkids into helping you with your family history efforts.

The Top 5 Strategies For Getting Your Kids to Help You

5) Explain to them they will just have to miss a day of school – it can’t be helped. Then move out of the way as they bolt to their room to pack.

4) Offer to fly them across the country to a big city. Just don’t tell them until they are on the plane that they no longer show movies on cross-country flights. And they’re going to have to pack their own snacks.

3) Buy them Book #4 in The Twilight series at the airport. It’s the new hot series – sort of the next “Harry Potter.” I know you probably haven’t heard of it. I hadn’t. Just trust me on this. Of course what kids today don’t know is that it is basically a remake of the sixties TV soap opera Dark Shadows!

2) Pay $10 a day for Internet at the hotel. I know it’s OUTRAGEOUS, but believe me, you DO NOT want to spend four nights in a small hotel room with a teen who can’t check their Facebook profile. It wouldn’t be pretty. (OK I admit it, I would have been a bear without it as well!)

1) Arrange for the host of the Amazing Race TV show, Phil Keoghan to stay at your hotel. Just when the crankies were about to set in as we packed ourselves like sardines into the hotel shuttle bus to endure the long flight home, who shows up but TV host Phil Keoghan from the Amazing Race. I couldn’t have planned things any better if I had slipped his agent $1000. He stood around outside our van, chatting to his driver…and my daughter got take it all in within eight feet. I am now officially a hero for having taken her to Philadelphia. Wait till all her friends hear about this on Facebook!

P.S. I love you Lacey – and I couldn’t have done it without you!

Stay tuned to The Genealogy Gems Podcast for tips and ideas from some of the most knowledgeable folks in the world of genealogy.

- Curt Witcher, Manager of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
- James M. Beidler, VP of Development, FGS
- Colleen Fitzgerald, The Foresnsic Genealogist
- Rick Crume, National Lecturer & Family Tree Magazine Contributing Editor
- Leland K. Meitzler, Managing Editor, Everton Publishers
- Feargal O'Donnell, Ireland Roots
- Dr. Chris Watts, British Genealogist
- Yvette Arts, World Vital Records

and many more...Sign up today for the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Newsletter for more info on these upcoming interviews.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

National & Local Historical Treasures Hit The Road

The Library of Congress announced today that "National Treasures, Local Treasures: The Library of Congress at Your Fingertips," an educational program that brings the riches of the Library to selected cities across the country, will make its debut at the Broward County Public Library on Friday, Sept. 19, at 10:30 a.m. The Main Library is at 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The event is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Florida Center for the Book and the Broward County Library.

Florida resident Barbara Parker, a New York Times best-selling author and a former prosecutor with the state attorney’s office in Dade County, Fla., will be a special guest. She is the author of 12 mysteries, including "Suspicion of Malice," which was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American author, and "Perfect Fake," for which she did research in the map collections of the Library of Congress.

On the program from the Library of Congress are John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book; Elizabeth Ridgway, director of the Educational Outreach Division; Sherrie Galloway, educational outreach specialist; and Matt Raymond, director of communications. The program will begin with a clip from the film "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets," which prominently featured the Library of Congress in its storyline.

The program emphasizes demonstrations by Library of Congress educational specialists on how to bring Florida history alive with rare primary source materials on the Library’s Web site at More than 100 sixth-graders from the Plantation Middle School will participate in this event.

A demonstration of the interactive Library of Congress Experience ( will bring unique historical and cultural treasures to attendees through cutting-edge interactive technology. The Experience comprises a series of new exhibitions and a continuing online educational experience on this personalized Web site. These include:

"The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building," a tour through this exuberant 1897 masterpiece of American craftsmanship.

"Creating the United States," which tells the story of how our Founding Fathers used creativity, collaboration and compromise to form our nation, with a focus on the words and phrases that created the republic.

"Thomas Jefferson’s Library," which features thousands of original volumes that provided the foundation for the Library of Congress and its universal collections.

"Exploring the Early Americas," which tells the story of the Americas before the time of Columbus, as well as the periods of contact, conquest and their aftermath. Floridian Jay I. Kislak’s extraordinary collection of rare books, manuscripts, historic documents, maps and art of the Americas comprises the major portion of this exhibition, which also features Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 Map of the World, the first document to use the word "America."
The Library of Congress will present Broward County with a facsimile of a Florida map from the Library of Congress’s collections.

Following the close of the program, Library of Congress educational specialists will hold a workshop with local schoolchildren and teachers aimed at introducing them to the primary sources on the Library’s Web site related to Florida and how to integrate these materials into their classrooms.

But don't worry if you don't live in Florida. "National Treasures, Local Treasures" will also be presented by state centers for the book and public libraries in the following cities:

Monday, Oct. 27 from 6-8 p.m. at the Denver Public Library
Monday, Nov. 24 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Dallas Public Library
Thursday, Dec. 11 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the San Francisco Public Library
Friday, Dec.12 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Los Angeles Public Library

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

23andMe and Partner on Genetic Ancestry

September 9, 2008
23andMe, Inc., the industry leader in personal genetics, and have teamed up to provide improved genetic information to’s DNA customers. The partnership furthers the shared vision of 23andMe and of enriching the lives of individuals by providing access to novel ancestral information through DNA analysis.

The 23andMe Personal Genome Service™ provides individual access to genetic information, including deep ancestry analysis developed by the 23andMe science team. Users of the DNA service will now have access to the same ancestral content available through the 23andMe website, designed to give people a deeper understanding of their past.

23andMe’s ancestry analysis allows users to trace their genetic lineage and discover the role that their ancestral origins have played in human history. DNA testing combines science with a database of more than 7 billion names in 26,000 databases and more than 7 million user-submitted family trees helping users to make connections, trace their roots and connect with distant cousins.

23andMe utilizes the latest advances in DNA analysis and Web-based technology to provide its customers with a detailed genetic profile and interactive tools to explore their family lineage and health traits. 23andMe population geneticists have developed compilation of genetic content related to ancestry.

As leaders in online ancestry and population genetics tools, and 23andMe will continue to collaborate to provide DNA customers with new information about their forebears.

“23andMe and share the goal of empowering people and families through the sharing of ancestry and genetic information,” said Dr. Joanna Mountain, Senior Director of research at 23andMe and former professor of anthropology genetics at Stanford University. “By partnering with, we welcome users of the DNA service into our community to help them further understand their origins.”

“DNA testing is a powerful tool for people to discover new family connections and learn more about their ancient lineage,” said Brett Folkman, Vice President of DNA. “By combining DNA analysis with historical records, DNA offers users an unprecedented tool for researching family heritage. 23andMe’s extensive ancestry content will further enrich our customer experience.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

News from FGS: Irish Records

It's been a whirlwind weekend at the FGS conference in Philadelphia. My bags are packed and the alarm is set so I can meet my flight tomorrow. But I'm anxious to let you know about a fascinating conversation I had with Feargal O'Donnell of the Irish Family History Foundation Online Genealogy Databases for Ireland, which is now known as RootsIreland.

The Foundation is striving to shatter the myths that Irish records are too difficult to be found, or likely don't exist at all. Through the efforts of a vast number of volunteers, each working in their own locality where they have first hand knowledge, partnerships are being formed with the "keepers" of the records, and a really heroic effort is being made to transcribe and deliver them to a computer near you!

To date they've computerised almost 40 million Irish Ancestral records, primarily Church baptisms, marriages and deaths. According to Feargal, a charming and highly knowledgeable genealogist from Northern Ireland, the indexes, listing surname, first name, year and county of all records online can be searched for free. To view a detailed record you can purchase credit online for instant access at a cost of €5.00 per record.

Start with the red and green map of Ireland on the homepage. Green counties are online now, orange counties are coming soon, and red counties are not yet online. But if Feargal has anything to say about it, all counties will be online as soon as possible.

Stay tuned to the Genealogy Gems Podcast for my in depth conversation with Feargal about this wealth of genealogical information.

And be sure to sign up for the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Newsletter so you will be sure to receive notice of this and the many other interviews I conducted at the FGS conference. It was a melting pot of fascinating genealogists from around the world, and I'm excited to bring these personal interviews to you through upcoming Genealogy Gems Podcasts.

Talk to you soon! Lisa