Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Millions of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro Civil Registration Records Now Digitally Searchable

Here's the latest from FamilySearch...

SALT LAKE CITY—FamilySearch added the Brazil, Rio de Janeiro Civil Registration to its online collection—about 4.5 million new digital images. The free collection contains searchable digital images of the original birth, marriage, and death records from all of the municipalities in the state of Rio de Janeiro from 1889 to 2006. The new digital images can be searched for free at (click Search Records, and then click Record Search pilot).

The published records cover births up to 1930, marriages to 1950, and deaths up to 2006. There are an estimated 18 million names in the free online digital collection. FamilySearch continues to film civil registration records in Rio de Janeiro and will update the collection as applicable.

Prior to now, the Rio de Janeiro Civil Registration records were only available in archive offices in Brazil or on microfilm through one of FamilySearch’s family history centers worldwide. FamilySearch digitized the collection—over 2,500 microfilms, spanning 117 years of vital records—and published them online for free public access.

“Now instead of ordering some of the films and traveling to a local family history center to use it, researchers worldwide can search any of the 2,500 films digitally and freely online from the comfort of their home,” said Paul Nauta, FamilySearch public affairs manager. “Family history enthusiasts with Rio de Janeiro ancestors have just been handed a big-time free gift,” added Nauta.

Civil records were kept for all the population, including the Catholics and the non-Catholics. There was a large infusion of non-Catholics in Brazil after the 1880s. The civil registration records are an important public record of this section of the population as well.

FamilySearch has the largest collection of Brazilian vital records outside of Brazil. Currently these records are available to the public on microfilm through FamilySearch’s 4,500 family history centers worldwide or affiliate public libraries. FamilySearch plans to continue expanding online access to its Brazil collections. Pernambuco and ParanĂ£ will be the next state civil registrations added to the collection.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Great Google Tip & A Gem of an Idea

I'm really excited about the newest episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast because there are so many cool new things happening in the world of genealogy!

First is the launch of Google's News Timeline.
This new web application from the folks at Google allows us not only to get historical perspective on a period in time, but allows us to search for relevant information, particularly newspaper articles at the same time.

In this episode I'll talk you through all it's features and I'll walk you through them visually in a brand new companion video on my Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel (and be sure to subscribe free to the channel while you're there) I love the News Timeline and I think it has a lot of potential for helping us with our family history research. And because it's part of Google Labs we can look forward to a lot more additions and improvements to it in the future.

Also in this podcast episode we get a chance to talk about a Gem of an idea that Mark Tucker proposed on his Think Genealogy blog: subscription genealogy records websites providing downloadable source citations for the records they provide. I found this to be a fascinating idea, and in this episode you'll hear what respected genealogy blogger Stephen Danko has to say about it, Ancestry and World Vital Records responses, and my two cents.

It's definitely an idea we as genealogists will want to consider getting around.

And finally, the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor will be joining me for a chat. She's always fun!



Monday, April 27, 2009

A Terrific Use for DNA Testing

Can you imagine walking up on the street with a gash on your head, your wallet gone, and worst of all not having a clue as to your identity? And then you recover from your physical wounds only to find that you are not eligible to get a social security card so you can work and support yourself because you can't prove your identity?

That's what happened to a man named Kyle. And my friend Forensic Genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, co-founder of IdentiFinders, a California based company that does genetic genealogy detecting is on the case. (Listen to my interview with Colleen Fitzpatrick about another fascinating case she's worked on in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 54)

Read this fascinating story and see the face of the man who is not only in search of his family history, but also of the key: his name.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Family History Expos Coming to Logan Utah

New Techniques and Technology Make Family History Research a Virtual Treasure Hunt

My good friend Holly Hansen has just announced the final details on the upcoming Family History Expo in Logan, Utah on May 9, 2009.

The Logan Family History Expo promises to deliver the education and fun that participants consistently find at these events. But you are in for something extra special in Logan because Barry Ewell is the keynote speaker.

I first met Barry at an expo in Mesa, AZ and was so impressed with his presentation that I immediately pulled him aside for an interview for the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast Episode 6. Barry is a captivating and thoughtful speaker and the perfect choice for the Keynote address at the Logan expo!

Here's the entire scoop on this terrific upcoming event:

Logan, Utah – Family history research has come a long way. New techniques and technology have turned the task of digging up family roots into a virtual treasure hunt. FamilyHistory is coming to Logan, Utah, May 9th to help beginners and old-timers alike take their research to the next level. The expo will be held at the Eccles Conference Center on USU Campus (5005 Old Main Hill).

Family History Expos’ “Learn the Tech to Trace Your Roots”event will feature national speakers, vendors promoting the latest techniques and technology, hundreds of door prizes and opportunities to network with experienced professionals.

Thousands of exciting products and hands-on demonstrations to aid family history research will be on display in an exhibit open to the public.

Registered participants will be able to choose from seven different courses offered each hour. “There’s something for everyone whether you’re just beginning or are an old pro,” Hansen said. Workshops include fascinating, relevant subjects including a course taught by an Abraham Lincoln historian on, “The Power of Abraham Lincoln’s Integrity.” Other popular topics include, “Finding Your English/Welsh Ancestors,” “Bringing Life to Your Life Stories,” “Beginning the Search of Your Ancestors,” and “Easier Scanning for Great Results.”

Keynote speaker Barry J. Ewell is a Senior Marketing Manager for IBM and founder of Despite his busy professional life, Barry has spent the last decade tracing his own roots through family history and genealogy.

The event’s line-up of presenters includes professional researchers from throughout the U.S., FamilySearch developers, Family History Library staff, and some of Cache Valley’s own talent, Hansen said. Sheri Lynn Lemon will be among them. Lemon has worked in the Logan Utah Regional Family History Center as the Associate Director of Training, editor of their weekly email newsletter, and Webmaster.

To register for this third annual event, review presenter information, and locate complete details visit

This event is sponsored by Family History, FamilySearch, Family Tree Magazine, Roots Magic, Generation Maps, and Genealogy Gems Podcast.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Start Searching Because It's Here: The World Digital Library

The Library of Congress, UNESCO and partners launched the World Digital Library yesterday, a website that features "unique cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world."

The site―located at―includes manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs. It provides unrestricted public access, free of charge, to this material.

Now don't get too excited because it's moving REALLY slow right now - probably because everyone's checking it out. And while the site is sophisticated, it currently has a fairly small amount of material on it. (133 items for North America, 380 for Europe, 122 for Africa) But we can expect that to change over time as it grows more robust with content.

The World Digital Library functions in seven languages―Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish―and includes content in more than 40 languages. Descriptions of each item and videos, with expert curators speaking about selected items.

Here's a cool item to get you started: Emigrant's Map and Guide for Routes to North America. This map, created by Gotthelf Zimmermann in 1853, reflects the importance of German immigration to North America in the mid-19th century.

Other examples of featured items include Arabic scientific manuscripts from the National Library and Archives of Egypt; early photographs of Latin America from the National Library of Brazil; the "Hyakumanto darani," a publication from A.D. 764 from the National Diet Library of Japan; the famous 13th century "Devil’s Bible" from the National Library of Sweden; and works of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish calligraphy from the collections of the Library of Congress.

If you find something of particular interest please share by posting a comment!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

British Jewish Records at FamilySearch

Here's the latest news from the folks at FamilySearch...

SALT LAKE CITY—FamilySearch expanded its Knowles Collection—a free popular database of Jewish records hailing from the British Isles. The collection builds upon work commenced by the late Isobel Mordy—a well-known historian of the Jews of the British Isles.

Mordy was a retired mathematician and used a complex code to link Jewish United Kingdom families in her research. Her work yielded 8,000 names and has been very popular for Jewish family history researchers with British ancestry.

“The complexity of the code Mordy used to index her research is daunting even to the most experienced researcher,” said Todd Knowles, author and manager of the Knowles Collection and a British Reference consultant for the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It took Knowles a few years, but he ultimately managed to transcribe the records from Mordy’s work into a more easily searchable genealogy database.

The great advantage of the Knowles Collection is that it links together electronically tens of thousands of individual Jews into family groups. Knowles has since expanded Mordy’s collection of 8,000 names to a collection of over 40,000.

“The records come from over 100 individual sources,” noted Knowles. “That saves the researcher a lot of time and travel.”

Some of the record sources were actively maintained until the mid 1980s, so many people living today will be able to find their relatives from recent memory in the collection. The newly added names come from many types of records—censuses; probate records; synagogue birth, marriage, and death records; biographies; and more.

Perhaps the most interesting records added recently include over 200 Jewish Welsh marriages from a community in the city of Cardiff, original synagogue records, and patron-submitted records. Some of the families tie into the work of Malcolm Stern’s The First American Jewish Families, which includes families who had English ancestry.

The collection can be accessed at on the Jewish Family History Resources page. It is available to download for free as either a GEDCOM or PAF file. Individuals can add their own records to the collection by contacting the collection’s author, Todd Knowles, directly at

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tips from a Pro: Civil Birth Records

The Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast is really like having your own personal family history research class free online. And I love having the luxury of devoting entire episodes, and sometimes multiple episodes, to a specific step in the research process.

In this week's episode we're all about Civil Birth Records. And who knew there was so much more to learn?!

But who to ask? I called on my friend Holly Hansen, President of the Family History Expos to find out. Holly holds conferences all over the U.S. and has the top genealogists speak at her events. So I asked her, "who comes to mind when you think of birth record expertise?"

"That's easy" she replies, "Arlene Eakle!"

And in Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Episode 25 you will have a personal session with professional genealogist Arlene Eakle, Ph.D. on the topic of Civil Birth Records. What they encompass, where to find them, tips on the challenges you may face and the solutions she's discovered over her long career.


Be sure and sign up for the FREE Genealogy Gems e-newsletter for updates on what's coming up in both podcasts as well as extra tips & great websites. And best of all you'll receive a link to the free downloadable 20 page e-book 5 Fabulous Google Research Strategies for the Family Historian as a thank you gift!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Today's the Day: Ellis Island

On this day in 1907 the highest number of immigrants were processed through the Ellis Island facility in New York Harbor: 11,747 men, women and children!

April 17 is Ellis Island Family History Day, which was established by proclamation of America’s governors.

Ellis Island opened in 1892 and admitted some 12 million people to the U.S. before closing in 1954, most of them at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, "today, more than 100 million people — about a third of the U.S. population — are descendants of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. The largest number — nearly 51 million — are of German ancestry."

And sure enough my German great grandparents were processed through Ellis Island in 1910, just three years after this milestone was reached. Great grandpa made the journey first in September of that year, hoping to find work in the coal mines of Illinois so he could send for his wife and young daughter.

By November his wife had discovered she was carrying their second child. My grandma told me she sold everything, sewed the money (in gold) into her petticoats, and boarded the SS Lapland with her 4 year old daughter.

Now there was a brave woman: in her third month of pregnancy, (and likely in the throws of morning sickness) boarding a ship with a small child - alone.

When life gets challenging we can draw from stories like these of our ancestors who passed through Ellis Island, and draw the strength to keep going and have faith.
Do you have ancestors that have a place in Ellis Island history? Please share your stories and America's history in the comments section.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jewish American Heritage Month at NARA

Panel to discuss future National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia

Washington, DC. . . On Thursday, May 21, at 7 PM, the National Archives will celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month with a special programentitled: "Exhibiting the American Jewish Experience." This event is free and open to the public, and will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, located on the National Mall at Constitution Ave. and 7th Street, NW.

To commemorate the third annual Jewish American Heritage Month, a panel of distinguished speakers will discuss the creation and importance of the National Museum of American Jewish History, scheduled to open in Philadelphia in fall 2010. Gwen Goodman, executive director of the National Museum of American Jewish History, will moderate the panel that includes Patrick Gallagher, president of Gallagher and Associates, responsible for the exhibition design; Robert Young of Polshek Partnership Architects, responsible for the building design; and Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Look What's Coming To FamilySearch

Here's a look at what's coming down the road to FamilySearch in the near future. These indexing projects are currently being created, and starting dates will vary.

I'm particularly looking forward to Arkansas Marriages. Is there anything listed here that is just what you've been waiting for?

· Arkansas Marriages VI
· Arkansas Marriages VII
· Australia, Bounty Immigrants, 1824-1842
· Australia, Greenwich, Genealogical Records
· Austria, Vienna Population Cards
· Brazil, Pernambuco Civil Register 1900-1920
· Brazil, Rio de Janeiro Marriages 1900-10
· Canada, British Columbia Birth 1854-1903
· Canada, British Columbia Marriages
· Chicago Archdiocese Cemetery Records 1 (1864-1989)
· Czech, Litomerice Church Records - Part 1 1552-1905
· Freedmen Marriages
· Germany, Baden Church Books 1810-1869
· Germany, Mecklenburg 1890 Census
· Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates 1
· Indiana, Allen County Marriages 1811-1959
· Jamaica, Trelawny Births
· Peru, Lima Civil Register Index 1910-1930

Monday, April 13, 2009

A History Detective Up Close and Personal

Dr. Tukufu Zuberi is heading in to his seventh season with the hit PBS television show History Detectives. And through the years, many stories he has investigated have stood out to him. But when asked for a favorite, one in particular came immediately to mind.

"It was a story about Sam - the first black ventriloquist dummy to appear on Broadway. It led me to do the genealogy of this dummy. Where did it come from? Was it related to Charley McCarthy?"

Zuberi laughs at the thought, and yet it was a fascinating adventure to track Sam down to a shelf in the kitchen of the daughter of the man who had operated him on the vaudeville stage at the turn of the century.

But of course in additon to Sam's genealogy, Zuberi has much to say about the journey we are all on to discover our own family history.

Listen to episode 63 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast to hear the entire interview and to learn more about how you can hear Tukufu speak in person at the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree at the Friday night banquet on June 26, 2009.

Be sure and sign up for the FREE Genealogy Gems e-newsletter for updates on what's coming up in both podcasts as well as extra tips & great websites. And best of all you'll receive a link to the free downloadable 20 page e-book 5 Fabulous Google Research Strategies for the Family Historian as a thank you gift!

Marriage Records: Do You Have Them All?

In this week's episode of Family History: Genealogy Made Easy we’re going to continue researching backwards by heading down a very special records aisle. You guessed it, we’re marching down the records aisle looking for Marriage Records.

Marriage records are part of the record group called Vital Records, and they can be a rich source of genealogical information. So grab a handful of rice and a hankie and listen to episode 24.

We'll cover both civil and church records, and I'll tell you about one particular civil record that you may not have been aware of, but is a wonderful primary source of data.

Be sure and sign up for the FREE Genealogy Gems e-newsletter for updates on what's coming up in both podcasts as well as extra tips & great websites. And best of all you'll receive a link to the free downloadable 20 page e-book 5 Fabulous Google Research Strategies for the Family Historian as a thank you gift!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Read, Translate, Share, Listen, Organize - The World Digital Library is Almost Here

The Library of Congress, UNESCO and 32 partner institutions on April 21 will launch the World Digital Library, a website that features unique cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world.

The site will include manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, and prints and photographs – available unrestricted to the public and free of charge. The browseable, searchable site will function in seven languages and offer content in dozens of languages.

For a sneak peek at what's coming head to the web site at and watch the video.

Of special interest is the ability to select text from a book and have it translated right there on the web site. It looks like there will also be a focus on international materials, mobile technology, timelines tools, and even computerized voice technology.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Free Research Worksheet Download with Newest Episode

In episode #20 of the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast we talked about a powerful process for doing your genealogy research in a way that meets the Genealogical Proof Standard, or GPS.

The GPS has been the standard for years for professional genealogists. They depend on it to ensure the quality, accuracy and success of their research. But you don't have to be a professional to apply it to your research.

Now is the ideal time to become familiar with the GPS because you don't want to have to go back and re-do your hard work later down the road! But how do you get started?

Well, in the newest episode #23, I’m going to help you put these ideas into concrete action. I've create a worksheet that provides a research process that incorporates achieving the GPS, and gives you a method for staying organized all along the way. Best of all, it's available for FREE download from the web page show notes for this episode. Along with the worksheet, you will find a case study example worksheet filled out that you can follow along as you listen to the show.

My hope is that through the ideas shared in this episode and the tools I'm providing, you will be able to stay better organized, while following sound genealogical principles and making significant progress on your family tree.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Punch Instead of A Pen

On March 28, 1906, the Washington Times (Washington, DC) reported that the U.S. Census Office proposed to improve census-taking methods through the implementation of "A Punch Instead of a Pen" which they believed would revolutionize census-taking methods.

The article describes the technological developments in card-punch and automated tabulation machines that were occurring at that time, and the government's plans to increase speed and efficiency in data collection.

Head to the page in the newspaper featured in the Chronicling America section of the Library of Congress web site to read the entire article and the proposed punch card.

Personally, I love the cartoon of the census taker with the lady of the house. She's the spitting image of my great grandmother with her hand on her hip and her finger in his face. Being an enumerator could not have been an easy job, even with all the technological advances!